NOVEMBER ON THE FARM
Fall did make an appearance on November 3 by covering our fields in a white blanket of frost. This is one of the earliest frosts that I can remember but was very short lived. Within an hour of sunrise the frost was gone. It stayed on the fields for such a short time that most of the grass wasn’t burned and is still continuing to grow slightly. A good friend of ours that raises about 400 acres of hay told me he still has about 100 acres to bale for the last time this season; normally he is done by Veterans Day. As I start this newsletter, it’s the middle of November and the high today is expected to be around 80 degrees. I can’t tell you how troubled we are by the longer, warmer, summers and the warmer than normal winters. How to farm with a changing climate is going to become a major focal point for all farms going forward.
Last month we planted a winter rye and forage oats mix in the back field. On Friday I went out to check the field and was amazed at the growth I saw. I try to check the fields every week but hadn’t gotten out here for about a week and a half. On the side we spread our composted manure, most of the grass was 5” to 6” tall and the coverage was extremely thick and lush. On the side that didn’t get manure due to a bearing burning out on the spreader, the grass was 4” to 5” tall but wasn’t as thick or lush. Don’t get me wrong, it looks really good but just not as good as the manure side. If things continue as they have for the past 4 weeks, we can expect to turn cows in here for a few days around Christmas which will be 3 weeks earlier than normal and 2 weeks earlier than we expected based on our planting date. Pictures will be posted on Facebook.
Our soil samples have been taken and sent to Clemson for analyzing; results are expected later this coming week. We know that all of the fields will require lime and plan to get it spread as soon as we get the test results. After the lime is spread, we will tackle the fertilizer and nutrient needs of each field. Since each field was sampled separately, we will provide the fertilization and nutrients required for that particular field. This insures we don’t over or under fertilize a field and helps us grow the healthiest grass possible.
The sample results we receive will provide a listing of all the nutrients required to grow the crop specified, in our case, grass. Once we analyze the information provided, we will decide on the amount of fertilizer or trace minerals to apply at a time. For example, the test results may say to spread 300 lbs of 17-17-17 per acre. If the field is 8 acres, it will take 2,400 lbs of 17-17-17 to grow and properly feed the grass on that field. However, the grass doesn’t need all of that fertilizer up front, it will need to be spread out over a period of time which is equal to the life of the crop. To accomplish this we may spread 40% right away, another 40% in late January, and the remaining 20% sometime in late April. Being that the rye will die out in May, we will be able to raise the next crop, Sorghum Sudan grass, using the remaining fertilization from the rye crop. This helps insure we don’t over utilize synthetic fertilizer and minimizes the chances of any run off going into the swamp and stream that runs on the backside of our property.
I’m guessing that the soil tests will tell us that we don’t need a balanced fertilizer like 17-17-17. If that’s the case, we may be forced to make a couple of different trips across the field spreading the different nutrients required. We may need to make a trip spreading potash or some other nutrient or, if we’re lucky, we can have a fertilizer built that will contain the specific NPK requirement.
We are also planning on experimenting with a product that I saw a few years ago on Ag TV. The product is actually a series of 3 products that are used to help build a healthy soil. The first product is liquid carbon. Liquid carbon is used to buffer the salts left behind by synthetic fertilizers, it helps with nutrient uptake, and improves soil health. The second product is a slow release NPK with sulfur, iron, and zinc. The third product is a formulization of fulvic/humics which helps to maximize the delivery of nutrients. All three products are sprayed onto the fields about 3 to 4 times a year. The goal is to build the soil to levels that require less synthetic fertilization and possibly eliminate them all together. Our plans are to test these products on 2 of our fields beginning early next year, comparing the results to our current practices in our other fields.
A good friend of ours father always said if you have good healthy soil, you won’t have weeds to contend with. Weeds are a major problem for farmers no matter if they raise crops or grass. Weeds are why farmers use so many herbicides like Round-Up or 2-4D. This year we actually managed to keep our fields in good shape without the use of herbicides. We mowed each of our fields about every 6 weeks which prevented any weeds from going to seed. Any spraying that we did have to do was done by spot spraying individual plants. Some of our friends thought we were crazy mowing our fields that often but we liked the results we were seeing. We are very hopeful that the things we are doing now and the new things we will be doing in the next few months will help eliminate the majority of the weeds and provide healthier pastures for our cows.
