A Better Way to Garden: Row Hiller

For years we have had gardens that were always rather flat. The rows were only slightly raised and if so it was done by and. this year we purchased for a nominal cost a implement that includes a row hiller to rais rows, four cultivators to keep the rows clean and a sweep plow we have used to dig a trench for the garden’s irrigation lines.

Jace, our college intern, looks over the row he has just made.
The rows on the right were made without the hiller and are partially
mulched in pine straw.




Amichai Speak

“In the sky of the old city

A kite

At the other end of a string

A child

I can’t see

Because of the wall”

Yehuda Amichai

From Jeruaslem

Talafia for Our Farm Lake

Every year we stock our farm lake by the cabins with Tilafia fish. The water temperture needs to be around 65 degrees. They will have babies every 4 weeks until the fall when die die off as the water cools. During the summer season ,they are good food for our bass in the lake and also eat up some types of lake algae.

They arrive in oxygen filled plastic bags in boxes.



You let the bag rest in the water for some time so the water temperature in the bag and in the water equalize.



On release the fish are ready to explore their new home.


Eva's Herb Garden: An Update

We have been posting for two years photos of Eva’s cottage raised bed herb garden. These photos were taken a few weeks ago and show the maturity of some of the permanent herbs. Seasonal herbs have been planted and are starting to grow as the days get warmer.

I found a bathtub out in the pasture and had a cattle water tank wiht a hole in it that work well as supplemental beds for small herbs.



Cattle and Flies: A Problem Needing Control

Saturday we were going to move 40 mama cows and their calves from our Rocky Branch Grass Ranch to home so they could eat on some fresh forage we planted last fall. When we started,we noticed that we had a severe fly problem on the cows and calves. This is earlier in the year than we normally experience. The flies were so bad they were causing some of the calves to bleed from all the bites on their back. Excessive flies are not only unhealthy, but they so distract the cattle they loose weight.

We are trying a new fly tag this year for long-term control and a back spray we have not used in a number of yerars. You have to rotate control measures so the flies do not become adapted to what you use. The tags are placed on the top of the ears, so the flies land on them and pick up trace amounts of a control agent. They then fly off an die. The back spray is an instant kill, but has little residual effect; especially after rain.

When you see flies in this number, you know it is time to give the cattle some relief.



Spray gives the cattle immediate relief. The black cloud of flies over each cot immediately goes away.


Mature cattle get a tag on each ear providing 5 months of protection. Calves get only one tag.


Update: Spring Pastures from Fall Seeding

Last fall we planted 70 acres in rye grass, clover and vetch. The fall was very dry and the winter very cold, so not mauch happened until late February. In early March, we had a few rains and we fertilized 50 acres in hope that rain would continue. Well, it rained little, but enough to keep the planted forage going. As it turned out, this planted pasture “saved our bacon” this spring giving us just enough pasture to get the cattle off hay.

The three photos below are from the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch. The white clover is Ball and comes back annually fomr dropped seed. The red clover is Crimson and purple plant is hairy Vetch.

Our plan is to plant Cowboy Bermuda seed as soon as this forage is eaten off by the cattle.

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At the home place 10 miles from rocky Branch the forages are covering up our grandson.



This is a group of calves was born October - December last year. They will be weaned later in the summer. They will do well on this forage and mom mama cow milk. These are part of our “salad bar” beef herd.


Just in Time... Hay from Colorado

We have been very carefully taking care not to run of of barn hay before more is available locally. With the severe drought, it has been unclear if small square bales would be available this summer. We use this hay to feed goats in the barn, the zebra when in stalls and in the corrall when we have a few cattle in for whatever reason.

We sold a bull and heifer to a rancher near Druango, Colorado and they were delivered last week. He raises and sales alfalfa hay for horses and had some in the barn not yet sold. We took advantage of the back haul and now have a supply that will get us through part of the summer if necessary.

The photos below are of our log barn build around 1850 or so. Stacked in the corner are some of the artificats of the early days on the farm. The big problem with this barn is you need to be no more than three feet tall to easily walk in the door. It makes bringing in hay a challenge.


This is very good quality horse hay. Sidney was there for unloading, but never moved a bale.


Which Beef Is Best?

