Of Hazels and Heifers (and bull calves, too)

This season I’m establishing a hazel planting in the relatively level field below the house. It’s been a bit of a battle as I don’t really have the right machinery to maintain them efficiently yet, but being impatient to get started on their 3-5 year juvenility period (non-bearing wait time), I’m planting anyway.
The area was worked up with a 6′ tiller by a friend with a tractor and said implement. And, no, I didn’t Round-up the vegetation prior to the cultivation so will definitely be faced with some recurring thistles and alfalfa. I’m also experimenting with the use of biochar as a long-term soil ammendment. To tease apart the effect of the biochar from the composted dairy manure it was mixed with, I’m also using some of the composted manure without the biochar.  When applying the ammendments, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have enough to spread all over so I applied 2 5-gallon buckets (mostly) full each 2′(marked with dot of blue paint) for 20′ in each of 2 rows for each mix.  The dairy manure was mixed with sawdust bedding, a nice base for a  planting of woody perennial such as hazel.

P15-0732c compost along dot line P15-0738c piles of compost

The general area was seeded with 2 grazing mixes – a straight lawn mix (Kentucky bluegrass and fescue) (eastern 60′) and a grazing mix (western 60′). I’m using woven landscape fabric – the type nurseries use for their container yards to help control weeds around the plants.

My nephew, Blake, helping to staple fabric by row 4.

My nephew, Blake, helping to staple fabric by row 4.

 

 

In the fourth row (from perimeter fence) the 2′ wide strip is positioned to the north of the plants.  In the third row the plants were planted in the middle of where the fabric will cover and I am individually cutting in  half way and a key hole will be cut around the plant and the fabric stapled to enclose it (picture forthcoming).

So, you might ask, what do cattle have to do with all this? I am hosting dairy calves on the farm to make use of the vegetation (keep it under control, somewhat) and earn additional farm income.  I was up to 59 at one point, but am back down to 48 little bovines.  They are supposed to stay on the opposite side of an electric fence from the hazels.  The numbers tell the story.  June 10 – 40 hazels planted… up until early darkness.

SJW planting with aid from LEDs in cap brim.

SJW planting with aid from LEDs in cap brim.

P15-1058e bulb planter TE

Bulb planter used to make holes. Hand shovel used to score insides of hole to break up any glazing and allow easier root penetration.

 

 

June 14 – 80 hazels (40 more).  Morning of June 16 – morning inspection reveals something has pulled up 12 hazels.  They are still viable (not wilted anyway) and were immediately replanted.

Plants pulled out by ? racoons?

Plants pulled out by ? racoons?

June 25 – I arrive home from work and find calves in the hazels.  Most damage results from being stepped on not browsed.  July 5 – replant 31 hazels.   July 8 – 4 calves found in planting at end of off-farm work day.  5 hazels browsed and 6 more stepped on.  This is how it stands at present.  No more rows planted and am watching to see if browsed hazels resprout.  Preventative attention to calf fencing has taken up all available time, but, hopefully, will preserve the existing hazels.  The ones already in look great.

Weeds directly around hazels are cut, not pulled, to avoid injuring roots.

Weeds directly around hazels are cut, not pulled, to avoid injuring roots.

But, anyone with a scientific bent will see controls on this are completely out the window on this and the degrees of freedom are nil (sorry for the nerd-speak).  Stay tuned for more adventures from farmdom!

 

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