Baling twine as a fence


 

  Baling Twine as a Fence

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Some people have scoffed when I said I used baling twine as a fence…

Well I took the fence down and rolled it up and let the horses into the forbidden zone this morning.  Photo below of the rolled up “fence”.

It works because my stock is accustomed to a good HOT fence.

It was only about 70 or 80 feet of excluded area….but even the goats had not crossed the single strand “fence”

Below is what was fenced out and the horses were sampling the new found goodies.  Even Perkins came out for the taste test but the horse flies sent him prancing back to the stable and Condi soon followed…Pete endured another five minutes or so and he went to the stable as well.

The donkeys sought out the sunflowers…Perkins like the Sun Hemp and cow pea leaves because they were easy to chew with his old teeth.  Condi pulled on a Cow Pea vine and  pulled about six feet of vine out of the millet.  The vine startled her and she pranced around dragging the vine, until she decided to eat it.  Pete concentrated on the pearl millet…

Saw this device at a clients horse farm this morning.  It is a fly trap for biting flies.  They were very happy with it and felt is had really reduced the horse fly population and caught many stable flies as well.  There was a couple of inches of dead flies in it and several who were dying…

Perkins wants to borrow my credit card to order one…

http://www.bitingflies.com/

 

Here is a shot of morning day two of access to the new stuff.  It is interesting and unusual that they are staying in the short stuff and eating the new stuff from the top down,.  The goats and cows however go into the middle and eat from the inside out.  Yesterday afternoon the goats were hidden in this patch eating…I could hear their bells.  When I grabbed the camera to snap this shot, Condi was standing in the short stuff grazing at head height, but when she saw me she took off for the stable for her breakfast.   Yeah she and the others get a token handout morning and night when Perkins gets his sustenance.

 

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No Blog….I have not forgotten you


Baby Jim  back by popular demand.

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It is all the fault of Facebook.  It is so easy to post a photo and knock out a quick blurb about the photo.

I confess that I have been victim of the allure.  But finally I realized that in writing and opinions I am not a man of few words and I tire quickly of trying to communicate on a virtual tiny keyboard with my mangled and misshapen fingers……….That leaves me trying to type with a stylus and argue with auto correct about what I am typing and it is frustrating beyond belief.

So having some things to say I realized that I have a blog and it is easy and non limiting…takes a few more minutes to set it up but so much more satisfying than auto correct on Facebook.

Relative to the misshapen fingers, I realized this morning that Naproxen Sodium and Instaflex Plus is what is keeping me functioning.  I forgot to take them last night and awoke with great pain in my hand and wrist this morning from the Rheumatoid Arthritis.   The worst of my two bad knees was also making itself known.   Thirty minutes after taking them I was again functional….Won’t forget them again…

I am not quite dead yet in spite of my advancing age….I was in tractor supply yesterday and ran across a good price on some protein supplement tubs.  I asked a young man who worked there if they had a way for me to get one of these to my truck….100 lb tubs.  He brought out a cart and I lifted one off the stack and put it on the cart and he followed me and my shopping buggy through the checkout line and to the van….I saw him looking at the tub…just looking and not moving…I picked it up and set it in the van….he just looked at me.  I said, “I bet you didn’t think I could do that.”  He said, “No, I was hoping you would help me because I knew that I could not do that.”

Anyhow to the cause for this missive.

I often advise folks to use portable electric fence for pasture division and grazing management….I get a lot of funny looks…Portable electric fence is basically one or two electric wires or polywire or poly tape or polyrope suspended on step in plastic posts.

I also advise folks to use the same setup to create travel lanes between the aforementioned grazing paddocks.  More funny looks..

I try to draw out layouts and get more funny looks.

So yesterday while walking down a temporary travel lane that Marie and I put up in the mid nineties….I stopped and snapped a couple of photos of it….She and I put this lane up way back then for some reason long since forgotten in order to make her livestock management easier while I was travelling for work.  She and I put it up in about a half hour before I left for some out of state destination.  It has been so useful that it still exists today….this was when we first started managing grazing and back then it was for the cows as we did not have horses until 2003 when I got Val and Junior.

