Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Soil is Alive!!

So Saturday I spent the morning digging around the ranch with soil expert Betsy Ross CEO of Sustainable Growth Texas and Sonora native. She is so full of information and knowledge that's it's a little overwhelming but in a good way.
 
I took soils in college with Dr. Dirt at WTAMU but that's been 10 years ago now (YIKES I'm getting OLD) so I needed the refresher.

Surprisingly through the brutal drought this land's soil isn't that bad off. We found fungi and plenty of organic matter but Betsy still wants to wake the soil up and get it performing to it's highest potential. 



The soil food web plays a huge part in this "Awakening" process and understanding the fungus to bacteria ratio is something I need to learn more about. Elaine Ingham wrote the soils bible "Soil Biology Primer" and from the looks of it it's going to be an eye opener. 

I am excited about taking some bare spots of ground around the ranch and trying different recommendations from Betsy to see how "alive" the soil can become.  I will take pictures along the way. I am hoping to see lots of grass growing in these spots by September/October. 

 The seed base is there so when the soil conditions are changed to the seeds liking they will germinate and grow healthy "perfect bite" grasses and forbs. 

A really cool app that Betsy showed me is called "Soil Web" it was put together by UC Davis using NRCS data.  If you want to know your soil profiles or what plants used to be growing on your land check it out.  It retrieves GPS coordinates from your location and then pulls up the data.  Oh technology you never cease to amaze me!

So in all my range plant nerdiness I loved seeing that all the plants that were on the report are still thriving on the ranch.  My favorite is Yellow Indian grass!

 







Monday, February 10, 2014

Fodder: say what?

So I have been involved in the Beginning Women Farmers and Ranchers of Texas: Holistic Management International group since September. We have met two days a month and I have gotten acquainted with 30 other ladies from all over the state who are equally excited and full of great agriculture pizazz.  

I have learned so much and made so many great friends through this program.

Anyway one topic that I had heard of but never done is growing fodder for chickens. 

What is fodder anyway? Well it's sprouted grain before it reaches it's 2nd set of leaves. Usually 8-10 days depending on the crop. 

Why would anyone do this you ask? Fodder can turn 1 pound of feed into 6 pounds just with a little time, water and light. 

In the interest of cheapening up my feed bill I decided to start growing fodder for my girls. 

Instead of just scratch grains they are getting to eat the seeds, roots, and the green shoots grown from whatever seed or grain I choose. 

I found a 25 pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds at the feed store for $13 and decided they would be a fun first seed to try out. Most people use wheat, oats or barley. 


You can spend a lot of money on fodder systems or you can use a little southern ingenuity and see what your have laying around that will work to sprout seeds. 

Instead of buying expensive sprouting trays and lights I am just using an old clear plastic storage container and a south facing window for some sunshine. 

 I can't wait to feed my hens their first batch. If you soak one pound each 24 hours your can essentially turn 25 pounds of feed into a month supply instead of just a week supply. 

Have you tried fodder for your livestock? What species? and what type of seeds did/are you using? 


 Day 2 



Day 8

Monday, February 3, 2014

Castile Soap

This is a great easy recipe that I made on Saturday in literally 30 minutes.  Since my goats milk soap recipe was so much fun to make I thought why not make something even easier.

Materials/Ingredients:

Stock Pot
Measuring Bowl
Stick Blender
Candy Thermometer
26 oz Coconut Oil
66 oz Olive Oil
12 oz Lye
24 oz cold water plus ice for ice bath
Mold



Directions:

Put coconut oil in pot and turn burner on low heat so the oil will melt.  Then add olive oil.  You want oils to come to 140 degrees.

While oils are heating add lye to cold water.  The chemical reaction will be instant so make sure you are in a well ventilated area.  The lye mixture will heat up extremely fast.  You want to get the mix cooled to 110 degrees so an ice bath comes in handy to bring the temperature down.  Once your lye is cool enough add it to the 140 degree oil and stir in with your stick blender.

I alternate between blending and stirring so I don't burn up the little motor.  You should notice what is called the "trace" stage when you mix the lye in with the oil.  To me it looks like mud clouding up water like when your walking in the river.

Anyway you want to see this trace stage, and keep blending and mixing.  I would say another minute or two until you feel like you have a pudding consistency.  Since I don't have real wooden molds I improvised and used a storage tub I had in the house. Use whatever you have that can hold your soap in place.

A friend of mine uses the clear plastic salad containers, get creative.

After the mixture cures for 12-18 hours it has set up and is very firm.  I cut into bars and then placed on a rack to let cure for the next 4 weeks.  The hardest part is waiting a month to use it.

I did go ahead a use one bar to make liquid body wash.  Even easier and so awesome because I added 10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil.

Anyway if you haven't ever made soap it is so much fun and really easy to make.  There are tons of different techniques and recipes out there.  I am all about the fewest ingredients (hoping to have them on hand) and the simplest method.

Enjoy!

Jurahee