Tag Archives: water

A Perfect Match by Jim Gerrish

Once again, Jim Gerrish, owner American GrazingLands,  pens a thorough and relevant article.  This one published in The Stockman GrassFarmer June , 2020 issue.  Click here if you’d like to request a free copy of The Stockman GrassFarmer.

A Perfect Match

May, Idaho

Some things just seem to fit together really well.  Bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches come to mind, among other things.

How about no-till, cover-crops, irrigation, and MiG?  That is another combination that is hard to beat.

Industrial farming with conventional tillage has led to widespread land degradation through soil erosion, loss of soil carbon, and destruction of soil life.  No-till minimizes soil disturbance and the concurrent loss of organic matter soil life.  The downside of no-till farming over the 50 or so years since its inception has been heavy reliance on potent herbicides like paraquat and glyphosate.  To eliminate the need for those herbicides and their toxic side effects, innovative farmers have figured out approaches.  The roller-crimper as a mechanical tool can terminate existing vegetation and turn it into moisture-conserving mulch.  High stock density grazing can also terminate or suppress existing vegetation and turn it into dollars.

The exponential growth in cover-crop use over the last decade has also accelerated the adoption of no-till farming across the USA and around the world.  While many farmers started using cover-crops based solely on soil health benefits, others came to realize livestock were the missing link in their efforts to heal the land.  We quite talking about sustainable ag a few years ago and started talking about regenerative ag.  Why settle for sustaining the agricultural wreck we have created over the last century?  Why don’t we try fixing it instead?

Ray Archuleta uses a great example to illustrate the difference between the sustainable and regenerative concepts.  ray asks,  “If your marriage is a wreck, why would you want to sustain that?  If your farm is a wreck, why would you want to sustain that?”

Regeneration is meant to create something healthy and strong that will last your lifetime and beyond.  I think it is a valuable lesson in world selection and world viewpoint.

In a similar vein, many years ago I said the most tragic divorce that has happened down on the farm was the divorce of livestock from the land.  Taking grazing animals off the landscape and locking them up in concentration camps removed a critical component of ecosystem health.  We will only regenerate a healthy landscapes with effectively managed livestock as part of the process.

We can argue about the sustainability of irrigation.  Around the world, including the USA, aquifers are being pumped to the point of depletion.  Land is being degraded due to salinization from irrigating with high salt content water.  Pumping costs are increasing in many irrigated farming areas as water is pumped from deeper and deeper wells.  No, irrigation in that sense is neither sustainable nor regenerative.

Living in the Intermountain Region of the USA for 16 years now and enjoying a different type of irrigation basis.  I think there is a time and place for irrigation in a regenerative ranching or farming context.  With direct snow-melt as our water source we avoid aquifer depletion and most of the salinity risks associated with irrigation in semi-arid landscapes.

For many years, a lot of this region was flood irrigated.  There are a number of benefits to flood irrigation.  Flood irrigation can rely entirely on gravity flow of water so there is no pumping cost.  It can hydrate parts of the landscape outside of the farmed fields.  The infrastructure investment is fairly low.  However, Water use efficiency cannot be counted as one of the favorable aspects of flood irrigation.

Per ton of forage grown, flood irrigation typically uses about 50-80% more water than sprinkler irrigation.  As we think more and more about the pending worldwide water crisis, all of us in agriculture must become better versed in water conservation whether we are in high natural rainfall or irrigated environments.  That brings us back to thought of no-till farming with cover-crops and the role of grazing animals in groundwater management.

We have all heard and read those popular press articles citing how many pounds of water it takes to produce a pound of hamburger or a steak.  Some beef industry estimates are as low as 1000 lbs of water per lb of beef all the way up to 12,000 lbs of water/lb of beef claimed by some vegan groups.  Since a pound of beef only contains about 10 ounces of water, the rest of all that water has to be somewhere else.  That somewhere else is mostly in the soil or the atmosphere meaning that same water will be used for something else tomorrow or the next day or the next.

