Happy Earth Day!

Every fall, Derek plants many of his fields with wheat. The wheat won’t actually be harvested. It’s used as a conservation technique. The wheat’s roots form a net going down several inches into the soil and this net holds the top soil in place when winter storms threaten to carry it away to the nearest ditch. Normally, this wheat just grows, then dies, then decomposes. It’s sole purpose is to keep the soil in place and keep the nutrients in the field where they belong.
— Our First Heifer Project

I believe this holiday would be the perfect time to do a little follow up to my last post about our heifers!  If you recall, the main reason we bought the heifers was because we had the wheat for them to eat!  And the reason we had the wheat was because we were trying to take good care of our land...

While the heifers were on our farm, they munched and then digested and then put what was left of the wheat back where they found it... directly onto the top soil.  And with the newly recycled wheat they left their own digestive bacteria and fungi.  All this combines to make the ground that Derek will plant rich in organic matter and highly productive.

So productive that by the time the heifers left our farm, there were polka dots in the field where the wheat in certain areas was growing faster, stronger, and thicker than the rest of the field.  All these little polka dots are exactly where each heifer deposited her contribution.  It still amazes me to watch the whole farming process work together and help each other.

Now that the heifers are gone and April is here, it is time to plant the fields.  First Derek sprayed the fields with a herbicide that kills the wheat.  The fields quickly turned yellow and then a dusty gold color, resembling a wheat field in July.  All the nutrients the wheat took up is now protected in the dried blades that will decompose this summer.  And that is the magic of "cover crops". 

When fields stay bare, winter storms and spring rains will quickly wash the nutrient-rich top soil away.  But cover crops keep the soil and the nutrients right where they belong, and will even add to the soil's organic matter when the cover crops decompose.  And in some lucky cases, it's even possible for heifers to drop a little of their own magic on the fields too.

Just about a week ago, Derek planted the fields where our heifers were with corn.  You can see the planter cutting paths through the dried wheat.  And if you dig a few inches down in the planter's tracks, you'll find a corn kernel that is coated in barrier of protection that is designed by leading scientists in the field of agriculture to give this little kernel of corn it's very best chance at survival. 

When the April showers come, the wheat will continue to hold the soil in place while the baby corn plants sink their own roots into the soil.  In just a month or so the fields will be beautiful green again, but this time it will be because the healthy, thriving corn plants. 

On Earth Day it makes me happy to look back and see how much good will be done, not only for the soil, but for the rest of the Earth too this year.  Our soil is literally alive with potential, the heifers that passed through are big and strong and making their new owners happy, and Derek and I are blessed with the opportunity to be a part of it all.


 Happy Earth Day!