Tag Archives: agriculture

Battle Royale Pt 2 – Sustainability

1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture; A different time with different solutions

I find it necessary to address the sustainability of each of the methods of growing that I will be comparing in my Battle Royale. Sustainability is very important to consider when undertaking any agricultural venture. When I say sustainability I mean it very literally, not just speaking from an environmental standpoint. Can this method be sustained indefinitely under the current or foreseeable future conditions?

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Progress or …?

One of my best sources of information in the agronomic field has been the USDA Yearbooks of Agriculture. Having access to studies from 130 years ago up until the end of publishing in 1992 has been a boon for my education. It is hard not to notice, however, the stark changes in the writing styles over those years, and the perceived shift in the target audience based on the tone of the writing. Here I will present a contrast of two randomly selected excerpts to illustrate my point.

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Subsoiler aka Chisel Plow (not a hand tool)

In my last post (Battle Royale (Agrarian Style)) I revealed that I have indeed used a tool on a tractor to accomplish an agrarian goal. I used a single shank subsoiler, aka chisel plow or ripper, to help prepare a hillside to become a productive orchard. There were definitely ways that I could have used hand tools only to suit this purpose, but it would have taken years worth of work and crop rotations. This solution allowed me to jump ahead with minimal investment of time and money, and with minimal negative consequences. Read on if you are interested in the reasons behind this exception to my rule (Hand Tools: The Simple Choice).

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Battle Royale (Agrarian Style)

Garden with a view

I am starting new gardens from scratch this year, and in the interest of learning new things in new places, I have set up an experiment to compare a few different methods of gardening. I will keep this as brief as possible, and expound upon each of these methods as I update you with progress reports over the following years. Each bed will be planted in the spring with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and an assortment of vegetables, along with a row of sunflowers and buckwheat. I have no expectations or knowledge of how the results will look, this experiment is purely out of curiosity and I am excited to see how the different methods turn out. How will they yield, handle drought, soaking rains, etc?

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Science Seeks the Farmer

USDA Yearbook of Agriculture 1920

By L.C. Everard – Chief Editor, Division of Publications – an article from the 1920 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, public property

Something is wanting to science until it has been humanized, said Emerson. That was long ago, before the development of the Department of Agriculture. Were he here today he would probably say something is wanting to agricultural science until it puts on its overalls and gets out between the plow handles. And the scientists of the department would agree with him; for though they may in their laboratories surround their work with a cloud of hard words and harder ideas like a smoke screen anround a battleship, they realize that their investigations and discoveries are made for the sake of mankind, and acquire their chief value when the veil of thechnicality is torn away. Cyclonic action means something to the farmer when translated into term of rain or snow or fair weather. And scientific study of the life history of Ascaris lumbricoides becomes a blessing to him when a way has been found to apply the knowledge so as to save his pigs.

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Thankful for … Butternut Squash

Every fall cucurbits rise to fame and infamy. They appear on porches as testaments to their diversity, as monsters and vampires, as modern art disguised as a vegetable smashed on the ground. They bring folks to a local farm, bring families together around a hot pie, and bring coffee lovers to love or hate the words ‘pumpkin spice’. They are a symbol of fall, harvest, and abundance. I am thankful for them. I am most thankful not for the pumpkin, however, but for the Butternut – cucurbita moschata.

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Meat Rabbits; or How Children Can Provide Substantial Assistance on a Homestead, Part 1

Buck

Mature breeding buck

A few years ago we began asking the children this question: “If you could pick one farm project, what would it be?”  We got many wide-ranging answers, some realistic, some not.  One answer was given by our son – meat rabbits.  Our first step was to have him do what free and readily available research he could.  Once he exhausted our own home library, we bought the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, a pre-owned copy of course.  The Storey’s Guide series are one of our go-to introductions to any topic.  They are well-written by experts in the specific topic relevant to each book, they start from the beginning specifically for someone with no knowledge of the topic, and they go into enough detail that anyone could start that project without a more advanced book. Continue reading

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Compost!

Compost

Compost is the breakdown product of organic wastes, containing large proportions of humus which is a long-acting soil fertility booster. Any organic material (not talking about certified organic designation, just the carbon-based once-living kind of organic) can be composted, eventually becoming soil again as it once was before being integrated into an organism.

“Composts offer a practical means of maintaining the soil fertility which is the most important factor in the successful operation of a subsistence farm….There are available on practically all farms and gardens many materials which are useful for composts, although the farmer or gardener often fails to appreciate their value. Some of the common materials which are often wasted are leaves, straw, muck, vegetable tops, grass clippings, and garbage material which is inedible for chickens or pigs.”

~C.C. Fletcher, 1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture

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Green Manure and Cover Cropping

I find it interesting to read agricultural texts from different eras of our civilization. At the present moment I am increasing my collection of USDA Yearbooks of Agriculture, which I would recommend to anyone who is curious about agricultural techniques, policies, and studies. Particularly interesting to me are those books which were published during and directly following the Great Depression. In these years, agricultural science was making great leaps and bounds, not necessarily with new discoveries but with scientific proof that the practices of the preceding millennia were indeed spot-on, and that we should continue following our ancestors’ examples of land husbandry.

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It All Begins With the Soil

Dirt_and_Mud_002_-_Loose_Dirt_with_Plants

Our lives rely completely upon soil. My life in the country is very simply and easily attributed to a direct link with the soil. In the city you may feel as if you are a few miles removed from getting dirty yourself, but in reality you are just one small step from having manure under your fingernails just to prevent starvation. Even the astronauts in the space station are not immune from requiring the basic necessities of life which we indeed must derive from the soil. With life itself hinging upon the presence and condition of this most necessary substance, shouldn’t we all feel some obligation to consciously contemplate the crumbly crust of the earth for at least a few minutes each day? Continue reading

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