Welcome to the new acreage blog. I’m going to use the excuse that it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks as the reason I’m a little late this month with “On The Fence.” A better excuse would be that I was waiting for a Cornhusker football victory before I wrote… or maybe the best reason would be I wanted the weather to improve so I had something positive to write about.
The weather certainly has been a challenge in late September and early October for farmers wanting to get started with harvest. This is the second year in a row we’ve had weather patterns like this, I just hope we repeat the nice weather following an extended rainy period like we did in 2017. Not only will harvest proceed rapidly, it also gives us a chance to do a lot of things we might need to on our acreages.
Fortunately our weather changed and many farmers are rapidly catching up on their harvest. I’m sure you’ve notice a lot of trucks, grain carts, and combines on the road lately. You always want to be cautious on country roads, but it’s particularly important during planting and harvest season when there is more traffic on rural roads at all times of the day and night.
Harvest is, by far, the #1 activity this time of year. In early harvested fields, you may have seen drills planting winter wheat. This crop is seeded in the fall and will be harvested next July. As harvest winds down now, you may also see drills in fields seeding cover crops. These improve the soil structure, help prevent weeds, increase “good” microbial activity in the soil, offer grazing for livestock, and help prevent soil erosion.
Those are the visible things you see happening on your neighbor’s farms. Things you don’t see is ordering seed for next year’s crops, cooling and drying grain stored in bins on the farm, soil sampling for fertilizer needed by next year’s crops and tax planning. Farmers are also cleaning and making repairs on equipment before it is stored for the winter.
That leads right into something you might want to be doing now. I haven’t winterized my mower… yet, but I hope I mowed my lawn for the last time last weekend. I might have to mow again if too many leaves blow in on it. When I think I’m done mowing, I’ll thoroughly clean my mower, change the oil, clean or replace the air filter, and sharpen the blade… and do similar maintenance on other equipment such my tiller.
This is the time (while it is still warm!) when I get out my snowblower and make sure it starts easily and is ready for the winter months. It is so much easier to do that now than when there’s a couple inches of snow on the driveway and so cold I can’t feel my fingers!
I’ll also replenish the stack of firewood near the house for my fireplace this winter. I want this near the house, but not next to it where it might attract mice or other pests such as termites. To discourage termites, do not stack firewood directly on the ground. You can purchase special frames to hold firewood or I’ve found a few cement blocks and metal T-posts will keep it off the ground. Never bring firewood into the house until you are ready to burn it.
If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, it’s also important to clean the flue to remove creosote that can build up and potentially lead to a chimney fire. Also, from a fire safety standpoint (can you tell I’m a volunteer fireman… over 35 years), be sure to cut down tall vegetation right around the foundation such as ornamental grasses. They add interest and provide some habitat in a flowerbed away from the house, but cut those down next to the house.
Similarly, rake up leaves that may have blown in and accumulated along the foundation. This can be a fire risk as well as provide a hiding place for critters you really don’t want coming into the home. If leaves accumulated on your lawn, mow to mulch them into the turf. If they leave a layer of ground up leaves on top of the turf after mowing, mow over them a second time. If you still have an accumulation, you may need to rake or bag them.
Mowing and mulching them won’t contribute to thatch, but it recycles nutrients into the soil. If there are too many to mulch in, rake them up, but add them to your compost pile. I always stockpile a pile of leaves next to my compost pile. Then, when I do have to bag my grass clippings (I never do unless absolutely necessary), I’ll add a layer of clippings, a layer or leaves, and a layer of last year’s compost to a new pile next to the old compost pile. This combination starts composting faster than just leaves or just grass clippings.
Well, that’s more than enough to keep you busy for a while. The main thing is during this great fall season, get outside, enjoy the weather, do something, and enjoy your acreage.