A New Tool to Feed Your Family and Heal The Planet, Climate & Economy

What if I told you that by feeding your family better – you could help lower the cost of food and increase its quality and availability for us all?  How about if that same action on your part also stabilized the climate more quickly than cutting all fossil fuel emissions today – cold turkey?   What if you could shine a light on food you buy, and instantly KNOW if it was going to have the nutrition and beneficial compounds you need to fight cancer, heal your body and mind, as well as have awesome flavor, aroma and shelf life?

Now you can!  The good news is that the same growing methods that produce quality food also increase its quantity as well as benefit your community, the climate, ecology and economy.  Come read more about the Real Food Campaign, including the new tool called the Bionutrient Meter and Open Source Data Community & Social Network – where major global players in the public, private, non-profit, for-profit, research, education and consumer sectors are now able to link together in ways that have never before been possible!  

No longer will learning happen and be tracked in disparate databases – that do not talk to each other.  Now, we finally have a platform and open collaborative structure for discernment about what systems work best to produce the best food, economics, climate & human health outcomes, etc.  Until this moment, we did not formerly have any open source data structure that could assess these complex, multi-factor, multiple data sets in their relationships.  Now, sectors that seem unrelated like human health, animal health, soil health, nutrition and carbon sequestration can all play in the same sandbox.   

The best is that we are all not just passive observers – but get to be active participants!  Citizens all over the globe who formerly would not have access to be a part of or benefit from scientific research now will have the opportunity to contribute and learn in inexpensive ways.  We can find each other in this open source, collaborative environment – without anyone controlling our “feeds” or search results.  This allows us to learn faster and see how these complex systems relate.

Join This Collaborative, Peaceful Movement

In Massachusetts this November 28, join us for a pre-conference, working meeting called the Vision & Strategy Day .  Give your valued input, hear how others are participating, and understand how you fit in at this meeting of the minds.  Come join us to see the global release of the Bionutrient Meter!  Order one at the conference and become a key player in this vital food, health and climate movement.

Stay for the Soil & Nutrition Conference November 29-30, and continue to learn and connect!   Major global players from movements like The Bionutrient Food Association, Savory Institute, Holistic Management International, The Rodale Institute, Soil Food Web, Permaculture, Biodynamics, Ecolonomic Action Team, and the Weston A Price Foundation will be there, among many other private and public sector players.  If you cannot join us live, we will be posting the recordings of this meeting so you can learn more! 

The pieces are coming together to allow all of the formerly disparate efforts, centers, institutes, and organizations to coordinate in more powerful ways than ever.  Through partnership and working together, instead of in our relatively small individual bubbles, we can heal ourselves, this planet, the climate, and economy.  This framework for collaboration is structured biologically, but also engages cutting-edge science and technology. It is a completely new way of relating for science, consumers, the internet, and technology — a peaceful movement that is building itself outside of outdated structures that have held us back, kept people and information apart, caused damage to learning and progress, and that no longer serve this new era of learning and positive change.

Now, the technology has arrived that allows humans to mimic underground beneficial fungal networks for planetary healing, as well as stimulating economic growth in positive and stabilizing ways.  It is a peaceful, mycorrhizal movement that EACH ONE of us can be a part of without disrupting the flow of our daily lives.  In fact, using these new tools and network will save us time, money and energy, while allowing us to do greater things.

Learn more About How Focusing on Rebuilding Soil Can Heal Our Climate Crisis Quickly

Soil Solutions to Climate Problems – Narrated by Michael Pollan:

The Soil Solution to Climate Change Film

How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change:  Ted Talk by Allan Savory

Soil Can Solve Climate Change

We are all in this together, and this new framework and community allows us to see where each of our specific piece of the puzzle lies.  It allows us to empower ourselves to focus on our unique talent and gifts, and meet others with whom we can synergize.  Learning from the mycorrhizal fungal networks – we can each WORK LESS and achieve MORE POSITIVE IMPACT.  

