PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST ABOUT CLOVER TYPES INCLUDING PICTURES OF CLOVER TYPES HAS MOVED TO OUR NEW WEBSITE http://heritagebreedsfarm.com
Click here to be forwarded to this post about types of clover.
So now we move on to the selection of plants. Again this may be higher on the list, but we will discuss it here. The reality is that all of these parts are intertwined.
Selection of plants can be broken down into several categories. First we need to consider what the animals will be eating. So one consideration is the pasture, the other consideration is the crops. Second we will look at the garden plants. Third, and finally, comes the orchard and berry plants.
Plants for the animals.
As can be noted from examining the blog here, we are fans of grazing systems. This allows for less equipment and generally more self-sufficiency. We prefer rotational grazing, but I digress. So what plants do you want to have in your pastures? Pasture should include one or two types of grasses. Typical types include Fescue, Ryegrass,Timothy, Orchard Grass and Kentucky Bluegrass. Other plants that are typically included in pasture are red clover, ladino clover, white clover and alfalfa. It is recommended to have a variety of these plants within a given pasture to provide varying amounts of protein, vitamins, and mineral. Certain plants also thrive at different times of the year. By varying the types of plants within a given pasture, the grazing season can be extended both earlier and later in the year than normal.
Perhaps crops are what many people think of when they think of plants on the farm. Crops are used for many different purposes, the main one of which is food for the animals. Field corn is a crop that is vital to many farming operations. It is very versatile and can be fed to numerous species of animals. Corn has traditionally been a very inexpensive feed source, though that had changed some with the subsidization of the ethanol fuel industry. Soy beans are another crop that is grown in abundance in the United States. It is used as a protein source and also as a way to fix nitrogen into the soil when used in a crop rotation. Other crops that are commonly grown are Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats, Spelts and many others. Some of these, such as oats and wheat, can be used for two purposes. The grain is harvested for use as a feed and the stalks can be harvested for use as straw (animal bedding).
The vegetable garden is one of the main focal points of a homestead. A garden serves to provide fresh food and also bountiful harvests that can be stored for winter usage. The plants that can be grown in a garden are limitless. We will discuss a few here, but the scope of this particular series does not permit for an in depth discussion.
Sweet Corn is the starting point, as it is one of our favorites. The only downside that I see with Sweet corn is the space required to grow it, though the space can be maximized by using interplanting (we plant melons within the rows of corn, which allows the melons to spread out. Both melons and corn take a lot of space, but by growing them in the same row, we can capitalize on some of that space.) Beans are another key crop. We also raise green beans (Green Jade works well as a variety). There are many types of beans, several of which can be dried.
Other vegetables that are traditional garden staples include lettuces, spinach, onions, beets, cucumber, zucchini, squash and many others. Heirloom vegetables are those that are passed from generation to generation. They serve to preserve the plant genetic variability. Heirloom plants (as long as they do not get cross pollinated) will produce seed that it is true, meaning that the seed can be saved and replanted. Once replanted, the seed will produce plants that are the same variety as the mother plant. Hybrids plants do not produce seeds that will grow predictable plant offspring. Oftentimes the seed is not viable. At other times , the seed will produce on of the parent varieties that was used to make the hybrid plant. An example of this is Incredible Sweet Corn. This is our favorite sweet corn. Saving the seeds and replanting them will usually produce a dent corn or field corn that was used in the cross pollination to get the incredible hybrid.
We utilize several varieties of heirloom vegetables so that we can save the seeds if desired. A few examples are blue hopi corn (Below)
and golden bantam corn. Heirloom seeds can be purchased from several suppliers. We usually make our selection from Fedco Seeds.
Orchards and Berries
The third and final category for homesteading plants includes Orchards fruits and berries. This category will be finished in another post due to space and time constraints.
A follower requested a thread on starting a homestead. First off, I direct you to a previous post about homesteading…..what is it? In that post, I give you my definition and description of what homesteading is. Here , I will begin to describe a homestead and define its essential parts. I will attempt to tackle this in my own step by step approach and according to my list of priorities. So here we go…..
