Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Earning my keep

The bull is going to the butcher on Thursday. Yahoo. I like seeing the finished product of a years work. He is a beautiful 14 month old boy. Yummy eating for 4 lucky families this winter. The only sad part is the cow Stella and the horse Bud are going back to Yarmouth for the winter, since I have no barn yet. My financial plans still rely heavily on winning the lottery. So I have to hang up my coveralls and saddle for a couple of months.

Since I've had to wait until now for the critters to go home, they've been out in the pasture. In case you didn't notice the grass stopped growing a couple of weeks ago. Since their arrival in spring, I've had to buy 4 round bales of hay. Two back in August when they were staring at how much greener the grass was on the other side of the fence. Green grass I hadn't finished fencing in. So 2 weeks of hay got them by until I could open the gate. The other 2 bales fed them the past 2 weeks since the grass declared it winter.

When cutting grass, be it for hay, haylage or silage, nutrients are being removed. Without putting fertilizer of some type back on, the soil will quickly loose it's ability to grow anything but weeds. Because I have no equipment, or money, and would like to stay as natural and as close to organic as possible I've not been able to put fertilizer back on. A great farmer/agrologist/consultant told me that people have to earn the right to harvest a crop. I'm ashamed to say that I have not fully earned that right. The cows and horse do fertilize as they go, but not enough to even out what is being removed. I was hoping for wood ash to put on the field, which is organic, natural, and oh so good for the soil. But October decided it wanted to be a mansoon for halloween and the fields are too wet to get anywhere near with a tractor. Next year.

The good part of all this is that the left over pooped on, walked on hay that the animals didn't eat (which is a significant amount) was piled to rot all summer. Since this hay was cut very late, the grass had gone to seed. So now, I have something to give back to the soil. The very grass that removes alot of nutrients when harvested also gives it back. This rotten peed on, pooped on grass is now spread out, fretilizing the field and reseeding at the same time. Areas that the horse had paced down to the bedrock now have green grass growing. Hooray. This had turned out to be a very good use for this old hay. Some of it went in the garden too. That should help break up the clay and improve the soil structure.

The goal for next year is to have the back field fenced off and do a better job of rotational grazing. Because wood ash doesn't supply any nitrogen, I'm fiddling with the idea of frost seeding triple mix to add clover to the fields, which will hopefully help it produce its own. Wood ash will be used next year and everyone will end up happy. I'll have earned my crop, the cows and horse will have better grass and the soil will have the nutrients it needs. All naturally.

No comments: