The impact of bovines upon the landscape is powerful.
Two hundred thousand pounds of animal weight was applied to this hilltop for half a day by grazing cattle. The result was relatively uniform grazing of half the plants in the pasture, benefiting cows, and trampling of the other half, benefiting soil. Trampling of plants provides mulch to the soil, as does straw on reseeded lawns. This mulch keeps the ground moist and cool, which feeds microbes in the top few inches of the soil profile. Active microbial life composts dead materials and manure, creating organic matter. Organic matter stores 8 lbs of water for every lb. of organic matter, providing irrigation to plants during dry spells. So, these cattle catalyze powerful forces beneath their feet.
We have not been as successful at energizing pastures with sheep, though we move them very carefully across the landscape. This is probably because each foot supports 1/10th the weight of the foot of a cow. And it is feet grinding the plant into contact with the ground that feeds the soil. Sheep tend to scamper around plants, while cattle push them down. But each has its place on the landscape, with "scamperers" tending to win during droughts.
In the picture above, the dark spot was a patch of dense, unfriendly thistles about five feet tall. The cattle in the distance were bunched closely enough, due to Brendan's management as a "grazier", to consume some of the thistles and lay the rest upon the ground, turning them into submissive mulch. In previous years, we have had to mow that patch of thistles to keep it from going to seed. This year, due to higher cattle numbers, we employed bovines to do the job.
High impact by livestock upon pastures must be followed by long periods of rest, providing plenty of time for plants to recover from grazing. Both of the above pastures were last grazed in July, and we are about to graze them again in late October and early November, which equates to 100 days of rest. Doesn't that sound enviable!
Above we see lamb shanks being browned and then 9 hours later they sit in an irresistible sauce, waiting to provide succulence to the fortunate. These are easy to cook: first brown in frying pan, and then braise for nine hours at 200 degrees in a covered pot, steeped in beef stock and/or wine and accented with herbs of choice. It is that simple, with the taste being wonderfully silken, complex, and rewarding.
We will see you this Sunday, the last weekend at Hyde Park Square. In November we move indoors to Clark Montessori, five blocks east on Erie Avenue.
With appreciation for your considerable impact on us this summer and fall,
Drausin & Susan
Go to http://grassrootsfoods.biz/on-line-purchasing to order for delivery November 4.