Activities of the past few days have revealed life below the surface.
We have been installing five more water points in the grazing zone of the farm, which has taken me four feet down in search of 2-inch waterlines, installed 30 years ago. It is quite an experience to spend time down below. One witnesses all sorts of phenomenon: how unchanged the PVC pipe is after 30 years, how much water it carries, how wet one becomes when drilling into the pipe even with water pressure off, how much dirt needs to be excavated in order to work that far down, how much water the trench holds when it rains or if a leak runs all night before the trench is refilled, how exact plumbing-installion needs to be to thwart leaks, how slippery it is to climb out of a wet trench that deep, how much mud one can accumulate on oneself from the waste down when working in such predicament, and other similar important observations.
It wasn't until about the third trench that I began noticing two other noteworthy phenomenons: the discreet presence of earthworms everywhere and the elegant presence of fine filaments of roots from the grass above. It was hard to believe plants at the surface would send roots four feet deep, but there they were, in abundance, as were the earthworms. And the two are related. Earthworms live on organic matter like roots of plants, and then recycle and refine it for the benefit of plants.
As our grasses are allowed to grow tall, they send roots to equal depth as their height above the surface. When the grass is then grazed, the roots slough off, creating bulk organic matter in the soil. Earthworms digest that matter, concentrating it to become available to other plants and microorganisms. Earthworms further aerate soil through the tunnels they create, which serve as irrigation channels, as well, allowing moisture to flow into subsoil. More than two million earthworms populate an acre of healthy soil. So, they are essential to the ecology of soil that produces nutritious foods.
I also learned they are rather timid about being photographed. They tend to slither away as soon as exposed, but if one looks closely, they can be found in the crevicess, prolific as can be.
The picture below shows the root hairs a little better. Upon further inspection it feels as if much activity is transpiring in that soil, like a bubbling cauldron.
As mentioned several weeks ago, we have long been considering adding the option for customers to buy at a discount by making a financial commitment to us in advance. Vegetable growers have popularized this method of doing business, which has become known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It is a successful model that truly does support the farmer, by removing his exposure to the vagaries and caprice of farmers' markets. We offer frozen meats every week and month of the year, yet sales in March and April are one third those of June and July. Evening the flow of sales helps with managing cash and with planning among our numerous partners.
So, we are now offering a number of CSA's for your convenience and our enhancement. And if you sign up for any one of them, you become an automatic member of the Earthworm Society! This is a very prestigous group, whose mission is to tend to the soil so it may generate nutritious food. We are also adding a few other opening inducements, like: a free farm tour, a free A Farmer's Almanac (Stories of Farm, Food, and Life), and $20 off your Thanksgiving turkey.
As the hens migrate forward, we invite you to do so with us, by participating in this alternative approach to the connection between you and us. Here are the basics of the options for CSA's:
1) Susan Soulful Kitchen: 5 lbs. of prepared foods, delivered bi-weekly, at cost of about $9/person/meal. 3-month and 6-month options.
2) Oink, Moo, Cluck: 15 lbs. of pork, beef, and whole chicken, delivered monthly, at about $8/person/meal. 3-month and 6-month options.
3) Forest & Field: 10 lbs. of beef, pork, and lamb, delivered monthly, at about $8/person/meal. 3-month and 6-month options.
4) Pastured Poultry: 5 lbs. of eggs and chicken parts, delivered bi-weekly, at about $9/person/meal. 3-month and 6-month options.
More detail will be provided through links at the end of the newsletter. Please consider stepping forward with us toward a more sustainable business model. It all starts in the soil, and your support of us in the past has made you an unofficial member of the Earthworm Society. This is now your chance to become an official member!
Mike and Scott are at rapid work constructing these new chicken tractors, that are 12' x 32'. Each will hold 250 birds. The baby chicks that came in two weeks ago, are ready for pasture and will go out tomorrow.
Egg production is picking up with good weather and the egg room is swelling with production. This is a good to see.
We are also finally building a bathroom and small conference room, so we can more readily handle the public. We are preparing for your visits to the farm again. This conference room will serve as the new headquarters of the Earthworm Society, which beats the heck out of meeting four feet down below.
We are out-growing our freezers, and are making room for another on the side of the barn.
Here is one of the five trenches I spent two days surveying intimately. We found the 2-inch pipe, drilled a 3/4 inch hole into it, installed a brass saddle around it, into which was screwed a riser, which received a female coupling, that receives the male-end of a hose, as a quick-coupler. If one screw or piece is not tightened sufficiently, water will find the opening. I came back to one of these trenches the next day to find it brimming with clear flowing water. It took 3 hours of pumping and 5 turns of one overlooked screw to resolve the problem.
As Easter dawns, we have lamb to meet the wishes of your table.
This is the shoulder, roasted for 10 hours at 200 degrees, served with sauted apples and rice. It is one of the most flavorful dishes Susan cooks. It is cooked in bone-broth and wine and seems to become richer with each day it marinates in its sauces.
We also have lamb chops and rack of lamb for quick cooking.
Ground lamb is great in all sorts of dishes, but even as a burger. Susan makes a Bastille Burger, that is half lamb, half beef, and flavored with some anchovies. It is irresistible.
Boneless legs of lamb are great for smoking or grilling.A bone-in leg, cooked rare, is one of the perfect culinary dishes of the world. My mother used to serve this with baked bananas and rice, celebrating our heritage from New Orleans.
For Easter breakfast, you can't do better than this: Curried egg salad, with French Aioli, celery, raisins, green onions, and cilantro. That will take you over the moon on a Sunday morning.
Links for the CSA's follow:
Hopefully, these links will work. If not, head to our website and select Shop Now.
Orders for Sunday need to be entered by Friday midnight.
Beth and I look forward to seeing you at Madtre on Sunday.
May you join the exalted company of the Earthworm Society; none could be better!
Drausin & Susan