Can you believe this weather? It's the best we could hope for, and we have seriously seized the opportunity. We spent the week preparing the ground, forming beds, laying plastic, and getting as many things in the ground as we could.
Beans, carrots, radishes, summer squash, cucumbers, lettuces, kale, spinach, and beets were all planted this week.
Im putting a strong focus on perfecting our herb production this year. Some herbs take a considerable amount of time to provide a harvest, particularly the perennial herbs: rosemary, thyme, and sage. I couldn't source organic rosemary seed this year, so I ordered organic plugs several months ago (the process takes 15 weeks). Plugs are cuttings that have been taken from a larger plant, and rooted in nursery flats.
Sage (above), and thyme (below), were started from seed about 20 weeks ago, in the dead of winter. We are planning to plant around 250 of each of these 3 varieties.
This week I also started rotational grazing. Before we moved onto the farm it was managed on an open pasture system, which is where cattle are given a large swath of land to graze. It may sound idyllic for the cow, but a cow was never designed to live in one place. Cows are migratory creatures, and have a natural tendency to want to move away from where they have been. This keeps distance between stalking predators, keeps them healthy by keeping them away from their manure, prevents a build up of waste products in a small area (which changes soil biology and balance), and prevents soil erosion and pasture degradation.
MIRG (managed intensive rotational grazing) is designed to mimick this migratory behavior. Using a solar powered fence energizer, I can section off their large pasture into smaller paddocks, which I will frequently move them from.
The fence works by sending a positive charge down the wire fence from the energizer, which is then connected to a set of grounding rods (above). Like it is, it is an incomplete circuit. When an animal touches the hot wire (the fence), it completes the circuit, by connecting wire to earth, and delivers a small shock. Don't worry! I've now been shocked 4 times by the fence, and it's not as bad as it seems. It's scary, but not painful...in fact, it's a lot like when we were kids and would dare each other to stick our tongues to 9 volt batteries!
The idea of MIRG is to help the animals manage their pasture more effectively, and that involves a lot of math and plant biology. To make the process a little easier, I decided to create a spreadsheet that would auto calculate everything for me. I plug in the variables (yellow fields), and the formulas perform all of the calculations (green fields). This lets me play with the numbers without much effort, so that I can quickly see how a small change will effect the bigger picture.
I can then take those calculations and head to google earth. Using the gps coordinates of our fields, I am able to map out the required paddocks, which can get quite challenging. Trying to make sure that there is adequate shade and water in each and every paddock requires an abstract look at the fields. Your natural tendency to want to follow hills, valleys, treelines, and roadways makes this part just a bit aggravating.
Nevertheless, all of this extra work will not only help our land and our animals, but it will also solve a $40,000 problem. By grazing the animals in a single pasture for so many years, the soil nutrients are way out of whack, and $40,000 is what the fertilizer bill would have come to to correct things. What they don't tell you is that if you don't change your management style, you'll have to shell out that exorbitant amount of cash every few years to keep "fixing things". Sounds like a clever ruse, to me 🤔. No thanks, Mr. Fertlizer Salesman...you'll not fool us. I'll take the extra work!
See you next week.