We spent a weekend seeding the slopes of the curtain drain, ditch and most of the building site. I picked up 60 lbs of an erosion control mix with perennial and annual rye, creeping red fescue, white clover and bent grass. On the flat areas we added 40 lbs of Austrian winter peas and 10 lbs of triticale leftover from last year.
Even though we had that early wet spell, it has been dry for the last couple of weeks and is forecasted to be dry at least another week so we watered it from a 275 gallon tote on the back of the truck using a small pump hooked up to the truck battery to give us a little more pressure to reach the steep parts of the slope. We had to refill it a couple of times from our cistern and then we covered everything with straw. 110 lbs of seed and 1500 lbs of organic barley straw – by hand. It was a ton of work and we were exhausted by Sunday night, but relieved it was done before (fingers crossed) it is too cold for the seed to germinate.
Just having the straw down makes everything a little less severe. Trees and shrubs should really help to soften the edges, but the grasses and clover will help keep erosion at bay and help build the soil back up in the meantime. We will sow more cover crop seed next spring and start to add trees and shrubs.
While shaking straw all over hill and dale we were both happily reminded of the lovely couple we purchased the straw from. I had been having a wretched time trying to find a source of straw without any herbicide or pesticide residue. The couple of sources I did find were just too far away. At the eleventh hour I stumbled onto a list of organic certified farms on a state government website that listed products grown on each farm. After painstakingly searching through it for straw, I located two farms within 30 minutes of our farm. I emailed them both and immediately heard back from one. Score!
It turns out they are an Organic Valley dairy farm and usually keep their straw for their livestock, but my email plea must have been so pathetic they said they could spare a few bales, especially since I had indicated in my email how I was planning to use the straw and would be happy to take any “less than perfect bales”. It just so happened some of the bales at the edge of the barn had suffered minimal damage from the recent heavy rains so they gave me a screaming deal – $30 a bale. These are 500 lb bales – equivalent to 10 – 12 regular bales which I would have to pay anywhere from $6.50 – $9 a bale for and they would not have been organic certified. Woo hoo! I do love a good deal.
- Magpie on a 500 lb bale. They are about 8 x 3 x 3
Having said that, the real bonus was meeting this couple. They were just so genuine and friendly. We chatted for quite a bit about the challenge of going organic in a conventional farming area (they both grew up and raised their children here). They showed us their new computerized milking machine which was quite impressive and apparently another controversial subject in their “neighborhood” and amongst their peers.
To top it off, they sent us home with several bars of their homemade cows milk soap, a fistful of Organic Valley coupons and told us to feel free to call on them anytime we have questions about farming in the area! I am going to love being a part of this community.
We do buy Organic Valley products and I’ve oftentimes wondered if the stories about the farmers and the pictures of the cows in the pasture on the labels were maybe just a tad bit of marketing gimmicktry (I may have just made that word up – at least spell-checker thinks so), but now that I have met OV farmers in the flesh and have seen actual cows in beautiful pastures – I feel even better about my purchases. They are the real deal.