Day 303 – cow poop

2013-10-30 08.12.22

This is a garden full of poop! After 3 years (yes, you read that right), we decided it was about time to clean the barn out since we had to cut some beef steers out for processing, and it was getting a little sloppy in the door area.

We’ve been having some problems the soil in this garden over the last couple of years, so are doing some hard core soil amendment – manure, green manure, probably some straw, then legumes to be planted in the spring. A couple years of that, and we hope the soil is back to normal. We’ll be using the other garden for our food crops while this one rests and recuperates.

And it doesn’t stink because we periodically added straw to help the manure break down better. Animal poop doesn’t have to smell bad – it’s all about the microbes. If you give them something good to eat (like straw or wood chips), they do their job and the poop doesn’t stink.

Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions! Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their […]

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class.  Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 189 – sound of silence

This is what quiet looks like around here:

This doesn’t happen very often, maybe twice a week – that’s how often we usually move the goats!  They let us know in very loud voices when they think their pen area has been eaten down too much – that usually means that they can stay in that spot for about 2 more days.  We don’t move them until they’ve eaten everything they possibly can, even if they don’t “like” it.  It’s pretty funny to get chewed out by a goat while they have a mouthful of gone-to-seed grass in their mouth.

We’ve had an abundance of chicory this year, and the goats love it.  This is an area directly across from where they are now, and you can see how much chicory is there.

2013-07-08 20.53.53

 

The chicken yard is also overrun with it, so that’s where they will go next, after we fence off the fruit trees that grow there.  We don’t let them eat everything, just most!

I’m sure by tomorrow, they will be complaining about the quality of the grass, and how they’re going to fall over any minute due to starvation.

And when we move them again, everything will be eaten down to the ground, there will be goat poo for the chickens to scratch around in, and the whole area will have received a free layer of fertilizer to grow the next round of goat feed.  Our cost?  The materials (panels, goat hut) and time.  Well worth not having to use a gas lawnmower – mowers don’t fertilize!

Day 182 – that’s not supposed to be growing

182We were out weeding the garden today and I was weeding/strawing down the potato rows.  Came across this little beauty of a “weed” and after a little searching, discovered that it’s hairy vetch, one part of the spring manure mix that we put on that garden row last year (we left one fallow row and overseeded it with the mix – field peas, hairy vetch and oats).  It’s not supposed to be a perennial, so it was a definite surprise to find it!  It’s not really in the way where it’s growing, so I’m going to leave it be.

Leaving a row fallow gives the soil a break from feeding greedy plants.  Putting a manure mix on the row keeps exposed soil from eroding, the roots break up any hard-packed soil under the surface, and the plants themselves give nutrients back to the soil (both by growing and by being tilled under when it’s time to plant that row).  So it’s not really manure as in animal poo, but manure as in nutrients for the soil.  Plant it, let it grow, till it under, and badabing – you have better soil and better crops.

 

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...

Manure

This morning, I heard an astounding advertisement from an “organic” garden supply company that claimed that manure was bad for you and your garden. Now, to many people, their logic would sound solid. According to the ad, manure based gardening soils are low energy and stink, and if you’ve ever purchased such soils from a […] Continue reading

This morning, I heard an astounding advertisement from an “organic” garden supply company that claimed that manure was bad for you and your garden.

Now, to many people, their logic would sound solid. According to the ad, manure based gardening soils are low energy and stink, and if you’ve ever purchased such soils from a garden center or home improvement store, in a lot of ways, they’re right.

That’s because they’re doing it wrong.

Manure is, in fact, a significant part of the way nature produces soil, as is polyculture and a sufficient amount of time. Natural–and I use that term to distinguish from “organic”–soil production starts when the animals producing the manure eat food natural to them and then that manure is deposited on a sufficient base of cellulose (in nature, thatched prairie or forest floor debris form that base, while in food production, straw or wood chips are often the choice). Once deposited, a whole host of creatures break down the manure into its constituent parts along with the action of the wind, sun, and rain.

On our farm, the manure we collect in quantity over the winter because the animals tend to congregate where we feed hay has usually completely transitioned to what most people would call dirt–that is, without the smell associated with most store-bought garden soils–by the following fall. We regularly use that dirt in our gardens and planters to great success.

Of course, our method does not even address another failing of the no-manure claim. Even if they are producing soil solely from vegetable matter, if the process is really organic, what do they call the leavings of the insects and microbes they then call soil? Sure, it’s not cow manure, but waste products are waste products even if they’re useful to us.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...