21 September 2015

seasons a changing?


 The last rain fell on Stratheden on Friday, September 4th; the weather forecasts, if they prognosticated precipitation (and they did), were proven false. Not a drop... until a major cold front blew in yesterday. The skies drizzled the nectar of life onto the farm for nearly twelve hours, for a total of about 1.1 inches. It may or may not be too late to save some plants which have turned brown and dropped leaves already, such as this young tree at the front of the farm.

Much of the eastern seaboard is abnormally dry, including here. The NASA Earth Observatory map published on Sept. 14th shows the root zone soil moisture levels as compared to averages for the same time of year between 1948-2012. Dry indeed. It is surprising that Floyd is not shown even drier since it has not had the grace of major storms that have dropped multi-inch rainfalls on adjacent counties over the summer.

Yesterday mowing of the large pasture, about 35 acres, was completed. It was too short and poor to bale but needed to be clipped because:
1, Weed Control the bane of the farm's fields is a nasty weed, horse nettles (Solanum carolinense). part of the nightshade family with blooms that resemble those of the potato, the fruits are toxic to humans, livestock and even birds. As Penn State University's website notes, "Cultivation alone is unlikely to control horsenettle, and it may even create a worse infestation by chopping up the roots and spreading them over a larger area. Although the plants that emerge after cultivation are small and easy to control by systemic herbicides, the many root pieces remaining in the soil continue to emerge for years." No wonder one name for it is "weed of Sodom." Mowing combined with herbicides will nearly control it but I refuse to use any herbicides here.
2. aid cool season grasses. This is the time for transition from warm to cool season grasses in the pastures. By removing the dead or fully mature warm season grasses, more light and nutrition can go to the cool season grasses to prepare them for withstanding the winter.

An unbelievable amount of detritus is whipped into the air when mowing with a 60 inch tractor mounted mower. I have learned the hard way to wear a particulate mask and eye protection. When the mowing began, the radiator screen was perfectly clean; here it is after three hours of  emulsifying weed seed and insect parts into the atmosphere, a by-product of mowing. The blockage was total and the engine nearly overheated on a 68F degree day.

Autumn is certainly in the air brought by this blessed cold front but Nature already knew the times were changing. The dogwoods switched their color palette weeks ago but the single most certain sign of the onset of cooler weather is the hordes of stink bugs attempting to enter your house. Their numbers have increased to where a single window screen may hold back a dozen or more of the nasty critters.

 And finally - one of the great joys of autumn is the various nut trees. The hickory nits and walnuts may be poor because of the drought conditions but the chinquapins are popping open right now and they are delicious! A true Southern delicacy.

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