The beautiful thing is that learning more and getting involved will save you time and money.  Join us today by:

  • Contributing to and/or joining the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA)
  • Buying and using a Bionutrient Meter to test the food you buy and/or grow
  • Sharing this blog with your networks using the Share On buttons below

Are you ready to finally end that feeling of the global crises we face being “too big” or “out there”?  Come get inspired, energized and learn more!

 

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Fall Cover Crop Success – Made SIMPLE

I am often asked by my clients what they should be doing NOW to ensure long-term success. At this time of year, I tell them, “Remember that soil microbes need to eat every day, and you’ve got to feed them!” If you were left starving and naked outside all winter, would you be ready to work in the spring? Probably not. Soil microbial life is the same; in order to keep soil vital through the winter rains, freezing temperatures, wind, and whatever other weather might come your way, then cover up your pastures, cropland, lawns and gardens!

Since any system is only as good as its weakest link, anywhere that the cold air, raindrops, and wind can get to your soil without a carbon blanket (a cover of dead or living plant material) is an area where your system will shut down and cause you problems next year. If there are spaces between your plants, I like to think of them as holes in your land’s sweater and rain jacket. Brrrr! Even between your cover crop plants, you want that soil covered! Once you get effective rotations of crops and cover crops, plant residues aka “litter” from the previous crop will ensure that you have no bare soil.

Luckily, fall, winter, and early spring are the best times to build your soil.

Usually, we have good moisture in the winter. It’s not so dry as in the heat of summer, and you can build soil structure rapidly – especially if you have living roots and covered soil. Microbes are active even under the snow, especially if there is enough “litter” or plant matter covering the soil surface for them to eat. Cover crops are the best option for soil cover because they provide both carbon cover, living roots AND sugars to feed soil microbes directly. That means more soil structure and organic matter being built all winter so you have more water- and nutrient-holding capacity next spring.

In case you are new to cover cropping or need a basic refresher, this practice (sometimes known as growing “green manure”) uses winter-hardy plants that will be grazed, stomped, rolled, or cut down in the spring to loosen and aerate the soil. Although it is sometimes advised, I’ve found that it is not generally helpful to till them in to kill them in the spring, as that disturbs soil fungal networks. Of course, there are a few occasions where doing so might be warranted as a stop-gap on your way to a management approach that relies less on harmful disturbance. One example of when you may need to till the cover crops to kill them is when nutrient cycling is really shut down, and you need the tillage to break down the residues, such as when transitioning heavily tilled and/or chemically laden soil.

The Benefits of Cover Crops

When you plant cover crops in fall, you will:

  • Protect the soil from compaction, erosion, wind, freezing and nutrient loss due to hard winter rains
  • Suppress and reduce weeds during the winter, as well as next growing season if the residues are left on top of the soil
  • Maintain and enhance soil structure
  • Build organic matter and keep nutrients cycling in the soil
  • Enhance microbial diversity, numbers and activity
  • Save you $$$, labor and time! Planting into soft, fluffy soil is much easier than planting into compacted chunks, plus it takes less weeding, watering, and inputs

The Best Time To Plant Fall Cover Crops

To accomplish these goals, you’ll want to get the cover crop sown at least 6 weeks before first frost date. Usually, for spring grazing and planting, you don’t want to seed too early and have the plants flower before frost and snow, as they won’t come back in the spring. Depending on your growing zone, that generally means that ideally, cover crops should be planted before the end of September to mid-October; you want them rooted and well established before the weather gets too nasty. Sometimes you can get lucky if you are planting late, and will get a successful crop, but the risk increases and benefits usually decrease after this planting window.

