I took a class this week on “Soil Health and Drought-Resilience for 21st Century Farms” at Ploughshare. I took that quote away From Day 1 of the three day class,. Owen Hanblutzel, the instructor, gave the example of US Agriculture that focuses on getting rid of weeds – and now we have weeds that are more resistant to herbicides. So by managing for “no” weeds, we produced stronger weeds. If instead we managed for healthy soil, weeds will take care of themselves. We saw this in the garden this year. We basically ignored all weeds – except for the arch enemy, the devil of all weeds – bermuda. And while we had some weeds, when they got to be in the way, I fed them to the cows, and we’ve had a very bountiful harvest.
I see the same effect when we manage for poultry disease versus managing for poultry health. When we manage against disease, we think in terms of minimum square feet per bird, vaccines and antibiotics. On the other hand, when we manage for health, we look at ways to diversify their feed, add probiotics, clean water, manure management, shelter, roosts, minerals, and the like. In this healthy environment, most disease stays away – there is still some – like Mareks – similar to bermuda in the plant world that still shows up, but mostly the chickens are healthy.
The Delawares are a funny group. They have the largest outside area, but they like to stay in the shade of the live oak trees. In the early morning, they can be found in the grass – but come 10:00 am – they are back in the bare dirt shade. I wanted to try giving them something green to eat in the shade, but they destroy everything I’ve planted there. I had a couple of partial chicken runs that were about 2 ft square. I took a piece of that apparatus that ended up as a 2×4 frame with hardware cloth on it. A week ago, grandson, Robert and granddaughter Ruth and I put an inch of compost on the ground, put the chicken seed mix on it and watered it in. I watered it twice a day – and in 5 days it was growing good. Now the clover is poking through the hardware cloth and the chickens are eating the tops, but they can’t get to the ground to scratch it all up.
At this very moment we have around 15 gallons of milk in the fridge, and I’m about to go milk. We’ve taking to letting the oldest milk clabber – just set it out on the counter, and in a few days it looks like a stiff pudding. Wait a few more days and the water separates and you have chunks of clabbered milk. The chickens love it. I’ve been sprinkling a multi-min mineral mix that I use for the cows over it and giving it to them. We took the milk that Caleb baptized – full immersion – not sprinkled – the kitten in and clabbered it – the birds rejoiced in his act.
Park and Reverse are different
20 something years ago when we lived in Los Alamos, my wife left home with our then 3 year old buckled in the back seat of the suburban. Having forgotten something, she pulled back into the driveway, ran inside and upon coming back outside was shocked to see the suburban bifurcating the neighbors fence. Our 3 year old decided that waiting for Mom was too much and started to run the errand by himself, only to discover that he could not reach the brake. Because of this experience, I’ve been very conscious of when I jump out of the truck to open a gate, I turn off the truck and take the keys with me – particularly when I have grand children with me. A couple of days ago, it was just me in the truck, and in the pasture I saw a feed pan that I wanted to pick up, shove the gear lever up, jump out get the pan, turn around and the truck is backing up toward the fence. The first thought I had was that Eppie, the Border Collie must have done something – but I sprinted and stopped the truck about a foot from the fence. Eppie was sleeping in the back seat – so no one to blame but me. Since then, I’ve noticed several times that it doesn’t go into park – which I had not noticed before because I turned the key off and took the key with me. As I drove off – I thought, “I’m glad no one was watching!”