Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Learning curve

           Last week I did something I thought I would never do in my life time . . . I went to a soil workshop with a bunch of farmers in Waverly, Kansas.  There were about 175 of us from six nearby states and even two countries - Germany and South Africa. 

        I felt like I was back in a college biology or agriculture class listening to lectures on microbes, cover crop seeds, animal rotation on fields, etc.  Some of it was way above my head, but it gave me a totally new appreciation for not just all the hard work farmers do, but also the knowledge they need to do it successfully. 

        My husband, son and I left early (5 a.m.) to spend the day gaining information that would help us not only improve our soil using covering crops and but also how to use it as a way to feed chickens.   Here is a picture of what a typical field using a cover crop mixture with sunflowers in it would look like.   I'd love that view out my farm house windows.  Beautiful! 

        Two important things we learned at this workshop was not to till the soil and to never leave it naked.  We did both of these this spring when we put in our country garden.  It was what we had always been taught to do.   We  found out that when  you till the soil you destroy the organism living there and also wake up the weeds that are just under the surface.  No wonder our garden went  grazy (I just typed that by mistake, but I think it is a perfect word to describe what happened).  Our garden did go crazy trying to cover itself again.   We had exposed it and a host of new weeds appeared trying to blanket it's nakedness.  Here is what it looked like this summer. 
        Yes, . . . there is a garden in there somewhere. . . no way to keep up with the weeds.

           So now we are trying to kill the weeds with Roundup and broadcasting in a fall cover crop that will die back over winter.  We also hope to bring in some finely aged manure and plant a spring cover crop too.  None of these cover crops will get plowed under.  We will just plant right on top of them next spring.  Notice the little seedlings coming up through the dead cover crop?  This is how some farmers are planting their fields now.  

       This is all so new to us and it may take a few years to get our soil where it needs to be for better vegetable production, but I think we're on the right track. 

       If you're interested in using a cover crop for your small or big garden, here is the website to the company that spoke at the workshop.  They sell cover crop  seeds in  one pound packages up to semi-truck full loads.

         We started our workshop at the farmer's house where he feeds his cattle, sheep, and chicken using cover crops.   Nancy, the farmer's wife, took us on a tour of the chicken, sheep, and turkey areas and let us go into their cool trailer chicken coops. Here is what it looks like to use cover crops to feed your chickens.   
      These are not Nancy's chickens, but it gives you an idea of what it looks like.  I forgot my phone on this trip so I had to find other pictures.

      My son took these of Nancy's deluxe chicken coop.  Notice the cover crop behind it.  The chickens were all through this and they loved it.  

       We have enough land to try out this method for the chickens we hope to get early next spring. We are excited about all we learned and can't wait to see our own chickens enjoying their cover crop feast.  Now we just need to find an old trailer to covert to a coop.

       Here is Nancy with her sheep in a field of partially eaten cover crop.  When she first puts them onto the field, she said you can hear them calling out to each other because the cover crop is so high they can't see each other.  Below is a picture of their cows enjoying their cover crop field.

      Thanks Darin and Nancy for a great day!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Taming the wilds of Kansas

         I had visions of canning or freezing all kinds of produce this fall.   I thought we were pretty good backyard city  gardeners, and would be overwhelmed with produce from our big country garden.  We were sooooo wrong!  I won't be doing any canning this year unless I buy it from some other farmer's garden.  How did those early settlers survive?
       Maybe I should stick to flowers.  
       Not to give up too quickly, we are getting ready to go to a soil workshop to help us learn how to use cover crops to improve our  soil.  The weeds that have overtaken our garden are not going to be pulled out anymore, . . . I think, . . . I hope.  I'll keep you posted as we learn this new method of gardening without tilling the soil.  If you want to check it out here is the link:

      But speaking of dirt,  we invited this big boy out to tame the wilds of our land recently. We needed a heavy lifter to remove tree stumps and piles of cement and rocks to clear  an area to the side and back of our house.

             After this land is cleared and leveled, the cement can be poured for  our screened-in back porch and our new three car garage/workshop. But before this could start we had some big obstacles that needed moved. Here is what the land looked like outside our back door before the work was done.  

           These bricks were from the demo of the chimney and where they lay is where the back porch will go.  Here is another view more of the back yard. 

       The excavator would pull out trees and my husband and son took turns on the tractor taking loads to a big pile.   Doesn't our tractor look like a little baby next to this big excavator?   My hubby calls his tractor "Angel" because she helps him with so much work.

             Angel dragging tree stumps to the burn pile. 

        Here is what we have to burn off sometime this fall after a heavy rain.  You can see the second story of the house just above the burn pile and the land that was cleared off to the right of the house.

         And after about five hours of work, here is what it looks like now.

       Our garage will sit right in front of the power pole in this picture.  We can actually see the corn field to the north of our house now.  I know it's not water or mountains, but it is Kansas folks, and I like having a view, even if it is corn!  

       And while all this was going on I worked on pruning out the roses in our driveway turn around.  I don't think these roses had been touched in many, many years and it took me hours to get them trimmed.   These are the roses that I wrote about in a previous post that I think are around 100 years old.  They bloomed beautifully all summer and I hope all my hard work doesn't kill them.  Here's their before picture:

And after their beauty treatment . . .

       And these beauties bloomed unexpectedly this past week  under a tree in our front yard not far from where we recently buried our cat, Kayla. It seemed like a fitting memorial to her. 

Her favorite place - our laundry basket.
We will miss her.