Oyster Mushrooms

July 31, 2019

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My friend Jeremy helped me identify delicious, Oyster mushrooms, (genus Pleurotus).  While I don’t consider them to be as good as Morel mushrooms, they are still very good and have many advantages.

One is they are saprotrophic, meaning they grow on dead material, which makes them much easier to find, as once you find them, they tend to continue producing throughout the summer.  I like foraging, but I like it even better when its like going to the supermarket!

Another advantage is they are highly productive.  Check out all the beauties on this one tree.

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In my research, I learned something else new.  Wikipedia says Oyster mushrooms and other fungi as well are Nematophagous, which means they catch and eat nematodes.  Nematodes are round worms.  Are you getting hungry?

Gross factor aside, I’m finding fungi more fascinating the more I learn.  Would you like to eat Oyster mushrooms?

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Monarch Caterpillars

June 27, 2019

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The wet spring appears to be favorable for the butterflies, as I’ve been seeing a ton.  Incidentally, which weighs more, a ton of bricks, or a ton of butterflies?

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I’m seeing more Milkweed, which is the host plant for Monarch larvae, the Monarch caterpillar.  Its orange, black, and white stripes signal toxicity to potential predators.  The word for this is Aposematism.

Milkweed contains large amounts of Cardiac glycoside poisons, and the Monarch, from feeding on the Milkweed, does as well.  Some predators have evolved workarounds for the poisons, though.

 

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Check out the massive turds behind the caterpillar in the photo above.  Chewed leaves and feces is your best signifier that a monarch caterpillar may be near.

I read in my local paper that its not just my experience, but scientists and citizen scientists confirm the greatest number of Monarchs in the last decade.

No doubt efforts by many of us to increase the amount of Milkweed and Monarch habitat have helped.  Some have taken to mass rearing Monarchs indoors.  While I appreciate their efforts, the holistic naturalist in me questions the overall effectiveness and it appears some agree, citing concerns over spreading of parasites and disease, and inadvertently selecting for less thrifty individuals.

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Working in Nature/Tasty Chicken

May 30, 2019

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“Farming with Family, Working in Nature”, is Curiousfarmer’s new motto.  I borrowed this motto from a ranch, “Ranching with Family, Working with Nature.”  I changed “Ranching” to “Farming” and “With” to “In”, because “Working with Nature” implies a level of cooperation by Nature, which doesn’t exist.  I love Nature, but Nature doesn’t give a flip about Curiousfarmer.

The photo above shows an image I captured via trail cam after 98 chickens were killed in one night, photo below.  You can see a few live near the dead.  30 were left alive, and they would have been quickly killed if I hadn’t moved them to a safer location.

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One mink did all the killing.  He only slit their throats, one after another.  To the mink’s credit, he did return later to eat the dead birds, which is how I captured his image.

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It seems like there is nothing tastier than a chicken on a farm.  But predation is unpredictable.  The only prediction I can make is you will have problems eventually.  Last year the first and last group of chickens had zero predation.  The middle two groups had quite a bit of trouble from raccoons reaching under and grabbing and eating on a chicken.  We never had anything like this mink though.

If you would like to try our chicken, this Saturday will probably be your last chance before we sell out.  I think we’re going to refocus on our beef, pork, and eggs, and leave the broiler chickens to someone else.  We’ll also probably raise turkeys and butcher on the farm like the past two years, as turkeys are fun, and some of you really enjoy our turkeys.

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Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

September 14, 2018

 

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Curiousfarmer is a Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

What the heck does that mean?

Our farm is covered year around with perennial plants, shrubs, and trees.  Livestock are rotated around the farm, grazing plants near their peak, leaving about half, to speed regrowth.  

Plants pull carbon out of the atomsphere and deposit into the soil.  Plants managed well with rotational grazing are pulling near maximum carbon out of the atmosphere.  And we do this year after year after year.

We care about pollinators, and manage some plants specifically for them.  But even if we didn’t, rotational grazing perennial forages, without using herbicides or pesticides, results in many plants and flowers thriving which our beneficial to all the pollinators.  The Monarch butterfly is an indicator species, and I’m happy to say I have never seen greater numbers.  