Our job is to get as much back into the soil or the deeper ground water system.  This is where MiG comes into the picture.  We use time-controlled grazing management to manipulate the amount of living plant residual and the amount of trampled litter we create in the pasture.  Both of those grazing management responses are critically important factors in managing soil water.  Infiltration rate and surface runoff are directly tied to our day-to-day grazing management choices.

When we can easily produce twice as much animal product per acre using MiG compared to ineffectively managed pastures, that translates to a doubled water use efficiency.  Think about the cost of seeding cover-crops on irrigated land and the relative return on investment between those two different management scenarios.  Regardless of the particular pasture in question.  MiG always increases the return potential.

Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant providing service to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across the USA and internationally.  He can be contacted through www.americangrazinglands.com.  His books are available from the SGF Bookshelf page 20.

 

 

 

 

Mold & Mildew in my Cookbook!

Neglectfully, i sat my home made cookbook on my kitchen bench whilst cooking.  Apparently, it was quite wet and the pages soaked up a bunch of water, then i slapped it shut and took to the basement shelves until i needed it next.  The result was this horrible mess.  The mold is so bad, that i have to have the windows open just to read my recipes!

Moldy Cookbook
The mold and mildew have destroyed the recipe pages, binder, and dividers.

Today, i’m starting to run off new copies of each treasured recipe.  One of these days, i may do up a professionally looking family cookbook.

Printing new recipe pages
Thankfully, i’ve spend considerable time in the past putting together our family recipes and have them organized on my computer.

 

Sprouting!

Basic instructions for sprouting healthy addition to salads, sandwich toppings, or  a stand alone snack.

Put 3 tablespoons of seed into your sprouting jar.  Add 2-3 times as much cool (60°-70°) water.  Mix seeds up to assure even water contact for all.   Let stand in water 6-12 hours.

Drain off soak water.  Rinse thoroughly in cool water. Drain thoroughly!  (this is important)

Set sprouting jar anywhere out of direct sunlight and at room temperature (70° is optimal) between rinses. Ensure sufficient air circulation is provided.

Rinse with cool water and drain thoroughly every 12 hours for 3-7 days.  Always drain thoroughly.  Refrigerate after growing if you don’t eat them all straightaway.

Food borne illness is a possibility when consuming raw products.  Sprouts will smell fresh not musty.  Keep them cool.

Here’s an interesting article concerning health benefits.

Raw Sprouts:  Benefits and Potential Risks

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Day 1 – 3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds in a quart jar with screen top or use cheesecloth and a rubber band.  These are broccoli, alfalfa, radish, and clover seeds.  I’ve chose Food To Live brand, but there are others.
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Day 1 – pour in some cool water, swish it around to stir up the seeds, then allow to stand in water for 6-12 hours.  Pour out the water.  Add more and swirl around then drain thoroughly.
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Day 3 – Be sure to add cool water, swirl it around to rinse seeds and drain thoroughly EVERY DAY TWICE A DAY!
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I start another batch every 3 days or so because i like a continuous supply to eat if i want them.  This batch is using 2 tablespoons rather than 3 tablespoons in this quart jar which should allow more room to grow longer and green up more.  This also helps eliminate those extra crunchy seeds by allowing the it to sprout longer.
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This first batch had filled the jar in 6 days.

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Great for toppings on sloppy joes, sandwiches, and most everything!  —  well, maybe not ice cream.
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Or as a stand alone salad.  Here i sliced olives and our home raised eggs.  Squirt a bit of dressing you like on top or none at all.  

Genetics and Selection

There are very few reasons for mobs of livestock to have access to ponds beyond and emergency drinking water access. My reason here is that these heifers needed to be separated from the main cow herd for the 45 day breeding season and the only paddock I have does not have shade or even a high point to catch a breeze such as the pond dam where the heifers in the second photo are standing.

Ideally, allotting short term adequate shaded space is the optimal.  Video below shows comfortable cows and calves.

