Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mow is Me

This is an old title. I've used it before on my previous blog, The Midlife Farmwife courtesy of my friend Stacey who tired of my complaining all the time about the mowing I used to have to do on our Chatsworth farm.

It was about four acres. Twice a week in May and June and once a week thereafter.

We owned a large zero turn mower, a couple of weed wackers and one or two push mowers at any given time. I mowed around the big farmhouse, up and down both lanes which were 1/4 mile each, all about the farm store, the machine shed and on and on ad nauseum. Grass was carelessly tossed about the yard since we had nearly fifty acres for our livestock to graze. We mowed to keep up appearances. I shamefully admit it.

Not anymore. Thank heaven. The stress of our  farm and barn always looking its best,was nerve wearing, especially on Keith since I was the one harping on him to clean up, put away, organize. I still harp but he's better at ignoring me. And without the organic inspectors, milk inspectors and daily customers making visits, the need to clean and organize is purely my own problem.

Mowing on The Poor Farm is very different. We own one one small push mower. The primary area we care about is a small rectangle, about twenty foot by fifty foot, where we have our fire pit and outside seating just outside the grain bin. When we mow it we ALWAYS use the mower's bagger and the grass is fed to the horse, the cows, the steers. whoever is closest or neediest at that moment.

Outside of our immediate outdoor lounge area, are other regions we mow periodically , again for livestock feed value or merely to control weeds, Overall though, our tolerance for weeds here is about as high as they are.  Rather than constantly fighting nature we have learned to work with it. High grasses, weeds, and wildflowers  benefit us because it increases the pollen for our bees, offers shade and hiding places (from hawks) for our poultry, grants living space to beneficial insects and saves on mower gas and homesteader energies.

This limited mowing also gives bull snakes a nice place to hide. These snakes are farmers friends as they do an excellent job of consuming rats or mice but when I come across one unexpectedly, I still jump.

Our poultry keep the extra bugs: ticks, flies, spiders, mosquitoes, in check.  Not that we don't have those insects, it's just not a big problem, at least not for us. Visiting relatives might scoff. The additional wildlife, with the exception of the rabbits, we do enjoy. We have a large variety of birds here we never saw (or heard) on our old farm.

We do from time to time, use our push mower to tackle weeds in our four vegetable gardens. With weeds cut short, we can  easily mulch with old hay/straw.  I'll do just a garden specific post soon.

Back to mowing. In addition to the occasional push mowing we also allow the horse to graze about our main work areas. We just string a few faux hot wires across areas we don't want her in and she free ranges between  buildings, and up and down the driveway. She does an excellent job of eating-exactly what she wants-and then leaving us to mow down her rejected greens, but still, it provides food for her and limits our mowing energies.

Area to left of drive usually grazed by "Free Range" horse, but sometimes we mow it
to provide feed for her on days we keep her in her lot.

When Ennis is out of her penned area, she roams past us working in a garden or visits the calf in her hutch. She's very social. She also deposits all her deposits alongside our outhouse, not randomly across the yard. it's just one more reason I love her.

If we are mowing something we know isn't good for the livestock, like weeds mixed with partially decayed bark mulch for example, it is used to mulch plants in the garden.

True, we do work in circles it seems, but this way no good grass is wasted, thus saving on feed bills and providing needed exercise to this homesteader. I hate seeing all the ditches mowed around our county and the grass just left to rot, when it could be baled and fed to local livestock. Below on left is the ditch in front of our property and on the right is the ditch in front of the neighbors field, directly across the road from us.

Because of our miserly ways with mowing, The Poor Farm isn't as pretty and tidy as our old farm, but every day it is more sustainable and who ever said self sufficiency had to be pretty?

Damn. I think I did.


  1. It is tiring being a slave to your lawn. If you have livestock that can use the grass, why not? We often gave our laying hens all kinds of cut grass, kitchen scraps, and pieces of sod we were lifting to make more gardens or to edge existing ones. Love your tabby cat in the last picture. Every home needs one. -Jenn

    1. Today, it was hot and air reused to move so it was an easy decision not to mow at all. Being imperfect in my landscaping gets easier as I get older. And that darned cat? his name is Tiger, he's a big tom cat and he follows me all over the farm, and to get the mail, and once he took a ride (unknowingly) with Keith in the back of the pickup. He's a ramblin' cat.

  2. Sitting in my chair umder the sycamore catching up with you today. I have three years, two weeks and a few days till i kiss off the rat race. Its warming to know there is life after the rock pile.


    1. There is indeed Kevin. Less money on this side but tons more satisfaction.

  3. Donna, I love your photos and your posts! I used to mow to keep up appearances...but now it's just the backyard, and why? Makes it easier to scoop the dog poop lol...really, if it weren't for that, we'd likely have tall grass in the yard. Manicured bores me. I live in the mountains, bring on the jungle!!! :)

    1. I once worked with a women who planted all her outside flowers in the ground in pots (!) so they wouldn't "get too wild." Can you imagine a bunch of geraniums just losing their minds and taking over the neighborhood? Well she could.

    2. LOL...attack of the killer geraniums...

  4. We mow two acres, not a drop in the bucket to some, but a weekly chore nevertheless. The thought of a coyote living within earshot is a possibility and not one I am comfortable with, I'd rather see what's out there.
    That being said, the woods are what they are.......
    Enjoy looking at your pictures so much, your place is beautiful and inspiring.
    Happy July 4th to you both.

  5. Now that we are living in an apt with no yard to mow and no weeds to pull, I can honestly say those chores are not missed in the least. That said, we did mow and weed at the VA homestead and still do when we return to check on the place. Lawn contractors never do as good a job as the homeowner. I agree with your views on not being perfect...with age comes wisdom.

    1. I was raised in Chicago and have had friends who live quite full lives in Apartments, and there is a part of me that envies that. If I wasn't weeding veggies or mowing feed for critters, I could write more, learn exotic dancing maybe. I guess the trick for all of us is to enjoy what we are doing when we are doing it. I'm not there yet.


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