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Old 03-01-2020, 02:44 PM   #1
IkemanTX
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Well, it finally happened...

After 4 years of planning, I finally started habitat work on a piece of family land.



An intro to the property....

My mother owns 42.75 acres of the original 70 acres passed down (and bought) from my great grandmother. I originally thought this land had been in the family since the 20ís when my great grandmother and great grandfather were married, but after some research it looks like THEY inherited it from my Great Great Grandfather.... who probably bought the place (along with several others) in the mid 1870ís. I grew up hiking, hunting, camping, and fishing on every square inch of this place. Every summer Iíd stay with my great grandmother for a couple weeks, most nights of which I slept in the hay barn, and even an old hollow burr oak trunk. To say that I feel a deep personal connection to this land is an understatement.

The farm is in what used to be Blackland Prairie. Itís soils are what the locals call ďblack gumboĒ. Predominantly, Frioton Silty Clay Loam and Whitewright-Howe Complex as the Soil survey calls them. After decades of constant tillage in the 20ís-50ís for cotton and corn, the high ground has eroded to exposed chalk, and the bottom land can get REALLY boggy in winter/spring.

There is dang near zero cover on the place. My great grandfather was known for not allowing even blades of grass to grow in his fence rows.... as such, the only trees that have come up has been in the past 35 years since my mother bought it. There is one small chalk ridge on the south side of the place that was always wooded with burr oaks, white oaks, and post oaks.

I hope to eventually restore the pasture land to an extremely diverse prairie. Native American Seed Company has a 45+ species blend of my seed bank has been depleted too much to produce natives without buying seed. The shallow soiled slopes would have historically been savannah, and I intend to restore those to such as well. Post oaks, burr oaks, white oaks, and chinkapin oaks will be planted at wide spacings on those slopes after native grasses have been established.

This project will be slow, as I donít have large amounts of resources to throw at it, but I hope to use this thread to document the transformation.


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Old 03-01-2020, 02:46 PM   #2
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Yesterday we knocked out some needed prep work before the real work begins...

In the 20ís a road bed was dug against the creek to provide firm ground for equipment to move around when the bottomland is soggy. It acted like a dam of sorts, as it really trapped the runoff from the whole hillside and forced it to infiltrate.
Because of this, sections of the field hold water for much of the winter and spring. The worst area being right at the entrance gate. Today I cut down a small section of the road level with the field, filling a small ditch that had started next to it.


Next up was the creek crossing. There is a 6 foot diameter pipe that acts as the culvert for the crossing, but the top foot of it had been exposed over time with erosion. I scraped up enough dirt to cover it with 14-16Ē of loose dirt, that ended up being 7-8Ē packed. I also flared it out quite a bit for better departure angles on equipment so we donít high center anything. I encountered a plethora of earth worms while moving dirt, one of which was probably the largest I have ever seen. Thereís a reason they used to say of the soils ďyou could plant nails, and sow crowbarsĒ




Then... I mowed the 2.25 acres that will end up being the food plot (plus screening). This field was most recently planted in hay grazer 2 years ago, but VERY wet spring/summers made it impossible to plant. It went a little wild with cockaburs, ragweed, broomsedge, etc.. I figure mowing it low will let everything green up well, and get rid of obstructions to spraying gly to get the plot in. The back 2.5 acres of this field will be left fallow for now.


Once those were done, we decided to start cutting junipers. Although native to Texas, they should not occur in this area of the prairie due to the historic frequency of fire. They have been choking out the few trees that are original to the property, and they must go... we got about 30 or so trees downed before it was time to pack it up for the day.









The plan is to continue dropping the cedars in place, let them dry down for a year or two, then burn this 7.5 acre unit. I know it might kill a moderate percentage of the existing trees, but there are LOTS of acorns on the ground to regenerate. Also, I feel like it would really jump start the seed bank.

Hopefully I can get back out with the chainsaw for a couple days after spring break. And Iím chomping at the bit for it to be mid April so I can spray down the plots!


