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Date:4/17/2014 6:17:01 AM
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Grass
The other night a cold front was coming in, with expected rain. I took the opportunity to spread grass seed on the bare spots in our back yard and then I covered it with straw. Each year, in spring and autumn, I put out grass seed just before we get some rain and make sure to cover it with straw or hay. I've found that even if the seed doesn't take, or is eaten by the birds and rabbits, seeds from the hay and straw may root.

The land of La Ferme Sabloneuse can be roughly described as three hills with two small valleys separating them. The hills are made up entirely of sand while in the valleys there is slightly better soil, though even there sand predominates, hence the name, Sandy Farm. The ridges and valleys were formed by the glaciers and their annual deposits during their retreat at the end of the last Ice Age. Not quite a moraine or hogsback, still if you would look up "kettle moraine" on Wikipedia, you would see where the lines run just north of the Oconto river.

Our land was first logged for the virgin white pine. It was then worthless cutover land used as pasture. When Pa bought it in 1946 for $500 from the heir of the lumber baron Anson Eldridge, it was mostly prairie grasses. I remember seeing sparrows roosting on grass stems bending in the wind. It was as close to the old "eastern prairies" as I would ever see. The meadowlarks would nest on the ground and we would hear their song especially in the morning.

Eventually Pa, (and we sons) planted Norway pine in order to develop the land. The pines were limbed, and then thinned out, to allow the sunshine to come in. In the gaps, other pioneer plant life like sumac and then oaks would establish themselves. The tree growth, of course, gave cover to wildlife.

On my own particular hilltop, Ruthie and I first planted Lombardy poplars to impede erosion down the southern hillside. Next, I transplanted Norway pine seedlings from the established groves along the north and east slopes to block both the north wind and the traffic noise from the highway to the east. Ruthie planted Blue Spruce, birch, and maples all over and around the hilltop. Some died, most lived. Some were personally threatened by my Miss Ruthie and thus were motivated to survive when common sense would've said that they shouldn't have. Now, under their shade, the grass is growing. Under the Red Maple at the top of the hill, I actually have to rake the leaves in fall in order not to kill the grass. The rabbits, of course, graze like a small herd of sheep on this hilltop.

All our hard work is to fulfill Carl Sandburg's words: "I am the grass. I cover all . . . I am the grass. Let me work." --Gary
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