Monday, March 9, 2009

Freshly Combed

Yesterday evening, after accompanying Paul to a firewood delivery in Tumwater and then going out to a yummy lunch at Tugboat Annie's in Olympia, we headed home so Paul could start the quad and I could ride it. Yay, sounds fun! I am a chicken at heart, not a big adreneline junky, so have only driven a quad a few (short, flat) times. But yesterday was different; meet quad as tool.

We've had several hundred pounds of non-organic chemical fertilizer sitting in our garage since last summer, when we were new and were instructed by the Conservation District to fertilize the unused pasture so it'd be good forage for the cows who weren't home yet. But, given we lacked our own equipment, we had to coordinate the borrowing of my father-in-law's tractor with the borrowing of the Conservation District's spin spreader, and time it so that we could fertilize just before rain was predicted so it'd get good and watered in. (We lack water rights, so are forbidden to water more than 1 acre of "personal garden" in addition to lawn. Bummer.) By the time we actually SAW rain forecasted (it was July), the next person on the Conservation District's "borrow" list was ready to spin spread right NOW, and they picked it up and took it away. No fertilizer for us!

This year we lack any form of a tractor and still have that big ol' pile of bagged, expensive chemical fertilizer sitting in the garage. We do have, though, our brother-in-law's quad and permission to use it (thanks Rich and Michele!)! Before we can fertilize, we needed to aerate and break up the ground, and drag last summer's billions of cow patties (now partially petrified, it seems) around the field.

Yesterday, I hopped upon the four-wheeled utility steed, Paul attached his dad's pasture harrow (a black iron (or steel?) blanket-like thing with "teeth" that cut up the ground as you drag it). I whipped around the pasture(s) for about an hour and a half, stopping periodically to remove branches, rocks, and two errant white golf balls (no idea!), harrowing as the sky darkened and the temperature started to drop. The end result, if you look straight down a harrowed row, is a sort of combing...the teeth have left parallel lines in the field all around, and combed the taller grass (the stuff that didn't get brush hogged last year because it was under the tractor tires and was therefore flattened instead) the other way.

Part of our pasture is off to the side of the house and currently houses "stuff," including our well house, some lumber and fencing rolls, Paul's firewood pile, and, um, his dad's flatbed car trailer with a hot tub on top. (That tub will someday grace our back deck or patio - yet to be built - off our bedroom where sliding or French doors have yet to be installed.) We may or may not graze the cattle in there...aside from giving them many more previously untouched apple trees to destroy (sad!), we'd also have to remove all the pine trees, as ingested pine needles are known to cause spontaneous abortions (miscarriage, a.k.a. "slipped calves") in pregnant females. Just in case, it's been harrowed, too, as best I could with all the stuff sitting everywhere. That side is also really mossy (probably because of the shade on that side), so in addition to combing and teeth rows, I also left a trail of big, mossy clumps in my wake.

I would love to show you a photo of my work, but last night's snow storm (grr!) has buried it for now. If it melts away, I'll snap a shot and post it later.

Next up...fertilizing with the quad (thanks again, Rich and Michele!) and a small borrowed spin spreader one of Paul's co-workers has volunteered. The fertilizer window is closing...hurry, hurry!

Since you're likely wondering about the whole chemical fertilizer thing, please note that we'd like to go organic in the future...maybe even next year. We're not really sure what all that might entail, or how much money it might cost, but neither of us are thrilled with the chemical path. It's a means to an end for now, plus we already bought it, brought it home, and have wasted storage space on it for a year. Once we get through this month of caring for the pasture and have the cattle turned out on what will hopefully be gorgeous, nutritious lush green pasture grass, I'll start researching the organic methods.


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