How to Choose & Plant the Right Cover Crop Mixture

When choosing a cover crop mixture, consider that cover crop species and functional groups are best used in combination. If you plant them together, aim to plant a nitrogen-fixing legume with a tall crop for structural support, or use a pre-combined mix suitable for your situation. Use taprooted crops to help break compaction (but know that some of these are best planted earlier in late summer, so they develop a taproot before the frost and that taproot dies off and feeds sugars to earthworms and provides holes for water infiltration over the winter!). 8-12 species mixtures are great, but you must make sure you can kill them at the right time for your spring planting and not have to use tillage or herbicides.

Below are a few easy to seed, cost-effective, simple mixes that will work well in the American northeast for fall seeding and rolling for an easy kill without herbicides.

Winter Cereal Rye (NOT annual ryegrass) and Austrian Winter Pea (a nitrogen fixing legume that flowers at the same time as the cereal rye). These can be mixed 64 lb per acre drilled rate; increase the rate for broadcast seeding and poorer soil conditions. They can be mixed into the same no-till drill compartment, or for small applications mixed in a bucket and thrown out together. The seeds need soil contact, and ideally plant them at a depth of ½” – ¾” into the soil for best germination. If you are hand seeding them, rake in and cover with mulch. You need to get them as deep as you can if you don’t have a drill… and add more to the seed rate to compensate for attrition.

If you want to get planting earlier (about 2 weeks earlier, in fact), try Crimson Clover at 12 lbs / A (it shouldn’t spread like other clovers as long as it’s rolled down before viable seed is formed) and Barley (a winter hardy cereal grain) at 76 lbs / A . This mix is a little trickier because ideally you would plant with a technique called “alternate row” seeding. When no-till drilled, put the barley in the grain box and the clover in the legume box, but cover alternate openings with cardboard and tape so that you seed one row of barley and the next of clover. If you are at home, it’s too laborious to hand plant individual rows, so mix them and do the best you can!

How and When to Kill the Cover Crop

One reason I recommend these 2 simple mixtures is because they are both easy to kill without tillage or herbicides. If you don’t have a roller – you can use a long wooden board and stomp it down (hint: tie a rope on either end and walk on it), a mower drug across with the blades turned off, or a barrel with a little water rolled across it. The pea will vine up the rye and help to kill it come spring without herbicides or tillage. Sometimes the peas grow back up a bit after rolling, but don’t worry about this as the heat kills them.

Pro tip: These peas are great for eating as fresh salad greens all winter, and the sweet shoots are delicious in stir fries or raw. Their flowers are incredible and look like orchids!)

You want to roll or knock it down until at LEAST 30% of the rye and pea are in flower stage. Once it starts growing in the spring, this can happen quickly as they develop fast. For a visual of what it looks like when ready to roll down, watch the following video. It is the same garden from the first video in this blog post – about a month later!

A continuous-cover, no-till, living root 24-7 system is the best to give your microbes food, shelter and warmth to increase their number of days they are actively working for you. Cropping in a no-till organic system, without herbicides or tillage, requires thinking and planning ahead; it can get complex to choose an approach that meets your current and future needs. When deciding which of the many cover crop options to use (as well as when deciding whether or not you need to seed a cover and where to seed them), it is important to KNOW YOUR WHY. I always recommend getting help from an experienced mentor to help you decide which cover crops are best for your unique situation.

Read Vail Dixon's post on Cover Crops at Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Field NotesSee our Pro Tips blog entry on the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), which focuses on inoculants, to learn more about making the most of this important practice and this vital time of year.

JOIN US! Vail will be presenting more great information at NOFA-NY’s 2018 Winter Conference January 19-21, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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Do your plants and soil need help NOW?

How are your plants looking?

Spring is the time of year when we see the results of our fall and winter soil management. Things often green up but then run into problems as they grow because they are running out of nutrient.

If your plants have weird colors, diseases, insects, or excessive weeds, then you can address these issues by working on the root cause of the problem… by getting your soil healthier.

However, your plants are setting their yield potential RIGHT NOW and won’t wait for the time it takes for your soil to get healthy! They need nutrition to grow a good yield… and they need it SOON.

