Monday, September 22, 2014

Planting Trial

Beginning on July 11, we started irrigating about 2-1/2 acres of hillside pasture in anticipation of having green grass in September (now!) for flushing the ewes (flushing is the process of putting ewes on an improving plane of nutrition just prior to breeding).  The pasture we irrigated had not been planted, so we waited until the annual grasses and forbs that grew in the spring of 2014 had matured, set seed, and died.  Our irrigation caused new plants to germinate (mimicking the germinating rains of autumn).  The pasture grew a variety of annual grasses, clovers and forbs (like filaree), as well as yellow starthistle, bull thistle and common cocklebur.  Last Friday morning, I moved the ewes onto this pasture.

This morning, in the eerie light cast by smoke from the King Fire, Roger Ingram and I planted a variety of grass seed as a trial for planting pastures without heavy equipment.  We broadcast the seed with the sheep still grazing the pasture.  We'll leave them in for another 2-3 days, and we'll feed hay on top of the starthistle and other undesirable plants.  Finally, before we move the ewes into the next paddock, I'll use the border collies to maximize herd effect - we'll trample as much of the remaining vegetation as possible to get as many seeds in contact with the soil as possible.  After I move the sheep, I'll resume irrigating the paddock (and hope for rain).

We planted a variety of seeds, including several types of annual ryegrass, several varieties of forage triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), and intermediate wheatgrass (a perennial that typically favors a slightly higher elevation but which does grow on other parts of the ranch).  My hope is to prove that we can plant these seeds using animal impact, and that we can grow them with limited irrigation in the late summer and early fall.  If it works, this may become part of our drought strategy!
Reno loves to help with seeding projects!

We used a "belly-grinder" seeder.

Lovely air quality this morning!

Rosie supervised the entire project.

 I'll be taking photos and monitoring our progress.  In the meantime, enjoy these photographs from another smoky morning in Auburn!

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