Brian Vagg

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since Oct 04, 2012
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forest garden fungi food preservation
Northern California - Zone 9b
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Recent posts by Brian Vagg

My wife and I have made cultured butter with both just raw milk cream and with raw milk cream treated with kefir.  Both are awesome, but I think we prefer the cultured butter made with kefir.  Hard to describe, but the kefir cultured butter has a richer flavor.
4 years ago
I think many people make the assumption that carbon in the soil mostly comes from decomposing plant material. Actually a significant amount of carbon is deposited into to the soil in the form of plant exudates. Depending on where in succession the plant resides (weeds to trees) they will deposit between 15% and 40% of their total energy as exudates (a very carbon rich source). The exudates are to feed the microbiology in the soil to foster nutrient cycling.

So take the scenario where you have very poor soils. Plant your seeds and apply your very diverse microbe solution (eg dusting of compost, compost teas, etc). As Charlotte points out, the microbes will do what they do (cycle nutrients). Once the seeds set roots and start photosynthesizing they start pumping exudates into the soil to get the microbiology fired up. Now we are off to the races. Because we added a diverse microbe solution the nutrient cycling is rich and allows the plant to grow at its full potential. This is an example of how we can quickly turn poor soils into productive soils.

In the scenario above, if we didn't add the microbes we could have built the biology by mulching and successional planting. It is doable but it does increase the turnaround time and labor effort.

Thanks Charlotte for starting such an interesting and thought provoking thread. Soils Science is so fundamental and often overlooked.
4 years ago
My wife and I both have Roo's. We love them. Makes harvesting easy. Hadn't thought about using them for planting! Thanks for the tip.
4 years ago

Mike Turner wrote:In addition to roundup residues in hay, there is another set of herbicides that you have to watch out for in hay. They are Aminopyralid, clopyralid, and picloram (a commonly used brand is Grazon) which are highly persistent herbicides that are sprayed onto hayfields to kill broadleaved plants. Its called Grazon because its supposedly safe for livestock to graze on immediately after applying and its convenient to the grower because it only has to be applied once a year. The problem is that it is so persistent that you can take late summer cut hay from one of these fields that was sprayed in the spring, feed it to your livestock, compost their manure, apply the compost to your plants the following spring, and it will still affect your broad leaved plants. Members of the pea, tomato, grape, and persimmon families are particularly sensitive to it. Last year I got a round bale that had unknowingly came from a field treated with Grazon and when I applied the composted sheep manure/bedding to my beds, caused my peas, favas, potatoes, and tomatoes to produce distorted growth. To make things even worse, they sprayed the field adjacent to mine with Grazon while a 15 mph wind was blowing and the spray drift onto my property mostly wiped out that year's wild persimmon crop located 100 to 200 feet from the property line, killed a seedling bed of honey locust next to the property line, killed all of the clover in my pasture within 30 feet of the property line, almost killed a concord grape located 10 feet from the line, delayed and greatly reduced my muscadine grape harvest, and greatly delayed blooming in some mimosa trees located over 100 feet from the property line. I didn't notice any effects in my vegetable garden but then it was already being impacted by the Grazon contaminated compost.

Trade names for these herbicides include Milestone, ForeFront, Pharaoh, Banish, Stinger, Millennium Ultra, Millennium Ultra Plus, Access, Tordon, Surmount, Grazon and Pathway. When you purchase hay, before buying, be sure to ask the farmer if he had applied any of these herbicides to his fields, and if he had, tell him why you are not buying his hay. A problem is when you buy hay second hand, such as from a feed store, you have no way of knowing you are buying herbicide contaminated bales. Also some of this herbicide is being used on grain fields and is finding it way into processed livestock feed whose resulting manure can cause problems in your garden. A common symptom on peas, potatoes, and tomatoes is a "fern fiddlehead" like appearance to the new growth. It is suppose to be persistent in the soil for 2-3 years.

Wow Mike. Your story highlights my concern with buying hay from my local feed stores. These persistent herbicides are really going to wreaking havoc for all us long term.
4 years ago

John Polk wrote:Have you contacted your local County Extension Agent?
He would probably know of locals that are not using chemicals.
A good county agent has good knowledge of what is happening in his district.