Did you know you can take leaves or parts of your plants and send them to a lab and for less than $30 know what they need to make yield?

One of my favorite things to do is to pull a plant tissue or sap analysis. It sounds technical but all you do is go grab some leaves or other parts of the plant (varies according to what you want to know)…and send to the lab.

You get back a cute colored chart of what the plants need. Then you can give them that with a backpack sprayer, bucket and water, garden hose and fertilizer mixer, or spray rig, whatever way you can get liquid onto the leaves, and into your soil.

Here is a video of one of my favorite people helping us mix up and spray out what our plants need. Even if you can’t pull the tissue test, we have recipes that will take the guesswork out of it and make more minerals available to your plants – just HOURS after the spray we saw results!

These same products help you to buy and spread less minerals on your soils too, as you can use a fraction of the purchased mined mineral and chelate it or bind it in forms that are more bioavailable to your plant – leaving less to tie up in the soil.

It is as easy as mixing things in water – so anyone can learn! I remember when I first heard the word chelate it sounded daunting and like something I could not do on my farm. I also remember being overwhelmed and confused about spray rigs and thinking they were some expensive thing that I couldn’t make myself.

I was wrong.

So whether it’s your houseplants or large fields, we can help you design a simple program that YOU CAN DO!

One great upcoming opportunity where we will be covering the hands-on details of all of this is our upcoming Grow Your Soil workshop, April 28-30, 2017 in Nelson County, VA at our farm.

Check out www.Grow-Your-Soil.com for more info and to register! We still have a few scholarship and discounted slots available at a 75% off rate!

PS – If you want to do something but are feeling overwhelmed or blocked – write me an email and let me know what frustrates, challenges or holds you back! The more we know about what you need, the better resources we can make!

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Give your SEEDS a BOOST with Inoculant

Spring often brings planting!

Did you know that plants determine a majority of their potential yield shortly after germinating?

Each plant is slightly different, but the basic truth is that seeds feel out their environment when young, and set yield accordingly. So if your soil is still getting up to speed, you could be losing a valuable opportunity to increase quality and quantity of yield.

Inoculating your seed with beneficial microbes, minerals and enzymes can help jump start your production and help your soil heal!

Once I started learning about yield determination windows, it opened many doors for me because I was empowered to know WHEN and HOW I could affect yield in my systems!

One great way to improve your system is to inoculate seed just before planting with stabilized microbes and micronized minerals. We also add in a special enzyme chelator to make the minerals bioavailable and useable by microbes and plants – keeping them in forms that will not immediately tie up and become unavailable.

Learn how to get your seeds off to a great start with one of the least expensive and easiest ways to add and feed biology!

Learn HOW, WHY & WHEN to inoculate seed in the video below!

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Easy Tips for Helping Pollinators NOW

An early spring is upon us here in VA and elsewhere.  Trees started blooming, and now some nights in the 20’s are threatening fruit and nut crops across the state.  I wanted to take a minute to share some of my favorite tips that anyone can do to help pollinators this year.

Creating a pollinator paradise in your farm or yard is easy and fun.  You don’t have to buy any plants or spray harmful herbicides. You only have to STOP doing things that harm the bees and ourselves!  This is great because not only does it save time and money, but also helps us get more nutrient dense food. The same actions (or inactions) that help the bees underly re-building our health care, economy and ecology. Read the article below for free tips.

 

Here are three quick things you can do now to help:

  1. Check out the video above
  2. See below for a short but info-packed article with tips for you to do now to help pollinators in your yard, driveway, or farm.
  3. CLICK HERE to receive your FREE Healthy Bee recipes and to receive occasional handy tips and trainings about pollinators. These recipes are inexpensive and easy-to-make probiotic & mineral foods that you can easily offer to bees in your yard or farm.  Their use has greatly reduced bee death rates from over 40% down to 2%, make better quality and quantity of honey, and more docile, larger bees.  Your information will only be used privately for our personal communications with you, never given away or sold.  Signing up will let us know that you are interested in helping pollinators and receiving updates about upcoming trainings, etc.

