It’s Time To Think About Clipping Pastures

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The lush pastures of spring are now behind us and summer time brings new pasture management challenges. By this time of year, two things are happening in the paddocks that need to be addressed.

First, the grasses that the cows missed (for whatever reason) are now mature. These grasses are now headed out and have lost both nutrient content and palatablity. At this stage dairy cows will not eat it and every clump of mature grass means lost grazing potential. Some paddocks might only have half the useable grass that it had in the spring. The best option to correct this is to clip off the pasture and wait for a good rain. The mature grass will grow back and the cows will happily eat the new growth. The clipped grass will fertilize the paddock as well.

The other thing that is happening this time of year is that the weeds are blossoming and getting ready to go to seed. Now is the time to get them clipped off before they go to seed and multiply their presence. On our farm the prime weeds that need clipping are milkweed, golden rod, canada thistle and buttercup. None of these plants have any value as livestock feed and should be eliminated. Clipping your pastures before they go to seed, if done every year, will eventually get rid of these weeds.

So now is the time to check each paddock. Are there mature grasses past their prime? Are there weeds that are getting ready to go to seed? If so, you might want to consider clipping them off.

brush hogNFC

The brush hog we use to clip our pastures.

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How To Use a California Mastitis Test

CMT_NCF

The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is very useful tool in detecting mastitis in dairy cattle and goats. It is inexpensive and easy to use. I will walk you through the process of using a CMT test kit in this post.

The CMT test kit has 2 basic elements, the test paddle and the test solution. The test solution comes in a concentrated form and must be diluted with water. Follow the directions on the bottle and dilute the solution. The solution is then put in a dispensing bottle. The paddle has 4 compartments, one for a sample of each quarter.

First, strip and discard several squirts of milk from each quarter. The first squirts of milk are higher in somatic cell count and will throw off your results. You can now squirt milk from each quarter into the four separate compartments on the paddle. Tilt the paddle and drain off the excess so you have equal amounts of milk in each compartment. Now squirt the test solution into each sample, making sure that you add an amount of test solution equal to the amount of milk. You then swirl the samples in a circular motion. An infected quarter will be visibly thicker than the other quarters. See the video clip for an example…

Some good dairy deals on Amazon.com….

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Save $5 on Canning DVD

Just wanted to let everyone know about this $5 off coupon code for Kendra’s “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond” DVD.. If you need some great instruction on home canning, this is a great deal. Use the code LEARN2CAN for the discount!

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Click here to purchase At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond.

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Wild Low Bush Blueberries, A Health Packed Foraging Opportunity

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Summer time in the north country means it’s time to start foraging for Vaccinium angustifolium, known by us common folks as wild low bush blueberries. Low bush blueberries are much smaller than their cultivated high bush cousins. They can grow to be 60 cm tall, although they are usually 35 cm tall or less. They like rocky, wooded, semi-open areas with acidic soils that are well drained. They are stimulated by fire and the Indians used to burn areas to stimulate blueberry growth and production. Our berries grow on the bare rock areas on the farm in amongst various mosses and lichens. The leaves are blue-green in the summer and purple in the fall and the blossoms are white.

wild blueberriesNCF

These blueberries are higher in antioxidants than the larger kinds that are cultivated. One reason is that the berries being smaller, give you more skin per pound and less pulp. The antioxidants are in the skin! In fact, wild blueberries give you twice as many berries per pound and that means a more nutrient dense food. Less pulp and juice also means they freeze better than the larger types. Wild blue berries also are high in the trace mineral Manganese.

You can find these plants growing wild in eastern and central Canada, the northeastern United States (as far south as West Virgina) and also in Minnesota and Manitoba. Keep your eyes open for these tasty, healthy, fun to pick fruits. Grab the children and head for the woods, they’re free for the picking!

