Tag Archives: soil

30 Day Checkup

Time for an update on the annuals.  It’s now been 33 days since planting on the 26th of May and it’s been terribly dry until just now.

The soil had some moisture in it when i tilled the 18 acres the first go on 18-19 May, but then we received a rain (4/10s) which delayed the second tillage until 25 May, at which time my husband seeded the hills right behind the second tillage so we could wrap up this project for the first stage.

Then weather set in hot, dry, sunny, and windy.  Some of the seeds germinated and some even sprouted and grew.  If we didn’t get a rain soon, those brave spindly plants would soon wither and die.

At last, over the course of 14-15-16 June, we received 1.5 inches of rain and temps cooled just a little bit – a breather for plants, soil, animals, and man.

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What a difference a 1.5 rain made – this was taken four days after the rain, but the soil is good here.
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This photo is taken immediately to the east of the previous photo and at the same moment.  Growth exhibited on 20 June, four days after that 1.5 inch rain.  What a difference soil quality makes!

Rainfall has been scarce until 28-29-June, when a gully washer of 7 inches fell in a bit over 24 hours.  Thankfully, not much soil moved because i was careful to leave grass strips and there was still some dead plant material.  Ideally, there would have been new root growth to help, but the previous dry weather compounded by my poor soil restricted growth tremendously.

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Taken day after the two days of 7 inches of rain.

 

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Thilled to see so many lespedeza seedlings.
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Mystery – why is one sunflower so green and healthy and this one right next to it yellow and sickly?  Why did i photograph my shoe?!
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A very little soil movement can be seen in this photo although it is on a slight slope.  Can you believe that this is 33 days growth?  My clay hills are pretty dead which is the reason for trying to bring them alive by building organic matter and eliminating toxic endophyte fescue.
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This shows some definite soil movement after a 7 inch rain, but it didn’t move very far.  Encouraging!

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So, bring on the next 30 day!  With that 7 inch rain and little of it running off, there should be a massive increase in forage growth.  Excited!

Cheers and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Second Pass & Broadcast

With the first pass May 15, 16, and 17 behind me, several very light rain showers, and a few days of drying out, I was ready to get to that second tillage pass and get the annual seeds in the dirt!.  Thursday,  May 25, 2017, I spent 4 hours with the Howard Rotavator 600 and was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, the John Deere 4250 tractor worked along nicely at A2 speed vs A1.  This effectively increased my speed from 2.1 mph to 2.6 mph.  And it showed up in the final tally for sure!  The second pass on the same 18 acres, instead of taking 12 hours as before, only rang up 7 1/2 hours.  Nice.  Admittedly, i could never make a farmer (row cropper); how do those guys run those things for hours on end, daylight to dark, day after day.  I was thankful, i could distract myself for a while, at least on the long rows, by chatting (private message) with my son, who was at a cafe in Spain, and texting about soil conditions with a friend who was farming another part of my farm with 120 acres for organic soybean production.  I finished up with the second pass on the 26th.  It was also seeded on the 26th.

When i was about 2/3 rds completed, Allen came with a huge bag of premixed annual seed to fill the hopper on the Einboch power seeder and harrow.  He finished all 18 acres in about 4 hours, counting a couple stoppages due to hoses plugging.

So, time spent so far:

Mixing seeds – 1 hour

Tractor – first pass – 12 hours

Tractor – second pass – 7 1/2 hours

Tractor/Seeding  – 4 hours

A couple of ways to figure the cost of establishment.

One is to figure my actual costs and assign an hourly rate for our time plus wear/tear/depreciation on the tractor and implements.  And the other is to use custom rental rates which are figured by the acre.

  1. Total man hours spent – 24.5 hours at $??/hr
  2. Tractor costs for 23.5 hours at $??/hr
  3. Seed cost
  4. Fuel costs – 23.5 times 7.7 gph = 181 gallons @

Or using machinery rental rates (which is what i’m going to do since i don’t know the above costs!)

  1. tractor and rotavator – 36 acres times $20/acre = $720.00
  2. tractor and seeder/harrow – 18 acres times $15/acre = $270.00
  3. Seed costs – $31.56 per acre is what i ordered – HOWEVER, i am informed that Allen actually put on about half again as much, so i will multiply that amount by 1.5 for a per acre cost of $47.34.  The additional seed will hopefully pay off in increased forage yields.  So total seed costs are $$852.12.

Buckwheat 6# @ $ .90/lb

Lespedeza 6# @ $1.00/lb

Pearl Millet 5# @ $1.05/lb

Oats 12# @ $ .28/lb

Cowpeas 6# @ $ .90/lb

Sunflower 5# @ $.45/lb

Red Clover  2# @ $1.95/lb

Total expenses then amount to $1842.12 or $102.34 per acre.  That’s a lot and does not include the 2 tons of lime i had applied in April at a cost of $66/acre.  It’s tough to say this all has to be recouped in one year or one grazing because the lime will be there for the rest of my life and the tillage will have long term effects in loosening the soil as well as eradicating the toxic endophyte infected fescue.  With so many variables, counting the cost, or rather, measuring the increase or lack thereof, in the short run, is very difficult in ranch renovation.

