"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pasture Patrol, Spring 2016

After evening chores today I decided to walk the perimeter fence of the big pasture, something I have not done in some period of time rather longer than it ought to be. It was a lovely evening - we have finally been enjoying some true spring-like weather - and Haku needed some extra exercise. Here are a few things I saw whilst on pasture patrol:

These odd, bright red, tiny fungi. They are growing on the underside of clumps of turf that were turned over last fall by the pig. Only saw three little patches, all within about five square feet. Each about the size of a single drop of water. No clue what they are, but they're cute. 

If I want any more nettles this year, I'd better get on it. Once the flower heads open, which these look like they will do within a couple of days, nettles are no longer good to eat. Although they might retain medicinal properties; I'll have to look that up. There seem to be fewer nettles than there were in previous years, and it's certainly not because I've been over harvesting them. They grow along the western fence line, in the area that was disturbed when we dug up all the old trash and remnants of the old dairy barn that the previous owners buried. I think the land is simply progressing beyond the "nettle" stage of recovery, as pasture grass, dandelions, and clover take over. Any disturbed land will be colonized by a predictable series of wild plants, according to its location and other qualities. 

Another couple of weeds - less welcome than nettle - that colonize disturbed ground. Superficially similar looking at this stage, the top photo is poison Hemlock (with which I have waged an epic, years long battle  -Weeds) and the second is common tansy. Tansy has it's uses; it is a very good vermifuge, for example, but it is a tenacious plant with a habit of spreading and taking over pasture. Very difficult to pull by hand. Hemlock has no uses I know of, except to execute troublesome philosophers who are corrupting the youth of the city by teaching subversive ideas in the agora. 

Along the western fence line there are a couple of spots where the field fencing needs to be tacked down, maybe even some fill brought in. These scrapes under the fence were most likely dug by the coyotes who prey on our poultry. Of course I would like to stop that predation, but there is a more immediate reason. If a coyote can get under there, Haku can get under there, as soon as it occurs to him to try. And if Haku runs amok over in that particular neighbor's fields, frightening his mules or chasing his chickens, Haku will get shot pretty damn quick. Not that I would blame that neighbor - controlling one's dog is country etiquette 101.

On the eastern side of the pasture, there has always been a low spot that tended to get boggy in the winter. Creeping buttercup dominates that area. This is a natural feature of the hillside - it is easy to see the wide, shallow path of drainage running down from the ridge away to the southwest. In the past, before our neighbor bought the lot and built his HSH (hotel-sized-house), the swale was only wet in the depths of winter. The rest of the year it was simply a slightly softer area where plants that enjoy more moistness predominated.

In latter years I have noticed that the area stays much wetter for more of the year. I am starting to think that the rearrangement of the neighboring property has permanently altered the drainage in such a way as to send more water through this swale. Walking the area today, I saw a fair amount of standing water.

To be fair, this has been the wettest wet season on record in western Washington. We have had something like 80 inches of rain since last November. Additionally, the pig enjoyed rooting in this soft dirt, and his activity may also have caused there to be a more generally swampy appearance. Hopefully it will dry up with a few more weeks of little-to-no precipitation.

That will be too late, however, to save my nice shoes. I underestimated the swampiness and as I was crossing the swale I stepped into a deceptively deep puddle and sank in almost up to my knees. Silly me, I was wearing my only pair of nice shoes. Yes, I know it is exceedingly idiotic to traipse about a muddy pasture in early April wearing one's one and only pair of shoes suitable for work. What can I say - it was a spur of the moment thing.