One side of this lane was a paddock we had fenced off for grazing management….I took a couple of pieces of 2 inch PVC pipe about five feet long and using a block of wood as a cap hammered them into the ground….creating an insulated post.  This works but I have since discovered that it is easier to drive a steel Tee post into the ground and simply slide the 2 inch PVC over the post making a good strong corner for poly wire.

I used the same trick to hammer some sections of 3/4 inch PVC in as line posts.

We created the lane by moving over about ten feet and doing the same thing.  On this side we used what we had available, which was step in posts and poly tape.

Been there for over 25 years and still functioning.  Here is a shot of the lane.  the left side paddocks have been grazed and mowed and had fall multi species cover crop broadcast on them in the last two weeks.  The paddock on the right side will be grazed in a week or two.

 

My horses are so accustomed to electric fence that I can now use baling twine as electric fence and they will honor it.  I am using a piece of baling twine today as a horse fence.  My guess is that the goats will pretty quickly figure it out as they are not afraid to test their limits.

No photo of this but I finally have the goats in with the horses.  Since Star Baby is no longer in residence all I had to do was see if Condi would tolerate them.  Perkins absolutely does not care and Pete is pretty easy to get along with.  Jonah does not love the goats but he does not bother them.  Condi says as long as they stay out of her groceries she could not give a rip.  So I rigged them up a place in the stable where they could escape the equines if necessary and they have resided with the horses for two days now.  It has actually helped in making the two goats that I got last year more sociable.  I can now easily touch them, where they have always been skittish and standoffish.   Nelly has long been an in your pocket goat and is constantly investigating my clothes for something edible.  I wanted them with the horses to address some of the weeds that the horses will not touch.  The goats have gone right to work on them…I have enough weeds to keep twice as many goats’ busy full time…next year by this time we should have a few more goats.

Speaking of Condi, we went up to Brunson’ this week to try out Amanda’s obstacles.  I took Condi and Stewart brought his mare Samosa.  Condi and I just walked thru them and she did pretty good…Amanda had a remote control car that she drove around the horses….Condi did not like it at first but then I was driving it and we went all over the arena with Condi following it…Another obstacle was pool noodles sticking out of some barrels.  Condi would go thru them okay but when they touched her hind legs she hurried thru them..

So we hung some pool noodles in the stable over the weekend.  When Condi saw the first one she left the stable…but after I hung it she came right back to investigate…now she has to stand between two of them to get her groceries.  She adapted pretty quick.

Perkins uses them to keep the flys off…not much bothers that old boy.

The only other obstacle that bothered her was the bubble machine….she did not act foolish and was listening to me throughout….but she could not figure out those bubbles…Once she figures something out she accepts it.

I could wave the flag all around her and over her and no problem.  I even covered her whole head with the flag and she just stood there.

 

 

 

 

A new adventure


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I have wanted for a while to add a few more goats to the farm beautification crew.  At one time we had five and over the last couple of years have suffered some attrition and we are down to three….this number is insufficient to do the needed jobe of brush control on the plantation….The cows help but there are just some things that goats will eat that cows are reluctant to consume…

So lately I have been looking at breeds of goats…we have historically had nubians or nubian crosses….we dabbled with Boers but found them to be, lets say difficult to manage and not very calm…maybe I had a bad sample but when I finally caught them and removed them life got a lot simpler…many have told me their boers were pets but the ones I had demonstrated little interest in human association….

Any how I have been reading and talking to folks about Kikos.  Kikos are a breed of goat developed as a meat goat in New Zealand.  They are reputed to be very hardy and excellent browsers…They are very popular in America…..that means they are not cheap….but then I have discovered that no goats are cheap anymore.  I originally wanted to get a couple of bred females but soon discovered that it would be cheaper to buy another horse.  not needing another horse I kept shopping.

I finally found a fellow who has purbred Kikos that had a couple of Bucks that I could afford.  So yesterday I went to look at them.  the idea being to buy a buck and breed my does and then perhaps resell him…. or maybe keep him for a second season and then sell him.  thus raising my own farm beautification crew from babies and having an opportunity to keep them gentle.

