George and Mabel paid $5,400 an acre for their five while Marvin fumed. He was not able to buy any portion of the farm. "There goes more land outta corn and beans," he growled under his breath. "Them dingy-dingy idiots are all gonna starve someday."
George and Mabel next built a little barn right in the center of the property that again mystified Marvin. Then they funneled the rainwater that would wash off the roof into two big watering tanks, one on either side of the barn. Marvin almost went into the ditch rubbernecking at the hard-working couple and their children. The Cottagers divided the rest of the land into four more or less equal plots, each a little more than an acre in size. All four accessed directly to the centrally located barn, and each water tank served two of the plots.
The Cottagers decided to go to the extra expense of using cattle panels for the interior fence instead of electric fencing. They felt that the cost of a little over $1,000 for the heavy wire panels was justified because as fencing they would last at least as long as the Cottagers and could be easily moved if they needed to change the number and size of the paddocks. And they didn't have to worry about electric fences shorting out or shocking the neighbor children. Marvin noted the lavish use of cattle panels and muttered as he drove by: "A fool and his money are soon parted".
When the Cottagers planted fruit and nut trees around the fence line and sowed one of the fenced-in plots to improved bluegrass and white clover, Marvin smirked. "All lawn and trees on land that oughtta be growing corn and beans." When he saw the Cottagers lay out another of the plots in garden vegetables and corn, he frowned. "Must be some of those pinko, commie, organic nuts." But when the Cottagers broadcast oats, clover seed, and timothy on the other two plots, using only a garden tiller lightly over the plots before and after seeding, Marvin was totally mystified. "What the h___ is going on here?" he muttered into the steering wheel.
Soon a horse appeared on the acre of grass. "Coulda guessed that." Marvin said, sneering. "Urban horse nuts." He was surprised when a calf, a flock of chickens, and a pig joined the horse. But then he thought he had it figured out.
"Probably a petting zoo. Be a hundred school kids swarmin' over the place every week. At a dollar a head. Hmmm. Why didn't I think of that?"
It took him until August to figure out what the Cottagers were doing. He had to admit that it was quite a trick. Especially tricky was how after one of the plots of oats went to seed, the animals grazed it and the clover to the ground. As the clover came back up, oats seeds that had been knocked to the ground by the grazing animals sprouted and grew another crop for oats, too. "By dingy dongy, did they do that on purpose?" he asked himself out loud. "Might be these people know a thing or two."
But it took him until December to get up enough nerve to stop and pull in the driveway. He had spotted something really weird. Parts of the garden plot had grown up in some very strange looking weeds, especially where they had dug the potatoes earlier and among the cornstalks, which the stupid organic nuts had not cut and fed to the animals. The thing about the weeds was that they were very green in December.
George was on his way to the barn. "Okay, okay, I give up," Marvin said, grinning ruefully. "Just what the Sam Hill is that stuff out there?"
George laughed. "Turnips and kale. Good winter grazing for the animals. I was just about to turn them into there. C'mon, I'll show you." He led Marvin to the barn, opened the door that allowed access to the garden plot, and, to Marvin's amazement, the animals took to the green growth with great enthusiasm and then went into the dry brown standing sweet corn, gobbling up fodder and corn.
"Well, I'll be dingy dongied," Marvin said.
"I kind of bet your great-grandfather grazed turnips in the winter in the old days," George said. "I know mine did."
Marvin just kept staring at the steer tossing down turnips and gobbling corn fodder, and the hog, whapping down stalks of corn with a sideswipe of it's nose to get the ears. In December. His mind was racing. Two Thousand acres of corn and turnips. Hmmm. Maybe feed out a couple thousand head of cattle over the winter without so much as running one gallon of gas through the corn combine. Hmmmm. . . . . and then out loud: "What you figure it would cost to fence a couple thousand acres?"
George laughed. "I'd have to get out a pencil."
I think I know what you are doing," Marvin said, changing the subject slightly. He already knew about how much it would cost, and he wasn't about to do it.
"Next year, you'll move the garden to the plot where your animals have eaten the clover down to nothing, right?"
George nodded, appreciating his neighbors genuine interest.
"And the one this year in garden you'll rototill a bit and plant to oats and red clover next spring."
Again George nodded.
"And then the garden will move to the next plot the year after that, and then to the fourth, and start over again."
"Not to the fourth," George said. "That's permanent bluegrass, clover and fescue. Will rotate just the other three plots."
"Fescue? Sounds like a disease."
"It's a grass that'll stay kind of green and grazeable all winter. I'm trying to work out a system where the animals feed themselves nearly year-round. My motto is: "Don't do anything that you can get a cow to do for you."
Marvin chuckled. He thought he might get to like this pinko, commie, organic nut after all. "I was wondering', he said. "That's a mighty fine steer you got there. Gonna butcher him yourself?"
"Yep. Actually more meat than we need. Know anybody who would want to buy some of it?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. And, if you need any help with the butcherin', I can handle that, too.
Thanks again for taking the time to read.