Cato’s Land and Soil Management

More on Cato’s Farm Management from Forgotten Books. Remember, these are thoughts and teachings from the Cato the Elder circa 160 bc. He was not a good or kind person and purportedly treated his wife as poorly and with little difference than his slaves.

Later on, better management skills were implemented which can alleviate or even eliminate that eventual souring of the land. Sadly, those skills have been left in the dustbin of history and we now ‘farm the govt’ regardless that it is poor practice for leaving the land in good shape for subsequent generations. Very sad, but here we are.

Of Draining (the land)

Drain wet land with trough shaped ditches dug three feet wide at the surface and one foot at the bottom and four feet deep. Blind these ditches with rock. If you have no rock then fill them with green willow poles braced crosswise. If you have no poles, fill then with faggots. Then dig lateral trenches three feet deep and four feet wide in such way that the water will flow from the trenches into the ditches.

In winter surface water should be drained off the fields. Keep hillsides clear so water will run off and during rainy season, have the hands with picks and shovels, clear out the drains so water will flow off the land and into roads so crops are protected.

Of Preparing the Seed Bed

What is the first principle of good agriculture? To plow well. What is the second? To plow again; and the third is to manure. When you plow corn land, plow well and in good weather, let you turn a cloddy furrow. The other things of good agriculture are to sow good seed plentifully, to thin the young sprouts, and to hill up the roots with earth.

  1. Never plow rotten land nor drive flocks or carts across it. If care is not taken about this, the land so abused will be barren for three years.

Of Manure:

Plan to have a big compost heap and take the best of care of the manure. When it is hauled out see that is well rotted and spread. Autumn is the time to do this.

Fold your sheep on the land which you are about to seed and there feed them leaves.

Of Soil Improvement:

The things which are harmful to corn land are to plow the ground when it is rotten and to plant chick peas which are harvested with the straw and are salt. Barley, fenugreek, and pulse all exhaust corn land, as well as all other things which are harvested with the straw. Do not plant nut trees in the corn land. On the other hand, lupines, field beans, and vetch manure corn land.

Book A FarmStay!!

12 Stones Farm Guest House

As promised, more information is coming your way about my amazing friends and their outreach to better the lives of others.

First up, are my friends, Eric & Hope Bright, who owned and operated a profitable dairy on their farm with lovely Jersey cows grazing and gracing the green hills of north Missouri.

Enjoy following along families, children, duck, chicken, and cow adventures on Instagram or Facebook.

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Alas, once their children, who were homeschooled like ours, flew the coop, they moved to warmer clime in south Missouri, just a 30 minute easy drive to Branson. We miss them being our neighbors. 😦

12 Stones Farm Guest House is a unique farm stay with children enjoying bottle feeding dairy calves, rounding up the ducks into their pen each evening, feeding the chickens, collecting eggs (then fixing those fresh eggs for your own brekkie!), milking gentle Jersey cows (and enjoying the milk!), playing with the cats, watching the dog guard the fowl from aerial predators (he takes his job seriously!), helping with the garden if you like, or launching a kayak in the Swan Creek just outside your cabin door.

If active farm stay is not your cup of tea, enjoy the peace and tranquility of a rural setting as you relax into your private hot tub just off the master bedroom with sounds of a tom turkey gobbling occasionally and the splash and gurgle of nearby Swan Creek. Then you might be off to take in the sights and sounds of the ever popular shows and attractions in Branson, MO. Each evening, build an outdoor fire, roast marshmallows and enjoy brilliantly starlit skies.

Enjoy eggs and milk fresh from the farm during your stay and extend the memories and enjoyment by purchasing extras at the 12 Stones Mercantile located on the farm.

As the weather warms, availability may become an issue as families and couples seek to get away from the city and breathe fresh air and relish peacefulness. Start your enquiry at 12 Stones Farm Guest House (sleeps 5) on AirBnB, VRBO, Flipkey, through Eric and Hope’s website, or just give them a ring!. You won’t meet nicer hosts! Also, if you need a really private getaway, take a look at their 2 person cabin on the same property but just a bit away. Available through AirBnB. Eric and Hope have 5.0 star reviews and are Superhosts!

The master bedroom accommodates a queen size bed and a twin size bed.
French doors adorned with quilted window dressings lead to your private outdoor hot tub!
Forgive my terrible photo, but i include it anyway to give you an idea of the spaciousness of the open areas of the 5 person cabin. Behind the DeKalb sign is the loft with 2 twin beds for low ceiling sleeping. Cabins are fitted with all the comforts of home. Quick snapshot in between packing water to Eric who was laying tile in the fabulously upgraded yet still retaining its rustic feel shower and bathroom. Yup, i was helping!

Don’t even hesitate to book this 2 person cabin on the same property and enjoy the same amenities as the 5 person cabin. This trip was the first time i have seen it finished (it was in the infant stages when i visited before) and, as expected, Eric, with his amazing carpentry skills, and Hope with her eye to artistry and detail, have created another oasis.

