Not my rural


rural

Over the past 30 years we’ve heard comments about how we live a rural lifestyle. Some people envy what they consider a “simpler” lifestyle, others wonder if by increasing the number of businesses will detract from the ruralness that we experience.

Mostly it depends on how a person defines rural versus what rural really means.

My comments here are based on the article “Where is ‘rural America,’ and what does it look like?” by Kenneth Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Senior Demographer, University of New Hampshire and my personal experience of living and working on our farm.

Rural means agriculture

If you think of open fields when you say rural, those fields better be planted with crops Montana Highriseor be home to cattle. We look longingly on pastoral settings as calm and almost devoid of life. But pastoral is really the life of a sheepherder who lives with and for his herd, moving them from place to place in search of food and water. And the “Amber waves of grain” that we sing about in “America the Beautiful” need to be harvested and processed if anyone is going to eat.

Cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, all need food, housing, and care. All of which mean a lot of work and machinery; none of which are cheap.

Rural mean low population

Another draw to country living is the population. There are several different ways to determine if an area is considered rural or urban. The easiest is to measure the number of people in a square mile. The Census Bureau states the urban areas have at least 1,000 people in any given square mile where highly-urban areas have less than 7 people living in a square mile. Anything between those numbers are considered rural.

But even in a rural community, there are still areas of dense population and places where you can neither hear nor see your closest neighbor. If you want a rural setting but like neighbors, you will have to look for a more developed area within that municipality.

Rural means industry

Bottling plantA rural area cannot be devoid of industry. Factories billowing smoke should never be part of a rural community but, areas where the food is processed, stored, and then shipped, would certainly be part of the community. Some rural communities remain rural (low population) because of the industry that supports that community. Coal mines come to mind as well as other ore mines.

Trees are an integral part of home construction, furniture manufacturing, flooring, and paper. It only makes sense that timber and pulp mills dot the landscape of the rural forests. The trees are harvested and milled on site, then shipped to the manufacturing companies.

Rural – a place that many urban dwellers dream of, but rarely understand all the aspects that encompass the rural lifestyle. So if you are looking for a place with open spaces, few people, and nothing else, you may be thinking of a ghost town – and that’s not my rural!

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.
Advertisements

The Threat of Swallow-wort


Most of the calls that we receive for hay usually ask if we have no alfalfa in our hay. Alfalfa is a concern for many horse owners, as some horses cannot tolerate its richness. But, have you ever wondered what else might be in your hay?

As stewards of the land, we walk our fields every spring and after every cutting to see what is trying to make its home in our fields. We keep current on both toxic and invasive plants and follow the recommendations of Michigan Extension to keep them in check. The latest concern in our area – Rose Township – has been the invasive species – Swallow-wort. There are two variations of this plant – Black Swallow-wort and Pale Swallow-wort.

Black Swallow-wort

black-swallow-wort

The Black Swallow-wort is a perennial vine that can grow up to 7 feet. The purple flowers are star-like and are in clusters of 6 to 10 flowers. The seed pods look like smaller milkweed pods.

 

Pale Swallow-wort

pale-swallow-wort

The Pale Swallow-Wort is also a perennial vine that can grow up to 7 feet – but this vine is twining – which means it can wrap itself around other plants, fences, even trees. The pink flowers are star-like, but narrower than the Black Swallow-wort flowers. They are also in clusters of 6 to 10 flowers and produce seed pods like the milkweed.

 

Impact

In addition to being considered an invasive species, both types of swallow-wort are noxious plants. The roots of these plants are poisonous to livestock. This includes horses as well as cattle. The plants are poisonous to the Monarch butterflies. It’s important to note that most cattle and horses will not eat the roots of a plant unless it has been uncovered or otherwise disturbed. At this time, there is no warning about the flowers, vines, or seed pods being toxic to horses or cattle.

The twining ability of the Pale Swallow-wort gives it the ability to smother other plants in the area, similar to the way wild grape vines have destroyed forests when left unchecked. The Black Swallow-wort spreads through the area chocking out other plants by blanketing the area.

Both plants are spreading throughout the United States.

Black Swallow-wort distribution map

 

Control and removal

The most effective way of controlling this plant is by spraying it twice a year. Once in June when it is flowering, and again in August. According to the study, after two application with glyphosate less than 5% of the plant was present. After two applications with triclopyr less 15% of the plant was present.