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Old 03-01-2020, 02:47 PM   #3
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My plans for this year are to plant a main 2-acre deer plot I am using a mix similar to @elgato summer mix, a 0.5 acre deer plot with 50/50 Alyce clover and aeschynomene, and a 2 acre upland game bird plot for dove.


The red areas are deer plots and the blue is dove. The yellow is screens I plan to plant. I also plan to break the biggest deer plot up into 2 with a screen most of the way up the middle, stopping about 40 yards short of the north edge. As well as screening the south side from the rest of the remaining field.

I figure getting food established is the easiest first step, and I will work on cover next. Neighboring properties have some decent cover, so I can draw in from there for the first couple of years.


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Old 03-02-2020, 05:30 AM   #4
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The food plot in center lays out as a converging hub with multiple tree line funnels

The point at SE corner already has some trees for cover and a potential bedding area

How do you plan to access your plots?

I see a lot of potential for success

bill
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Old 03-02-2020, 05:40 AM   #5
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How cool! This is why I want to buy some land. I would love my boys to have something left to them that they can pass along, and so On and so forth.
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Old 03-02-2020, 09:05 AM   #6
IkemanTX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TreeDaddy View Post
The food plot in center lays out as a converging hub with multiple tree line funnels

The point at SE corner already has some trees for cover and a potential bedding area

How do you plan to access your plots?

I see a lot of potential for success

bill


Access is from a country road along the north. Definitely not ideal for hunting with our predominant NW winds, but I have some ideas.

There wonít be too much hunting pressure on the place. I doubt we will hunt it this year, because the deer numbers in the area are abysmally low. If we do start getting a little sit of deer utilization, I really only aim to have a place for my stepson to get a deer on each year.


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Old 03-02-2020, 04:40 PM   #7
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Check out mapping trophy bucks by brad herndon

Very helpful when viewing too/aerial maps

bill
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Old 03-02-2020, 09:24 PM   #8
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Cool thread. Love planting native species...I planted some Alamo Switchgrass several years ago on my old place and although it took a while to get established...it turned out awesome. They made great food plot screens and were 6-7 feet tall.

Will be following along.
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Old 03-02-2020, 10:36 PM   #9
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Good stuff. Are you really going with that big native mix? It might be better to do either a tallgrass or shortgrass prairie mix instead. Also, I would avoid switchgrass. Yes, it's great for screening cover but it has a tendency to take over and drown out everything else in the mix. Are u going to do a govt program like crp/tpwd upland pastures program? Several companies sell a shortgrass and tallgrass mix and can omit the switchgrass if you ask them
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Old 03-03-2020, 10:11 PM   #10
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Following. Cool history on the land. I have some of the same blackland prairie (Hunt County), but some of mine is wet bottomland along the creeks. Your place looks very similar to mine but most of my old pastures are covered with cedar/juniper that I'm cutting slowly. I've found that with some lime and a little fertilizer, clover plots grow well here. I'm continuing spring and fall plots to build up the organic matter above the clay and seems to be helping after a couple of years.
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Old 03-04-2020, 05:48 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by unclefish View Post
Cool thread. Love planting native species...I planted some Alamo Switchgrass several years ago on my old place and although it took a while to get established...it turned out awesome. They made great food plot screens and were 6-7 feet tall.



Will be following along.
I am considering either switchgrass strips or Miscanthus/Gigantus for permanent screening in places.

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Following. Cool history on the land. I have some of the same blackland prairie (Hunt County), but some of mine is wet bottomland along the creeks. Your place looks very similar to mine but most of my old pastures are covered with cedar/juniper that I'm cutting slowly. I've found that with some lime and a little fertilizer, clover plots grow well here. I'm continuing spring and fall plots to build up the organic matter above the clay and seems to be helping after a couple of years.

