A Day on the Tractor

Yesterday I spent the time on the tractor after doing chores. I was mowing the weeds in the pasture. I try to mow the weeds that the sheep do not eat down before they bloom and make seeds. I am late this year, but the work still gets done.

Why do I mow the weeds down instead of using an herbicide to just kill the weeds? I am trying to raise my sheep as organically as possible. The herbicides may kill the weeds, but the chemicals are on the grass and in the ground. These chemicals get into the animals and into the meat. I do not want that.

The progress of eliminating the weeds with mowing is slower, as the weeds have to reach a height to be mowed before they form seeds. But the mulch from the dead weeds helps to build the topsoil and fertilize as they decompose.

The tractor is noisey, I do wear ear protection. You get in the tractor, turn the tractor on, and then the mower and start mowing the weeds. Making straight lines back and forth. Not much thought and you can not hear anything other than the muted sound of the tractors engine. As you methodically mow, you see your progress one strip at a time.

I check the growth of the grass and how much is grass vs weeds, what type of grass is growing. In short the health of the pasture. Over the past seven years, the pasture has improved. Slowly and surely the grass is taking over and the weeds are fewer.

One reason for the increase in grass and fewer weeds is the sheep. The sheep love to eat most weeds, not all weeds. They eat the weeds as they begin to come up, not allowing them to bloom or make seeds. Insuring that fewer weeds will sprout and grow the next spring.

Sheep fertilize as they walk. These small marble shaped manure pellets do not block the sun and decompose releasing needed nutrients back into the soil. There are no large round splatter of manure that blocks the sun and over fertilizes the soil in one small area such as the manure dropped by cattle. Or piles of manure from horses always depositing their manure in one small area. Sheep walk, eat and fertilize as they go.

Mowing the weeds, allows for more moisture and sunlight for the grass. Weeds grow taller faster than the grass, blocking the sunlight needed for photosynthesizing. Weeds need water to grow. Mowing the weeds allows more water for the grass. Eventually, the graze will dominate and the weeds will be few if any.

I go back and forth mowing the weeds, looking at the pasture grasses, and thinking. A person can do a lot of thinking driving a tractor back and forth. There is no thought of where to go, just follow the line created with the first line created when you enter the pasture. Actually the only thinking is when you make the first cut through the pasture, straight is important. Then you just follow the first cut until there is no more to cut.

Driving the tractor is very different than driving a vehicle on the road. There is no other vehicles around to focus on. If I get off the path a little, it is not a wreck. My only focus is keeping the tractor in a fairly straight line, and to not run over and mow down the two yucca plants in the pasture. I want to save the yucca plants to put in the yard. Even if I do miss and mow them down, it will not kill them, only make them smaller.

I think about the sheep, the pasture, life. What changes I need to make and how to make them. Yesterday, I was contemplating changes I need to make for my personal well being. Learning what is important in my life at this stage and where I want to be in the future years. Mowing the pasture is relaxation, a time I can let my mind rest and smell the mowed weeds, look at the trees and enjoy the day.



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