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Milk and Manure

November 3, 2012

You can’t  have one without the other.  While Jane provided a little bit of garden fertilizer as she was growing into a cow, now she has come into full production, at least in the manure department.  Yeah!  Typical farm girl that I am, I would rather be cleaning a barn than doing skirt work as Linda calls it.  So a daily chore around here in the dairy department is the daily wheelbarrow of goodies for the garden.  While Jane has access to pasture all day and night, she spends some time eating hay in the loafing shed.

Ms. Jane Butterfield

Thanks Jane <3

Consistently her spell in the loafing shed provides us with one complete wheelbarrow of mostly soiled straw, sawdust and about five good sized manure patties every day.

Sheet mulching

I like sheet mulching the garden with this material, although last year I heaped it on a little thick and made problems for myself.  Due to the thickness of the mulch it didn’t break down in time, and subsequently I lost some production area and provided a mighty nice home for slugs for the entire gardening season.  Having learned my lesson, this year I’m carefully spreading these stable cleanings to a uniform three-inch thickness.  Before the rains commenced I spread lime lightly and I use lime when I bed Jane’s area, so I think I am going into fall in good shape in the garden.

Late seeded cover crop rye

Some areas that have higher fertility got the cover crop treatment instead of sheet mulching.

sheet mulch with stable cleanings

The sheet mulching works well when I still have crops to harvest in the garden.  I can pick and choose where I place the material and leave the crop rows free and clear of cover crop or sheet mulch.  Sheet mulching also protects the soil, much like a cover crop, and we have a good 6 months before we will do any work in this garden area so the manure will have plenty of time to break down.  After applying the mulch it takes about a week to see earthworm activity, just pull the sheet mulch aside and you will find the earthworms at work, and depending on the weather they will be busy working all winter long with this cover.

Barley/sheet mulch

Last year I used barley for a winter-killed cover crop, and as you can tell it made it through winter, reseeded and is growing again this fall.  Sigh.

Is your garden put to bed for the year?

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. Denny144 permalink
    November 4, 2012 3:50 am

    For a variety of reasons, my suburban garden has gradually changed to all flowers and herbs and no veggies. I wait until the first hard frost, which is late this year here in the Detroit area. Then I cut the annuals and perennials back. I don’t pull out the annuals. I cover everything with such a thick layer of leaves that many of the annuals will resume growth in the spring even though they aren’t supposed to live more than one growing season. The guy who cuts my grass makes one last mow of the season, which captures all the fallen leaves, bags them and stacks the bags next to my garden so I can mulch when I’m ready. Us city dwellers are envious of your large sunny patch and your supply of straw and manure. If I want manure, I have to buy it in plastic bags.

  2. Sandra permalink
    November 4, 2012 4:43 am

    It sounds like a good system. What does the lime do?

    • November 4, 2012 5:47 am

      Sandra, it brings the pH higher, our soil is naturally acidic and veggies like the pH to be in the 6 – 7 range. It’s better to amend in several increments than all at once, that way the soil isn’t totally thrown out of balance. The lime in the stall helps keep bacteria down for the cow.

  3. November 4, 2012 8:05 am

    Lol, mu garden is put to bed and under a foot of snow…….so I’m getting caught up on the “skirt work” end of things. We haven’t had much sun since October 22nd…..I almost feel like I’m living in a coastal region instead of the grand prairie.

    • November 4, 2012 8:37 am

      Linda, I’m scared to tell you it’s a balmy 60F here…we’re taking all the warmth we can get even if it is wet!

  4. November 4, 2012 10:24 am

    We are back to wet now our snow has gone, that meant I could cover up the garlic I had planted in the snow, some weren’t as deep as I thought. I have also pulled fodder beet, beetroot, hamburg parsley and parsnips today and the only things worth picking now are the brussel sprouts, kale and red cabbage. It would work well to sheet mulch some of our beds with alpaca straw but they are too far away from my veg patch so I guess I shall just have to wait for it to rot down the traditional way :D I have been covering vacant beds with rotted hay or rotted wood shavings though.

    We have some hay to move to lay on a plot of land but we want to lay it on thick for potatoes. The idea is to pull the straw back in the spring and then plant the potatoes on the soil that will then be exposed and cover back up with the straw. No digging (gets a bit wet down there anyway for digging but the surface should be okay) and quicker – well that’s the theory anyway. No harm in trying as the space is wasted normally anyway.

    • November 4, 2012 11:40 am

      Joanna, I’m jealous of your hamburg, voles will not let me have any! They love that for some reason, even more than carrots!

      I think your potato idea is splendid!

      • November 4, 2012 12:23 pm

        That’s strange as we are over run with voles too but they don’t seem to eat our veg. Maybe we will have to watch out for that as we expand our veg growing on our land.

        I have to admit the straw idea is not my own, I have heard it and read about it a few times and thought we would give it a go.

        • November 4, 2012 2:21 pm

          Joanna, well fingers crossed that they won’t develop a taste for veggies :)

          I have seen that technique too, but look forwarding to seeing your posts about it. :)

  5. November 4, 2012 11:21 am

    I LOVE Jane’s expression!

