This is my thumb after picking and eating three different berries: Black raspberry or Rubus occidentalis, Gooseberry or Ribes hirtellum, and Mulberry or Morus (unsure which species). We managed to get ahead of our mouths enough to bring Mulberries home where they found their way into corn mufffins, pictured below.
The Madison Primal/Paleo Meetup group toured our farm Sunday morning. It’s always fun meeting new people who are engaged and interested in what we do. Most were from the Madison area, but a few were from as far away as Michigan and Iowa.
I showed them a bred gilt who I predicted would farrow within a week. She farrowed much sooner than that. By 5 pm she had twelve nice piglets. I wish the meetup could have seen it.
I studied Permaculture this past winter. Reading fellow Wisconsinite Mark Shepard’s new book, Restoration Agriculture, inspired me to read all the books I could find in the Southwest Wisconsin Library system on Permaculture.
The pioneering books by Mollison and Holmgren are great, but the best book by far is Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture. This Austrian farmer inspired me to try and cultivate mushrooms. So I purchased a bag filled with mycelium plug spawn from Field and Forest Products.
If all goes well, the mycelium will spend the next year colonizing the rotting log. The following year it will produce the fruiting bodies we call mushrooms.
I don’t know if this will work or if I’ll even like Shitake mushrooms, which is the variety I’m growing. It looked like too much fun not to try, though. Click on the bottom photo to enlarge and see better the tools of this project.
I was fortunate to rent a pasture this year, close to my farm. I had a vet preg-check my sixteen fall-calving cows this spring, then vaccinated and fly tagged the twelve which were bred, and put them in the pasture May 1st.
They have done really well, even in the drought, because I under-stocked the pasture. I wanted some experience grazing the pasture before I put too many animals in and then had to feed hay or destock.
Now they’re enjoying the wild apples which grow in the woods and in the open. The cows have a route they walk everyday, checking for down fruit.
The tree above is strange. Half of it has no apples, the other half is loaded with apples.
I usually eat a few every time I check the cows. Each tree’s apples taste different, but they’re all good in their own way.
The sow I wrote about earlier, (let’s call her Crinkly-Ear), farrowed. She picked out a shady spot under an oak tree, far away from the rest of the herd. She had twelve beautiful piglets.
When a piglet is born, it is covered in a thin membrane. It takes a few minutes to dry and rub off. A healthy piglet shakes off the stress of birth rapidly, and is up and struggling with its siblings for a teat.
The chef and crew at Dayton Street Grille came for a visit. I love when a restaurant comes for a visit. It shows they aren’t just using the “local” angle for marketing, but really care about the food they’re serving.
I took them for a hayrack ride and showed them the cattle grazing and Crinkly-Ear’s litter. They’re holding some day-old piglets in the photo. I drove the tractor and Shepherd provided the color commentary.
Then they got the bonus tour because a sow was farrowing up near the barnyard. They got to see me reach in and pull out a piglet that was coming backwards. One guy even touched the slimy newborn. Thank you Dayton Street Grille.
The barley/rape pig pasture, disced and planted with Buckwheat. I planted on June 19th. I planted it at a rate of about sixty pounds per acre. A fifty pound bag cost me 55 dollars.
While researching alternative crops due to a crop failure this spring, (I ended up replanting corn), I came across Buckwheat. I learned enough about it to make me want to try some. I called my local seed supplier and they could get me a fifty lb. bag. I wasn’t sure when or where I would use it, but I wanted to have it on hand in case I had an opportunity. When I saw how well the cattle and hogs ate the barley/rape field, leaving very little crop residue, I decided this was my opportunity, and with perfect timing. It’s recommended to plant Buckwheat after June 15th in Wisconsin.
I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use Buckwheat. I’ll probably end up grazing it with the cattle and hogs. Some of the things which intrigued me were its nutritional profile. It’s very high in Lysine, which is the most limiting amino acid in a corn/soy diet for swine.
It also produces a very dark, strong flavored honey when bees use it as their primary nectar source. One acre of Buckwheat can be used by bees to produce 150 lbs. of honey according to the source I found. I would like to try some Buckwheat honey. Maybe I can get my beekeeper friends to place a hive close.
According to Wikipedia, Buckwheat is not a grain, and can be eaten by people with gluten intolerance. I wonder what Buckwheat pancakes taste like?
Potato and Green Beans from the garden. Corned beef from one of our cows. Photo by Melissa.
Melissa completed her family-farm internship, found a job, and moved out. We are going to miss her.