Swinging for the fences

The one part of our farming adventure at Innisfree on the Stillwater that has dogged us since the beginning is the fact that we have continued to lease our 100 acres of tillage ground, mostly for the sake of the … Continue reading

The one part of our farming adventure at Innisfree on the Stillwater that has dogged us since the beginning is the fact that we have continued to lease our 100 acres of tillage ground, mostly for the sake of the cash rent. Of course, that lease meant a compromise in the form the use of herbicides and pesticides on that ground every year, but the money was hard to turn down.

Taking back over that ground has always been a part of our plan, and with the upcoming end of the current lease, it has been a regular topic of conversation for us.

This year, as the result of the advent of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the ante got upped with the application of 2,4-D to the entire 100 acres, which fact proved to be a bridge too far for my wife and me. As a result, we’ve decided not to renew the lease and to start working that ground ourselves.

This is a significant step for us, mostly in that it involves a loss of about a third of the farm’s cash income over at least the next couple of years as we transition to new endeavors. Irrespective of the cost, we plan to follow through on this because it is the right thing to do.

Sure, maybe we’re radical and idealistic, but we actually want to leave our little part of planet earth better than we found it for future generations. And so, we will take that ground back over and farm it the way we believe is right.

For us, that means planting about 40 acres of it in grass hay and about another 30 acres of it in fast-growing hardwood trees we plan to sustainably lumber for a variety of farm uses, especially for fence posts for our animal operations. The remainder will function as both a prairie area and for small food plots.

This transition is going to be risky and stressful, but neither of us have any doubt it is the right thing to do. We firmly believe Innisfree represents the future of agriculture, and that fact alone makes what we have decided worth it.

Here’s to hoping and to swinging for the fences.

DLH

[UPDATE: Edited for content]

On animals and worldviews

I suspect that one of the driving forces of the greatest changes in society over the past 100 years versus the past several millenia has been specific movement of people away from caring for food animals. One cannot help but … Continue reading

I suspect that one of the driving forces of the greatest changes in society over the past 100 years versus the past several millenia has been specific movement of people away from caring for food animals.

One cannot help but learn about the brutal realities of the cycle of life to death to life when one cares for food animals. As a result, one cannot help but see the realities of the same cycle in every other part of life. Such realizations cannot help but make someone more pragmatic at the least, if not even a little fatalistic.

That kind of pragmatism then fueled all sorts of ways of thinking that dominated most of human history. And while, yes, that thinking justified all sorts of things we moderns consider savage and inhuman, it also gave birth to the world we have today and, to a great part, continues to sustain it long after most people have forgotten what it all might mean.

Now, being engaged in that kind of undertaking, I find my own thinking inevitably changed by the reality of what I do. In some ways I am softer. In some ways I am harder than I ever imagined I could ever be. My focus is different–dare I say, more focused–and the change in my view of the realities of life and death could not be more profound.

I understand the impracticality of a general return to agriculture, but I cannot help but wonder if we would not benefit from a return to some parts of the worldview it fostered. We need more pragmatism in a world sometimes blinded by the shining and ofttimes false optimism of modernity.  We could do worse than to revisit history, and I’m certain we can benefit from it.

DLH

Day 190 – vertical gardening

2013-07-09 20.34.40One of Denny’s cool gardening ideas.  This one is a two-person job.  Take one hog panel and 8 sturdy stakes (these are rebar).  Pound 4 of the stakes in a line, each one about a foot from the next.  Put the edge of the hog panel against the stakes and push the other end towards the stakes.  Your helper should be arching the panel as you move.  When the “loose” end is where you want it to be, hold the panel in place and drive in the other 4 stakes on the outside.  And you now have a temporary trellis for peas, cucumbers, pole beans, anything that climbs.  Take it down at the end of the season, store the materials in the garage/barn, pull it out again for next year.

We have 2 of these next to each other – 8 pickling cucumbers, and 4 Winter Luxury pumpkins.  The pumpkins are an experiment – I’ve read that you can make slings for the pumpkins to rest in as they grow – tie a strip of t-shirt to the panel and rest the pumpkin in the sling.  As it grows, it will fill in the sling, but not break the stem.  I also read that if you don’t sling the pumpkin, it will only grow to a certain size so the stem won’t be stressed or break.  Smart plants!

I also tried a new (for me) planting method – hilling.  You can see that there is a lot of grass here (we mowed the plot before starting work).  I dug traditional holes for some of the plants, but hilled the rest. Basically, you put the plant on the ground and build up a dirt mound around it.  The dirt kills the grass underneath and the plant grows just fine.  Keep the area around the plant free from grass/weeds, and you just did a lot less work for the same reward.

 

Taking the plunge!

