Beyond the fence that goes around the big hay field, you will find the slope that is too steep to mow for hay.
When we lock the cows out of the fields in the spring the cows use this area for grazing. The area is rampant with Canadian Thistles. It is another spot where I try to control the thistles with mowing using the small tractor with a rotary mower behind it.
I have to use the slope as a guide to direct the direction of mowing. With the rotary mower running, I start at the bottom of the hill and while mowing, back up as far as I can and still keep the tractor from stalling out while in 4-wheel drive reverse.
Once a tree or stump or old slash pile blocks my backwards accent, I shift to drive and mow down to the bottom where I start the process over again. The seat belt comes in very handy while I am concentrating on what is behind me when going up hill, and the hidden stumps that are under the tall thistles as I make my way down to the bottom. (I did mow one off this year, but to my defense it was very short and very rotten. So I didn’t feel bad about it or harm the equipment.)
It is an aerobic workout as I hang on, switch controls and wiggle from looking forward to looking backward with each pass.
This one area took two full days of mowing. The thistles are now beyond the time when I can control the mature seeds and any that I missed while mowing are now beginning to float on air currents.
Mowing the Canadian Thistles continues between rain showers and other farm activities. This is the on-going project, as a patch of thistles begin to fill out purple blooms, I run the tractor with a rotary mower over the patch to knock the blooms off the plants so they cannot reproduce.
The side ground between the hill and hay field is the current patch of thistles that I am working on. This spot is a little trickier than mowing on the flat ground. I have to keep the tractor running rows up and down while avoiding side-hill. The mowing deck needs to be manually adjusted constantly because of all the dips and valleys on the terrain.
The weeds have been growing furiously during this mild summer. Some of the stems are between 3 and 4 feet tall with patches so thick that it is hard to see the ground that I’m driving on, so it is a slow-go as I avoid the old growth stump fragments that are still sticking up out of the ground at 2 and 3 feet tall.
I am also on the lookout for gopher holes as I traverse the hill. The trapping that was done in the early spring helped to thin out the critters, but they have been multiplying ever since the grass grew too high to see the gopher mounds. Once I get the patch mowed, the trapping can begin again.
Strawberry season is now over and the patch needs attention.
I set the lawn mower on the highest level and mowed the sucker down. The plants do not need to be putting their energy into the bushes now that the berries are done producing. Baskets and baskets of leaves were fed to the cows.
Once the area has been clipped off, I can get around to those pesky weeds that have been flourishing beneath all the foliage. The patch, without this added cover will also dry quite a bit and slugs will not hang around the dried patch.
One of these upcoming weeks, when the weather is moderate, I will run the rototiller through the patch and make the unruly thicket into three rows. Any plants that have been dug up with the rototiller that still have good roots can be moved and replanted in a new row. I hope to have at least five rows of berries for next year. And to think all this started last year with just a handful of purchased Hood Strawberry plants.
In the first picture, the row of lettuce is now crowding whats left of the row. The lettuce was planted in that spot to encourage the strawberries to contain themselves in the designated patch. In the next few weeks the lettuce will be done with its growing cycle and the plants will be pulled out. They will also be fed to the cows, and this will also give me room to expand the strawberry patch to the full size intended for next years crop.
The second picture shows the trimmed patch. I have already rooted a few of the runners into planters to share with a friends garden.
The second hay field has now been mowed and has started the drying phase.
The cows had been watching outside the fence line during the first field just waiting for the chance to eat some of the sweet smelling hay that was being made. As we were moving the last of the equipment out of the field, we opened up the gates into the field and let the herd have their choice of all the edges and missed grass.
They seemed very content with this added pasture land. Until they noticed the grass in the next field that had just been cut. Once again they are standing at a fence line and wishing they could get into a field so full of a delicious bounty.
Sorry girls, this field is still a few days from becoming the next area to graze.
Step one: mow the grass down so it can dry in the summer sun. Step two: watch weather forecasts. Continue reading
A chemical free lawn is just for starters. In an effort to avoid chemicals for the entire farm, we maintain the area between the road and our fences. By keeping the area mowed, the county road crew doesn’t have to do any work to do when they drive past our farm and that includes their spray program. We appreciate our road crew and all the work they do to keep the road safe and well maintained for all travelers.
It is a long walk down the fence line as the mower is pushed through the fast growing grass in the springtime. The cows on the other side of the fence will follow along and eat the grass as quick as it the mower back is emptied. They remind us to get back to work when we take a break.
News from New Hampshire confirms new technology for old issues. As reported in Modern Farmer, the world is trying to enhance sustainability in farms.
New Hampshire-based AgEnergyUSA and poultry giant Perdue have teamed up on a proposal to create a plant on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that would convert the copious amounts of chicken poop fouling the Chesapeake Bay into energy, according to the Baltimore Sun. The proposed $200 million plant near Salisbury would be able to handle up to 200,000 tons of chicken waste a year, converting it to bio-gas through the use of bacteria that breaks the poop down.
Oregon in the Race
In Tillamook Oregon, farmers are using digesters to handle dairy herd waste. This system captures greenhouse gases and creates electricity.
The electricity can be used to defray power costs for the farm. Farms can sell leftover electricity back to the local power company for purchase by other consumers.
On Schmidlin Farm
At the farm, we have open grazing for the herd most of the time. By rotating the grass fields to pasture, then back to slack time, gives the manure a chance to enrich the soil and break down. It is natural fertilizer in a simple form.
Yet, we still need to clean the barns regularly and we use the manure in the yard, garden and in the hay fields.
We don’t use chemicals on the lawn. Weed control consists of elbow grease. The ritual of mowing becomes a fresh green chop addition to the cows diet. The yard is rarely all mowed at the same time. One wheelbarrow at a time is mowed and sprinkled out for the mother and baby cows.
The garden enjoys the healthy addition of well-rotted manure to grow an abundance of fresh food for the family, friends and neighbors. Because we don’t add chemicals to the garden, leftover fruit and vegetables are chopped up for the cows also. The cattle so enjoy their fresh treats that they fight over zucchini, corn stocks, bolted lettuce, apples, pears and plums.