Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hay going and piglets coming

If you have driven by the place lately you may have witnessed a grass stuffed giant marshmallow Stonehenge like arrangement, like Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of our agricultural future. Don't' fret, that is just the ancient art of hay being done. There are some local fellas that have been haying this land for years, and the grass was growing faster than I could graze, so we worked it out. I don't know if I was more impressed by the art or industry of it, but the only ones who enjoyed seeing it more than I was the coyotes. In broad daylight they will follow the baler picking up the mice who just had their thatch roofs removed. I am sad to see the marshmallows loaded up and heading down the road, but excited to let the field turn green again, and spread the grazing pastures farther out. Currently the pigs are tilling the new hop field. It is getting late in the year for our hop trials, and I think we can kiss this fall's harvest goodbye, but we should have our foundation plants in the ground and ready to overwinter in time to make a strong showing next year. Ezra Meeker would till new ground twice and then stick new hops in, tilling occasionally between the rows to control weeds (all horse draft). We are just going to have the pigs till so most of the natural soil structure, and microbial life will stay intact. We haven't decided who will graze the rows between yet, so far it is a tossup between the smaller breed pigs, and sheep. We will have them do paper scissors rock and see who wins. Speaking of the smaller breed pigs, our prized mulefoot "Kid-Pig" just congratulated his third wife on his third litter (her first). In a week or so his fourth wife, a registered mulefoot from Minnesota will be arriving. I keep telling him to slow down, but he just tells me I am too old fashioned. Check out Facebook if you want to see pics of the new ones.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sun and fertile ground

Hot sun, and extremely fertile ground has things growing like mad here. Grass depending on the species is anywhere between my waist and as high as I can lift my hat in the air. The pigs are grazing a dent in it, but most of the field has seeded out. This means it needs to be hayed off so it can go green again. Right now the neighbors are making round bales out on the field and it looks great (hence thier tractor in the pic) The first pasture that the pigs mowed down is almost fully grown back with a deep shade of green, with no irrigation and maybe one day of rain. The buckwheat is coming up too. I should be announcing the harvest schedule in a couple weeks or so. I have been planning the pasures to be about two weeks of grazing, and that has been working out pretty good. Ususally I will throw the pigs a snack every day, to remind them they are domesticated, and that they like me. Unfortunately it causes them to associate me with tasty snacks all the time, so when I go out to walk the fence line, the whole heard follows me along the fence line, honking in single file. I can't help but laugh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pasture sytems go!

My phone doesn't take the grandest photos, but what we have here is the last three pasture rotations. Foreground is about to be opened to new grazing, middle ground is current grazing, and the next field out is regrowth from the last grazing. I cannot believe how fast the pasture springs back with growth after the pigs have tilled her. At three weeks rest it is almost regrown. If you were to see closely you would notice that the pigs don't leave the ground level. They dig all kinds of peaks and valleys. For the first replanting (in addition to the pasture that regrows on it's own) We have broadcasted sugar beets in the peaks, and buckwheat in the low spots. The buckwheat will create allot of biomass, as well as rich forage, while helping to fill in. We hope the beets will lure the pigs to re level the high points next pass through. If the birds leave the seeds in the ground, and the pigs cooperate - it will be a pretty cool system without need of machinery. No machinery outside of the sickle bar mower I use to mow the fence line at least. Pasture samples were lab tested at 20% protein, try to buy commercial feed that dense. Now that the grass is in seed the protein is lower, but morning glory is running rampant, and making up for it, and the pigs go crazy for the morning glory. When I get a chance I try to cut a little and hand ensile pasture for leaner days. So far the silage is a delicacy to the pigs, so that may play into winter plans for these guys if I can figure out how manage the large quantities without braking my spine. In general I like the pigs to pick their own grass. We are getting ready to breed our first 100% mulefoot pair in a week or so, and rethinking the breeds for our production girls. The 50% mulefoot piglets are growing fast, and are lightening quick little guys. They are like watching furry little pin balls bounce around. Carrie next door at Little Eorthe farm is helping us plan out our seed saving field for our heirloom "Mammoth Red Mangle" beets. These monsters grow up to 20 pounds, and likely will be an important part of our winter forage systems in the future. We are growing seed, because it takes a mortgage to buy them, and also they are very rare and hard to get. We have had some challenges recently with organic wormers. We had been using diatomatious earth, which was not working internally. If anyone out there in interweb land has had success with natural remedies, I would love to talk shop. Other than that we are loving being on site. Carrie Little just tilled our family garden for us and Tahoma Farms gave us a bunch of starts to put in. With neighbors like these we may just have to stick around for a while.