A Few More Thoughts on Pasture Management

Pasture management is a system by which farmers and ranchers manage their acreage in order to gain the best possible yield for their animals with as little stress on the land as possible.

Regular “pasture walks” accomplish a great deal and allow the farmer to recognize the rate of consumption of the grasses and plants as well as address any problems that arise.

A conscientious farmer will also pay attention to the amount of manure collecting on the pasture.

Positive management practices will impede erosion and preclude runoff reaching streams and waterways. (This is especially important if you live near an environmentally fragile area like a riparian buffer, for instance.)

Rotational grazing will allow sufficient re-growth and minimize damage from animal “tramping” as well.

Pasture management is a year-round responsibility.

Remember to soil-test your pasture. See if there’s anything to “feed” it so that it may, in turn, provide feed for your livestock.

The local cooperative extension in your area is, as always, a great resource!

Bloodroot is Beautiful

Beautiful Bloodroot is a woodlands flower that blooms, for us in Pennsylvania, during the first or second week in April. Large, lovely palm-sized leaves envelop a single white flower—the bloom lasting a mere week or so. Once the petals have fallen, the lush, green foliage heartily remains through the warm months.

Before I go any further, let me mention: Bloodroot is TOXIC. Do not consume any part of the bloodroot plant.

Certainly, a name like “Bloodroot” deserves a little research, don’t you think? 

It’s not surprising the name refers to its orange-red root. Stems will “bleed” this color when broken and Native Americans used the juice for everything from face and body paint (which lasted for days) to dye.

Root teas were fashioned to combat asthma, laryngitis, coughs, etc. Topically, Bloodroot poultices were used to treat eczema, warts, and skin cancer—its “active ingredient” is sanguinarine.

According to the ACS Chemistry for Life website, “Sanguinarine is an antimicrobial used in mouthwashes and toothpaste to guard against inflammation brought on by gingivitis. It has also been found to protect against skin cancer by enhancing the production of proteins that induce the death of cells damaged by UV-B radiation.”

There is so much information online about this unique, singular, almost “reclusive” woodlands plant!

I hope you are lucky enough to be able to observe it in the wild (it’s protected in many states so please abide by this when observing Bloodroot in its natural habitat).

Pasture Management

Tracy and Dave discuss a comprehensive approach to managing pasture land and promoting optimal health among the flocks. Witnessing the release of the animals to pasture near the end of the program will delight the child in all of us.

Skunk Cabbage

Forget your daffodils and tulips!  The real harbinger of spring in these parts?  Skunk cabbage.

The rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) that anchor this plant can live thousands of years, according to botanists, and no matter where you find eastern skunk cabbage (from Canada all the way to Georgia) the species is the same—meaning it hasn’t adapted to different zones. All it requires are damp/boggy areas which remain wet year-round.

The name comes from the slight odor it gives off that serves as an attractor for pollinators.

Skunk cabbage is also unique in that it sweats. Its “job” is to drink in the water where it’s anchored and expel the moisture into the air. It can do this successfully in the early spring because leaves haven’t fully developed on trees to shade the plants and they can drink in the sunlight as well. However, by mid-summer, the skunk cabbage has become a slimy mess, shaded by full foliage of the woodland areas.

Calcium oxylate crystals in the leaves help to create a heat in the dead of winter which allows the plant to begin its trek up through the frozen surface. It is NOT an edible plant; parts are toxic.

Skunk cabbage has been around for thousands of years—a native wetlands plant. It intrigues everyone from the weekend hiker to the learned botanist. Me?  I just like to be reminded spring is right around the corner.

Oley Valley Organics – Keeping a Healthy Farm

The day I visited Barb Dietrich at Oley Valley Organics a few weeks ago, it was still pretty chilly. That was probably a good thing because had I waited to schedule our little chat, chances are she’d be knee-high in asparagus weeding, harvesting, or both, right now!

To maintain a certified organic farm takes dedication, to say the least.

