In today’s world it’s common for people to separate various aspects of their life, their whole. But this isn’t natural, and in fact it’s rather difficult to do completely. A holistic world view is actually quite natural, it’s unnatural to divide everything into “unrelated” segments.
At The Tikkun Homestead our faith definitely informs our farming practices from the livestock we raise to how we treat them to how we plant in the garden. We raise only animal species that are considered acceptable for consumption (Leviticus 11), we treat them with dignity afforded to every living creature (Proverbs 12:10), we mark each firstborn male for a special purpose and do not work him or keep him for breeding purposes (Exodus 34:19), we tithe on our agricultural income (Leviticus 27:30ff), we manage our garden carefully (Deuteronomy 22:9), and more. Continue reading
Maybe you’ve seen some of those photos or videos of a pasture after a group of heavy grazers has moved through and maybe you, like me, cringe a little. This update discusses the apparent “devastation” from heavy grazing & manure deposits followed by day ranging poultry – and a bit of reassurance that it’s really okay. Everything recovers!
Modern ideas say that when land has been overgrazed that it requires a long rest period to recover. But what we’re actually seeing is that long rest periods actually cause desertification. What is rejuvenating to the land is proper grazing of large groups of herbivores, contrary to modern thinking.
Here are two short videos on our homestead, one a month ago and one this morning. The alley way is a heavy use area with the water and salt station. During the grazing season when the cattle are in this area there is very little vegetation and a lot of mud. The rested area has always performed poorly.
This video is from March 20 – Use vs Rest
This video is from April 16
In another area we have similar conditions and no volume of watering in the summer months has ensured grass growth. We were puzzled as to what was going on there and we assumed that the blue clay was at the surface in those locations and causing the grass roots to dry out, even in spite of our watering attempts. However, when we planted tress on that nole we discovered that the area is actually deep with sand. Sand! We would have never expected to find sand here. But like this location, that area has little to no topsoil and I spread a few bales of straw there as well. See this video for a description of that location.
I have spread the barley straw bales around these two locations concentrating on the areas with the least ground cover and ensuring that any manure is also covered. In a few months we’ll see how the areas are responding and if the straw cover helps to develop a bit of better soil and vegetation in those spots. I do still intend to move the animals through this area at least twice this grazing season and there currently there is a mating pair of geese that are investigating this little nole for a nesting spot. We’ll see how that goes.
When grazing animals on spring grass it is not uncommon for their manure to get quite runny. This digestive upset can’t feel very good. Some time ago it was recommended to me to add apple cider vinegar to the water when moving them to fresh grass in an effort to help reduce any digestive upset and the super watery manure. I did notice positive results with the cattle two years ago and because of that I have added ACV to the water tubs whenever I change their feed.
When rotating the animals through their grazing paddocks, it’s critical to remember the “take half, leave half” principle. Graze no more than half of the foliage leaf length and move on. This helps the grass and other forage plants to continue their growth and rebound from the grazing period faster. To take more than half of the plant seriously damages the plant at the root level, so “take half, leave half” every time.
The kelp we’ve been offering free choice to the flock has been very well received. We are using Throvin Kelp.
Today is a big day for our Pastured Poultry Layers. Well, it is for me anyway.
Today Chicken Tractor #1 met up with Tractor #2 and from now on, they will travel the pastures together. Phew! There were some long moves for the older girls every day, and they protested a little at first. But after the video was complete they followed me from the barn to their new home and began happily scratching in the pasture.
The sheep & goats passed through this field 4 days ago now and while it’s been chilly and wet, there *are* some bugs beginning to thrive in the pastures so the girls will be well nourished – fat and happy.
I did not have time to make a weekly update video on Sunday, so I’ll write a weekly update here with photos instead and a few short videos. It was a busy week with new lambs and fresh pasture, capped off with new chicks!
We are up to 13 lambs out of 5 ewes, and everyone is doing quite well. So far this year we have been tremendously blessed with multiples. Continue reading
Lambing has begun here at Tikkun Homestead. Now we know why these two mamas have been looking SO ready to lamb for so long now – triplets! The first two girls to lamb each had triplets – two girls and one boy each. Baruch Hashem they had healthy and easy deliveries with healthy babies.
Our first set of lambs are from an ewe who has a history of being a poor mom. This year was to be her final shot. In the past she has twinned and brutally rejected one twin, each year. We’ve been watching her closely so we would be ready to rescue the one she would reject, and it was apparent that she was having multiples by her size. When we looked out the window at dawn on Sunday we saw that she had two lambs and she was at peace with them, this was such a change! By the time we got to her we were able to see that there were three babies, and she was tending to each of them quite well. What a blessing to have her become such a good mother all of the sudden!
The next ewe to lamb also had triplets and she’s known for being a very good mama. In fact, she often tends to the first ewe’s babies as well as her own. They are penned next to one another and even so, the first ewe is still being an excellent mother. We are so grateful!
We were able to get the ewes out into the back yard for their first nibble of fresh grass while we tended to a first time mama and her babies – she had triplets but I didn’t get to her in time and with all of the newness, she didn’t get the sack off of the nose of the last one before he suffocated. She was tending so well to the other two and to him, but cleaning his rear end instead of his face. Poor little guy. So she’ll raise twin ram lambs, and I’m okay with that for a first time mama. It is a reminder for me to be more diligent in my checks, particularly with first time mamas! For now she’s penned up with her boys and getting used to the idea of motherhood.
Our family spent two years focusing on overseas projects and in that time we sold our herd of cattle and downsized our flock of sheep considerably . Since we’ve returned to the farm in full, livestock prices have jumped significantly and we haven’t been able to run the volume of livestock that we once did. This means that large portions of our pastures have not been grazed for a few years, this block below being the final section of under grazed pasture in recent years. This year we intend to fence the perimeter line for sheep & goats so we can run everyone together with daily pasture rotations. It’s a big task! On Sunday we measured the perimeter fence that needs to be replaced – 1,000 feet of 4′ – 2″ x 4″ mesh. Our perimeter line crosses a seasonal creek in 3 places, and nothing is flat. But we’ll bite into this project and chew like crazy – it’s just how we do things, I guess!
After we got our bearings in the southwest pasture, we took to planting the last of the native tree order we received the last weekend. It turns out we had 150 trees to plant, I had thought it was a few less than it turned out to be. That’s a lot of trees! But they’re all in the ground and we’re hoping they take root nicely. As we neared the end of our planting, the dog and cat who had been following us through the fields were still playing and getting tuckered out too. I thought our readers might enjoy a few seconds of watching two buddies playing together.