Monday, November 30, 2015


I talked to a conventional farmer recently and he told me of spreading the residue from the Fibrominn electrical generating plant as a soil amendment.  His goal, beside the trace elements and a bit of phosphorus in the product, had to do with getting the cornstalks to rot, thus making the soybean year to follow easier.  This appears to be a matter of concern, though it is never an issue for us.  Our local co-op has started in the liquid 28% N business and this is the reason for it.  Fall application is thought to accelerate the decay of the corn stover.  We bale most of our corn residue for bedding and let the cow herd at the remainder.  Also, of course, we do not use the bt hybrids, or other forms of bioengineering in the corn seed we plant.

Lime from the sugar plant is also coming into favor.  The thinking is that it helps against compaction in the field ends where the end rows are planted over all the tractor end turns.  Again, we don't see an issue, probably because our rotation is nearly fifty percent hay(alfalfa-clover-grass)  This spring I walked the entire farm with a penetrometer and could not find serious compaction anywhere.  We formerly had a problem.  It is the changes that have brought about the improvements in our soil.   

Our farm is alkaline, with severe 'alkali' rims consisting of limey salty soil.  We have trouble with growing beans, or would have if we were interested in doing so.  It seems merely logical that this kind of farm needs fertility provided by acid livestock manures and not salty commercial fertilizer products.  It also needs the kind of farmer that does not think exclusively in terms of tractors. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Today is the first day of several rainy ones if the weather reports are to be believed, and it is welcome indeed.  When we shut the pasture water system down for the season late last week, there was no water in any of the risers except at the leak.  This is unusual as the water table in the pasture is nearly always high, rarely more than three feet down. 

And while the earth is being replenished a certain rooster pheasant is acting pretty cocky about escaping the gun.  He struts back and forth across the path I walk with the dog out to check the cattle each day, ducking behind a clump of grass every time he thinks I am noticing him. 

We have much reason to feel gratitude.  We need also to feel empathy and sorrow for all those thousands who wander on earth, driven out from their homes with no clean water or decent food to eat.  We are certainly wealthy in every way that counts.


Thursday, November 12, 2015


The last cornstalk bales came in yesterday and we are to the point of putting fence around the bale storage area we have in the fields and then letting the cows, calves and young stock out there for a final go at the crop residues and cover crop regrowth (mainly Italian ryegrass, rape/turnip and clover)  They will trail back to the yard for drinks so it is also time to shut down the pasture water system, always nice to get done before winter does it for us.  Last week we finished the new sow partition fence and all groups are on heated drinkers there, or will be when  we find the short in the system.

After the final gleaning is done, perhaps soon after Thanksgiving, we will sort the young stock and put them on the permanent pasture for a slow winter rotation while they feed on the sorghum sudan silage bales, maintaining, we hope, a good growth over the winter.  The cows will be maintained on ordinary hay on the crop fields.  We need more late fall and winter grazing crops to take us all the way to Christmas.  Hay is expensive to grow and bale.  But it is pleasing to see the growing cattle business fit in so well with the hogs and crops, especially since diversity in agriculture is so off trend.   

Monday, November 2, 2015


The long open fall makes it easy to get the farm work done but it is also seductive.  Who would not rather go for long walks under Cottonwood and Ash and Box Elder scuffing his feet through the piles of fallen leaves, listening to the south wind chuckling contentedly in the increasingly bare branches and then out onto the dormant pastures, mature grasses crunching underfoot while the breeze stirs the seedheads?  Geese fly over in the vain search this year for open water and a rooster pheasant explodes into flight from nearly under your feet, rusty scream trailing behind him like a piece of broken machinery.  You could stay here awhile!

Then the thoughts intrude.  There are pigs still on an unheated drinker.  Plus the unfound short in another drinker heater.  The sow shelters have not been closed up for winter.  All the windbreak stalk bales are not in place.  Hog weaning and then breeding is coming shortly.  The bull needs to go to the fall calving herd and the market animals need sorting from the cow herd here so that the cows can be made to scrape the crop fields for provisions.

Work is always there, but all humans, including farmers, need dreamtime.  A balance must be found.