The turkeys we got from the North Carolina 4-H members have all been processed and the majority has been sold. The few that are left are extremely large weighing over 20 lbs each with a few as big as 26 lbs. As expected we had several birds damaged during processing but still ended up with about 70 or 75 undamaged birds. The quality of these birds, based on their dressed appearance, was extremely good. These young people should be very proud of the product they produced this year. Hopefully some of the members will end up being farmers themselves one day.
All of the hams we took to the smokehouse for Thanksgiving have been picked up and are at the farm. We have another batch of hams, bacon, and smoked sausage that will be ready in the next week or two and another batch that will be ready a couple weeks after that. We’re very pleased with the way our smoked sausage is being received. While at the Port Royal Farmers Market, a customer came up and said that her husband insists that her shrimp and grits be made with our smoked Andoulli. She has made it for years using store bought smoked Andoulli but it didn’t compared to the flavor of ours. She made my day!
A quick reminder, the calendar on the website is updated monthly with important dates like when the dairy orders are due, home delivery dates, farm market days and hours, and when we are at the Port Royal Farmers Market. If you’re ever wondering if the market is open or when the orders are due, just go to the website and check the calendar. This is going to be even more important with the upcoming Holidays.
If you haven’t joined our Facebook group, please consider doing so. We try to cover topics that are important regarding agriculture while covering some of the things that happen on the farm daily. There are times I also give my take on things but try to keep it focused on agriculture. We try to include current pictures of the farm and animals so you can see what the farm looks like throughout the year and have also posted quick videos showing different tasks we do. I’m planning to post some video showing our chicks in one of the brooders and another showing the chickens out in the lots including some video of the houses so you can see exactly how our birds are raised. I’ll take this video in the upcoming days as the weather cools and the birds become more active during the daytime.
As I am writing this newsletter, we are seeing more and more news reports regarding the surge in Covid-19 cases nationwide. Most of the cases that are reported now are in the Mid West which is troubling. The majority of the countries beef, pork, and chicken processing plants are located in the Mid Western states. I haven’t heard of any plant shutdowns or production issues yet but expect that we will shortly. Locally we are still seeing processing delays with beef. We have 3 cows scheduled at a Ga. plant in mid November and several cows scheduled in December at the NC plant we use. We also have cows scheduled in NC throughout the winter months and into spring. Most processing plants in the Carolina’s and Georgia are booked out through May. Because of this we must continue our practice of not selling whole or half cows to individuals. Doing so will mean we may not be able to service the families that have supported our farm for so many years.
Chicken and pork processing is running smoothly; we continue to process both weekly. There will be some processing delays beginning the middle of December as the plant moves to hog only processing through the end of the year. This is normal due to the high demand for BBQ size hogs during the Holidays; chicken and pork processing will return to normal the first of January. We are building our inventory levels at the farm and expect to be well stocked during that time frame.
As we did in the spring we ask that, if grocery shelves run empty, please don’t panic buy. Our weekly processing schedule allows us to service all of our regular customer’s weekly needs. Panic buying causes us to run short and doesn’t allow us to service our community. If we see panic buying occurring as we did in the spring, we will be forced to limit quantities on your order. Hopefully we won’t experience the issues we saw in the spring and things will continue as they are today.
December is a month of reflection for us. We look back at the year, the changes we’ve made, and try to decide what our successes were and what didn’t work so well. This year has been full of issues that we couldn’t have foreseen when we started the year in January. We will hold to our tradition and focus our December newsletter on a review of 2020 while turning our focus to our plans for 2021 in our January newsletter. We always try to be as open and honest as possible in our newsletters and think that you may be a little surprised by some of what we’ve been feeling and thinking during the past months regarding the future of the farm.
We wish each of you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. I know that for most of us, it will be unlike any that we’ve experienced in our past. As bad as 2020 has been, if we take the time, we will find several things that we are deeply thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Annie, Marc, Amy, & Jesse