Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Weekend

Happy Memorial Weekend.

Usually people associate Memorial Weekend with the honoring of veterans and the start of summer. The Oklahoma Baker's celebrated the long weekend with a lot of manual labor. As a result, Baker Heritage Farms is now on its way to being a productive farm.

This weekend was a busy weekend starting with a plot of land that has become quite the project - and ended with the first planting in the Test Garden. Saturday was spent getting the field fence up around the plot and Sunday the gate was put up and the field fencing completed.

There is enough room in the test plot for four sections of approximately 30 feet by 30 feet. Ample room for this late in the season.

Monday started off early with the tilling of four 120 foot planting beds (covering all four sections). Sweet Corn was planted in four 30 foot rows in Section 1 (northern section) and later in the afternoon Sun Flowers were planted along the outer edges of the corn. The rows were then covered with hay to act as green mulch. It is nice to be able to go out and cut what hay you need, but the bad part is - it has to be manually raked.

We had several advantages. If you have been following the blog, we have had problems with excess water in the test garden, but were able to eventually get the initial tilling done. Friday Donald mowed the new grown hay (ok, weeds) down as far as possible, and, as Eastern Oklahoma is once again running below normal rainfall, the ground had dried enough to make tilling much easier. Several years ago hard plastic water line was run from the house 300 feet down the back hill to the south end of what is now called the test plot. The water line was mounted on the fence about half-way down the length of the test garden. While pressure is not that great, at least there is water there.

While it does not seem like much, a lot was accomplished these past three days - and Donald and David are very sore. Something about (1) not much manual labor in the past several months, and (2) age.

Working in Section I of the Test Garden
Planting Sunflower Seeds In Section I
High Tech Farm Tools (including fishing poles)
Putting down Green Mulch
We plan on transplanting some tomatoes in Section 4, and planting cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, and onions in Sections 2 and 3 over the next few weeks. While we are at the end of the "normal" planting season, we feel lucky to have the corn finally planted.

Happy Memorial Weekend to everyone from a group of very tired, and sore, new farmers.

Blessings to all,

Baker Heritage Farms

Monday, May 21, 2012


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms

A busy week, unfortunately, not on the farm.

David completed the chicken nest boxes and he and Donald installed them into the hen house this weekend. The back part of the roof was also installed.

David will install the doors and window screens this week so the roof can be completed and the front wall installed.

Donald attended his 3rd Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Saturday at Kerr Center. The class was quite intensive and there is a lot of material to absorb. Items covered included Legume (cover crop) Inoculation, Basic Soils and Fertilizers, Seeds & Seeding, Setting Transplants, Blending Organic Fertilizers (including a sample of the finished product), Soil Preparation & Seeding Equipment, and Irrigation.

Kerr Center operates on intense rotation and cover crop principles. As we have mentioned before, we are only a few miles from the Kerr Center and will be attempting to put a lot of their practices to work at Baker Heritage Farms.

For this Saturdays class, Kerr Center prepared one of their plots to show possible crop rotation. The plot is less than 1/2 acre and can probably fit in most rural backyards. Kerr was very aggressive in their Demo Plot and planted quite a variety.

Kerr Center Demo Plot
The Demo plot had 8 sections to show an eight-field rotation.

Plot A was planted with three crops with 1 row each (White Potatoes, Caged Tomatoes, Eggplant & Peppers).
Plot A
Plot B has two crops and each will be double cropped (Beans followed by Greens and Radishes, and Greens & Radishes followed by Beans).
Plot B
Plot C has 3 will be double cropped with 3 rows of Sweet Corn followed by 2 or 3 rows of Squash.
Plot C
Plot D will be double cropped with Green Follow. The first crop is Buckwheat and will be followed by Iron & Clay Cowpeas.
Plot D
Plot E has two crops. One is Okra and will be a single crop, the second crop will be double cropped with English Peas followed by Broccoli, Cabbage, and Chinese Cabbage.
Plot E
Plot F will be in Green Fallow and will also be double cropped with Buckwheat followed by Proso Millet.
Plot F
Plot G is planted with 1 row of Sweet Potatoes (very successful at Kerr Center, even in severe drought) and spring-planted Cucumber.
Plot G
Plot H is planted with Peanuts and Southern Peas.
Plot H
This rotation has been set up to keep the crops in each section within one family. Based on this set-up, each section will be rotated out for 8 years, allowing the soil to recover, reducing pests and disease.

Baker Heritage Farms will be using a four-year rotation in each of our plots. We will be operating 4 plots and anticipate sectioning each plot into quarters. This will, in essence, allow us a 12-year rotation if necessary, though this will depend on our success in growing crops and the demand for those crops that grow the best.

