This week has been glorious with the warmer temps and all but a bit of snow remaining from the piles scooped from along the roadway. Spring is in the air, the mud is drying, grass is growing, things are beginning to come out of dormancy. Continue reading
The lime that has been sitting in the barn on pallets for the last two months is now being put to use.
This weather has made us hold off on spreading lime down in the hayfields but it looks like we have finally gotten a drying spell enough to get the mineral put out so it can soak into the soil. Continue reading
By standing in the nursery field I can look across the river to the far field and see the rows of manure that was loaded out of the barn and hauled up the road.
While Mike was doing the spreading he noticed a tree that had fallen over the fence line along the old railroad grade. Of course it did not fall into the grade, it fell over the fence and into the grass/hay field.
Not sure how Mother Nature knew that my next task after finishing up pruning the fruit trees was going to take me up the road to the far field to trim up along the fence. The downed tree is big enough to make one log for shipping and the rest will be cleanup with most of it being made into firewood sized pieces for the wood stove.
A beautiful spring day brought temps in the 60’s and the mud had begun to dry. It was a good day to get the show barn cleaned out (it really needed it).
First order of business was to switch the loading forks on the front of the tractor to a bucket for scooping. Jackson the dog was happy to ride on the back of the tractor while Mike drove over the bridge to do the swap. (We keep the rotary mower on the back of the tractor for counter-balance weight, the dog thinks of it as his own personal deck).
Once the tractor is configured, the big tractor is attached to the manure spreader (honey wagon) and brought over to the barn for loading. Once the wagon is full, the load will be hauled up the road to the far field where it will be spread in a thin layer across the hayfield as a boost of nitrogen for the grass.
This one barn was an all day job with three full loads on the heifer side of the barn and one load on the cow side. Now the sweet smell of spring is much more pleasant out there.
The ground was frozen and there was a cool breeze blowing. Perfect weather for cleaning the barns. The cold night made the ground solid after the several days of rain but not so cold that the muck had frozen in the barn as it was last week.
Running one tractor attached to the ‘honey wagon’ and one tractor with a scoop bucket, we started cleaning. First out to the bull pen to scoop and plop buckets full, it was nearly a full spreader worth. Then out to the show barn to clean out the side where we weaned all the calves and the show cow side.
At times, our new young bull or a cow would come up to the fence line to peer over at the activity on the other side of the fence line, but would move on to grazing after they realized that we were not dealing with hay.
This natural fertilizer will be hauled up the road to the far hay field and spread in a thin layer over the grass. During the winter, the heavy rains, snow, freezing and thawing will break down the nitrogen rich manure to feed the soil.
As the barns are cleaned out, a coating of lime is tossed out onto the flooring before we put fresh wood chips in for the cows to lay on. The lime changes the pH of any remaining manure and freshens the barn (I really enjoy going out to the barns to work when they all are clean and smell more like wood chips than, you know, poop)
It was a long, cold day to get this chore done, but it is very good to get the barns all cleaned out before the dreary days of winter set in.
Right now this field looks like a muddy mess with tire tracks and goo coating everything. This is what a field looks like after we get the barns clean and 4 loads of wet manure has been spread out on it.
This spring was so wet that we were slow to get the barns clean. The loads from cleaning filled this field.
As soon as the soil dries out a bit from this extraordinarily wet March, and the ground firms up slightly, we will drag the harrow around and around this field to break up the larger pieces of manure.
After a few weeks the nitrogen rich muck will give the grass field a much needed boost after the hard winter. We will keep the cows off this field until the manure has dissipated into fertilizer and turns the grass green and lush for consumption.
The conversion is happening quickly because we have had several inches of rain over the last week even before we were able to get the harrow into this soggy field. Puddles sit all over this patch of ground and just barely start to sink in before more rain comes.
Mother Nature is not waiting for us to spread out this natural fertilizer with the harrow, she is doing a pretty good job without help.
The lime/calcium is a natural soil amendment made from ground limestone. It raises the Ph balance of the ground and helps break down the manure that we spread into the hay fields as fertilizer. By this breakdown, the soil is kept porous and the grass greens quickly, just the boost we need in the spring to jump start the fields that will be harvested for hay in late June.
We use lime in the yards and in the garden to sweeten the soil. It keeps the soil healthy and plants happy.
Lime is beneficial in the barns also. After scraping and removing the manure on the cement floor where the cows stand, a liberal layer of lime is spread before letting the cows back into the area.
The lime smells like toasted marshmallows and takes away any of the sour ammonia odor left from the manure. It disinfects as well as sweetens. This simple, natural procedure helps keep the animals healthy and the barns fresh.
Since lime is just limestone rocks ground to a powder, we are not afraid to handle it without gloves. There is no concern when the cows sniff, lick, roll and lay on the additive. And for those who have asked, the answer is yes, I have tasted lime myself. Just as you would expect, it tasted like rocks.
The month of March has been chocked-full of wild weather. What looked like the possibility of an early spring in February has diminished with heavy rains, hail, snow, two windstorms, did I mention rain?, and more rain. Continue reading