Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2017

We were asked recently about regenerative techniques for land adjacent to an auto shop which appeared to be laden with automotive chemicals.  So far corn, sunflowers and brassicas are coming to the top of the list in our research.

Just a note:  if we were growing these plants on contaminated soil, we would probably cut and compost them initially, certainly we would not graze them with meat or dairy animals, since heavy metals tend to get concentrated in muscle and milk —

Read Full Post »

grass actuarials

Calculating winter forage is an exercise in sliding scales.  While the number of animals may be static, their size or stage of gestation is not.  Calves are getting bigger, both on the ground and in utero, so their forage requirements are going up.  If the weather is very cold, everyone has to burn more calories to stay warm, so paddocks have to be larger;  conversely, if it’s warm and wet the food value of the standing grass is going down, meaning larger paddocks still.  Standing grass quality is going to go down in February anyway, whatever the temperatures, so there will have to be some supplementation — hay — if we want the lactating cows to keep their production up; but as the same cows reach the last two months before their calving dates they are dried off, moving them back down in caloric needs, as well as moving them off the better-quality pastures out front and putting them out back with the dry cows on the rougher pastures.

Keeping up with these variations isn’t just difficult — it’s impossible.  Does that make grazing calculations hopeless?  Not at all.  On a day-to-day basis we can gauge how much pasture to allow by experience seasoned with a good dose of intuition.  On a whole-season basis we haven’t got it figured out yet, and maybe never will, meaning we can’t know how much hay we’ll need in a given winter until the winter is over.  So we fill the barns in summer and scope out sources we can tap for late winter hay in case we reach March/April with more cows than forage.

In any case, we’ll be glad of every mouth we have out there when the grass comes on in May.

Read Full Post »

PASA 2017 conference

logo   Thanks to PASA for a great conference last weekend!  Gabe Brown and Janisse Ray keynoted, philosophical and practical voices urging and encouraging all of us toward diverse ecologies and simple lifestyles, toward greater food independence and intensified community interdependence.

One thought that comes to our minds is that the sustainable agriculture community of the future may — perhaps should — come to include in large proportion a class of farmer that once made up most of the human race, and today is hardly on our organic maps.  We mean the family farmer, the man, woman or couple who stewards a few acres very well, grows his own and his family’s food with some over for extended family, community and charity, and also plies a trade or avocation.  Not just one or the other, farming or avocation, will make up his entire occupation and living, but both or either, simultaneously or cyclically.

A glance at the map of the U.S. in particular, or the world in general, will inform inquiry that,  indeed, much of the habitable portion of the planet is too far from a civic center for direct-market (farm to consumer) sales to make up an entire income anyway.  Is that land to remain in the hands of ‘conventional’ (and destructive) agriculture?  or is it to return entirely to grazing lands, for large herds which will have to be shipped long distances to market?  If areas far distant from concentrated populations of people with money to spend on responsibly, sustainably grown food, are to be regenerated and restored to deep fertility, these will have to be farmed intimately by careful stewards, at least for the foreseeable future, without the farmer deriving a full living from cash crop sales. Who then is to farm them?

Our visits to PASA and other excellent ag events suggest to us that there is an army of interested, informed and avid farmers of many ages eager to take up the challenge.  It is an issue we think is going to need great deal more attention over the next few years.

Read Full Post »