Trimming Those Hard to Reach Places

I have a hard time trimming here and there…but no need to go into that.  I’m talking about trimming grass.  There are places it is simply dangerous and foolish to drive a tractor.  For example, the pond’s edge.

We spend a lot of time at our pond swimming, skating (in the winter), catching frogs, fishing or paddling around in our boats.  Most of these activities require access to the shore.  When you are barefoot and wearing shorts…well, a sand beach would be ideal.  Let me know if you want to contribute to the sandy beach fund.  In the meantime, we prefer to keep the weeds short.


So how do you get it done?  For years we haven’t.  This year things are different.  We have cows.


This ground hasn’t been grazed in years…since I was a kid – so the grass is fairly sparse.  Much of what was out there wasn’t very tasty…but they do like Johnsongrass.  They don’t care for goldenrod no matter what though.  One thing they excel at is trimming up lower branches and opening up new fishing areas.  Along the way they trample in tons of carbon, add fertility and help tighten plant spacing by pushing new seeds in contact with the soil.  That’s all good but we also lose a little hay from the hayfield…but most of it is pretty low-quality stuff anyway.  The cows need to move quickly over this ground.  No big deal though, I have gained 5 days of grazing by going around the pond and may get 3 more before we’re finished.

PondsEdge4They find their way into thickets and tangled masses of grapes, saplings and fallen limbs and tromp the whole down into the soil.  It’s pretty cool.  I have been trying to figure out how to cut into this oak regrowth all year and retain the strongest shoots.  Well, the cows figured it out for me.

PondsEdge2All of this is really accomplishing a couple of things that are very intentional.  First, I’m stretching my pasture by grazing stockpiled reserve elsewhere.  Second, I’m utilizing areas around the hay field that I can’t mow.  Having these edges grazed should help my hay cure faster beyond building fertility in the field over time.  I should point out, I have a fence keeping the cows out of my alfalfa and another fence keeping the cows out of the pond.  (Had to wade out around some trees with long fence posts a couple of times.)

Much of this exercise was inspired from years of reading Throwback at Trapper Creek.  Thanks Matron!

Where do You See Yourself in 5 Years

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I hate that question.  I work in tech.  I have a hard time telling management, most of whom don’t work in tech, that I have no idea what changes are in store for my career.  I don’t really see myself moving to management and if you try to explain current tech trends to HR their eyes glaze over and they just wait for you to finish talking.  I like what I do and would like to continue doing it.  Tech changes constantly and if I were to guess, 5 years from now I’ll still be diligently working to stay abreast of new trends, add value, etc.  Looking back 5 years I couldn’t foresee the iPad.  I couldn’t foresee (and still don’t really understand) Facebook.  I have no idea what Microsoft will dream up next.  I don’t think we’ll use keyboards much longer though.

Looking at my farm in 5 years is a little easier.  I’m a little restrained by the economy and have no idea how to pay for this but I have a vision of how I would like to reshape the farm over the next 5-40 years.  I have plans to add greenhouses and ponds, I have a plan for pasture grazing and improvement, woodlot improvement, establishment of new tree stands, orchards, swales and general beautification of the farm.  On the topic of beautification I need to replace a number of buildings but that’s further down on the list.  More water on the farm = more life.  I need to build 6 or 7 ponds over the next few decades.

I plan to transition our primary revenue generation away from chickens to cattle.  We haven’t begun to build our beef herd yet.  I hope to divorce myself from the feed grinder as it is both dangerous and expensive to operate.  Further, it’s one more thing I have to store in a shed…a shed I need to replace.  Instead we’ll use dense swards of grass to harvest sunlight, earthworks to harvest rainfall and cows to cycle nutrients.  It’s a terribly complicated machine with no moving parts but entirely dependent on free and continued sunlight.  I plan to use a solar-powered fence charger to keep the cows where I want them.

To prevent wind and evaporation we have plans for tree plantings.  These will be primarily fruit and nut trees but I would like a larger stand of sugar maples to tap in my old age.  I better get started now!  The fruit trees will give guests another reason to come visit the farm…another over-arching goal of ours.

Everything we do should boost biodiversity, restore the local ecology, and help nurture our community.  I hope to raise big, fat cows and have room for big, fat groundhogs.  We plan to leave meadows ungrazed until the ground-nesting birds have hatched in July.  I hope friends and customers continue to come here seeking rest and inspiration…or at least entertainment.

We have given strong consideration to picking up a Fertrell dealership.  It could happen in the next 5 years though I have a lot to learn and, again, need a shed.  And a scale.  And a truck.  But it’s possible…

I anticipate my oldest son will begin to step up his involvement in the farm and will either relieve me of one or more enterprises or will start some of his own.  At 17 he should be ready to test his wings and I plan to enable him to do so.  He has always been our guinea pig so he’ll set the pattern for his siblings.  Whatever they are interested in, we are interested in.

I didn’t list revenue in my planning.  I can’t set financial goals outside of paying for the land and the improvements.  I am not a corporation.  This isn’t a machine.  This is a biological process.  Financial goals fit with biology like socks on a rooster.

These are, of course, moving targets.  These plans will likely shift as the wife and I dive deeper into our studies of permaculture.  So I guess, like tech, my farming goals aren’t entirely knowable.  It’s a best guess either way.  But it’s easier to keep my audience interested when I’m not explaining database index optimization strategies.  Yeah.

So, there you go.  The top-down view of the next X years.  That question is so much easier than career planning.  What about you?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  Will you finally achieve your “someday“?