I arrived at the appointed time and met the gentleman, Ben Mikell.  We chatted for a few minutes and then we went through the gate and he yelled come on boys…..To my amazement a herd of bucks trotted to him from all over the field.  Below is a photo of the bucks crowed around him as he breaks off a sweet gum limb to lure the senior herd sire from the shade under a building…I was amazed at how gentle these bucks were….they crowed around both of us to be petted and loking for handouts.  As I do, he feeds them a little bit daily to keep them coming to call and to make checking easier.

Here is a photo of the senior herd sire, Magnum.  He is the big Brown Goat.  He is purebred registered New Zeland stock and is an impressive animal.  There was little doubt of his status in the herd….he was the kindly monarch and all deferred to him.

Ben repeated his trick by going to the doe pastture and yelling come on girls and they did not trot but ran to us.  Most of these girl had larger offspring not quite ready to wean.

Then he took me to a maternity area where he had three or four does with little babies three or four weeks old.  they were the cutest little things.

Anyhow it was back to the bucks and I sorted though them and looked at what I could afford.  I settled on a buck named Beaver.  He is about two and a half years old and is a good size fellow.  He is mostly white with some very light brown patches.  He is 99 percent purebred and could be registered but that involves DNA testing and several other expenses and I have no desire to be in the registered goat businees and intend to breed him to non Kiko goats so registration expense is avoided.  He also has the tip broken off of one of his horns which lowers his value considerably.  He was a pretty good sized fellow and craved attention.  He liked to be petted and be close to humans as did several of his kin folk.  that made it hard to get a picture of him…

below is Ben reading his tattoo but I was on the wrong side and snapped a shot and got the sun haze but it shows his disposition and his size.

below is a clearer picture but another buck stepped in just as I clicked the shot….Beaver is the one to the upper right.

Anyhow I bought Beaver.  He will not come to live with us until October.  The reason for this is I do not have a secure goat area to keep him seperated from the does.  I do not want to have goats giving birth in the dead of winter.  We have done that by accident a time or two and lost as many babies to the cold as we saved….So if Beaver is not here until say Mid October we will not have kids until Late March or April.

I am tickled and looking forward to the new cute little goat babies next spring.

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE


CHANGING PERSPECTIVE

JIM TATE

CONSERVATION SPECIALIST

HANOVER – CAROLINE SWCD

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I started this job with the district in 1999, so come Labor day I will be beginning my nineteenth year.  I began fooling with horses and cattle about 1960 when I got my first horse.  It took me a long time to figure out that as a stockman , my first job was to be able to grow grass for feed for the livestock.  Since that big revelation it has been a steady progression of learning just how to do that.  Don’t get me wrong….I am not tooting my horn because I have made so many mistakes along the way that it is shameful to recall them all.  Some of those mistakes were my fault because I am a little bull headed.

Some of those mistakes are not my fault because I was doing what I was taught…..Some of the teaching was conventional wisdom and some of it was university research.

I think my strength is that I can recognize what is not working and attempt to try something different hoping for a better result.  This in itself has taken me down many a blind alley.  But I have tried not to be one who repeats the same process over and over expecting different results.

It took me a while to get here but for the last eight or ten years I have been on a quest to find ways to do things more holistically and with lower inputs and in concert with nature.

My personal livestock endeavors transformed from a sideline business to a hobby about that time when my neighbor and cattle partner died and I returned to riding horses for pleasure.  I sold the cow herd down to two good old lame cows that were too good to slaughter and yet too unsound to sell to anyone else.  Those two cows are gone now, but I am back up to four registered and one commercial cow to breed this fall.  The commercial cow raised a set of twins on her own this past year so she is a pretty good one too and I will probably sell her as a commercial cow next spring after weaning her fall calf and breeding her back.  Three or four good cows Is my goal and I even registered a heifer this year for the first time in three or four years….

But I digress.  At that time I was raising cattle by the university tested paradigm….I was performance testing and measuring growth and doing all of the approved management practices and soil testing and fertilizing and spraying for pests both plant and animal and was a regular customer at all of the farm supply stores.  There came a point where decisions had to be made and poverty avoided.

About that time I was exposed to several outside the box thinkers who are still widely denounced as impractical and quixotic.  But what they were saying registered with me.  I won’t go into all of them and their methods but I decided that there had to be a better way.

