Wendell Berry reminds us the best fertilizer for land is footsteps.
It takes a lot of footsteps to install these nets around our sheep, and move them every three days. Doing so keeps the guard-dogs in and coyotes out. It prevents sheep from "backgrazing" and infecting themselves with parasites. It keeps the flock on a constantly high plane of nutrition. And it produces the cleanest lamb imaginable - the Midwest's version of wild-caught fish.
We do not treat our sheep with anything more than this [land] management. They are as close to wild as a domestic animal can be. For producers of lamb, the issue of parasites is the hardest to address. Ninety five percent of lamb-producers, even those raising grassfed meats, treat their flock with "dewormers". We followed this standard protocol at the outset, as advised, until we became wise to Wendell Berry's counsel. If we are willing to walk enough, we can solve the problem of parasites, without resorting to pharmaceutical medications. So, now we move the flock every three days, and don't return to the same spot for a minimum of 90 days. This works, but the solution requires a lot of time and labor, far more than any other of our enterprises and far more than most reasonable farms are willing to invest.
Over time, we are discovering that Wendell is right. The more we walk upon the land, the better we know it, and the more it responds favorably. Moving these nets is more awkward than hard, requiring time and patience. Once one learns how to keep the feet of the posts from becoming entangled with the nets and the nets from becoming entangled with one's own feet, the process of erecting and taking down nets becomes a meditation of sorts. One is continuously walking back to pick up nets from the last move and moving them forward to the next.
Back and forth, back and forth, one net at a time, with feet always upon the ground. After a while, the meditation takes hold, and the "net-minder" finds himself engaged in wordless conversation with the land, through the soles of his feet... Reverberations in the soil are of such a low frequency they can't be heard with our ears, but they can be through the soles of our feet. We can feel how soft the soil is, or hard, or wet. We can tell if it is in distress or is moving into abundance. Soft-soled boots enable the sound and feel to resonate all the more and barefoot is best for listening to the land.
All children and most teenagers know the sensory satisfaction derived from walking barefoot. It is not just the pleasure of feeling grass that is rewarding, but, more, the unfamiliar sensation of receiving vibrations from the ground through the bottom of the foot. These are "grounding" experiences, that put us in touch with profound forces.
When moving nets and engaging in low-frequency discourse with vital soil, the ardor of the task is met and can be surpassed by the inspiration received. As one's steps are fertilizing the ground, soles of the feet become active conduits between one's inner self and depths of the earth, ever provoking one's soul to higher planes.
On Tuesday, we enjoyed a visit from 30 members of OEFFA for a farm tour of four hours or so. We showed them the entire operation: market trailers, shademobile and weanlings, sheep, wetlands, organic dairy, commercial kitchen, herb garden, cows, and laying hens. We did not see feeder pigs, because they were out of the path.
The pigs have graduated from the holding pen for training to electricity, and are preparing to go to their first woodlot, as above.
Our Mennonite neighbors, who raise broilers for us, have started a batch of White Broad Breasted Turkeys, for Thanksgiving. The turkeys are being raised just like the broilers, offering exceptional taste, and will be frozen at 15-20 lbs. If you would like to reserve one, please let us know.
We are smoking four capons today to be picked up this Sunday at Hyde Park. These are great half or whole, but also make for superior chicken salad, mixed with Susan's homemade mayonnaise. Let us know if you would like a smoked capon. We are going to include a boneless leg-of-lamb in the process, so that will be available for anyone who enjoyed those we smoked at Easter.
We had a great time at Blackberry Farm, near Nashville, listening to Emmy Lou Harris and Roseanne Cash. They are dignified women, with a lot of talent. It was quite an experience to witness them up close.
The food at Blackberry is all made from scratch, and is excellent.
But there is no place like home, and last night Susan's Soulful Kitchen produced: roasted chicken legs n' thighs, roasted Italian plum tomatoes, fresh broccoli, fruit salad, and, best of all, mashed potatoes!
We will be at Findlay Market this Saturday and Sunday, Hyde Park on Sunday, and Blue Ash on Wednesday. Due to holiday commitments, we will not be at Hyde Park next Sunday, Sept. 3rd.
May the soles of our feet always serve as active conduits,
Drausin & Susan