A compliment……. sort of

Commentary from Jim Tatearound the farm    Sep 26, 2016

Jim Tate enjoying a Ride on Dancehall Dixie, a wonderful gaited mule owned by my good friend Stewart Wickham.

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I had one of the local farmers offer me a compliment the other day…he was not trying to offer me a compliment….he was trying to be diplomatic.

To paraphrase his comments, he had noticed the crop diversity on my pastures.  He said that he couldn’t help but notice that I had a lot of strange looking stuff growing up on my place.  He had seen me out there bush hogging quite often.  He offered me the use of any equipment I might need to help me manage my pastures, specifically offering a small sprayer.

Now I do have some weeds….and sometimes when I go a good while between grazing paddocks the weeds go wild….I have one spot out front that is getting to have a pretty big blackberry patch….but that is because it is in the horse side and the goats cannot run with the horses because two of the horses like to chase them…but,  once we finish breeding cows I will put the horses on the cow side and the goats will have the horse side for the winter and early spring.

And the wet summer has kept the tractor out of two fields all year and they now have a pretty good crop of nut sedge.  The goats will deal with that over time….

I have totally different weeds on the two different sides and a more frequent rotation would be my best cure.

The milkweed from the cut over land next door last year pretty well inoculated my fields for this year so I have some of that as well.  But I don’t let a few weeds drive me crazy.

sun hemp blooming and peas reaching up

sun hemp blooming and peas reaching up

Mother Nature does not typically grow things in a monoculture…only humans do that and we convince ourselves that is the way it has to be done.

I thanked him for the offer and said I would keep it in mind.  But I told him that we have a half dozen weanling calves gaining about a pound and a half per day on the weeds.  We will graze the three horses and two miniature donkeys for about 10 months of the year before starting to feed some hay.

grazing forge six feet tall

grazing forge six feet tall

Every summer and until mid December I normally have a half dozen heifers to develop for breeding.  The current crop just entered the grazing below and I have not seen them since….that stuff is six to eight feet tall.  They will come out in the evening for their evening handout and roll call.  Don’t need to feed them much with forage like that but a little handout keeps em gentle and they come to call.


there are yearling calves in there somewhere

there are yearling calves in there somewhere

We have some rabbits that I see most mornings in the dark as I am on my way out to go to work.  Have seen as many as six at one time….The weeds is the only way they survive the numerous hawks and owls and the occasional eagle.

The greatest benefit of all is that on 12 acres I now think I have three coveys of quail this year…I can not yet swear that I have three coveys but I know I have two and think I have a third that is in pretty close proximity to the second covey.

All summer I have been reminded of my late friend Jack Ellis who was an avid bird hunter and had some good English Setters.  He hunted birds from November thru February culminating in a couple of weeks at a hunt club in South Carolina in February.  But while he did all the things DGIF suggested he never had any quail on his farm and had to go elsewhere to hunt and seldom found any birds.

I am reminded of him because every day I hear the quail calling from right around me as I am walking about and doing work around the farm, and more often than not if I am in the fields a dozen birds will explode from nearby testing my heart….Went to the doctor for a checkup this morning and he said I needed an EKG as it had been over a year and a half since I had one….I said no…I had a heart test Friday and again Sunday…I Had to work our District booth at the Fair Saturday so I skipped the heart test that day.   Fridays test was right at the upper right hand corner of the photo above.  About fifteen birds straight up and zipped into the wood line.

A couple of years ago a turkey hen nested within 200 feet of my front door in my weeds…I found out about it when one of my dogs stumbled across the nest and brought me a dead poult.

If it were not for the tall grass and weeds, I would not enjoy any of this.

I only do two things differently from anyone else…

  1. I broadcast some type of seasonally appropriate cover crop on every paddock after most every grazing and bushog it.
  2. I move the stock normally about every three days. I give them small paddocks and when they have grazed it shut them out to let the paddock recover for at least 60 days.

Of course all of my weeds are not weeds.  I think the neighbor was worried about Johnson grass.  But what he was seeing was Sorghum Sudan grass.  I do have some Johnson grass on the back of the place but the cattle love it and it only persists because I intensively rotate my grazing.