Much of the place stays soggy like bottomland along the creeks. It dries out well in between rain events, but if there is a lot of consecutive rains, I run the risk of drowning out plots. I am starting with a food plot mix designed to break compaction. I will be leaning heavily on good deep tap roots like turnip, radish, and safflower trying to improve drainage. I may even run a subsoiler through at some point to improve infiltration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by .243 WSSM View Post
Good stuff. Are you really going with that big native mix? It might be better to do either a tallgrass or shortgrass prairie mix instead. Also, I would avoid switchgrass. Yes, it's great for screening cover but it has a tendency to take over and drown out everything else in the mix. Are u going to do a govt program like crp/tpwd upland pastures program? Several companies sell a shortgrass and tallgrass mix and can omit the switchgrass if you ask them

I am REALLY hoping that there are enough natives to recover with the use of prescribed fire, but I seriously doubt there will be. Most of the place was plowed every year from the late 1800ís and into the 1940ís for corn and cotton, so my hopes arenít high for native diversity left in the seed bank.

If natives donít respond to killing out the domestic grasses, I will be going with the seed blend below. It is put together specifically to match what naturally occurred on the Blackland prairie. I have had 2 separate wildlife biologists mention it as THE best case scenario planting for my location. If any single species begins to overtake the area, I will spot treat with a selective herbicide. There was native switch (not our modern ďimprovedĒ varieties) in the Blackland Prairie, so I do want it back in the pastures if I end up having to plant. As far as government assistance, my parents donít seem to be comfortable with the easements/restrictions that often come with the cost share programs. Even though they have zero intention of ever selling the place, they donít want to enroll in anything that will adversely effect the value.

Without gov assistance, I will have to convert pastures in bite size pieces so I can afford it myself.

https://www.seedsource.com/catalog/d...roduct_id=2800



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Old 03-21-2020, 06:48 PM   #12
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Well, I couldnít resist any longer. I went ahead and built another 2 acre mix on GreenCoverSeedís Smart Mix app... this one for a dove plot. I havenít gotten the shipping quote, but so long as itís not crazy, I will still put the order through.




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Old 03-21-2020, 10:09 PM   #13
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Not to side track, but i would be would planted assorted mast trees in some areas
As soon as possible. In a few years you would have results and an acorn buffet.
Be sure to cage securely.

BP
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:31 PM   #14
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Not to side track, but i would be would planted assorted mast trees in some areas
As soon as possible. In a few years you would have results and an acorn buffet.
Be sure to cage securely.

BP

Iíve got the first 20 or so in in-ground grow bags right now. And, I plan on doing a lot of direct seeding of burr oaks, post oaks, sand post oaks, and chinkapin oaks after the big burn on the 7 acres.


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Old 03-23-2020, 07:06 PM   #15
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Well, itís not related to the farm, but we just put a deposit down on a GSP puppy! I am totally stoked.
The litter is due in late May, so we have to be patient. But, I hope to have the pup with me at the farm as much as possible.


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Old 04-10-2020, 04:22 AM   #16
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I spent the day, Wednesday, working a chainsaw on the farm. I burned through 5 tanks of gas with a high of 88. Wire myself out, thatís for sure.
I got a good bit done, though.

The neighbor put his horses on for one last grazing before food plots go in a few weeks from now.



Also, the wildflowers are starting to pop. This blue indigo is probably my favorite.







[MEDIA=youtube]V40GUOIla-0[/MEDIA]


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Old 04-11-2020, 07:26 AM   #17
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Wishing that I was able to work on my place...virus panic has travel all wadded up and it is a 6 hour drive. Enjoy reading about your place.
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Old 04-15-2020, 04:06 PM   #18
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I didnít take any pictures today, but my son and I got out and sprayed the total of 4.5 acres that makes up the 3 plots. I figure I will till and plant the weekend of the 25th, weather permitting.

I only have 2 days of work left for the month thanks to the ďshelter in placeĒ, so I am flexible on the timing this year. I might have to get out and finish up the chainsaw work next week in the interim.
Iíve only got maybe a day and a half of solid cutting to do and I should be good as far as cutting for the season.

