När du väljer att handla av dina lokala bönder och producenter är du med och skapar ett litet, men livsviktigt, kretslopp som skapar ett resilient, välmående samhälle där jorden, djuren och vi mår bra.
Det är lätt att bli lockad av de låga priserna på importerade varor. Bra mat är dyrare av en anledning; bra djurhållning och näringsrikt foder kostar mer. För att pressa priserna är budgetalternativen ofta överprocessade (vilket är förödande för näringsinnehållet), man använder tillsatser, kemikalier och djurens välmående försummas i förmån för billigare lösningar.
Börja med att fråga dig själv, finns det ett lokalt alternativ? Kanske är det värt att överväga. Dels minskar vi miljöbelastningen om vi kan undvika onödig transport men det är också viktigt att veta att vi är med och påverkar samhället genom vår konsumtion. När vi köper importerade varor bryts kretsloppet och pengarna försvinner utomlands.
Det är små, vardagliga val som gör stor skillnad. Börja med att prova några närproducerade produkter. Du kanske uppskattar smaken och kvalitén och väljer att prova ett större urval. Kanske märker du att du blir mätt snabbare eftersom kroppen får i sig den näring den behöver.
Helt plötsligt har dina små vardagliga val, som du kanske har trott inte gör någon skillnad, bidragit till att en lokal bonde kan fortsätta sin verksamhet där jorden och djurens välmående står i fokus. Resultatet är bra och näringsrik mat, som ger dig energi och hälsa så att kretsloppet kan fortsätta!
Half-way through our first grass to barn hay harvest we are beginning to have a picture of what the process is all about, and what tools, techniques and machines that can be used or should be avoided. We started of with no knowledge or machinery but the internet and a tractor, but we figured that would be a good start since we at least were better off than the farmers working the lands manually just 70 years ago.
The grass was growing and looked mature, but how could we know when the best time for the first harvest would be? We could keep an eye out for when neighbour farms started to cut, but since all other farms in the area are producing fermented hay for cows or horses, they would have an entirely different approach since they’re less dependant on drying times and the straw length for producing small bales.
We found that most of the information is found online at http://vallprognos.se/ where test samples from farms from all over the country are displayed, and a prognosis of the hay quality at the day of harvest is provided. As the goats likes heavier hay, with a higher cellulose content, than cows and horses, we decided that we could wait longer than the recommended harvesting date, and went for a week before midsummer when the weather forecast looked promising for drying hay on the field for a whole week.
We realized that we needed three machines, a cutter, a tedder and a baler. We found an old sickle cutter left on the farm that looked like it could be used, and we actually managed to cut the small field (½ hectar) before we gave up on it. The construction was very weak, so when a twig or a thich chunk of hay would hit the sickel, the wooden connecting rod broke, and after manufacturing several new rods from an oak plank, we started looking for another solution.
Since we soon would be baling the hay, we were looking for a baler, and one of our neighbours had one that he hadn’t used for 10 years or more. When I was picking it up I asked him if he knew anyone salling their harvester? He didn’t, put he told me there’s one laying on his junkyard up for grabs. It had certainly been there for 20 years, but after scaring away the surrounding wildlife, I managed to drag it home, greased it up, made a new connecting rod, and had it working in less than an hour. International harvester should have some credits for reliability.
When both fields where cut, we wanted to get the hay dry as soon as possible. The son of the previous owners gave us an old belt tedder that did the work perfectly. When ran on high gear (1040 RPM) from the power outlet, it spreads the hay in a thin layer all over the field wich dries surprisingly fast on a sunny day. After turning it once, we ran it on low gear (540 RPM) to let it produce strings for the baler to pick up.
After five days of drying on the field, the hay was ready to be baled and stacked up in the barn. Since the baler hadn’t been used for several years, it needed a litte care, and I needed to learn to thread it. Luckily, I found a manual for the Welger 450 baler on a forum https://www.maskinisten.net/ and another of the previous owners sons had some experience in threading the machine. We got it working pretty quick, even if it only binds on one side for the moment. But thats enough.
Since the baler runs really slow, we realised that the more work we put inte making straight thick strings with the tedder, the faster it gets done. The tedder can be run at least five times faster than the baler, so one extra turnin of the strings is really worth it.
