Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grand Re-Opening

The new and improved Fish Pond is open. No, it's not really a pond. It's an area that runs from our house up to the lower barn.  From the look of the berm around much of the "pond," we suspect it was once used as a retention pond for the dairy cattle that once lived here. Or it may have simply been an overflow area for the feeder creek that runs along one side. When we first looked at the farm, our real estate agent suggested that we use the space for raising fish--tilapia, to be precise--and ever since then, we've referred to the area as the Fish Pond. It does collect water when we get massive rains as has been the case this week. Maybe some day the buffalo will re-locate their wallow here.

When we moved in, very little of the pond was visible. There was a tiny mowed area, but the berms were covered with honeysuckle vines, multiflora rose, numerous scrubby trees (mostly box elder whose brittle limbs come crashing down with every strong wind), and on the side closest to the house, bamboo). The middle was filled with blackberry brambles and hawthorne saplings as well as massive clumps of the thorny evil that is multiflora rose. We got the half nearest the barn largely cleared last year, though we still had a lot of debris to cart off. The buffs got to explore this area a bit in the fall but mostly used it as a passageway to get to the lower pasture.

Much of our late winter activity here has consisted of clearing and fencing the rest of the Fish Pond for the water buffalo. Thanks to the miracle of electric fencing, it didn't take long to put up the semi-permanent fence after the clearing was done. Clearing just took forever. Lots of trees to cut down and haul off, vines to pull, trash to pick up, bamboo to cut, and even a couple of metal bedframes to dig out of the dirt (more on that in a later post). Because of its propensity for sogginess, we couldn't get the truck in there to help with hauling whenever we had wet weather, so progress was slow.

The grass is greening up here but the buffalo have been eating every little bit that pops up before it can grow big and strong, so I was anxious to get them into an area that hadn't been overgrazed to take pressure off of the main pasture and the Booth. There still was some clearing to do but I'd already cut off access to the Booth after the flooded feeder creek knocked the footbridge off its moorings, so the buffs were getting antsy. I thought surely they would rush through the gate as soon as I opened the way to the Fish Pond but no. Maybe because it was in the middle of the afternoon and they had hay on their minds, they simply headed up to the barn as usual. If you build it, they don't always come. At least not right away. About an hour later, I found them here:

As is there way whenever they get into a new space, the three of them immediately went to the furthest edge of the space and quickly made the rounds, checking out the dimensions and looking for good nibbles and potential problems. Typically, at this stage, they stick close together and make several turns around the perimeter. I call this the fingertip search. The buffs move shoulder-to-shoulder in unison, checking the ground thoroughly.

With each successive turn, they go at a slightly more leisurely pace and spread out a bit. I know they're comfy in the space once they are willing to go off exploring on their own. They're still quick to regroup if they think anything's amiss. For example, Effie was having great fun getting into the honeysuckle vines that cover one little dirt mound in the pond. She kneels down, gets her head under the vines, and jerks up tearing out the vines (good girl!). I'm not sure why she enjoys this so much but it helps us a lot, so I don't question it.

After several rounds of head tossing, she leapt up suddenly and let out the longest, loudest grunt, I've ever heard from her and emerged with vines hanging from her horns. The other two came racing over to see what was the matter.

Quickly determining that nothing was seriously wrong, Audrey proceeded to take advantage of the convenient snack delivery system by devouring the vines on Effie's horns. Eschol decided shortly thereafter that thrashing around in the honeysuckle was a good time and he also did a nice whirling finish.

Judging from the tips of his horns and Effie's legs, this little hillock is poor, red clay soil--very unlike the rich, dark soil in most of the pond. It looks like it was moved here when something else was being constructed (maybe the berms were rebuilt at some stage).

I love having the buffalo right by the house:

I see them from my office and when I let the dog in and out. The buffs really like this corner where they can see the house and the main creek, plus the grass is dense from years of mowing.

They do seem to be curious about the land beyond the fence--I catch them looking longingly towards the main creek--but in the interest of protecting the beehives and the garden,  I hope to keep them sufficiently well fed that they don't try to get out.

I'm also enjoying being able to stand by the garden and look all the way up to the top of the orchard. This view won't last long but seeing as it's the first time I've been able to look from one end of our property to the other, I'm going to try to keep this image in my mind. I love seeing how it all hangs together. If only the neighbors' house wasn't in the middle.....

Now, this is what I call domestic bliss:

1 comment:

  1. Great job clearing out around the pond! I'll need to get your advice on the best way to clear out all those junk trees and vines. Maybe we just need to get some water buffalo! --Jason