Thursday, May 19, 2011

Web Soil Survey...a useful tool

I have been studying again and I am trying to make a good, practical plan of action...step by step.
I am trying to be sure, what comes first!
Yesterday I went back to the PFI website, which I enjoyed so much last season, and I started looking at some old archived farminars.
Today that farminar led me to this INVALUABLE site, provided by USDA web soil survey.  The speaker was pretty great and I regret that I wasn't able to participate while it was live, I really enjoyed the recording anyways.
whole farm soil planning . It would have been a foreign language without having looked at it on the farminar, and listen to the discussion about it's infinite usefulness. It was better than the Christian County GIS, which I really had a ball with last year, and this is yet another useful tool in the box. I could see how incredibly helpful it would be in CHOOSING a property to farm, or even just for folk about to build a home. It is soooooo worth checking out. It has information about your soil type, it's water holding capability, and so much more.
For us, this could be areas prone to flooding (our house in town), or sinkholes (the neighborhood), moreso than the GIS, which I believe only gives info on existing sinkholes (in other words, the people using the system are the ones trained to put the clues together about what the maps mean).

I enjoyed many farminars in the last 48 hours! And feel like I have caught up on a lot going on and hope to stay up to date.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A slow spring with Books to read!

   At the local library again, with a relatively limited selection, I chose a few reads. The first two, were about chickens.
   The Joy of Keeping Chickens: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Poultry for Fun or Profit (The Joy of Series
This was a good read. The author genuinely likes the animals and cares that they are kept humanely. She educates others very well on what to expect when starting a flock for the first time, and seasons after. She gives a good general picture of chicken keeping, on the smaller scale, but still in a "for profit" venture, as well as just to have the pleasure of keeping a flock of your own.

   Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces I found this book to be a bit biased, as the author made clear that she didn't care for the idea of naming, and then butchering her pet chickens. She keeps them on a very small scale purely for their eggs and her personal enjoyment on an urban sized scale (in her case, 3 hens, in my case, I currently have 6 in town).
   Although this book did have some good information, it seemed to lead to the authors own personal opinions too much to recommend as an all around good chicken book. Most readers would lack the information they really need to get started, it read for me, more like a chicken novel.

This book appealed to me on so many levels. I have absoutely always found it facinating what it was like to cook through the ages, particularly in america. I found so often in my middle school history classes that they had really disconnected history in their books. That it never really added up for me how people lived from day to day and I always enjoyed opportunities to reenact or imagine how they lived. I loved to read books with historical themes, and especially loved to read books about being "holed up" somewhere in the middle of winter, maybe in a cave, maybe in a cabin, struggling to survive, and living by skill alone. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I loved visiting the Williamsburg, Virginia and Jamestown reenactments and historical sites. I loved getting caught up in the ways of old, and this book really takes you there, all the way up to our unfortunate current way of life, so dependant on outside input and prepackaged, disposable life. It was all that I had been wondering about my mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and all their mothers before them. All the stories about "back in their hay day", I could see so clearly what the history books couldn't say. I am sad to finish the book, because I know how it ends, with my generation of google, Wikipedia, and digital books. How our lives are electronic, everything is e-commerce. Kids don't recognize fresh raw broccoli at school, they don't know how from my parent's generation...the boomers, to my generation, the x-ers, or whatever my kid's generation will be...things change SO FAST!!!
Since the industrialization of American women, since technology has reined supreme in a man's world...nothing will ever be how it used to be. And a major thing to remember, although this fast paced change has revolutionized cooking in a mere hundred has opened up a world of opportunity for women. We truly take for granted how short a time has passed since women were the workhorse of all humanity. Life truly was not possible without mom. It is nice to learn the traditional ways of cooking. And get back to our roots, get back to the land..but we must be thankful for some of that change. I would love to own this book, it is on the wishlist, especially if in a hardcover!

This is another book I have picked up, but haven't read yet, since I have been absolutely engrossed in the previously mentioned book. But I will recheck it if I must.

I have absolutely always planned to have honey bees and become a bee keeper. It has been another on a long list of future hobbies.

This year, in the last few weeks, actually, we have been discussing getting Guineas.
   They love eating bugs, and even with a very cold winter, and exceptionally cool Spring, we have seen a very large number of ticks.  I hate the idea of spraying the entire property with chemicals. It's bad enough the herbicides required to kill 6 foot tall poison ivy plants. To add insult to injury, I refuse to use pesticides, unless over run with some horrible plague of insects like the end of Creepshow!
   My husband suggested the guinea fowl as a method of controlling ticks and after reading up a bit on them, and seeing one in person, I like the idea a lot. They get along with chickens and are even more hardy and helpful!

   I have read that they are very noisy and sound warning alarms toward strangers, and danger alike. Some people don't care for them because of this. With guineafowl, "Birds of a feather, flock together", they are gregarious, as bird lovers say. They are very social and it can be used to train them to return home to roost. They are called "The poor man's pheasant" and can be dressed as such. But in my opinion are much more useful as a pest controller than anything. I already had planned to build a permanent chicken coop on the farm, when we finally move, so now, I will also account for space for the new poults as well!! They are right around the same price range as chicks, they eat turkey starter, and mash initially, but when more mature, it is said that at least 90% of their diet is insects through all the warmer months. And after two weeks of age they are hardier than any other poultry. That sounds too good to be true. I am so glad that we are taking on birds for the farm as a start. I cant wait to start including critters on four legs!
Four legged animals are great for lawn mowing! As we have been having trouble keeping the grass cut and do not have the funds for a tractor, we now have a riding mower. I know we aren't ready for pets at the farm yet, and I can't keep something furry here long, besides the cats. I doubt the mower will last for ever, since it came from craigslist, but it is a start. I would like to get a little more yard clean up going on both properties this season, and start tilling up some plots for vegetables. Creating compost bins and getting water to them. We have human sized weeds to chop down, grass to mow, and poison to irradicate. I have flowers, and trees to plant. Berries to move around the land, and more to plant from town. I have planning for orchards, groves and vineyards, and I have animals to account for and arks to build! I have lots and lots of projects, here there and everywhere!
   there is plenty to do in the barns. to fix up and organize, to clean and move out of the way. Sorting, storing, and clearing away the cobwebs of years passed by. Fixing up for years to come! The grass just keeps on growing! Along with everything else!

 I am excited to get the chickens out of the brooder, and into their chicken ark permanently. And perhaps buy those keets! But alas! The weather has stayed cool all season! Plants aren't in the normal stages for this time of year. we are all getting a slow start!