"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Pasture (No More Monkeys)

A couple of weeks ago, during a short stretch of good weather, Homero and the Unofficial Farmhand (hereinafter U.F., also known as Phil, my daughter's live in boyfriend) spent the day fencing in the orchard.

The orchard occupies about a sixth of the easternmost side of the property, a section about sixty feet wide by 100 feet long, just big enough for about twenty fruit trees. At last count, we had three pears, three cherries, three plums, two big hazelnut bushes, and four giant old blueberry bushes that aren't doing very well and probably ought to be uprooted and replaced with more apples. This area is also home to my rhubarb plant and to a mess of raspberry canes I got a few years ago from my sister.

And to a whole lot of grass. 60 x 100 equals 6,000 square feet of grass, which at this time of year is a lot of biomass. The grass is about knee high at the moment - fresh and green, squeaky clean and bright glossy green. It looks so healthy I almost want to eat it myself. For years, I have wanted to fence in this area and use it for the ponies - it can't be used for the goats because they would, of course, prefer the fruit trees. My does are big ladies and on their hind legs they can reach a good seven feet high. They would kill all the young fruit trees in about fifteen minutes. But I can't stand to see all that good grass go to waste under the mower blades when it could be transformed into meat and savings in hay over the winter.

This spring has been so very cold and so very wet that we had to wait until a) the ground thawed, and b) the ground dried out a little before I could have the U.F. drive fenceposts. It was just two weeks ago that both those conditions were met, along with the third condition of my bank account having enough money in it to buy T-posts and four foot woven wire no-climb fencing.

Half the fencing was already in place - there was already a fence between the backyard and the orchard. Years ago we realized that if we wanted an orchard at all, we would have to protect the young trees from goats. I say "realized" as though it were a spontaneous development; as though it hadn't taken us six dead trees to come to the aforementioned "realization." Alas, it did. The fence deciding the orchard from the backyard went in some five years ago.

All we needed to fence in was the eastern boundary of the orchard, and the short southern side. That's about 160 linear feet of fencing, plus some 18 T-posts. Fencing comes in a 100 foot roll and it costs about $125 per roll. Six foot T-posts are eight bucks apiece. Throw in the fence clips and I dropped over $300 at the feed store. Even so, the men ran out of fencing about six feet short. I'm not sure how that happened, unless the rolls are short, or unless I am VERY bad at pacing off distance. Luckily, just like any farmstead, there are several bits and pieces of fencing laying around and we were able to find one to fit the gap.

Now every morning when I go out to milk, I also take the calf and the pony and put them into the new orchard pasture to graze. The stupid dairy calf gads not yet learned to walk on a lead and it is a difficult task to get her into the pasture, but she is already filling out a bit about the hipbones. I was nervous she would eat my raspberry canes, and actually it seems that yes, she is eating them. Luckily I have other raspberries in safer areas, and she doesn't seem to care about the rhubarb. Here's hoping that 6,000 square feet of grass is enough to fatten up one shrimpy, gimpy dairy calf by autumn.