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Making Bone Broth

I love bone broth.

Bone broth is the flavorful liquid produced when bones from poultry, fish, beef, lamb, etc. are simmered for hours to days with vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Here is our 62-quart stock pot... the Bone Broth Pot!

Here is our 62-quart stock pot… the Bone Broth Pot!

It tastes great. Seriously. Bone broth has a rich flavor that reawakens the sense of what food is supposed to taste like. It also can contain a lot of gelatin which is a natural thickening agent useful in soups, stews, sauces, and curries. I use it in many meals that I cook as one of my “secret ingredients” because it imparts a difficult to describe depth or layered flavor. I think this may have to do with how nutritious it is.

We make stock from the animals we raise and process on our farm.

We make stock from the animals we raise and process on our farm.

It is healthy. There are numerous medical research studies showing that chicken soup really is healthy for you, but bone broth goes even one step further. The long, slow cooking releases many minerals making them bioavailable (meaning we can easily absorb them). It also provides a great source of gelatin, as mentioned above, which contains arthritis-relieving glucosamine and chondroitin.

Bone Broth simmers for a couple of days on the stovetop.

Bone Broth simmers for a couple of days on the stovetop.

It is easy to make… not quick to make, but it is pretty easy. This is slow food not fast food!

Let’s get to the specifics. On our farm, we freeze our poultry whole after we process them, but we rarely want to cook or roast the whole bird, so after we defrost them I break them down to breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc. This leaves us with the ribs, backbone, and other bones that are difficult to utilize unless we make stock. We freeze these leftover parts until we have enough for a large batch of stock… or until we start running out of room in the freezer! I also save the chicken feet when we process our birds. Chicken feet have a lot of gelatin it in, so these are a great addition to the stock. I throw in a few big handfuls of roughly chopped onions and carrots, a head or two worth of peeled and crushed garlic cloves, a few stalks of celery, a fennel bulb, peppercorns, and some fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, etc. Any other spare vegetables can be thrown in; I’ve used parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. I also add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every gallon of water. The vinegar helps extract the minerals from the bones.

Frozen, concentrated Bone Broth

Frozen, concentrated Bone Broth

I toss all the ingredients into my 62-quart stockpot (that’s 15.5 gallons or 58 liters), fill it up with cold water (I prefer the water from my Berkey filter), bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it go for the next day or three. It fills the house with a wonderful aroma. Cooking time is variable, but I keep the stock simmering until the bones crumble when I squeeze them between my fingers. This may take 24 hours or 72 hours; it depends on the bones. I then strain the stock. I sometimes pick through and save the meat for fajitas or other meals, but everything else goes to our pigs. I put the strained stock into the refrigerator and allow it to cool. All the fat rises to the top, and I scoop this off for rendering (see my next article). The remaining stock is put back into a stockpot and simmered down or “reduced”… basically, some of the water is boiled off, and the stock gets thicker and thicker. This results in something like a demi-glace. I spoon this into ice cube trays and freeze them. I then dump the cubes into a freezer bag, and I have readily available, serving size, concentrated bone broth ready to go whenever I need it!

Bone Broth ingredients consists of things most people throw away nowadays.

Bone Broth ingredients consists of things most people throw away nowadays.

It uses things most people throw away. Specifically, and unashamedly, I am talking about all the bones, wingtips, necks, and feet of poultry, and the bones and joints of sheep and beef. These are parts of the animal that most people throw away, but our ancestors wisely saved. I have learned that when I raise an animal from hatch or birth, fed and watered it, checked on it once and sometimes twice or thrice a day, and then ended its life with my own hands, I have a strong desire not to waste anything.  We often use the word “process” to distance ourselves a bit, but the reality is that we are eating an animal that was alive. We treat every animal on our farm with the utmost respect. We give every animal the best and most natural life we can offer it. Our promise to our animals is that they only ever have one bad day. That respect continues after life, and we try not to “waste” any part of the animal. This was common sense a century ago. It’s how we make bone broth today.

 

Here is a great article about Bone Broth on the Weston A. Price Foundation website. It is written by Sally Fallon who I happened to briefly meet while visiting her farm a few years ago.

 

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Sheep Hoof Trimming

A few days ago, we took about an hour and trimmed the hooves of our sheep. We run a small, but growing, flock of Katahdin Hair Sheep. Anyone who keeps sheep or goats needs to check the animal’s hooves once a year at a minimum, but 2-3 times a year is probably more appropriate. If they are given a lot of supplemental feed (instead of just pasture) and/or they are regularly on wet, soft soil, then the hooves will need to be checked more frequently.

