It may not seem like it, but by the end of summer, all this grass will be mowed down by our beautiful Icelandic sheep and they’ll be looking for a fresh meal!
So this spring we started a new pasture to make more room! It’s kind of a miracle it happened, actually: it has been so rainy it’s hard to find a dry day to do anything without risking the tractor being stuck in mud.
The field we planted is about 6 acres, and last year was rented out to a local farmer who grew corn. So last fall, after the corn was harvested, Justin hooked a disk harrow to the tractor and plowed the entire field twice. This broke up the corn stalks and mixed them with the soil so they could break down over the winter.
Once the ground thawed in April, we took soil samples from the field up to Michigan State for analysis. On the submission form you are able to note what crop you are planning to plant, and they send back results that include recommendations for fertilizer based on your plan. Works well for us!
A few weeks later, at the beginning of May, Justin was back on the tractor. After disking one more time, he attached a spring-tooth harrow and went over the field again. This is called dragging, and evens out the big furrows caused by disking.
Once the ground was prepared, we were off to the grain elevator to buy seed and fertilizer. For our pasture, we picked up four 50-pound bags of horse pasture mix and a bag of white clover. The folks at the elevator mixed that in with the fertilizer (urea and potash), and poured it into a spreader that they have available to rent. We towed that home behind the truck, hitched it up to the tractor, and Justin was off again!
Once the seed was spread, the spring-tooth drag was hooked up again to rake the seed into the soil. We followed this with a cultipacker, which is a huge, wide roller that you pull behind the tractor to pack the dirt over the newly planted seed. This entire process, by the way, is called “fitting out a pasture” in farming lingo. That was May 15… all we needed now was rain, and we got plenty.
By June 1 we could see the grass coming up!
It’s much less impressive when observed at a distance, but there it is.
This next photo was taken on June 20. The grass had really started to thicken… except for a few strips where the seed obviously didn’t get spread very well. To solve that, we borrowed a seed drill from a friend and loaded it up with another bag of horse pasture mix. We didn’t add any clover to it this time, since clover spreads pretty easily and will fill in the gaps later. Using the seed drill plants the grass at a specified depth beneath the surface without having to disturb the tender young grass that is already there. Justin only had to drive the tractor and drill over the bare spots, avoiding the new growth, so it was a quick job.
A week later, now it’s really starting to look like a pasture! The drilled grass seed still has not come up yet, but the clover, which is slower-growing than the grass, is making an appearance.
Our goal is to be able to cut the grass in this pasture this summer and bale it as hay, which we can feed to the animals over the winter. If we get this done early enough in the summer, the grass should grow enough to be able to graze our animals on in the late summer and fall. Before we can do that, of course, we’ll have to put up some fencing. There’s always something to do!