The most essential aspect of a homestead is securing a site. This may seem simple and basic, but let me explain. To begin a homestead, you must have some land. I would guess that an acre would suffice, yet the more the better. Perhaps 20 acres would be ideal for a simple homestead, but several hundred acres would lend itself nicely to a self sufficient homestead. Perhaps 100 or more acres would be more of a hybrid between a homestead and a fully functional farm.
The remainder if this post will focus on what to include in the homestead site.
First off, there should be the capability to secure fresh water. I would suggest a stream, creek, or pond. However, a well would work as well. I suggest considering a well that is electric for the main water supply, but a hand pump type well would be necessary for backup. (I will slide in here my bias that homesteading is also a form of self-sufficiency and preparedness. Again, I will reiterate that we consider ourselves practical preparers. By this I mean that we prepare for some worst case scenarios, but prepare in a way that does not sacrifice a lot of the present.) I like the idea of a hand pump well in case of major power failure or blackout. If you prepared an off grid approach to homesteading, the need for non- electric water pumping would take a back seat. There are also windmills that serve as water pumps.
The second focus of a site would be an ideal site to place the house itself. Consideration should be taken for the area’s weather patterns. Here the predominant wind comes from the west northwest. The predominate sun is to the south, especially important in the winter.
I would think that a attempt to focus on pastureland and fields would be next on the list. Though a forest would be nice, we need to chose as needed. The importance of pastures and fields are for animal management. As may be noted, we are fans of intensive grazing, pasture based farming, and grass fed meats. Grazing systems can be modified without the need for tractors and a ton of equipment.
Finally, a site for a barn would be important. The barn can be built to fit the particular needs of the family. For instance, one or two family dairy cows need much lass barn space for milking than a larger number would require.
I placed a link to our Homesteading article and a few other suggestions that came up.
Well this may end up being an interesting topic as we delve into waste management. On the other hand, it may just stink plain and simple.
I am not going to cover the actual disposal as this is not too hard to figure out. Manure should be spread back onto fields, crops, pasture, or used in the garden.
I am assuming a homestead or small scale farm. The most often utilized management system is likely to be a manure pack. I this system, bedding is spread out and then the animals eliminate on it. As the amount of manure increases, more bedding is added. I think of it basically as a compost pile. Joel Salatin, who runs Polyface Farm (I believe is the name of his farm) has a great idea for aerating the manure pack. He suggests putting down grain, preferably corn, underneath the first layer of straw. Then Cows are placed into the barn and allowed to build up a manure pack. Once the manure pack/ compost pile is built up, Joel places pigs into the barn. Apparently, the pigs can smell the corn and will root through the manure pack to eat the corn. This turns the manure pack over, which effectively aerates the “compost pile.”
What I have done this year is first applied straw for bedding. Our cows promptly ate the straw. So we basically had a very thin bedding layer of straw. Since it was Autumn, we added some leaves. We found that we had to strategically place straw where the cows would stand as they eat. This allowed the manure to fall onto the straw, starting a straw/ manure pack. The straw and leaves formed the base of the compost pile concept. As the manure built up, we slowly added more straw to the top of the manure. I recently spent some time with a manure shovel and turned the pack by hand. This was some backbreaking (or at least mildly back injuring) work.
I then spread some more straw out to form the beginning of the next layer. I had actually placed straw down prior to turning the pile, which allowed the manure to go on top of the straw once again. I spread it out more around the barn to form a larger manure pack in the majority of the barn. With a concrete floor, our barn has very poor footing without the manure pack. Our cows are spending the majority of their time out in the lush grass right now, but we will need to bring them into the barn soon to either calve or to assess the calves once they are born. More on that to follow I am sure.
So this is the strategy thus far. Eventually we will need to spread the manure/ compost out onto the fields of pastures. We are relying on this to provide the bulk of our fertilizer. However, we will not have enough from only three cows and their calves.
We also plan to purchase some organic fertilizer to apply to the fields after our first cutting this year. Of course, we hope to get soil samples taken as well, but time seems to be getting away from us.