If an animal has hoof growth that is not kept in check with rocky soils or with regular trimming, then significant health problems can develop such as foot rot, foot scald, laminitis, and arthritis, to name a few.

Our sheep are relatively relaxed around us, so catching them and trimming their hooves was not too difficult. My wife and our current WOOFER (Eliza) were the ones who caught most of the sheep while I flipped them on their rump, sat down with them, and trimmed their hooves. Only one ewe evaded us over and over again, so we’ll have to try to catch her again on another day.

This was the first time I’ve ever trimmed sheep hooves, but it went very well. It was easier than I expected. My main bit of advice is to trim the hooves slowly and sparingly as you are figuring things out. If you are a little too aggressive, you can cause bleeding. If you are very aggressive, then you can cause significant bleeding or infection. If you are feel unsure of yourself, then go visit another sheep farm to get some experience first. Here are some resources I found helpful as I learned how to trim sheep hooves:

Article: http://www.sheep101.info/201/hoofcare.html

Article: http://www.raisingsheep.net/how-to-trim-sheep-hooves.html

and a couple videos…

 

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Excited about Hornworms?

Manduca sexta is a moth whose larvae (caterpillar) is known as the Tomato Hornworm. This is one of the more destructive and dreaded pests for those who grow tomatoes, as the caterpillars can defoliate a plant seemingly overnight.

So why would I be excited to see this guy on our tomatoes this morning?

This pest has parasites!

This pest has parasites!

Take a closer look at the back of the caterpillar.

This Tomato Hornworm has been parasitized!

Just think of the movie Aliens as I explain the life cycle of the Braconid Wasps, a Tomato Hornworm parasite.

Braconid Wasps are a family of parasitic wasps, and Cotesia congregata is one species in this family that prefers Tomato Hornworms. It has a sharp ovipositor… a long, tube-like, egg-laying appendage. The adult wasp uses its ovipositor to pierce the skin of a caterpillar and deposits eggs inside the caterpillar’s body. The eggs hatch and the wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside. Initially, the caterpillar will act as if nothing is wrong, but as the parasitic larvae grow, and continue to eat, the caterpillar becomes progressively less active. The wasp larvae save the vital organs for last, so the infected caterpillar will stay alive for as long as possible. Eventually the wasp larvae break through the caterpillar’s skin and spin a cocoon. The larvae pupate into adult wasps, and the cycle repeats itself.

I was disappointed to see the Tomato Hornworm on our tomatoes, but then I saw the cocoons adorning the caterpillar like some macabre decoration. My disappointment quickly shifted into excitement. I went from almost grabbing the Hornworm from the plant and feeding it to the chickens, to gladly leaving the Hornworm right where I found it on the tomato plant.

The parasitized Hornworm in my garden is the exact reason we do not spray insecticides on our farm. We may have to put up with a little loss for a short time, but then Nature turns the tables on the pests. This poor Tomato Hornworm is now a barely living but very viable nursery for some highly beneficial parasitic wasps. I left things alone, and in a few days I’ll have a couple dozen more allies patrolling my garden for pest caterpillars.

And I don’t mind letting others do the dirty work for me.

 

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Salatin Style Chicken Tractor Hand Truck or Dolly

Hand Truck or Dolly… what you call this device really depends on where you come from. For us, this simple machine has been a huge time saver. We use this hand truck to move our chicken tractors each day. We raise a few hundred broiler (meat) chickens each year on our farm, and I gave a small overview of that endeavor in a previous article. Previously, we used a standard household or moving type hand truck; this did do the job, but it was harder and took two people to move the chicken tractor (one person to hold the hand truck and one to pull the tractor from the other side).

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The hand truck in action. The wheels are under the chicken tractor as we pull from the other side of the tractor.

With our new hand truck, based on the Salatin design, the chore of moving the chicken tractors now only takes one person. It is also easier to move the tractors; it is smoother and more steady. This hand truck is not sold anywhere. We found a local welder/fabricator who was able to create this with the photos and drawings we gave him.

Here are some photos of the hand truck:

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Our Salatin-style chicken tractor hand truck. Just to be clear, it is laying on it’s back right now. It’s important the handle bends forward (up in the image) so that when it slides, the handle doesn’t catch on anything.

 

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Here is a photo of the outside of the wheel. It’s important that the foot has an extension so that it can slip under the edge of the chicken tractor.