In many cases, cattle not selected for heat tolerance will immerse themselves in a pond for relief. The flip side is that oftentimes these cattle will tolerate severe cold better than the others. We can spend decades selecting for the genetics which thrive in each of our unique environments and management. Hopefully also providing a quality eating experience for the consumer.

This is a jarring photo and i hesitate to post it, but reality is, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes we make do until improvements can be made.  These purebred Angus heifers can’t tolerate much heat and humidity and stand in the pond. Not healthy for the pond or the cattle.
These heifers have up to 50% genetically selected heat tolerant breeds of either Longhorn or Corriente crossed with black or red Angus. Clearly more comfortable in Missouri heat and humidity.

 

Mom’s Goulash

September’s meal for Refuge Ministries, Mexico, Missouri was an old favorite of ours which was published in the Centennial Baptist Church cookbook shared by Frankie Levingston, the mom of my dear high school chum, Sharie Levingston.

Mom’s Goulash 

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb ground beef (i use our home raised fully grass-finished beef)
2 cups pasta
3 cups chopped tomatoes or 1-15 oz can sauce
1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped peppers (we prefer green beans, okra, or such)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup cubed cheese (use your favorite)

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare pasta as per package instructions, drain, set aside.  While pasta is boiling, brown ground beef in a large skillet with chopped onions, add tomatoes or sauce, with optional vegetables.  Stir to just mixed, then add pasta.  Mix carefully then sprinkle about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over top along with the cubed cheese.  Replace lid and put on low heat until cheese starts to melt.  Serve over bed of lettuce if desired.

Prep time:  25 minutes

Servings: 6

Author:  Frankie Levingston, Centennial Baptist Church (Mexico, MO) cookbook.

My photos show this recipe multiplied by 10 to prepare enough for the Refuge plus have some meals to deliver to friends and neighbors who are recovering from surgeries.

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Brown the ground beef along with the chopped onions.  Oh, if you forget to put the onions until after the beef is browned, it’s okay, just go ahead and add them.
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My garden produced bunches and gobs of Asian Long Pole Beans, so i chose them for my recipe.  Fresh beans need to be precooked before adding to Mom’s Goulash.  Mine are cut into 1/2 inch length pieces and I added 1 gallon of them.
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Pasta, pasta – Here i’ve placed 14 cups dried pasta to boil, still had to add water and as you can see just BARELY had enough room in this huge pot.  Be careful, pasta really expands.
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Thankfully, a friend had given me a 33 quart canning pot a few years ago.  Always enough room to stir together all the ingredients.  I did soften and melt the cheese before adding it.
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Filled my roaster with Mom’s Goulash to take to Refuge Ministries and prepared the rest for delivery to neighbors.

Hope you enjoy preparing and serving this easy, inexpensive, and tasty dish.

Cheers!

tauna

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Homemade Buttermilk Pancake Mix

Great recipe for using up my 5 lbs of powdered buttermilk, serve with local butter and maple syrup.  yummy!!  from Completely Delicious

HOMEMADE BUTTERMILK PANCAKE MIX

Easily make homemade pancakes whenever the mood strikes! One batch of pancakes make 10 4-inch pancakes.

INGREDIENTS:

PANCAKE MIX:

  • 6 cups (720 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup (300 grams) powdered buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons salt

TO MAKE A BATCH OF PANCAKES:

  • 1 1/3 cup ( grams) pancake mix, above
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

TO MAKE THE PANCAKE MIX:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the pancake mix ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to several months.

