Monday, October 20, 2008

Spinning straw into...

Winter is coming on and we are on a big push to get the entire farm mowed. Now about half of it is (was) in what would normally be recognized as lawn. But half has been left to grow (likely brush hogged in the spring, judging by the size of the baby trees -- mostly equal in height to the goldenrod) and it was on that part that I began using by scythe. As you can see, I did not get a lot done (scythe needs peening, and thanks to friends I now have a log into which I can mount the peening jig and begin learning to do this....) and as winter is leaning over our shoulder -- and we got the lawn tractor up, running and repaired -- I gave K the go to begin using it on the back field, starting at the back (the "lawn" area mostly having been done). However I wanted to gather up the "straw" that I had cut and yesterday began raking it into rows.

It was interesting where my mind went as I did this job (t0tally without the proper tools I might add.. I was using a small garden rake). I had been feeling bad because I have not been spinning any of my wool, but as I raked the grasses and longer stalks of milkweed and golden rod, I noticed that they were behaving pretty much like... FIBERS! As I raked, much like carding wool, I was getting rolled up "bats" of my cuttings. This got me to wondering, did some field hand long ago spin the first yarn about spinning straw into gold after spending the day doing just such a task? Me, I will be "spinning" straw into compost... another sort of gold for the gardener.

After getting the mowings into rows, it was time to go get the truck. Now, it's been a long time since I "put up" loose hay.. and in that day and place there were pitch forks and hay rakes and all the real tools for the job. But one does what one must with what one has, at least in my universe... so a cultivator did double duty as a pitch fork (with a little extra effort) and soon the truck was piled high!

Just so you can see what I was up against, here is a shot with the tools I used.

I only hauled one load yesterday, 4 more today and the compost pile has grown a bunch!

It likely is not a "proper" compost since it is only a pile of "weeds" but experience tells me it WILL compost -- eventually -- and time is on my side.

After getting the dishes washed I went back out and began raking up the actual lawn area clippings. Now, much of the lawn did not generate clippings to any degree. We cut at the highest setting of the mower, always. Want to give the growing things as much space to do that as possible and where they are over the top, we harvest them (and give the lawn the semblance of having been mowed -- a small nod to being civilized) so only a few places had stuff to rake. However, I managed to fill the pickup (though only once). It is currently covered with a tarp, as there might be rain tomorrow and I want the clippings dry as my "time to plant GARLIC" bell went off today also. That will be my morning job tomorrow, if the rains holds off, and the grass will be used to mulch the bed and any remaining will go on the berry bushes out on the south west side.

Meanwhile, back at the back field, K was still hard at work mowing. He finally managed to make enough of a dent in the back field that I could see him from the house.

He was doing his best to mow around the trees and shrubs that are trying to naturalize themselves back there and which we will encourage as we would like to have a wind break and visual barrier around the property. There looks like there is a lot left to go (and there IS) but still he has made a dent in it. there are still places that will call for my scythe once I get it peened... along the fence rows and close around the things we are leaving.

One more thought before I leave these pages for other work... it is very interesting to see the differences in the land from one place to another on our 4 acres, and what naturally springs forth.

On the left, the rocky soil predominates, it seems to rise up here and there across the land. And less then 10 feet away, things grow with abandon.


Amelia said...

Careful with those grass clippings, I've had them get totally nasty in a very short amount of time when left to sit at any more depth than about 2". We don't even bother any more, and just mulch mow, as I've recently learned that's the absolute best fertilizer for a lawn.

I'm sure that this is preaching to the choir though, as you know a lifetime's worth more about gardening than I! And you'll probably respond with why you're doing what you're doing, and I'll glean a little bit more knowledge.

FYI, my compost is doing lovely, just turned it today, and it's working away! Next I've got a hankering to try out vermiculture!

Jj Starwalker said...

I have seen them get slimy on the bottom but push come to shove they do compost.... eventually.

However, I am just doing what my dad did around the roses -- and it seemed not to bother them. As far as the garlic is concerned, this is only a winter protection... in the early spring you pull the mulch back as the little leaves start to emerge.

And around the berry and wild rose bushes, we will see... they went in before the ground was tilled and I want to see about keeping the area around them clear -- and protect their young roots a bit for the winter.

FWIW the places I raked, the clippings were so deep that they would have damaged the grasses underneath. Not that we are really into lawn in any of those places... eventually it will be trees (some fruiting, some not)

I am on the list to take the Master Gardener class here (with a friend who works in the yard care business) this winter. I am excited, even more so to be taking it with Todd (yes, we have a Todd here too... he is my friend Anne's hubby) as he has a few years experience in WHAT WORKS. It will be great to have someone to talk about the class materials with... help them to all "stick" better.

You might want to read the Women Who Farm board ( there is a thread about worms... they also are for gals who grow stuff... and have a country sort of mindset.. as much as the bigger farmers out there. Check it out!

Clare said...

jj - love your work ethic and your determination to get everything done... You go girl! See ya at WWF!