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!!!!!!!!!!!! Cloud 9 Farms  RSS feed

 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Everyone,
I have been meaning to make this post for a long time, but I have been so busy I haven’t had time – until today, I’m making the time.

I was originally going to write up a small story about how we bought our farm and how/what we have done since then – but, I’m not much of a writer. Instead I figured I would tell you a little about what we have done, where we are now, and hopefully that will get a discussion going. I have found that the things that interest me, aren’t always interesting to others, so I would prefer this to be a 2 way thread

We bought our farm in late 2010. It was a foreclosure and had been an equestrian riding center for some time before that. The property is 5 acres and is located in Penrose, CO (about 45 mins from CO Springs and Pueblo). Penrose has about 351 days of sunshine a year as well as being part of one of the last owner/operator irrigation districts. We are technically USDuh Zone 5, but our actual last frost dates vary widely by year. We have seen last frost dates in late March, and we have had snow in late May. We generally use Mothers Day as our last frost date. I believe this is partly due to our elevation (5350ft) as well as being in a large valley.

When we first got here we bought the farm in the middle of a drought. We decided to plant our pastures in 2012. We planted a standard equestrian grass mix, over seeded with alfalfa. Well, 2012 was a drought year as well, only 1 irrigation. So most of the alfalfa survived, but most of the grasses didn’t. In 2013 we over seeded with a variety of plants – by this time we started to ignore what the standard in the area was and began pretty much doing our own thing. We planted dandelion, chicory, plantain as well as a variety of cool season grasses. 2013 was a decent year – We got 3 irrigations and the pasture started to recover. This is the year we also bought our first dairy heifer. 2014 and 2015 were good irrigation years and during that time we learned a lot – both about grazing and animal (cow) behavior. In Feb 2014 we had our first calf and began learning to milk a cow. We hand milked for the first year, but soon realized we would need a machine milker!

Since then, we have gone from 1 cow up to 5, back down to 1. We have added hair sheep and a llama as well. We rotate our animals daily using electronet and/or poly wire. We graze our pastures whereas most people around us only hay their pastures and then feed that hay to their animals…

We have always kept chickens, but now we have ~50 or so we keep for layers. We plan to get turkeys and guineas this year too. We have raised meat birds (freedom rangers) in the past, but are moving onto breeding our own dual purpose birds so we no longer have to rely on day old chicks shipped to us. All of our poultry are fed an organic whole grain, non soy ration. The poultry are the only animals on the farm that get grain. The sheep/lambs, cow(s) and even our pigs are 100% grass fed.

In the past few years we have been learning to make swales and other water retention features on our farm. This is much more difficult because a lot of the permaculture techniques assume water falls from the sky – but in CO, water floods your property from the high point – and what doesn’t get irrigated, doesn’t grow. So this has taken some time to get figured out.

We also manage another 5 acre, irrigated property here in ‘town’. We don’t [currently] keep any animals on that land, and use it to grow hay. Between both properties, we cut and bale ~1200-1400 bales a year (on good years). This has allowed us to be “hayless” – meaning we don’t buy hay. We aren’t able to keep enough grass stockpiled in the pastures for winter, so instead, we pull the animals off pasture in late Nov and feed our own hay until ~mid April/early May when the animals go back out to pasture.
We are an "Animal Welfare Approved" farm - the only one in our county! http://animalwelfareapproved.org/

We also keep honey bees and mason/leafcutter bees. We are still new to this but are having fun learning how not to do things…

I think I could probably ramble on about this place forever, but I will wrap it up here for now but saying this:

This year we will be operating a raw milk share (calf expected in ~45 days), feeding out ~20+ lambs for market, raising laying chickens, keeping track of grazing pigs, turkeys and a llama. We have quite a diverse farm, and produce a good amount of food from only 5 acres.