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Old 04-16-2020, 08:48 AM   #19
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Following...progress is looking good, Ikeman
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Old 04-16-2020, 09:03 AM   #20
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PM sent
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Old 04-27-2020, 09:44 AM   #21
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Planted the plots yesterday.
11 hours of work, and one HECK of a sunburn.
I underestimated how slow the tilling process would be. The plots really probably needed a second pass as chunky as the clay was, but we just didnít have it in us to run a full second day.
The dove plot ended up at just under an acre, instead of 2, because the lower lying section was so hard the tractor couldnít maintain RPMís no matter how shallowly we tilled.





My son and stepfather helping me out.


And the horses the neighboring rancher was SUPPOSED to have off the place no later than Saturday......



[MEDIA=youtube]R0DKzng9_QQ[/MEDIA]


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Old 05-04-2020, 01:27 AM   #22
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Well, I swung by the farm and noticed that some of the more drought tolerant species had started to germinate... even with a week without rain! Now I am glad I went with such diverse mixtures... at least something will make it, even if it isnít deer food!
It looks to be Thursday/Friday at the earliest before rain hits the farm again. The real decent percentages for rain donít show up until next tuesday... 16 days after planting before rain.

If the forecast had shown a dry spell, I would have held off on planting. Hopefully all is not lost, but there sure has been a lot of crow, dove, and pig activity cleaning the plots....


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Old 06-01-2020, 12:15 AM   #23
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Update...
we ended up with 15 days without rain immediately following planting. Both days forecasted for rain the week I planted fell through, and everything turned to rock hard clay crumbles. After 15 days, we got about 0.5Ē, then 4-5 days later we got almost an inch, and finally we spent about the last week and a half getting good rains on the farm. That puts us, now, at 5 weeks after planting.

The dove plot looks AWESOME. It ended up being much smaller than I planned due to much of the area being saturated when we planted.


The main plot looks abysmal. It looks like it started to germinate with the residual soil moisture at planting, and dies with the subsequent 2 weeks of hot and dry weather. It looks like the mustard, brassicas, safflower, and sunn hemp are effectively the only things left.


The 50/50 Alyce clover and Joint Vetch plot is weedy, but starting to grow.



The forecast looks to be turning dry for the next week or so.... hopefully this isnít the case, because the top inch or of soil is crusted and cracked already. I REALLY need to figure out a way to go no-till ASAP. This ground just canít handle extended dry periods, and holds too much water in wet periods.

The cedars are drying down well after being cut. Iíll bet they are ready to burn by February. This burn unit will be 7 acres... 3 of which is cut cedars. It should one HECK of a fire.

The 7 acre unit the cedars are in also has a surprisingly diverse variety of wildflowers and forbs.
I am up to no less that 20 wildflower species for the year already, and Iím not a skilled identifier.





















Below is the smaller of the 2 creeks on the place. This will be the north fire break (looking south) for the 7 acre unit that is first scheduled to burn. I am thinking of making this location an alternative creek crossing, as this spot is down to bedrock and would only need approach and departure dirt work done. No worry about getting stuck here.



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Old 06-01-2020, 06:00 AM   #24
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Think:Bees!!!!

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Old 06-01-2020, 08:14 AM   #25
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Think:Bees!!!!

bill

Oh, thereís definitely bees. Thereís a wild hive in a hollow trunk, and theyíve popped me 3 times already this year. They are as ďhotĒ a hive as I have ever seen. They got after me yesterday, and I was probably 10 yards away.


