Cattle, General Pasture

Utilizing my uncle’s manure pack until I have my own

Carbon bedding bonds to nutrients and ammonia in animal wastes preventing pollution of the air or ground. When animals overwinter on bedding, they pack their manure down tight removing air pockets leading to anaerobic decomposition which provides free heat contributing to the animals’ health and comfort. Letting the pack decompose for 6 months lets the microbes digest some of the material as well as begin to mineralize the nutrients making them bioavailable to plants.

The concept is old and the cornerstone of fertility and soil building on my farm. There is one small problem: I don’t have animals yet!

But my uncle has beef cattle and pigs and was willing to part with some manure so I could start applying it to my pasture.

I wanted to add a bit more carbon to the pack so I lined my truck bed with sawdust before heading to my uncles farm. Upon returning I added ancient hay to the top of the pile and it all mixed together as I unloaded it by hand.

Once I got back to my farm with a truck overloaded with manure, I tossed the first bit into the compost bin to bolster the nitrogen content to rev the compost pile up one last time before the fall temperatures cool it down. On top of the compost I added a bit more sawdust.

The rest went quicker than I had anticipated. I used it to fill in divots and cover rocks that have appeared on the vehicle track through the pasture. There are a few more places along that track I would like to build soil, most notably around exposed rocks. Any future loads will be spread on the pasture around rocks that are barely exposed. When it breaks down a bit more, I can pull back the hay mulch and plant some clover and buckwheats seeds before returning the mulch.



The comical downside to using composted farm manure

Finally, the answer to the quiz post from last week along with the solution to the mystery!



3 unplanned pumpkins in the background here:


In May, I noticed a weed unlike any of the native plants that was also very familiar. Pokeweed was the native plant that showed the closest resemblance to the seedling in question. Unlike pokeweed however, the leaves were not entire. My typical response to situations like these: Let it go and see what happens!

By June the plants had developed massive leaves, spiny but short stalks and were developing huge orange flowers. It was clearly in the gourd family which as far as I know is not native here nor is any of its ancestors. The seeds had to have come from somewhere with human influence. Cucumber, squash, pumpkin, zucchini?

Then it hit me, the farm from which I sourced the manure had a pick-your-own pumpkin patch last year. I remember them feeding the unsold pumpkins to the pigs and chickens at the end of the season. I’m sure that manure wound up in the big compost pile that is otherwise 95% from cleaning the stalls after horse shows (Hence why all my blog posts state that I am using composted horse manure).

So I contacted the manager of that farm who is a friend of mine. Apparently my observations were not unique as he reported having pumpkins popping up in his crop and hay fields where he had spread his manure. What a hardy plant!

Mystery solved!

I also eliminated a groundhog I allege to have eaten some of my blueberries. Rabbits normally would be the suspect, but they would have to cross 200 yards of mowed pasture from the nearest brush to get to the garden. With the coyotes howling, foxes barking and hawks/owls performing aerial reconnaissance at day/night respectively, I doubt the rabbits would be motivated to take the risk. These pumpkins may appease any future groundhogs from going after the planned crops!


Pleasant Surprise and quiz time!

I have some uninvited (but appreciated) guests pop up in my garden beds. After some minimal sleuthing I figured out what occurred, but I would like to give you an opportunity to guess what is appearing unplanted in my garden beds!

Keep in mind, this is manure from another farm that I have not planted into this year (excepting red clover) as I thought the manure/wood shaving bedding had not had a chance to compost for a long enough time. Looks like I was wrong!




Cattle, Forestry

Carbon Medium for Nutrient Absorbtion in Compost while Wintering Animals

Follow up to Wintering Animals = Backbone of Soil Building

Capturing all of the nutrient rich excrement from the wintering of animals is going to require a huge amount of carbon. Skills I have gained while studying forestry and the associated graduate projects I assisted will be called upon in order to accumulate the carbon biomass I will require. I’ll write a well-cited post on my sustainable forest management plans once I have finished collecting and amassing my research. The gists of my strategy will be to provide the canopy disturbance necessary to have a healthy, sustainable forest.

Good points were made in Joel Salatin’s book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. Starting around page 182, Salatin asserts that soil is built and carbon sequestered more efficiently via grasslands opposed to forests. Trees grow very slowly, then die. As they decompose, much of that sequestered carbon is released right back to the atmosphere. Grasslands grow, die and decompose every year; multiple times a year if serviced by grazers and herbivores. However the sequestered carbon in the grasslands us more fully absorbed by the soil and stored in the animal tissue of grazers. Salatin’s assertions seem to be backed up by this study I found.

To minimize the negative impact of forest land on the atmosphere, I plan to eventually harvest the dead, diseased, crooked or otherwise undesirable trees from the forest to make room for subsequent generations of oak and hopefully someday soon, American Chestnut. Despite my minor in forestry, I have a lot more to learn about sustainable harvesting. Fortunately, there are many pioneer trees in the pasture that need removed, and the unmaintained forest has many dead trees that should sustain me for at least a year while I broaden my forestry knowledge.

I will likely invest in a wood chipper to process the farms own biomass to provide the winter bedding. I may also seek out locally discarded christmas trees, shredded paper/cardboard, peanut hulls (suggested by Mr. Salatin in our correspondence) or any other source of easily attainable carbon material.

Note: If you plan to store wood chips on your farm, please be sure to do so in a manner that accounts for the heat generated as they naturally decompose. Limit the height of piles to prevent a fire hazard in your structures and to ensure that the chips dry fully.