I do plan to keep this thread updated as time goes on, but if you want to know more about us, take a look at our recently re-designed website (thanks to Rick here at permies! ) at: http://www.cloud9farms.com/

If you are on Facebook, please like and follow us there too: https://www.facebook.com/Cloud-9-Farms-785187241536162/

I will be posting some pictures in the next few posts. Feedback is always welcome.

Thanks!

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the pasture when we first got here.
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our first irrigation
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our property from above
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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1st pic is a pano of our pasture as they were planted.

2nd is of our garden, which we have all but abandon

3rd is one of many beautiful sunsets weve had.
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Kelly Smith
Posts: 713
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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more pictures
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hay on the left, freedom ranger maeat birds on the right
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first attempt at swales and fruit trees.
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our new milk barn
 
Kelly Smith
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more pictures.
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grass fed, raw milk. look at that cream line!
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our leased pasture.
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chicken powered compost turner
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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more pics of animals.
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Lucy - our brown swiss/ jersey cow
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Lucy all grown up!
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Lucy and her first calf
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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even more pictures...
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top bar bee hive
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Kelly Smith
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more cows pictures
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last year we started with 3 cows and learned that was to much.
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diverse pasture
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all 3 cows grazing
 
Kelly Smith
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sheep and our llama
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Katahdin hair sheep
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Katahdin hair sheep
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Dolly
 
Kelly Smith
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more..
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multi species grazing
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trimming sheep feet.
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did i mention we have had a baby while doing all this?
 
Kelly Smith
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more
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Kelly Smith
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last post for a while
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kune kune piglets
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grass fed pork??? i didnt think it was possible til i saw it on permies (thanks Grant Shultz)
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leafcutter bees
 
Kelly Smith
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comments, questions and feedback is appreciated.



you can also check out some of the other posts i have made in relation to our farm below:
http://www.permies.com/t/33453/Pasture/irrigated-pasture-planting-suggestions

http://www.permies.com/t/24538/earthworks/Earthworks-flood-irrigation

http://www.permies.com/t/38516/plants/Bassia-scoparia-kochia-fireweed

http://www.permies.com/t/52960/intentional-community/moving-Southern-Colorado-farm-open
 
Rick English
pollinator
Posts: 261
Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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Kelly - awesome post and thanks for sharing all the great pictures!

It is truly amazing how much your family has accomplished in such a short period of time. An amazing part of your story is how you made all this happen while starting a family and working a full-time job. I feel like such a slacker compared to you
 
Marco Banks
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This is all very cool. Thank you for taking the time to post all of that and comment on your progress. Please update this thread from time to time. I would love to follow your progress in the years to come.
 
Kelly Smith
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Rick English wrote:Kelly - awesome post and thanks for sharing all the great pictures!

It is truly amazing how much your family has accomplished in such a short period of time. An amazing part of your story is how you made all this happen while starting a family and working a full-time job. I feel like such a slacker compared to you


Thanks Rick! Thanks again for all the help with the website and flyers too!

We are lucky to be where we are , but I am hoping not to need my day job soon!
 
Kelly Smith
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Marco Banks wrote:This is all very cool. Thank you for taking the time to post all of that and comment on your progress. Please update this thread from time to time. I would love to follow your progress in the years to come.


Thanks Marco.
I will continue to post and keep this thread updated with what we are doing.

We are picking up a new cow saturday, and hoping to pour a concrete floor in the milking barn in the next few weeks. there is always something to do!
 
Kelly Smith
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The grass is greening up nicely here in southern CO.
We should be moving the animals out to start grazing in a few days.

 
Kelly Smith
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maybe my farm isnt permaculture enough?you gotta start somewhere

just got a new cow. she is a large guernsey cow, due in June.
She makes our brown swiss cross cow look small! Penny weighed in at 1625lbs on the dairy tape this morning.....
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Rick English
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Congrats on the new Cow - she is a beauty! Now I really wish I lived closer to Colorado Springs to be able to sign up for a share of your raw milk. I Finally have a lead on local raw milk, but I doubt they do do the safety testing and respect/treat their animals as well as you and Abi do.

