Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Walk in the Pasture...

milkweed pod on the prairie
 I am still thinking about beef cows. Reading the "grass" chapters in The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is not at all convincing me that it will be easy to raise cows, but it isn't dislodging the idea from my brain either. Now that I've read that my old fellow Park Forest/Grinnellian friend Alison Hayes is living in North Carolina with three water buffalo and scything her own hay, I think even more that I might be able to do it. Or something like it. We're in the exploratory stage here.

One thing you'd notice about Steve if you stayed here any amount of time is that he loves to walk around our property. He wanders around a lot, mostly looking at grasses and weeds and wildflowers. Probably also dreaming and planning.

If you've read my blog at all, you will know that I stay inside a lot. I am surprised that I've taken to gardening as much as I have, and that the gardening makes me walk outside and visit it. Even when there's nothing to harvest (though I picked the very last of the spinach today-- and some fresh dill that has sprung up-- so harvesting has continued to the very end of October) I find myself going out there just to take a look at the soil, the boxes, pick up a few rocks and turn over the soil and compost, walk over and check out the new apple and pear trees, etc. I always think about how much I want more raised garden beds and looking at where I will extend the actual garden plot next year.

Today, after reading awhile, I put on some old shoes and went off to walk around on the property, looking for pastures, or what could become pastures if I got a cow.

The only time I usually walk around the property, except for the few times Steve and I have gone "walking with guns," otherwise known as hoping for pheasants, is on snowshoes. I do love to tramp around in snowshoes. But for most of the year the land is full of plants, particularly thorny ones. After last week's land hurricane, though, every tree and bush is bare, the grasses are dead and lying down, and it seemed possible.

This view shows the rows in the fescue
in the commons that Steve and Tim
have spent lots of time growing this fall
and spots to be expanded to prairie.

I started down a path (I have no idea what makes the path-- deer? a cart brought through when they harvested the nearby cornfield?) along the Eastern edge of our property. A large hawk took off ahead of me, and I soon came upon the rabbit it had reduced to fluff. Only one leg remained with any meat, and the fur actually kind of made the shape of a whole rabbit, which struck me as funny and odd.

After awhile, thinking I was well beyond the wetlands, I turned in. I was really enjoying myself, coming into a large space I was thinking of calling the "pine pasture" since it is just behind a grove of pine trees, when I hit water. Not much water at first, but soon enough up to my ankles. So this is what is under the snow! I tried walking farther south, but the water only got deeper. And it was cold. I was at the southern edge of the property, and still more than ankle deep in water. So I trudged east, back to the cart path. Isn't this where Steve said this morning the cow would graze??

I made a wide arc around the wetlands, and headed back into the interior. Soon enough, though, I reached a pond. At this point I gave it up and made my way northwest, toward the houses and civilization. Back, unfortunately, to the land that to me already feels completely possessed by Steve and Tim and their prairie restoration activity. I thought about walking over to the tree nursery, where Steve was transplanting trees and I could see and hear his machinery. But my feet were pretty cold so I headed back inside.

I don't feel discouraged, but I do feel a little chastened. One thing I know about myself is I tend to keep "raising the bar" in a way that keeps me anxious and on edge. Maybe I should concentrate on the gardening at least a few more years, before I give way to these visions of moving cows from pasture to pasture with my portable electric paddock, bringing in the chickens behind them and transforming swamp into pasture and a very large amount of beef and eggs.

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