Winter warm spells can fool plants and animals like pollinators to come out earlier than normal, but then they can suffer decimation if cold snaps kill them off.  Bees in particular are vulnerable if they come early with warm temps to find a lack of viable blooms. They can use up too much energy moving around as opposed to dormancy and die easily.

Grass started jumping here already this year, and many are getting geared up for mowing season.  The number one thing that reduces cost and helps pollinators is to stop mowing areas that are not necessary.  

When I first moved to our new farm I didn’t own a mower or bush hog.  I still don’t.  We do have a weed eater for critical areas, and use our “lawn moo-er” cows, chickens, and horses to mow the sides of our driveway, our yard, etc.  We let areas grow up.  I NEVER KNEW HOW BEAUTIFUL these flowers and plants were until I stopped mowing – much less how beneficial!  

They give me enjoyment year round – from seeing them collect water in drought from catching water out of the night air into spectacular arrays of droplets in the morning.  They also give me year-round colors and sprays of flowers right out of my windows and doorsteps – which are buzzing with bees, butterflies and all sorts of beneficial pollinators and insects. As they fruit, these “wonder plants” provide structure for tons of birds and incredible spiderwebs (natural fly control).  Then in winter I watch the birds and our free range chickens getting winter food and having a place to rest.  And even better, I see their roots feeding tons of soil life and earthworms and de-compacting my soil over the winter! We leave corners and patches all over our farm un-mowed.

Check out the pollinator article below, and CLICK HERE to instantly receive free recipes of microbes and minerals that you can easily offer to help bees!

CLICK HERE for another great article on creating habitat and recognizing local and native pollinators.

Our health and survival depend on ALL OF US!


Here is a recent article with tips and the foundational concepts for helping pollinators that often get missed by many bee programs.  Written for a grazing magazine, it’s principles and many of the tips also apply to your yard and home.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the article

Pollinator Pastures
6 Tips to Turn Your Farm into a Pollinator Haven

Pollinators are in great danger all over the world.  Because bees are critical to our food supply, anyone who eats has an interest in helping them survive.  The good news is that we already know what to do to help them – and that those same actions will help tackle many of the large health and environmental problems we face today.  It is empowering to know that we can all can take small actions that make a HUGE difference.

Simple Soil Solutions - pollinator habitat-bees

Pollinator habitat can be included in productive pastures. Many beneficial grazing forage plants have flowers that at different times of year support pollinators. By healing your soil you can create diversity in your fields – so you have year round grazing and pollinators have season long flowers! Plus, these plants provide critical habitat and food for critical allies like birds and spiders – needed for insect and pest control.

The widespread use of chemicals is disrupting the bees’ ability to get the minerals they need to be healthy.  The colonies are “collapsing” from disease for many reasons, but the root of these problems is lack of nutrition.  Luckily, your pastures and lawns and sides of your driveway can provide critical habitat and food for them.The loss of our healthy soil biology has disrupted soil mineral cycling.  Many commonly used chemicals not only harm the microbes that fertilize our plants, but also tie up critical nutrients and further starve the bees.  When an organism is malnourished, a host of diseases and problems arise.

Simple Soil Solutions - pollinator habitat-milkweed

This is the edge of our yard where we stopped mowing. Milkweed is often found in our fields, unmowed edges of yards or fields, and is CRITICAL food for the monarch butterfly on its long migration to breed in South America. It has beautiful flowers and smells HEAVENLY!

Healing these issues, both for the bees and for our own health crisis, involves healing our soil — getting the right microbes back in the soil and our guts.  These microbes are essential — for us and the bees — to create health literally from the ground up!  When we can do this, minerals cycle again, making our immune system healthy and our DNA replicate health instead of disease.  Microbes plus minerals = MAGIC.

Here are some tips to help the bees (and us) thrive!

