Out of Grass

It’s mid-August in a drought year and I’m out of grass. The land is still green but there is very little forage left for the livestock except washy bunch grass, white clover, and weeds. (Notice the raspberries overwhelming my back fence line?)

On the one hand it is frustrating. I have started to put out hay but no one will eat it. What? Exchange this salad bar for dried out shredded wheat? Forget it! The result is that all the animals are losing weight. There is not enough nutrition in the green weeds.

But on the other hand I am elated. It’s mid-August and I’m just now starting to feed out hay! This is the first year I’ve managed to feed my animals from the land for most of the summer.

When I bought this 22-acre property, in two contiguous strips, in 2003 and 2005, it was balsam forest. I had two acres of the first piece logged in 2004. Here’s Tommy in the excavator as we burned brush that October.

That is the north field — and here it is today.

The south field was logged the following year. Allen and his son D stumped it in September, 2005. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Little by little, I have pounded fence posts, strung wire, picked rocks, cut and burned brush, planted winter rye, mowed (and broken the mowers), spread manure, limed as I could afford it, and endlessly weedwhacked briars and raspberries. In 2009 I was still sawing down jumped-up poplars and black cherries that were over my head and two inches at the base. These pastures, poor and weedy as they are, have been wrung out of this rough-cleared land on a shoestring budget with toil and sweat and exhaustion.

Today when I’m standing at the back of the property looking up at the green slopes, I am sometimes overcome. No one else will ever know the feeling of triumph. (Allen, who has helped me so often and watched the progress since those early days, has the closest idea.)

There is a long, long way to go — I have barely started on the back ten acres — but I’m beginning to believe I can do it.

Now to convince the animals to stoke up on a little hay.

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4 Responses to Out of Grass

  1. Beth Tilton says:

    Here in eastern Vermont, I have a similar problem but have been glad for the recent rain. Rotational grazing, though, as much work as it is, puts less stress on each section of pasture so the grass grows back faster. The fewer animals you have, the easier rotational grazing is, but it really works. Perhaps next year you will have enough grass until the fall. It looks fantastic!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Beth, I’ve been grateful for the recent rain, too. And I agree with you 100% about the rotational grazing. I started out with terrific intentions but as my summer got busier and I fell further behind, I grew sloppy with the cattle and horse (the sheep down at Betty’s I’ve managed very strictly). Sometimes at the end of the day I just needed to turn everybody out and rush home to make dinner. I am thinking that next year I might set up temporary paddocks across my pastures BEFORE the grazing season starts, so I don’t have to reset fences every day at both places. It is wonderfully exciting to watch the land gradually respond to the better management, though.

  2. theresa says:

    Very pretty bull you have there with the broken coloring!

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Thanks, Teresa. He is supposed to be 100% Jersey but I think there may be a little Holstein in there somewhere. It’s nice to have a different look in the pasture!

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