June 18- 23, 2019
Perhaps it was not the wisest choice to proclaim my intent to regularly journal farm life on the week before my sister’s wedding. Naivety led me to believe that, since I was not directly involved in planning or details, my life would carry on completely uninterrupted throughout the event. Excitement, impatience, and a host of other feelings of anticipation clogged up my mind, though, and already six days have passed since my last update. Suffice it to say the whole week was filled with preparation of the grounds for Kate and BJ’s celebration, and the day went off wonderfully.
Downpours defined the early part of the week. The days were such that I didn’t know whether I should be carrying my sunglasses or wearing my rain suit, as scorching sun would be immediately followed by drenching from the sky several times each day. So much water fell that my super-sized rain gauge succumbed to excess weight and broke off its stand. Rain gear is miserable to wear when it isn’t raining, and is burdensome to keep close at hand during field work, so I eventually reached a point of exasperation and gave up trying to stay dry. I think the whole of our family got soaked several times.
Our poor pastures. In places of strong sod, the vegetative detritus prevented cattle from mucking the soil and wreaking havoc on its structure. This is proof that we’re making good progress to returning stability to our land through grazing, yet patches still remain where abundant root structure does not exist and heavy animals churn the ground excessively. During the course of the rains, several acres were affected by the grazing herd and I will be anxious to watch how the ground recovers. Frustrations are excellent indicators to point out areas requiring managerial improvement.
The weather broke on Friday, and sun shone all weekend. It’s amazing how quickly the ground will begin to dry, though it’s still a good idea to drive carefully on any piece of equipment for fear of sinking into a soft spot. Mark, owner of Little Sprouts Produce, has been battling the weather more than the rest of us this year and took advantage of the dry spell to hill potatoes and re-plant watermelons and several kind of corn. He’s growing concerned about his vegetable harvest this year due to the rain. The guy is one of the most determined people I know, however, and I suspect that he’ll work through his current frustrations and pull off a successful year.
I temporarily stationed the grazing herd in our yard under the apple trees to provide shade from the sun. Mowing grass is something I am loath to do, much to the chagrin of Gina, who does a vast majority of the yard work, so it’s always a great pleasure to turn our cattle on to the unkempt backyard grass and watch them eat. Henry took an animated interest in the fifty bovines of various sizes lounging in his play area. His surprised laughter is infectious, and Gina and I sat in the shade with him for nearly half an hour as he watched the animals. Fear of livestock is not going to hinder that little one.
One of the old cows that I was certain would not have a calf this year, earning herself a trip off the farm, is beginning to ‘bag up’, a sign that she’s making milk in preparation of having a calf. Unless I’m seeing things, I believe the old girl will prove me wrong once again. The fact that a cow of her age, size, and obscure pedigree can reproduce in our grass only system is an outstanding testament to the value of close attention to forage management. I’ll be awfully proud to see that calf, certainly the last of the season, hit the ground.
I’m thrilled by the influx of birds that inhabit our farm. Swallows of some kind, once rarely noticed on the property, now follow the cattle in giant flocks. Swift and agile in their maneuvers, the miniature fighter jets streak back and forth just inches above the backs of the herd, picking delicious flies out of the air and helping to control the summer pest. They’re a joy to observe, and I wonder how many pounds of insects are removed by the avian swarm on a daily basis. I intend to promote abundant nesting areas to ensure continued proliferation of this natural form of pest control, for accommodation of complementary wildlife is a far better and longer lasting investment than any kind of chemical fix. It’s a wonder any herdsman would rather purchase and apply insecticides than encourage and enjoy birds, yet the pages of every cattle magazine remain encumbered with advertisements for all sorts of pharmaceutical fly control.
Tomorrow life starts again as normal. I like a little excitement now and then, but it will be good to buckle down and return to a routine that’s effective. I’m sure my family is more excited than I am, for they are the group who has been burning the candle at both ends.