Grass has been called the forgiveness of nature. When we rip open wounds on the surface of the earth, grass is typically the first response. The healing. The covering of the wound.
Well even grass is struggling on our new land. The wounds are just that bad. In part that’s due to the lack of rain--all growth is slow when nothing comes from the heavens. But it’s not even just that. There is actually very little grass out there to grow. What is out there is thin and patchy and mostly pioneer weeds like goldenrod and wild strawberry which grow in difficult soils.
It's hard to raise grazing animals like cows on fields with poor grass. But the thing is, one of the best ways to revitalize worn out fields, is to reintroduce grazing animals like cows! All the grass that is grazed by the cow passes through her many stomachs and is inoculated and enriched before returning to the soil as the perfect fertilizer--manure!
In fact, the cow ultimately only takes a very small percent (10ish%) of what she grazes. The vast majority of the grass returns to the field as fertilizer/manure. And all the biology that is added by the rumen of the cow more than offsets what is absorbed and taken by the cow. It really is a net gain for the field.
But this year, our fields just can't sustain our herd--they are too weak. They have been grazed off once, but they need a rest before a second pass.
So this week we loaded up our small herd and trailered them all back to the pastures we have been grazing for the past several years. These fields are in better shape overall (due to many years of managed grazing) and have had the added benefit of not being grazed for the beginning period of the year. They have a lot of growth on them.
Being able to bring our cows here is a HUGE relief for me. It feels right. And though there is some added work to put fences back up and move cows back and forth, it satisfies the cows need for grass, as well as our field’s need for rest. And since our garden is still in operation at the old place, we are here every day which allows us to conveniently keep a close eye on the cattle. It’s a win-win!
Over the next several weeks while the cows are back at the Lilligren Farm (where we have been farming for the past several years) we will be diligently working to balance, fertilize, and generally nurture the home pastures in preparation for a final graze late in the season.
Hopefully between our work, and the animal’s presence, and plenty of flexibility, and a little rain, we’ll be able to breathe life back into our pastures!