 

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Here is a photo of the inside of the wheel. It’s important that the axle sits away of the angled piece . The foot scoops under the chicken tractor, then as we pull the hand truck back and down, the wall of the chicken tractor slides down and rests behind the axle. Then the hand truck will not flip back up when we pull the chicken tractor.

 

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Note that we cut down the stop on the legs of the hand truck. These stops are important to prevent the tractor from sliding back, especially when the tractors are on hills. But in our original version, the stops stuck out too far and caught on the wire walls of the chicken tractor.

 

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Using Lawn Hay

For many in the world of Permaculture or Regenerative Agriculture or “Green Living”, having a lawn is a sin worthy of excommunication.

Five years ago, I wrote an article about how lawns cause a significant waste of time and resources. And I didn’t even dive into all the harmful chemicals used to maintain a lawn.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

But now, five years later, I have a lawn.

Don’t worry, I have not converted to the dark side. I still know there are significant issues with lawns, and I am still not a big fan of them. However, the property that we bought has a large lawn. I have spent the last year trying to determine what to do with that lawn.

I have also realized that there is something deeper that draws us to lawns. I think it may have to do with how we are wired as humans. It may be the same with our attraction to savannas. We prefer some open spaces where we can see potential threats from a distance …but lets not get too deep in this article.

The lawn has provided a great, open place for our kids to run and play. This is obviously, and rightly, a great argument for having a lawn. Where else are you going to play soccer?!

We have also used our lawn to graze our sheep and pigs and ducks and geese and chickens. We don’t do much grazing on it now except for the free-range Guineas and chickens that occasionally make there way to the lawn.

We do not use any chemicals at all on the lawn. We don’t irrigate it either. We pretty much do nothing to it but mow it. But I am not one to waste a potential resource if I can help it, and grass clippings from a lawn are a great resource.

Here are some of our uses for the clippings:

1. We use it as supplemental feed for the animals. I routinely dump the fresh, clipped grass to our pigs and chickens and sheep. They love it. Fresh lawn hay!

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One way we use the lawn hay is as mulch (left side) for eroded areas (seen on the right side).

2. I also use the clippings as a mulch. My father puts it in his garden, and I use it to cover bare soil along our fence line. There were a number of Eastern Red Cedar saplings that had grown up along the fence line over the years before we bought this property. The cedar needles fall from the trees and eventually kill most grasses. This is a great way for nature to convert a field to a forest, but that’s not what I want in my pastures. After we cleared the fence line of the cedars, we were left with many spots of bare soil. This is where I pile grass clippings. In time, the soil will come back to life and grasses will be able to grow there again.

3. As you can see in the photo at the top of the article, I spread the clippings over the driveway to dry. After a few days in the sun with occasional turnings, the clippings are nice and dry. I then use this in the poultry brooders. It works way better than straw; it’s more absorbent. And because it has thin strands,  the little chicks or poults can easily navigate over it.

4. I have also used this dried lawn hay for supplemental feed for our animals as well.

I still plan on converting a large portion of our existing lawn to perennials (trees, shrubs, and wildflowers). But until then, we are going to treat the lawn as a resource.

 

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Mob Grazing with Sheep

I want to share one photo of our sheep paddocks, before and after. In the foreground is the previous paddock. The background is the current paddock (obviously). We aim to graze or trample at least 70% of the standing pasture plants. It is never perfect, but this grazing paddock was close to our goal. Much of the uneaten plants were trampled to the ground and will now act as a mulch layer. This trampled grass covers bare soil. It decomposes and adds organic matter. It is currently haying time around here, and many of my neighbors would see these trampled plants as wasted hay. I see it as a fantastic resource.

Rotational grazing works with large or small herds of animals. It is all about stocking density and timing of animal paddock rotation.

 

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Wild Onions!

We’ve got a lot of Wild Onions (Allium canadense) popping up in our pastures right now.

According to one source, there are over 100 Allium species in North America. Allium being the genus of species containing onion and garlic species. These are a number of similar appearing plants, but fortunately, any of these plants that smell like onions or garlic are edible. Some species are more tasty than others.  Note that there are many plants that resemble onions or garlic, but if they do not smell like onions or garlic then these may be toxic. Wild Garlic (Allium vineale) and Wild Onion (Allium canadense) are closely related and can be difficult to differentiate. The best way to tell them apart is to examine their leaves. Wild Onion has solid, flat leaves, while Wild Garlic has hollow leaves.download full film Ex Machina

It’s easiest to use just the green tops of Wild Onion or Wild Garlic as scallions/green onions. We can also use the bulbs if we want to dig them up. They are usually pretty small, but they still have a good flavor, somewhere between a mild onion and garlic clove or shallot.