I quit buying fertilizer and lime.  I greatly reduced my use of pesticides for both weeds and insects.  I attempted to embrace nature and diversity.  I recalled some of the techniques practiced by the farmers of my childhood right after world war two.  I knew farmers who used horses and mules and recall when 8N tractors were the thing many coveted.  Almost every farm had a surplus army jeep as a farm vehicle.  I remember good bountiful crops before the age of chemistry.  I remember when all farms were diverse with multiple species of livestock and crops.  But yield goals were changing and small farms were becoming big farms and specialization in farming was well under way …… by the time I got to college.  My specialty became Beef Cattle and  I have worked with registered angus  ever since…remember,   I still have five.

But now in my doterage I recognize what we have lost….we have lost diversity.   We have lost the interrelationship of crops and animals.  We have lost natural interrelationships of animals fertilizing the land.  We have lost natural production cycles.  Nutrients are commodities that are moved on and off the farm with abandon.  We have lost wildlife habitat.  The greatest symptom of that is the decline in Bobwhite Quail.  It is theorized that this is mostly due to loss of habitat.

The answer to every problem today comes in a chemical jug.  Now I am not knocking progress and we have found solutions to many problems and have the ability to produce more every year….until something happens in the supply chain,  Or until nature discovers a work around.  One of the great challenges today, is due to the use of Roundup for everything .  We now have roundup resistant weeds that are super aggressive..

Nature abhors a vacuum and she will put something there to cover the soil and her solution is often a bigger problem than the original problem you thought you took care of with the chemicals.  I sprayed some fence line because the grass was shorting out the electric fence….Killed the grass fine….but now I am fighting multiflora rose and wild blackberry and pokeberry and tree of heaven and cedars and so forth that were never there when the fescue was there.  Today I mow fence lines with a push mower….No it is not easy but it is easier than dealing with the multiflora rose….

Now to the points of all of this.  Yes there are a couple of points to be made.

The first is stocking rate.  The conventional definition is number of animal units that can be successfully managed on a given amount of land.

For simplicity an animal unit is generally considered to be 1000 lbs of animal generally regardless of species.  The problem is that many people have no idea what their animals weigh.

Virginia Tech generally recommends that it takes two acres to carry one animal unit.  My position has been for years that Virginia Tech is in the Mountains of Southwest Virginia with a different climate and distinctly different seasons and pasture species than we have here at the juncture of the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont.  I have contended for years that three acres per animal unit would be a better target.  Since no one has heeded my advice in that regard, I am relatively safe in changing my recommendation to four acres per cow.

But people want to have what they want to have.  So they rationalize.  Well I buy all my hay any way.  I buy my feed.  I don’t want the horses to get to fat….clover makes them slobber, too much grass makes them founder, my horse is an easy keeper….the county allows two horses per acre…..and they plant grass every year or have dry lots.

Cattle people do it too…they stock for the best production time of the year…cows get fat in the spring while the producer struggles to make spring hay around the spring rain showers and about a third of the hay gets wet with quality lost.   Then we hit a spell of hot dry weather like this weeks (today is 21 July 2017 ) 104 degree days and no rain for several weeks and the cool season grasses just give up and go to sleep.  I have seen people this week feeding hay that was intended for winter…Hay feeding initiated now is likely to carry on through September or until we get meaningful rain from a hurricane.  In the last couple of decades we have seen summers like this about one in three.  Yet people continue to stock at two acres per cow or less, because that is what we have always done.   My thought is why not stock for the worst of times to be sustainable and have luxury in the good times.  Then you can background your calves rather than having to send them to market …the easiest money to make in cattle is in backgrounding weanlings….if you have the forage.

I was on the farm of a producer this week who does not feed any hay….He has not fed any hay for the last couple of years….his stated goal is for his cows to graze 365 days per year.  This producer does several things differently from the conventional cattleman.

First his stocking rate is four acres per cow.  He had about eighty acres and about twenty cows.  And he had pretty big cows.  For those of you who have seen my cows his were nearly as big as ours used to be and the current ones are now.  Three of my five are still pretty big.  One of the five is but a weanling heifer and one is a smaller cow who produces like a big one.

