Oh, the planning! 2014 is almost here and I am working on garden and pasture plantings in my mind. Yes, it is December, I am well aware of that, haha! However, as I sit inside and look out the window at the rainy, cold weather I love to dream of where we will be in a few months. In my mind I see green and pink and purple and yellow. I see a yard that used to be all grass full of 2 foot plants covered in flowers, all a-buzz with honey bees from my little hive. Nearby you can here the tinkle of the water fountain as it splashes down and runs through the rocks I set up to provide fresh, clean water to the bees. In the distance I hear a goat ma-aa and pigs grunting as they look for delectable morsels and turn my soil. A hen clucks away, telling the world she laid the most wonderful egg ever laid (surly it must be golden) and a rooster answers with a deep, robust crow. My children are laughing as they run along their forest paths, chasing monsters with homemade weapons. I walk down to the flourishing garden and pull off some beans for supper and check on the tomatoes. Sunflowers and corn enjoy the afternoon sun, and wind chimes fill the air. Oh! There goes a duck chased by the darned turkey again!
See? It may be cold and gloomy today, but it is so pleasing to think about summer. And right now I can dream and not feel the heat or the bugs 😉
Alrighty, dreaming aside, I am PLANNING! Like I mentioned, I really want a water feature. A couple actually. My husband wants one by the pool, and that may be the one I work with for the bees as well, but what he wants is one that splashes into the pool. Me? I want one on a quiet little path where I can sit and hide from sight with a good book or my bamboo flute. If it waters the bees, all the better, right? The bees are so important to me, and I really want to focus some of my effort this year on providing them with pollen that is varied, not covered in pesticides, and that will give their honey a wonderful, rich taste and aroma. Have you ever smelled honey before tasting it? It is intoxicating, yet delicate. Like fine wine, smelling honey before tasting adds dimensions to what most people think is a simple, all-alike food. Oh, the hint of gardenia, the robust, malty smell of buckwheat, the light sunny floral smell of wildflower! What a treasure. To help attain this, I intend to lightly till our hill (the part of the yard that contains the bee hives and is usually brown and dry over the summer) and plant buckwheat (which bees LOVE!) and an annual flower called Bee’s Friend as well as wildflowers. It will turn into a southern prairie of sorts and cut down on the mowing responsibilities. I HATE mowing around bees! Add to that, when the flowers die back I can allow young goats and kunekune pigs to graze the area and add fertilizer so it will be ready to spring to life the next year. All I have to do is keep a path running through it so I can get from the house to the barn 🙂
In addition to the hilltop, I want to get pastures running smoothly, with nutritious plants and variety in grazing. This is going to be a lot more work since I can’t take the animals off the area and it takes time to establish plants. For a while I will have to take away some of the freedom of movement my animals enjoy so that later they will have lush grazing. I have it worked out for seeding in my mind; in February, turnips will go in the ground to help break up the soil (by then the pigs should have gotten it tilled at the surface), followed by s.lezpedeza in March. In April I will toss out some buckwheat, and in May the Pearl Millet and Sorghum will go out. In July the buckwheat can be re-sown to flower in fall, and we end the season with oats and rye for winter nutrition. I am still trying to find something I can plant in the swampy areas to help stop the erosion and build up our side of the land without becoming invasive. The pigs, ducks, turkey, and geese will all be going out there looking for bugs and plants they think are yummy, so I want something out there. It sounds like a good plan to me, even if it is a lot of work. Eventually it will mostly manage itself if I do a good job now. I love how a bio-diverse farm solves many of the problems the tend to come with farming. I sincerely believe the job of a farmer is to use all his resources to help the land replenish itself so that it can be bountiful. Through rotating livestock, planting is such ways as to keep mono-cultural parasites away and provide an attractive environment for helpful creatures and microbes we become part of what already exists in nature. It is an art we almost lost, but it is one that can be implemented in every yard and on every farm if anyone wants to try and learn. So, here is to dreaming!