Of Grass, Sheep, Moles, and Dirt
Currently it's in vogue to consider oneself, as a shepherd, to actually be in the business of being a 'grass farmer.' Of course, this assumes one actually understands the culture of various grass species and legumes, which I can say I don't. I am a novice. I can recognize winter rye and red and white clovers, and tall fescue. That's about it. So I'll stick to 'novice shepherd' for now as I feel my way along.
Right now my small flock cannot keep up with the grass on our current pasture rotation. So I spend time on the small tractor mowing. If I had a good farmer's mower, I'd put up some of the cutting for hay rather than mulch it with the mowing deck on the small tractor (it's a John Deere, but with front and back PTOs and can do a great deal - a lawn and garden tractor on steroids). If I had a good scythe and knew how to wield it, I'd take a swipe at cutting hay and gathering it into shocks after it dried.
Walking the North pasture last night, while rounding up the flock to put them in the fold for the night, I examined grass, which now nearly exceeds the height of the sheep, and generally am pleased with what was, over winter, a bit of a poorly pasture (the South pasture is much more lovely). The combination of overseeding with the gentle planting action of sheeps' hooves on moist soil seems to have encouraged some recovery.
Nevertheless, I continue to have moles working the soil in the North pasture far more abundantly than anywhere else on the property.
I have mixed feelings about moles - within limits they are actually good tillers of the soil and I will leave them be as they go about their business of aerating and mixing soil layers and providing better drainage, as well as eating large numbers of insects, insect larvae, and other pests. I sometimes take some of the freshly tilled soil to use for soil layers in the compost heaps and for mixing in the garden with compost and more sandy soil (our native soil on the farm is a silty clay loam of volcanic origin - fairly productive but I like to mix it for the raised beds in the garden). So the moles provide some benefit, so long as they don't get out of hand.
So far, one of our resident cats has ensured just that. Everyone earns his or her keep on the farm, whether sheep (grass management, wool, natural fertilizer, meat), chickens (eggs, some grass/weed control, bug control, some meat), dog (all around warning system/deterrent, hunting companion), cats (rodent management) . . . and of course, the farmer (caretaker, weed-puller, cultivator, ear scratcher, etc., etc.). Even the mole earns his keep - and for that I think some hills in the pasture are a fair trade. I like to think that moving the soil into other parts of the system (compost, garden) is a means to conserve the now-exposed soil and avoid any significant scatter/topsoil blowout as a result of wind-driven dust.
Today at lunch I got out the Farm Journal (sort of a log of doings so maybe I'll learn lessons from it), which I had failed to update in about three months, and started thinking of all that the last three months has brought. That got me to thinking of the inventory of all the things growing on the farm right now (besides weeds and grass and invasive but delicious blackberries). So here, dear reader, is an inventory of things striving:
In the Garden:
Lettuce (3 kinds)
Onions (Walla Walla)
Pepper plants (one red, one yellow)
Tomato (3 varieties)
Blueberries (six bushes)
Grape vines (two old vines - "eating grapes")
In the "Orchard" (actually orchard and other locations)
Apples (six+ varieties)
Pears (5 varieties)
Cherries (two varieties I think - one is Bing)
Figs (3 varieties)
Walnuts (5 English Walnuts - aged but still producing beautiful nuts for October)
Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold.