Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Clover, Sunflowers and Mulberries

The "lawn" looks pretty ragged in places if you are used to a perfectly trimmed and manicured grass surface.  But, that is usually on purpose at our farm.  Usually.

Well, if the lawn mower has an issue, there might be another reason.  

I know we have mentioned it before, but we do try to rotate letting areas that have some strong red clover presence grow while the clover is in peak bloom.  It has little to do with our wanting things to look nice (though I do like clover flowers) and more to do with providing food for some of our pollinator workers.

A Black Swallowtail illustrated for us exactly how happy it was that we allow clover to bloom at the Genuine Faux Farm by posing for a farmer who had a camera.

If you need a "better" reason than we like to support wild pollinators and other critters on our farm with clover, I suppose you might understand if you saw how happy our honey bees are to have all of the clover here - that should help with honey production.  But, why does it always have to be an economic reason or for a direct benefit to us?  

I doesn't, actually.  Yet, it still feels, for some odd reason, that we have to justify some of the things we do.  In my mind this is backwards.  I think those who feel they need to have a monocrop lawn that gets mowed every week in a cross-hatch pattern need to come up with a better justification for all of the effort and chemicals they put into that whole process of killing every other plant other than one precious grass variety (which is probably not native to the area and it likely needs special treatment that nature won't provide).

I'm trying to keep the bee and butterfly populations healthy and you are.... ?

I understand what it means to want to make the place you live look nice.  But, who are you trying to make it look nice for?   Do you actually enjoy your lawn?  After all, it is your home - it should look nice to you.  It really doesn't matter what a passer-by who maybe sees your lawn once in their life might think.

If you do like the perfect single-grass type lawn and really enjoy the process of making it happen, then maybe you have your reason.  If you just think you have to do it because...  well, just because... then you don't have a reason.  Either way, we can agree to disagree if you feel strongly about the topic.

We grow sunflowers at the farm.  

In fact, this season, we have more row feet of sunflowers than I think we've had any other season.  They went in at just the right time and they're looking pretty good right now.  And, happily, they didn't all get flattened in the storms we had about ten days ago.

We both like the way they look and they seem to have the power to make us smile a little inside as we take a look at them.  On a rare occasion you might also see us smile on the outside too when we approach these flowers in full bloom.

We noticed a different type of bee covered in sunflower pollen a few days ago.  Nearly every open sunflower bloom had at least one of these bees on them, sometimes a flower would have two or three bees.  These were not our honey bees (those were off visiting the clover and the zinnias).  But, these wild bees were still quite welcome.  

Maybe we'll save some of these seeds and see what sort of sunflowers come back.  There are many varieties out there, so I am sure we'll get some sort of cross-pollinated flower.  But, it might be fun just to see what happens.

The small birds love our rows of sunflowers.  In fact, one row of sunflowers is next to sweet corn, which is next to winter squash... which is next to borage.  There is some bird activity there.  But, it's the sunflower, zinnia, winter squash, borage mix that really gets the activity.  Already, the Goldfinches are telling us they are looking forward to a Winter feast of sunflower seeds that we will leave for them.

Our farm also has a number of mulberry trees/bushes.  Like most Iowa farms, we don't have to plant mulberries - they just show up.  Some folks call them 'junk' trees and expend a great deal of energy in eradicating them.  

Us?  Well, we don't mind them.  But, we also do not stop ourselves from removing one if a mulberry wants to grow somewhere we don't want it... like near the foundation of a building.  Otherwise, they provide habitat and food for the wildlife.  For that matter, we can eat the berries too if we wish.  In fact, we had been known to harvest them some years for our CSA members.

This year has been a bit strange for mulberries.  We had an early batch of fruit and now we are having a second flush.  Apparently, the roller-coaster temperatures encouraged two blooms and some of the first bloom got pollinated and did not drop with the cold cycle.  I don't think we've seen that particular thing happen on our farm before.

I have noticed that the Orioles seem to appreciate our mulberries and it isn't surprising to find a Catbird or the Brown Thrashers hanging around them.  Part of me actually wishes a mulberry would plant itself near our hen pasture.  I suspect the hens might enjoy picking up some of the berries as they hit the ground.

There you have it - musings for Wednesday!  Have a great day everyone!

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