While my wife and I have been living and working on Innisfree for the last three and a half years, it has always been something of a part-time job until now. Late last year, we paid off the last of … Continue reading

While my wife and I have been living and working on Innisfree for the last three and a half years, it has always been something of a part-time job until now. Late last year, we paid off the last of our outstanding debt and as a result, we have decided to have both of us working on the farm as our primary occupation.

While this may sound idyllic, the fact is that it is a leap of faith and a huge risk. Even in the best of circumstances, farming is not a high paying occupation, and the cost of living modern life is higher than most people realize. Nevertheless, it is a risk we are willing and able to take.

Here’s to hoping and to the future!

DLH

Day 60/61 – ideas and actions

060061Last night we had our first “think tank meeting” – a group of us who are creative, motivated and need some mutual encouragement/butt kicking.  We ate good food, had good conversation, and even managed to stay on task for a good portion of the evening.

To what purpose?  How we can all take the stuff swirling around in our heads, and *do* something with it.  How we take the things that we are passionate about (farming, art, music, photography, writing, cooking, etc) and take it to the next level.  How we can provide goods and services to others, and share our enjoyment and passion with them.

The outcome?  At least two of the group have written down their idea (in Facebook form) and what they are going to do with it.  Some of us are still nervous (terrified?) about what we want to do.  Some of us need to just write everything down and sort it out.

And there is my pile of post-it notes and shiny new gel pens.  I’ve tried binders, notebooks, e-writing, to little success.  I usually forget what page in what notebook I wrote something down, and that’s the end of it.  Post-its = 1 idea per paper = hopefully less chance of forgetting it/losing it = more chance of something getting done and not just thought about or talked about.

I’ll keep you posted.  Get it?  “Posted”?  heheheh

 

Standing in the ramparts of a distant frontier wall

“I think of us as the Ramparts People. In all ages we have camped on the edges of the earth, the buffer between our more conventional and timid brethren and those nether regions where, as the medieval maps instructed, “there be dragons and wild beestes.” It is our destiny to draw the dragon’s fire while […] Continue reading

“I think of us as the Ramparts People. In all ages we have camped on the edges of the earth, the buffer between our more conventional and timid brethren and those nether regions where, as the medieval maps instructed, “there be dragons and wild beestes.” It is our destiny to draw the dragon’s fire while the mainstream culture hides behind its disintegrating deficit and damns us for shattering its complacency. So be it.” –Gene Logsdon, “The Ramparts People

Go read it.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...

MENF 2011: We’re all really dirt farmers

Whether we all like it or not, we’re all dirt farmers. You don’t think so? Well, consider this the next time you’re sitting on the pot: you’re finishing the process whereby your body turns the food you have eaten into energy, nutrients, and dirt from which more food can be grown, even if we don’t […] Continue reading

Whether we all like it or not, we’re all dirt farmers. You don’t think so? Well, consider this the next time you’re sitting on the pot: you’re finishing the process whereby your body turns the food you have eaten into energy, nutrients, and dirt from which more food can be grown, even if we don’t like to think of it that way in the 21st century.

Dirt is the medium of exchange for life on earth. It is an amazing material, composed of hundreds and sometimes thousands of constituents all necessary for life to exist. Nearly every living thing produces dirt in some form and nearly nothing can survive without dirt to help it grow or help the things it needs to eat grow.

This idea is important because it is so foreign to modern people, especially in the west and especially in the 21st century. In this era of artificially pristine food gleaming in supermarket displays, an era dominated by the absurd reduction of food growing to chemical applications to a growth medium, we forget that all food–indeed, all life–begins and ends with the dirt.

And healthy dirt is the best kind. If dirt is the medium of exchange for life, then humans are the custodians of the exchange, and we do a really bad job. How so? For instance, as much as half the trash buried in landfills every year, 125 million tons by some estimates, is organic waste that could be composted into dirt instead of being put into a landfill. Even worse, most landfill practices prevent this waste from turning into dirt, meaning that there is waste in landfills from as long as 50 years ago that still has not decayed.

While we’re busy burying our organic waste instead of composting it, farmers are busy dumping a whopping 60 million tons of chemical fertilizer on their crops every year, most of which comes from oil or is produced using fossil fuels for energy. Farmers do this because the dirt they try to grow in is only fit for growing weeds without help.

Help that could come in the form of hundreds of millions of tons of biologically active, incredibly fertile compost if we would stop throwing it away and start putting it back where it belongs: into the dirt.

So, consider this: stop throwing your organic waste away. I’m talking about all of it: food scraps-even bones and fat, paper, cardboard, or anything like it. If it came from a plant or animal, it’s probably organic. Then, compost that stuff. If you don’t want to or can’t compost it, find someone who will and can.

It can be done. We can even compost our own waste along with the rest, ensuring that it all goes where it is supposed to go: back into the dirt where it belongs, just like it was supposed to all along.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...