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sharing mineralsCheck out our spring workshops on the ‘classes‘ page (under ‘about’ in the sidebar menu, not the menu at the top of this page).  Grazing, animal husbandry, water, fertility — come spend time with us and develop ideas for your own independent farmstead!

In answer to questions about winter stockpile:

‘Stockpiled forage’ means mature plants left standing in the pasture and reserved for use after the growing season.  Note that we say ‘mature’ plants, not senescent or lignous.  We time our summer grazing to leave half the pasture acres untouched after their mid-summer grazing.  For this part of Ohio (east central, zone 6), that means that somewhere around the middle of July, or a bit later, whatever we graze over the next six to eight weeks is going to be taken out of the rotation for the rest of the growing year.  About half the farm will be grazed over this lste-summer period.  Then in Sept/Oct/Nov we graze the other half, leaving the earlier pastures to regrow.  We’ll probably make two rotations on the part we’re not stockpiling, depending on what the weather is doing.  In a perfect year — 2018 was pretty satisfactory — we’ll get some good rains and lots of regrowth, and the stockpiled pastures will be fully mature when the cold weather sets in.  Then come late November/early December we finish grazing the fall pastures and start around on the stockpile.

It probably goes without saying that we’ve stockpiled the pastures where we have the most frost-free water (spring-fed tanks).  We don’t like permanent lanes and the impact they get, but in the winter when there’s no snow on the ground we have to leave a temporary lane open back to water.  We use reels to build the lanes, and move them often to minimize the opportunity for back grazing.  Some of the bunch grasses (especially orchard grass) are going to be hit too hard if the cows get bored and start lounging back toward water, so we watch for this and shift the lane fence accordingly.  This method works well for us, and the improvement we’ve seen in our pasture composition and productivity over the last six years has been very satisfactory.

We’re looking forward to speaking at PASA, long one of the best eastern sustainable ag conferences.  This year looks really good, with so many talks we’d like to attend that we’ll have to split up to fit them in.  We’ll be speaking on Friday afternoon (‘Pastured Permaculture:  Building Sustainable Farms with Grass and Ruminants’) and Saturday Morning (‘Feeding the Farm from the Farm’ — otherwise known as ‘get rid of your feed bills’).  This is a great chance for people in and around Pennsylvania to pack a whole lot of learning into two days, with good company, good conversation, and good food thrown in.  To top it all, it’s one of the most reasonably priced conferences around.  If you haven’t already registered, you’ll find more details and online registration here .  Grab us between talks and let’s do coffee!

hog butchering

img_4156This is the last of the summer hogs going into the freezer.  Now our winter-available spare nutrients will all go to the three young porkers (100-125# animals, born lat summer).  That means table scraps, whey and buttermilk, cull squashes and potatoes from the cave and root cellar, some bakery waste from the monastery, and lots and LOTS of mangel-wurzels — a rich and varied diet, and it seems to speak to the young porkers’ very souls.

Natural casings are the best.  Scraping the lining out of hog intestines might not sound impressive, but it takes a knack, and it’s completely worth it, don’t you think?

rendering lard

The two-hole butchering stove.  Good for drying towels, too, and keeping the coffee pot warm.  The tool is for stirring; rendering lard is easier when you have a lot of folks taking turns keeping the fat from scorching

Barry has been slaughtering hogs for going on sixty years!  We helped him to build the brick stove (behind Luke) in 2001); it has stove holes for two of those big 30 gal. kettles.  The door behind Barry opens to the cool room we built in 2014, so we could butcher steers even when the weather was uncooperative.