Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Blessings of Poo

The really great thing about the word "Poo?"  It got you to read past the title, didn't it?!?  Ha!  I knew it!

I'm going to start putting "poo" into every blog title to get people to read more of our blog posts.  I can see that this is a fool-proof plan.  This is especially true if I'm the fool and a single post with "poo" in the title constitutes "proof."  And, now that I have your attention, let me bring you back to the topic at hand.

Really, the topic IS at least partially about poo.  Seriously.  Well, ok.  Since I am supposed to be a professional farmer, I should use the word "manure."  If you want to sound professional and evasive at the same time, you can refer to it as "soil amendments" or "added fertility."  But, since I am ALSO a person who is amused by wordplay and general silliness, we're still going to use the word "poo" just because... it's our blog and I CAN.

Portable Poo Factories on the job.
For a couple of seasons, we have been using an area just East of the hen pasture to pasture the henlets and/or some of our broiler chickens.  As evidenced above, the area was cordoned off by electric poultry netting and a portable building was provided for shelter.  Meanwhile, several Carbon-based Portable Poo Factories roamed freely in this area.  This section of land on our farm has not been anything other than pasture since we've been here.  Well, ok, the first several years it was mostly ragweed and foxtail, so I don't think that really counts.

We have tried to include pastured poultry in our rotation as often as we are able, but this would be the first time we turned a pasture area into a growing area.  Frankly, it would be nice if we had a bit more tillable space to do this more often (put things into and take them out of pasture).  But, we work with what we have.

In this case, we knew we had another area that we wanted to put birds in this year and we were realizing that we need to try and get more growing space moved to the interior of the farm (because of chemical drift issues among other things). We got this idea a few years ago and purposely started putting chickens out there to build up fertility using Portable Poo Factories.  After all, if they'll spread it for us AND give us eggs?  Sounds like a good deal to me.
early March 2018
This area actually has a bit more history since we had to dig a fairly deep trench in the Spring of 2015 to run frost-free water lines out to Valhalla (the high tunnel on the right in this picture).  You might actually be able to see some of the path this trench took if you look carefully and you can definitely still see the remnants of a dirt pile that has yet to be redistributed to better locations in the center.  We were actually gearing up to do some work in this area in March until...
Late March 2018
We did manage to put some plastic down roughly where we wanted to add a new growing plot before the white stuff started to fall on the farm.  If you don't recall, we got most of our snow from March 20 to April 20 this past Winter.  

April 2018
This really put us a bit in doubt as to whether we would have time to work up the new plot.  First of all, the plot does have a bit of a dip in the middle that is wetter than the rest.  We were thinking we might try to raise that up a bit.  Second, we are encroaching a bit on "old farmstead" area where old foundations (among other things) might be encountered.  We knew there was good soil there as well, but any time you try to work new ground, you have to expect some surprises (both good and bad).
June 2018
Our normal approach to work this ground would have been to use the two-bottom plow and follow up with the tandem disk to smooth it out.  But, we had put plastic down, so we pulled it and mowed things as close as we could.  Then, we used Vince (our power harrow) because we were curious as to what it could do AND we were running short on time.  At issue is that we do not want to overwork the soil and lose all the good Poo Byproduct (aka added fertility) that should be in this area.  The result is what you see above. 

We did find more rocks than we usually do on the farm, but things worked up pretty well.  Unfortunately, the delays put us into the period of time where everything was wet.  So, we ended up having to work the field before we should have and the soil structure is now a bit rough and pebbly for the season.
late July
Even though these tomato plants went in later than we wanted, they are catching up to the normal schedule fairly quickly.  It will be interesting to see how they compare to similar plants put into another area of the farm in plots that have been worked for a few years (and are closer to the edges of the farm).

All I can say is that it's all good because of the poo.  You're welcome and come back again soon!

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