Green Pastures Farm 2011 Newsletter
As we come into the latter part of February there are hints of spring showing up. We heard peeper frogs today around the ponds sounding off. That is always a welcome sound after a long cold snowy winter. We realize we may have some winter weather ahead of us, but we are one day closer to spring! There are hundreds of robins and bluebirds feeding out in our pastures. The earthworms had better look out! The grass and clovers in the pastures are starting to green up. With all the melted snow, we have plenty of moisture to push up the new plants.
Winter can be fun with winter stock pile!
One exciting new development that we saw on our farms this winter was the animal life in the soil staying very active through the cold weather. Every day when we moved the mob of cattle onto a fresh stockpiled (grass grown last fall) paddock, we would pull back the long grass forest and observe what was happening on the soil surface. There was life of all forms crawling around on the ground like it was spring time. Green aphids, spiders of all sizes, fresh earthworm castings deposited everywhere, black beetles and various shaped bugs all traveling around like it was just another work day. This is a very positive development.
What is happening is that our microbial life in the soil is now so well fed and sheltered that they are not going dormant through the winter. The benefits of this are earth shattering to our daily new soil growth. We now have soil workers improving the fertility, organic matter and increased soil life, twelve months of the year. In other words they are not going on winter vacation, they are happy and very busy little folks in their environment. In one teaspoon of healthy microbial rich soil there are 1 billion microbes. Folks that is a lot of action down in the soil working to improve our future on our farms.
One fascinating thing about earthworms is that they can produce 100 tons of earthworm castings per acre, per year when their populations reach 25 worms per square foot. We are presently at 17-18 worms per square foot. One worm will produce in his 7 year lifetime, 1.2 million worms. This is the most environmentally friendly nutrient source known for healthy plants. The ph of an earthworm casting is a perfect 7. Kind of neat how nature works perfectly, if we manage our farms in sync with her, instead of fighting her at every corner. Folks, 95% of all cropped soil is now 100% sterile due to the chemicals we are pouring on it. There is no soil life taking place whatsoever to feed the plants and resist pests naturally. So basically all the food grown on the sterile soil has very little food value to it. Kind of makes you wonder if the nation’s health is being compromised.
Jan has added a new enterprise for Green Pastures Farm this coming year. Honeybee’s. Jan has purchased new hives and attended many bee workshops to educate herself on all the important details to successful bee keeping. We are really excited to add honey bees to our farms. We have millions of wild flower blooms that would greatly improve their life if they had adequate pollination. Did you realize that the U.S has lost 50% of all bee hives in the last twelve years due to what they are calling “Colony Collapse”. Lots of experts are studying the cause, it seems to be several possible causes.
Here is the first possible cause: 75% of all bee hives are trucked to California each year to pollinate the 455,000 acres of almond groves. An almond tree that is pollinated has a 40% increase in production. It is the single largest income source for commercial bee keepers. The bee’s have a single diet of almond blossoms for 4-6 weeks. There is not much nutrition in the almond blossom for a honey bee. Can you imagine eating one single ingredient for 4-6 weeks?
The bee hives are trucked back to their owners in a very weakened state. The stress that is put on the hives by trucking them thousands of miles and the single diet of almond blossoms is too much stress for the bees to overcome and they die. The other causes are chemical sprays, GMO plants and varroa mites that attack the bee hive itself. It should be an exciting and rewarding journey adding bee hives to our farms. If you ever get the chance, watch the movie, “Queen Of The Sun”. I promise you will understand the importance of honey bees in our lives. If we lose the honey bee we are in trouble. It is a great movie that covers the whole history of bee’s and the present situation they are in today.
Our livestock have come through one of the worst winters in our history in very good body condition. We were hit with 20” of snow and bitter temperatures during January. We were forced to feed hay to the cattle because the snow was so hard they could not press their head deep enough in the snow to reach the stockpiled grass. This lasted 16 days, then we resumed grazing our stockpiled grass. The cows were much happier and put on visible weight once we started grazing again. It is a wonderful experience to be able to go out and move an electric fence temporary wire each day and let the livestock feed themselves in the middle of winter. They almost have a grin on their face while they are grazing! The lower portion of our winter stockpiled grass stays green all winter and is much better than any hay you can feed. It even has green clover tucked down in the canopy of grass that stays green all winter.
Getting all the goodies.
We have a full time one year commitment intern now living in our newly erected modular home. His name is Justin Witt. He is married and comes to us from Pennsylvania. He is very energetic and eager to learn as much as possible about holistic planned grazing. Justin has a bright future in developing his own sustainable farm that will provide for his family in the future. We have had four interns thus far and they have all been very sharp young folks. We feel like we must mentor the younger generation or who is going to carry forth the sustainable farming practices when we are older? There is no future when you leave behind the youth. Jan and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing young folks grow in their knowledge, then move on and be successful as well. We have a list of intern resumes that we are starting to evaluate to add to our farm this year.
It seems that the local food movement is picking up steam. Everywhere you turn, there are people that are concerned about the food they are feeding their family. To ensure good healthy nutrient dense food, know your source and build a relationship with that farmer. Healthy food comes from healthy soils and healthy livestock. It is exciting to see this revolution in local safe food. Consumers are now starting to demand safe food. As a rule of thumb, the less miles the food on your fork travels, the healthier it is and the source from where it came from is available. Watch our website for customer appreciation day, come get a farm tour of our soil life and taste the wonderful food that comes out of it!
Wishing everyone a healthy and safe year!
Greg & Jan