QMain’s Milk Bar, Fencing & Seeding

Piglets Nursing on Quartermane

These piglets, part of a litter of nine, are out of Blackie’s line. Black is recessive to white, thus the mix of colors.

Today Ben and Will finished fencing paddocks in the south field for the Underhill sows with their new piglets and for the House End growers. The pastures are lush with grasses, clovers, kale, rape and other delicious forages. They ran the new fencing roughly parallel to the contour lines of our land so the livestock will terrace the land. The sows have eaten most of the grass in Underhill and the growers have grazed down almost all of the area they had been in so now is a good time to switch them into new paddocks.

As the animals move out of paddocks Hope and I planted about five acres of purple globe turnips, radishes, broccoli, mint, chives and leaks. These tough plants do well in our climate and are good fodder, increasing the protein levels of our pastures. They are all spreading seeds that we just cast to the wind – that makes seeding easy which is important as we’re clinging to the side of a mountain.

The rains we’re getting drive the seeds into the soil. Spreading them behind the animals just before they move out of an area also is a good trick for planting that works even with larger seeds like corn, sunflowers and pumpkins. Just don’t do those while the chickens are near. Frost seeding is another of my favorite low effort techniques.

Most of our land is too steep and far too rocky for machine cultivation. We can’t grow and then harvest crops on a large scale for human consumption at a price consumers would want to pay. By having the animals help we are able to harvest the grass, legumes and other forages people can’t digest plus the crops we hand seed into the pastures. This makes marginal mountain land productive.

I say most of our land is too rocky and steep. There are terraces that are growing on the mountain, quite purposefully. Some we’ve built with digging machines, e.g., the tractor, and others we create by having the animals shift the soil. By having our fences run roughly along the slopes the animals keep pushing soil down to the lower fence. In time this creates a terrace.

I came up with this method because I noticed in the woods that on the uphill sides of a fallen tree and the uphill sides of stone walls settlers had built centuries ago terraces were created by soil shifting down the mountain. Using the livestock I speed this process up a bit.

Along the rises of the terraces we’re planting apple trees, pear trees, fruit bushes and such. Double fence lines keep the animals from the fruit trees but let them get the droppings. Smaller animals creep for the stuff that falls between the fence lines.

Even with the terracing there is the problem of rocks sprouting out of our thin soil. You would not want to try running a tiller over our soil at this time. We’re pulling the rocks out and building stone walls, just as people have done for hundreds of years before us. Where we’re not right on the ledge there is a large supply of replacement rocks down deep in the soil which seems to keep popping up every spring. Good thing I like working with rock.

If you come by in 1,000 years perhaps it will be lush and fertile like the terraces of Asia or the Andes. No rush.

Outdoors: 72°F/43°F Sunny with Spots of Light Rain
Tiny Cottage: 62°F/41°F

Daily Spark: 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot. -Steven Wright

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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10 Responses to QMain’s Milk Bar, Fencing & Seeding

  1. PV says:

    Do you still have a sow named Petra? I remember her pix showing her as huge in the milk departmt.

  2. DrFood says:

    I’ve been reading your blog off and on for a long time–I found it looking for information about home butchering a whole hog, so I guess that was at least two years ago.

    I love what you’re doing with your land. Planting trees on your terraces is brilliant permaculture. If you want to think really long term, consider some well placed oak trees. oikostreecrops.com sells oaks bred or selected for acorn production. They’re in Michigan, BTW. I’m in Wisconsin, so I won’t be able to buy any of your pork. I’ll just have to keep reading and enjoying from here!

    • Thanks for the tip on the source of oaks. I’ve been trying for years to get them growing from acorns. We have no oaks and I would dearly love to have them. Part of what we’re doing for ‘orchards’ is actually hardwood veneer plantations. We grow a lot of hardwood for cabinet making and veneer that ships as far as Japan. The Japanese are the big buyers for our best wood. They come to our log landings and hand pick the logs they want, the very best, and ship it all the way to the other side of the world. Mostly we grow sugar maple and cherry for them but I would like to diversify that some. For local woods we have many more types. My big interest in the oak is the acorns, of course, but the high quality lumber is also of interest. It would be one more piece in the puzzle of our sustainable forestry and farm.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        Are there any oaks that grow quickly enough in Vermont that either you or I would still be alive when they were ready for harvest as lumber, Walter?

        Acorns, definitely, but lumber? Are you considering multi-generationally? I thought all oaks were slow growers.

  3. Nance says:

    I like all the pieces of your puzzle . . . your lively hood puzzle. I am amazed at all the areas you cover. I am familiar with your porkers, of course, and the different ways you grow forage for them and know that you and Holly and all are pretty much living off your land. Fencing the contours of the land and then as the composted soil builts up, double fence and plant fruit trees intrigues me. I like the completeness of it all and I’m sure my appreciation of all things used, used up, recycled, reclaimed, fortified and eaten up is from my Depression Era parents. And now I read that you are culling your long-growth trees for export. One more piece of the puzzle. I like it!

  4. Susan Lea says:

    Those piglets are adorable!

    I’m very interested in the link for the oak trees. We learned with our first pigs last year how much they love acorns. My husband spent hours picking up acorns that fell outside the pasture and fed them to the pigs. By the time they went to the butcher, we had exhausted the worthwhile acorns on our farm and I had even harvested 20 pounds off a local college campus. How much smarter to just plant some oaks where the pigs can harvest acorns themselves after having enjoyed the extra shade all summer!

  5. Zach says:

    Typically how long after service do you see physical signs of pregnancy?

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