2018 Hayfields: the IWK of the bird world
I treasure the quality of the summer pasture we have been renting at Wiles Lake. This season I have had the soil tested for nutritional content with flying colours. The pasture was fertilized in March before hay season. This year I chose to not have one section cut for hay at all so that I could continue to move my sheep flock to fresh grass continuously. The other field that is always hayed before I put sheep on it, was delayed in beginning the haying process until mid-July to allow the bobolink on the property to finish nesting first. Walks through the growing waist-high hay at the end of June was often accompanied by birds tsskking at my presence. I was always careful to watch for bird nests during my walks as I checked the fence line to ensure predators could not find a way in. Many days I was the recipient of much lecturing from the ever watchful mates of females nesting in the 20 acres of tall grass. The next time you see a field of tall grass blowing in the wind, just picture the IWK hospital for birds bustling about under that safe cover. One day on a fence check there were three species of birds sitting on the top wire within one eight foot fence section: a sparrow, a goldfinch and a bobolink. All three males were reminding me that they had wives nearby and I should walk carefully; the chorus of bird music was beautiful.
Along with having the pasture fertilized in March, I spent several hours in June driving a truck in a pattern of large squares to tiny squares, hauling a tow behind fertilizer spreader,. I was feeding the pasture where the sheep had eaten, putting essential food back into the ground to ensure the survival of the large variety of clovers and grasses that make a balanced nutrition for the animals.
I had several "people that know" visit the summer pasture this year. Everyone of those folks that know far more about the quality of pastureland then I do, all commented on the high quality of this piece of Wiles Lake land.
I will continue to cherish this treasure by feeding the land, respecting the natural ecosystem and doing watchful grazing of the grass in order that I and hopefully generations to come, can provide sustainable local food to Nova Scotians.
Now, with hay cut, pastures grazed, sheep fat from luscious nutritious grass, and babies grown into independent sheep I take a moment to breathe before turning to fall activities.