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Kunekune Pigs: Perfect for Small Farms

Kunekune pigs (pronounced cooney cooney) are a smart option for small farms. Kunekune means fat and round in the Maori language as they hail from New Zealand. They are tasseled, sweet-tempered, medium-sized pigs with fe­males averaging 100 to 175 pounds and 200-250-plus pounds for males. They have short, upturned snouts that discour­age rooting, and they do not challenge fences. Kunekunes are grazing pigs and are able to grow on low inputs, making them an ideal type of pig to raise during periods of escalating grain prices. Gour­met chefs in Los Angeles have declared Kunekune pork outstanding.

Colorful six-week-old purebred Kunekunes nursing.

My husband and I raise our pigs in a semi-rural environment within the growth management boundary of Olym­pia, Washington. We have more than a dozen neighbors surrounding our 4-acre parcel. Our county conservation district has advised us that our pastures can support two boars, eight sows and their piglets. However, one boar can eas­ily keep eight sows in pig. Kunekune pigs are odorless, quiet and are safe for children, which keeps the neighbors happy, and both kids and adults love to visit with them. Continue Reading →

Humic Acid: The Science of Humus and How it Benefits Soil

Humic acid: Understanding the details about how it can help your farm or grow operation will help you adjust your soil biology and chemistry to achieve better yields. Yet, taking the step to investigate humus and humic acid levels often gets skipped.

humic acid

Adding a small amount of humus to an acre of soil can achieve positive results.

When dealing with the concepts of sustainable, organic or just traditional farming, the question should be asked, “What is the lowest hanging fruit as concerns creating the most sustainable and fertile soil situation possible?”

It is this author’s opinion that the lack or deficiency of humus (the humic acids) are the weak link that hold us back from growing crops with optimum nutrition or from maintaining an urban landscape such as a park, golf course or even a private lawn and not be dependent upon high-analysis NPK fertilizers. It can be demonstrated that almost without exception soils of farms and urban sites across the globe lack a natural and ongoing formation of humus.

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What is A2 Milk?

What is A2 milk? It’s a question nutritional consultant Donna Gates asked during a trip to Japan, where she was amazed at how exceptionally good the milk she was drinking tasted. When she discovered it was in fact not the same milk she was accustomed to and was

cow milk

Cow milk.

known as “A2 milk,” she began to research the topic. She found out that a woman’s breast milk is A2, and that goats, sheep and other mammals produce this kind of milk — but not all cows. She found out the countries known to produce it were Japan, India, France, Australia and New Zealand. In May 2006, she went to Australia and in a grocery store something caught her eye. There it was in the dairy section, cartons of milk with “A2” on the labels.

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Cattle Breeds: An Introduction to Randall Cattle

Cattle breeds can vary greatly, so finding the right one for your property size and usage an important challenge.

A Randall cow and calf. Photo courtesy www.randallcattleregistry.org.

Much has been said lately about breeding cattle with strong genetics for milk production on grass. This is what Randall cattle are all about. For farmers interested in an old-time subsistence cattle breed for a homestead or small grass based dairy, Randalls may be just the ticket. Randalls originated in Sunderland, Vermont, on the farm of Everett Randall, who, along with his father before him, kept a closed herd of cattle derived mostly from the landrace hill cattle of the area. This herd is thought to have been totally isolated for over 80 years, surviving virtually unchanged while other landrace herds across New England disappeared by being “graded up” in the first half of the 20th century.

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Lime in Soil: How Much is Too Much?

 

When adding lime in the soil, can you have too much? Perhaps the most frequently asked question by those using our soil fertility program is, “Can I put on a higher rate of lime than you are recommending for this sample?”

lime in soil

A farmer spreads lime in his field.

Generally, this has to do with getting the limestone spread, because the owner of the lime trucks says he either cannot or will not apply such a small amount. Many times a farmer has been told, “You can’t use too much lime.”

That is not true. From our experience in working with thousands of acres that have previously been over-limed, we know you can easily apply too much lime, not just on crops such as berries and potatoes, but on whatever crop you are intending to grow. And if this happens, it can be far more expensive than just the cost of the extra limestone that was not needed, with the added cost of getting it spread.

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Minerals: The Big Four for Soil Health

Minerals and their respective roles in achieving healthy soil is a common topic of discussion among agriculture consultants and farmers. A long time ago, when I was going through my initial soil balance training, mineral balance was all that we talked about. Get the minerals right, address calcium and get it to 68 percent base saturation and all will be great.

Healthy, well-mineralized soils have good aggregation.

The physical and biological aspects of soil weren’t even part of the discussion. Even alternate mineral sources were just touched on. Potassium chloride (KCl) was a no-no due to the high salt index and the chloride, as was dolomitic lime due to our already high magnesium soils. Also on this “not to be used” list was anhydrous ammonia because of its damaging effects on soils. The concept of soil correctives and crop fertilizers wasn’t talked about either, nor was the idea of different calcium sources for different soil conditions. The balance of nutrients on a soil test was the only goal.

Now, looking back, I can certainly see that wasn’t the whole picture. What about the biology and the physical structure? How about making a fertilizer that not only delivered soil minerals but did so more efficiently? Why not have fertilizer that can balance the soluble to the slow release, make sure carbon is added for the buffering effect and provides something for the minerals to attach to so that it is “soil biology food”? Soil health is the capacity to function without intervention; therefore minerals are certainly a part, but not the whole of soil health. Continue Reading →