Wild Onion and Wild Garlic will form spherical-shaped flower clusters, and often the flowers are replaced with bulblets  (as seen in the photo above).

 

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Book Review: The Bio-Integrated Farm

The Bio-Integrated Farm: A Revolutionary Permaculture-Based System Using Greenhouses, Ponds, Compost Piles, Aquaponics, Chickens, and More by Shawn Jadrnicek

Full Disclosure:
I was given a copy of this book by Chelsea Green Publishing in exchange for writing an honest review on my website.

Bottom Line Up Front:
I was really impressed with this book.

Shawn and

Shawn and Stephanie Jadrnicek

Full Review:
I’ll be honest. I went into evaluating this book with a pretty pessimistic attitude. I think my attitude was due to a few things. First, while I know there have been a number of very good Permaculture books published in the last few years, there have also been a number of redundant Permaculture books hitting the market at the same time… meaning, authors with little experience have tried to cash-in on the Permaculture wave and have written very basic books filled with information already found in other (better) books.  When I read the title, “The Bio-Integrated Farm”, I felt like this was just another repackage of the Permaculture basics in an attempt to sell another book.

Second, before accepting the book, and the subsequent writing assignment, I clearly told the publisher that I would only agree if I could write whatever I wanted… no strings attached. They told me that I could write an entirely honest review, and they felt I would “find Shawn’s work, though perhaps not unassailable, at least accessible and very innovative.” I know this was not meant as a challenge to find something wrong with the book, but I think I took it as such.

So, in all honesty, I started reading this book with a bad attitude and some pretty harsh pre-conceived ideas.

I did a quick skim of this book, and I begrudgingly thought I may have to change my mind. Then I read every page, cover to cover, and indeed, Shawn Jadrnicek won me over.

This book is not a rehash of basic Permaculture.
This book is not written by an inexperienced author.
This book is not written just to sell another book.

Shawn Jadrnicek has worked, according to the publisher’s website, “as an organic farmer, nursery grower, extension agent, arborist, and landscaper, and now as the manager of Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm.” He is not new to the world of Permaculture or sustainable agriculture.

Shawn states in the introduction, “I continuously run into an underlying rule or directive that, if done properly, accomplishes most of the other Permaculture principles. I believe it’s a unifying principle that underlies the heart of Permaculture and all good ecological designs. In the Permaculture community it’s known as stacking functions.”

This strongly resonated with my own thoughts and findings. Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren stated it as “Integrate rather than segregate.” And Permaculture’s other co-founder, Bill Mollison, stated it in two parts “Each element performs many functions” and “Each important function is supported by many elements.” Shawn Jadrnicek’s goal is to have each design to have at least seven useful functions. He states, “Once the magic odd number of seven is breached, the design takes on a life of its own. For a component to perform seven functions it must be so connected with the surrounding environment that it takes on a new autonomous, lifelike quality. I refer to this quality as bio-integration.”

Now, this is the point where most books would give a few examples of “stacking functions” and then move on, but not Shawn Jadrnicek.

Shawn's construction of a new greenhouse with a reflecting pond in the foreground.

Shawn’s construction of a new greenhouse with a reflecting pond in the foreground.

The Bio-Integrated Farm really surpasses many Permaculture books by not just sharing a lot of theory and ideas, but it actually provides tested example after tested example of those ideas put into practice. And not only did it have a lot of examples, but it had a lot of details as well. I have been frustrated many times in the past with numerous books and authors who share a brilliant idea, but then fail to explain it fully so that it can be reproduced. Shawn not only gives you the great idea (one that has been tested, redesigned, and perfected), but then he gives the details (sometimes a lot of them), so that anyone can reproduce what he has done.

Let me give you two examples:

In the chapter titled A Pool of Resources, The Bio-Integrated Pond, there is 1 table, 5 formulas, 9 diagrams, and 32 photographs. Shawn dives into pond construction covering functions, determining the best location based on distance to buildings and sun angles, evaporation, construction, size, shape, elevation in the landscape, excavation, proper slope angles and berm size, drainage and overflow (including installation of drainpipes), pumps, siphons, the use of pond liners, filling the pond, pond covers, stocking with fish, using and harvesting minnows, tadpoles, pond predators, details on 13 aquatic/wetland plants, floating transplant trays, and more.

