Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Week 16 (December 10, 2012)

Week 16 the last week of regular class for the semester.  Time flies when you are busy and having fun.  In lecture for Farm Ecology the time was spent on covering the few items we hadn't covered and reviewing materials for the final.  A couple of additional interesting points to remember:

  • We trend to be an extractive society, meaning that we tend to take stuff away and it leaves the system - selling it elsewhere.
  • To be sustainable (in farming) we want to sponsor our own fertility as much as possible.
  • Nature farms with animals.  To farm sustainable our goal is to mimic nature, which means animals need to be incorporated into our farming practices.  (Remember bugs, worms etc... are animals also).
  • We need to pay attention to what existed in nature in the prairie as it built many feet of soil and was very productive.  So we should try to mimic it, not necessarily being identical but remembering to ask ourselves what will nature allow us to do here more sustainable than what is being done by conventional agriculture. 
  • You can feed peas but not raw soybeans to livestock.
In Principals of Sustainability we reviewed what we had learned on permaculture and how it is being applied at Paradox Farms in their edible forest gardens and agroforestry.  Included was how they were designing to fit and work with the existing landscape.  As additional point was how animals worked into their farming system (goats clearing invasive prickle ash, chickens cleaning up orchard fruit that drops to the ground as well as rotational grazing of animals.  We also watched and then discussed a video about Ruth Stout who started gardening in the 1940's developing some methods similar to "Fukuoka".  Mrs. Stout never plows, spades, cultivates, or sprays chemicals.  She just plants and harvests, using a lot of hay mulch.  She has written several books one of which is entitled "Gardening Without Work".  Mrs Stout was a pretty colorful and independent thinker.

All of my free time this week was spent working on my horticulture plan for the morning crops class.  This project was our final for the this portion of the class. My idea that I developed into a plan was to have a CSA (titled The Larder Filler Farm and Ranch" and is based on selling clients storage crops (primarily tomato's, pickles (cumbers), winter squash, sweetcorn and popcorn.  This was done using high tunnels for the tomato's and cucumbers.  The squash, popcorn and sweetcorn were worked into a six field crop rotation consisting of a winter squash field, popcorn field, sweetcorn field, a field of winter wheat/hay pasture and two fields of hay/pasture.  With rotational animal grazing of the fields where appropriate.  The squash is planted into strips cultivated in a field planted with a diverse cover crop designed to allow hogs to self harvest their entire feed ration (design by Kent Solberg).  I have since found out that my idea of a storage crop CSA has already been thought of by somebody else.  The Island Lake Farm and Forestry CSA already sell something similar which they call pantry shares.  There website explains it further.

Friday afternoon Farm Skills class we spent on time on reading legal descriptions and then went through a list of tools to include in your basic farm tool kit.  The most versatile and inexpensive tool was a 5-gallon plastic bucket, scavenged not purchased.  The most unique tool of the page and a half list was a Pulaski which has a digging pick on one side and an axe head on the opposite side.

In the Friday evening Crops and Forage Class the initial lecture was on seeding rates, determining the % pure live seed in a bag of seed and using that to adjust the recommended seeding rate to take into account the % pure live seed of your bag of seed.  After that the subject was hay, and harvesting and storing hay.  This included how to make silage using a silage clamp technique and also making balage.  A silage clamp is basically made by piling and packing the grass in a 3 to 4 foot pile and covering it with a tarp to keep put the air and allow it to ferment and turn into silage.  This is a very inexpensive method of storing hay for smaller operations.  Balage involves wrapping a large round bale in plastic to keep it airtight and allow it to ferment into silage.  The discussion then moved to various agricultural enterprises available to the beginning farmer and how you can stack those enterprises with complementary ones to create additional income streams and diversification of your business.  The main idea in a stacking enterprise is that the waste and by-product stream from your primary business feeds the stacked enterprise.  (i.e. extra milk from your dairy cow can be used as food for your hogs).  The key to the whole thing is to maximize what you have getting multiple uses out of your buildings and land.  The class finished up with a review of materials to expect on the final next Monday.

Saturday we were back at Faith Haven for our final regular class.

We made hominy from kernels of corn

Believe it or not you use lye when making hominy.
Adding lye helps remove the hulls from
 the corn seed

Made corn nuts with top secrete recipe
Of coarse we also had a big meal 
Canned some beef and experimented
adding squash.  We also helped one of
our classmates celebrate the last day
of Hanuka, hence the hat. 

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