BuckwheatPrairie 001A few more hyssop and zinnia have bloomed while the first have faded and black-eyed susan has reluctantly joined the party, yet our attempt at prairie remains a disappointment. What then are those transverse stretches of white blossoms on either side of our attempted prairie and further up the hill? The slightly sweeter fruits of another decidedly less than completely successful experiment.

In spite of the poor showing thus far, we remain determined to cover the hill in flowers but it is hard to work up enthusiasm for breaking more sod with the tiller. So we decided to try a sod-cutter. This self-propelled device has an oscillating horizontal blade that saws away under turf as the machine goes forward. The result should be a strip of sod that can be rolled up and removed. We had some concern that it would not work well on slopes or uneven ground but when research on the net turned up a few reassurances and no warnings, we decided to risk a few hours rental.

Sadly our conclusion is that, no, it does not work on slopes or uneven ground. On a gently sloping or slightly uneven suburban lawn, perhaps, but not on our rural hill. And the best way to use one is to let some other fool operate it.

The machine was both top-heavy and just plain heavy as well as unsteerable. In spite of all this, when we tried our first strip it actually cut rather well. We had started furthest from the current prairie area just in case the machine were to run amuck and lay waste to the few plants there. The first strip went sufficiently easily that we expected no troubles working our boustrophedonic way towards the rear edge of the prairie. Then we discovered how difficult it was to position for an adjacent strip. After a bit of wrestling we tried again only to have the engine insist on frequently stalling. Having stuttered out a second strip, we moved down the hill to try again in a different, less cursed area. Once more we managed one strip, although with difficulty, but not a second. Deciding that if things were to be this hard we should expand the existing prairie rather than working to reach it, we moved right behind the existing prairie to try again and wrested another few strips from the ground.

At this point we were quite prepared to throw in the towel and have the rental people come to remove their feckless, demon contraption, but we gave it one last try, this time in front of the prairie, on one of the most flat and level stretches of ground we have. Here the infernal thing happily removed strip after strip of sod although shifting it from a completed strip to the adjacent one was still a trial. We removed enough sod to feel that we had gotten our money’s worth out of the rental fee and quit.

The pieces of cut sod we carted down to an area that floods in spring to build up and extend the raised path through the vernal muck, another ongoing project, and the strips of bare ground we seeded with buckwheat. It was rather late in the year so we were unsure what to expect but within a few days they sprouted and after a week, as if hearing Time’s wingèd chariot, hastily bloomed before reaching the usual height to make the strips of white in the picture above and to briefly elate us with pollinator activity. Sadly it was not our honeybees but some kind of wasp.

Anyone with sense would give up at this point but we are beekeepers so clearly we shall keep trying.

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