Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flowering grass

This is a picture I took of my neighbor's hayfield just South of our place. I was at the road end of our driveway when I took it. The flowering plants are actually the hay crop, Coastal Bermuda grass.

Last year at this time the field was clear plowed ground. Lewis, the owner of this farm told me that after he tilled the field he did not seed it with anything at all. It seems that the rhizomes of the plant will lay inert for years and grow when ever conditions are right.

This had been a Bermuda grass pasture for quite some time, the the Bahia grass, which is the other common pasture grass in the area, was choking it out in places. The tillage was done to knock the Bahia back and help the Bermuda take over again.

It flowered up after the last rain. Everyone who stops here asks me what kind of wildflower it is. They have a hard time believing that is just grass.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bummers at Breakfast

These are the bummers. They have just finished breakfast.

One of these is a rejected twin. The other two are siblings from the same ewe, who looks after them but has mastitis and can't feed them properly.

So we feed them. They think we are mama.

You know the nursery rime "Mary had a little lamb ... and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go". Mary's lamb was a bummer.

Looking after bummers is quite a bit of work for the month or so that we feed them. Even after that they are quite tame. Keeping a bummer ewe as breeding stock can be handy because they will follow you around and make it easier to move the heard around. Keeping a bummer ram is a bad idea. They are still rams but will not be shy of people. They can be dangerous, and will likely knock you on your ass if you don't shovel the feed to them as fast as they think you should.

However, the good thing about ram lambs, bummers or not, is that they are delicious!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Planting the succotash patch

I decided to call it the succotash patch. Mixed vegetables, corn and cow peas in this case. I picked the seed at the farm supply store from the plastic barrels they have there, yellow dent open pollinated corn and Mississippi Silver field peas, because the seeds are about the same size. I wanted to mix them together and plant them in the same row. That's what I did.

When I bought the planter, I stopped on the way home with the wood pallet of boxes and big angle iron parts in the back of the pickup. I stopped at a little place at the edge of town where the Old Glory Feed Store used to be.

An old man and his wife live there along with a horse, two mules, a few head of cattle and a number of nanny goats and kids. The old man is an ornery old guy, former Marine, farmer, trucker, and at 83 has forgotten more about most things than I will every know.

I don't know much about planters, but I know they're fussy and planting row crops is a two man job, provided at least one of them knows what he's doing. I wanted help and you just can't get better backup than an old Marine. He started learning this stuff in the 1930's behind a mule, from his dad, who was an old guy at the time.

I like to listen to the old folks. They know stuff and will take the time to share it with me. My neighbor, a professional musician who is my age, says it makes them immortal, to pass on what they know. My neighbor is right, even if that's not why they do it. I think they do it just because it's the right thing to do. Sometimes they are surprised when I show an interest. I'm not sure what that implies about guys my age, but I am sure it isn't anything good.

That was a few weeks ago. The planter came with a little instruction book. I read the book and put it together.

Saturday morning the ground was ready for seed.

We took the planter out with the hoppers empty and adjusted the angle of the planting foot and the packing wheel to the ground. We went back by the shop and set the spacing between the seeds by installing the appropriate gear on the drive shaft and installed the plate for the size of seed we used. Back at the field we gave it a try and discovered the plate that was supposed to keep the planting depth even would dive under the surface every little while on the uneven ground. We took it off. We next found that the disk at the side of the fertilizer spill chute would snag the grass roots and trash in the field and mess things up. We took it off. The spill chute itself then started snagging the trash. We took it off. Planting too deep. Adjusted the top link up and put a limit to the downward travel of the three point hitch.

Finally we found the sweet spot. It was about noon.

I engaged the apparatus and went off down the row. The old man followed behind on foot for a ways just to watch things work. Every few rows I'd stop and he would check the seed and fertilizer, adjusting the application rate at first until it suited him. He filled the hoppers when they needed it, he would snap the lid back on the hopper and tell me over the tractor noise, "Off you go son!". We were done well before supper time.

The first thing I noticed about finishing this job was that their was not much to show that anything had been done. Just the tracks over the ground. The old man pointed out that we had less stuff in the bags than we had when we started. "Might be something will grow", he said. Might be.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dirt Farming?

Aside from a vegetable garden, I've never done any dirt farming. By "dirt farming" I just mean anything that involved plowing and planting things in rows.

This is happening because I wanted a way to put more weight on the lambs before they get to market age.

Most small sheep farms just buy feed and add it to the pasture diet of the lambs. This is not something I want to do because many of my customers prefer that the meat they buy has not been feed much grain, and no genetically modified feed at all. All the corn and soy available commercially contain these things.

The main problem of raising row crops on a small farm in the expense for the equipment needed to do it. That equipment includes tillage equipment, planting equipment, weeding (herbicide sprayers and/or some sort of cultivator), and harvesting equipment. Of all this equipment the harvesting tools are usually the most expensive.

My plan is to use the lambs as the harvesting equipment. To harvest the crop, I plan to use electric fencing to allow the lambs into the field a bit at a time and allow them to eat it down to the ground.

So I'm planting about three acres into corn and cow peas. I have a two disk plow, a tiller for my little tractor, and I bought a planter/cultivator just for this and future such projects.

Planting should take place tomorrow, I'll post about it.