This producer has grass right now….fescue up to my knees and swithchgrass some of which was over my head.  He is not Making any hay….he is managing his grazing and stockpiling forage.

He rotationally grazes…he controls where the cows graze and more importantly where they do not graze.   Simple one strand hot wire fence….

He allows his pastures to rest and recover after grazing.

Yes I said switchgrass….he has a twelve acre field of swithchgrass and that is where the dry cows are spending a good part of their summer and they are fat and sassy.

I have used and advocated using Summer annuals to do this same thing for several years.  But I was convinced to plant some native warm season grasses in the coming year.   I am planning on beginning my preparation this fall.  I am thinking of a plot of switchgrass as well as a plot of gamma grass and a plot of indiangrass and bluestems.

The first advantage is that the summer annuals cost me seed and planting cost every year.  Once the native warm seasons are established they have little to no maintenance costs.  The stand I was in was twenty years old and had not had any lime or fertilizer or pesticide since it was established.

The native warm season grasses will put roots down 12 to 15 feet or until they hit bedrock which makes established stands able to withstand our hot dry summers.

Below is a picture of corn in my neighborhood this weekend which illustrates how dry we are….some areas are getting rain but we are in a drought year after a wet spring.  This is pretty characteristic in our area about one in three years.  Pastures are dry, dormant and crunchy unless you have some Bermuda grass.  It is still green.

The NWSG will also provide a break from the heat stress on the cows grazing endophyte infected fescue….The endophyte is hardest on the cows when it is hot and dry….a logical alternative is to graze something that is not endophyte infected during the heat of summer….That is what I have used the Summer annual cover crops for.  This year though even the pearl millet and sorghum sudan are rolled up and suffering from the lack of rain….this is one of those years that will reveal what your stocking rate should be….Due to its deep roots and native hardiness, the switchgrass field I was in was tall and lush and leafy and excellent forage and the cows were slick and clean and fat and not suffering with the heat stress.

The NWSG will also make good quality hay but it must be managed a little differently than cool season grasses.   To me however the real value is the ability to fill the void of summer slump in the cool season grasses with a crop that requires little in the way of management or inputs.  Yes it is different than what we have always done but it is the grass crop that was predominant in Virginia before we brought in the cool season grasses and pressured the warm season grasses out of our pastures..We did this by over grazing and over stocking….The NWSG are extremely productive but they can not stand continuous grazing and their growth point is about 12 inches and not 3 or 4 inches like the cool season grasses.

The NWSG will require a different management.  But it is not rocket science.  All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to try something different.  Why would I not try something that can reduce cost, improve animal performance, reduce inputs, address summer slump, provide an alternative to fescue toxicity and make life simpler and possibly more profitable.

We have one local producer in the area that is grazing two large swards of warm season grasses and he is liking them very much.  I just spoke with him yesterday on how he is grazing and managing with the warm season grasses.

Raising livestock is simple…..the hard part is keeping it simple…

As I embark on this new adventure I will try to document my steps and comment on any success as well as any failure.  Dr. Pat Keyser of the University of Tennessee has developed a management sequence that is yielding good results and I am going to try his method of establishment.  My first obstacle is lack of equipment so I have to find a method to plant my small paddocks in something akin to a no till fashion.  I still believe that tillage kills soil and want to avoid tillage.  And no till is an excellent method to plant these warm season grasses.  But the seed is not cheap and I want to have a successful stand with the initial planting.  I will have to use some herbicide to get a stand started and reduce competition but I feel like it is a good trade off to use a herbicide in one year in return for a stand that may last me the rest of my life with very few inputs.  My goal will be to begin grazing it the second summer after planting.

I am targeting four of my paddocks, two on the horse side and two on the cattle side of my property.

 

PDF forages 4/22/2017


Me, mounted on Dancehall Dixie, the great little Mule owned by my friend Stewart.

Jim Tate

As always you can click on any photo to see it larger and use your back button to return to the blog….

We have finally had some rain…we were getting dry and had only had 2 inches so far in April which is normally one of our rainier months.  In the last two days we have had two thunderstorms, and had 3/10 of an inch the first day and 4/10 last night.  It was gray and gloomy this morning and so we walked about and took some photos….taking photos was not my original intent and so I did not take the camera and used the cell phone….unlike most people today the phone is not my better camera and so the photo quality is not quite as good.   But I think it will illustrate   the things we want to point out.