Some time ago I was in an HEB grocery store (Houston) and saw three very different types of beef for sale. Each is the same cut of steak, but there is a remarkable difference in the fat content of each and the price. The natural Beef and Kobe Beef are from cattle that are fed mostly grain. This beef is NOT that healthy for you. The grass fed beef in the center is the one that is most healthy, but you have to take care in how you cook it. There is little to no marbeling in this grass fed beef. Our grass fed beef has a much more natural marbeling. I suspicion that this HEB beef comes from a large ranch, that pushes their cattle out the door to harvest six months faster than we do. It takes time to grow out a grass fed steer. Patience is important in the grass fed beef business.

Link to New York times Blog on
“Switching to Grass-Fed Beef”

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Anticipation: Berry Season

I was cleaning some old email files and found this photo I took a few years ago at the height of berry season. I can just imagine how sweet our Greer Farm bleuberries and blackberries will be this year. We anticipate opening around the last weekend of May or first days of June.


Motorcycles On The Farm: Boo Benefit

Some blogs are best aged and this is one I have saved. Last fall we hosted one the of events of the Boo Benefit. This is an annual event in Jefferson that attracts thousands of bikers to raise funds to assist burn victiims. A special event this year was a separate afternoon east Texas bike ride from Jefferson to our farm in Daingerfield. We provided smoked sausage as a snack. When it was planned we expected perhaps 50 or so riders. That kept growing and on arrival hundreds of bikers arrived coming down our country road. We had arranged a police escort so they riders did not have to stop at lights in our county and we were told the line of bikes extended for over two miles. Like the story of the five loaves of bread and fishes, our supply of sausage some how expanded to meet the demand. It was a delightful afternoon and we met a lot of nice, and interesting, folks. Perhaps we will do this again this fall.

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Fishing on the Farm: Making Memories

The Rehm family from League City south of Houston visited the farm for a few days in March and father and son had a memorable fishing experience. Too often we take for granted life on our farm. It is through the photos of our guests that we can truly appreciate its uniqueness. Many lasting memories have been made on a farm stay to The Greer Farm.




Cows On Spring Pasture

April 2nd was the end of our winter breeding season and we brought together all of our breeding cows and heifers to one pasture. This is a hay meadow that had spring rye and vetch in it. We like to clean it up for a future hay cutting and there is no better way than to mob graze it. Today is April 8 and the field is almost eaten down. The cows can probably stay here another 5-6 days, then we have to move them to better pasture.

Phos taken April 2




Photo below was taken in August of 2010. Adequate moisture made a
big diffrence.


The Bulls Are Home

We took our herd bulls off three sets of cows and heifers Arpil 2 after a three month breeding season. Back home, they immediately started to snort, kick up dirt and fight to show who was number 1. One bull tossed another through a high tensil woven wore fence. A day after being back home they settled into their nomal routine while waiting for the time they will be called on again to strut their manhood.


Still Feeding Hay

We are still feeding a little hay to our herd and young bulls, plus some cattle headed off to Colorao next week in a hbolding area. This has been a very long hay season starting the end of October last year. This set of cows left the home place the day after this photo was taken. You can see that the pasture is green, but grass is limited As soon as I set out the hay roll they all wanted to eat. Despite a long hard winter, these cows look pretty good; nice butts!

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Sohocki Speak

“There are lots of falling balls in the life of a chef / owner. Would that I only did what interested me I should sleep very well indeed.”

Michael Sohocki
San Antonio Cehef

Newsletter: April On The Farm

If you do not get our newsletter’s by email and updates on the berry patch, you can sing up here.

Spring has arrived on the farm, but Mother Nature is not so sure yet.  We had 38 degrees this morning and a light frost.  Perhaps this will be the last threating night to our vegetables and berries. Eva's flower gardens are changing by the day. The azaleas are starting their spring flush and the roses, she so carefully pruned for weeks, are loaded with her first roses.  We are down to the last two heifers to have calves and the goats will soon have theri babies.  The bulls have been taken off the breeding herds so the cows can settle in and wait for fall to have calves.  The yearling steers and heifers were rounded up and moved to the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch where their pasture has abundant, lush green rye grass, vetch and clover.  The vegetable gardens are partially planted. Lack of rain has been an issue, but we did get over an inch this week that will help.  This time of the year on the farm there is much to do and never enough time.
Scarborough Fare....
If you remember the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fare, you will recall the next words in that song; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  This is the theme of Chef Eva's April cooking class:  Cooking with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  She has her own private herb garden and has new herbs stated in the greenhouse for her raised beds. April is an excellent time to focus on fresh herbs that will soon be abundant. The menu has a lot of variety and will allow as much participation as you desire.

