RicelandMeadows


Going Green!
May 3, 2017, 10:51 pm
Filed under: May 2017 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

goingreen517

May 3, 2017

This field is out behind my pig barn. It is where my small sheep flock spent the winter. It was my idea to keep them close, give them shelter and have them work for me all winter. By working, I mean they were eating grass. The grass was under the snow some of the winter. In spring, they kept it in check so as not to get too far ahead of me during the spring flush. I didn’t expect to see the hay growing as fast as it is this year, but man was this ever a good idea.

I make mostly “dry” hay. I need the hot sun to wilt, then cure the hay. The sun and even the dry dirt, sucks the moisture out of the drying grass. When the hay ripens in early June, its not often anymore that we have the drying days needed to make nice hay. Many farmers, including me, have to make baleage or wet wrapped in plastic bales. This makes great livestock feed. It is silage. The problem is, silage should not be fed to horses.

The sheep eating the grasses and clovers has slowed this field down a bit. It is hard to tell however, because the recent rain, hot humid weather and balanced soil is making this hay grow like mad! It is a good problem, but may put the push on once good hay making weather gets here. The sheep are currently in another hayfield knocking it back some. They are up to their necks in lush grass. The ewes are in milk….the baby lambs think they are in heaven. They are growing very, very well!

It is hard to believe that this early in May we have grass this lush, this tall and this beautiful shade of green. I am pleased with my little grassland farm. I’m not fighting the mud. The oats are up. The animals are grazing. The horses and all the livestock are on pasture. It is a wonderful year so far. It’s easy for me to see that going green is truly a wonderful thing!



The Promise in the Sky
April 20, 2017, 10:47 am
Filed under: April 2017 | Tags: , , , , , ,

417rainbow

April 20, 2017

I don’t think there are many things more pleasing to the eye,┬áthan a rainbow in the sky. The bible says it is God’s promise that he would never drown the Earth again. I feel peace when I see one. Yesterday, in the midst of a spring storm, with dark skies and heavy rain, the sun poked through bright and beautiful. This double rainbow was the result. (sorry if the second arc is not to visible, I was slow with the camera)

I always feel humbled when the colorful arcs show themselves over our barns. I know that I am supposed to be here, in this spot, at this place in time. Seeing the rainbow sort of “cements” this for me. I know that the best is yet to come!

Yesterday, before the storm, we managed to spin “bin oats” on the roughed up corn stubble field. These oat seeds are straight out of my oat bin. They will germinate and grow quickly, providing cattle grazing in just a few weeks. It is a minimum tillage practice that I sometimes use that also provides a cover crop for the bare field.

This field, once grazed off by the cows, will next be planted to a cover of buckwheat. While the field mostly “rests”, I will install some needed drainage. Once the buckwheat is tall and blooming, I will mow it all down and apply compost to the whole field. The buckwheat will be allowed to grow, while the horses and I begin plowing the field down in preparation for planting speltz in late summer, early fall.

Small farming is a series of small farming practices. Cover cropping, animal grazing, compost applications and timely weed eradication by mowing, helps me to keep my purchased inputs at a minimum. Sure, it requires a little extra work. It makes me walk my fields to look them over often. I get to know my farm this way, every piece of it. I don’t know of a way to be better connected to my farm, the woodlands or the animals who live here.

Last year, my corn planter skipped like crazy. I would up with it only planting half of a crop! Most people would have started over or mowed it all down. I persisted. Even though my field looked sparse when driving by on the road, it yielded very well. I hand picked the ears , with the help of some great friends. My corn crib is still half full. I will have plenty to get me through to this years crop. Isn’t that all a farmer could ask for? To have enough, what a wonderful thing!

The bee trap is working successfully. The bees, under protest perhaps, are moving in to the hive and setting up their home there. The rains of yesterday and today will sprout the oat crop and keep the fresh grass growing nicely. I will work horses on the sled and wagon as I prep for the coming work season. I will also work my brain, as we travel around the farm, planning for crops, improvements, and tasks that need completed. I will do all of this under the promise in the sky… even when I can’t see it.



Grazing Extended
November 18, 2016, 10:02 pm
Filed under: November 2016 | Tags: , , , , ,

grazob2

November 18, 2016

Today, I turned the cows into the oats and buckwheat that we planted in early August. The oats are just headed out, in the “dough” stage. They are lush and green. They are waist high. The buckwheat has bloomed and has reached maturity. The plants are succulent, big and leafy. This is a little field that was simply disced, two or three times. The seed was broadcasted and then rolled. The rain did most of the work after that.

My pastures around the farm have all been grazed off. The fields are now resting, feeding themselves before going dormant for the year. The weather has been unseasonable, but this is about the time that we are done grazing every year. This year however, this little field will feed the cow herd for another two or three weeks. I will offer hay and baleage free choice in a few days to ensure the cows have plenty of feed.

