It has been a dark week of rain. The cellar hole that Allen dug in 2009 for the future house again looks like a swimming hole, brimming with water.
However the winter rye on the back acres is soaking up the rain and turning into an emerald field.
The rye will die with the first frost but the roots will remain and introduce some all-important organic matter to the sour, rocky soil.
I am trying to come up with a plan for getting grass seed to those acres. Pasture seed runs $149 per bag and I’d need about fifty bags. This is far beyond my pocketbook.
In his book Comeback Farms: Rejuvenating Soils, Pastures, and Profits with Livestock Grazing Management, Greg Judy recommends feeding hay on rough acreage for a “free fertility program.” (Every flake of hay is full of grass seed and any waste is trampled into the ground to add organic matter.) This is exactly what I’ve done on a limited scale on all the upper acres, but Judy takes it much further.
He buys giant 1500-lb round bales — a much more economical way to buy hay, but not a real option for me without a tractor to move them.
Most farmers feed round bales in a bale ring. The ring protects the bale from trampling but concentrates the heavy hoof action directly around it. Most bale rings end up encircled in winter by a swamp of mud and manure that dries in summer to resemble lifeless concrete.
Instead of using a bale ring, however, Judy unrolls his round bales in long windrows across the ground. In this way he feeds his cattle without concentrating the trampling. Meanwhile the waste enriches long swaths of his worn-out soil.
Rick, my hay man, says he has some 600-700-pound round bales left from last year’s crop that he would sell cheaply. The price works out to a third of the cost of small square bales. I am wondering if there is any way he could bring me ten round bales on a dry day and drop them strategically all over the back acres.
Then all I’d have to do over the summer is unroll them, one by one. Greg Judy implies this is easy. Rick says this is easy. Others tell me it’s practically impossible.
I’m still reading, scheming, and plotting. And it is raining.