I am often reminded of my old professor Dr. Breakey, especially lately as I review the results of two recent “field experiments.”
Project 1: What in Tar(weed)Nation? Managing a New Weed
Last spring I wrote about a massive invasion of Tarweed that had dominated a large chunk of the ranch. Those nasty plants interfered with my grazing plans and made me nervous enough to consider declaring war: call in the boom sprayers or maybe one of those WWI airplanes and get to spreading poison. Cooler heads prevailed. Instead, I learned more about my “enemy” and decided to modify my grazing strategy to take it into account as I moved through pastures.
This year, the Tarweed is in remission, or perhaps just significantly delayed. There are still plenty of small, immature Tarweed plants, but last year at this time they were three feet tall and dominating the pasture with stinky, un-grazeable plants. My strategy this year was to graze those paddocks early and then abandon the paddocks until late summer, after the Tarweed dried off.
This year, those same pastures were covered by immature daisy plants early in the spring. The cattle worked these over pretty well during an early grazing pass. Following more rain, the Daisies returned with gusto, covering the “tarweed pastures” with a lovely stand of white flowers. I suspect if I put cattle in there right now they would graze those plants pretty well.
Tarweed Pasture last year:
Tarweed Pasture this year:
What caused this change in course? I don’t know. I only know I am much less distressed by a field of Daisies than a field of Tarweed.
Project 2: Reviving the Clearcut
Early this winter I wrote about a project that involved logging a patch of dying timber and converting the site to permanent pasture. This involved a huge cleanup effort, grinding the remaining wood material, spraying the massive Himalayan blackberry infestation and heavily seeding the site, as you can read here:
This was an expensive project, and I had some big concerns about establishing perennial grass on a very difficult seed bed. Below you can see what the site looks like today.
The grass seed has germinated and grown well, creating a luscious stand of beautiful forage.
You can see a few tiny strips where the sprayer missed a bit of black berries or the seeder missed a small strip, but this is pretty minor.
There is a scattered population of individual ferns, thistles and blackberries, but not as bad as I feared. All in all, this project is coming along as I hoped it would and I am optimistic that next summer we will have a new pasture to graze.
Why is this project going exactly as planned while the Tarweed project is 180 degrees off its expected course? I have no idea. Maybe Dr. Breakey was correct: we really have no bloody idea what will happen next.
Sometimes things make sense, sometimes they don’t.
Truth be told, things probably make sense nearly all of the time, but we just don’t have enough knowledge or experience to understand how things work.
Do you have “field experiments” or projects that you’d like to share? Send Kathy a note!