Cato – Duties of the Hands

Customary Allowances for food

For the hands, four pecks of meal for winter, four and one-half pecks for summer

For the overseer, housekeeper, wagoner, shepherd – three pecks each

For the slaves, four pounds of bread for winter, but when vine cultivating begins, increase to five pounds until figs are ripe, the return to four pounds.

Wine allowances:

Each hand receives a yearly supply of eight quadrantals (or Amphora), but add in the proportion of work they do. Ten quadrantals is not too much

Olives and salt allowances:

Save the wind fall olives as much as possible for relishes for the hands. When olives are all eaten, give them fish pickles and vinegar. One peck of salt per year is enough for each hand.

Clothing allowances:

Allow each hand a smock and a cloak every other year. As often as you give out a smock or cloak to any one take up the old one, so that caps can be made out of it. A pair of heavy wooden shoes should be allowed every other year.

As per Cato’s Farm Management book published by Forgotten Books.

Forage Samples

Before i took off on my driving trip to warmer weather in Continued Wanderings, and before super cold weather set in, i collected forages from standing forage (winter stockpile) for grazing to see what it’s value for animal nutrition would be. Since i raise beef cows, it is not so critical to have high quality all the time like a dairy cow needs, but since starting this new (to me) #total grazing scheme, i wanted to train my eye, so to speak, as to what the numbers look like in comparison to what the actual forage looks like.

There were three applications i wanted to measure;

1) Stockpiled forage which had been allowed to grow to full maturity since last being grazed very short in late May. This test will give me a good indication of what forage quality will be going forward with the total grazing plan i’ve implemented since fall, in which, forage is allowed to grow to full maturity before being grazed in winter.

2) new growth stockpile or that which had been grazed in August and had a little time to regrow (likely highest quality but lowest quantity). Once again, north Missouri was very short on late summer rains so very little forage could be stockpiled under the traditional MiG grazing plan, so many producers bought hay in preparation for a long winter of feeding – as you read in a previous posting here, i decided to sell stock to avoid hay feeding.

3) This sample will be a compilation of waterways, buffer zones, and other areas not worked up to raise organic soybeans. This one is from the Bowyer Farm and is 4 1/2 year old ungrazed or mowed old growth primarily toxic endophyte fescue.

As expected, all forages samples are marginal at best as far as feed value and crude protein which necessitates the feeding of some sort of protein supplement to help the cows’ guts break down the highly lignified grasses to grind out the nutrition in the forages. Even though i knew this going in, i felt it was worth the time and expense for my own education to have these images in my mind and numbers on paper to match up.

Education, sampling, researching, learning, observation are critical in any endeavor worth doing – ranching/farming is no different.

Scissors and a yellow plastic bucket are the complicated tools necessary to collect forage samples. These samples contained a lot of dry matter, so to collect a pound of forage, made for a lot of volume! This is the paddock # 8 sampling – the one not grazed since May 25, 2020 and collected on December 27, 2020
Once I brought home the sample, i cut it into smaller pieces to make it easier to handle and dry more quickly. Using a protein tub to hold the sample kept messiness to a minimum.
Once cut into pieces, i could stuff it all into a 2 gallon Ziploc bag – it was really full – and weighed it up to be certain i had at least the required 1 lb sample for testing. Then i stuck all samples in the deep freeze because i wanted to wait to send it after the holidays – it still took 14 days from north Missouri to Ithaca, NY while paying for 3 day priority. Not happy.

Click on the link above to open the forage samples information from Dairy One Forage Testing Lab.

Paddock 8 – last grazed 12 May 20, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Paddock 24 – last grazed 11 Sep 20, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Bowyer Farm – last managed Nov 2016, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Selecting Land

My good friend, Greg Judy, who actually has a Youtube channel to which you can subscribe for his interesting and informative videos about farming/ranching and a whole host of other topics related to profitable cattle and sheep farming, has offered up some key points for considering land purchases for your specific goals.

Greg’s check list when selecting a farm.

The check list really hasn’t changed in considerations for the purchase throughout history.

Cato’s list has more detail and although he uses the word ‘folly’ in what other people build (like barns for livestock), it can be used in your favor should you need a new or nice home or are considering a dairy operation or some such. Yet, the basic consideration is, does my operation actually require the use of a high maintenance, taxable building which sits empty most of the year.

Buying undeveloped land may seem less expensive, but bear in mind the high cost of making it livestock worthy (or whatever it is you will use your land for). Perimeter fencing is expensive made even more so if hiring a bulldozer to clear the fence rows first is necessary.

As we get older, land which may be more expensive yet closer to a hospital or at least a sealed road will likely become more important.

If you are so fortunate to find a reasonably price parcel in the location important you, with limited buildings, then don’t wait because someone else will buy it. Desirable parcels of property are snapped up very fast. My observations of looking for properties, indicates that poor properties are offered at ridiculous prices just hoping for someone to bite; quality, in-demand properties will sell immediately and land auctions are becoming more popular due to immediate sell and they are bringing a premium price.

