Friday, May 9, 2014

In Which Rotting Organic Matter Thrills Me

Although I am possibly the laziest human on God's green earth, I have taken it on myself to have a pumpkin patch. It is a lot of work. Really a lot. I do almost everything by hand, because I'm a tree-hugger and besides I don't own much farm machinery. My riding mower is it, in fact. I bought a cart to haul behind it, but we are still not talking Big Tractors.

I also don't do artificial fertilizers. I can make compost, which is delightful, but mostly what I use is composted manure. My friend Leslie down the road has a bunch of it in her barn, because of previous tenants who never cleaned it out, and I have transported many loads of it down the quarter mile of road to my place. That's a lot of work.

So when I happened to see Millie, who is one of the farmers on the land across my south and east fence, I mentioned that she could scoop manure over my fence any time she wanted. I'd take all that her 70 acres of cattle, sheep, etc. could produce. She was happy, because their manure-spreader had broken. And pretty soon, look what appeared at the top of my field!

Isn't it beautiful??? I bet it will eventually grow lamb's quarters just like this pile of compost from last year:

(Grass clippings blew over it. It's actually beautifully brown.)

I also needed something to cover the grass and weeds, smothering them and turning them, too, into compost. Yeah, I should have gotten on this sooner, like maybe last year. And I should have planted a cover crop last year, too. I'm new at this and am making a lot of mistakes. So when I tried to find straw this year to cover the cardboard I'd saved up to spread on the field, there was none. Okay, there was some, but it was expensive. We had a very snowy winter, and people needed to feed their animals something plus give them some bedding.

Leslie came to my rescue again! She suggested corn fodder. I'd never heard of it. (You hadn't either, right? Okay. Now I don't feel so stupid.) It is what is left in the cornfield once the kernels have been taken off the corn or the corn has been harvested or something. It seems to include corncobs, which puzzles me—how do you get the kernels off without removing the ears from the stalks?

Anyway, she also knew of somebody who might have it. My friend Seville made some calls and found a farmer who delivered 28 round bales of corn fodder to my field.

It's too bad I didn't take pix of them all the way along, because it was pretty cool to watch. Suffice it to say that Seville and I spread some of the bales, and so did Timmy and I, but I still wanted some to go at the top of the hill. See, once you cut off the netting that holds all the corn fodder in the bale, you can just roll them and it'll all unroll like it's a really thick roll of toilet paper. Maybe this will help you understand how it works:

Generally most of it unrolls at first and then things peter out. This might be a better picture to illustrate the process:

See that lumpy, curved trail of corn fodder at the middle of the picture? The bales don't always unroll absolutely straight. It makes things interesting.

Now, these puppies are big. If you stand one up like a soup can, it's about four feet tall and five feet wide. And it has rained a lot lately, so they are heavy. It took Seville and me both to push them around. I've tried to do some of them that are still up on the hill, and I haven't had much success. I'm hoping to get Timmy to help me later today.

Anyway, their coverage is awesome. They've been composting since they were gathered last fall, and that composting makes them hot in the center. They aren't all that decomposed, though, because they didn't get any oxygen there. Now that they have oxygen and water, they will decompose.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself. We'll see.

In the meantime, our new farm dog is enjoying the place! In this picture, she's muddy from a persistent puddle that I'm trying to get rid of.

Isn't she pretty?

And here's the cattle trough that has overflowed and caused the puddle.

 Okay, enough. I've got to go out and work on the pumpkin patch!

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