Magic Dust


Sprinkling Magic Dust

Will had been picking rocks out of the lane and fields to pave and fill the new road he’s building to give access to the north field. The tractor chains roughed up the ground very nicely creating a great opportunity for planting.

This weekend we seeded the bare patches with chicory, flax, amaranth, tobacco, various clovers, brassicas, alfalfa, soft grasses and sunflowers. Meanwhile Ben hand broadcast about 300 lbs of oats, buckwheat, winter rye, alfalfa, clover and brassicas out in the far south field, south field and north field. All of these are areas that the pigs are going to be off for a few months or even until next year so the new forages will be able to set well.

We do hand broadcasting of seeds because most of our land is too steep, stumpy and stoney to machine work. Planting like this is like sprinkling magic dust. We walk along waving our hands. We do not feeling like we’re really accomplishing anything as the job is “too easy” to call it work. Then magically plants grow.

What we’re doing is storm seeding. We’re working with Mother Nature. It had already rained to moisten the ground and I knew it would rain more overnight. The pounding action of the rain drops drive the seed into the ground. This works best with smaller seeds but also can be effective with seeds as large as sunflowers and oats if we get a hard rain.

Magic dust. Magic beans. Magic in the mountains.

Outdoors: 53°F/39°F 2″ Rain
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F
Butcher Shop: 53°F (iCutter)

Daily Spark: Our van has a manual hydraulic transmission. That sounds like an oxymoron but it’s just an old Frankenstein.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to Magic Dust

  1. Edmund Brown says:

    This is a topic I’ve been meaning to ask you about. I’ve been seeding behind my pigs as they’re currently ripping up my worst piece of pasture (low fertility and lots of golden rod). I put in my seed mix oats, clover (red and white), buckwheat, forage turnip, daikon radish, and a little endophyte-free fescue. In the later summer I thought I’d replace the oats with rye since it will overwinter even in a low snow year.

    My question was about other seeds to put in the mix… but it looks like you’ve answered it alread – chicory, tobacco(!), sunflower.

    What about squashes? Last year I grew some in the pasture where I had a mat of old hay from staging feed for the cows. The yield was lower than in my garden, but they did set some fruit and ripen it.

    I’ve also been wondering how much you find you need to seed on an annual basis vs let perennials and volunteers do their thing?

    • Yes, squashes and pumpkins some other things we plant in great numbers, mostly in the winter paddocks which become summer gardens – acres of pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes, squash, beets, mangels, turnips, etc. I save seed year to year for things like pumpkins and squash. Most of what we plant are annuals that will self reseed and perennials that don’t need reseeding.

  2. Cary Howe says:

    Curious why the tobacco for broadcast seeds with the rest of it? Why I ask is it’s a carrier for a virus that can infect other plants like Sunflowers. Years ago I used it as an insecticide until I found out about that. Now I wouldn’t use it in liquid form because of harming bees. Probably not an issue in plant form. I couldn’t tell if you were growing it in plots or mixing the seed together with others. The risk would be less in plots but randomly mixing it with the rest could infect other plants. I don’t think it’ll mature that far north without a greenhouse so I’m assuming it’s being added for insect control or something similar.

    • I have a few small test patches of tobacco. I’ve put some sunflowers mixed in with them so we can see if there is an issue. The variety is listed as resistant for the TMV and articles I’ve read say that seed transmission has not been proven.1 From what I have read, the real problem with transmission is from tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco which leave particles of the virus on the user, in their spit and spread that way. None of us are tobacco users but these vectors are the likely cause rather than seeds. Hopefully there won’t be any issue. I’ll keep an eye on the sunflowers sentinels.

  3. Terry Lund says:

    We do the same thing in all of our small rotational pastures for all of our geese. We also try and do it in the very early spring when the freezing and thawing opens up the ground to allow those seeds to drop in. Love reading all of your ins and outs of day to day life on the mountain! The butcher shop looks amazing!

  4. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Walter, always fascinated by the many ways you folks work with nature!
    I remember reading an article in Rodale’s gardening magazine (many years back, when the elder Rodale ran it) about tobacco mosaic. There was a caution to avoid having smokers handle tomato plants, as the seed crystals could be present on their skin and in their breath. I understood that the stuff was like seed crystals in honey, not living, but propagating rather than reproducing the way actual viruses do. ‘Way back then, more than forty years ago, I smoked. Never had anything fell happen to my tomatoes. But it was just another reason to quit!
    I too am curious as to why you are seeding tobacco. I’ve never heard of it as a forage. Does it act as a vermifuge?

    • Very good, David. Yes, the tobacco is a vermifuge, a dewormer. There are a number of natural things we use such as the cold of winter, managed rotational grazing, the copper in our soils, garlic and such to prevent parasite problems. Tobacco is a traditional vermifuge. There are some varieties that are said to grow even in our colder USDA Zone 3a climate.

      On the Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) it is a rather interesting topic. I asked the company we got the seeds from about this and they said they make sure that they do not have any smokers working in handling their seeds for this reason. They also said out of all the years of selling seed they had never had a case of seed transmitted TMV. When I was reading about TMV I learned that it was actually the first plant virus, originally described back in 1886 although it was not until much later that they understood viruses. I think our risk is minimal. There are many other plant viruses and we seem to be doing okay. Tomatoes and beans are two things that often get them. I decided to do some trials with the tobacco. I’ll know more in a few years.

  5. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Honest disclaimer: I wasn’t just guessing. In about 1917, my father, fifteen years old, ran the mule train from Santa Barbara to the Gibraltar Reservoir dig in the back country. He told me that the best and cheapest wormer he’d ever used for horses and mules was chewing tobacco. A block of sweet Red Man, he said, would be happily consumed by one animal, and the resultant worm kill would be evident the same day. Though I’ve spent years playing about with horses, I’ve never dared try it. Don’t think it would be good even on your larger pigs, though, because of the TMV being carried in the cured leaves. They’d promptly contaminate your ground if they got a bad batch of chaw.

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