  1. Reduce or eliminate use of chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, insecticides.  For fly control without insecticides, replace chemicals with natural essential oil-based repellents.  Use native beneficial insects like fly predators, and traps specific to the fly you want to catch. Create habitat for songbirds and spiders.

    The best fly control is getting your soil and field habitat healthy enough so that manures break down within days and don’t sit there as habitat for fly and disease and parasite larvae.  The upside of taking this approach is that your pastures will be healthier, more nutrient and energy dense, as well as more productive.  Most often if the manure is sitting on the soil surface there are chemicals or some harmful disturbance to the soil ecology or moisture (like mosing too short so the soil dries out).

    The following are common areas of disturbance in grazing systems – where we find that stopping adding harmful inputs will save money while creating better nutrient cycling and reducing the pest cycle.  It is best to stop spending money and time and get a greater return – multiple benefits from one action (or inaction).

    Don’t spray your fields for weeds.  Weeds are just a stage in land healing.  Instead, what to feed your soil to heal that will prevent weeds from germinating and move into healthy grassland.

    Cut out any non-GMO corn, soy, barley, alfalfa, etc in your animal’s feed.  Remember that herbicide residues in our animal’s feed harm bees also.  These residues are are commonly present at levels that exceed safe levels, and tie up minerals in the gut, which weakens their immune system and body’s ability to function.

  2. Stop using dewormer without a fecal test first, and choose natural dewormers that have been proven to work such as walnut hulls, herbs, and essential oils.  Parasites only inhabit animals who are not minerally dense and whose immune systems are not functioning well. Deworming with chemicals will shut down your soil and manure decomposition, so focus on how to create a healthier animal, instead of fighting the parasites that are just messengers that our management is off.

    It is possible, and even essential, to get our farms (and bodies) of of reliance on destructive chemicals, and the outcomes are always better than conventional management with chemicals.  Think of it as creating a healthy system instead of managing dis-ease.  Find someone who knows how to do this to show you.

  3. Reduce or eliminate mowing – or mow HIGHER (12” if you can).  This allows plants to flower.  If you have to mow, leave flowers in the critical time periods when the bees really need food (early spring and late fall).  It is better to use the animals to trample and stomp the litter into contact with the soil than to mow and leave it to oxidize on top.  The animals will naturally leave some plants tall and those can flower for pollinators and provide habitat for spiders and songbirds – while still feeding the soil well.
  4. Leave patches or strips un-mowed.  We all have corners of our property or yard where we can leave patches for pollinators, while still being able to mow critical boundaries and keep the brush away.

    You will likely be surprised to find out how beautiful these flowers and plants are that come up when you don’t mow.  Go out and see them with the morning dew glistening – not only is it exquisitely beautiful, you will see how during times of drought these plants collect water from the air and will keep your pastures healthier by infiltrating water down to the ground.

  5. Create Year-Round Food for the bees – if you don’t have flowers year round, put out some honey or syrup and mix it with micronized minerals and probiotic cultures of microbes for the bees.  Get the recipes for free at the link below.  Research shows that combining the microbes, minerals with the sugar reduces the death rates tremendously, plus the bees become larger, more docile, and the honey is a higher quality and quantity (which will help the hive have enough food to last through winter).

    Feeding the bees is especially important if warm spells happen during winter and you see the bees out but there are no plants flowering. Climate change is causing premature warm spells during winter, which tricks the bees into coming out too early.  This uses up their winter energy stores.  You can help by supplementing during these hard times so they can live until spring.

  6. Learn to appreciate and cultivate a different sense of beauty than the perfectly manicured mowed lawn and edging. Nature’s design and patterning is exquisite and as beautiful as high-priced landscaping.  Plus it changes each year!

    The beauty and vibrancy that nature creates in un-mowed patches will delight your senses and provide vital food for bees, plus habitat for beneficial insects like dragonflies, birds, and spiders that eat mosquitoes, ticks and flies.  Even as these “weeds” are dying, dig up their roots to see how they feed microbes and earthworms like crazy as they decompose.  This reduces compaction and allows water channels to hydrate your soil more deeply.