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Leatherman Super Tool 300 Review

A lot of the things have changed in my life over the past 15 years but one thing hasn’t. I’ve been carrying Leatherman multi-tools for all of those years! I still remember the first time I saw one. I was working on some piece of farm equipment, that was giving me fits, and a friend had stopped in to chat. I crawled out from under it and said, “I wish I had brought a phillp’s head screwdriver with me.” My friend reached in his pocket and handed me his Leatherman tool. At first I was skeptical and then I was in awe. What a handy, well made little tool! I bought one the next the day and I’ve had one in my pocket ever since. For the last 5 years or so I’ve had a Super Tool 300 and its my favorite model. Whether working in the barn, trapping in the Alaskan backcountry, or running machinery out in the fields, my Super Tool 300 has saved the day on many occasions.

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Here are a few things that I really like about this model.

The wire cutters on this model are best on any multi-tool I’ve seen. These are super strong, I cut barbed wire with ease. Try doing that with a cheapy tool and see what happens! These wire cutters are replaceable so when they where out you can change them out and be right back in business.

The wire stripper works great, as does the crimper. I like being able to do most emergency wiring jobs around the farm without walking anywhere to grab tools. Everything I need is right in my pocket, whether its fixing an extension cord, replacing a recepticle or a switch.

The screw drivers are all good quality and there are 3 flat heads and a phillips. I seldom run into a screw that I can’t use these pliers on.

The tools LOCK. This is a big deal, and if you’ve ever used a multi-tool without a locking mechanism I’m sure you have scars on your knuckles to prove it.

The saw is the best I’ve ever seen on any multi-tool of any price. This sucker will saw through tree limbs, plastic pipe and I’ve even used it on steel hose clamps that were seized up. I seldom carry a saw when fixing fence because I can cut through most limbs that need cutting just as quick with these.

A useable file. Many multi-tool files are just for show. These actually do a pretty good job. I’ve filed a bunch of stuff with mine and they are still going strong. They are handy for points and brushes on silo unloader drive rings, cleaning up ground rods on fencers, making a quick adjustment on a leghold trap’s dog or any other thing that might come along.

The pliers are big enough and strong enough to tighten most nuts on the farm. This really saves me time when I find a loose nut on a piece of equipment. I can tighten it up on the spot without having to run for a wrench and I don’t put it off and then forget about it.

The can opener is a working can opener. I’ve opened countless cans with mine, its lightning fast and will open a bottle of beer.

A few things on negative side of the ledger

Its a big tool and its heavier than your average multi-tool. It weighs 9.6 oz and is fatter than other models so people with smaller hands my find it harder to use.

Being larger and heavier it wears holes in your pockets faster too. It really pays to use the belt pouch with this one and save your wife some sewing work.

The locking mechanism is easier to use than old Super Tool 200, but in my opinion, not as strong, .

The Bottom Line

This is a working man’s tool. The pay off for it being bigger and heavier is that you can get more done with it. This tool has all the most important and most used tools that farmers, trappers, homesteaders, hunters and handy men need. I have made emergency repairs on rifles, scopes, tractors, snow machines, traps, electrical wiring and switches, automobiles and more. I have dug holes with it, skinned deer with it, sawed small poles for shelters with it and more. There are few things I can’t be without but my Leatherman is one of them.

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Agrarian Fringe Benefits

I suppose that there’s a better way to make a living
To make money
So I could live in luxury
But a job behind a desk, in a building
Would be like a prison sentence to me…
~Chris LeDoux

There isn’t much money in the agrarian life. Truth is, if you scratch a living from the land, breaking even every year is considered success. Those living in the urban/industrial paradigm kind of look down on us “poor country folks”. But I tell you the truth… we agrarians are much wealthier. Part of the problem in the whole who’s rich, who’s poor debate is defining the terms. Industrialists see wealth and money as synonymous but agrarians know that there are some things that you just can’t put a dollar value on. I was reminded of this this morning while out rounding up the milk cows. It was dark out but the huge, full moon flooded the pasture and lane way with filtered light. Watching the cattle walk single file to the barn with snipes calling in the background just overwhelmed my senses. I chuckled to myself, “Hey city boy, the view from my “office” is better than yours”. I might not have much money, but dog-gone it, you just can’t put a dollar amount on the joy I get from living this kind of life.

