We’ve been spending substantial time talking and thinking dirty.
Our ability to succeed depends substantially on our soils. Poor soils means weak pastures and herds that won’t thrive. There’s a whole world of soils science out there, in fact Holly took a class last year on the subject which has been very helpful to us. Our soils test reports are unsurprising for the southeast: pH is a little low, humic matter is lower than we wish, everything else looks passable. The pastures we have appear healthy and vibrant, but they are untested by grazers as yet.
As with all things, we reach back to our principles and check for guidance there. Low-to-no input, solar-based farming: sunshine and rain come in, delicious food goes out.
Its a delicate dance. The truly no-input method would be to regrow a forest on the land and wait several decades for the soil to rebuild. As much as we’re enjoying the cyclicality of farm life, those cycles are a little too long for us. So as a booster shot for the pH, upon which much of the rest of soil vitality depends, we will lime in the short term. That is all we hope to import; the rest of the work will be done by animals. Turkeys and chickens depositing “hot” nitrogen, and ruminants recycling grass and forage in to fertilizer.
Watching how each of our pasture areas responds will be fascinating. We’ve got some existing pasture, some land that was cleared poorly and stripped of topsoil, and some land that today is scrub forest. Each has their own characteristics and will require different management and care-taking to bring to full health.
Joel Salatin says he’s a grass farmer. I bet his dad was a dirt farmer.