Tag Archives: regenerative farming

How Are Our Honeybees Doing?

Well, so far so good. Our new honeybee colony took to our orchard right away and seem to be multiplying and doing very well. Of course, getting them through the winter is the trickiest part. If this colony survives the winter, we will be looking at expanding our number of hives for next year.

Bluebird Orchards has prime honeybee habitat with our apple orchard blossoms and other numerous flowering plants, trees, berries and flowers we plant specifically for the bees. We also have white clover all over our entire property, which is also a honeybee favorite. So….our little girls should have plenty of food. Also, with the fact that Bluebird Orchards is 100% organic and never uses chemicals of any kind on our property, we hope to sustain a very healthy and productive bee apiary for years to come.

bees on lavenderWe also want to thank our customers who are supporting our bees by purchasing their honey. Every purchase of honey helps to maintain the construction of the hives, the processing of honey, and the purchasing of equipment, supplies for packaging honey, and more bee colonies.

We at Bluebird Orchards know how incredibly vital pollinators are to whether we have productive food crops or not. We are doing our part by planting bee-specific flowers and plants and encouraging wild species of favorite bee flowers by eliminating competition from invasive weed species that are not beneficial to pollinators and protecting the plants that are. We are also encouraging the milkweed on our property to reproduce as it is a favorite of Monarch butterflies.

Come to our orchard on some sunny summer day for an informative tour on how we are being as sustainable, regenerative and proactive as possible to protect our food supply and our health. And say “Hi” to our bees. You will see them all over the farm.

 

Regenerative Growing Techniques

Regenerative agriculture is nothing new to organic growers but has recently been advertised as the latest “new” concept in farming. Please read our article “Regenerative Agriculture” if you are not aware of the reasons regenerative farming has suddenly become the latest buzz word in agriculture.

You can use regenerative agricultural techniques in your home garden or farm with excellent results and to save yourself a great deal of back-breaking and unnecessary traditional garden work. If you are anything like me and hate to weed, you will be happy to learn of a few regenerative growing techniques we bet you haven’t even considered.

Regenerative Growing Techniques:

  1. The No-Till Method: For centuries and centuries, man has tilled the soil. Now, experts in farming are telling us tilling is not such a good idea. Here’s why. When you till up the soil, and mix it around, you are burying hundreds of thousands of weed seeds and planting them, essentially. You are covering them with dirt so they will have what they need to sprout. If they are left on the surface of the soil, they will have a much harder time getting established and birds and other animals can find them and eat them. As we all know, tilling also kills many earthworms. If you are starting a new, previously-unplanted area and need to work some manure or compost into the soil to give it a jump start, that would be the only time tilling will be of benefit. Just be prepared, you will also be starting a bumper crop of weeds.
  2. The No-Weed Method: Many of you will be ecstatic to hear this new regenerative growing technique that almost eliminates the back-breaking weeding we’ve been doing for years. All of our lives, we have been led to believe the only way to get rid of weeds is to spray them with harmful chemicals or to painstakingly and tediously spend long hours on our knees or bending over to pull those nasty little invaders. But here’s a thought – one I’ve been practicing for a couple years now: What if you don’t pull or kill those weeds? Scary thought huh? But here’s the thing. Everyone admires those immaculate gardens without a single weed in them, but if you really look at them, they leave large areas of unprotected bare soil open to the sun which bakes every last ounce of moisture out of those nice clean dirt areas. Yes, you can cover them with mulch to hold in moisture, but you still have to pull weeds eventually.
    The No-Weed Method actually uses weeds to our benefit. Weeds and grass will shade the soil and protect it from erosion, sun damage, flash floods, heavy downpours and drought. The key is to just keep the weeds short so they don’t overpower everything else or go to seed, and the best way to do that is to simply and easily just mow them like you do your lawn. And…every time you mow them and chop them up with a mulching mower, you are adding nitrogen and green manure to your garden plants. So mow those suckers down, keep them short, and just pull the ones in the immediate vicinity of your garden plants so they are not competing for water and nutrients. So much easier yes, but no, you won’t have that immaculate, pretty-looking nice clean garden. Although, I don’t mind the mowed look. I think it looks nice with patches of garden veggies in a mowed lawn-like setting as well.
  3. DON’T KILL ALL THE WEEDS: So…by now you must be saying to yourself, “Hell yeah. I’m all for no more tilling and no more weeding!” Which makes a person wonder why we ever started such sadistic growing practices in the first place. We have certainly done some stupid things in the past as far as agriculture goes. Our obsession with killing dandelions and considering them “unsightly” in our lawns is the number one reason the honeybee is now endangered. I happen to think dandelion splotches decorating my lawn in the spring are pretty, and the dandelion is the honeybee’s favorite flower. There are some good weeds. Educate yourself and learn which weeds are actually beneficial to bees and other pollinators. Let them take over where the invasive and unwanted weeds used to be to crowd them out, or leave them around the edges of your garden to attract and support pollinators. Some free knowledge here: another honeybee favorite is wild mint and many herbs, which you can also use.
  4. No weeding methodThe Best Mulch on Earth is Right in Your Back Yard: Literally. Every time I see people spending hundreds of dollars on expensive bark mulches, I shake me head. They obviously don’t know that the best mulch in the world is FREE and right in their own yard. It’s called grass clippings. After you mow your lawn, save those grass clippings either by purchasing a lawn sweeper if you have a riding mower, or use your lawn mower’s bagger. Pile them up in a corner of your garden, then take a nice big handful and put them around all your garden plants at least 2-3 inches thick. Flatten them down by walking on them all the way around your plants. Then spray-water the clippings with your garden hose to flatten them down even more, or apply them right before a rain, and they will form an almost impenetrable dense mat that will choke out anything, and, they have the added benefit of adding nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil as they decompose as well as holding in moisture so you don’t have to water as much. You may have to refresh the clippings about mid-summer as they start to break down, but if you save all your grass clippings every time you mow, you will be surprised the endless supply of nutritious mulch you will have.
  5. Investing in a Few Living Mowers and Fertilizers: If you decide to go “whole hog” (yes, pun intended) and get some backyard livestock, consider which ones would benefit your property the most. I’ve been reading up lately on farms that use geese in a specific manner to go up and down rows of vegetables and eat the weeds and grass. This may not always be the most symbiotic relationship if the geese also eat your garden plants, and they will, if you don’t do your research first and learn which garden plants they don’t like. However, a very popular technique of regenerative farming that is on the rise for backyard growers and homesteaders is to rotate their livestock pens with their gardens. By doing this, the pigs or sheep or even chickens will eat all the weeds and weed seeds as well as fertilize the soil leaving a wonderfully rich plot for a garden the following year or two. If you don’t mind rearranging a few livestock pens in the spring, this is an awesome way to get the most out of your land without ever operating a tiller or plow. Let the animals do all the work for you.
    Warning: To all you would-be livestock owners out there who don’t know any better, such as the ones I bought my orchard from, DO NOT put livestock in an area with fruit trees or trees you want to keep. They will eat the bark and kill the trees.
  6. Compost Everything: All of your kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps should go right in the compost pile. They add more variety of nutrients than manure alone and composting them saves on the amount of trash you have to take to the curb every week. Start a separate branches pile, which will take longer to break down than small yard debris, and have a separate leaves and kitchen scraps pile which will break down quickly and you won’t have the branches getting in your way when you want to use the compost. Compost is gold to a gardener or farmer, and learn how to make compost tea. You will find you can never have enough compost. Ever.