What kind of value do you put on sitting down to rest next to a baby whitetail fawn while fixing fence in the spring? I had the occasion to do just that, not once but twice this year. ;)

fawnNCF

fawn2NCF

What about deciding out of the blue (on a week day) that after the evening milking is done you are going to take the children out to the woods to spend the night?

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Sit around a campfire and listen to coyotes and night birds sing until you drift off to sleep?

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Take a break from whatever you are doing to forage wild blueberries?

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Take your kids to “work” every day?

Esther MilkingNCF

Oh sure, it ain’t all fun and games. There is plenty of blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes stuff like this happens

Stuck

But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. You can keep your money, your corner office, your 401K and the rest of your high society crap. I’ll have none of it. As long as I’m still kicking, you’ll find me in the fields, barns, and backwoods trails. You might not even notice I’m there, because you won’t see me from the road.

I hate to tell you, rich city boy, my fringe benefit package is a heck of a lot nicer than yours. ;)

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Raised Bed Trials (a quick look in early July)

As I mentioned on the radio show, I got fed up with trying to garden in this wet north country clay. Our farm is always wet and if you know anything about wet clay, you know that it spells poor yields and frustration. It was the 2nd week of June and still to wet work any ground. I’d tried heavy mulch/no till with mixed results. I decided to cut the garden back and start building some raised beds. Even though I would not be able to build very many the first year, I figured the better yields would make up for it. I started by gathering up scrap 2X6 and 2X8 boards. The first two beds I made were 4ft wide by 10 ft long. These I used for tomatoes and beans. I made some other beds that were 4X8 with a trellis along the long edge for cukes and peas. As I mentioned on the show, I was able to fill the beds with a mixture of composted hay and manure that we got from areas where we had fed cattle round bales a few years ago.

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Some of the beds had newspaper laid down to suppress the grass and weeds. I filled them with a “beaterless” manure spreader that worked like a walking floor trailer.

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Here is 10X4 tomato bed being filled with my special black gold

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The planting crew got 26 plants in.


We decided we better stake the plants a few weeks after we planted them

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Here are the tomatoes on July 9th. They have received no fertilizer but I did mix 20lbs of lime in when we filled the box. Sam just turned one on the 4th and is already a garden helper!

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Bean bed mid-June

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Beans on July 9th

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Summer squash in a tractor tire

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Herbs, peppers and cucumbers mid-June

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Herbs, peppers and cucumbers on July 3rd

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Cabbage

Family
Wife and children :)

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This week’s show… Leigh Tate from 5 Acres and a Dream

This week my friend Leigh Tate from 5 Acres and a Dream joins me on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio to talk about the latest news from their homestead, how to self publish a book and any ole thing we decide to talk about. I always love to chat with Leigh, she’s the real deal. You won’t want to miss this one.

Here’s the link to listen live July 11, 2014. Use the same link to listen to the recorded show anytime after it airs.

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Grow Your Own Food Summit

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I wanted to let everyone know about the free “Grow Your Own Food Summit” that runs July 7-14. This should be a very good event with 34 Presenters including Joel Salatin, Toby Hemenway, Larry Korn, Marjory Wildcraft, Will Allen and many more. This is a great chance to learn from some of the best folks out there. You can have free access to all the presentations as long as you register ahead of time. Better do it now so you don’t forget.

HERE IS THE LINK TO REGISTER

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The New Agrarian Mind

This week on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio, Scott M Terry and Tony Konvalin discuss Allan Carlson’s book The New Agrarian Mind.

Here’s the link to listen live June 13th at 8pm eastern. You can also use the same link to listen to the archived show after it airs.

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