Fresh From Our Farm

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.
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How do these hens live?


hens cer

People often ask us if our hens are free-range hens. To them, it means the hens are allowed to come and go as they please. But, when we look at the government and Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) standards, free range is not as free as you think.

Caged

No need to expand on this – most eggs that are produced for the grocery store are from caged hens. They have a minimum amount of room and are primarily fed a corn or soy diet.

Cage-Free

Don’t let the word “free” sidetrack you. These hens are not confined to a minimum area, but, they are still in a cramped facility and do not have access to the great outdoors. So they are not as “free” as the term suggests. They, too, are primarily fed a corn or soy diet.

Free-Range

This is where it can get confusing. USDA requirements standards state that the hens must be given access to the outdoors. They do not determine how much or how often. HFAC standards state the hens must be outdoors, weather permitting, for at least 6 hours a day. These hens may still be fed a corn or soy diet.

Pasture-Raised

This classification has been added by HFAC and it means that the hens are outdoors year-round. They are allowed to go inside at night for protection from predators BUT they should not be housed for more than two weeks a year due to inclement weather.

Hens that are Free-Range or Pasture-Raised are usually healthier and produce better eggs. One reason behind this is the hens have a better choice of food. A hen’s diet should consist of insects and other seeds, grains, grit that are found in nature.

Although we always keep pelleted food available for our hens, they do not eat as much of it when they are allowed to roam as when we keep them in the coop.

So, are our hens Free-Range hens? For the most part, yes. They are allowed outside or at least in the barn during the day and return to their coop at night. However, we do not let them out mid-June to mid-July as this is when our resident fox is teaching the kits how to hunt. And although hens make a tasty meal, we would rather not supply the fox with ours. During the summer they do have a fan to keep the heat down in the coop. We also keep them housed in the dead of winter because they can get frost-bite. Again, a heat lamp in the coop keeps the temps within range for their health.

Will we ever get “certified” for our eggs? Probably not. But rest assured, our hens are happy and enjoy roaming the pastures with the goats, cows, and horses.

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.

Wine Gone Country


HeavenlyPeach r

So we get this conversation goes on almost every time we say we make wine and are planning on opening a winery –

Us: Would you like to try one of the wines we made this year?

Person: You make wine? Where are your grape vines?

Us: Wine doesn’t have to be made with grapes.

Person: Really, but I thought…

And that’s what everyone, well, almost everyone thinks until they try our Dandelion, Apple Rhubarb, Pineapple, or Watermelon wine that doesn’t have a drop of grape in it.

It’s called country wine. Why country? When you grow fruit or have a neighbor who does, and there’s an overabundance, you have a few choices – can, freeze, make more jam/jelly, pies, or turn the surplus into fruit!

But country wine doesn’t stop with fruit! We’ve made carrot wine and, that apple rhubarb wine that I mentioned, rhubarb is technically a vegetable.

Even flowers, like dandelions, lilacs, and roses can be fermented into wine. Yes, we’ve done dandelion and lilac – both were quite good – and plan to try rose later this year.

Like any food based process, the outcome will only be as good as the produce you are using. So, only use fresh, firm fruit or vegetables. If they look like they are about to spoil they are not a good choice. Flowers should be in their prime. I like to gather my dandelions when they are in full bloom. It they haven’t really opened, they aren’t ready for the bucket. Likewise, if the petals are ready to drop, their sugar level and flavor has probably dropped as well. And it goes without saying, no herbicides or other chemicals should have been sprayed on this produce.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, open up a bottle of country wine, kick back, and enjoy!

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.

Golden Beauties


Dandelion field

The beginning of May turns our farm into a field of gold – dandelion gold. And though most people who want a lush, green lawn do everything in their power to kill off the dandelion, this flower is so beneficial.

Dandelions are a source of vitamins. This is why they have been used in herbal medicines by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. They have been part of Chinese traditional medicine for over a thousand years. Dandelion tea is a gentle diuretic that can flush toxins from the liver and keep the digestive system functioning properly.