Next week Donald will try to cover what he learned about making raised beds.

Until next week -- Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

NOTE: We encourage everyone to make comments, recommendations, or share your stories and/or ideas.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms.

This weekend was a bust - it rained. We had planned to have "family day" down at the test garden Saturday, installing corner posts, line posts, field fencing, and gate. We also hoped to get some seed into the ground. However, the best laid plans of mice and men were disrupted, as normal, with rain that started in the wee hours of Saturday morning and work had to be suspended.

David and Donald did get a chance to do some work on the hen house. The corner and middle posts were cut for the roof and half the floor installed. David has the wood for the nesting boxes cut and is about ready to put the boxes together. Once the nesting boxes are completed, they will be installed. After that, the doors and windows can be completed, the roof put on, and the last half of the floor can be completed. Then the fencing will need to be installed, and the chicks can be ordered.

Are you planning on starting a backyard, or small acreage, farm? If you are, start planning now for next year. While you can do some preparation work now, you should not start spending money or planting any seed until you have your farm operation completely planned.

A great resource for information is the Kerr Center. They have an excellent library which can be accessed at:

If you are planning to be a certified organic farmer, you will need to know the requirements. You do not want to use any insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizers on the land until you have researched what is, and is not, acceptable under the organic certification standards. Even if you plan to be like us and conduct natural farming, you will need to follow the standards for being certified organic.

Whether or not you are going to be a certified organic farmer, operate an all-natural farm, or grow crops and raise livestock the conventional way, you need to plan now. If you are planning to grow any type of crops, you need to consider the following:

  • What types of crops do you want to grow?
  • Will you grow for your own use, or do you plan to grow for a farmers market?
  • How big will your crop operation be and where will it be located?
  • Will it need fencing and if so, what kind? What are you trying to keep out of your crops? Will the type of fence you are planning work?
  • What is growing in the location you have chosen now?
  • How will you handle the current growth (till it under, kill it by denying sunlight, or use conventional herbicides to kill it)?
    • You will need to know what type of operation you want before you make your final decision. Even conventional crops require that herbicides be used only at certain times before and during the growing season for food safety reasons.
  • Once you have determined what you plan to grow, determine how much. Remember, you will need to rotate your crops every year to reduce the risk of weeds, pests, and disease. Don't plant just one or two crops, plant several so that you can rotate every year (more on this later).
  • Determine what the time range is for planting in your area. Most seed catalogs have a Hardiness Zone Chart. You will need to find out what your Hardiness Zone is. From that, you can find out when the last frost normally occurs as well as the average dates for the first frost.
    • Determine when you will need to plant and when you can expect to harvest.
    • Determine whether you will grow just one crop or try to grow two crops back-to-back.
  • Consider planting winter cover crops where you plan to grow crops. This will start to build soil nutrients and control unwanted weeds. This will also get you started on your farming adventure.
  • Determine if you will be till, no-till, or a mixture. If you are going to plant cover crops and you plan to till, now is the time to consider the first tilling. Be sure that you are ready to plant cover crops so that you do not have bare ground. At a recent seminar, Donald learned that bare ground is not good (after years of thinking that land should be kept fallow after a certain number of years).
  • If you are planning to raise any type of livestock or poultry, be sure to check your zoning laws. We are fortunate as we are in an area where there are no zoning laws.
  • As you would do for crops, you need to plan. What type of livestock or poultry are you planning on raising? Why? Are you raising poultry for eggs? Are you raising poultry and/or livestock for meat? For personal consumption or for sale at farmers' markets? Will you be breeding? Will your animals be heritage breeds or conventional breeds? Why? How much land will you need? What type of housing (all animals need at least minimal cover)? What type of fencing will you need? Are there special concerns regarding any of the animals you plan to raise (if you are raising poultry, you do not want to have chickens next to any other type of fowl, or where you plan to raise any other type of fowl).
  • What are the feed requirements for your animals? Is it readily available?
These are just some of the things you can start doing today to start your farming venture. We started our informal planning process several years ago and started our formal plans this past October. Unfortunately, we are learning as we go and are making numerous mistakes. Some mistakes we catch before they become expensive, and sometimes we take the financial hit. Either way, it would be much better if we could forgo the mistakes altogether. As we are progressing, we hope that we can pass on some of the mistakes we have made, and what we learned from them, to save you from making the same mistakes.

Until next time,

Blessing from Baker Heritage Farms

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms.

This post is a little late, but better late then never. This weekend was an eventful weekend.

