Weekly Newsletter

March 2021 vol. 3

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With warmer weather approaching, I thought I would get a start on spring by planting some seed.  I can’t say I’ve had all that much success with planting seeds in years past.  There have been times when I've achieved great results, and other times it's been a waste of money.  But farming, like life, is about making continuous improvement, and you can’t win if you don’t try.  It’s also important to learn from your mistakes. 
A number of areas needed reconditioning as well; free range animals can be hard on pastures! As strange as it may seem, chickens can dig quite a few holes. They routinely take dust baths; first digging, then slinging dirt, practically burying themselves in an effort to keep clean. That’s right, they take dust baths to keep clean.  Even pigs are fond of bathing (and digging) - in mud. Of course, they are always looking for a tasty morsel and aren't afraid of going underground for it. Likewise, cows paw the ground and sling dirt onto their bellies to deter flies.  All this digging leaves holes all over the pasture - and that’s without taking into account the digging done by the local wildlife. Periodic overhaul is required since the holes together with the manure load cause a problem.
Molly suggested I focus on the areas closest to the house since we are going to have an open house in three weeks.  Our chicken paddock is on the right side of the house, where the broilers rotate through daily rotations and the hens and turkeys live.  On the left is a general-purpose paddock that is regularly used to train new animals to the electric fence - most recently 8 pigs.  Additionally, we use this area when weaning calves, so there is a lot of foot traffic and manure.
The first step in planting is seed selection.  As the chicken paddock was on the list, I opted for planting millet – brown top millet to be precise.  Millet is the main ingredient in bird feed and it’s also fast growing and fairly good at reseeding (if the birds don’t eat it all).  Therefore, I thought it would be a great choice for the chicken paddock. Bermuda grass seemed like a better option for the other paddock because it handles traffic well and is pretty robust once you get it started.  Though I've never had much success sowing Bermuda, I thought I'd try again. 
 As Bermuda needs a well-prepared seedbed, I hooked up the disc to the Deere and got to work.  It took several passes to break up the existing sod and create a nice fine soil before I began broadcasting the seed. Millet is about the size of peppercorn, so I was able to sling that out with the tractor spreader.  However, Bermuda grass seed is like finely ground pepper so a few pounds will do an entire acre.  I thought about mixing it with coarse sand and spreading it like I did the Millet but decided to use a hand spreader that we had left over from our city days instead.  Once spread, I went over the areas with a homemade cultipacker to ensure we had good seed to soil contact. With a little bit of rain, warm weather, and good fortune, I’ll be able to show off my newly renovated pastures to you when you join us for our open house on April 3rd.  
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Come visit us at the Ranch!
Interested in seeing sustainable practices in action on a working ranch? Come join us and discover how John incorporates sustainable organic practices while raising cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, and turkeys to sell in local farmers markets. The $15 admission to includes educational tours and guided nature walks as well as BBQ plates featuring meat from the ranch.

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Weekly Markets

Join us for our 2022 Pfarmers Market! 
Early market dates are scheduled for 
March 15 & 29 and April 12 & 26. 
The regular season runs every Tuesday 
from 3-7pm from May through October.

Monthly Markets

Be well, 

stay safe,


John & Molly