Who knew that managing for bees would also help you manage for drought and flood by creating better soil, which directly saves costs and creates more profit?… reduce threats of parasites and infectious disease…and provide more nourishment and less chronic disease for ourselves?

Helping the soil and pollinators truly improves the “triple” bottom line.  How wonderful and cost effective it is when the same set of actions tackles many of the toughest problems that we face today?  It is well worth the time to make small modifications in your system to create big positive impact.

 

Vail Dixon is a regenerative farmer who raises Grass Beef in Nelson, VA.  She is a holistic grazing and soil rejuvenation mentor – to help people rebuild their soil’s productivity naturally.  

Check out GrazingPower.com and Grow-Your-Soil.com for upcoming workshops and trainings.

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Case Study – From WEEDs to productive pastures – in 2 years

You get the advantage of viewing years of testing and research in just 11 minutes.

Want to get rid of your weeds with NO added inputs?

Watch a 2 year transformation from mud hole and weeds to healthy diverse pasture – without ANY seed, herbicide or fertilizer – just using our wastes differently!

In this video, I take you through the transformation of our upper field, which went from a mud hole to a carpet of diverse plants by implementing simple and natural methods.

You will witness before and after photos, as well as progress at various stages of the process. Not only did grass and plants flourish, but weeds were wiped out, using just the power of our horses.

No chemicals or machines. Our soil and land didn’t just start to look better, it rebounded to super healthy levels much quicker than we ever thought possible.

I’m taking you inside our process in this short video. Watch the incredible results!

Enjoy, and if you’re ready to improve your own pastures, be sure to check out our Grazing Power Online Training Program!

Grazing Power Training Program with Vail Dixon

 

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Is your winter soil ALIVE?

Do you want your next growing season to be better than the last?

Then you need to keep your soil life fed and happy this winter so they are ready to go in spring.

In this video segment we show you how to tell if your soil is building — or if things are shut down. Even though this is a pasture, growers can go out and look for these signs underneath a decaying cover crop or mulch layer.

The Power of Winter Soil

If your soil is covered with living plants or dead plant matter, there is a pretty good chance that life is building soil for you – EVEN UNDER THE SNOW!

Most people do not realize how much soil building happens in the cold of winter. The carbon blanket keeps the soil temperature warmer than the air temp – so even if it is super cold in the air you can still have microbes building and earthworms and spiders crawling around.

This means that in the spring – or even in winter when the sun is out and temps rise a little – you have an underground army ready to supply your plants with nutrients!

You can affect your success tremendously by how you treat your soil now.

Grazing Power Training Program with Vail Dixon

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Prevent WEEDS from growing — feed your soil

Did you know that you can prevent weeds from growing by what you feed your soil?

Do you wish that you could PREVENT Weeds from growing instead of fighting them after the fact?

Weeds only dominate and grow in conditions where healthy diverse pastures can not thrive.  And you can change the conditions based on how you treat your soil.  This means you are able to manage for what you want and eliminate all the worry and spending fighting weeds.

Most strategies against weeds actually make the problem worse.  Once you understand your soil, you will also see the way forward.

Why WEEDS grow instead of GRASS

Healthy and productive grasslands thrive where the fungal biomass is in balance (1:1 ratio) with the bacterial biomass.  Weeds like pigweeds, dock, cocklebur and pokeberry generally grow in conditions that are too bacterially dominated.  Bushy and tree-like weeds like blackberry and locust dominate where the soil has moved too fungal for healthy grassland.

When we overgraze our pastures, we take away a lot of the grass stems and leaves that would otherwise fall on the soil surface and feed fungi.  Plus, the animals stomp and churn the soil, and deposit manure, saliva, milk foam, and urine (all bacterial foods) onto the soil that lacks carbon on top, and they make it too bacterial.  When this happens, we get weeds in our pastures.

