Milkweed and monarchs! There was no milkweed here when we arrived to overgrazed pastured and poisoned cropland. After 3 years of rotational grazing, it’s popping up all over the place and the monarchs are already here laying eggs!
We also got bees! It’s something we’ve been wanting to do since we first got here, but the season to get bees started is usually in the spring, when we’re the busiest with everything else, so we haven’t had time. We bought a 4-frame nuc and got them settled in a new hive box. In just the last month, they’ve more than doubled the population and are gathering tons of pollen and making tons of honey. We have an amazing diversity of flowers here from the apple trees to the red clover to the diversity of flowers in our prairie restoration. It’s a bee’s paradise! We’ll be adding new hives soon as the population grows, and look forward to having honey available for our farm shares in a couple years.
It’s grass growing season right now on the farm! The warm sunny days, cool, dewey evenings, and weekly rain showers mean we’re in serious grazing mode right now. We’re racing through the pastures with the cattle, sheep, and chickens. This is the time where the cool-season grasses are racing to flower, pollinate, and start producing seed. Once a grass plant successfully produces seed, it stops growing for the season. It’s completed it’s annual mission! If those flowering heads get eaten or mowed, the grass will continue growing throughout the season. We would rather have green grass to graze all season, so we graze cattle hard and fast this time of year to keep them munching those flowering stalks, preventing the grass from going to seed. Once the grass slows down a bit as temperatures warm, we’ll slow down our rotations in sync.
Our chickens are loving being out on pasture! We’ve got 300 Freedom Ranger broilers out on pasture now and they’re racing through the grass. Freedom Rangers are a breed of chickens that are much heartier and healthier than the standard cornish cross meat chicken breed. They are excellent grazers and hunters of bugs. We have them up on a steep hillside where its rocky, has very little topsoil, and the forage quality is low. It’s the poorest pasture on our farm. By running the chickens through, they scratch at the grass, poop, and heavily fertilize the ground. We can’t wait to see the green grass that will follow later in the year and the cows can’t wait to eat it! We move them twice a day in order to keep them in fresh grass. It’s quite a challenge managing this endeavor on such a steep hillside. We’ve made all kinds of wedges and props to keep feeders and waterers flat and to keep them from spilling. Travis loves chasing them back in their tractors if they get out. We’ll have fresh whole pastured chickens available in early August. You can sign up to reserve your chickens here.
We’ve gotten a lot of work done in the last few weeks with a new addition to our farm crew. Rachel moved out here from the central coast of California. From redwoods to the driftless! She built a camper out of reclaimed redwood lumber on the back of her pickup truck. On the first day she arrived, we moved it onto a trailer and now she’s got a nice little perch in the back of our valley with an excellent view! She’s been super helpful helping us build fences, move cattle, build chicken tractors, and pack up and distribute our meat shares. We’re happy she’s here!
Peter was recently interviewed about our farm and his switch from graduate studies to farming. Check out this nice article by the Land Stewardship on page 20 of their newsletter.
This month we’ve included a package of beef stew meat in everyone’s shares. We love this cut of meat. Usually in the winter, we slow cook it in the wood stove oven or put it in a pot of broth for stew. Here is a nice recipe for a spring time meal with stew meat: Cuban-Style Stew Meat