One of the many photos giving details for rainwater collection.

One of the many photos giving details for rainwater collection.

In the chapter titled The Big Flush, Bio-Integrated Rainwater Harvesting, there is 1 diagram, 10 formulas, 11 photographs, and 15 tables/charts. Shawn goes through dry and wet systems, roof collection, sizing gutters and downspouts, filtration, storage ponds, storage tanks, tank foundation, burying tanks, installing the fittings on the tank, pond and tank safety, calculating and harvesting rainwater, water pressure and flow, gravity-flow toilets, using drip irrigation, installing and using pumps, calculating water usage, and planning for multiyear water storage.

Seriously, this is not a superficial read!

This book is a how-to guide for taking Permaculture principles and concepts and implementing them with practical and useful applications.
This book is written by a seasoned veteran of trials and failures and trials and successes.
This book truly offers something new to the Permaculture library.

I highly recommend this book!

 

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Plasson Bell Waterer Installation Instructions

After running broilers in our Salatin-style chicken tractors for one season, we decided to upgrade watering systems. Last year (our first year raising broiler chickens), we used Salatin’s book, Pastured Poultry Profits, as our guide. Our watering system last year was awful. We used the 5 gallon galvanized waterers suspended on a chain. This was heavy and awkward. It was time consuming. We will never do this again!

We run Salatin-style chicken tractors.

We run Salatin-style chicken tractors.

After doing a bit more research we learned that Salatin uses the Plasson Bell Waterer. This may have been in the book, but I don’t think it was. Either way, the Plasson Bell Waterer is a massive step forward for us. This gravity-fed system can be attached to a 5-gallon bucket as a reservoir. It doesn’t need to be removed each watering. We can just tip it to clean it out. To replenish the water, we only have to refill the 5-gallon bucket, which sits on the top of the chicken tractor. The entire process is so much easier. If you are running the Salatin-style chicken tractors, I highly recommend this product.

There is not a great “how to” with this waterer, so I thought I would provide a step-by-step for anyone who may need one.

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All the parts from the box.

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The hanger rod screws onto the ballast bottle. This photo shows the parts from two waterers just to show the parts assembled and unassembled. The ballast bottle is filled with water to keep the waterer properly positioned.

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The waterer mechanism attaches to the bell; just insert and spin to click/lock in place on the bell.

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The ballast bottle (with attached hanger rod) and the red bell (with attached waterer mechanism).

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Just put the bell over the ballast. The hanger rod top extends up past the bell.

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Attach the handle hook to the hanger rod.

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To attach a 5-gallon bucket to the waterer system, we need to perform some DIY work. Drill a hole in the 5-gallon bucket just a bit smaller than the diameter of the hose.

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Use a pair of needle-nosed pliers as needed to pull the hose through the hole about 2 inches.

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On the waterer side of the hose, attach the union unit; just push it into the hose.

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Here is the union attached to the hose.

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Attach the union to the watering mechanism by screwing it on.

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Then attach the hose to the hose lock (the center clip on the handle hook.

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Tie the string to the cord adjuster.

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Wrap the string TWICE around the hook end of the cord adjustor. This lets you adjust the waterer down and up (right and left photo).

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I tied a loop into the string. Then the cord adjustor lets me raise or lower the height of the waterer.

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The whole unit assembled and attached to the 5-gallon bucket.

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We have water! As the water fills the bell, the bell drops (due to gravity and the weight of the water), and the water flow is shut off. This is a simple and effective design!

 

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Spiders Is Good!

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Spiderweb

I don’t quote movies often, but I occasionally will repeat a random quote from a random movie, Fletch Lives. One character, Calculus Entropy (an undercover FBI agent) meets Chevy Chase in a run down house infested with insects. He sagely states, “Spiders is good. They eats the cockroaches.”

I have use that line many times, first because it’s kind of funny, but second because it is so true.

We have been at our farm for just over a year, and I am so excited to see the pastures coming back to life. I went out the other morning, and the pastures looked as if they were decorated with jewels as the sunrise shimmered in the dew on hundreds of spiderwebs.

When we consider the pasture’s food web, we know that there needs to be exponentially more insects (i.e. spider food) than spiders to support these predatory creatures. So when I see hundreds of spiderwebs, I know that there are thousands upon thousands of other insects. This means our pastures are filled with life instead of dead due to chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. And this is a really good thing!

(see my related article: We Have Dung Beetles!)

 

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