Innisfree Farm: Rain.

Rain is a curious thing for farmers.  We need it, but at the right times, and in the right quantities.  Too much rain is usually a bad thing overall, but a lot of rain spread out can be good, especially … Continue reading

Rain is a curious thing for farmers.  We need it, but at the right times, and in the right quantities.  Too much rain is usually a bad thing overall, but a lot of rain spread out can be good, especially in the spring when planting.

At this point, we should have some hay mowed and bales made to set by for this coming winter, but it’s raining.  It’s been raining for just long enough each day, for just enough days that the hay pasture is soggy wet.  The grass is up to my waist, but it’s so thick, and the ground is so wet, that we can’t even get our little Kubota tractor out there with the haybine to harvest it.

So what to do?  Work on other farm tasks, work on projects, and wait for the rain to stop.  Right now we could use, contrary to what most people are looking for, some dry and hot days to firm up the ground.

And in the meantime, the cows, chickens, horses, and goats are enjoying the bountiful grass.   It’s never all bad.

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Innisfree Farm: Animals and their games

To the casual observer, animals probably seem pretty simple.  The cows are munching grass in the pasture, the chickens are clucking around the chickenyard looking for bugs and worms.  Once you spend any amount of time around those animals though, … Continue reading

To the casual observer, animals probably seem pretty simple.  The cows are munching grass in the pasture, the chickens are clucking around the chickenyard looking for bugs and worms.  Once you spend any amount of time around those animals though, you start to see their personalities…animalities?

The cows.  Sedate bovines, heads down in the grass, tails swishing.  All true, but when you have black cows who stay in the barn for the coolest parts of the day and head to pasture in the heat of the afternoon, I start to wonder if their brains have been a little overheated.

Chickens contentedly pecking in their yard.  Except when the garden is directly on the other side of that fence and there just *has* to be something better to eat over there.  Like the corn we just planted.  Then replanted.  We have one hen whose routine (has been ever since she could fly over the fence) is fly over that fence, scratch around all day, then fly back over the fence at night.  It’s now a morning game – look out the window, see the hen scratching in the garden, shoo her to the fence, she flies over, repeat later that day.

Goats are great lawnmowers, but, like the chickens, are certain that the grass is greener and tastier on the other side of their pen.  We move them to a new section of grass every week or so, and the first thing they typically do is eat around the perimeter of their new pen, then stick their heads through the panels and eat as far on the other side of the panel as they can.  Then they will deign to eat the rest of the grass in their pen.  As it turns out, goats can push pretty hard and can bend a cattle panel.  That was news to me.

Then there’s the cats, but that’s for another post!

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Innisfree Farm: Figure it out

Let’s get something out of the way: growing food to feed yourself is not rocket science. Now, I understand that in the last half of the 20th century, a lot of rocket science found its way into growing food, and I think that fact is responsible for so many of the problems we face in […] Continue reading

Let’s get something out of the way: growing food to feed yourself is not rocket science.

Now, I understand that in the last half of the 20th century, a lot of rocket science found its way into growing food, and I think that fact is responsible for so many of the problems we face in food production today. Growing food and sending things into space are different kinds of magic, and what is good for doing one well is rarely good for doing the other well.

Over the past two years, I have learned as much about what I am doing and about myself as I think I have in the rest of my life up to this point, and I owe most of that education to a simple fact about the way I’ve taken over the farm I run: I’ve had to figure out most of what I am doing on my own.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had lots of help and advice along the way, most of it good and some of it bad, but at the moment when the work actually needs to be done, its usually me, the task, and my brain participating in accomplishing it. It has been mind expanding in ways that are hard to describe unless you’ve undertaken something similar.

What does this have to do with you? Well, if I can figure out how to run a 185 acre farm–and don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot to learn–you can figure out how to plant a salad garden in your back yard. If I can learn to master the raising of as many as 40 head of beef cattle, you can figure out how to plant a small plot of wheat for making bread.

There is a lot of talk these days about the cost of food, food security, and the threat hunger poses to national stability. One of the things nearly every policy maker and pundit gets wrong as they fret over these kinds of things is that they assume the solutions will involve massive expenditures of government programs that centrally manage food production. They get it wrong because they are trying to use political magic to solve a food growing problem.

The solution instead comes from when individuals establish food independence by growing it themselves. During the last days the Soviet Union, as the central government was collapsing and central food planning had reduced agricultural output to a fraction of what was needed for the Soviets to feed their citizens, as much as 70 percent of the calories consumed came from the roughly 4 percent of the land dedicated to small, individual farm plots tended by people after work and on weekends. To this day, as much as 50 percent of Russia’s agricultural output comes from about 2 percent of the land under cultivation.

What remains, then, is for people to figure it out. You can grow your own food and feed yourself and your family, and you don’t have to have a degree or a green thumb to do it. But, you do have to do it.

What are you waiting for?

DLH

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