Sunday, September 20, 2009

Harvesting Grass Seed

Today, after church and before we had to head off to work-- Steve finishing a seed job before it rains and me to a process with a consultant going on at the monastery-- we spent an hour in the plot of prairie grass on the north side of our house harvesting grass seed. Steve was much better at it-- faster and more focused-- and managed to get almost a bucketful of the fluffy Little Bluestem and Side Oats seed that made up most of the grasses there. I did OK, and it was very pleasurable, stripping the heavy strands of grass of their seed, which came off in your hand easily, sometimes trailing grass but mostly just giving itself into your fingers. I transferred mine into a bag slung over my head and shoulder. (photo top left: little bluestem)

The grass grows in lovely clumps, and Steve pointed out that a single seed would grow an entire clump, so not that much is needed to seed an area-- only 8 lbs an acre. I pointed out that the seed we had gathered, a bucket and a bag full, couldn't weigh more than a pound. In that way, it seemed to me like a lot of seed was necessary!

(photo left: a handful of fluffy little bluestem seed; side oat in background)

The seed is light and plentiful. It is wonderful to think we don't have to buy any, but from here can spread our prairie over the patches of land he's been burning and killing back with Round-Up all summer. And the seed that falls from the plants and our fingers as we pull it from the stalks also goes out, to fill in the prairie spaces.

(photo right: Steve harvests with both hands and bucket!)

September is a time of harvesting and of preparing. In a few weeks we'll begin the process of expanding the garden for next year, with its own steps of burning the weeds, then tilling, then raking, then covering with topsoil. I'm hoping we'll also have time and good weather long enough to build a fence around the plot, so it is ready next year no matter how late the thaw.

We have plans. I look at catalogs and think about the big garden, about raspberry and blueberry bushes, but mostly about the area back there where I want to build a writer's cabin, where I want to put a hoop house over some of the plants to extend the garden season, and where Steve wants to put a painting studio and a chicken coop. There's a whole village out there waiting to happen.

(photo left: prairie brome)

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