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Greased up and ready to go!
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Greased up and ready to go!
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On the long rows, i can distract myself by chatting through Facebook with my son, who was in Spain, and texting my friend who is farming another portion of my land about soil conditions.  Lot of talk about the negative aspects of multitasking, but we all do it and it works.
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Seen here the second pass.
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Wasn’t just a plethora of big rocks this machine dug up.  Boy howdy, this made quite a clatter!  Thankfully, it did not do any damage and i was able to easily unwind this heavy chain from the shaft.
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Allen, my husband, moving along quickly with the Einbach seeder/harrow.  I gotta keep plugging along or he will overtake me!
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Einboch PneumaticStar – Pro Grass Seeder/harrow
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After the Einbock Pneumatic Seeder/Harrow passes.
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Seeded 26 May, no rain, but took this photo this morning, the 1st of June, and it can already be rowed, but ya gotta hold your head just right to see it.
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Close up of some of the forages emerging – very exciting!  Only 5 days in the ground.

The plan is to have something to graze in 60-75 days. This will depend large part on moisture.  We are getting pretty dry now already and need a rain.  I will post updates.

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Here’s a shot of my seed mix in the machine.

By the way, you noticed i’m not including costs associated with photography and blogging.  It’s a good way to force me to sit down and keep a log of expenses, time, and results.  Hopefully, it will help others as well!

Managing soil, water, and animals properly and privately goes a lot further than politically motivated government regulations written by people who are far removed from soil and weather.

Cheers!

tauna

The Big Till

As a first step of my endophyte infected fescue eradication and pasture renovation project, today was the big day of tillage.  My husband had purchased a Howard Rotavator 600, which is 10 foot wide sod-cutting and chewing machine and the soil (actually just dirt, it’s in pathetic condition) it’s been through gave it a real workout.  Even the tractor couldn’t keep up and i had to sidle over and only take 2′-5′ bite of new sod at times, especially going up hill.  This first pass took place on May 17-18, 2017.

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Here my husband has been running the equipment to make sure everything was working.  I’m getting ready for my dual.  Operating new equipment is always an uneasy step for me!
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The ‘soil’ more like dirt because it’s so dead is very compacted and lots of clay making for a lot of overlapping.  I even killed the tractor a couple times because there was simply not enough power to pull the machine.  I quickly learnt how much ‘bite’ the machinery could take so the John Deere 4250 would not be overwhelmed.
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The Howard Rotavator 600.  Here’s a link to a video of the rotavator in operation.
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My soil hasn’t been tilled since at least the early 1960’s.  It’s compacted with little to no life in it.  Just dirt.  The  hope is to allow water and other nutrient infiltration to encourage forage growth.  This is an example of first pass.

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One pass tillage next to existing stand of grass.  Serious clay content.  Methinks some of this worked up harder than if i took down the gravel road!

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Plenty of big rocks (these are some of the smaller ones) to make the machine go ‘klunk’!
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My office for a total of 8 hours.  Allen ran it for about 4 hours. 

All in all, i mapped out about 18 acres actually tilled.  There are about 25 acres total in the area being renovated, however, because of the steep slopes, several acres are left alone to serve as grassy waterways.  I wonder, however, as hard as the ground is, if the tilled portions won’t actually hold and stop more water than the hard pan waterways.  Hmmm.

So far, 12 hours spent (1.5 acres per hour) tilling, but not counting time servicing tractor and machine or time spent getting to/from the farm.  Tractor uses about 7.7 gallons diesel fuel per hour, so 92.5 gallons there.  Second pass should take a bit less time, but we’ll see!

We received a big storm last night with about an inch of rain, so the second pass won’t happen for a few days – depending on weather.  Allen will be right behind the second rotatiller pass with the Einbach harrow/seeder and my selected annual grass mix.

Per acre healing forages:

  1.  6 lbs buckwheat
  2.  6 lbs lespedeza
  3.  3 lbs pearl millet
  4. 12 lbs oats
  5.  6 lbs cowpeas
  6.  5 lbs sunflower
  7.  2 lbs red clover

These were chosen for their prolification, adaptability to poor soils, nitrogen fixing, and low cost as well as providing excellent grazing in 60-75 days.

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Grass waterways left to slow water during rains until the rest has forage established.
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Not a clear photograph, but a better idea of leaving waterways.
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On the far slope, the rows would have been so short that a lot of time would have been spent just turning around, so i chose to strip till through and across low and high spots.  Time will tell if that was the right decision.
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View from my office. 😉

Bright Sunshine!

That forecasted rain hit about 9:30 pm and just poured for about 5 minutes – storm over.  The Mizzou game in Columbia, MO, however, looked like miseryfor a LONG time – it didn’t help that the hometown team lost badly.