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Old 06-02-2020, 06:59 AM   #26
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Looking good. Amazing what sunlight and fire can do.
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Old 06-02-2020, 07:06 AM   #27
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Do some research with grant money that can help you restore the land. My dad did it on 100 acres restoring back to native grass. I think it payed 50% of the cost. Not much cost to us since we did most of the work.
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Old 06-02-2020, 02:16 PM   #28
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Love the flowers. Easy to focus on plots, roads , projects etc and not stop to just enjoy the wealth of beauty all around.
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Old 06-02-2020, 02:24 PM   #29
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Looking Great & Thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-25-2020, 11:21 AM   #30
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https://youtu.be/Ep84g4mL_yQ

Spent a little time out at the farm.
It got a little long, but I figured Iíd leave it all together instead of making 3 or 4 separate videos.


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Old 07-01-2020, 11:42 AM   #31
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https://youtu.be/oxnhQNo7p28" style="display:none;">
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Well, I swung by the farm to check on the clover/vetch plot I weeded last week. The lack of Weed competition and week of good moisture caused the plot to explode with growth. It went from 2-3Ē tall after 7+ weeks of growth, to 6-8Ē tall a week later! I think I may have saved the plot.
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Old 09-04-2020, 01:01 PM   #32
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Swung by Justin Seed and picked 200lbs of food plot seed today. My plan is to Throw N Mow this plot. (spray roundup on existing plot, spread seed, mow existing plot over top of seed).

I will also mow the regrowth we got from the cockleburs on the vetch/clover plot, mow a few strips through the dove plot, and mow the fire break around the unit we may burn in February.

Monday looks like the day. Everyone is off work/school, and rain is predicted Tuesday and Wednesday.
It will be a good day to bring our new pup out to experience the farm for the first time too.



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Old 09-04-2020, 10:58 PM   #33
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I did the same at Justin seed this week. Didnít think to check while was there but the turner seed fall mix they gave me was dated 2019. Hope itís not junk. This weather is tempting to plant but Iím not going to put it out until Oct in case weíll get some more hot weather.


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Old 09-05-2020, 08:40 AM   #34
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Nice looking pup Ike. If you don't mind me asking, where did you get him or her?
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Old 09-05-2020, 09:00 AM   #35
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Looking great! Nice lookin pup!
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Old 09-05-2020, 10:18 PM   #36
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Looking great! Nice lookin pup!
Thanks!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountaineer View Post
I did the same at Justin seed this week. Didnít think to check while was there but the turner seed fall mix they gave me was dated 2019. Hope itís not junk. This weather is tempting to plant but Iím not going to put it out until Oct in case weíll get some more hot weather.


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I am not breaking ground... I am going to Throw N Mow. I am planning on taking the moisture already there from 2 weeks of rain (7-8 inches), plus the forecasted moisture later this week. Since I am doing throw-n-mow, I increased seeding by 50%.... that plus the litter I have to mow on top of the seed should make for decent germination.

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Nice looking pup Ike. If you don't mind me asking, where did you get him or her?

We got him at Heritage GSP Kennels in Alvarado. Arsenio was great to work with. I just wish we could have afforded training with him too... because his dogs were by far the most obedient dogs Iíve ever seen. He let 80% of the dogs (his and clients) out to socialize while we were there to pick our pup up, and he could command each one by name immediately out of the crowd of 10-15 dogs. Called each one individually by name back into their kennel... it was impressive, thatís for sure.


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Old 09-05-2020, 10:20 PM   #37
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Speaking of the pup... he upgraded to a bigger bone today. He better understand how much I love him to let him chew on a MATCHED SET from a decent public land 10-pointer...




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Last edited by IkemanTX; 09-05-2020 at 10:45 PM.
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Old 09-05-2020, 11:02 PM   #38
IkemanTX
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I did the same at Justin seed this week. Didnít think to check while was there but the turner seed fall mix they gave me was dated 2019. Hope itís not junk. This weather is tempting to plant but Iím not going to put it out until Oct in case weíll get some more hot weather.


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My bags both have 2020 germination rates and mix percentage tags on them... donít know if I just got lucky or what. I would call Justin seed and see what they say. They may swap it out for ya.


