Our cows and these pastures are dependent on the surrounding forest.
The forest of the hillsides provides ecological stability and serves as a protective mantel for the valley below. Its roots prevent erosion of soil and store water during times of plenty to be released during times of scarcity. Mature trees release several hundred gallons of water a day into the ecosystem, for the benefit of its community, including nearby pastures.
One of the fascinating aspects of forests is the fungal growth they foster in soil. Roots of trees typically extend twice the distance of the crowns, intermingling extensively with each other. Symbiotic to this root system are fungi, which attach themselves to the roots.
Fungi develop microscopic filaments, known as "hyphae". One teaspoon of forest soil contains miles of hyphae, densely penetrating the ground in every direction. These hyphae operate like fiber-optic cables, transmitting signals to trees throughout the forest, regarding threats, such as: insects, disease, and weather. Ecologists refer to this newly discovered phenomenon as the "wood-wide-web". A single below-ground fungus of an undisturbed forest can cover many square miles, generating an extensive communication network.
Fungi are beneficial to pastures as well, and one can't help assuming those of a forest provide support for and connection with those of a pasture.
Forests seem like nature's most beautiful garden. In southern Ohio, nearly all fields were once wooded, as is the case for our farm. And those fields are constantly wanting to go back to woods, to return home. If we didn't mow them periodically, they would be dense with woody species within five to ten years. So, we are borrowing our pastures from the forest, in a sense, for this brief moment we are its stewards.
Forests are a model of true community. Mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and fungus (we have learned) thrive together in their under-story. This biodiversity and interaction leads to unparalleled stability and richness - a sustainable society.
Those who are aging shelter the young, and the young grow strong to assume leadership. The sapling of a beech tree will grow in the shadow of its parents for 70 years, and only be ten feet tall. But when the matriarch fades and falls, the sapling is ready to spring into sunlight and growth. One can clearly witness careful nurturing going on in the forest. Nuts fall, seedlings sprout, saplings take root, and trees mature, over the centuries a forest takes to tell its tale.
One of the fascination of the woods are the sounds it offers, the song it sings, emanating from its branches, leaves, birds, and wind. One can listen endlessly to this uneven melody, becoming transfixed.
As of three hours ago, a new seedling has sprouted in our very forest. Her name is "Lyra", and she comes out of the forest's magical song, as our first grandchild, and is thus Lyrical Lyra. Her dignified mother and honorable father will nurture her, so she may join in the chorus and sing of the wild, from whence we all come. The wood-wide-web is busy sharing the news. We cherish her already, as she will lead us into the future, upon our slopes.
Last week's story of the twins is finding happy resolution. We were able to habituate the mother to nursing the heifer-calf, but observed the cow probably did not have enough milk to raise twins. Sometimes demand creates supply, but that did not seem to be the case for her. So, we are bottle-feeding the heifer-calf, and have found a home for her on a commercial dairy, where they have plenty of excess milk from "treated" cows. The picture above is of the return trip to the cow herd, with bull-calf in sled and mother following.
This recent meal featured brined pork chops, fresh lima beans, and the last of corn on the cob. It was excedingly good!
If you find yourself wanting to grill this fall, we recommend our Shortrib Burgers as they are always a success.
Don't forget our Farm Tour, on Saturday October 14, form 11 - 3. Pay in advance. Children under 10 free.
As night falls, and this communication is about to go forth, two packs of coyotes are calling back in forth in our valley, in resonant chorus, howling with intensity from unknown canyons, proclaiming the arrival of Lyra..., and our hearts swell in gratitude.
Drausin & Susan