The temperatures have finally moderated and we had some decent rainfall this weekend. Yay! The much-needed rain will help with the fire danger and start the long journey back to full ponds, lakes and reservoirs.
The drought damage, though, will extend well beyond this season. Warm-season grass that should be matured and going to seed now to produce new grass in the spring withered long ago. The rain is too late to help our native Bermuda and too early to jumpstart the cool-season grasses. Still, it’s more than welcome.
The horses have munched through the pastures with the best grass. There are three other pastures they can graze but the grass in those is sparse and poor. I’d put off mowing them – that is until last week. The first pasture I’ve tackled is 8 acres I bought off a neighbor who moved a couple of years ago. The neighbor used to run a couple of cows and a horse on it, but it hasn’t been mown often. I did give it a rough mow last year and was pleased with the amount of good grass in it. I had expected a good crop this year, too.
|Yep, gotta mow around all those trees up ahead.|
It’s fenced, but it’s old fencing: a combination of rusted barbed wire and even rustier field fence. The steel T-posts holding the fence up are weary-looking but solid for the most part. The mid-posts and corner-posts, though, are wood, and many of them either were burnt by a grass fire a dozen years ago or are simply decaying.
My plan was to string an electric fence inside the perimeter to keep the horses away from the rusting fence line. In normal soil, the extremely lightweight, fiberglass posts are easy to set. The ones I bought even have a convenient ridge built in that you step on to drive the post about a foot into the ground. This, however, isn’t normal soil. No way I could set the new posts into ground as hard as concrete. So I mowed the acreage and let the horses into the pasture, hoping that the game of finding a few blades of grass amid the weeds will keep them entertained enough they don’t go rubbing their backsides against the fence to give themselves a good scratch and wind up getting cut on the rusty barbs.
I’m not sure the ground will be softened enough after this bout of rain to drive in the posts. So far, the horses are behaving themselves and thoroughly enjoying being in a pasture they’ve not had access to before.
|The brush pile is waiting for a calm day just after a rain to be burned and buried. It's been waiting now for nearly a year.|
A couple of the acres have a lot of trees on them. I’ve tried to leave as many seedling native pears as I can in a small grove but that means tedious mowing to get around them. It takes me, on average, about an hour to mow an acre. The cut grass has to dry for a couple of days before being baled – or bagged, which is what I do since I don’t have expensive baling equipment. I use a large grass sweeper that collects the grass but doesn’t bag it. I still have to circle back around and hand bag all the hay. To mow, rake and stuff 50 bags of hay takes me the better part of 5 days.
|It's a John Deere with a 5-foot drag-behind mower (aka brush hog)|
|The brush hog in action!|
Fifty bags of poor-quality hay will last maybe 2 months if I s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out. I’ll mix it with a like amount of good-quality, purchased hay; add in 3 or 4 dozen bags of leaves (they’ll be dropping soon enough!); and supplement with plenty of grain. Goats and horses will do fine.
Once the ground dries out, I’ll tackle the other two pastures and bag up maybe another 30 bags of hay. Whoo! It’s a good workout. The best thing? Just look at the sunsets after a long day’s work!