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Steph Larsen's Posts

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Doe, a deer, a sustainable protein source to last all winter

Oh, deer. (Photo by QUOI Media Group.) I am not a hunter. I don't (and will not) own a gun and, though I've toyed with the idea of bow hunting in the past, my aim really stinks. Even so, the deer population where I live does need to be thinned, since we've taken their natural predators away. And I sure do appreciate a good venison steak. Here in Nebraska does are not in short supply -- in fact, many hunters are after a trophy buck and the state has to push hunters to shoot their female counterparts. Having many more …

Read more: Locavore

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Friend of a farmer: Why small-scale ag needs community

Photo courtesy of the USDA archivesTucked into the end of a recent New York Times article about young farmers were two frank paragraphs about a quiet reality many of us face: Ms. Oakley said young farmers rarely discussed that lack of community, adding that she had seen the isolation break up marriages. At their Three Springs Farm, she and her husband, both 34, grossed $60,000 by their third season -- a reason to celebrate by most standards -- but they wished they had more company. "It was just the two of us, every job we did together," Ms. Oakley said. …

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Occupy the pasture

I love a good protest. But in my small town, there are no picket signs lining Main St., and it seems a little wrong to drive 120 miles round trip to attend the nearest Occupy event. After all, oil company profits are part of the reason people are angry. Still, I want to feel connected to this burgeoning political movement. There were only two of us -- my partner Brian and I -- plus our flock of sheep and Arrow the dog. So why did we take the time to carefully mull over messages and paint colorful signs? One of …

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It's raining chemicals

Photo: Accidental Ocelot It starts with a distant, unmistakable whine, like a fly in another room you've been too lazy to swat. As the sound grows, I make sure the dog is inside, then grab the camera and head to the pasture. Planes spraying fungicides have interrupted several quiet weekends on our small farm this summer. They're hard to ignore -- the buzz of their loud propellers is deafening, especially when they fly above our house to turn around. Over the corn fields they soar, sometimes only a few feet about the tips of the tassels, with white mist trailing …

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What a hoe! — and other secrets of an orderly garden

Lookin' sharp!Can you keep a secret? I think I'm in love. The object of my affection is about 5'4", slender, and she's the sharpest tool in the shed. Did I mention she's a redhead? I've taken her out twice now, and we danced around the garden like we were made for each other. I'm talking, of course, about my new stirrup hoe. Equally enamoring is our new low tunnel -- a temporary structure made of curved metal and special fabric that lets light and water in. My partner, Brian, keeps exclaiming, "How did we ever grow anything without a low …

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How does my garden grow? With the aid of a pretty good digital planner

Steph Larsen's digital farm plan takes shape in the material world.Photo: Steph LarsenWhat's black and white and dirty all over? My garden plan! Last year's was, anyway. Most farmers I know will say that keeping good records and plans is fundamental to farming success. By no means am I what you might call a natural planner -- I lean towards the "organized chaos" style of living. But when it comes to growing things, I'm convinced that adding a healthy dose of order to the garden chaos is a necessity. There are just too many variables to consider otherwise. Garden plans …

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Are ewe serious? The joys of raising lambs in springtime

Someone to watch over me: a mama ewe, with lambs. Photo: Steph LarsenWhen I get home tonight, eleven adorable newborns will greet me with their wide eyes and cute faces. Overseeing the care of so many is a daunting task, but luckily I have help: their mamas. Spring means lambs on Thistle Root Farm, and for the last few weeks our time has been spent caring for pregnant sheep, watching for the signs of impending birth, and making sure the new babies get off to the best possible start. At times, it's not been easy. There's an old shepherd joke …

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I’m coming out — as a farmer

Steph Larsen down on the farm. Or not?Last spring, our sheep had six lambs. Now five of them have taken a one-way trip to the meat locker, bound for not only our freezer but those of five other families, too. The chickens are laying eggs moderately well, and we might actually be turning a small profit on them. Unlike last year, I picked this year's chick breeds based on which produce well all year and give me the diversity of egg colors that my customers like. We've also sketched out plans to sell a few vegetables, herbs, and fruits through …

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Flyover country

I’m a rural resident. Where’s my subsidy check?

The view from Washington, D.C., of the rural Midwest: quaint scenery on the way to the West Coast. Photo: Scorpions and CentaursI've spent the majority of my life living in cities, albeit mostly small ones in Wisconsin that New Yorkers might not call metropolitan. Before I moved to Lyons, Neb., I lived in Washington, D.C. I truly appreciate the virtues of both urban and rural living. So it's hard to understand why some urbanites criticize rural folks because we choose to make our home in a place without traffic where you can see the stars. My brow furrowed a bit …

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Stick a pitchfork in it

When are we going to stop seeing farmers as rubes and hayseeds?

Is this really what farmers look like? Our culture abounds with images of farmers. Sadly, many of them are insulting. Stereotypes tell us that farmers are male, white, uneducated, dirty, backwards-thinking, and talk with a funny accent. Farmers don't get off the farm much, they like chewing on the ends of long stalks of grass, they wear overalls, and they have large wives named Helga and lots of children. If you don't believe me, do a Google image search for "farmer." The cartoons are especially instructive on how society views farmers. Collectively, we don't think of farming as an occupation …

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