Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Priming the North Pasture

In the spring there will be a lot of things going on. For one thing I will be a father in late April, broiler chickens will arrive about that time as well, we will have our first lambs by mid-May, but one thing I am really looking forward to is improving the north pasture area.

We have been farming here for almost two years now and I have yet to do much of anything with our north pasture area. It is the largest piece of the farm (probably 17 to 18 acres of our 40 acres). It is a rugged place and the highest and part of the farm. We have really worked over the south end of the farm this year as it was adjacent to all of our buildings and some of our most level ground. The north is still a wild area, but for the last month I have started to work it and prime it for next year. My 12 ewes are up there being rotated every other day to a new section ground. The area is so large that they have only scratched the surface, but they are breaking down the rank thatch, opening up the soil to more light, and removing the bark from some of the smaller Chinese Elm trees (hopefully killing some of them) encroaching on the pasture. I have a few pictures of the area. The top picture is looking down one side of the hill at the sheep. The sheep are the line of little bumps underneath the large cotton wood tree. They have just been moved into a new paddock and have to their faces to the ground like good sheep eating whatever they can find. That is good sheep behavior, a bad sheep will pace the paddock expecting to receive some food from you, my sheep have figured it out this year and I am glad for that.
In the top picture, you can also see our poor crop land seeding from June. It is the long line of yellowed grass located down where the ground starts to level out. It was a mess of annual grasses and weeds. I will burn it off this spring to remove the vegetation so light can get to the soil and hopefully give the little seedlings a chance before they have to start competing with weeds. This area was mowed around by my neighbor, but the tractor he was using could not make it trough more then the edges of the pasture. This mowed area will help serve as a fire break. If no seedlings show themselves, we will consider replanting the area.

The second shot is looking back up the large hill at an area where the sheep have been. You can see the white spots on the bark of the trees where the sheep have done there handy work and the grass in the foreground is much thinner then that in the background (an area I have not grazed yet).

I will be frost seeding in Ladino Clover in late February and early March. It has worked well for us in other places on the farm (turkey, cows, and sheep loved it), so I will be doing it on the north pasture and expanding the area I seeded on the south pasture. Clover is a legume and it seed is very small and round. Frost seeding is broadcasting the seed on the ground in late winter when the ground will still freeze and thaw several times before spring. The freezing and thawing lets the little legume seed work into the soil. It is best to do this when you can hit a period with no snow on the ground in late winter. Since I do not own much for equipment, I will be using my little lawn spreader to apply the seed. It is a good workout coving that much area, but it worked last year so why mess with success.

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