Thanks John for the suggestion. I will reach to my County Extension Agent. :-)
4 years ago

And yet I feel it's all a part of the silver lining. I realize it's treading a bit closely to the edge of the apple masher of the Cider Press, but it may come down to re-calibrating our personal notion of "trust". After 50+ years on the blue marble, it's hard not to *want* to trust that your food, clothing, air, water, and environment are being treated with care and concern. It takes a while to sink in that generally this is the last consideration. But there is a balance between trusting and not trusting and after a while it comes down to producing what you can (with your own efforts, knowledge of what went into it, and on your own land) so that you know to the best of your ability how something was produced, and then obtaining other things through sources that you can't control. But even in the latter case, do the best that you can......find a supplier who can at least tell you how the product was made and handled. Even in that case, there will be trust involved since you have to believe what you are being told without requesting an elemental analysis and herbicide/pesticide test. Still, if and/or when more people start caring about their internal and external environment, that will shift the suppliers to respond accordingly. The drip, drip, drip, of psychosociological change....

Our thought process is very much aligned. Trust nothing until trust is earned and verify everything

More immediately, Brian V, I'm not sure how far you are from southern Oregon, but it may be worth an annual trip to the Klamath Falls area with a trailer for picking up some hay....I see two organic producers on this list. Maybe one of these producers may know someone down in your area that would be a safe bet:

It is about a 5 hour drive for me to get to Klamath Falls. If I can't find a good local source, my wife and I may have to make a trip up there and get a years supply of hay . We really do love Klamath Falls area. Might have to make a long weekend out of it.
4 years ago

do you have a truck and trailer? somewhere to store hay or do you have to buy it weekly/monthly?

Transportation won't be an issue (truck and access to a trailer). It is the storage that I will have to address. We are planning on adding two milkers (goats) and a couple of pigs to our system. I will just need to figure out my totals for the year. I am able to graze on our 5 acres for at least 6 months of the year. I will be putting together a better rotational grazing system in hopes to extend out our grazing timeframe
4 years ago

here are my suggestions.
find someone local (or even semi local) that is growing hay. generally in the west that means there is some sort of irrigation. im not exactly sure how it works in your area.
is there a place were there is water rights, but not many large farms? generally in my area that is "horse property" type areas. i mention this because people who keep horses [seem to] have to perpetually buy hay. horses can also be affected by roundup on their hay. these people may know where to get clean hay.
meet with someone growing hay and establish a relationship. know how much hay you need for the year (or half a year?) and do you want 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cutting?
look for those using smaller scale equipment (small bales vs large/big squares) - my thoughts are most people using the huge bales are more of an industrial operational, where quality is less of a concern (it cant be the case with small balers too)
know when the hay is normally cut and work with that farmer to buy his hay "in the field" if possible. the more he has to move the ahy the more expensive itll get.

Great suggestions. I will expand my search to find local hay farmers. Thanks for the tip with buying the hay "in the field". Even if i have to drive for bit I can rent a trailer and pick up a load for the year.

if all else fails and you cant find a local/semi local person to buy from:
avoid bales with striped twine (my local feed store tells me sometimes the gmo alfalfa is twined with orange/blue) if you can - ask your local feed store ih they have GMO alfalfa- tell them you dont want it. my local feed store thought it was a good thing til he got local feedback
there is also a product that is called "D.U.A. G.R.P." the GRP part is a "Glyphosate Remediation Product" that helps lock up the glyphosate modecule so it cant bind other nutrients. the website is go that and search for "Glyphosate Remediation Product" - my work proxy isnt allowing me to get to the site. We used this when we bought hay. it also helps the animals more thoroughly digest the food they already eat (there is a non GRP version too)

I have given the local feed stores my feedback on carrying clean (doesn't have to be organically certified) hay. At least some of them seemed to be shocked that they themselves had no clue on how the products they were selling were being grown. I am hoping that more will voice their opinions to their local feed stores. I will have to look into the GRP. Although I am hoping to avoid going down that route completely.

4 years ago

Well that's depressing.

I agree that it is depressing. I have almost no access to the hay producers and the nearby feed stores don't know about the growing practices of the farmers that supply them the hay. It is almost comical the looks on the feed store employees faces when I ask what has been sprayed on the hay crops. It ranges from why the hell would you want to know to hmmm...that is a really good question and now I am curious. I have found one feed store, about and hour away, that will sometimes carry organic alfalfa.

It is frustrating to me how ridiculously hard it is to find organic hay and it is so much easier to find organic food for humans.
4 years ago
I am having difficulty finding organic sources of hay(alfalfa, orchard, grass, etc). I use hay or the byproducts for a number of systems: feeding goats, mulching, and composting. My concern is this. I have read that there is a practice of spraying herbicide on hay crops pre-harvest to add in the drying process or with RR (roundup ready) crops for weed control. Does anyone how widespread this practice is and whether or not certain hay crops are more susceptible? I really want to avoid using hay that has been doused pre-harvest for feed or mulch.

Ultimately I want my systems such that I don't have to rely on hay, but for the meantime i still need it for feed for my goats.
4 years ago