I doubt anyone thinks your farm isn't permaculture, but there is so much in this thread, it is hard to pick a place to start the discussion.

I think it is very interesting how you decided you wanted raw milk for your household, researched the local options, and decided to get your own cow. After Lucy arrived, you then had too much milk, so you started to "sell" the surplus. Since you can't sell raw milk in Colorado, you had to figure out how to set up a raw milk share.

I have to imagine there are people interested in that sort of thing.
 
Kelly Smith
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Thanks Rick.
We have been getting a steady 2+ emails a week for raw milk, so we decided to get another cow. we did this last year too - but we bought 2 cows then. That ended up being WAY to much and we had to go back down to 1 cow.

As for testing, we think its vital. even if (especially if) everything appears fine. We have worked with the raw milk lab at CSU ft collins and will be getting even more testing done this coming year. we found out that the CO raw milk association test doesnt test for the most common issue in raw milk .

i guess i meant that most see the use of irrigation as not very permaculture. in an ideal world i would agree, but in the real world we have to live within the current context. i would love to meet/talk with anyone that is working on making the irrigated farms of the west more permaculture-ish, but i havent heard of anyone doing anything like this. if anyone knows of any, please send them my way.

we were originally planning to get milk goats. then when we moved here, we started doing more research. turn out that because we would mainly be growing grass, that a cow would be best for our land. if we had a dense forest, goats would have been better. yeah once we started milking, we quickly realized we had WAY more than we could drink.
although it is illegal to sell raw milk in CO, the herd share program has become the way all raw milk is handled in CO. it makes things a bit odd, and we have to dance around the "selling milk" question, but it works.
 
Kelly Smith
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i wanted to add a few pictures of our "irrigation control ditch" (may be called a swale for brevity) that we just put in.
this midway down our pasture. It helps us control our irrigation water, but it will also fill up during large rain events (we normally get at least 2 gushers a growing season)

We will be planting hybrid poplars, honey locust and some apple trees in the area just above and below the swale.
If this works out, we will likely ad another 1 or 2 swales with trees again next year. the most expensive part of this is getting the pipe.

we just dug this a few weeks ago


here you can see the full swale. the swale slopes toward the 'pond' , then is put back into gated pipe and spread back out over the pasture. i hope to dig the pond portion deeper as well.


 
Kelly Smith
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we frequently get weird looks when we tell people our sheep dont need to be sheared, that they shed their winter wool once it starts to warm up.
here is a few pics of our sheep, and how they look as they shed.

only 10% of sheep in the US are hair sheep, so its not common to see these sheep - most people mistake them for goats (because they still have tails!)







the Royal White sheep, so far, seem to be much better shedders than out katahdins.
 
Kelly Smith
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we also planted ~100 trees and shrubs in the last week.
honey locust, cottonwood/poplar hybrid, lilac and apricots trees. all planted and setup with a bit of drip irrigation to get them going for the 1st year or 2.

we have been planting ~100+ trees each year on our farm - and plan to until we have ~75% shade in all but the pasture areas.
shade in the desert helps conserve water, the shade keeps the soil cooler in the summer.

we plan to use nurse trees to help fruit trees get established.

 
Kelly Smith
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I took a week off my regular job so that i could get some projects done on the farm. We had a few tours coming through soon and needed to some stuff done.
We were able to get a concrete floor poured in the milk barn. Complete with drain and a rearranged door to make bringing the cows in and out easier. We had a short window to get some of this done as once the cows are milking again its impossible to do these sort of projects.
Are first cow is due in about a week and a half so as usual it's done just in time.