    • November 4, 2012 11:39 am

      That’s her is this calendula salve or bag balm you’re using? Or during milking, are you done yet look?

  6. Kay permalink
    November 4, 2012 11:26 am

    Hello. Our garden has been put to bed this year too. We are haying our girls in our front garden to help the soil a bit.

    I have a cow question for you. Is is normal for a 5 month pregnant cow to have a clear discharge? I haven’t seen any blood in it. I am just a nervous nelly about our girl, and I figured you would have the answer. She is acting very good, and is still on her feed.

    • November 4, 2012 11:37 am

      Kay, I would say no, since that makes me think of heat :( But, it’s normal for a pregnant cow to have discharge of many different colors, barring any infection colors of course. But I know what you mean, if I hear a peep out of Jane or see her flick her ears or tail a certain way, I first think of heat and then try to relax. If she only knew!

      • Kay permalink
        November 5, 2012 7:23 pm

        Thanks. So far, still no blood, so I am taking that as a good sign. Boy, I have worried myself silly over Molly. It took 3 AI’s to get her preggers, so everything she does out of the ordinary makes me a wreck. My husband says I have Bovine OCD LOL

  7. November 4, 2012 5:50 pm

    Is Jane completely over her mastitis? Any lingering effects? What a perfect family cow she has grown up to be…

    I was all enthusiastic about building a compost pile, but now I cannot imagine what I was thinking… I’ve always spread manure on my fields, so yes, I should know exactly how much I shoveled out and spread, but somehow I just never visualized just what a big, awkward pile it would become in a very short time.

    let’s just say my enthusiasm is waning… and my aches and pains are waxing.

    I had great success last year laying leaves on really thick… I should do it again before it’s too late.

    • November 4, 2012 8:35 pm

      AMF, she appears to be, she has a little bit of scar tissue but other than that, she’s in pretty good shape. And she is a doll cow for sure :D

      Ugh, my mantra is try to not handle something twice if I don’t have too. Sheet mulching the garden means I didn’t have to go all the way to the compost pile :)

      • November 5, 2012 6:56 am

        Exactly. Ridiculous amount of shoveling and wheelbarrowing… I think Mother Earth News is bad for my health. Or at least my attitude : D

        • November 5, 2012 8:18 am

          I am so hooked on the chicken manure/deep bedding, it is light, light, light and makes the trip to the gardens like a cake walk. :) Me old :p, but I keep picturing my 90 year old neighbor cleaning his barn by hand daily and he owned 20 cows!

  8. November 4, 2012 6:31 pm

    Down south we are considering covering some of our tilled soil but in other areas we have just replanted hoping to get a late fall crop of greens in before cold weather….. our cold not real cold.. I get a new idea most every post you write. Thanks for all the ides.

    • November 4, 2012 8:33 pm

      clayheels, ah you lucky southerners :) You probably will get a great crop of greens, even if it gets cold lots of greens just keep hanging on.

      You’re welcome!

  9. November 5, 2012 2:52 am

    I used lime in the horse barn for decades, and due to the acid rain here in the NE, we are told to lime the fields. I did this for a long time. Without a soil test. Turns out, lime was decidedly NOT what I needed. Turns out it should have been gypsum I was using.

    Most of the gardens are ready for the winter. I need to bring in more mulch for the big veg garden this week, before the nor’easter hits. I’ve got it 1/2 mulched now. Then I will be done.

    • November 5, 2012 6:18 am

      Pam, it all depends on your soil, clay soils tend to need gypsum to break up the clay particles. The lime on the barn floor is for Jane, common for dairy bedding.

      I hope the storm isn’t too bad for you. The weather has been bad enough back east. We’re still in pre-winter mode here.

      • November 7, 2012 2:58 am

        We have very light lakebed loam here. It’s been in continuous ag use since the late 1600′s. I needed gypsum because the lime raised the pH. My pH is between 6.5 and 6.9. I was also sulfur deficient and gypsum will add that.

        Lime works real well in stalls; we used it for decades for the horses.

        So far, it’s mostly to be rain, temps are high. If they drop just a couple degrees though, it will be a mess. Won’t finish the garden this week. But we’re to have 60F for a few days
        next week, so we’ll do that final bit then.

        Then we move onto butchering our steer. We hung it last Friday in the cold room. Once that’s done, it will be Thanksgiving and we will be in the holiday season. Time flies when you’re having fun! :))

        • November 7, 2012 6:30 am

          Pam, and before we know it, it’ll be spring again! I wouldn’t mind skipping winter though, but it will be nice to slow down a bit :)

  10. November 5, 2012 8:47 am

    Oh dear Matron of husbandry, I do believe you didn’t cross your fingers early enough. One of our plots had fodder beet in, “had” being the important word here. I went to dig them up today and one row had nice green leaves but when these were pulled there was no root, not even a morsel, but there was a perfect sized beet hole where a beet should have been and a tunnel from one to the next. Serves me right for pulling my veg long after the neighbours on the allotment plot.

  11. November 5, 2012 2:31 pm

    It never gets cold enough where I am to stop gardening.

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