My biggest chore is in keeping the fences clear of tree seedlings.  I prefer not to spray herbicide and try to mow under the fences…but mowing well grown grass is hard on mowers and I have spent a lot of money on mower repair this year….I tried a wheeled string trimmer and it did not work for me…the horses will not graze near the electric fence, so it is a bigger problem on the horse side….

Again my best solution will be to find an easier way to rotate ruminants and non ruminants….part of the obstacle is the wife has definite opinions on what animals consider what buildings and paddocks as “home”.   And when I have calves at the house I need to access the working facilities with them for monthly weighing and such.  Another option would be to sell the horses that chase the cows and goats but they are my favorites….and a stock horse is supposed to like to chase stock.

more residue experiments update 1

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It has been eight days since I planted these buckets with cover crops.  all buckets have been watered equally and pretty regularly

The bucket with no residue only has a few seed germinating….I think some seed started to germinate and then got baked on a couple of the hot days we have had….they are still visible in the bucket…


Below is the bucket planted to the green cover mix and this bucket had the tall summer annuals and so it has heavy mulch….it was at least a 4 inch thick layer of mulch and the mulch is weighing down the new seedlings but they are beginning to show thru the mulch and certainly around the edges.


the below bucket is the one that had the goosegrass residue chopped up and it was sown to my home cover crop mix of the day.   While some plants are beginning to show thru the residue…..the entire residue mat is being lifted off the bucket.


the below photo is an attempt to show that the residue mat has been lifted a couple of inches off this bucket.


the seed scattered in the still living chicory is beginning to come up but since it is slower and not nearly as thick as the residue buckets and it is the same seed mix.



more residue experiements

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Building on the curiosity I created within myself with my gravel tubs, I have embarked upon another experiment.

In the early summer I brought four of my cover crop buckets to work.  One had chicory planted in it and the other three had various summer cover crop plantings….

Bucket require almost daily watering because the have limited soil reserves and these bucket did not do well over the long hot summer…too many days I was not here to apply water.

But I endeavor to persevere.

This morning I cut back everything but the chicory, a perrenial.  and I applied cool season cover crop seed to all four buckets and watered it in thoroughly….

the bucket on the left is the chicory….I sprinkled some of the mix I am seeding with at home on it and watered.   the bucket on the right started out as a summer cover but was taken over by goose grass which apparently came form the fraction of horse manure that was in the bucket.  this one was sprinkled with the same seed and mulched with the residue from the plants cut off.

chicory left goose grass right

below is a photo of a partially harvested residue….I cut it off and then cut it up with hand shears and then reapply it to the bucket after seeding.

part of the residue from the left bucket

in two other buckets I had two more treatments.  these two buckets both avoided the goose grass infestation and had what was left of the summer covers….  I had begun harvesting the bucket on the left when it occurred to me that I ought to take a picture….

summer stuff left half harvested

These two buckets got two different treatments….

The bucket on the left was seeded to some old green cover sample jar seed that was two years old….so I put it on pretty heavy…then it was mulched with the residue from the summer plants.

The bucket on the right was seeded with the same mix I used at home and was unmulched with no cover.

after seeding left mulched right not

I worry that it will feed the birds but nothing ventured nothing gained.

unmulched my mix

the seed mix from home   This is the volume usually broadcast on a single grazing paddock of about a tenth of an acre….I just grabbed a few handfuls from a mix to seed two buckets…



the label from the green cover seeds has seen better days …..I can read

black oats, winter peas, crimson clover, nitro radish, forage collard, purple top turnips and I think barley.

since this is at the front door of the our office I should be able to keep up with it in a reasonable fashion and will try to post observations….Or you can stop by and watch for yourself….

I planted chicory at home and was thrilled with it…six or seven feet tall and beautiful blue blooms most of the summer…Thus I am including it in my seedings again this fall….I found that it can be frost seeded or spring seeded or fall seeded…..what I wanted was a deep rooted perennial…..deep rooting limits its ability to grow in buckets especially crowded so it is not showing well in the buckets.   The stock devour it….