A warm wind blew for most of last week. It cut the snow enough that I was able to do some more burning in the hayfield I plan to plow up in the spring.
The basis for most hayfields in Montana is a wonderful plant called Alfalfa. Not only is it tremendously productive, but it regrows quickly after each cutting, and deposits nitrogen out of the air into the soil – and nitrogen is the main nutrient for grass. But it slowly dies out, and for peak production it should be re-seeded every 8-10 years.
Last year’s stubble is usually a problem when it is torn up by a plow. It generally leaves piles of trash in the field that take months to break down. But if a guy burns it off first, a plow pulls through nicely and leaves a good seedbed.
Burning can be pretty scary, however. It’s hard to contain the flames to just the intended field. I’ve set fires in this field several times this winter, each time under different weather conditions: once with a southwest wind, once when it was calm and moist, and this week with a northwest breeze. Each time I depended on the weather to minimize movement of the flames in dangerous directions.
I’m still training on my Arab mare. I took her outside the corral and down through the field last week. The wind had been blowing steadily all week, however, and it was making us all jumpy. When a gust of 50 MPH blew up her skirts this mare had enough and went to bucking. She bucked my hat off, and it lit the first time 50 feet away. I watched it roll another 50 feet, and was satisfied that it had come to rest in the pond.
We were still a ways from the barn, and it took a while to nurse her back into the wind. Then I had to go looking for my hat afoot.
This is an exceptional horse. She is taking far more time and effort to bring her along, but she is lighter in the mouth and longer in the stride than anything I have ridden in a long time. Even as green as she is, she follows me out of the field and into the barn and now stands quietly as I bridle and saddle her. But I still have to hobble her to get her to stand quietly while I mount.
I am now using a lead-rope for a hobble. After passing around one foot I take a couple of twists, then around the other foot, with a sort of chain-stitch knot, and pass the end of the rope through the stirrup. When I am aboard, I can pull the end of the rope and loosen her feet, then loop the rope over the horn to carry along with me for the next time I mount.
The balmy weather was interrupted Friday night by a snow-squall that dropped the temperature - as well as four inches of new snow. But it was crowding 50o today, and that warm wind really cut that new snow.
This weather sure does save on the hay-pile! The heifers have come in for feed every day since Christmas, but I’ve left the cows alone with their grass and lick. I had bought a semi load of straw to feed in December, and haven’t touched it.
The straw is lower quality feed than hay, and costs half as much. But it is good to stoke the fires of the rumen when it is cold, and also excellent insulation from the frozen ground when the temperatures are below zero. We haven’t had any seriously cold weather yet this winter when that straw would be advantageous, so it sits in the stack. It’s a long well until June, however, and we’ll undoubtedly use some during calving to bed up the calves.