Troubled Relationship with Pollinators

I have not seen a single wild honey bee this year.  For several years they have been scarce, but it is shocking and disappointing for them to be gone.  [Edit 13 July 2015:  I have found two live honey bees and two dead ones since the article was written.] It is no secret that bee populations have been declining.  All the smoking guns point back to human activity.  I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s words that our solidarity with larger society prohibits us from taking the easy option of decrying the bad guys.  He was talking about… Read More

Hilling Taters

We’ve been experimenting with hilling discs in our potato patch.  Last week we tried it, but the ground was wet and the weeds matted, so the discs were just lifting sheets and then dropping them back in place, slightly disturbed.  After a few (somewhat) dry days and some light rototilling along the rows, we used the discs again. It took several adjustments to work out the optimal ground speed and cutting width, but with practice we got good results.  It got me thinking about building a two-row toolbar to run two sets of discs so I could gather hilling material… Read More

Exploiting Underpaid Workers for Fun and Profit

I pay my landscapers less than minimum wage, so it makes sense that they leave crap all over my lawn.  But to me, its worth it if I don’t have to go out there in the summer with a lawnmower and weed whacker.  Just don’t go barefoot in the grass…

Flower Fed Beef

I moved the cattle this evening into a particularly colorful pasture.  Except for the flies on the cattle, this evening has been idyllic with mild weather and bobolinks flitting all around.  At this time of year it is accurate to say that the cattle are as much flower-fed as grass-fed.  Maybe we could command higher prices if we sold the beef as flower-fed?  Just you wait, it could be the next big thing.

Managed Grazing Gets Results

In discussions among grassfed producers, invariably we get around to discussing managed grazing.  There are different names and different practices, but to vastly simplify, the formula is basically: Move the cattle frequently so they don’t regraze plants that are recovering from a previous grazing. Use high (a relative term) stock density to maximize animal impact for the short grazing duration. Allow enough rest period for the forage to fully recover before grazing again. Don’t follow any of the above rules so woodenly that you do something stupid and lose sight of what you… Read More

Our Feral Chickens and Wild Birds

Two of our feral hens hatched clutches of chicks this past week.  Most of our egg layers are a half mile from the house in the back pastures, but we have a few mongrel yardbirds we keep around for tick control.  They rustle all their feed, raise their chicks, and poop all over our patio.  Here are some shots of the hens with their new chicks. Also in the lean-to, between the roof and a windowsill, I found the nest shown below. I took the picture on tip-toe, so my hand was wobbly… Read More

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Earlier I described our inefficient grain handling system and the need to upgrade.  During the winter and spring I started buying the equipment and for the last few months I’ve been building, repairing, and assembling all the components. This week we put all the pieces together and tested the system end to end. I bought a moderately beat up gravity wagon.  It wasn’t the prettiest wagon I looked at, but it sure wasn’t the ugliest.  I couldn’t afford the nice boxes not in need of repair; I couldn’t afford the time and frustration that would be… Read More

Grazing Reed Canarygrass

The cattle are wrapping up a grazing rotation through the low lying fields.  This area is often wet and consequently it doesn’t grow “good” grass or legumes very well.  Reed Canarygrass is the dominant species in a lot of these pastures.  Traditionally, farmers in our area think of it as a liability rather than an asset.  It gets a bad rap on a few accounts.  The digestibility declines rapidly as the plant matures.  Mature stands allegedly become high in alkaloids making the plant less palatable to the cattle than other grass.  And it is… Read More