Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Field Mowing - Part 4

Each trip around the field takes a little less time. Eventually you can see that progress is being made. One discouraging factor is all of the green in the mowed area. Large areas of that green come from Tall Fescue, once the grass of choice for Southern Ohio pastures. It’s going to take some work to come up with a way to eliminate the fescue without killing the other plants.

I’m averaging about 65 flags per acre in this field compared to about 350 per acre four years ago. There are several points of concentration that account for a lot of the flags. This is what it looks like beneath the utility lines. Seeing all of these flags is a sign of progress since there were so many invasives a few years ago that you couldn’t begin to mark them all. I used to just come through here with the sprayer and spray every invasive sprout I could see.

My method of marking features to be protected, such as this ant hill, worked really well. If the ant hill had any bare soil showing, I was able to find and mark it. What I hadn’t counted on were all of the mole hills. Moles have really been plentiful the last couple of years and spoil from their underground chamber excavations was heaped everywhere. Without ants to keep the vegetation clear, the mole hills became quite camouflaged and I was startled several times when a mole hill exploded beneath the mower deck.

It’s funny what habit sometimes makes you do. While mowing, I continually crossed the trails that go through the field. I kept finding myself looking both ways down the trail as I approached with the mower. I don’t know what type of traffic I expected to encounter. I finally annoyed myself and insisted that I stop looking.

Cutting dry grass can really raise a cloud of dust. JR discharges to the right and my right side jacket pocket collect all sorts of dust and debris. A health conscious individual would have worn a dust mask, but I’ve never found a mask that I can wear without my glasses fogging over. Most of the time the wind carried the cloud away. When it didn’t, I would hold my breath until the cloud moved off. If the cloud hung over me for too long, I would stop the mower and run out to clean air for a breath. Just another of those little behaviors that makes people wonder what I’m up to.

The worst duster was the less voluminous Little Bluestem. At times, I believe every bit of the delicate basal leaves went airborne. In the late afternoon, when it appeared to be getting too dark to work, I could often get an extra 45 minutes of daylight just by cleaning the dust from my glasses.

This field was in row crops up until 25 years ago when I let it begin its reversion to native prairie. While I was off clearing cedars from the quality patches of established prairie, cedars were invading this field. Some were reaching a height of six or seven feet when I decided I was going to have to cut them out and work hard to keep this a field of open grassland. Many of the old stumps are still present.

There was little of the decay resistant red heartwood in these little stumps, so they are decomposing fairly well. A little kick takes them right out of the ground. This stump is left from a quarter acre area that I kept in cedars to monitor its use by birds and other wildlife. Five years ago, I decided that it would be better to cut the trees and expand the open field.
Note: My thanks to the person who so delighted in pointing out that I had "MADE A MISTAKE" by inadvertently duplicating some text in my "Rock at Creek Curve - Part 2" post two days ago. The error has now been corrected.

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