RicelandMeadows


Rye Cover Crop
May 22, 2017, 10:05 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

ryecover

May 22, 2017

This photo shows the cover crop of  cereal rye on our garden this spring. This seed is also known as annual rye. It is grown for grain for flour and for whiskey. I plant it here in late fall, September even into October. It actually grew to waist high before I got it mowed down. I mowed it with the weedeater. Usually, I just plow it under. The wet weather made the fast growing crop too rank to plow down. Once the garden was dry enough to plow, my schedule had changed, so we mowed it. Today, I could have plowed it, but am housebound recovering from pneumonia!

Using a cover crop, even in a small scale like on my garden, makes sense. The growing plants hold soil in place, stopping erosion. They suppress weeds, both in the late autumn as well as, in early spring. They “mine” minerals and nutrients out of the ground. These “mined” materials are given up by the decaying plant. Those become available to the growing plants, in a form ready for use. I will caution that decay uses soil nitrogen, so if the cover crop gets too big, like mine did this year, additional nitrogen may need to be added.

In the case of a heavy nitrogen feeder like corn (maize), you could actually set the plants back by the rich cover crop. My garden soil is well balanced. There is plenty of nitrogen available, so I am not worried. If this was a new garden spot, too much decaying plant material can almost starve the growing crop. Compost added, has already decayed, so if the carbon balance is correct, the nitrogen in the compost is stable and stays in the soil until needed by the growing crop.

You can offset the effects of a thick, heavy cover crop in its decay cycle, by adding more compost. You can add commercial fertilizer too or in place of the compost, but I choose to use compost only on our food crops. I have used commercial fertilizers, but only when soil tests demand it. I’d rather farm with nature and the balance she provides.

The mowed rye plants have dried in the sun. The hollow stems are soaking up rain water and decaying a bit. Incorporating them into the soil as soon as possible is the order of the day. I hope to beat the coming rain and have the garden plowed by chore time Wednesday. Farming is a wonderful life. It is an ongoing chemistry lesson. The cycle of life spins daily and I love the ride!



Piling up the Benefits
January 5, 2017, 2:03 pm
Filed under: January 2017 | Tags: , ,

wintercompost

January 5 2017

Yesterday, in a bitter cold windy day, I pushed up the manure pile. I use this dry stack area to compost all of our manure. I dump wheelbarrows until I can’t close the gate. I then push the piles up and mix it in a bit with the skid steer. Yesterday, the steam rolled out of the pile as I disturbed it, with a fog that I couldn’t see through! That pile is working hard, let me tell you.

The pile is a mix of animal manures and lots of straw, old hay and some sawdust. The whole thing breaks down and turns to rich compost. The rotting action does slow a little in this cold time of year, but it still works like a charm. By the time I have to push up the wheelbarrow piles, the main pile will have shrunk down by a few feet. I root around in there with the skid steer bucket, somewhat turning the pile. This action seems to make the pile decompose much quicker.

I would not do quite so much mixing, if it weren’t for my big orange shovel (AKA skid steer) That thing makes quick work of all manure management issues. I have quite a bit to manage, so I welcome the help it gives me. This pile and many like it are the basis for my farm’s fertility. It’s free for the gathering, just one more benefit that piles up around here.



Its Here!
December 12, 2016, 8:58 pm
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

sugarhousesnow

December 12, 2016

Winter has arrived here in northeast Ohio. It came with a vengeance! We had this quick first snow, followed two days later with eighteen inches more. I dug us out. Last night, it drizzled for four or five hours. We had a slushy mess today. Six to eight inches covers the ground, but slush and mud are underneath. Ugh, that is winter, but not my favorite kind of weather.

The cattle and sheep took it all in stride. They waited out the rain in their respective sheds. The horses went out to play during the deep snow event. They had a great time. Today, they romped and splashed about like children. Tonight, they are back in the warm barn, coats all brushed and ready for bed.

The winter chores are mostly about feeding and making sure all the animals have a dry, warm bed. That means shoveling lots of manure. The manure makes compost so as I wheel each load to the pile, I smile a bit knowing the payback comes in the spring. Those rich nutrients make my crops grow well and round out a well managed farm plan. So as the snow piles up and the rest of us hunker down, I will pile up the benefits…one forkful at a time.