First up are some shots of the pasture near my front yard.  This pasture has been divided into two long strips with one poly rope….this is typically a horse paddock…it was last grazed about two months or more ago….the tall side was grazed and I broadcast some cool season seed and closed it off.  The short side was grazed the following week and it also had some seed broadcast and it was mown and had a tire drug over it….the tall side is taller because I did not set it back by mowing it and the plants not grazed bolted in the spring…the new seedlings are just becoming apparent in both fields.  And the tall side has one week more growth here in the spring.  Sometimes the only way to figure out if what you are doing is right is to try something different.  I still don’t know which will end up better but the different management is apparent at this point….now the taller one has bigger weeds as well.

comparisongrazed and broadcast seedgrazed, seeded mown and dragged

I really need to switch the horses and the cattle to take control of the weed problem but the goats won’t honor the single strand horse fence and just go everywhere….and I can not put the goats with the horses cause both Pete and Star Baby love to chase em….

Next are some shots of paddocks across the big bull field….this one pasture has been divided into five paddocks with poly wire…it was grazed in the late winter by the steer and the goats.  The same animals will go back into these in two more weeks….by then the forage will be over the poly wire…what is of interest is that each paddock was grazed for about a week in the fall and then seeded and mown and or dragged.  The seeding mix was not very different for each….but there are differences in the plant community in each paddock…the closest one is dominated by vetch and crimson clover…one is dominated by barley and others have varying degrees of the mixtures…

oh and I must point out here that while I was powering up the camera to take these shots a turkey hen flew up out of this field which is right beside my house…Last week she and two suitors were in my back yard….these cover crops are not only good forage….they are great for wildlife.

bull field paddock 5barley, vetch crimson clover and dwarf essex rapelooking across the five big bull paddocks

One thing has become apparent….these pastures where I have continuously had cover crops, have very little fescue.  I used to think fescue was the only thing that would hold up….but these continuous covers and rotational grazing have changed the plant community without using herbicides….now I have used some herbicides this week.  The goats are not numerous enough to keep up with the brush and the goats do not have access to the horse side so I have been spraying back some blackberry and multiflora rose and thistle and poke berry this spring….

but back to my point…I continue to think that multi species cover crops are a good agent of change suitable for use in converting from endophyte infected fescue to endophyte friendly fescue….two or three courses of seasonal multi species cover crops, supplemented by spraying between cover crops should adequately suppress the endophyte infected fescue.  I like the productivity of the cover crops so well that I intend to continue to use them as a primary forage.

Next up is the series of eight paddocks that the horses are grazing now.  They are currently in the fourth of the eight.  They have each one for about a week.

view from the road

horses are in the 4th of 8 front paddocks

Here is this week’s paddock with the crew at work.

this weeks horse pasture

Here is last week’s paddock, seeded and mown and aerated with my spike tooth aerator.  Got it done right before the rain….Oh, and it was seeded with the new summer mscc mix I got this week from Green Cover Seed.  I don’t have the mix right here to hand but it has :  Pearl Millet, cow peas, sunflower, sun hemp, okra, dwarf essex rape, florida broadleaf mustard, chicory, buckwheat and I forget what else.

last weeks horse pasture

I have an area that once upon a time was garden and now is home to the chicken tractor.   My routine is to move the chicken tractor weekly and then I throw down some seed and mulch over it.  Some of it had gotten pretty tall and so I let the horses and donkeys in over the weekend to knock it back a bit…Pete liked the barley and rye….Star Baby was eating vetch and crimson clover.  The donkeys just stood in one spot and ate  it all.  Perkins decided he liked the chicory.  The chicory was about two feet tall and Perkins went from plant to plant and grazed it to the ground.