Donald and David went on a shopping spree on Saturday and picked up the rest of the fencing material for the test garden. Hopefully we will get the fence up in the next two weeks. They also picked up vegetable seeds while they were out. As we are getting a late start, we will not be planting heirloom seeds this year; however, we will be planting organic seed. As we are trying to maintain the integrity of even the test garden, we do not want to contaminate it with seed that has been organically modified or that has been altered in anyway. We plan to plant sweet corn, sunflowers, onions, squash, watermelon, and some other seed to at least see how the garden will do. We still need to get soil samples of the main plots and get them to the laboratory as soon as possible.

Donald and David also worked on the hen house, and were able to get half the floor in and two more sides up. David will now need to design and build the nesting boxes so that the hen house can be completed. Once completed, the fence will be installed. Due to recent events, the fence is being redesigned, and will be imbedded in the ground with rebar used to prevent anything from entering under the fence. In addition, electric fencing may be installed around the parameter as extra protection.

The turkey shelter was also completed, and Sunday the turkeys were let loose in the run for the first time. Unfortunately, they did not make it to see daylight Monday. As a result, the fence will be reinforced. One thing that the farm constantly produces is rock. We have several rock piles that have gathered on the hill and will be using this rock as a parameter around the entire pen. In addition, electric fencing will be installed on the outside of the chicken wire to further insulate the turkeys from outside intrusion. We are still considering if we will provide cover over the pen, though this may not be possible due to the size of the run.

We are making progress, though it has been slow. As time goes on, we will continue to work on all aspects of the farm to ensure that we get a good strong start in 2013.

Future plans include:

  • Preparing the east pasture road which entails clearing the fence line. This road will act as the 25 foot buffer from one neighbors property to the garden and livestock plots;
  • Preparing the production garden plots for winter cover crops;
  • Prepare planting areas for the fruit trees and grape vines;
  • Complete the fence line clearing and install a fence for the goats;
  • Start preparing the livestock plots.
Blessings to all from Baker Heritage Farms.



May 9, 2012 - Baker Heritage Farms - Howe, Oklahoma

Nine innocent young turkeys lives cut short in a massacre by a neighbors uncontrolled blue heeler.

We have had our first test of resilient farming. Early Monday morning a neighbors blue heeler entered the turkey run and slaughtered all nine baby turkeys, before they even had one full day of freedom. While our first reaction was to blame our inconsiderate neighbor, who lacks any respect for the property or peace of others, we realized that we can only blame ourselves.

First, we gave our neighbors way to much credit in thinking that they were considerate, compassionate people, and failed to remember that many of them think only of themselves and have little (or no) respect or consideration for the property and well-being of others. Second, we failed to consider that a number of those that live in rural areas like ours feel that they can own animals, but don't have to properly care for them or control them in any way. And, third, we are mistaken that, by living in America, we would not have to take unreasonable and costly measures to protect what is ours from others.

Unfortunately, it was nine young, defenseless, and adorable creatures, that had to pay the ultimate price for our forgetting that, in America, anyone is free to do anything, even if it harms others.

That being said, yes, we are all devastated. This has been both an emotional and financial blow to our hopes for the farm, but it definitely is not a death blow. It is a temporary setback, but we will continue to strive to be resilient farmers and pass on our successes and failures to others so that they may succeed in their farming ventures, learning from our mishaps and mistakes.

April 16, 2012 - May 7, 2012
"And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it"
Ecclesiastes 12:7

This incident will set our Turkey operations back one year, as the Turkeys were all committed for the holidays and there is no longer enough time to raise another batch for this year. However, we will be working on improving this particular operation in preparation for next years brood.

The short lives of our turkeys will not be in vain. We have learned some valuable lessons (and will continue to learn) from this, and will be stronger as a result.

Some of the lessons we have learned include:

  1. Don't get in a hurry. Take your time and do things right the first time.
  2. Along with lesson one, plan, review and test the plans, revise the plans, and repeat at least three times. We knew that we had a coyote problem in this area (several packs), we also knew from experience that they would not approach our property due to the smell of NaKiTa, our resident wolf; however, we did not think of the domestic dogs (no animal control in our area).
  3. Do Not attempt to cut costs. If we are going to raise animals, it is evident that we will have to think of our inconsiderate neighbors and go to any extra expense necessary to protect them from domestic animals (believe it or not, it is easier to protect farm animals from wild animals then domestic animals). Even though a number of the animals we are planning on raising are destined for the table, we feel that our highest priority should be to protect them and provide them with a safe and healthy life while they are with us.
  4. And most importantly, we need to remember Sod's Law, now named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy - If anything can go wrong, IT WILL.
In memory of nine sweet little turkeys,

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you."
Job 12:3

The Baker Family