the rains come a tumblin down


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Here we are, March 12th, 2012, and the rains are a tumbling down. We’ve started our 2012 season of farming, but we are still waiting for the soil to thaw out. It’s interesting to realize that so much of our work depends on the soil and it’s conditions. In fact, you could say almost everything depends on the soil. Ideally, we would like to be raising only pasture fed animals on our land, and that will eventually happen, but in the meantime we have to observe and analyze our soil and take steps to improve it’s condition as well as begin to create a mosaic of the grasses and legumes we need to grow in order to provide a full and healthy diet for our pastured animals. This takes more time, energy, and thought then most people realize, but we are taking steps to achieve this goal.

But right now the rains pour, and the snow melts, creating rivulets that slowly wash away the silt. Without thick layer of humus in the topsoil, the nutrients in the compost can easily be leached and wash away into the gully the bisects our property from the NW to the SE. And some of  these nutrients end up in the ditch which flows under the road into our neighbor’s forty, fertilizing his scrub trees so that the deer have good browse in the winter, and finally the creeks that meander through our area making their way to the larger flows of riverwater that define the watershed.

The humus is decayed organic matter that acts as a sponge to soak up the water. It also has positively charged sites that attract and hold negatively charged atoms like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Humus is essentially the battery that charges our plants. Sometimes your soil is not actually lacking in nutrients, it’s only lacking in it’s ability to hold  nutrients in a bioavailable form. So it is our job as gardeners to assist this process by adding as much organic matter to our soils as we can. With a field of 10 acres or so, this is a complicated process because we can use imported compost, but to facilitate a more sustainable and regenerative system we need to use cover crops that create a lot of biomass fast. One small step at a time.

So we have so many little chores and jobs to do. Make cheese, replace muffler, take care of duckling, get ready for building sheds, start plants, as well as the normal stuff humans do like eat lunch, nap, read a book, and take walks. Trying to find the balance in all this is our true task, and it’s a doozy.

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