If the neighbours aren’t interested in the property and it has been languishing on the market, that is a red flag that something is wrong – do in depth research. Oftentimes, it can be high taxes, poor production values, swampy land, no water, low rainfall, the lay of the land requires constant maintenance (i have a 160 like that, every little rain causes my deep watergaps to blow out, fighting encroaching brush is an annual and long days event)

My personal search requires:

  1. enough acreage in one block location with minimal perimeter (in other words more squarish, not nooks and crannies. one property online had 11 miles of perimeter to maintain yet enclosing only 1700 acres!)
  2. A nice home which has been built with finishes which stand the test of time. Too many homes from the 80s and 90s and so faddish inside, it needs to be completely gutted and redone. May be better to tear it down and start again. Not out of the range of possibility, just be sure you aren’t paying twice for a new home.
  3. Live water with no or little flood plain.
  4. Located on a sealed road with minimal traffic
  5. Near infrastructure to livestock auctions and other supportive ranch venues
  6. Warm winters, warm winters, warm winters – did i mention warm winters?!
  7. Minimal timber and very little brush.
  8. I would like to not be close enough to neighbors to hear or see them, but within 2 hours of a major airport.
  9. Price is critical – i’m not rich – the ranch i buy must find a way to pay for itself or at the least provide a good rate of return. This is nearly impossible in today’s environment where there is very little low risk good investment. Land is in too expensive for its productive value.

My Amazing Friends!

I am so blessed and thankful to have the most amazing and amazingly talented friends. Thankfully, they accept me as well having opened their doors to my extended stays these recent weeks- but oh my goodness, did we talk so fast to catch up with each others’ lives these past several years of being scattered around the Midwest and the process of becoming empty nesters and seeing our children well ensconced into lives as productive citizens, scripturally sound, biblically moral young people.

So, over the course of the next several weeks, i plan to unabashedly promote their websites, start up businesses, well established businesses, and almost there after 5 years businesses. All are meeting needs which benefit the lives of others.

The upcoming spotlights will include;

1) Barb Buchmayer – she and her husband, Kerry, recently retired from decades of owning and operating an organic grass-based dairy (we bought our raw milk from them for years) located here in north Missouri. She has now written a two volume, 300 page each, set of books designed to help you train your dog using positive encouragement. Positive Herding 101 & 102 To get a glimpse of her training methods as we are awaiting the arrival of her books, check out and subscribe to Barb’s Youtube Channel – Positive Herding Dog

2) Nadean Eudaly is a dear friend with whom our friendship is growing leaps and bounds actually since our children graduated from our respective home schooling endeavors. Although, we lived only about 45 minutes apart, our ‘circles’ didn’t overlap much during those years. However, now residing in Texas, Nadean, in addition to continuing to work alongside her husband at his established business White River Productions, has now embarked on providing quality Longhorn cattle to area landholders who want regal, easy care cattle gracing their vistas and offering a cabin for rental on their property. Well on her way to busting out with full service, check our her new businesses at Bell & Brook Ranch. She is located near Palestine, Texas.

Book this well appointed eco cabin which overlooks a gorgeous oxbow lake. Well, obviously, when i took the photo, i was focusing on the horses and pasture. Head on over to Nadean’s website for contact and booking information.

3) Kevin Eudaly, editor and owner of multiple train, railroad, diesel engine magazines and books has been living the dream of his 12 year old self when his love was of photographing trains. Although a stint as an environmental chemist was his career out of college (actually, he and Nadean met at work with them both being chemists! God works with amazing precision). All things train are well represented at White River Productions. I had the privilege of previewing the hard copy/finished Timber Titans book at their home during my visit and although i’m not familiar with trains and the massive amount of historical documentation this book records, i can recognise an enjoyable, yet important record of train and rail history well put together. The super old black and white photographs contained within are sharply improved as if they were taken using today’s camera capabilities. This book is more than a coffee table centerpiece – it’s an historical piece.

This book is a recent stunner published by White River Productions. Timber Titans: Baldwin’s Articulated Logging Locomotives

4) Eric & Hope Bright who now live outside Forsyth, Missouri also is a homeschooling family in our circle here in north Missouri and also a dairy family. Their children, too, are off changing the world for the better and now Eric and Hope have time to devote to their love of sharing rural living with as many as they can. Check out their hospitality at 12 Stones Farm. A real, hands on farm stay the Bright’s offer the opportunities of bottle feeding calves, feeding chickens, ducks, and geese, collecting eggs, gardening, and milking cows. Kayaking, roasting marshmallows over an outdoor fire, and, for those of you not used to a dark sky, be amazed at the night time stars displayed in all their glory. If you don’t want to do the farm stay – that’s okay, too. Enjoy beautiful, private accommodations with a private hot tub, then head to nearby Branson for evening entertainment. This is a small working farm with fresh eggs, fresh milk, and grassfinished beef available most of the time. Find them on AirBnB, Flipkey, and VRBO. Also, they have a new cabin available listed on AirBnb. But, honestly, don’t hesitate to contact them directly. Awesome hosts.

Contact Hope to book this well appointed studio sized cabin for your own use or as use for an overflow of family and friends renting the much larger cabin nearby.

Okay, that was a little teaser – hope you have time to follow along later as i explore each of their new endeavors more fully in upcoming blog entries!