Here in the snow belt of northeast Ohio, grazing extenders like these oats and buckwheat, help to keep inputs down. Low input means more profitability. More profitability keeps us sustainable, ensuring and securing this farm’s future. The oats were straight out of our feed bin. They need to be oats that were not heat treated so that they germinate. I am not after a grain crop. I just want to stockpile feed for when the grazing is over for the year.

I also have some fourth cutting clover in another field. I plan to graze that field off once the ground freezes. I don’t want the cattle punching holes in the new field of clover. If the ground doesn’t freeze, at a minimum, I will graze the sheep flock there. They will not hurt the soil. They will harvest their own feed and spread their own manure.The other dynamic is their little hooves will press the clover seed heads into the soft soil, thereby reseeding the field as they eat.

Increasing the amount of grazing on a small farm is easy if you think outside the box a little bit. Small plots of summer annuals planted and grazed can rest the regular pastures while keeping the cattle in top condition. Cover crops can be lightly grazed before incorporating them into the soil. Corn fodder, after harvest, can be grazed along with the field edges in that field. I even let the animals graze on the field while I am plowing it. Plowing takes me a few days when using the horses. The grazing keeps the grass short so it turns over easier. I get my plowing done while the animals get their grazing extended.

grazob1



Oats and Buckwheat
October 6, 2016, 1:56 pm
Filed under: October 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

oatsnbuck

October 6, 2016

This little field is located at the back of my farm. It is where the cows will spend the winter. I planted oats and buckwheat here to extend the grazing season. The little field is much better with a cover crop on it. The cows will soon eat this, leaving rich manure behind. It’s nice when they spread their own!

I spent $24.00 on the buckwheat seed. The oats were right out of my feed bin. We disced the area to cut some grooves into the hard ground. We next broadcasted the oats and buckwheat on top of the ground and waited. The rains finally came and sprouted the seed. The buckwheat bloomed and provided a nice autumn crop for the bees. The standing forage will make my cows very happy.

The oats and buckwheat are not frost hardy. They will die once winter gets here, but the cows will have this all eaten before then. The plants have “mined” the soil of trace elements. The cows will eat the plants and deposit the digested minerals back on the ground. Next spring I will plant corn in this small place. The corn will benefit from this crop and from the cows too. It will prove to be a very good way to have spent $24.00.



Fixing a problem
September 3, 2016, 4:17 pm
Filed under: September 2016 | Tags: , , , , , ,

buckwheatnoats

September 3, 2016

This little field was my last winter’s cow lot. It was a rough field filled with hoof prints. I grazed it short in late July. Then we disced it all up to smooth it out and to open the soil up some. We next broadcasted oats from our bin and some buckwheat seed. The seeding is coming along good. I won’t put the cows up here until November. When they do get here they will have thick oats and the spent buckwheat to munch.

The buckwheat mines minerals out of the soil. When the plant dies back or is eaten by the cows, it gives up those minerals. The nutrients will be available for the following crop. I plan to plant some open pollinated corn in this spot next spring. The cows will get it until then. They will winter here again, depositing their manure all over this field. I will plow and prepare a seedbed for the corn. It should be a yummy place for the corn.

So, by fixing the problem of a rough field, I planted feed for the cows, suppressed weeds, mined some nutrients, used up some old oat seed and made a great autumn food crop for my bees. The blooming buckwheat is a favorite for all pollinators, especially honeybees. My cost was my time, a little fuel and $23.00 of buckwheat seed. It is a field of about 2 acres. It was most definitely worth my time!



Managed Grazing

cowgraze

June 7, 2016

We have had a strange spring, but it sure has made the grass grow. Today, I moved the cows into the horse pasture. The finicky horses are not the best grazers. The cows and then the sheep will help eat it down before we mow it. A good timely mowing will set back weeds and get the grass growing again.

I am amazed at just how much feed is made available this way. Seventeen “animal units” will graze this space and get all they want. An animal unit is measured as one adult cow. So, a draft horse equals 1.5 animal units. It takes five sheep to make up one animal unit. The rule of thumb is one acre of good pasture, per animal unit, per season. We are ahead of that curve thanks to good management, compost and rain.

Our stock is all in great shape after coming through a mild winter. The pastures have all been excellent. I even grazed around the buildings out back for a week, forcing the cows to clean up some grass and weeds they would usually turn their noses up at, but it helped me by lightening the workload. They ate it fine and look good for doing so.

I encourage the small or beginning farmer to mow his pastures. If that is the only thing that you can afford to do, it will help. It will make a giant difference! Your stock will appreciate it too. Even weeds are much easier eaten at the young, tender succulent stage. Mowing, is all part of good management and you , your stock and your farm will benefit from doing it.

cowhowdy