Scarlet Nantes Carrot Soup with Mint

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Garlic Flan with Crispy Shallots, served with an Arugula and Radicchio Salad  
Grilled Scallops with Salsa Verde  
Herb Crusted chicken Cordon Bleu with Basil Pesto and Hazelnuts  
Mashed Potatoes with toasted Coriander and Roasted Garlic 
Lemon Verbena ice Cream

The class is $75 and starts at 11:00 am at the farm house.  It will last about 2-1/2 hrs or so.  Call today to confirm your participation

Farm Stays
March was a very busy month for those wanting to get away for a few days on the farm.  Our lakeside log cabins have been very popular. Now that the pollen season is almost over, it will be even more pleasant to sit out on the veranda or by a camp fire in the evening.  We are offering a cabin rental special during April. A three night stay, during a Sunday through Thursday period, will be 10% off.  The savings will probably cover the cost of the fuel it takes to get to the farm. Week end rentals have been brisk with a lot of future bookings, so please let us know early the dates that work best for you.  As soon as we have a few extra hours, we are installing Belizean style hammock posts near each cabin for a relaxing hammock.  As many of our guests already know, our farm is a really nice place to retreat from the world.  There are always farm animals to help feed and later in April we get over 100 baby chicks to brood. Leave the city behind and come to our the farm this year.
Berry Patch Activities
It is only about seven more weeks until the start of berry season. The bushes are in bloom and the local honey bees are hard at work pollinating them. Our new bumble bees arrive any day to reinforce this effort.  We have finished planting 600 new blackberry plants, 100 replacement plants in the old blackberry rows and have a full row of table grapes planted.  Our current major activity is to refurbish the irrigation system and make plans for a complete replacement of it either before the picking season starts or in the fall.  The figs look pretty sad after the hard winter freezes, so many will need replacing. We will use a variety that survived the cold here to solve this problem.  We will still have access to figs from friend's trees.  Sometime the old time varieties are best because they have adapted to our climate.
Beef, Chickens and Eggs
We will harvest steers this week and within a month all the others we have grass finished for our spring beef customers will be harvested.  We will not have any beef available on the farm by the package until fall.  All our beef steers were sold to individuals. We still have a limited amount of lean ground beef. The fall steers are on pasture and we taking orders for October/November delivery.  Many have asked for a simple way to compare our price to others.  All sellers base their price on the hanging or hot weight.  This is the weight of the steer after it is initially harvested and is hanging to dry age.  Our total price for the beef and the cost of processing and packaging is currently $4.21 per pound using the hanging weight.  As an example, a 1,200 pound live steer will hang at about 660 pounds more or less.  After shrink, processing and packaging a split quarter will be about 120 pounds of frozen, packaged beef. Using this example, a split quarter will cost about $695.  Lighter steers could cost $100 less.  This for beef you know how it was raised, what it was fed and how it was processed to your specific instructions.  We invite you to visit the farm any time to see our cattle on pasture. Our goal is to raise the very best beef cattle possible and we believe that our particular breed and the way we finish them produces a product surperior to our competitors.
I know the answer to the question; Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  It's the chicken.  I know because we have well over a hundred day old chicks arriving at the local Daingerfield Post Office on April 15 and April 29.  They will be whisked off to our brooder to stay warm and start to grow.  In five months we will have brown egg laying chickens.  While we will continue to have a few chickens in the old barn, most of the chickens are moving to the pasture to live in our new "egg mobile'.  This is a hen house on wheels that we just finished building. It will occupy a different place in a cow pasture every few days giving the chickens an opportunity to free range and mature on a natural diet of grass and bugs.  We will have a blog in a few days with photos of the egg mobile.  We expect our eggs to be extra special.  We also hope this method of raising egg layers will avoid our problem last winter when we lost our flock to a fox, raccoons and a possum. 
Facebook and Twitter
Not wanting to let the world pass us by, we now are regular contributors on our Facebook page and we Twitter.  There are links to both on our website homepage. Check these sites occasionally to see what is going on at the farm.
Farm Life
I just had my 62nd birthday and have been a full time farmer since the age of 49.  I can say for certain that life on the farm is a lot better than life in the corporate world.  My satisfaction used to be obtained from beating the competition; exceeding financial goals and thinking I might be more important than I really was.  I could have stayed in this world, but I was never that good at office politics and had a rebel streak the size of Kansas running through me.  My associates were not those that assumed they had arrived and wanted those around them to know it, or those that had not yet arrived but would sell their soul to get there. That part of my life is behind me and not to be pondered.  I am now part of something much more important and a life that has enduring meaning.  Now I participate daily in the wonder of nature, growing things that are good to eat and enjoying flowers that are pleasant to smell and observe.  I am surrounded by all kinds of domesticated animals and those of the forest on the farm.  I get a thrill seeing a sleek red fox dash across the fields at Rocky Branch early in the morning.  I am warmed by the touch of a new baby calf or goat and I am sad at the death of any or our farm animals.  In the evening, I watch beautiful sunsets turn the day into dusk and then to darkness when a million, million stars illuminate my night.  I am a very lucky person to have experienced so many different things in my life, but I am very content to be where I am, doing what I am doing and sharing it with those I love and the guests that visit our family farm.
From Our House To Yours
Make our farm your farm.  Come and visit us.  Participate in a cooking class, pick berries, stay in a cabin and savor life as it can be lived.  From our family to yours we thank you for your support of our family farm.  Please forward this newsletter on to anyone that may have an interest.
All the best,
Sid, Eva and all of us on the farm
Has Spring Finally Arrived?