If using an herbicide, be sure to add am adjuvant to the solution. The vines and leaves of the swallow-wort are waxy and without the adjuvant, there will be no penetration into the plant.

Clipping and destroying the pods will keep the plant from reseeding itself, but will not keep the plant from growing.

It not advised to cut or mow the plant itself. This will only stimulate the plant to grow denser the following year. Most of the plant growth comes from the crown of the plant or the rhizome. If you want to remove it completely without using a herbicide, you would need to dig the plant up completely. Plowing it under will only divide the crowns or rhizomes and increase its density.

Even a prescribed burn is not an effective means of controlling this plant.

Two leaf-eating moths have been identified as another possible resource, but there hasn’t been enough research or trials run to ensure that this method won’t become a problem once the swallow-wort has been eradicated.

Replanting an area with native grasses or other grasses to thwart the regrowth of swallow-wort is recommended.

State or other agency assistance may be available but they have to be made aware of the problem before they can act. Michigan Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) (http://www.misin.msu.edu/) is an effort led by researchers with Michigan State University Department of Entomology. When I added my two sightings to their database, I noticed that no one from Rose Township has made an entry since 2012 when the last epidemic of swallow-wort was of concern. Yet, I hear people in our community discussing the threat without taking any steps to remedy the situation.

Prevention

You cannot stop the wind from blowing the swallow-wort seeds into your area, but, you can be a steward of your land by checking the areas where these plants would be most likely to grow. Treat the plant with one of the proven methods to prevent its spread.

Make your neighbors aware of the plant if you see it on their property.

Report any sightings to MISIN (http://www.misin.msu.edu/) or your state agency for invasive plants.

If you hike, ride, or otherwise find yourself in an area where swallow-worts are growing, brush off your clothes, vehicle, or anything else that might be carrying the seeds back to your area. We remove all debris from our farm equipment before it leaves the field to ensure that we are not moving any plants to the next field.

Being vigilant is everyone’s responsibility.

 

Resources

Stewardship Network – http://www.stewardshipnetwork.org/sites/default/files/acwmaforswallowworti_05092012/index.html

Invasive Treatment –https://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/invasive-species/Swallow-wortBCP.pdf

Adjuvants for Enhancing Herbicide Performance – http://extension.psu.edu/pests/weeds/control/adjuvants-for-enhancing-herbicide-performance/extension_publication_file

Michigan Invasive Species Information Network – MISIN – http://www.misin.msu.edu/

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

STEM and the Farm


robotic_farming

What comes to mind when someone says “farm” to you? Fields of crops? Cows being milked? Chickens, pigs, goats, and other animals? Of do you think science, technology, engineering, and math? Most people do not associate technologies or math-based skills with farming. And, yes, although the farm may be tucked away from the bustling city life, the technology of the 21st century is a big part of a farmer’s life.

Science

Science plays a major role in farming. We use genetics to determine which bull will produce well-muscled calves for beef. We need to determine how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous is lacking in the soil. Too much will not produce a better crop. Are there weeds in the field? Which herbicide is needed to eradicate the weeds without compromising the nutritional value or even killing the crop?

Technology

Today farmers use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology to ensure better crops and minimal impact on the ecosystem. Moisture sensors help determine when the crops are dry enough to harvest. This is important especially in our industry where wet hay creates moldy hay – unsuitable for livestock. The GPS technology helps track the movement of the tractor so that seeds or fertilizer is spread evenly with no overlapping rows. Technology can even determine the specific areas that require more or less fertilizer, areas that are too moist for planting, or too dry and require irrigation.

Engineering

Engineering is probably the most widely used but least thought about in the farming industry. Farmers need the skills of engineers to design more efficient farm machinery to creating bio-fuels. Engineers can help design effective ways to minimize erosion, how to preserve wetlands, and reduce pollution. Engineers are also valuable in designing buildings to better shelter the animals while keeping their feed, water, and mobility in mind.

Math

While the computer may assist the farmer in daily calculations, math is vital for the success of the farmer. Farmers need to look at the ratio of fertilizer required per acre as well as the mix of chemicals required for the acreage. The amount of seeds required as well as how to layout the plots require math. Knowing the amount of time, materials, and upkeep on the equipment determines the market value of the crop. And when all is said and done, the farmer needs to know if the efforts to raise the crops or livestock was profitable.

Today, many schools are promoting STEM classes as a vital part of a student’s education. From our point of view, STEM is vital for survival.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.