Tis The Season
December 6, 2016, 10:30 pm
Filed under: December 2016 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

lamb2016

December 6, 2016

Butchering season is upon us. This is one of our 2016 grassfed lambs. We will enjoy him ourselves. It is a bittersweet time. The animals that I have nurtured all year, now become meals for us. It is the cycle of life. I understand, I am grateful and yet a part of me feels a little sad. I stun the animals humanely and treat them with respect right to the end of their lives. I take comfort in that fact.

Our animals are well treated form birth until death. Even in the final seconds of their lives, they know no fear or mistreatment. I believe the stress free lives that they live, translates to very safe, wholesome food for me and my family. They spend much of their lives on pasture in the fresh air and sunshine. I watch over them, keeping them safe and well. We get the benefit of vitamins and minerals consumed from our grass and converted into the flesh of our animals.

We feed the soil with compost and pH buffering limestone. The soil feeds the crops. The crops feed the animals and in the case of cover crops, the soil itself. The animals feed us very nutritious protein, packed with vitamins and omega3. The work that I do taking care of our soils is worth every minute. I see it in the crops we grow and I taste it in the beef, lamb, pork and chicken that we eat.

 



2016 Spelt Has Been Planted
October 7, 2016, 8:52 pm
Filed under: October 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

2016speltzplant

October 7, 2016

Wow, after pushing hard from dark until dark for the last three days, the spelt crop for this year has been planted. I had to use the tractor some, but the horses and I pushed through it. This back field is usually our pig herd pasture. I needed to renovate it. Spelt and hay is planted at the same time. I will frost seed clover into this field in February or March, but in the meantime, the spelt will nurse the fescue hay seedlings.

This is a field of about five acres including a small wooded section and several small groves of trees. I farm around the trees for the benefit of the animals and even for the look of the grassy hamlet. The spelt field is about three acres, so well worth the effort. Next July, the grain and straw from this piece will meet our farm needs for a year.

The straw when mixed with the animals manure, after providing them a warm bed, is the foundation for our compost providing much of the carbon source needed. The grain fuels” the horses for an entire year, providing all goes well with the crop. We have not had to buy commercial horse feed for over eight years. Spelt and salt and mineral are all that is needed to keep working horses in good condition, along with good hay of course.

As I type these words, I am tired from the last three days, but I am very satisfied. Now, I just have to clean up the grain drill, grease and put away the disc and other tools while I wait for the seed to sprout. :o)



Bye Bye July
July 30, 2016, 8:12 pm
Filed under: July 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

wyoniaslice

July 30,2016

July 2016, will come to a close tomorrow. Summer is fading fast and what a summer it has been! The project list is getting short and that is a very good feeling. The big tree has been all sliced into rounds, all ready to be split. She will look like firewood in just a few more days. Like July, the tree will soon be just a memory.

The speltz harvest is complete. The grain has been stored and the straw has been baled and put away. The grain provides fuel to power our draft horses, who power our farm. The straw will make great beds for our farms animals, but beyond that…the straw will provide the carbon source for our compost. The animal manures, shavings and this awesome straw are responsible for most of this farms fertility. I am thankful for the harvest.

combinestraw

Amber waves of grain…. it is a beautiful sight.



On Top of the Heap

compost 2016

May 10, 2016

Yesterday, I finished applying the compost to my corn ground. This stuff was straw, manure, wood chips, manure, sawdust, manure, old hay and of course manure! It has been composting in my bunker since last October. It is awesome stuff with only an earthy smell of dirt…. well, okay, perhaps a hint of manure, but mostly dirt. It was in no way offensive to anyone’s nose.

This past fall we used wood chips for bedding. It proved to be a good addition. The small chips kept the pile open and airy longer. I didn’t see any “fire fang” or clumps of uncomposted hay from the absence of air. I also didn’t see many areas of compacted wet anaerobic places either. I was afraid the larger pieces wouldn’t compost well, but they did great and helped the whole pile to boot! I am sure the abundance of manure along with the diversity from several types of animals helps too.

No doubt, I will continue to use the wood chips in part of our bedding strategy along with traditional carbons sources like straw, sawdust, leaves and wasted hay. The wood chips are free. They are not real absorbent, but do work okay when used with one of the other products mentioned, especially straw. We add to the pile daily and I sort of turn it once a week with the skid steer when I push up the daily wheelbarrow loads.

Today, at 4:30 eastern standard time, our documentary from Rural Heritage magazine, airs on RFD-TV. It is weird to see your name in the TV guide! The show will replay on Saturday at 3:00 pm. Then next week , in the same time slots they will run a second episode. So, I guess like the wood chips… I am on top of the heap!