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Earth Stewardship 101 by Sheri Dixon

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And that’s where the panic sets in.  Neither one of us has ever OWNED a place that could provide for us almost completely.  And how to accomplish our goal of a sustainable, flourishing farm has as many answers as folks with an opinion to offer.  So, we are calling in the ‘experts’, gathering all the information, deciding what makes the most sense to us, and will do what seems the best for our speck of Earth.

Our first expert was Julie, District Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Julie met us out at the property one afternoon and walked over it with us.  She spent almost two hours going from one end of the land to the other.  And she does this for FREE, through the courtesy of our tax dollars. Something tangibly useful. How cool is THAT?

Seeing the spring-fed branch that meanders across the place, she gazed at it a moment - running clear when most creeks much larger are dusty channels and even some huge lakes have disappeared in the drought, and quietly commented, “That right there is a Gift.” When I expressed a desire to have a pond dug out in a bend of the branch, she said that altering a named branch in any way is not allowed without a mass of permits, a barrowful of cash, and the invitation of the A.C.E. into your immediate family.  She offered ideas to pump water up out of the branch with the help of a ram pump for the livestock, or we could just let our resident beavers keep building the dam they’ve been working on and we’ll have our pond. Go beavers!

She told us to wait to do water and soil samples till February, since the drought is affecting the results of both types of tests - everything is so darn dry the readings are all skewed. Hopefully we’ll be recovered in the rainfall department some by then.


Soil Map

Her recommendation is to plant one of a variety of hybrid Bermuda grasses in both the pasture and the hayfield this February.  Then, in the fall sow a winter grain, like rye, in the pasture to provide graze through spring, and clover in the hayfield as a green manure.

When I asked about native plants to introduce on the creek banks to hold soil against erosion, she said just don’t cut the trees on the bank and the roots will keep the soil. Unfortunately, a lot of our trees’ roots are becoming exposed and the trees are leaning across the creek trying their best to hang onto that dirt. It seems to me that there are smaller plants that could help the trees...

A totally unexpected piece of information that Julie provided to me regarded the electric poles (small single wooden ones, not the big multi-wired metal monsters) that march through our wetland area and across part of the front of the property.  I need to call the electric company ASAP because they come out in helicopters and drop defoliation chemicals to keep the area under the poles clear. Considering the spring activity in the wetland and the proximity of the creek to the front of the property I see this as B-A-D.  She told me her husband works for the electric company and if I call them and promise to keep the area under the wires mowed, they will come out and flag the boundaries of our place, keeping the helicopters away.


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