Now that the hay making task for the year is complete and the barn is loaded for winter hay, we've moved onto the next very pressing job of bush hogging the weeds and ungrazed grasses.
Earlier this spring we made hay from the grasses in several fields and pastures. Since then the grasses and weeds have grown up again. Once each field had rested and had ample time to regrow we let the cows graze it. The cattle return some nutrients to the soil which is important for a field that has been hayed. When we take hay off a field we're essentially removing nutrients, in the form of the grasses, that we'll feed the cattle later on. Nutrients from the soil are taken up into the grasses and weeds that grow there via the roots. When we remove the grasses we are therefore taking the nutrients out of that pasture to feed out later. When the cattle graze they are putting nutrients, minerals, organic matter, BACK into the field via pooping and peeing after they graze on the grasses that are there...nothing is really removed from the cycle in a grazing situation, unlike making hay from a field of grass.
So, now its mid summer and the fields have been hayed....rested....grazed...and now the weeds come on strong! Since we've had ample rain this spring and summer the weeds, as well as grasses, are benefiting from this fair weather and coming back strong. Weeds are any plant a cow will not eat! And the weed that we most hate is the briar. Briars are a summer plant that really takes off in the heat of the summer. This mid summer time of year is also a time when the pasture grasses are in a very slow growing phase because most of our grasses here are cooler season growing grasses. Meaning they grow fastest in the spring and fall. Now, they're still growing in the summer for sure especially when we get rain. But, the rate of growth of the briars is very fast during the hot dry months and it can easily out pace the slower growing cool season grasses. In a pasture that has been hayed in the spring, rested, and then had the grasses grazed down, leaves the uneaten briars to thrive. The grasses have been grazed and this removes all competition of moisture and nutrients for the briars and they will be off and running while the grasses that we really like are in recovery.
Dewi Eagan, my teenage son, and cheap labor but well fed!
Today we raked, baled, and got in the barn the last of the hay we'll make this year. The 2018 hay season is complete....finally! That's Pancho and I there with the last load heading from the field to the barn. We make our own hay here at Proffitt Family Cattle Co. so that it will be certified organic hay. Buying and hauling in certified organic hay is extremely costly so the obvious solution is to make it ourselves!
Hay is simply grass in our fields and pastures that is cut and allowed to dry. Once dried it is raked into a row and then baled up into a neat round roll of 750 pounds of hay each! Sounds simple enough I know but it is an equipment heavy process! For each field we hay we use multiple tractors and implements. The first step is the cutter to mow or 'lay down' the grass. Step 2 is we tedder it. Teddering spreads it around so that it will dry more quickly and evenly. Then we wait. Wait for it to dry because hay is dried grass not WET grass. Remember the song about Misses O'Leary and her burning barn? Yeah, well she did drop a lantern, but if you fill a barn with wet hay it'll heat up and maybe catch fire and burn....that's a bad thing! These days the hay has been drying in just a day or two. It's been hot and dry which is the most perfect hay making weather! Once it's dried its like a blanket over the field so we have to rake it up into rows. This is step 3: raking. We do this with a giant 20' wide rake we pull behind the tractor. Then we take the rake off the tractor and put the baler on.
Baling is step 4. The baler, like all these implements, is a mechanical marvel! It uses tines to pick up the rows of grass and belts spin it into a giant 4'x4' round bale then the baler wraps a bunch of twine around it to hold it in that shape. It's amazing, really it is. Then we use the hay fork on the front of the tractor to pick the bales up and load them onto a 32' flat bed trailer. We can comfortably stack 14 on one load. So, loading and hauling the bales to the barn is step 5. Today when Lefty opened the baler door to drop a completed round bale it rolled out nicely.... but didn't stop rolling...then it suddenly turned and headed for the woods at the bottom of the pasture. Suffice it to say that 750 pounds of hay in a ball can really work up some surprising speed quite quickly on a down hill slope! After about 5 seconds that baby was at top speed like it was being chased! Unless a tree in the woods stopped it I'm pretty sure it made it all the way to the creek way down there!
But we were able to get the rest onto the trailer and headed for the barn. It has been a long day and I am beat! I hope to see you all at the farm store tomorrow or the farmers market on Saturday.
Here's to greener pastures,
Another load of round bales heading from the field to the barn.
Angel, our Great Pyrenees guard dog, passed away this week at 11 years of age. Granny named her Angel because she was the gaurdian angel of livestock and all small critters. In her prime she weighed 120 lbs. and had a coat of hair that lead children to call her a loin. I've seen quite a few Pyrenees over the years but none others that had such gentle eyes and a mane like she did. She always walked around at a leisurely pace like she carried the weight of the world but if there was a hint of a coyote or any predator she could run like the wind to track them down and you wouldn't believe it was the same mellow dog! She would chase them into the woods on the farm and disappear for hours at a time leaving us wondering if she was going to return, but she always did, and unscathed at that. She was so striking in appearance and with such a calm friendly demeanor that visitors to our farm would remember and ask after her years after their visit. She was one of a kind.
Angel was always partial to small critters. Cats, chickens, puppies and little dogs were her self appointed job to keep safe and watch over. We never had to worry about stray dogs or coyotes or fox hurting our clutch of small domestic or farm animals because she would never allow it. On one rare occasion we kept her inside for the night and the next day woke up to a dead chicken in the yard. She was laying down beside the carcass, guarding it even in death. We knew she hadn't been the killer and was keeping an eye on it. She knew something wasn't right. Angel tolerated the cats and let them lay down with her however close it suited them. We've had several very small dogs that, even though she wouldn't play with our bigger dogs, she'd jump around and try to play with the little ones often to their confusion!
She would accompany us to the barn almost everyday despite the fact that she spent most every night walking the perimeter of the property barking with her deep throated baritone warning woof letting any predators know this was her property and they should keep away. Even though she walked around and barked all night it was such a deep bark it never caused us to lose sleep. Her warning barks were a sound of the night that makes it seem all too quiet now that she's gone.
The ruff of mane around her neck was part of what protected her and made her an unstoppable opponent to coyotes. We all slept better knowing she was on duty.
We had many a stray dog enter the property and learn that they had to submit to Angel our Alpha dog. On the rare occasion when this didn't happen right away she would hold them down and scare the be-jesus out of them to make her point! But in all the years I witnessed this she let them get up and walk away without so much as a scratch. She was actually very gentle in nature and not easily provoked. She never bit or so much as threatened a single man, woman, or child despite her intimidating physique and ability to do so. She was our gentle giant.......unless you're a coyote! Then....it was ON!
To Greener pastures, and gentle giants,
Angel and I at the barn