Written by Paul on March 15th, 2015
Read Paul’s blog entry here, then find out how you can help Save the Cows!
Thursday night the Cow Fund presented a grazing plan to the Southborough Conservation Commission and Stewardship Committee. The grazing plan was worked out in conjunction with the Conservation Service of the USDA. The Cow Fund plan is not just about producing healthy grass-fed beef but also caring for the land and hopefully saving our children’s future. We are attempting to follow the holistic management system as developed by Allan Savory. Savory has been described by Joel Salatin (http://www.polyfacefarms.com/) of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Inc. as one of the greatest ecologists of our time (Ted Talk). Savory’s system is fairly simple. By feeding the soil life we can not only make resilient soils that can produce healthy food but we can also sequester carbon. The potential is there to globally put Giga tons worth of carbon stably back into the ground. His system relies on using large herbivores to mimic the large herds that built the deep soils of the savannah and the great plains. Plants are grazed and manure is deposited in small areas using modern electrified fencing systems. Then the animals, cows in our case, are moved to the next paddock and the grass just grazed is allowed to fully recover. The process of graze and regrow in addition to the manure, is crucial to feeding the soil micro-organisms. These soil microbes, bacteria and fungi, feed larger invertebrates and they in turn feed the birds and other wildlife. A biologically active soil can hold fertility much more efficiently than chemical fertilizers which are water soluble and will leach and runoff the property ending up polluting waterways.
This system only works if plants are allowed to fully recover and that has been the problem from the beginning. The pasture on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land has extremely thin soil, mostly on moderate slopes. When we get dry spells as we have for the past few summers the grass stops growing and in order to not over graze the pasture we feed the cattle hay. The Cow Fund does not have the resources to do this and it sometimes ends up the members finance the purchases. We must maintain a minimum size herd not just because a cow takes 3 years to reach a marketable size but also because the holistic grazing system requires a certain density of herbivore to feed the soil life. The Cow Fund board is unanimous in our position that if we do not have the proper resources to manage the herd correctly we will not continue to keep cattle on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. This is a very difficult decision but we feel it is right and it will certainly not stop us from doing this somewhere else.
Finally, we would like to thank all our long and short time supporters. We have met some great people both here in Southborough and in the greater community.
If you are concerned about the continuation of the cows and agriculture on Breakneck Hill then please consider attending the conservation meeting on April 2nd at 7PM in the Town House. Letters of support can be addressed to the conservation administrator Beth Rosenblum at firstname.lastname@example.org
Need more information? Want to find out more about our plan and how you can help? Follow this link: Save the Cows
Written by Paul on February 17th, 2015
Cows were dealing with another snow storm. Measured about 42 inches on the ground. Never seen that before.
Written by Paul on January 28th, 2015
The winter has been pretty easy until yesterday. Its weather like this, 11 degreesF, -1 wind chill and 3 feet of snow, that makes me think of the immortal words of Thomas Paine:
“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”.
One of the Southborough revolutionary war soldier’s died of exposure and starvation at Valley Forge so how bad can this be?
Written by Paul on January 3rd, 2015
Permaculture is all about multifunction and managing resources. We have been trying to reduce the exposure of the house to the prevailing winds from the north and west in order to increase our energy conservation. To do this we insulated the foundation wall with 2 inch polystyrene and back filled it. Some backfill was brought in locally but much was generated on site by clearing material that was blocking drainage around the barns and the soil removed from the mulch basin in the front yard. One resource that has been generated by the pigs are stones, the bane of the New England farmer. The pigs dig up rocks incessantly.
The rocks are collected by hand and used to create drainage along the foundation so water does not pool there.
Here the stones are used on the north wall of the front porch so water drains away from the wall and into the mulch basin below.
The stones are covered with a plastic sheet and then a layer of sand. Finally, the sand is covered in wood chips, free from the local municipal dump and contoured to create a swale away from the house that also feeds into the mulch basin.
Previously, most of the water from the roof and around the house was a problem that had to be directed away and into the street. Now it will be used to grow food. Permaculture is all about making use of the resources at hand. Breakneck Hill Farm continues to move not just toward sustainability but positive impact.
Written by Kendall Sweeney on December 5th, 2014
Permaculture is all about structures, plants and animals serving multiple functions. The goal is to integrate each aspect of the farm to create synergy. As fall draws to a close, the newest addition to the permaculture environment is a stone lined culvert.
Before Stone Lined Culvert
After Stone Lined Culvert
Map of Drainage
This was dug and filled with stones tilled from the soil by the pigs. When it rains, or when snow melts, water drains down this culvert into the mulch basin in the front yard. A mulch basin is a pit or trench that is filled with organic materials like leaves, sticks and wood chips. Runoff is collected in it and absorbed into both the soil and the organic material. This both holds the water allowing it to absorb into the ground but also limits evaporation so the moisture is retained long after the runoff stops. By constructing the mulch basin around the blueberry patch, the water will be available to the plants during dry periods. The most exciting part about the drainage system is that the water will carry nutrients from the cow’s winter pasture to the blueberry patch where it can feed both the blueberries and the microorganisms that create healthy soil.
Written by Kendall Sweeney on October 24th, 2014
A new plant we are growing this year is called Comfrey. The word comfrey is Latin in origin and means “to grow together”.
Comfrey is known to be used as a medicinal herb. However, in permaculture its real value is as a mineral accumulator. Comfrey is very high in vitamins and has the ability to extract macro and micro-nutrient minerals from the soil. In some places, its used as the main forage for animals because of its fast growth rate.
Written by rdevlin on October 23rd, 2014
11:30am-Cow Pie Contest
Our most exciting and competitive fund raiser of the year!
Help us purchase winter hay to feed Southborough’s Belted Galloways by buying a square for $20. Enjoy apple cider, treats and cute farm animals as you cheer the cow to drop its brown gold on your winning square
Enjoy the wildlife and beautiful summit views!
Approximately 1 mile of rolling trails. Learn about the history of
the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land, it’s restoration and management. (walking shoes encouraged)
Event to be held at the Community Gardens at the Breakneck Hill
Conservation Land, Breakneck Hill Road
Questions or for more information on the BHCF please visit our
or contact Laurie email@example.com
Written by Kendall Sweeney on October 21st, 2014
The pigs are fed a balanced grain ration but also derive much of their food from foraging for acorns and bugs. However, the pigs complete the nutrient cycle by eating garden waste. When vegetables from the garden have insect damage or are over ripe they are given to the pigs. They get a healthy dose of kale, chard, squash, lettuce and especially tomatoes. We arranged their paddock this year so it shares a fence with the garden making it easy to throw the food into where they can get it.
Written by Paul on August 25th, 2014
Southborough Science and Agriculture 4H Club was represented by Ian Bourdon, here driving our oxen Henry and Peter.