This Bountiful Land: Pasture First Cutting

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It was not the purpose for cutting and baling hay that the grands have a place to play King (er Queen) of the Mountain.

But the fact that they invented their own entertainment and burned off some youthful energy in the process (with digital devices nowhere in sight) is one pleasant side-effect of last week’s haying.

The purpose, of course, was to power the growth of meat animals who will digest the tens of thousands of round bales cut in Floyd County and turn it into protein for growing bodies like those of the grand daughters and me and other bipedal omnivores.

Each of these rolls–not the largest that can be baled–weighs 1800 pounds. Our five acres made 8 of them. That works out to about 3000 pounds per acre for our unmanaged field. Multiply this times the number of pasture-acres that have gotten a first mowing in June.  That’s an awfully efficient and productive conversion of sunlight into living matter.  But the hay is just a means towards another end.

It takes about 100 pounds of hay to make a pound of beef, and 150 gallons of water for a hamburger-sized portion.  The costs of a pound of beef are not all captured in the price we pay for it at Slaughters.

Every feeding-chain step between the primary producers (photosynthetic grains and grasses etc) and the ultimate consumer reduces the mouths that can be fed from that feedstock.

Watching this process unfold with the grand daughters–who observed this spectator event with great interest from lawn chairs on the branch bridge on Saturday–made me aware of the need to be a “mindful omnivore.”

There are a lot of reasons to think before we eat. 

The Family Farm: This Week’s Final Film

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The trailer here points the way for more of what you’ll see–and afterwards, discuss at the Floyd Country Store, perhaps after sharing a pot-luck dinner staring at 6:30. Highly recommended.

Take a look at this month’s SustainFloyd Newsletter, or skip straight to this Sustainfloyd Family Album 2 minute slide show of people, places and events in the Floyd community during 2015.

Newsletter for December 2015

SustainFloyd Family Album Slide Show

Poultry Palace Complete

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Coop installation by Karl Black of Black Hawk Construction who also put up the garden shed a few years back.

So you long-time readers might remember the great Chickalanche of the winter of 2014. All the snow off the barn roof came down with a swoosh onto our chicken pen and destroyed it. (And one of us got to say I TOLD YOU SO but we won’t go there.)

And then one of us insisted that we needed once more to offer our well-fed hens to whatever creatures get a hankering for some chicken–and they all do, every one of God’s creatures wants it some chicken, the list now including H5N1 bird flu spread by migrating birds. Oy.

But that’s a problem for spring, when (I speak as if I had any element of influence on the decision) we will get chicks and offer them up for dinner–to such creatures as this Coopers Hawk. Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled wildlife longing for a drumstick.

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Click image to enlarge.

We are, this week, in charge of a neighbor’s small flock, and Mr. Cooper here was perched yesterday morning not far from their little plot, looking hungrily towards the four hens. That’s 8 drumsticks. All survived their free-range daylight hours, thankfully.

It’s one thing to lose your own hens, and another to have to report that the coyotes or the roving dogs or the raccoons or the rat snakes or the chicken hawks or a crazed, ravenous mob of field mice ate what you were supposed to be protecting from becoming dinner.

And yet, things could be worse. Think how much more of a problem this would be if the wildlife chicken-eaters discovered gravy!

Tomato Horn Worm: Gotcha!

IMG_4481hornworm480Moveable Feast: Dinner is served.

As a matter of fact, dinner is almost done for the eggs embedded with great accuracy and intention by the mother wasp into this otherwise invisible garden pest–the tomato (also called the tobacco) horn worm. See the horn up top?

She found and then injected the host caterpillar many times with her hypodermic ovipositor  (at least as many times as you see white cocoons of eggs-turned-to-pupae). Those eggs have hatched, turned to tiny larvae who have eaten caterpillar juices and tissues, and emerged to the exterior to spin an external cottony capsule attached temporarily to the host.

Each of these wasp pupae will fall to the ground, hatch this season or next year into more tiny braconid wasps, who will patrol my garden for more tomato horn worms. They can find them before they do too much damage. The human eye, not so much.

I mean, lookit: Compare the color to the tomato leaves in the background. BAM! A perfect match. Compare the striations and diagonal lines on the caterpillar to those of the veins of the tomato leaves: BAM! Remarkable! Horrifying!

This sucker, got to hand it to him, is a marvel of camouflage, so I am indebted to the chemical tracking (I suppose) that makes easier wasp targets of such as this that would defoliate our ‘maters in no time at all.

Ain’t biology wunnerful?

Got Legs Under Me At Last

While the cat’s away…but it wasn’t mice in the garden while we were out of town. It was beetles, weeds, and from the outside, deer browsing on the beans along the fence. Oh well. All that hard work to make pretty gone to seed.

Point is, there is an incredible amount of catching up to do. The good news is: I am prepared and able to do it. Three days ago, not at all.

I’ve never been so disabled by pain as I was Thursday night. After 4-5 dozen back muscle spasms (following a 14 hour drive home from MO) I was beginning to envision a future for myself very different from the one I’d imagined as more or less certain. I could not blink without having my cage rattled by waves of spasm.

Come Friday morning, oral steroids and another pain pill or two turned the corner. And today, I’m feeling pert. Heading out in a few minutes to gather more beans to top out the canner–our first 7  quarts coming out later today.

So while I have accumulated mounds of stuff that is blog-worthy (I’m less and less a good judge of that, it seems) I will let this blog-about-nothing do for now. Here I post an image of yet another botanical unknown–from a pond margin in southwestern Missouri.

Based on the flower-form (inflorescence) of a “scorpoid” or “helicoid cyme” I’m guessing it is in the Borage Family. Anybody have an ID, please offer it up.