After baling, we took out the old wagon and loaded up the bales. 3 loads from the small field, and 6 from the big field resulted in about 400 bales, averageing at 8 kilos. 3.5 tonnes of hay is now stacked up in the barn, meaning that we’ve covered half of our goats needs this winter. We’re expecting a little less from the second harvest, but if the fall is warm, we can take a third harvest in late october, that hopefully will be enough for the whole winter.
What to do better?
A few weeks after the first harvest I came across this very helpful article from Iowa State University (the Americans have some real fine approaches towards small scale farming) . I wish I had found it a little earlier. Our chocie of cutter seems to be valid, even if it’s slow, we wouldn’t gain much in speeding up the cutting part of the process on our small lands. Maybe 2-3 hours/harvest. If we’re getting a knewer cutter, we would most likely get a new sickle cutter, but maybe on that moves in both directions, and is less likeky to collect wet hay and completely eliminates the need for jumping of and cleaning the sickle bar now and then.
The belt tedder is a simple and powerful construction, we’ll stick with that one.
If we’re getting a new baler some day, the mini round baler mentioned in the article would be an intreresting choice. The Welger 450 baler sure is heavy, and the density of the bales could be higher, but given that mini round balers not are very common in scandinavia, we’ll most likely stick to square balers from economical reasons.
One of the first things we did after buying the farm in 2015, was to get some root sprouts from three different kinds of hops and plant them in front of the house. They like to climb high so we used two thin birch trees to make giant props.
The first year they did not yield that much, and unfortunately one of the plants did not survive the winter. But the two that did made lots of little cones this year! We used a nifty little dryer to dry them (the dryer was of course DIY automated – maybe there will be more about that in a seperate blog-post…)
Finally we them packaged them into conspicuos-looking zip-loc baggies and they are now being stored in the freezer until it is time to brew some awesome beer with our very own hops!
Since we have quite much old straw occupying the hay loft, and the maple on the frontyard is producing a great amount of compost material each fall, we decided to try to grow some potatoes in that biomass.
The straw and leaves where put directly on the Ground in early april, as the potatoes where put to germinate inside the house. Four weeks later, when the risk for nightfrost had diminished, the potatoes where scattered on the strawbed, covered with more straw and leaves, and watered.
As comparison, a few potatoes where planted using the traditional methodologies of digging them into the ground.
The first harvest was expected 8-10 weeks after germination (middle of june), but a chilly period in may delayed it with two weeks. Maybe the cover crops method is more suspectible to cold weather since it lacks the isolating features from a thick layer of soil? We don’t know, since the soilgrown potatoes is a later kind. That’s a parameter to keep track of next year.
Potatoes can be harvested continuously. You don’t dig up the plant, just follow the stem and roots in the straw and collect the right sized potatoes. Smaller ones are left to grow some more.
The potatoes are very clean, and probably free from contamination from soil bacterias.
No digging required.
Vandalizing snails was a great concern, but turned out to be a minor problem. They seem to prefer occuring weeds like dandelions to the potato leaves. The patches with less weed were more affected by snails than wilder ones. However, young plants attacked by snails had a tougher time reaching full growth, but the harvest from them was only delayed, not diminished. Leaving mature potatoes in the ground for too long made them a decent meal for the snails, so the advice would to pick the big ones continuously.
Some kind of radar device would be handy in finding mature potatoes in big scale cultivation.
Since the potatoes where left in the soil to let more of them grow big before harvest, more potatoes were damaged by snails.
Manual labour is tougher with the soilbed. Breaking the ground (well, we did some of it with tractor and harrow), covering with soil, digging up the harvest.
The potatoes are dirty, but the dirt may work as protection and keep humidity in the storage. We’ll see.
Smaller harvest, since the plant gets damaged when the potatoes are dug up.
The need for watering seems to be the same with both methods. The strawbed was very moist in the lower layers, even after several weeks of draught. We watered both patches quite much after putting out the potatoes.
Neither patch has shown any signs of leaf rot. An hypothesis yet untested is that growing mushrooms among the potatoes would make it harder for leaf rot to establish. The mushrooms didn’t thrive in the heat, so we’ve prepared a mycelium to mix in the strawbed in the autumn.
DIY GPR (ground penetrating radar) Doesn’t seem that hard to build a raspberry pi based potato locator. Even easier since it only need to be an SPR (straw penetrating radar).