Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Nutrition for the Soil

Every year like clockwork we take soil samples. And we have a soil consultant interpret and make suggestions as to what to add to the soil to make the whole system work better. It's one of those crazy expenses that we refuse to cut back on, no matter how tight things are. It's That Important.

Both people and the soil can be lacking in certain minerals, or out of balance in some way. Just as you might take vitamins to  help with a nutritional deficiency, so also we add things to the soil. A few weeks ago, The Farmer spread some gypsum and other minerals on some hayfields. The gypsum is a dusty business, so he chose a day that was pretty quiet.

The spreader mounts on the back of the tractor and just slings the product every which way. The product in the spreader looks a bit clumpy because it was purchased a year ago, and sat in the barn for lack of time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weaning Lambs

We've been without the internet for a week or so (during which I did my best impression of a techy-type, and no one was fooled). And quite honestly, I've been unable to keep up the bloggy pace, even when we do have internet. Too busy "doing" to do much "documenting".

About 3 weeks ago we decided to separate the lambs from their mothers. They were big enough to be weaned, and if the ewes are to be bred this fall (and they are), they need a bit of a break from nursing to get back into top condition. 

We've learned over the years that it is easier to set up fence lanes when we move the sheep a long way. It's easier in the long run than chasing them when they go where we don't want them to. Notice the non-herding dog in the lower left side of the photo. We love her, but she's useless.

Things went as planned, and soon everyone was in the sheep barn. 

The sheep barn has great holding pens, and a chute that helps us handle the sheep.

The task at hand was to separate the lambs from the ewes, to deworm the lambs using medicine, and to pull out eight or ten 70-pound lambs to be sold.

Each ewe and lamb came up the chute (also used on shearing day), and the lambs were held in one of the holding pens, while the ewes went back outside to pasture.

After an entire afternoon of sweaty, satisfying work, we had the ewes out in one pasture. Then, using the same fence lanes, we herded the lambs back out to the pasture they had come from.

Most other years we have weaned much earlier. This year, our pastures are still in very good shape, allowing us to leave the lambs with the ewes longer, and allowing us to put the lambs back out to pasture after separating them. This went MUCH better than putting them in the barn (which we have done other years). The level of vocal distress (which is my least favorite thing to listen to) was much less. The lambs are healthier and happier. They continue to grow well out on pasture.

We'd like to do it this way every year, and plan to, if the pasture quality and quantity allows.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From Oats and Rye to Hay

We recently harvested our rye crop, and after our combine engine blew, we hired someone else to harvest our oats. 

Once the grain was harvested, it was time to work the fields. We hooked our trusty, dusty Massey Ferguson MF2705 to the offset disc and went to work. We waited a few days and disced the field again. Waiting a few days and then working the field allows weeds to sprout and be killed, sprout and be killed. 

After two passes with the offset disc, we used the chisel plow on the fields and waited again. Then we used the field cultivator. Our plan is to thoroughly kill any plants in these fields, and have them begin decomposing. It's very dry right now, which hinders the decomposition process. We need some rain. Eventually, after we have a very smooth field, with no weeds and no big clods, we will plant hay/pasture for next year.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Willow Whacking

The ditches are becoming clogged with willows. Every couple of years we really need to work on cutting them back. The Farmer has a saw blade that fits on the end of his weed whacker that helps with brush whacking. Perfect for the willow invasion. 

Here's a  photo of the before:

And an idea of what things look like after:

There are piles of dead willows along many of the ditch banks on the farm. Our township has a summer burning ban, so these willows will be collected for a fall brush fire after the ban is lifted.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Fence Posts

A friend of ours has a portable sawmill (handy!). The emerald ash borer has been hard on the ash trees in our area. These ash trees were taken out of a woodlot and made into nice new fence posts for us.

Because we are certified organic, our fenceposts cannot be treated. We will just have to replace them more often.

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