Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Make Nice with Your Local Ag Guy/Gal

This is a very heroic picture- as if Jeremy just grew, cut, baled, and loaded the hay with his own two hands. That's not really how it happened but let's give him some credit anyway. Good job Jeremy! You look fantastic up there. We bought a few fresh bales two weeks ago from a propane dealer down the road from our land. Yes, here in the country one can make a tidy profit from selling both propane AND round bales.

After recovering from my shock and awe over this multi-faceted business (did I forget to mention it also contains a car wash? On the edge of a cow pasture, mind you, as nothing suits a car better after loading hay and re-filling propane tanks near a cow field, then a wash. God bless you, Texas.), I snapped a few pictures of yet another adventure-in-hay-buying. I swear I'll never get used to it. Each time we do this a flash of realization washes over me that holy sh*t my life choices have led me to this field with this farmer and this wad of cash, for that 1,500 pound ball of grass. I will never tire of that feeling.

Things move quickly here when the weather changes and we were fortunate for lovely days over the past few weekends. Pasture clearing is in full swing and Jeremy and I attacked this project like all of them - aggressively ambitious for about 45 minutes, until the tractor runs over someone's sunglasses and we require a beer break. Progress happens in fits and starts. Speaking of progress....it appears we've achived some level of harmony among the livestock creatures.

I believe this has happened for two reasons: 1) Boo is finally large enough to demand some respect from the others, and 2) Rooney has stopped peeing in the water when they all gather at the edge for a drink.

There is still a chill in the air which justifies many mini burn piles around mesquite stumps. We also do this to observe our mini cow's fascination with fire.

Seamus fell asleep sitting between two small campfires

while Matilda was served roasted cactus - a delicacy. The needles melt right off in the fire and only the crisped but juicy cactus meat remains. Apparently a delicious treat. Campfire cows and hand-fed heifers. If any of you have cattle please speak up and assure me this is normal behavior.
Most importantly - I befriended the local ag extension agent. Well, to be more accurate, I sent him an email and he wrote back.
Somewhere I heard that county ag offices offer a menu of free services to help with land evaluations. As it turns out, our county extension office refers people to the federal ag office, something called the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Ever heard of it? Me neither. But my budding friendship with the local ag guy led me to NRCS with whom Jer and I met today. Our meeting was brief but long enough to leave us armed with topographical and soil maps of our land, a meeting AT the land next week for extensive analysis, and the promise of some aerial photos...FOR FREE! Who. Knew. I happily pay my taxes this season knowing a small portion goes to staff and resource these offices throughout the country, helping to support and promote small scale agriculture.
Of course, his information was fairly dismal. Something about extensive soil erosion and "bad" soil in our area and I quietly kicked myself under the table at our lack of research before getting into the land business. Not that I'd do anything differently. We're in a prime location after all, 20 minutes from the city but only 2 minutes from a hay-selling-propane-dealing-car-wash. That alone is worth the bad soil.

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