These woodchips will become fertilizer.
Being a grass-farmer, or grazier, is a little bit like marriage - if you knew everything about it beforehand, you'd never go into it! Fortunately, ignorance is bliss, or we'd never rise from bed in the morning.
One of the myths of being a grazier is that one always grazes livestock, keeping them on pasture and in movement. Well, it turns out there are moments in the year, when grazing doesn't work. For us, such moments would be during flooding or drought, when pastures are either inaccessible or susceptible to being damaged. So, one ends up needing a feedlot of some sort, in which to hold livestock. This seems counterproductive at fist glance, because it means hauling feed, confining animals, and disposing of manure, which are costly endeavors. However, if not taken to extreme, there are benefits. Those include protecting pastures, protecting livestock, and building fertility.
We purchased four large loads of woodchips from the local sawmill. These are spread to serve as a hard surface on which cows will drop manure when in the feedlot. Woodchips are high in carbon and manure is high in nitrogen. When the two are mixed together with oxygen, a biomass begins to form, which eventually becomes compost. This can then be spread on fields to enhance fertility and build organic matter. So, we somewhat reluctantly find ourselves in the feedlot business at moments. Better put, we find ourselves in another aspect of the fertility-building business.
Building fertility in soil is a complex and fascinating process. Vegetable growers are masters at doing so. Because they deal with relatively small acreage and can generate high returns from enhancing fertility, they are deeply invested in the process. Livestock farmers, with large acreage, face the challenge of implementing on a large scale.
Our most effective strategy for building fertility has been grazing tall grasses with a large number of bovines, for short durations and long rest-periods. Spreading wood-chips that have been composted with manure is another alternative, into which we are stepping. A third alternative is to activate dormant bacteria in the soil, so they release bound-up nutrients to plants. This approach develops greater concentration of fungi in the soil. Our manure-patties do not decompose as fast as we would like, suggesting a deficiency of fungus to feed necessary microbes to process manure. This approach to building fertility is centered on stimulating existing life in the soil, while building compost, on the other hand, reflects decomposing of carbon. Both are valuable approaches to augmenting fertility of soil, so food grown therefrom is ever more medicinal.
This moment, before the burst of spring, is one of great promise, heralded by blooms of Forsythia and of pear trees.
The above are pork chops, seared for 3 minutes per side and baked at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Susan brines them before hand for several hours, in combination of salt and sugar water, plus herbs of choice. That step adds to their succulence. These chops were sweet and juicy. In addition, we enjoyed Elmwood sweet potatoes and FarmBeach kale mixed with Walnut Ridge carrots. Kale and carrots were braised in a ginger-coconut-curry. Rather outstanding meal, sourced from the farmers market.
A cut of meat we are falling in love with is "smoked, boneless, leg of lamb". Bone-in leg of lamb is a difficult meat to cook properly. If overdone, it is dry and tough; if underdone, there are too many complaints at the table. Making the cut boneless simplifies cooking. Smoking it in advance is simplest of all. So, we have started smoking boneless legs, and they are outstanding - one of the best meats we have ever tasted. On par with smoked salmon, only a lot less expensive. We are offering this at $25/lb for approximately 4 lbs of silken flavor, that will satisfy all of your senses!
If you would like to try one of our smoked legs for Easter, let us know. You could pick it up the Saturday before at Findlay Market. It will be smoked on Friday, you pick it up on Saturday, put it in the refrigerator, and serve it on Sunday, at room temperature or heated for half an hour at 200 degrees. Foolproof and outstanding.
Beth & Bob will be at Findlay Market this Saturday and Sunday, April 1st & 2nd. Susan and I will be at Hyde Park on Sunday. We will make a delivery to Milford on Wednesday April 5 at 5:00 PM.
May our compost-piles bring fertile times to our households,
Drausin & Susan