Friday, June 13, 2008

Simple Gifts

Wow, what a busy week. Paul and I are both so exhausted from our "real" jobs that coming home and working on the pasture is an extra chore. We are making progress, though.

Sunday we spent four and a half hours walking nearly every inch of our larger 2.5 acre pasture, spraying Crossbow on the bad stuff: blackberries, wild lupine, tansy ragwort, scotchbroom, and most tedious of all, bracken fern. There must be five million bracken ferns. The Conservation District agent suggested we add dye to the Crossbow mixture so we could see where we sprayed. That tip is worth a million bucks! We surely would have missed a lot of ferns AND wasted a lot of time if it weren't for the blue dye. Thankfully the Crossbow had a couple of hours to dry before the rains came again.

After waiting the suggested "few" days, Paul started brush hogging in earnest last night. He got a nice chunk done around the outside of our L-shaped pasture, but still has another couple hours of tractor driving to go. I rode with him for a bit, which was fun.

I am amazed and the unexpected gifts this pasture work is bringing us:

PEOPLE - both the neighbor across the street and the neighbor next door have come over to chat with Paul after seeing (or hearing, more likely!) his work in the pasture with the big noisy orange tractor. And, as Paul and I made a slow sweep past the south fenceline, mowing away, he noticed another neighbor we've never met sitting on her back porch watching us, and we waved at eachother. How exciting!

VIEWS - it's SO nice to be able to see the lay of our land now that some of the knee- to waist-high grass is toppled. Seriously, there is one section in the paddock I can't WAIT for Paul to get's up to my armpits. I feel like I'll drown walking through that grass. The cows will love it, but sheesh! So far Paul has mowed a few rows along the outside fenceline in the pasture at large, and also around the many apple trees dotting the pasture. Now we can actually see across our land in those areas. We had no idea the southeast corner of our property slopes up away from the house. The whole middle section of the pasture still needs to be mowed, and I'm sure it will be even more amazing to see what lies beneath that mix of tall grass, weeds and daisies!

CRITTERS - while I assumed the animals would be "sad" that their tall cover grass was gone, I'm astounded to be proven wrong! As the mowed part gets wider, more and more birds are coming in to check it out. There is this mystery bird that I have been hearing; Paul remembers it from his growing up years, but neither of us could find it in the bird books, nor could we see well enough to have any good clues.

Well, to my surprise last night two of them landed in the backyard, just 30 feet from the house! I grabbed the ever-present binoculars and soaked in the details...dark stripey head, white collar, brown back, white undersides...hmmm...longish legs, and a dark longish pointed beak...reminds me of, that doesn't make any sense...they can't be shorebirds. Actually, they turn out to be killdeer, which are closely related to some plovers, which are shorebirds! The killdeer live in pastures playfields, nest on the ground, and eat insects and seeds. No wonder they're going nuts over the mown pasture!

Our absent pheasant came back last night, too, with one of his girlfriends, and checked out the area by the south fence, even flapping and calling like old days. (I thought he was gone, having neither seen nor heard him in the past week or so.) It occurs to me in retrospect that most of the critters we see thrive on grasses and seeds, and now that the seedy grass heads are laying on the ground, they're probably thrilled to see this bonanza.

The mystery white cat (Tom's evil twin) sat and watched with flat ears as Paul and I (slowly) bore down on him in the tractor, until finally dashing into the neighbor's scotchbroom haven. He will no doubt stalk rodents as they partake of the grassy party foods. I'm a little concerned for the baby bunnies we saw running from us last weekend as we target-sprayed the noxious weeds, and hope they safely left the pasture before brush hogging started and will come back when it's over. It's hard to say...they were certainly old enough to be afraid of us, and while I had half a mind to try and run out and rescue them from where I think their den might be, I also recognize they a) have teeth and know how to use them and b) may be rejected from mama bunny (if she's still around) if they are handled. I wished them well and went about my business of gathering the evenings eggs.

Tonight the brush hogging will resume, and with it I'm sure will come more gifts!


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