The morning sun warmed the ledge of exposed dirt and roots along the river. Some of the cows wasted no time to dig right in and make a mess. I had been on the far side of the river when I noticed the trail of cattle moving toward the open field had extra smears of mud on faces, necks and torsos.
Blowing up the size of the picture in order to see the detail, the image is not as clear as I would like, but I’m sure you can see just what the critters have been up to. These two mess-makers were the final ones to head to munch on grass.
During the summer time, cattle are known to rub dirt and mud into their coats as an extra coating to keep the flies and other bugs from bothering them. During this time of year, it is probably just for fun.
A complacency had descended sometime during the fall. The lack of rain had kept the ground, paths and roads around the farm rock solid. It was easy to tread, trek or tractor every each of the farm.
The moisture we have experienced in the last few days changed everything.
There are puddles on every road and there is water in the swamp again. Ditches around the barns had to be re-opened so the run off didn’t sluice through the barns, water bars on the logging roads need to be shored up again and drains under roads need to be dug out and opened up so the extra can run toward the river. And now we have mud.
This magical stuff that plagues the farm is back. Next order of business will be to rock the paths with the most holes and spaces where we thought were well rocked only to find that the rock has sunk beneath a good layer of goo. Now it feels like fall has come to the farm.
There is a brittleness in the dry lawn as it crunches underfoot. Dust seems to coat every surface. The cattle have given up on coming across green growth in the hayfields and are rummaging through the scrub brush growing in the fence lines for anything edible between hay feedings.
The weather forecasts have been teasing us with a chance of rain in the extended forecasts for the better part of the summer only to dash our hopes as the individual days get closer. Weather apps change hourly as the probability of rain changes from 4 days of rain, to 3 days of probability to 2 days of a chance of rain, to not much more than darkening clouds before the sun again overtakes the sky.
I did find 7/100 of an inch in the rain gauge Saturday morning, but it did little to do more than leave a trace in the dust. The forecast is again calling for rain to be moving into the area as of this writing. We are looking forward to the wet days with a little trepidation as all this dust is going to turn into something very messy.
With weather forecasts calling for rain for the next foreseeable future, at least seven days, it is supposed to rain.
The swamp drainage culvert under the county road is already running water to the river. We have been making sure all eaves are clean and flowing smoothly, ditched around barns susceptible to puddling and rushing water running through. It is now time to lock the main herd out of the hay field/pasture area.
The gate entry points were closed at the back of the main field. As you can see from the picture, puddles are already sitting where the animals tread back and forth out of the hay field.
The gates are located back by the spring, near the current log landing and down into the six acre field. We also drove steel posts across the expanse between the barn and the fence that goes around the field so the cows would not have access around the barn where they like to converge during poor weather. They will have plenty of space to get cover along the hillside under the large fir trees.
Barb wire was used as the bottom and New Zealand wire (white plastic tape with copper threads running through for conductivity visibility) was used for the top wire. The wires were attached to the steel posts by insulators and electrified by a solar powered pack attached to the side of the barn. This time of year, with all the darkness and cloud cover, the fence is not very hot with current although the animals do not test the fence since they are used to electric fences.
Keeping the cows out of the hay field/pasture allows for the grass to fill in where it had been dried out during the heat at the end of the summer and it keeps all those big footy prints from chewing up the tender growth. As the cows begin calving, the field will be used as the nursery field.
Weather forecasters look at things differently than many of us do, they begin their calendars on October 1st instead of January 1st. October 1st is considered the beginning of the winter season that supplies the area with the rain in the valley and snow pack in the Cascades. That in turn determines our predictability throughout the summer months to grow the verdant greens of crops, trees, and all manner of vegetation. Continue reading
Cows love to run down hill. It is quite comical to see an older animal weighing nearly a ton, kick up her heals and scoot down a hillside with her tail in the air and her bag wildly swinging side to side. Once they get to the bottom of the hill, the adult takes over and the cows are calm and peaceful.
Mud is more fun than running down hill. This was the mud that washed into the nursery field from the hill side road.
This mama cow just couldn’t resist getting down on her knees and fighting the layer of mud. Her calf stood by watching the sight unable to understand why she was scrambling around on her knees.
Once her face was thoroughly coated with a thick paste of mud, the game was over and the cow returned to eating hay that we had set out for her meal.
The frozen tundra was the last to thaw. The many inches of rain we have gotten since the snow and ice just could not absorb into the ground.
So areas like this one got a sloppy, muddy run off. This spot is along the nursery field. There is a rocked road just on the other side of the fence and the hillside beyond that. The thin layer of dirt and mud that was thawed slid right over the top of the layers that were still frozen.
The slurry flowed down under the wire fence and deposited itself in sweeping mounds at the edge of the field. These mounds will have to be taken care of before the grass tries to grow through the thick layer because the hay equipment will not be able to drive through and the grass will get choked out.
The spots that are the thicker layers of deposit will be scooped up, the bigger ones by tractor and the smaller ones by shovel and bucket. The deposits that are thinner yet will be dragged apart by the field harrow pulled behind the Gator. The harrow is nothing more than a blanket of steel teeth pulled behind a piece of equipment that combs through the grass to pull out moss while smoothing mole mounds, foot imprints, and other small imperfections in the topsoil.
We harrow all the hay fields every spring anyway, we will just have to spend a couple of extra days on this area to get it back into healthy, grass growing production. The harrowing will start when the ground has firmed up after the winter rains.