Fields of Green

When I think of farms, I think of fields. When I think of fields, I think of an expanse of green grass. But I’ve never really thought beyond that. What kinds of grass (and other things) grow in a farm field? And if it’s not a crop (i.e. something you plant and harvest each year), how do you get it there in the first place and keep it growing year after year (instead of being taken over by plants and shrubs until it looks like the mess we started with when we moved here)? All these things are now occurring to me as we try to turn this (ours)…

…into something that looks more like this (not ours):

The area we’ve just cleared is not going to be used for pasture (i.e. for grazing animals), that much we know. It is situated too perfectly for growing crops and vegetables (facing due south with a gentle southern slope) and it’s close to the house which is helpful when you want to go out and harvest something for dinner. I’m eying the top portion as a potential spot for my future veggie garden, and Husband has already marked out two small test plots further down the slope for his heritage wheat and corn project. What fills in the spaces between these growing areas is supposed to be green stuff – grass – but as we get ready to begin I’m finding I have a whole lot of questions.

We bought a wildflower mix of grasses and legumes because it is specifically made for our region and supposedly thrives on newly cleared sites. We’re assuming this means it will grow with little-to-no help from us and it will outcompete the native weeds and plants whose roots, seeds, and shoots are still lingering in the soil even after the excavator obliterated all signs of them. Then it occurred to me that I have no idea how tall this stuff grows. Are we going to be slogging through it to reach our garden plots? Will we have to create paths through it? What exactly is this stuff going to look like when we have a whole field of it? Do we have to keep reseeding it or will it just stay that way for years? Will we have to weed it? I sure as heck don’t want to have to mow it.

And I realized that in all my years of seeing farms on the side of highways and in pictures, I have always taken those pretty green fields for granted as if they were always there and just sprung up that way. I’ve never stopped to consider how they got there in the first place and what needs to be done to keep them looking like that. Now here I am wanting fields on my own farm and finding there’s a lot more to a grassy field than meets the eye.

Seeing as I pretty much focus my mind on one thing at a time, these questions have only recently come to light for me. Already I’m feeling paralyzed by the awareness of just how little I know. Meanwhile, my dear Husband has just jumped in and started doing it. And it’s a good thing too because if he hadn’t already gone and ordered the seeds I’d probably still be trying to figure out what, exactly, we are supposed to plant. Then I likely would have spent hours trying to figure out how to plant it and what we’re supposed to do to help it grow (I mean, aren’t the birds going to eat up the seeds? won’t the deer eat the shoots before they get a chance to grow?). Then I would have researched the pros and cons of tilling the soil, whether we should have it tested for pH, treated with lime or something else, whether we should bring in some fresh topsoil….blah, blah, blah. Leave it to me to overcomplicate things; thank goodness I married someone who prefers to just dive in and see what happens.

Last week Husband raked an area of the new field, removing bits of roots and debris and pulling out the bigger rocks. Then he scattered some seed with his hands, gently raked it over, and marked out the area with flags (these are thin metal sticks with small squares of flagging tape attached; useful for marking out paths and borders). He was happy to see a light rain the next day. I decided I might as well follow his lead, so tomorrow I’m going to tackle some more of the field and try my hand at seeding. I suppose it will be a couple of weeks at least before we know whether this is going to work. But one of the things I’m learning is that, with projects on such a grand scale, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed to the point where you don’t know what to do or where to start. Sometimes you just have to cross your fingers, hope for the best, and jump in with both feet. If nothing else you’ll end up knowing a fair bit more than you did before you started.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. The process of trying to establish your own homestead is indeed overwhelming! So many decisions and, for me, an almost paralyzing fear of getting it wrong. I’m trying to quell that fear by realizing that nothing we do now has to be permanent. We can plant and grow something in one spot and change our mind the next year, moving the garden.

    Yes, it does help to set it up right the first time, but just getting started at all is equally important.

    We don’t want to grow fields of green pasture – heck, we live in a desert; everything we grow needs to be useful to us – but we are looking at growing cover crops to improve the soil. Around here, our options include native legumes (“pigeon peas” available in bulk from a native seed source), alfalfa, wheat, buckwheat, etc. We’d let these grow until knee-high and then till into the soil, immediately followed by our first vegetable plantings.

    We do plan to try to grow some fields of corn, wheat, and oats, but first we’ll have to put up some heavy-duty fencing to keep the wildlife out.

    Reply

  2. Posted by myriadthings on May 5, 2010 at 7:50 am

    This happened to me, on a somewhat smaller scale, when I was going to plant our first ‘real’ garden. I wanted raised beds of a certain size and paths between them and this and that, but as time went by and it became imperative to plant in order to have anytime growing that year, my husband Gord suggested just planting straight into the ground and worry about the fancy stuff later. It was a eureka moment for me: just put seeds in the dirt! I’m glad I did, because I never did go for the raised beds and things have worked out just fine!

    Reply

  3. Posted by ruralaspirations on May 5, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Thanks, both of you. It’s good to be reminded that things can be moved if need be. Sounds like you and I, Chile, suffer from the same need to have everything “right the first time”. 🙂

    Reply

  4. […] far cry from what we started with. It looks lush and lovely. However, it also all but buried my “raised” beds (which, […]

    Reply

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