From the Soil to the Soul

February 25, 2021

Greetings fellow earthlings, small farm enthusiasts, family, friends, and patrons!  What a wonderful and wacky week it’s been from ice storms, to power outages, to book club and a new tractor.  It looks like this upcoming week we will have favorable weather compared to the wet and saturated weather we have seen since the new year.  We lost power for several days during the first ice storm, but we have a couple generators that helped keep our freezers and important electrical appliances running in that power outage event.  Although we always have room to improve our power redundancy, we are nonetheless making strides every day for optimization and deeper levels of connectedness and streamlined processes on and around the farm operations.  That being said, we finally pulled the trigger and invested in a new tractor with several important implements to help optimize our fertility program on and around the farm as well as other vital processes.

 As the weather is starting to make an upward swing to spring, we are starting to focus on prepping our soils in the gardens, pastures, and wood lots.  We do this in various ways, but it all starts with our soul and good intentions.  I know that the energy I put into my work will pay off with abundant nutrition and nourishment for my family, community, and ecosystem.  I know the care I give to the soil will pay off exponentially throughout the food chain.  In the garden we are starting to clear out any old dead growth from last year, mulching the beds and plants/trees with straw and wood chips, mulching pathways, and brewing up compost teas to distribute in the garden beds to increase and promote microbiological growth and activity.  Creating a balanced ecosystem in the soil optimizes the interdependencies necessary for optimal growth conditions in any garden or orchard.  

In the pastures we are intensively moving the cows in micro paddocks as we roll out the hay bales to cover the ground and “inoculate” those areas with grass seeds from the hay.  The areas that are being covered with hay were young pine and sweet gum saplings in early successional growth when we moved to the property almost five years ago.  This has proven to work in other areas of the farm and now we are expanding this practice to help promote more grazeable areas throughout the property.  After the cows move on to other areas, the chickens are then moved in and scratch out the cow patties and evenly distribute the strewn hay around.  Then once the chickens are moved to their next spots, we lightly seed a mixed cover crop to help build organic matter and create diversity within the silvopasture systems on the farm.

In the wooded areas and wood lots around the farm, we use pigs to rotate around and create a natural disturbance on the forest floor.  The time that the pigs stay in a certain plot depends on the size of the pigs.  When the pigs are small, we keep them in a quarter acre plot for no more than seven days then move them to the next plot.  As the pigs grow and reach harvestability then they only stay in a plot for three to four days then move on.  This ensures that soil is not over disturbed and promotes erosion in any way.  Once the pigs leave from a certain plot in any given season, they never touch that same plot their whole life cycle on the farm.  This is imperative so that any parasite cycles conducive to pigs are broken and future groups of pigs will not be negatively affected in any way.  Finally, once the pigs are moved to a new plot, we then seed a mixed cover crop the cows can later graze further into the year. 

It is quite amazing how everything is connected throughout our farm.  To make matters even more awesome, the food being produced is nourishing our bodies and souls for everyone on our farm and in our food community.  If you want to learn more about our farm or upcoming workshops to further your journey into sustainability and/or self-reliance, then check out website for more details. 

Remember that the in person mushroom workshop is this Saturday February 27 at 10am.  If you don't get registered before it sells out then you are still eligible to register for the self-paced version of the course and receive your own 4’ shiitake mushroom log, if you register before March 1st (and are within our delivery zone or come pickup at the farm).

Brian Bowen

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