I write a lot about my life on Happy Earth Farm. I tell stories about cows, chickens and planting, but I don’t often talk about what really geeks me out. Soil: organic, pure, fertile, well-attended-to dirt. Like, who else gets goose bumps over a pasture…..this girl, that’s who. Seriously, my daily life is more about dirt than anything else and it excites me far more than it probably should. Steve and I have hours of animated discussions about this topic, seriously, we do and he gets as geeked out as I. Because when it comes down to it, a farmer is only as good as the soil.
Every morning begins the same; we head out before breakfast to do chores. On face value they seem rather meaningless because it just looks like we are feeding critters, and moving them about, but to the truly organic farmer, there is a method to the madness.
There is harmony on an organic farm and everything we do has purpose. We rotate crops seasonally so not to overburden the land, always putting in a cover crop in the “resting” vegetable fields. We scatter nutritious seeds like crimson clover and buckwheat often because it helps give the soil needed nutrients. When the clover and buckwheat matures, it becomes a haven for honeybees, and those bees, in turn, pollinate our crops. Honestly, the pasture literally hums with activity.
Our livestock pastures, seeded by us with the same nutritious cover crops are managed as a pie and we rotate the animals systematically. Before moving the cows to a new section, we throw down new seeds. The cows come in and push the seeds into the ground while they graze, ensuring constant regrowth. While the cows occupy a section, they pretty much just eat and poop until they have eaten the vegetation down. They get a healthy variety of grasses and plants and we don’t have to crank up the tractor to bush hog the pastures, truly a win-win!
The chickens or turkeys are the next to occupy that now cow-crap filled section of pasture. They scratch through the cow shit to eat the fly larva, and that frantic scratching spreads the manure, which becomes a natural fertilizer. Genius! And don’t even get me started on the job of the dung beetles! Those dudes go after a pile of cow shit like no one’s business. They pull the nutrients out of the poop and down into the ground. They also lay pockets of eggs while down there. End result? Naturally aerated soil! At some point, those adult beetles will become a meal for the chickens. Poetry, I tell you! So the chickens and turkeys are eating stuff like bugs and vegetation that will make their meat healthier and better tasting, but they are also crapping on the pasture, providing additional fertilization to the soil. Tell me this is thrilling you as much as it does me!
Around and around we go: week after week, month after month, year after year. Bottom line, I spend a good portion of my day trudging through that beautiful fecal encrusted land, only to stop occasionally to marvel at the beauty of what we have created, a truly natural ecosystem, which will feed not only us, but also our community.
I have often said, “know your farmer”. Now if your farmer doesn’t get geeked out by the magic of animal poop, the harmony of the pastures and the beauty of soil……it’s time to find a new farmer.