Perkins grazed the chicory to the ground

Not cover crops but these are the day lilies looking good around the graves of eight of my best friends….

day lillies mark the graves of eight of my best friends

Here is another shot of the paddock by the stable where a pair of quail are frequent visitors….the Rape in this shot appears to have taken over.

rape blooms hide everything

But there is small gain, crimson clover and vetch as well as a pretty good stand of orchardgrass.

vetch and crimson clover are there too

Last but not least…..my chestnut trees are blooming.

chestnut blooming

I grew these chestnuts from seed that I picked up from a huge chestnut at Big Spring Mill in Elliston, Va. Over 25 years ago….I actually had a couple of chestnuts last year but did not see them bloom…this year there are quite a few blooms.

chestnut grown from seed

Shots from around the Farm 1/28/2017


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Yesterday was a pretty day but it was quite windy and cool…

January has been fairly tolerable…one sharp cold snap and then two weeks of decently warm weather…albeit fairly rainy.  Now for the worst month of the year….February….

There are signs of spring.  the days are beginning to get a little bit longer.
There was an entire flock of migratory Robins down by the stable in the morning….We see robins here all winter but this was the first big flock I have seen this year…but I have not spent a lot of time over at Jacks Barn and cow pasture this year and that is where I normally see them first.  Often at Christmas.  Thus my name for them…..Lying Ass Robins…..I did not get a photo of them….

The daffodils around the dogs graves have emerged from the ground…this unseasonable weather of the last two weeks has probably been a factor,

more-daffodils-1-28-17

Below Perkins and his crew enjoyed a new paddock of grass….this year I have been letting the stock graze some of the fall seeded cover crop paddocks.  So while we are feeding some hay they are still getting some green forage.  With Star Baby visiting at Brunsons for a couple of weeks that means more for the rest of the crew.  PERKINS, PETE AND THE TWO DONKEYS.

old-man-perkins-and-his-crew-found-some-grass

below are a couple of turnips that Amos or the goats pulled up from the paddock they went into.  there was 2 oz of turnip seed in the mix sown onto most of the paddocks this fall.

turnips-the-goats-pulled-up

Below is a shot of the paddock that the goats and Amos the steer were turned into….the paddock closest for some reason had a greater crop of brassicas and the other paddocks below seed to be heavier in the grasses and small grains…they all had a similar mix but were sone at different times as they were grazed.

lot-of-rape-in-this-paddock

This is Amos the steer with the goats in paddock Big Bull 5.

late-fall-sown-cover-crops

this is what the other big bull paddocks look like with more grass and small grain….adding orchardgrass and ryegrass into the boradcast mix seemed ot have done well in these paddocks.  the forage is about eight inches tall and pretty thick.

cover-crop-2-in-the-big-bullfield

Jonah and Esther below in the same lot with Perkins…Peter was off in the far corner…Any time Pete goes into a new paddock he always trots around the fence line and then goes to the far corner to begin grazing.  Please note the elaborate fencing used to control these equines….It has not been turned on for over a week as I cross over it at night to feed them their hay…

jonah-and-ester-loving-life

 

Experiments around the farm


 

 

Jim Tate

Jim Tate

PDF FARM EXPERIMENTS

8/28/2016

As always click on any photo to see it larger….use your browser back button to return to the blog.

I liked the new letterhead that I made for the OP-ED article so I am going to use it again…The mule is my good friend Stewarts good little mule Dancehall Dixie….The jackass riding the mule is yours truly.

 

I have a lot of photos I took of various things this morning as I was working.  The photos are from the cell phone and I cannot see to aim the thing in the sunlight so the photos are not as good as my regular camera.  The phone camera is just as high a quality but if you cannot see to aim it the photography suffers.

 

This is the mornings work area…the three pvc pipes are the left hand boundary of the two lots grazed by the heifers this past week…this area will be broadcast to cool season seed mix and bushoged and closed off while the cattle move to the next lots up the hill.

mornings work area

In sowing yesterdays lot my shoulder bag seeder when kaput….so while I was out yesterday afternoon I stopped by home depot to get one they advertised on line….but they failed to have one in the store….