We know, here at our place, the level of work involved to combat weeds without the use of chemicals.

Yet to be a certified organic farm goes beyond that. It means you’re pledging your practices for the safe maintenance of the environment that surrounds you. And maybe, like the Dietrichs, you’ve also taken extra steps toward recovering an area (be sure to watch our webisode about Oley Valley Organics to see what I mean by “recovery”).

Finalizing the paperwork for our farm purchase in 2004 meant sitting in the realtor’s office with the former owners as we exchanged signatures. I remember a particularly somber moment for them when the place officially became “ours.”

There was a pause…and then I believe I thanked the former owner…he looked up, smiled, and said:  “I believe we never truly ‘own’ a place…we’re merely the keepers for a while”.

Here’s to all of those who “keep” healthy farms.

USDA-Certified Organic Farming

Tracy visits Oley Valley Organics, an organic farm established by Barb and Mike Dietrich in 2006. Barb talks about the steps required to qualify for USDA certification.

Interpreting Your Soil Test Results

The soil test results are in. Join Tracy in this webisode to learn how to interpret them.

About the Milkman

Daryl Mast’s Doorstep Dairy is another fine example of folks getting back to their roots. In just a short time, he’s managed to develop a loyal following of satisfied customers.

Doorstep Dairy supplies a variety of goods that all originate from within a 10-mile radius of Daryl’s home. Daryl then gets those fresh, local products to customers for a nominal delivery fee….and more customers are signing up daily.

Chocolate milk bottle -- minus the milk

Oh, and then there’s the milk. The delicious milk. In glass bottles.

Daryl sent me home with a quart of chocolate milk the day of our video shoot. I had planned to take a photo of it for this blog entry—but it was gone by the time I pulled into the driveway.

Life moves fast. Maybe we’ve reached a point where we desire the nostalgia, heritage, and quality of a time that moved at a different pace. Bringing back the milkman is certainly a step in that direction and I couldn’t be happier!

The Milkman Returns

In this webisode, join Tracy to meet Daryl Mast of the Doorstep Dairy — a man on a mission to make home delivery of fresh locally-made dairy products a new reality for residents in his area.

Tail Docking

Okay, here goes.

There are two schools of thought on tail docking or removing the tail of a lamb. School # 1 says it’s not humane. I am not of this school. So, let’s move on to School # 2.

Tail with band applied

A Navajo-Churro lamb tail is very long at birth. If left alone, the tail as well as the wool in that area would collect poop. In warmer months, flies would swarm at the back-end of the animal and lay eggs. Maggots would, first, eat at the poop and then at the sheep. ‘Nuff said regarding “Flystrike.”

Elastrator and bands in jar of alcohol

So how to remove a tail as painlessly as possible? Two schools again. I’ll let you guess what School # 1 is so let’s move on to School # 2: the Elastrator or “band.”

It has taken me four years of lambing and, thus, banding to reach my conclusion that banding must be done on day two.

I believe the day a lamb is born is a critical day of bonding and allowing the lamb to get necessary colostrum from mom is very important—not to mention “finding its feet.”

Day Two, the lamb has filled out physically and by Day Three of life, I believe the tail has become thicker and, possibly, more sensitive.

Once, I unknowlingly waited for days before banding a pair and watched in horror as they both flopped around in pain. I cried, standing there helplessly, thinking I’d surely killed them both. They recovered; I never forgot. Therefore, I band on the second day of life and haven’t experienced another incident like that.

Elastrator and band

The banding tool stretches a thick green rubber band that allows one to travel up the tail, position, then release the band. I prefer to leave at least 1-1/2 inches of the tail and not go any higher than the two gentle folds of skin which are on the underside of the tail.

Believe me, the lamb realizes what has just occurred. However, the reaction I generally witness, if done at the “right” time, is a flurry of their tails as if trying to shake the band off (it usually falls off in one to three weeks). Almost 99 percent of the time, they go straight to mom’s udder and have a drink. Probably not a bad idea.

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