These cows continue to march forward.
As they have all winter. They are bunched together to ration grass, which stopped growing last August. We also unroll several bales of hay for them, so quality of feed comes from stockpiled pasture and quantity from hay. The winter has been mild, of course, which helps, and cows are doing amazingly well.
A shipment of organic clover arrived yesterday, two months late, but we will spread some of it in front of cows to be trampled into the soil of this particular field. Otherwise, we are seeing a lot of clover on the farm, presumably responding to lime spread two summers ago.
Bunching of cows creates a powerful tool for land restoration. There is probably 100,000 lbs of animal-weight per acre in this picture. This strategy is employed more typically during the growing season to trample plants, not grazed, into the soil to build organic matter. However, once the growing season commences, we move cows more quickly, releasing them into larger spaces, reducing impact upon soil. As growth slows, we confine them more, following the adage of: slow growth, slow movement; fast growth, fast movement. It is remarkable how well this approach works to generate productive soil, once enough animals are in place to create impact. We have nearly doubled our organic matter in five years, through "high-density, short-duration" grazing. A number of pastures now hover around 6% organic matter. These results will be especially significant during drought, because the higher the organic matter, the more water is retained in soil.
In another ten days, we will be probably stop feeding hay to commence moving quickly across the farm. This timing is historically early to start grazing, but grass is growing, and an early spring is at-hand. Last year, we started grazing April 1st and the year before May 1st. The last time we started grazing this early was in 2012, and a dry spring that year was followed by a very hot and dry summer. Hopefully that pattern will not repeat itself, but we are due.
Over the past month, we have been cleaning fence-rows. Fence-rows are a little like one's basement. They accumulate a lot of interesting things, and are easily overlooked, but if left untended, can turn one out of house-and-home. If fence-rows are not periodically cleaned, brush and trees keep growing toward daylight, and fields becomes progressively smaller over time. Electric fences also perform a lot better when encroaching brush does not interrupt current. In order to keep a fence clear of brush, one needs to be able to mow on both sides of it. That standard was not employed even 20 years ago, so there is a lot of work to be done to bring fences into "compliance". We are chipping away at the process, as shown below.
We have sold a few sides of beef of recent. Beef in bulk is an excellent deal, as price for 400 lbs. is $7/lb, for 200 $7.45, and for 100 $7.95. You receive the same proportion of steaks and roasts as in a whole beef, so you are buying steaks for $7.95/lb, which we otherwise sell retail at $20/lb. Quite a savings! We just sold a side to Dr. Gary Huber, who is very discriminating about food he recommends for himself and his patients. His testimony is here, for which we are most grateful. Buying in bulk is by far the cheapest way to purchase product, so if you are interested, let us know. A freezer that is 36" long by 20" wide handles 100 lbs of meat in boxes easily. This deal won't last forever, but while it does, great value lies therein.
Susan and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday at Clark Montessori. We will not be represented at Findlay Market the rest of March, but Beth & Bob will be there in force as the new season commences in April.
Below is pork shoulder being browned, and then being prepared to serve, after 12 hours of braising at 200 degrees. This was served with mashed-potato pancakes and baked apples, out of Susan's Soulful Kitchen. With a little planning, it could also come out of your soulful kitchen.
We eat a lot of baked apples, as apples are one fruit that does well in this climate. We are grateful to Dennis and Nathan, of Backyard Orchards, for their steady and excellent supply of fresh tree-fruit.
May we continue to march forward together, with less clutter in both our basements and fencerows!
Drausin & Susan