“I’m writing my blog, and if I say ‘the broken tree,’ do you know which one I mean?”

Larry doesn’t even look up from the paper. “I can think of three, off the top,” he says, and continues reading.

Hmm. “Well I mean the one where the chairs are and we sit and talk to people and have lunch and stuff.”

Larry is a most patient man. He puts his paper aside. “But that one isn’t even broken. It’s butchered. It’s amputated. If you say ‘the amputated tree . . .'”

But that doesn’t — no, that’s not what I’m going for. “If I call it the ‘homestead tree’ will you know what I mean?

So. We sat under the homestead tree talking to Mark about the future of cows. He’s willing to move the beasts around, advise us on forage planting, limit the number of animals, work on water solutions. And, he said, the time to plow is now. I’ll get you some names.

Now? We look around the valley and see plumes of dust from busy tractors everywhere. How had we failed to notice? We have to get going! (I don’t mean that we, personally, have to acquire a tractor and get out there, but thanks to Mal and Vic for the encouragement in that direction.)

But my sister and family are here and we have a schedule to keep. One more week won’t matter. And we’ll meet with Tom Snyder from NRCS (National Resource Conservation Services) and get his help with respect to dividing the fields, and so on.

On Thursday, we sit under the tree (you know which one) and talk with Tom. He is horrified and apologetic that he missed our meeting the previous week because he noted the wrong date on his calendar. He’s so smart and competent that we forgive him just about anything. Get started plowing? No!

“I’ve never understood these farmers here,” he says. “Im from Minnesota” — stop right here. Do I need to tell you the importance of this statement? Didn’t think so. “I’m from Minnesota and have lived with farming all my life, and I know that it’s all wrong to pack the living, breathing biome of earth to the point where air and water can’t penetrate.” And so on.

We don’t need to plow, in the first place, he says, as plowing will turn over decades of weed seed, ready to embrace the sun and bloom. We need to disturb the soil by disc-ing, at most. We should consider seed injection after spraying out the emerging tansy and thistle, and disturbing the soil. This should happen no sooner than next spring. We should plant a mixture of three grass species and two legumes.

He will send us attachments to explain all the processes we should consider, but he certainly supports rotational grazing as the most viable method of over-all conservation of prairie lands such as ours. He’s so glad we’re working with Steve Smith (Conservation Guy), and Jarod of USF&W. He’ll be more than glad to help us. (Yeah, I love this Tom. He’s a little bit plump and wears a plaid short-sleeved shirt and tries to balance three reports and notes on his lap while the wind blows everything about. Big smile.)

Tom was followed by someone whose name I forget (I don’t love him for a minute) who will send us an estimate for the fence we want to extend along both sides of the driveway/road/autobahn. I’m sure he’s fine, as Tyrone-our-builder recommended him, but he kept pitching the virtues of plastic fencing. So wrong!

This morning, I find an e-mail from Tom, attaching 6 reports, including PastureGrazingMgmt, Weed Control, and even “Small ac horse farms”. We need not concern ourselves with small acreage horse farming, and I should note that he failed to include anything about raising chickens, but I have my reading to do this morning.

While my own personal Minnesotan is off to the golf course, a much-needed recreational break from this business of farming. It seems there’s not much to do immediately, now that plowing is off the table, but we can begin to consider thinning the oak copse. Yes. This will provide the opportunity for a LOT of power-saw activity. My brother-in-law, the wonderful Matt Scanlon, told us how he and Mary acquire wood stove wood: they observe downed trees in White Plains and environs, contact the company they see at work and ask that the logs be delivered to their home. Where Matt has a saw and: A SPLITTER. His own splitter? Larry’s eyes alight. If Matt can do it . . .

A deeply felt thanks to you, my friends and advisers, for your notes of encouragement about my blog. I don’t have photos for you today, even though Miles, from MacForce, has straightened out my computer once again, but I just forgot to take any last time out.

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