Neolithic Pig Rib Planting Poker
Today was an all seasons kind of day. Apple petals blowing in the wind. Real snow as well. High winds driving the light rain. Intermittent hail. No sunshine though. Fortunately the soil has warm so the white stuff, other than the flowers, didn’t accumulate.
Nine hundred and ninety nine pounds of seed on the wall,
Take a hundred pounds down,
Cast it around,
899 pounds of seed on the wall…
We spent another day planting both in gardens and in the winter paddocks and pastures. It was practically perfect planting weather. The rain will drive the seed into the soil. Light seeds like grass, legumes, brassicas and such can simply be scattered to the wind, broadcast from hand as we walk across the fields. No need to harrow, plow, disk or cover them with soil.
With hand broadcasting I can seed a 60′ wide path with each walking pass – about 30′ to each side. As I walk I’m tossing seed from a pail I carry across the mountain. An advantage of the hand broadcast method is I can target specific spots like when I’m over seeding bare patches in pasture. With practice this produces a pretty even spread. Perfectly even is not necessary since we’re over seeding. Oh, and Luke, use the wind…
We also have hand seeders with spinning cranks. They give a little more even coverage but only cut a 20′ wide swath and tire my wrist. I have found that the cheap little lawn spreaders do just as well as the much more expensive chest mounted spreaders. The little spreaders not only cost less but they also last amazing well. After seven years we still have two out of three in operation.
For the pumpkins, sunflowers and other large seeds I use a planting poker such as the pig rib shown above. This ergonomically fits my hand and lets me quickly make holes of the right size for big seeds. These neolithic planting sticks come in both left and right handed models. The best ones come from the very big boars and sows – it’s all about size.
As I was seeding the south field plateau two Canadian geese came a visiting. This pair lives down in the marsh at the center of our valley about three quarters of a mile from our cottage. For the last week they’ve been visiting the south field about once a day. I haven’t actually seen them grazing but rather just walking about and eyeing the real estate.
After sorting seed in the morning Will and Ben spent the afternoon seeding up on the ridge where the winds were higher and the weather, well, fiercer. We have about 30 acres to go in the outer fields.
Yes, I realize that there are some people who are already harvesting from their gardens… Like certain people who send me tempting descriptions and photos of what they’ve been planting for months and are already eating… But our soil has been too cold until recently for much to sprout. It was a scant month ago that the snows left our fields and they have stuck in the woods for longer. The soil warms slowly. Each spring I like to plant some things early on the off chance that the seed won’t rot in the ground but it’s a bit risky until the soil is warm enough. Interestingly, some seeds, even things like sunflowers and tomatoes, winter over fine. Perhaps it is a percentages thing. Lots of seeds and a few of them make it.
The grasses and some native plants are up. The brassicas are sprouting out in the fields. Even sunflowers are sprouting. But tender things like pumpkins plants have wisely not shown their faces yet, todays windy snow would not be their sort of weather, although I’ve spotted some squash. Wild, shall we say feral, tomatoes and tomatillos have been popping up, they try and get a jump on the season, but days like today may kill them back. The seeds that stay dormant a little longer will likely make it though. Although, I have seen some volunteer sunflowers who appear to be making it through last weeks snow so maybe they’ll survive today in protected places.
Seeding sounds simple but a lot of prep goes into it before the first seed hits the soil. Every gardner knows (savors?) the months planning all the species, which will be best into each pasture depending on the soils, water and when they’ll be grazed. Then once the seed arrives there is sorting and mixing the seeds and adding inoculants, the bacteria which help legumes like clover pull free fertilizer out of the sky. Finally when the soil is warm enough and I’m expecting rain, like now, we spread seed that will feed our livestock and then our customers in the months and years to come.
What is the difference between pasture, winter paddock and garden seeding you might ask? It is a matter of intensity of husbandry and planting style.
Pasture seeding is primarily grasses and legumes. About 40% of each. There are also some brassicas and other things like chicory in the mixes I make up for those large areas. The focus is on small seeds we can easily storm, frost and mob seed since broadcast seeding is the rule – our mountain is too steep, rocky and stumpy for tractor work over most of the fields.
The winter paddocks are about four acres where the pigs, chickens, geese, and in other years sheep too, over winter. These areas are high in nitrogen and organic matter so I plant hungry eaters like pumpkins, mangles, beets, turnips, broccoli, sunflowers, squash, radishes, sugar beets, etc – mostly annual things that take more work to plant but little work to care for once established. These are all things for the fall and winter to replace forages as the pastures fade and the deep snows come again. Summer is the time we thrive between when we survive.
Gardens are more intensely managed, neat rows or plots and more for our family consumption than for the livestock. This is where I grow leeks, a tiny bit of sweet corn (often not successfully), peas, broccoli, beets, carrots, tomatoes, squash and all the usual suspects. You know, a garden. We originally got livestock, to a large degree, for their manure to improve our poor mountain soil so as to be able to better raise vegetables. Give Walter a sheep and look what happens…
I’ve heard many people complain that seed is expensive. They’re right – it is. That is why I like to select species that will reproduce themselves and not require annual reseeding if at all possible. By managing the grazing, using reserve areas and saving seed I reduce the amount of seed I must buy. I save seed where possible – one more reason to avoid the GMOs like the plague.
Yet, seed is cheap compared with grain based feeds. A few thousand dollars of seed, a bit of planting time and patiences will produce hundreds of thousands of dollars of livestock feed over a period of several years. We buy no commercial hog feed so the more food we can produce here on the farm the happier the pigs will be.
Seed is an investment in the future. A promise. An act of faith.
Outdoors: 39°F/30°F Very Windy, Rain, Snow, Hail, Overcast
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/62°F
Daily Spark: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” -Vivian Greene