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!

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