• Theo

Blue-Bin Farming

Bi Mart sells these blue storage bins for under $7 each, and ever since we moved to 160 acres in Yoncalla to scale up our Single-Moo Milk dairy, raise hogs, raise egg layers, raise beef cows, develop a farm share owner direct delivery network, harvest and butcher on farm with farm share owners at our sides, socially network about healthy foods from the farm, develop long attention spans, and build a team of young farmers, children, and grandchildren so that they can learn to be just as crazy as we are, we have been using blue bins. They are blue, and they are bins, and they come with a lid.

If you visit the farm, you will notice that we have become blue-bin farmers. Blue bins are used pretty much everywhere on the farm. Feeding, watering, collecting eggs, moving in firewood (grandkids job), hauling water, storing shavings, storing feed, mixing feed, storing milk, storing salt, storing oyster shell... you get the picture...the farm has become dependent on these blue bins. If you have harvested your hog here, you noticed that the hams and bacon are cured in brand new blue bins. Not an hour goes by when we are not coming up with another use for blue bins.

Part of the allure of the blue bin, actually the whole allure of the blue bin, is its price. They are cheap. So we can buy new ones when we butcher a hog, cure the meat in fresh blue bins, and then move them off to help in other less sterile functional areas of the farm. They hold up for a while, and then break easily, but, even partially broken, they have some function here. They hang around for a year or two or three before we haul a stack of shattered blues to the landfill, returning them to their source so they can become the petrochemicals of the future. Not a bad life for a $7 item.

Blossom Burger?

Blossom just had her first calf and she is learning to be a milk cow. Blossom turned out to be a real sweet cow overall. She is excited about the little surprise, Otis her calf, that came out of her back end to keep her company in her stall. She walks excitedly to the stanchion to be milked morning and night. But she becomes a bucking bronco if we try to milk her with the machine (I've never seen a cow jump straight up and down with all four feet).

When Cheri first started being milked, she almost won a promotion from milk cow to beef cow with her antics in the stanchion. But the women on the farm who were mothers themselves were able to educate the mostly male milking team: Cheri didn't really hate us, nor did she hate being a milk cow, she was just kicking and dancing because of the completely new sensations coming from her newly-oversized udder.

Thanks to Cheri, for new bucking-bronco first time milk cows, we developed a more gentle, blue-bin-based, milk-cow training program. The trick is to milk the cow out by hand, one person on each side for safety, with a blue bin between her legs. It shows everyone on the milking team why we don't milk by hand. And the results we get are:

  • an emptied udder.

  • a relieved cow.

  • a blue bin that has milk with poo, straw, and shavings floating in it.

Filter the milk, and I would still drink it. However, everyone agrees that, after the calves are full, pigs and chickens will most appreciate that milk.

After about a week in blue-bin milk-cow training, Cheri allowed us to put the milker on her teats with just occasional kicking at the can. Eventually, she settled down so we could milk her with the Single-Moo Milk process and get her clean milk to the people! And then one day, she was an ideal milk cow. Yay! That's how amazing these Bi-Mart bought blue bins can be. They are the reason that Cheri is not Cheri burger and Blossom, too, will settle into a brand new Single-Moo milk cow providing milk for all to enjoy.

Here's a fish-eye perspective of Christian and I milking Blossom. Sonja was milking her too, so we could get her milked out in less than an hour, but Sonja had to step behind the fish eye to click a pic.

And Blossom's udder is really that big. Through the fish eye lens, you can almost feel the sensitivity...

I know you are all most interested in blue-bin farming, but I also should mention our delivery schedule, what we are going to shoot for anyway, barring more ice and snow.

Delivery Schedule

Here's our delivery schedule.

Monday (maybe Tuesday this week): Salem, Hubbard, Beaverton, Portland

Wednesday: Elkton and Roseburg

Thursday or Friday: Cottage Grove, Eugene, Corvallis

As usual, we will notify you when the delivery is on its way and/or when it has been completed. So hold off going to the drop point until you know that your goodies are there is prudent. If you are not getting delivery texts, let me know (Theo).

Winter Production (No Woes!)

Production of everything is up this winter. Like really up.

Milk production is really up. We are gearing the farm up, up, up to serve more and more farm share owners, and we are proving that the knowhow is there. The knowhow is in the cows. Its in the pigs and chickens. We are showing that winter production can happen. Yay team!

As you all know, the cows and pigs here are still non-union labor. The cows seem to just be above all that, working generously for the good of all. The pigs would like to be organized, but they just can't get their act together, spinning in circles whenever they get a little excited, so we haven't seen a contract yet.

The egg layers, organized under Layers' Local 2077, are really our one labor challenge. In the past, they've gone on strike for any variety of management failings (low lighting, barley instead of wheat in their rations, no oyster shell, predators hanging out by the greenhouse), most of which are clear breaches of the negotiated contract. But this winter, after a short bock-out in November, the management-union relationship started really clucking, more like I would envision as ideal for a "fast company" the likes of Helios Farms.

To summarize, it looks like we have winter production down, meaning we have "getting winter production up" down.

That means that deliveries, if irregular, are not irregular because cows and chickens haven't performed. Lately, the weather is the biggest cause of delivery delays. There are other farm happenings that still cause delays (old vehicles, farm logistics, etc.), but I predict that we will see a reliable delivery day settling in for all farm share owners in the very near future.

Bedtime at the Farm

Well the grandkids just pulled into the driveway. I'll end this post with a picture of the grandkids listening to a bedtime story being read by Grandma Kira. Goodnight moon. Goodnight blue-bin farmers.


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