Greer Farm's Egg Mobile

For many years we have had an Egg Mobile on our business plan as another farm project to accomplish. The hold-up has been trying to locate a suitable trailer frame on which to mount our moving chicken house. One was recently located 200 miles from the farm and brought back to be converted. Your need a wagon with a swivel tongue to move it around eaily. Old cotton wagons are best for this, but hard to find and very expensive.

The concept of an Egg Mobil is simple. We will place the hen house in a cow pasture. The chicken house moves along with the chickens so they have a steady natural diet of grass and bugs to forage on in a free range environment. Whenever the grass gets short or the chicken poops gets too deep on the grass, the house is moved. The chickens are only in the house to lay eggs, roost at night and to get out of the sun during part of the day. An electric chicken fence surrounds the area around the trailer giving the chickens a lot of room to graze, but protecting them from chicken snakes and four legged predators. Our one concern is flying hawks.

We will soon have new day old chicks to brood and raise, so in a short period of time the chicks will be large enough to be outside . In five months or so, we will have our first eggs.

I suppose you wonder what we will do with so many eggs. Some will be use by us on the farm, some will go to our cabin guests, but most will be distributed through the
Comeback Creek CSA in the Dallas, Texarkana, Longview-Tyler and our local area. Beside a wide variety of organic vegetables you can obtain from Comeback Creek, they will also have our berries in season.

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The trailer had been used to haul hay and was built off a 1950’s Ford truck frame. We removed
the wood deck and painted the frame before we started to build the house.

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We enlarged the floor farme so we could accomodate up to 250 chickens roosting in
the hen house. The egg laying boxes can be seen at the rear of the roosts. The metal
hen house is insulated so the chickens do not get heat stress in the summer. The floor
is wire covered and with the roof vents there will be adequated air circulation.

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The busniess end of the house contains the laying nests. There are 20 nests in our
initial set-up and we could add other nests if we get more chickens. The chickens enter
the egg boxes from inside the house and we will open the doors to collect the eggs.

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There is an access hatch for us to enter the hen house, and a ramp for the
chickens to get in easily. Your cna close the door for security at night and when you move the house, you can
raise the ramp

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Since the house is larger than the trailer frame, we welded four leg supports attaching them to each corner of the hen house. Your tighten two bolts to lock the leg in place. This will give the hen house more to stabaility
in the event of high winds.

We repaired this laying box which will be returned
to the old barn where we will keep a few chickens.