This is all well and good, but I’m happy to say, we do this while producing delicious, nutritious, meat!  I am unapologetically, humans first.  I care about people, and people need to eat.  And we can and do produce food in a holistic way that feeds people while capturing carbon.

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An added benefit to capturing carbon and building organic matter is the added water holding capacity of healthy soil.  The earth covered in healthy soil becomes more flood and drought proof.

We were just about ready to take the third cutting of hay in the middle of August when the heavens opened and for about three weeks we had the wettest period I can ever remember.  Every day or every other day we received and inch to three inches of rain.

During this rainy period, other than the gravel driveway, I witnessed very little runoff of water.  The more rain water our soil captures, the more is available for plants to use and then respire back into the atmosphere in the gentlest way possible. 

 

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This is the third cutting of hay we made this week.  Phoebe, pictured above and below, is due to calve here in September.  We should have plenty of hay to feed her and her baby this winter.  The circle of life continues.

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I Hate Butterflies

July 16, 2018

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Yes, I hate butterflies.  I used to think I liked butterflies.  In fact, like many of you, I read about the plight of the pollinators, and I took action, creating beneficial habitat.

I also educated myself, reading many books by The Xerces Society, a group which works for the benefit of invertebrates.

And now, perhaps because of creating better habitat, but more likely because of educating myself, I’m seeing butterflies everywhere.

I thought that would make me happy.  But working in the fields, mowing hay, raking hay, baling hay, my mood darkened.  It took me awhile to check in with myself and figure out why. 

I’m working hard in the summer sun, sweat pooling in my butt crack, and butterflies are aimlessly flitting, floating, and fluttering.  

They lack discipline.  They lack direction.  Do you have any idea how long I had to wait by this Milkweed to get a good photo?

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Occasionally, I’ll catch two of them having sex, mid-flight.  Its not enough that they can fly and I can’t.  They add insult to my injury by fornicating, joining the meter high club.

Sidenote:  As I write this, a bee is in a death struggle with a spider outside my window.  The bee is losing and I’m glad, as I don’t like bees either.  

Bees however, I respect.  They work hard for a living.  Flying straight to flowers, doing their thing, then flying directly back to their hive.  No aimless meandering for bees.

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Butterflies practice casual sex, then lay their eggs and completely forget about their offspring.  They do absolutely zero when it comes to raising their offspring.

The eggs hatch and the caterpillars spend their adolescence eating and pooping.  They live on their food.  How charmed of a life is that?

And then, as a reward for all this gluttony, they form a chrysalis, take the mother of all teenage naps, and wake up as a butterfly.  It this fair, God?

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I reserve my worst vitriol for the Monarch Butterfly.  The Monarch Butterfly winters in Mexico.  Yes, you read that right.  The Monarch winters in Mexico.

For the longest time, scientists couldn’t figure out where the Monarch goes in winter.  Hint:  Check out a sleepy little Mexican village in the mountains, with just the right climate to spend the winter.  

It’s not enough for the Monarch to enjoy the heat and humidity of a midwestern summer, they also get to enjoy their winters, while I’m stuck here on this farm, paying the bills, feeding the stock, and chopping wood to stay warm.

Butterflies are the ultimate hedonists.  Is it any wonder they’re struggling?  

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Red-winged Blackbird Returns

March 12, 2018

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My old friend, the Red-winged Blackbird, has returned from his winter home, March 11, 2018.  There is usually a male who sits in the apple tree in my yard as I practice my disc golf putting.

While he probably isn’t the same bird, there is a chance, as the longest living wild Red-winged Blackbird was nearly 16 years old when scientists studied him.  If he isn’t the same bird, I’m sure he’s kin.

The photo above was taken in June or July, five years ago.  You can read more about Red-winged Blackbirds on my blog, here,  and here and here.


Denizens of the Night

January 20, 2018

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The idyllic farm of daytime turns into the stuff of nightmares when the sun goes down.  If you are a chicken who missed your farmer’s shutting of the door, you’ll have to search for a safe roost to spend the night.  But beware, some of these creatures climb.

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I noticed a deer carcass, so I put up a trail cam and captured these images one night last week.

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What’s interesting is the times recorded on the trail cam.  It looks like the raccoon came out early in the evening and the coyote stayed until after daybreak.

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