April 2022 - Hooting Hills Newsletter
We have been busy this spring trying to kick our agroforestry system into gear, continuing our holistic planned grazing with daily moves of the cows and sheep, building high tensile fence and inoculating a bunch of mushrooms into logs. This Old Couch Farmers Market starts May 15th, looking forward to a fun season and we will be restocked with pork, lamb, beef and chicken. Come out and see us or place an order on the website and continue to support a regenerative ecosystem building small family farming model.
This year our plantings mostly focused on the shrub layer, we planted blueberries, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries, goji berries, buffaloberry (native to the great plains, a Native American staple and a nitrogen fixing shrub!), a few apple trees, asian pears and siberian pea shrub. All these were integrated into our existing agroforestry rows on the downhill side of our water harvesting swales. Siberian pea shrub is also a nitrogen fixing plant that produces a pea that is higher in protein than soybeans and could be a nice home-grown addition to chicken or pig feed in the future. The boys always love coming out to dig, get muddy and find plenty of worms.
Building High Tensile Fence and Holistic Planned Grazing
We are slowly chipping away at getting all our interior paddock division fencing in place. Two strands of high tensile on all the peaks of the swales provide the backbone of our grazing infrastructure to make up our 17 permanent paddocks. We subdivide these with temporary fencing which allows us to vary the size and location of daily paddock divisions depending on the season and rate of grass growth. This is also the first year we have completed a planned grazing chart, this is a superb management tool where daily moves are plotted on a large chart and it allows us to immediately see recovery times for each paddock as well as monitor growth, rainfall, lambing/calving, hay feeding, etc. We have had our first pair of lambs this year, the rest of the ewes look very close, any morning now we could walk out to find 10 new lambs.
Inoculating Mushroom Logs
We are trying something new this spring - growing oyster and lions mane mushrooms. Mulberry grows up all over the farm - seed dispersed by birds and we cut a bunch of it out of a perimeter fencerow. Instead of just burning the logs we saved anything that was 2-4" in diameter to inoculate mushroom spawn into. The time of cutting the mulberry is crucial - the logs should be cut from living trees in late winter and rested for 2-6 weeks before inoculating. The mushroom spawn (mycelium) is grown on a sawdust substrate, we drill holes throughout the logs, fill the holes with the sawdust spawn and then seal the holes with hot cheese wax. Lions Mane is an amazing mushroom with insane ability to improve cognitive function and brain health. We hope to have a small oyster mushroom harvest this fall and begin harvesting both from the logs next spring - hopefully with some to sell at the farmers market.