Pastures… never enough!

We are on the look-out for pasture…. always. We drive by fields that have lush growth and nothing happening on the land… and salivate.

Pasture for livestock

And I’m a city girl turned “farmer’s wife” in my older years… We’ve just been doing this for about 5 years, but my world view has changed dramatically.

Someone said one time to Jim & I, that once you start working with livestock, you will never look at land / grasses/ weeds the same way again.

By God, they hit the nail on the head with that statement. We don’t see weeds: we see succession growth, nutrients, and value the diversity of plants and what it brings to the soil and animals!

Those black dots you see in the picture, to the right of the brush pile… are our rather short Lowline Angus! They are taking advantage of some really rich diverse pasture. We use simple electric net to fence to manage where they graze.

We’re always looking for land that we can trade for grass/forage management… with the use of our mini Lowline Angus. Our cows add back fertilizer & bacteria that enrich the soil, leaving it healthier.

Sequenced growth

sequenced growth pattern

Did you know that there is a certain sequence to growth on land… if a field is burned there is a whole sequence of plants that grow. From those that can deal with the dead top (burned), and send down deep roots to pull up nutrients hidden in the depths of the soil.

Those plants bring up the “goodies” and then other plants take hold, using those nutrients. The soil is enriched and the new growth will eventually shade/kill out the original plants.  There is a progression of various grasses, shrubs, plants, and then eventually trees.

If you are VERY knowledgeable about the land, you can tell what nutrients are missing by what kind of plants/weeds are growing!

It’s actually all about the soil and its microbial base

An underground world of activity!

It’s the microbes in the soil that do ALL the real work… breaking down, releasing nutrients, and aerating the soil.

Plants can’t get to the nutrients locked up in the SOM (soil organic matter) until the microorganisms break it down into simple compounds so that it can be absorbed by the root hairs.

Turns out that if you transplant certain trees/shrubs, etc., and bring some of the soil where they were grown, you get a higher/quicker success rate.  It’s because the plant has a symbiotic relationship with the microbes in the soil where it has grown.  It decreases the stress on the plant to bring some of it’s “micro-buddies” along to help it reestablish itself in a new area.

Questions for Interns…

We ask our students two questions in particular:

1) WHAT is a weed? and 2) What value do weeds bring to our garden?

The usual response is… ugh, anything that is ugly, doesn’t produce something we can use, etc.

For me, a weed is simply something that is growing where you don’t want it, at that time.  My weed may be your delicacy! Did you know nettles are highly prized for great food value, and cattails have a myriad of food and health properties? Not to mention providing a habitat for beneficial insects that will actually protect your plants.  And sometimes the weeds attract the “pests” to them, taking them away from the plants we want to produce (aphids for example).

2) What value do they bring?

Depending on the timing… they preserve the top soil, they prevent erosion, bring up nutrients into the soil, help dry out the soil after the rains, or conserve moisture by shading the bare soil, when they die, their roots die and aerate the soil as well as release nutrients back.

A garden totally lacking in “extra plants” can be very sterile.  When I go out and pull weeds I remind myself of all the value they have brought.That way I don’t resent the “extra” work I have to do.  Instead of thinking I’m a poor gardener or lacking in focus by keeping my garden pristine… I have come to have a certain appreciation for weeds. It’s just part of the process.

And WHEN is it time for them to go? When they compete too strongly with the plants I’m growing for food.  When they are  shading out others, taking too much moisture, or choking them to death (good ol’ bindweed… wraps around the stem and climbs up reaching for the sun… but can choke the plant to death!!!).

At that point a weed must go; and often replaced with a good mulch which works wonders, and as it degrades, IT returns good stuff to the soil, as well.

Sunny California…

Darn those lovely little yellow blossoms

70-80 degrees F…in Febuary, no less! It’s the end of the month; we’ve had very little of our “winter rains” and lots of sunshine.

My little season extension greenhouse, that was meant to provide us with winter crops and an early start for cool season crops… has been a bit too warm.

Darn it, my cool weather broccoli is flowering instead of producing heads for my dinner table!

tolerant of the warm winter weather!

Lucky for me, the spinach, green onions, and strawberry plants are more forgiving of all this warm weather. They are humming along just fine.

But our simple little greenhouse, we actually have to open the door to cool it down… and block the entrance so my chickens don’t have themselves a feast in my “special greens”!

They just LOVE to sneak into the greenhouse.

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