Sunflower days

Sunflowers are one of my favorite things about summer. Part of this is that they can grow so tall with such huge flowers, part is the cool shade they provide in the heat of late July and August, part is the edible seeds, part is the variety of colors and styles available. They also make great food for the animals, a feed that we can easily grow ourselves.

Like many annuals, sunflowers can be self-seeding. This year, where some seeds had fallen last year, we got the most incredible sunflowers without even planting. They are ten to twelve feet tall with huge, gorgeous, well shaped yellow flowers and thick self supporting stalks. I plan to save some of the seeds from the best of this years for next year to continue this line which started with the Mammoth sunflower seeds from Walmart.

This seems to have been a year for self-seeding. We got a bumper crop of tomato plants that were planted by the pigs, after the seeds passed through their digestive system. These grew between corn and sunflowers in one of the garden corrals, fertilized by the wintering over of the sows. We also got a plot of corn in a similar way which has done amazingly well – better than any of the corn I intentionally planted this year. The intentional plantings also did well – it was rather fun though to see the surprises come up as well.

Today we rotated pasture. This means moving the animals off of one area and onto a new area of pasture. This is an exciting time for the animals as all of a sudden they have so much lush new grazing available. The areas they have grazed look like close cut lawns and there is no longer much to eat. The area they are going into is full of taller grasses, herbs and brush which both the pigs and sheep delight in eating. By moving them off the previous area of pasture and letting it rest we give it a chance to re-grow and the rotational grazing cuts the parasite population. This is an important management technique for farms like ours where we want to minimize the use of chemicals including highly toxic wormers which require withdrawal periods and can harm the micro-fauna in the soil. Rotational grazing is good for the animals, the pasture and the small things like worms and beetles that inhabit the soil.