They are important to bees and other insects. Interesting enough, although the dandelion has a nectar that has been labeled the first food of the bees in spring, they do not require the bees or other insects for pollination. Dandelions have a root system that will continue to produce those beautiful golden flowers. The roots can grow as deep as 15 feet and, if the root clones are divided, one inch of root is all that is needed to start another dandelion!

The roots are beneficial if you have clay soil as they break up and aerate the ground. They pull up the calcium from the ground that could be useful to other plants. So, in a sense, dandelions can help fertilize the lawn!

Dandelion roots have been used as a coffee substitute and can be priced at over $30.00 a pound! At the table, dandelions are a powerhouse of nutrition. The leaves have more vitamin C than tomatoes and more vitamin A than spinach. They also contain potassium, iron, and calcium.

In addition to salad and tea, dandelions give cookies, jelly, and ice cream a unique flavor.

At our farm, May is dandelion picking time. We use eight cups of dandelion petals in every gallon of wine that we make.

boiling dandelions

So, don’t reach for the herbicide if you see dandelions in your yard. Pick them and enjoy them with your favorite meal as a side dish or a drink!

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.

How Beneficial is Wine?


glass of wine_rec

Since we are hoping to open a winery in the next year or so, I thought I would add articles on wine to this blog as well.

Winemaking is as old as civilization itself and has been a part of living. Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast so the host would not lose face by running out of wine!

But wine is an alcohol. Is it bad for us or as good as some of the articles want us to believe?

Wines contain antioxidants. The amount depends on the fruit, usually grapes, that the wine is made from and the age of the wine. Several antioxidants are lost as the wine ages, so, maybe the vintage wine in the cellar tastes good, but, it may not be as good for your body as a younger wine.

How quickly do these antioxidants disappear? One study reported that 90% of the anthocyanin* content is lost in the first few months. So while none of the flavor is lost, the health benefits that we are looking for could be.

Wine also contains tannins. While grapes, red grapes in particular, have the highest concentration of tannins. Tannin can also be added to a wine if the fruit does not contain a sufficient amount. In wine, the tannin adds the bitterness, astringency, and dryness to the wine. It is also a natural antioxidant, which is good for the wine and those of us who drink it!

As far as most research goes, there is no conclusive proof that wine is as good for you as we would like to believe, but, just eating grapes would not provide the same amount of tannin and other antioxidants that are contained in wine. That is because all grapes are not created equal. American grapes, regardless of how red they might be, do not have the same benefits as red wine grapes. That’s because it was bred out of them!

My philosophy is – eat a well-balanced diet and pair it with a good wine!

Na zdrowie!

* Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH.
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.

 

 

Storing and Keeping the Egg


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Have you ever wondered how long you can keep eggs? Or, what is the best way to store and egg?

Don’t wash fresh eggs

An experiment conducted by Mother Earth News tried different methods of storing and preserving eggs and reported that at the end of seven months, non-refrigerated, unwashed eggs stored the best followed by eggs placed in sealed container in the refrigerator.

But, aren’t we told to always refrigerate our eggs? Yes, especially if you purchase them from a store. Eggs taken right from the hen and not washed are covered with a light coating of nature’s sealant called “bloom” and this protects the contents of the egg from air and bacteria. You can see the bloom shine on the egg that the hen in the picture above is laying.

The egg shell is porous, so anything, including air, that the egg is exposed to once the bloom is washed off, can contaminate the contents.

Store in a container

The refrigerated eggs held up, but, I suspect not because they were in the refrigerator, but because they were stored in a sealed container which also protected it from bacteria.

That being said, I would not keep fresh eggs in the refrigerator door for any length of time unless you are like us and eat at least a dozen a week! A better investment would be those camping egg containers.

Point down

Whether you store your eggs in the door, a sealed egg container, or the egg carton itself, be sure that your egg point is down. There is an air sac on the wider end of the egg. This is the air the chick would breathe before hatching. This air also acts as a barrier to bacteria entering the egg – unless, of course, the egg still has its bloom. Storing the egg with the point down also keeps the yolk in the center of the egg which is a plus if you like to make deviled eggs!

So, don’t wash fresh eggs and store them in a container pointy-end down, and they will keep for you.

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.
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Contact Information

9160 Eagle Road
Davisburg, MI 48350
248.634.7276

KeiLin Farm website