e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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80 acres: Hot days on the tractor

So it's hot and dry and windy (and has been for several weeks now) so fire danger is way up.  Time for the fire-lane mowing.   We have highway frontage (where fires most commonly start) so yesterday I went up there and mowed everything I could reach, six or eight swathes wide.  There are trees right on the fenceline with drooping limbs that the big tractor couldn't get under.  This morning R- went with the small "lawn" tractor (it rarely sees a lawn) because he could get under that and mow right to the fenceline.  It's slower--its mower deck is narrower and it doesn't go as fast or handle the big stuff--but it's very handy to have a "clean-up tool" mower as well as the tractor and brush hog. 

Meanwhile, I was widening the lane near the dry woods (something we'd prefer not to lose to a grass fire), widening the north fencerow path, and along the edge of the creek woods on this side of the creek, and the south fencerow path.   Those have to be kept short not just as little  firebreaks (they're really not wide enough to do much good) but also so we can walk safely...see a snake before we step on it.   Especially the ones with rattles on the tail.   Sitting up on Bombadil, I can see more than the stuff immediately at my feet when I'm walking, and despite the very dry, hot weather, and the lack of rain, there's a lot of good stuff going on.   As the old, planted King Ranch Bluestem dies off (which it does, eventually) native grasses and forbs are returning, and the KRB thatch is helping protect the soil from (for instance) last spring's torrential rains that washed away inches of two upslope neighbors' soil and this year's drought and very high winds that would otherwise blow some of it away.   It looks ugly right now, especially in the areas that just died this past year where the natives don't have a lot of penetrance, but where the die-back is older, and especially where I shredded it last winter, there's a lot of recovery, both grasses and forbs filling in.   This was an experiment--not the way you read about doing it in the prairie restoration books.   Most of the books are written for a different climate than ours--hundreds of miles north of here, with higher average annual rainfalls and shorter growing seasons.  I understood the principles but tried an adaptation for our climate and so far it's working. Time will tell.

Blooming today in the grassland (haven't checked any of the wooded areas): pink evening primrose, two or three species of milkweed, claspleaf coneflower, Texas star, Mexican hat (Ratibita sp., several), brown-eyed Susan, prairie bluets, bluebonnets (very late--most are gone), gaillardia,  Texas bluebells (the big purple gentian we have), prairie verbena, blue vervain, white gaura, false gaura, Texas parsley (mostly over), frogfruit, lemon horsemint, common sunflower.   Rising up to bloom a little later: ironweed, Maximilian sunflower, gayfeather, frostweed (in fencerows), goldenrod, the later milkweeds. 

Nothing looks as bad as when we bought it, or as good as it looks in wet years.   It's HOT out there...we've been in triple digits, setting one record after another, for over a week (and 10-15 degrees above normal all through May.)   I'll mow another section tomorrow morning before the heat sets in. 
Tags: native plants, willdlife

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