Saturday, September 26, 2015


Besides being the most beautiful time of year here in the Upper Midwest, September and October is a time for "drawing in", for harvest in its largest sense, for getting ready for the winter to come.  After a lifetime spent farming, it takes a particular and intense effort for me to realize that most people no longer live with these necessities, realities that have always, with a few years off at University, driven my life.  It is tempting to use this as a starting point for a lengthy argument about how much healthier would be our body politic and common life together if more of us faced this kind of necessity.  I won't do that though, out of respect for the fact that many of us do face tremendous odds in living a good life, odds that would keep many in bed in the morning.  These challenges are significant, even if not seasonal. 

Here at Pastures, we work every day this fall at getting fences up around newly poured concrete in the sow area.  We have moved from a single group of mother sows to three groups in the last several years to accommodate our customers' desires for pork on a regular basis.  This requires more complex housing and feeding arrangements as well as provisions to make breeding easier and we are just now nearing completion on the needed building.  Everything is further complicated by the fact that we wish to maintain the gestating sows on pasture to the extent possible.  In that vein, we will be in a position this winter due to the new layout and a good supply of high quality hay to continue the access to forage for the sow herd through the winter.  In addition, there are gardens to harvest, of course, machinery to ready and use in the fall season, the other buildings to repair and maintain.  We will, it is hoped, get to some improvement in the pasture water points for the cattle next year.

It is critical to our well being that we take notice of the low sun angle, and the beautiful light that creates, of the turning and falling leaves, the briskness in the morning breeze and the shortening days.  We will not pass this way again.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Today we use the old drills to attempt to interseed tillage radish with the regrowing sorghum sudan and rape.  It is part of a project to measure the effect of the plant on soil compaction.  But my interest is also in learning to start another crop in the late growth or residue of the current one as an attempt to minimize tillage and open soil. 

The cattle came off the sorghum sudan three days ago.  The hope is that the regrowth is subdued enough to allow new seed to start.  This depends upon the timing of first frost and regular rains.

Friday, September 4, 2015


The bottle had on it a wrap at the top that was made to look something like bottled beer fifty years ago, except that it was made of plastic rather than foil.  The plastic balked the cap from coming unscrewed.  Extremely tough plastic.  You know what I mean.  Parts come this way now and by the time you get the thing unwrapped you are left only hoping that the part is as tough and unbreakable as the wrapper.  It needed to come off at the point of a scissors.  Once the cap was off, the next problem, in the form of a seal with finger loop that was too small to allow the point of my finger.  Back to the silverware drawer!  So two seals protecting cooking oil.  Folks, this is simple paranoia.  We are nuts.

Meanwhile, of course, no one seems interested in examining or thinking about the contents of the bottle.  This was canola oil, so it was made by Monsanto.  There is no such thing as gmo free canola. Monsanto has pushed it out of existence.  So the top of the bottle has been made safe against some nitwit with a hypodermic needle, while the contents are a brew made from a plant containing foreign genetic material to let it tolerate glysophate herbicide.   I notice also that sweet corn being grown for the canneries is gmo: the fields have the same unreal unearthly look as the fields of field corn.  We have given up sweet corn for that reason, or only eat what we can grow ourselves.  The oil is harder to justify, except to say that we are making progress against fifty years of conditioning on our way back to lard and butter as cooking oils.  Olive oil is good, but long distance.  We will get there.  It took us most of a decade to get the margarine propaganda out of our heads.