Friday, October 29, 2010

Hillside Mulching

So there's a lot of bare ground on some hilly slopes as a result of the logging for pastures this year. We haven't had very much rain since spring - just enough to trick a little bit of seed to sprout her and there. Poor sprouts, must be getting pretty thirsty.

So I found a guy in Elkins who'll sell me round bales of hay for $5/bale. They a year old, and have sat out in the rain. He's got dozens of them, and will sell me as much as I need/want. The bales are easy to spread...just push them out of the truck and let 'em roll. I'm doing three things in one here, for really cheap.
  1. I'm protecting soil. I'm concentrating on the roads the skidders used to haul logs out. They're compacted, and are chutes for erosion. The hay covers the soil and stops run off.
  2. Seeding for pastures. The hay came out of cattle pastures - mostly fescue, ryegrass, clovers, foxtail, etc. This is grass that grows well here, even in a continuous grazing system. The first step is to get grass growing to hold the soil. Maybe in a couple of years we'll worry about the finer points.
  3. I'm fertilizing. Believe it of not, hay has a lot of nutrients - actually comparable to an equivalent weight of chicken litter except that litter has more nitrogen than the hay and the hay has more potassium (K) than the litter. The hay, as it slowly breaks down, releases it's nutrients over time instead of all at once like chemical ferts and can be taken up, even by the small seedlings. Essentially, I'm mining nutrients from someone else for $5 a pop.
Getting the hay efficiently is yet another challenge. It doesn't make sense now to buy a trailer - it would tie up a bunch of money for something that would get used only occasionally (although greatly appreciated when used). Some day, we'll end up getting one, but for right now, it makes sense just to trade firewood for trailer use with a neighbor. I've got an abundance of wood, but a paucity of trailer.

The ball sizes were different, so while Carla and I double teamed the hitches to get 'em changed. I was pretty impressed with her strength...she's one good-lookin and strong lady.


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