So I stopped at tractor supply and found this one for a little more than half the price and I think I am going to like this one.

ground work

Metal gears that are exposed and can be lubricated.  Metal seed opening adjustment.

metal gears

Real good seed distribution.  Easy adjustment for volume and easy cranking….

seeding rate

Below is a step that I got behind on this year…and I have been paying the price.  I did not trim under the electric fences the first time we grazed and then the crops got over them and I have been trimming fences ever since…this works for me as well as anything…a mower with the wheels set as high as I can set them….lot easier than a string trimmer..I have a wheeled string trimmer and it is worthless.  This little mower handles blackberries and small trees and poke berries and the residue.  More on residue to follow….residue is important…Part of what I want to illustrate is the amount of residue I am leaving….in this paddock the residue probably averages 8 inches high or more…I could make them eat more…

But that does not leave anything for the livestock underground….building the soil microbia is a key component to building the soil….this takes underground roots and surface residue…my goal is for the livestock to take half and leave half and I think we have come closer to it this year than any year in the past….a good part of the credit must go to the timely rains we have had most of the summer….water is the most important nutrient.

residue mower

I have learned some things this year…It is not awful for grasses to go to seed.  I have a couple of wet paddocks that I could not get into to seed or bushog after grazing….these paddocks had a pretty good mat of walked down residue and I wondered how it was going to affect the grass…the orchard grass and fescue  had put up seed heads and they had matured before it got dry enough to even let the horses in that area.  Now a month or so after grazing I have new grass showing all over the lot.  Natural reseeding.  I am also seeing increased red clover in areas where I have not seeded red clover in a couple of years.  In addition if the livestock grazed those seed heads they help with the reseeding.  Yes I get a few weeds but weeds have some value as long as they do not take over…bush hogging after grazing will control the weeds.  I actually need more goats to graze with the cattle for better weed utilization.  My lazy goats are not hungry and lay about the barn most of the day.

The morning light was not the best for the photo below. It shows the stages of the lots mown and sown the last three weeks.  Last weeks has barley up about three inches tall today.  The grasses are too fine to see.  Clover is starting to become apparent.

last three weeks

I mentioned above that I have lots that did fine without mowing…the only reason I mow regularly after grazing is for weed control and to suppress the existing vegetation to allow the new seed to get established.  A good grass stand will not allow much competition to get established.

Below is where I will talk about what I learned about quantifying the value of residue just this weekend.  Some background is in order.

A couple of years ago I attempted to set up an aquaculture experiment…raising fish in rain water tanks and using plants grown in gravel to filter the water and fertilize the plants…My experiment did not work because I could not find an economical 12 volt pumping system…small pumps would not pump enough water and the fish did not get enough aeration, and pumps of sufficient volume killed the battery beyond solar charging capacity.  So for a couple of seasons now I have just scattered seed in the tubs full of gravel and observed what would grow.  Last summer I dropped some improved crab grass seed in these tubs and grew a whale of a crop….no nutrients just kept it watered growing in pea gravel.  In the fall I dropped some cool season cover in it and had a decent spring cover crop, again just gravel and water….when the cover crop faded with summer heat the crab grass came back,,,naturally reseeded…I normally water my cover crop buckets daily and also water these tubs…

Now, these tubs have a valve system to keep them from getting water logged and if full, the drain opens and drains the tub…sometimes a heavy rain will trigger the valve and I have to refill them…so I check the water about every day….Normal transpiration will use about two to three quarts of water per day.

I decided to drop some cover crop seed in the gravel again this fall…the crab grass and buckwheat had overgrown the walking area so I decided to cut it back…I took some shears and cut it back to about six inches and generated a pile of residue.  After I generated the pile of residue….I thought why not chop this up and mulch the seed with it…the second tub I did not cut as it was not in my walking area.  The residue I took off when chopped up made about a five gallon bucket of mulch….I put it on the seed and it made a layer at least six inches thick….All this was late Friday afternoon.   I did my regular watering during that evenings chores.  Saturday afternoon the tub with no mulch required the regular two quarts of water.  The tub with the mulch require 1 pint of water….only one quarter of the normal amount.  I will try to see how long the effect lasts.  Same on Sunday….two quarts in the tub with no mulch and about a pint to the tub with the mulch.

Photo below is the mulched tub and then the two tubs side by side.

Update 9/7/2016

the mulch tub is still only using about a pint or less of water per day…..the unmulched tub is using a quart and a half to two quarts depending on the heat of the day.   the fall cover crop is coming up in both….more easily seen in the unmulched tub but the cover is coming up through the mulch in the mulched tub.  will try to get some new photos

 

mulched tub

two tubs