Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Yesterday promised to be a scorcher, and in my opinion, yesterday delivered.
Warm season grass; mostly blue grama.

Superb cow food.

This cow is stripping leaves and flowers from sweetclover stalks.

When you have no hands, the tongue is an important tool.

Indian wheat and buffalo grass.

Prickly poppy and sweat bee.

Pretty as a picture.

Oh, it didn't get all that hot, the high was only 96 degrees.

But it was very still and the sun shone down from a nearly-cloudless sky. The very weight of the photons crashing down was palpable. I marvel at the heat generated by sol, and by the way my perception of that heat varies according to the axial tilt of our planet and the wide variation of atmospheric phenomena which mitigate the impact of the solar flux. Sol is 93 million miles away, and it's the same sun in relatively the same place whether it's January 17 or July 17. Freaky. As the now balding kids say.

Anyway, yesterday's task was to emplace a short section of fence posts across a corner of a pasture. The grass in this pasture, which we call the northwest quarter, is almost entirely warm season grass -- buffalo grass and blue grama. When you dig post holes in this stuff an interesting thing happens (especially when it's dry). A great deal of the soil you dig seems to disappear!

Of course it doesn't disappear, but when you've stuck your post in the hole, and backfilled and tamped it into place, You're left with a half-empty (or half-filled?) hole. Why?

Driving the skid steer across it reveals the character of the soil.

Basically, the soil is very fine and powdery and consists of decomposed siltstone and decomposing grass. All of this is held in the matrix of the grass root system, and the geometry of all the soil particulates is in equilibrium. When you grind that all up with a posthole digger, you destroy the root matrix. Put it back in the hole and tamp it down and it now takes up half the space it did previously.
No wind at all.

Crop ground is no different.

Half-filled post holes will never do. They need to be flush with the soil surface and packed tight, else nature's wind and water and temperature variations will lay the posts down for you.

The solution is to add soil to the partly full (empty?) holes. There are various ways to do this, none of which are not a huge pain in the @$$.

The method I chose yesterday was to bring in new soil in five-gallon buckets. There were only seven (I think) postholes, so this was a viable solution. There was also a handy pile of loose dirt located relatively close by. So I shoveled and bucketed and I got the job done.

By the time I finished the temperature had hit 95, there wasn't a breath of breeze, and the sun was pounding down from a cloudless sky.

And I was done for the day. It was early yet, only a bit past noon. There was plenty more work to be done, and I wanted to do the work. I wanted to complete tasks and continue to strengthen my ageing carcass. But my carcass said, "Firetruck that, sit the firetruck down!"

And wonder of wonders, I listened! I was actually a bit scorched.

In the evening there was a lovely thunderstorm which cooled things down and delivered 0.39 inches of rain.

And now, back to work.


  1. Interesting fact about the root matrix and how dry the soil is. To quote Buck, "I had no ideer."

    Of course, I say that a lot here. A rancher I'm not, nor wish to be. Thank God for those who do.

    Keep on keeping on Shaun. And listen when the aging carcass is trying to tell you something!

    1. Nature is endlessly interesting, and if you're not in a situation where you work with stuff day in/day out, it's pretty hard to have an ideer. To paraphrase Clarke, any stuff sufficiently unfamiliar is indistinguishable from magic. I'm happy with and to some extent proud of what I do, but it's just one of the zillion useful things that people do.

      The carcass paid me back handsomely this morning by allowing me a delightful four-mile walk-jog. We're slowly coming to terms.

  2. What OAFS wrote, me too.

    BTW- Did you receive the photos Kristin sent to you?

    Paul L. Quandt

  3. The way I keep echoing OAFS, I'm going to be known as little sir echo. But I'll do it anyway, listen to your carcass.

    BTW- did you receive to photos Kristin sent you?

    Paul L. Quandt

  4. OK, now I'm echoing myself. I'm going to quite while I'm behind.


    1. HELLO -- Hello -- hello --

      Thanks for stopping by and echoing!

      And yes I did. Great pics!