What you can do to stop WEEDS?

Re-seeding does not correct the root of the problem, nor do they create the habitat needed for success.  Many people try re-seeding with little success because they have to take care of the basics.

Herbicides harm the soil microbes and when they die, the soil flattens into compaction and loses its air space.  Herbicides also tie up critical nutrients in the soil because they are heavy salts.  This pulls the nutrients away from your plants and the microbes – and inhibits proper nutrient cycling.  Often, herbicide use will keep you in the cycle of growing more weeds!

Once you take care of the basics (like knowing what to feed your soil), you will find that you likely will not need to pay for many of the more expensive pasture renovation techniques, so you can save time and money and get better results!

Stomping down fungal foods like brown stems of hay and dead stems of grasses onto the soil surface will increase your fungal biomass.  Stomping in manure, saliva, milk foam, urine, and legumes or young green grasses into the soil will feed bacterial biomass.

In this case study, we show how we fed the soil to favor grass and eliminate weeds; see how the weeds are struggling for nutrient and being eaten by insects while the grass is thriving.

To see more of this case study – visit our VIDEOS page:  http://simplesoilsolutions.com/videos/

Check it out!

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Feed Your Soil NOW for Healthy Spring Growth

Did you know that winter is the time that soil builds the fastest here in VA?

…And you can use your wastes RIGHT NOW in different ways to accelerate that?

Here is another snippet from the Peaceful Valley rehab project that shows how we used the hay feeding program, combined with the right amount of recovery, to rehabilitate a severely overgrazed field.

Instead of trying to keep the hay off the ground, we fed it each day on the ground and covered the high traffic and muddier areas first. Then, each feeding we moved it farther away, so that the animals mixed in their manures and had to walk back over the hay residues on the way back to the water and shed. When we were done, we had a nicely smashed layer cake of hay and manure – hopefully with the seeds of the hay and manures stomped into contact with the soil, so they could germinate and feed microbes, and with a light covering of stems on top.

So we used the animals to mix in the seed and fertilizer for the new spring grass you see growing in the video. Leaving hay on the ground is not a waste – as it feeds the microbes and creates the right habitat for healthy plant growth.

Remember to feed your BELOW GROUND herd so that in the spring they are ready to perform come green-up!

By providing the right BALANCE of fungal and bacterial foods, we regenerated the field quickly and with NO EXTRA COSTS. We are using our wastes to generate profits.

So you can start now to use your hay feeding program to spread hay (food for the soil fungi) and manure and urine (food for bacteria) over the soil that was severely overgrazed.

Grazer’s TIP: Be proactive and cover the areas likely to get too much traffic BEFORE the plants are destroyed. If you cover it with hay, it leaves the growing tips protected and warm all winter so you will get exponentially more growth in the spring! Also, recovery is key – so let it REST once it is covered, for new seeds to germinate and grow.

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How to Know When Your Pasture is Ready for Grazing

I wanted to take time to say thank you for being part of our community. From the winter solstice, here is something to add a bit of cheer – a free inspirational tidbit that looks forward to the spring!

This clip was from a pasture restoration project we call Peaceful Valley. The field had been turned to mud a few months before, and we used the hay feeding program to cover the land and fertilize it, reseed it without any added inputs. Nothing more than using the wastes in a different way than normal.

Bottom line was the remediation got us a better field and cost us no more than what we had invested already in the hay we were feeding. Changing how we did things got us DRAMATICALLY better results.

In this clip, the field is recovering and we are looking at how to know when it is ready to re-graze. We will be sending more of the story in the weeks ahead.

We have grown a lot and gotten a lot of amazing progress in developing our farm in 2016. We will be releasing more free videos to share with you over the next few weeks and months. If you get on Facebook, be sure to follow our Simple Soil Solutions page as we will also be putting out a lot of great stuff there.

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