Today dawned clear and bright and i managed to clean the frig, wash a load of laundry, feed the calves, wash windows, and start the oven cleaning before the day got started.

Paperwork has been gathered for my trip to Chillicothe in the afternoon to the license bureau.   Allen and I had planned to purchase the pickup through bartering, however, i found out at the license bureau that that can only be done throught a dealership!  No private transactions.  That doesn’t sound fair.  So, of course, i had to pay sales tax after all.  The inspection for the pickup resulted in a $600 repair bill!!

I took some photos of an old McCormick International seed drill that I listed for sale on Powell Seed Farm, Inc facebook page.  It is old and small by today’s standards, but it would be perfect for someone starting out or for use in grass paddock improvements.

Stopped in Meadville at my friend’s house and we had a serious heart to heart visit.  I cannot imagine going through life without a close friend with whom each can share our joys, concerns, and heartaches.

Slow late afternoon since i’d allowed plenty of time for the license bureau, yet i was in and out in less than half an hour!  Fed the calves, worked on my chicken tractor (this is my 9th design and build of chicken tractors and eggmobiles).  I’ve been at the chicken tractor for months, but it’s the lowest item on my priority list, so I seldom have time to piddle around with it.  Had hoped to have it done before i butcher our last 14 hens so as to see if it works, but that may not happen.  Might get chicks next spring, but might not.  I may just enjoy not having extra chores, but it’s fun building stuff – it just won’t get used.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Holistic Management Decision Making

Super intro to Holistic Management!

Creating the Farm and Life You Want With Holistic Management

Holistic management testing questions

HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT A WHOLE-FARM DECISION MAKING FRAMEWORK

Even though I’ve known about and used the testing questions for many years, too many times, i go ahead a purchase a band-aid which does nothing but make my work harder and negatively affect my quality of life and that of those i love the most.  While holistic management terms have been used mostly in farm and home circles, the precepts can be applied to most any business.

Good starter questions are:  Why am i doing this job?  If I can let nature do the job, then why am I not letting that happen?  Is there a better way?

Do you have daily repetitive chores?  You can probably get rid of them and not only save a tremendous amount of time, but also considerable out-of-pocket money.  Especially if they are non-income producing time-suckers.  Pets are notorious for this, but also having too many unrelated income streams.

For example, unless you have work horses (even then you’d better know your costs!), the time spent caring for and feeding them is astronomical with absolutely no return!  (unless you are using them for pleasure and have time to do so).  Horses consume 2% to 2.5% dry matter to the body weight or about 21 lbs for a 1000 lb horse.  About the same as a cow.  However, the cow is producing a calf on that same ration.  So, while feeding three horses you could be feeding three cows with the resultant calf sale each year which at current levels is about $1000 per calf.  If you spend 10 minutes a day feeding and watering the horses, in the course of one year, you’ve spent the equivalent of 60.8 hours!  How much productive work could you get done in 60 hours!  So, 60 hours times $15/hour is $900 plus feed, pasture rent, hay costs, water, vaccinations, hoof trimming, emergency vet costs.  You can figure your own costs, but a full-service boarding facility for a 12×12 stall is $250/month per horse (includes turnout and water/feed/hay) or $9000 per year for three horses.  This does not include farrier or vet services.  Pasture only boarding is $160/month, but you would need to care for the horse yourself.  What about tack, training, grooming?  Add up the costs and time.

In a continuous grazing situation, horses will do more damage to the stand of forage than cattle and even sheep in some respects because not only can they nip the new growth to the ground like sheep, but they are heavier and each step carries more weight per square inch than a sheep.  This often leads to pugging in soft pastures.  In other words, horses can destroy a pasture in no time at all.  As Penn State Extension puts it: “turning horses out on pasture should not start until the grass has reached a height of 6 inches, and should be stopped when grass has been grazed down to 2 to 3 inches.”  and “this grazing strategy (continuous) often results in overgrazing,…. The bad thing about this system, it allows horses to be very selective. Horses repeatedly graze the best-tasting plants. This stresses plants beyond their ability to survive. Pasture is never allowed to recover from grazing. In time pastures are soon turned into dry lots where only weeds will grow.”  Penn State’s recommendations are very basic, but a helpful start into learning about managed grazing.

Here’s a good starter article for pasture maintenance:  Care & Feeding of Overgrazed Pastures

This is just one example,  use the test questions against everything you do, gather information, and make the right decision!

Set goals, use the test questions, then really, really wait before buying work or any inputs.  If you need training to help you identify problems and what is a symptom, then get help!  Don’t spin your wheels getting nothing done or worse, digging a deeper hole and remaining confused by why you aren’t getting ahead.  Ask!  But if you are not ready to implement what you learn or make changes, then don’t waste your money or other people’s time.

HMI Testing Questions

Resources from Holistic Management International!

Creating Healthy Soil

Free Downloads

You and I won’t agree with all of HMI’s ideas, but there is a ton of good information and help for getting you started in a new business, established business, or life in general.

Shalom!

tauna