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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