TO MAKE PANCAKES:

  1. Combine 1 1/3 cup of the pancake mix with the water, egg, butter or oil, and vanilla (if using).
  2. Drop by 1/4 cup-full into a greased hot skillet set over medium heat. Cook until edges appear dry and bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minute. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  3. Serve immediately as desired, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

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baking tip:PANCAKE MAKING TIPS

  • Starting with room temperature liquid and eggs will prevent the melted butter from solidifying into tiny droplets when you add it to the wet ingredients, OR you can stir in the melted butter at the very end after you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients.
  • Whisk the wet and dry ingredients only until just combined, do not over mix the batter. It’s okay if it’s a little lumpy. This will produce a more tender pancake.
  • I prefer to use a cast iron skillet or griddle for pancakes, as it creates a great golden exterior.
  • To keep pancakes warm and crisp until you’re ready to serve, place them in a single layer on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven.
  • Pancakes freeze really well! Place a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper in between each pancake inside a ziplock bag or plastic container. Store for up to 1 month. Reheat in the toaster.

Trees and Timber Management

The benefits of managing trees and timbers far outweigh the tree-hugger (an environmental campaigner used in reference to the practice of embracing a tree in an attempt to prevent it from being felled) concept of saving all or specific trees.  Biblically, we are instructed to tend and keep the garden – not let it run rampant into total chaos.  Work is not a four-letter word in the negative sense and it behooves us all to manage for effectiveness, efficiency, helpfulness, integrity, and beauty.

As Greg Judy shares, there are two ways to establish silvopasture or savannah.  One way is to clear out dead or unproductive trees in existing timber or to plant a diverse mixture of productive and valuable trees.    Planting and establishing a new timber will take decades before reaching its full potential, but if you didn’t start decades ago, might as well start now.

Unmanaged timbers will eventually become worthless – full of scraggly crooked trees which will never grow if the older trees are not harvested at their peak of quality.  The heavy canopy old tall trees prevent youngsters from reaching their full potential.  Even though the old fogy’s will eventually die, the young trees may never recover and the timber itself will fail.  This may take a millennia, but why not manage it, sustaining, regenerating, as well as taking off a cash crop to help pay the bills.

Trees and timber are so important in our environment – for people, livestock, wildlife, soil.  Shade is the first benefit which often comes to mind.  Evapotranspiration is the ‘coolest’ sort of shade there is – much better than that provided by a shade cloth or roof.  Additionally, we harvest fuel, wildlife, forage diversity, shelter, lumber, and a beautiful landscape.  But management is more than harvesting, it also requires protection from overuse by livestock and even wildlife, yet on the flip side, excluding animal use will allow brush overgrowth and a buildup of fire fuel, which during a dry hot spell could catch fire and destroy your timber in a matter of moments.

Trees which are allowed to grow large around ditches, draws, and branches destabilize the banks.  Their large roots won’t hold the soil as well as millions of deep rooted grass plants, so it’s best to keep those sprouts cut out so grass can grow.  My observation is that once trees are removed, sunlight can reach the bank which allows the grasses to grow, especially with the ready supply of water!  Include timeliness of livestock impact (to knock down the steep eroded banks) and grass will quickly cover those leveled areas as well.  This all works together to hold soil, reduce erosion during what we call gully washers and slow the flow of water across the landscape.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch the land heal.

Spring 2013 (1)
Note how the left side is devoid of trees and the bank slope is less steep and covering with grass while the right side had a fairly large tree grown into the bank.  It could not hold the soil which has washed out from under the tree and it is falling down and will become another liability not to mention the loss of potential lumber or fuel.

A word of caution in all this!  It will not work if you hire a bulldozer and push out trees – roots and all.  This moves too much soil which may cause a lot of erosion and make the scarring even worse.  The trees must be harvested leaving the roots in place.  I find it more attractive to cut the stumps fairly level to the surface, plus the convenience of not having a stump to run into, but it probably doesn’t make any difference from a soil saving aspect.

The final argument to address is to define my use of the word ‘management.’  One way to manage is to bulldoze, another is to clear cut, but i’m referring to managing for regeneration.  Sustaining my unmanaged timber is not smart – improving for the next generation (regeneration) is more respectful all around.

Create something beautiful today!

tauna

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These grassy banks will hold against much erosion around this pond.  However, the roots of the trees on the right will grow through the bank eventually causing the pond to leak as well as shade out soil saving grasses.