As I’m sure you can see by now, regenerative growing techniques don’t just benefit the land, they also can save you a tremendous amount of time, money, and labor if it is planned out just a little in advance and you know what you are doing.

 

Regenerative Agriculture

At Bluebird Orchards, we practice the regenerative method of farming: A form of sustainable farming that focuses specifically on rebuilding healthy soil. In a world where we have continually depleted and polluted our soils for decades, we are now frantically looking for means to preserve what we once took for granted and abused so heavily.

In regenerative farming, everything is utilized, composted, returned to the soil to help build it up. And since chemicals defeat the purpose, we do not ever use any type of chemical for any reason. Not only is all organic matter returned to the soil, but every animal on the farm has their own purpose that contributes to the overall health of the orchard and grounds. The geese, for example, eat weeds, and of course, contribute manure. The chickens eat bugs that hide under the bushes, leaves and plants and that are secretly killing our productive plants or eating them.

Many people in the farming world refer to our style of living and growing as homesteading: everything has a purpose that contributes to the overall health of the land, and nothing is ever used that is harmful to that well-being.

It’s a very rewarding, awesome way to live; but not for everyone. It also requires a great deal of hard, physical work to attain, and a thorough knowledge of what you are doing to achieve. Since I have been involved in organics for over 20 years, I already have a very thorough knowledge of organic growing, organic foods and organic living. Taking a broken down, neglected and abused piece of property such as the one I just purchased and turning it around to be a vibrant, prolific Garden of Eden is extremely rewarding. Every time we have a visitor to the farm they comment on how beautiful it is. That is always a nice pat on the back for a job well done in my opinion.

However, it doesn’t come easy or without it’s setbacks. For instance, this year our apple orchard came down with cedar apple rust. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cedar trees growing in our area that I cannot do anything about. We live next to a state park that has red cedar growing right across the road from the farm. The best we can do is put up barriers between the farm and the park, but that only minimizes the contamination and will never eliminate it.

It took me two years just to get this property to a manageable state, because the previous owners did not maintain it, it was overgrown with many varieties of invasive and poisonous weeds. The most difficult and trying job in the agricultural world is getting a grip on such a weed infestation as I have never seen before. And it has been a labor intensive job at best.It can take 3-4 years to get an invasive weed species under any amount of control, and if you are not just as persistent as they are every minute, you will lose the battle, for they are just looking for any opportunity to regain control.

Regenerative agriculture is not a new concept to organic growers in the least. It is basically just one of the many sustainable and organic techniques used by us every day in order to achieve organic growing. Why so much attention has been focused on it of late is probably due to the fact – as I mentioned earlier – that the agricultural community is now looking for ways to try and reverse generations of soil abuse because our soils have become so depleted they are no longer able to sustain any life. They are dead. Chemicals of any kind make the soil hard, barren, and lifeless. Pesticides kill the beneficial bacteria needed to nourish the soil. Chemical fertilizers and weed killers eventually make it impossible to grow in soil where they are used, not to mention all the additional contamination they cause to ground water, our air quality, wildlife, and the very important pollinators farmers so need, such as the bees.

We have learned a difficult lesson the hard way: that we cannot continue to kill our soils with chemicals and deplete them with over-farming and expect them to last forever.

I once read an article about a colony of Tibetan monks who were having a building construction project going on within their monastery. The construction work was halted by the monks going out into the site and saving every earth worm they could find. Most people find that a bit radical, but I find myself doing the same thing whenever possible, but this is the building block of regenerative farming: to preserve and protect our precious soils if we expect to have any food in our future.

If you would like to learn how to use regenerative agriculture in your home garden or on your farm, please read our article on regenerative growing techniques.