Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barn Chicks who Blog - Interview with Kelle of Never Done Farm

     Have I ever told you that I like to interview people. I do, especially farmers. I love to read and hear about the different ways that people farm and the different places they live. Today I  am sharing my interview with Kelle of Never Done Farm in Montana. I have always wanted  to visit Montana, so this was very interesting for me. If you have a farm or ranch and would like to be interviewed, please contact me. Now let's get to that interview.
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Interview

1. Please tell us about your farm.
 First let me say we are located in S.Central Montana. Our farm is what some call a hobby farm. It consists of 6 irrigated acres on the Clark's Fork River. Our farm house turned 100 yrs old in 2010. We are still remodeling, working to keep it as a farm house of 1910 would look. This farm was neglected for several years. The gentleman who owned it was 93 yrs old and almost blind, he simply couldn't keep the place well maintained. We are still( 8yrs. later) working on salvaging buildings, either by complete removal or by working to get them and keep them in good repair. 
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2. How did  you end up living on Never Done Farm?
 Well,when my husband and I married we foolishly( hindsight is 20/20) moved into the city to be closer to our jobs. This was in the early 80's and in the later 80's was the "dot.com crash" and the housing market in our area, as well as all over the U.S. dropped. This made it hard to sell our little two bedroom 1950's cottage. We did end up selling in the early 90's but not for enough to afford land, although we did buy 1/2 acre lot with a home in the suburbs. We then started raising our own chickens for eggs, as well as meat and installed a wood stove to cut down on our natural gas bill. We also raised a large garden and as much fruit as possible. Still longing to own more land and be able to raise more of our own meat we began looking at properties. This ended up being an almost 2 year undertaking, nothing seemed to fit our criteria. This criteria was that the land be irrigated, have a good well and soil for raising our garden as well as the animals and some hay for feed. Plus we wanted to stay below $90K and finiance it for only 15 yrs. Soon it was clear we weren't going to find a place that we could afford, so decided to stay put for the time being. The news that Wal-Mart had purchased the city block almost in front of our home came and we were feeling the push to get out of Dodge, so to speak!  One night I was looking at a real estate magazine and came across the ad for this farm. My husband worked nightshift, at that time, so when he called on his supper break I told him about it and he said to call and see where it was located and we'd take a drive to look at in the morning. The next morning we drove to look at the farm, about 125 miles round trip. We fell in love immediately, but couldn't see the inside of the house as all the shades were drawn. So we called our realtor and set up a viewing for the following day. When we arrived and the house was opened, both of our children ran around looking upstairs and even picking which room would be theirs. Now it wasn't in very good shape as far as being modern and updated but structurally it was sound, in need of a new roof and a few other fixes that would need to be done ASAP. We made a lowball offer and the sellers excepted. We were blessed with a good deal on the farm and in just alittle over 6 years we paid off our mortgage. 

3. What animals do you have? 
We have two dogs, a cat, an Angus steer, a Irish Dexter Heifer, an eclectic flock of chickens( 25 or so) and we're building our flock of Heritage turkeys, which are Narragansett's and Bourbon Reds. We also raise feeder pigs in winter and butcher, ourselves in late February.
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4. How do your animals get their names? 
Well, anything that typically is designated as meat doesn't get a name, but there are exceptions to that rule because our steer calf is named "Hoss" and our roosters all get names too. When you work with animals you see they each have their own personalities, this makes it easier to name them. Our Dexter heifer was only a month old when we bought her and her mama. Everyone that came and saw her said," She's just cute as a button!" That is how she got her names, Button.

5. Were either you or your husband raised on a farm? If not, what farm experience did you have? My husband was raised on a small hobby type farm. They raised a garden, had laying hens and meat birds,  horses, and sometimes a steer for beef. I was raised with poultry, horses and bum calves, that we bottle fed and raised up for beef. We sold eggs and butchered chickens and turkeys.

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6. Please tell us how you live a "simple, old fashioned, sustainable" life?
We tend to lean more toward simplicity and old fashioned ways. My Dh is dabbling in black smithing, with an old forge and hand crank blower, he uses hand tools verse power tools, we cook and heat our home with a wood cookstove, we raise 85% to 90% of what we eat, fresh from the garden, canned, dehydrated or stored in our root cellar. Rather than being controlled by money, we treat it for what it is, a tool. I'd much rather go to a thrift shop, antique store or auction to purchase needed items. This points to another fact of living simply, knowing the difference between "Wants and Needs" and even Needs are worked for, either by recycling, repurposing, barter or as a last resort purchasing.
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7. Do you cook, can, or garden?
 All of the above. I cook 90% from scratch, we eat out, more than I like to admit( once or twice a month), but we are curbing that as well. All of our bread is baked fresh each week We either can, dehydrate or store in the root cellar,all produce we don't consume fresh. Our gardens total between 1/4 and 1/2 acre. We have several gardens because we grow Open Pollinated seeds and therefore save seeds from year to year. Due to cross pollination issues we have separate garden areas.


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8. Do you have any hobbies?
 My hobbies are; cooking,reading,crochet,quilting,gardening and decorating.

9. Do you greenhouse year round? 
No, for several reasons, Montana winters can be harsh and long with lack of required daylight needed to grow year round. We just built our greenhouse last May, so we're still experimenting and learning. We plan to extend the time we can grow by starting earlier and extending our season but heating the greenhouse with wood heat. We want to keep it simple and not get involved in running electrical out to the garden, so lighting and extra thermostatically controlled fans, that are solar powered are on our list.

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10. Do you have a root cellar?
 Yes, we do have a root cellar . There was a small one here( approx. 5x6ft) and when my parents build a home here, that cellar was in the way of the construction crews, so my Dad and Mike said go ahead and fill it in and they'd build a larger, better one. As promised, that Fall Mike bartered with a farmer to dig our hole with his backhoe, in trade Mike pulled some ditches for him.They decided size would be 12ft.x12ftx 8ft. We decided that we wanted a dirt floor for natural humidity. Our Fall weather that year was extremely wet! Our first winter, trying to store root crops and squash didn't go so well, because of the high humidity in the cellar, due to a wet floor, many of the squash began molding in a month when typically they'll keep for 4-5 months before mold begins to show up. The following spring we opened up the cellar and place a large fan down there to dry up the wet soil, it ran for a couple of month, until we were sure it was dry. Mike and my Dad then added a vapor barrier and a gravel mix in top.

 Since the first winter of failure, we've so.... enjoyed our cellar and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Even during our sub zero temps in winter( I block the vents) it maintains 37-44F. 





 I've always wanted one. Please tell us about storing your harvest this way. We store all of the root crops we don't eat fresh; that includes potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, onions, garlic. We also store our pumpkins, summer and winter squash, as well as cabbage. The root crops are pulled when the soil is slightly wet( not muddy) and brush free as much soil as possible( if soil is wet you allow them to air dry before storing) Onions need to be hardened off, pull and allow to dry in a warm place until outer skins are dry, same goes for garlic( avoid direct sunlight) Garlic is then braided and hung in the cellar, the onions are laid out on a shelf, the beets, turnips and carrots are stored in wood bins filled with sandy soil from our garden. I place the carrots, beets and turnips in layers( making sure they don't touch each other then add a layer of soil) and repeat finishing with about 1-2 inches of soil on top. The squash and pumpkins are also hardened off as well, they are brought indoors and kept at temps of 65-72F for several weeks, this dries the outer skins( hardening them), I then rub a light layer of lard or olive oil over their surfaces before storing in the cellar( this has been the best way we've found to have them keep for as long as 5 months) before mold spots begin from natural breakdown. The cabbage are pulled root and all, in late Fall( after the first light frost, mid Oct this past year) the heads are inspected for cabbage worms and slugs, if found they are promptly removed. These head are either hung by the root or stored on a shelf( again not touching) We enjoy having cabbage from the cellar until well into April of the following season, that is if we don't use them before then . The potatoes last from end of Sept. until well into May before signs of sprouting and breaking down begin. With any produce, whether stored in a refrigerator, pit, or cellar you need to make a weekly check and remove any produce that is beginning to break down, this will prevent spread of spoilage to the other produce and also keeps the mold spores out of your cellar. Many items, even though they are beginning to break down can be salvaged for personal consumption, if to far gone(remove any moldy spots) can be fed to animals and if very decomposed can be added to your compost heap.
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11. What made you start blogging?
 Much of our extended family loved to hear about our small farm, but I just didn't have the time to email each of them personally, so I began a newsletter of sorts and even that was a chore to keep up with. My Aunt said one day, "Why not make a farm blog and invite all of the family to come visit or follow for weekly updates of our farm happenings." This is how the idea was put into action. We've enjoyed it and as an added bonus have met so many wonderful people with like-minded ideals.

12. What's in the future for Never Done Farm?
 Well... we're never done, always thinking of new projects and ideas. Things that we've talked about for possible projects for 2011 are; Repurposing a small, single garage size, building into our main coop for our chickens and a separate area for chicks in the Spring. Our current main coop building was NOT in very good structural condition( not worth repairing) and we've been babying it along, but it needs to be removed and the whole chicken run needs to be replaced with new wire as well as posts. In repurposing this building, we'll also need to refoof it with metal roofing and add insulation and a couple of windows( also repurposed). We also have some fencing projects, more of a rerouting of fencing to make our firewood area more accessible and open an area for another possible open face barn. This barn would be used for equipment storage and possibly a stall or two for added animals. The added animals might possible be a couple of dairy goats and possibly a Dexter bull. Of course this all hinges on finances and time.  :o)

Thank you to Kelle for doing the interview! I enjoyed visiting your farm, and I wish you all the best for the future.


Don't forget to check out my NuNaturals Stevia giveaway here.


6 comments:

  1. I've followed Kelle for awhile and she one hard workin' farm chick! I loved reading more about how she stores crops in her root cellar. That is on my dream list for one of these days! Thanks for interviewing her!

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  2. We follow Kelle as well. Nicely written article very informative. Thanks,
    Mal

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  3. Ps, just wanted to let you know none of the photos are coming up on my end. Thanks!

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  4. I enjoyed this interview and reading how she stores her crops in the root cellar.
    I would love to be able to grow and store most of our food as well. This is my goal.

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  5. Kelle is awesome! It was great getting to know more about her!!!

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  6. Hello ladies!

    Thanks for coming over and reading our interview. I guess some sometimes the pictures show up and other times not, so far Not for me, but Patrice said her computer savy Dd said it is a Blogger issue.
    Root cellaring is such fun and once you have one and get the hang of your own( the ins and outs of what will store for how long) it's such a blessing. I, personally would NEVER want to live without one again.
    Again Thank you Patrice, for the interview, it was fun remembering back to what our Never Done Farm was like when we first moved her 8 + yrs ago.*wink*

    Blessings for your week,
    Kelle

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