Pollinator-Friendly, Carbon Sponge!

September 14, 2018

 

image1

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.

DSCF3097

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. 

 

DSCF3120

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.

image1


I Hate Butterflies

July 16, 2018

DSCF3100

 

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?

DSCF3082

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.

DSCF3084

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?

DSCF3072

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?  

DSCF3097


Red-winged Blackbird Returns

March 12, 2018

Red-winged Blackbird Eggs

 

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

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

 

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.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

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

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

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.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA


Annual Pollinator Mix, Black-Eyed Susan

September 21, 2017

 

I am singing the praises again of the Annual Pollinator Mix from Lacrosse Seeds.  If you want a splash of color in your annual pig pastures, this is a practical way to do it.

I also experimented with a perennial prairie planting, which is considerably more expensive.  I purchased a pound of the Native Pollinator Mix for about $200 and have yet to see any of those plants flower.

Wanting to see quicker results, I picked up a couple pounds of Little Bluestem and Black-eyed Susan from Agrecol Seeds in Evansville, Wisconsin.  The Black-eyed Susan did well, pictured below.

I’ve mowed the weeds in my prairie a few times this summer and am excited to see what grows there next year.  My interest is growing in all the different native pollinators.

Everyone talks about the plight of the European Honeybee, which isn’t even native to North America, but I care about everybody else.  For example, how about this fella on the Black-eyed Susan.  I can’t even figure out what he is, but he’s cute.  He’s fat and orange.  He is what I imagine Cupid would look like if he was an insect.

 


American Toad Tadpoles

June 20, 2017

 

May was a wet month with rain every couple of days.  My pig wallows filled with water.  One wallow that had yet to see pigs this spring was used as breeding grounds for the opportunistic American Toad.

The frog species on our farms almost exclusively use my parents’ pond for breeding since it was built in 1992.  Toads are not as picky and will breed in any standing water, sometimes to the detriment of the resulting tadpoles as often these water holes will dry up if the rains stop.  And that is what happened here as the first two weeks of June saw warm temperatures and no rain.

I was looking forward to thousands of baby toads in my yard, so I intervened with a garden hose, adding water every day or so until we got two inches of rain a few days ago.  Now I’m starting to find the little toads hopping around.

The tadpoles almost seem to shrink as they develop legs.  Its as if the fat tadpole body repositions itself into the skinny legs as the tail shrinks.  I love the American Toad.


Annual Pollinator Mix, Planned Pig Pasture

April 23, 2015

DSCF2176

 

I was wondering what to plant for my annual pig pasture when I stumbled across an Annual Pollinator Mix on the Lacrosse Forages blog.  I ordered it from my local supplier, and with some delays, finally planted it April 16th.

The Annual Pollinator Mix contains eight different flowering plants with many of them legumes.  Its supposed to improve the soil and benefit pollinators.  My thought is it would make a decent pig pasture as well.  I also planted two bushels of Jerry oats per acre.

The Jerry oats cost $8.20 per bushel, so at two bushels per acre the cost for the oats is $16.40 per acre.  The Annual Pollinator Mix cost $181 per 50 lb bag.  I planted 18 lbs per acre so the cost for the Annual Pollinator Mix is $65 per acre.  I actually hadn’t figured out the cost until now, and its pricier than I expected.  It better be pretty!

I came across a short Ted talk and video by Louie Schwartzberg about pollinators.  Its really good, and did I mention its short?

I’ll keep you updated as the pasture progresses.