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Kelly Smith
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here are a couple of pictures from last weekends farm tours.
we had about 40 people stop by for 2 different tours. lots of kids with the weston a price foundation chapter and and a group of super friendly "slow food" folks.


i made a thread about farm tours if anyone have any input, feel free to share it here: http://www.permies.com/t/56507/small-farm/Farm-Tours
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Kelly Smith
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We put an ad in the local paper about bee swarm rescue/retrieval.
after answering a few calls about removing bees from someones house as questions about whether w sell local honey - we finally got our first bees swarm call.

unfortunately the queen wasnt with the bees but i didnt realize this until after i had climbed a 25+ foot ladder to retrieve the bees.

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Me climbing to get a bee swarm out of the top of a maple tree
 
Kelly Smith
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Just wanted to post a quick picture of our latest calf.
a brown swiss bull, born on pasture, unassisted.





there is a video of the birth on our facebook page if anyone wants to see it - warning - our cow is a loud moaner
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
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Congratulations! lol Oh, I love how the sheep are all crowding around to have a look. That's a priceless photo!
 
Rick English
pollinator
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Here is the facebook link:
https://www.facebook.com/Cloud-9-Farms-785187241536162/

Hi Kelly - Congrats on your new little bull! Is Lucy doing well?

Might be nice if you had the links to your website and facebook in your signature
 
Kelly Smith
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Rick English wrote:Here is the facebook link:
https://www.facebook.com/Cloud-9-Farms-785187241536162/

Hi Kelly - Congrats on your new little bull! Is Lucy doing well?

Might be nice if you had the links to your website and facebook in your signature


thansk for posting the link , Rick.
i used to have that info in my sig, but i didnt want it to seem like i was spamming my site(s). i linked to this thread - then left links in this thread hoping people could/would find their way.

there for a while i just assumed me and you were the only ones reading this
 
Kelly Smith
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i also just caught a swarm from our own hive and added it back to a new hive. i will try to snap a few pictures when i go back out to check on them on my lunch break
 
Rick English
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This thread has been viewed 682 times.


Down at the bottom of this page - lots of people looking at this thread, but not many posts

I am pretty sure Paul himself suggests self-promotion with links to your stuff in your signature here. He wants all of us to become permaculture millionaires after all. I also think he would approve of everything you are doing at Cloud 9 Farms
 
Kelly Smith
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here is our bee swarm that we caught:


now we have 2 hives (and 2 hive types!)
 
Tracy Wandling
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I think it would be so exciting to catch a swarm of bees! We're not ready for them yet, but would definitely love to add them to the mix.

You have a lovely place. Very inspiring.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Kelly Smith
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Thanks Tracy!
when you are ready, i would get a hive all ready, and put an ad in the local paper for bee swarm removal. its a great way to get some 'free' bees. also, when bees swarm, they are pretty calm, not very aggressive at all, so its good for a 1st timer
if you have any lemongrass essential oil, you could add a few drops of that to your hive - the lemongrass oil mimics the scout bees pheromones.
 
Kelly Smith
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here are a few pictures from last weekends farm tour:

here i am bringing all the animals out so people can see the sheep - i do this because most people wont be able to get to close to the sheep once they are in the pasture:


kune kune pigs resting in the shade with some chickens:


we normally end our farm tour out at the pasture/paddock:


 
Nick Fairburn
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Wow really inclusive project and design here. Great photos thanks for sharing, I checked out your website and ended up clicking on your contact us page map. After scrolling out many times on the google earth setting, your site is easily the greenest in your town. Nice work, your area is going to benefit a ton from your hard work.
 
Kelly Smith
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Our Guernsey cow had her calf a few days ago. She had a heifer
We knew she was close - i checked on her ~3am, and when i came back out at 6am the calf was on the ground being licked clean.

This calf is a Guernsey / Jersey cross.

 
Rick English
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Congrats on the new heifer! Did you name her yet?
 
Kelly Smith
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Rick English wrote:Congrats on the new heifer! Did you name her yet?

no name yet, but we will have one shortly

we are focused on getting the new cow into the milk barn and settled enough to milk. its not easy convincing a 1500 lb cow to do things she doesnt seem to want to do
 
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