Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Buffet--You Only Need Pasture Hands Who Have No Hands

We have had nice rain for the past three days, but for the past six weeks it has been incredibly dry at the horse lot. This is the transitional time of the year for the pastures. In past years it was the time that I began to transition from dust to mud.

Not this year. We have never had so much greenery in the horse lot. Much of the credit goes to the microbes that were on the organic fertilizer that we have put down in most of the pastures. These microbes have lead to phenomenal root development. This summer I have not had an abundance of dung beetles as I have had in past years. Their shortage has been taken up by large night crawling worms who surface and gobble manure at an incredible rate. I have not raised any jumping worms for release but theses worms seem to be a feral variant of a strain of jumping worm. One does not realize how much manure they consume until one takes a close look at the pastures where they are abundant. In those pastures there are very few piles of manure to be found.

These worms also tunnel deeply into the soil and even penetrate compacted hard pan which reduces run off by increasing the amount of water can reach through the soil instead of ponding on it.

The dry weather may have reduced the effectiveness of an experiment that I am working on. I put down diakon radishes to reduce soil compaction and to bring nutrients to the surface where they can be used by the grasses. They are germinating now and I fear that an early frost will kill them before they can do their job.

My experiments on a very small scale with hugelculture are not conclusive--likely much to early to see an effect. I hope to see this tremendously expanded over the next decade with more water being absorbed into the soil and more microbes, and worms living in the decaying wood which lies just below the surface.

One of the most tedious jobs at the horse lot is trimming back undergrowth from the electric wire. The shortages created by having plants grow up the fences and contacting the strand of electric wire can render the protective strand of electric wire useless. This week I began to make the trek around the perimeter fencing (about 1.25 miles) with hedge trimmers in hand. I found only a few spots to cut. Our colonial Spanish goats, (primarily the Syfan does who are nursing little ones) have gobbled the honey suckle and other vines to the point of near elimination. Of course, with the root system those plants have they will be back--and so will my goats.

Wendell's knowledge of such matters, coupled with what I have picked up from Lloyd and Lydia about permaculture have greatly improved our pastures, but the biggest improvement is by way of weed reduction. I have never used commercial poison to kill weeds in the horse lot. Over the years the weeds always won by mid August. They out competed the grasses and when they died down they left dust for the fall-- soon to be converted to winter mud.

I purchased a commercial size zero turn mower. Daddy has kept the weeds down now for the entire summer, but for the time the mower was in the shop. This year the weeds lost. Grass grows thick with mowing and weeds can not take the blows from the blade.

 At Lydia's suggestion I purchased a subsoiler. This single bladed plow cuts through the hard pan, reduces soil compaction, increases water absorption and helps microbes grow at a faster rate. I hope to spend more time next year using that blade. I can already see a tremendous difference where Lloyd used it.

The last thing that has helped the pastures is diversity of grasses and clovers. Wendell showed me a great strain of fescue that is very drought resistant. I planted that and have added in several different plant species in most of the pastures--some will do well--most will not, but they will provide more diverse nutrition for the horses than will a monoculture pasture.

Grass-water-sunshine-movement-living in a herd: These are the keys to  maintaining a horse with a healthy body and a peaceful mind.

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