Wednesday, July 6, 2011


One of the conundrums of living in the coast range is what to do with the open space and pasture land. The two choice are to mow or to pasture animals on it. If you opt to mow, you are looking at a lot of time on a tractor or riding mower. The minimum at our house is three full days at the end of spring and three more at the beginning of fall. If you opt for animals, you don't have to mow but you have all the headaches that go with having animals. To add insult to injury, the climate and landscape isn't really conducive to pasturing and it's almost impossible to avoid buying hay for the winter. We choose to pasture. Animals may come, but not until we've got the house and little children situation in a lower maintenance stage.

When you mow, you are destroying habitat and shelter. Snakes, rodents and insects flee the tractor in droves and attract several different predators. The classic are the ravens. There is a breeding pair that make our little section of the valley home and as soon as they hear the mower fire up, they'll swing by to check it out. Hopping along through the just cut sections, they seek out animals killed by the tractor or fleeing through the piles of cut grass. Ray was followed by a coyote once, doing the same work as the ravens. It showed no concern for Ray or the tractor, instead prowling along behind eating mice and gophers. The most surprising predator is the white crowned sparrow. They like to lurk the margin between cut and uncut. I assume they are picking up the myriad little insects thrown up by the tractor, but I don't know for sure because they flee the tractor and work in its wake.

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