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 177 – baling days

177If you want it to rain, make hay.  At least that’s how it seems around here.  Denny got this field mowed and raked. Then it rained.  Next day (or was it 2 days later?) I went out with the tedder, spread out the hay, then re-raked it.  He finished raking so I could go to Troy and started baling.  About 5 rows from being finished with baling, the skies opened. It’s not fun baling wet hay, although this isn’t the first time we’ve done so – sometimes you just need to finish the job.

As they dry, we’ll keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t start molding or getting funky.  Then off to the barn they’ll go, to be stored for winter.  It’s interesting to watch the bales dry if they’ve been rained on – by watching the ends of the bales, we can see the progression of green changing to yellow/brown when dry, kind of like a bulls-eye.  We make them loose enough that they will dry all the way through to the center.

Without good grass (and hay), we don’t have good animals, so this pictures really sums up what Innisfree is about – grass farming!

 

Day 159 – yards and animals

IMG_0224This is our north yard (on the right, you can see the concrete ‘railing’ of our porch steps).  To many people, this would be a hog mess of a yard and should be mowed within an inch of its life.  To us, it’s goat and chicken feed and we’re not going to mow it – the goats will.  The chickens have already been working on it, and they love it even more now that it’s gone to seed.  It’s pretty funny to watch them jump up to peck the seeds out, or snip the stalks with their beaks to knock down the grass and eat the seeds.

We don’t want to use our limited resources (gas, time, energy) to do something that the animals can do just as well, and need to do. They get more benefit out of eating the grass (and for the chickens, the little wiggly critters that live in tall grass) than we ever would by mowing it.  And there’s free fertilizer, which makes the grass grow better the next year, which give better grass for the animals, etc, etc.

Not everyone can do this with their yard – but what is one change you can make to how you manage your piece of Earth?  Maybe it’s planting native wildflowers, trees and/or ground cover instead of spreading grass seed.  Maybe you can have a couple chickens and a portable coop in the backyard to eat the grass, and all you have to do is trim the edges.  Find something that works for you and your space!

 

Day 56 – wasted, but not really

056Goats, at least ours, waste a lot of hay.  They tear into a bale, eat through the center, it collapses, then they trample/poo on more than what they end up eating.  It’s irritating, and we could fix it by putting the hay bale in a feeding ring or something, but it’s not all a loss.  The goats are being wintered over in the test garden – there is also a large fenced-off area where we keep the meat chickens while they are growing..

What do messy goats have to do with chickens?  Well, plenty!  There are lots of little wiggly things now living in that big pile of hay the goats are standing in – wiggly things that chickens love to eat.  And there’s poo, which chickens also love to scratch through for little nummies.  Between the goats stomping around in it, and the chickens later scratching and stomping around, this hay will further decompose and become – soil!  Which will be home to lots of little wiggly things for chickens to eat.

So, this looks like a big pile of wasted hay, but in the end, it will still feed the chickens, which will feed you!

 

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...

Broadforking and policulture

Over the winter, I came across an interesting concept while reading Eliot Coleman‘s Four Season Harvest: the idea of using a broadfork to loosen soil instead of a tiller to grind it. As it turns out–and anyone who has played in the dirt for any length of time probably already knows this–what we call “top […] Continue reading

Over the winter, I came across an interesting concept while reading Eliot Coleman‘s Four Season Harvest: the idea of using a broadfork to loosen soil instead of a tiller to grind it.

As it turns out–and anyone who has played in the dirt for any length of time probably already knows this–what we call “top soil” exists in strata that has very specific and different properties based on depth. In a wild environment, plants  take advantage of each of these strata in entirely different ways, but when we till our gardens, we blend these strata together and deprive our garden plants of the ability to use them. Further, by blending these layers, we churn deeply buried weed seeds to the surface and create an environment where broadleaf weeds can thrive.

The damage tilling does is not finished with just the previous effects. Tilling exposes deep dirt, that because of its organic content holds moisture, to the air and sun, which causes it to dry and lose some of its properties, hence the reason so many gardeners have to water so intensively during the summer and fall. In addition, exposing this deep dirt exposes fragile compounds usually protected from oxidization and sunlight to both, causing them to decay into other compounds that are not as beneficial to plants.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, and this idea goes further than even Coleman does, tilling destroys soil covering plants like sort grasses, clovers, and other ground plants that help prevent soil erosion, help maintain a proper ground temperature for growing, help retain water in the soil, and help prevent weed plants from taking root.

Now, I understand that most gardeners will balk at what I am suggesting here, yet the conclusion is almost unavoidable: tilling our gardens (and our agricultural fields) is bad and counterproductive. And, the evidence is all around us.

Find a wild grass area and study it closely. What you will find is an amazing policulture environment containing dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of individual species of plants that all somehow managed to grow together without tilling, fertilizing, herbicides, pesticides, or mechanical watering. They are able to do so because they work together in a meaningful way to produce soil conditions constantly receptive to new growth.

Using a broadfork to loosen ground, in addition to other techniques such as intensive and cooperative planting, help a gardener (and a farmer) come much closer to mimicking natures course than anything machines might be able to do. By using such techniques, a gardener  promotes soil health and soil growth without having to add too much to what is already there.

Of course, this kind of technique comes with a price, as does everything: it is far more labor intensive than the garden tiller, yet I cannot help but imagine most of us could use the extra work.

DLH

Read more at my Farming blog...