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Old 09-05-2020, 11:35 PM   #39
Mountaineer
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My bags both have 2020 germination rates and mix percentage tags on them... donít know if I just got lucky or what. I would call Justin seed and see what they say. They may swap it out for ya.


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Iím sure they would, just no plans to be back in that area anytime soon. It will probably still grow ok.

Looking forward to seeing the results from your plots. Iíve not had any issues with army worms yet in Hunt but thatís one reason Iím waiting a little longer.

Nice looking pointer. I miss having a bird dog around.


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Old 09-07-2020, 07:45 PM   #40
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Well, it only took 2 years of running a camera, but we finally have the first antlered deer seen on the place in 10+ years...




I meant to take some pictures or videos of the work today, but it was enough work I couldnít justify stopping to film. The dove plot was pretty sparse, but definitely being used. We mowed it down to the ground to release seeds and give good ground for the dove to walk on.

The vetch/clover plot is probably 60% cockleburs, even after cutting them all down earlier in the summer. I will re-broadcast some more seed in the spring where the plot was shaded over, and avoid any ground disturbance to try and keep that in check.

The main plot had a small smattering of Sunn hemp, okra, and the tiniest bit of safflower. Everything else was in the plot was Johnson grass, common ragweed, and giant ragweed. Not nearly as much biomass as I would like, thatís for sure, but much better than it could have been.

The farm started the year holding an inch or so of water (all of February, March, and April the ground was soggy) but then it was like the rains just kept parting over the place. Our house is an hour south, and my parents are 15 miles north.... those two locations are running about 5 inches over yearly average total already..... the farm is somehow 10+ inches shorter. Hopefully we get some germination out of this plot, so that I have a good stand to plant into next year, and can choke out some of the weed grasses.


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Old 09-08-2020, 09:31 PM   #41
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Looks great! That's a good buck!

I've been doing throw and mow for years with success....its a great way to go for fall plots. I will use elbon rye and will also adding clover this fall so it will fix N into the soil for my spring plots next year.
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Old 09-09-2020, 06:57 AM   #42
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Looks great! That's a good buck!

I've been doing throw and mow for years with success....its a great way to go for fall plots. I will use elbon rye and will also adding clover this fall so it will fix N into the soil for my spring plots next year.

Have you had any success with summer plots planted with Throw-N-Mow? Essentially any soil disturbance on the place brings up a massive flush of cockleburs, so I am hoping to avoid tillage altogether where I can.

Also, the farm took a direct hit from a good shower yesterday afternoon and got another good hit around 1 am last night. Should be perfect for all the seed we put out on Monday.




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Old 09-09-2020, 07:08 AM   #43
.243 WSSM
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Congrats. It split us n of hg. Hopefully we can get it today. Got some plots in sun.
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Old 09-09-2020, 07:13 AM   #44
unclefish
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I have not had success with large seeded summer legumes like soybeans or even cowpeas with the throw and mow method. If you can drill them into the thatch that works great but just broadcasting and mowing over the top was very dicey on my farm. I never had good germination.

I did have good luck with chicory which can be seeded in the spring. It's a tiny seed and would work well with throw and mow...and its very hardy.


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Old 11-15-2020, 06:32 PM   #45
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Stopped by the farm the other day to check in on things. The food plot has only had 2 good rains since planting on Sept. 7th. The first was right after Throw N Mow planting, and the second was a couple weeks ago. The food plot is still very short, just hanging in there waiting on more moisture. It seems that we had very good germination nonetheless.


Also, thereís several bucks showing up on the camera I hung on the west side of the plot. Thereís also a fair amount of does on camera as well. Definitely a good start for year 1.

[MEDIA=youtube]0r7PRY2ztsU[/MEDIA]


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Old 04-13-2021, 08:08 PM   #46
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I realized I never posted the pics/video from a drone flight I did over the farm a couple months ago....


The whole 43 acres from the south. The red outlines the food plots. 2ac Dove field to the right, 2ac deer plot in the middle, and 0.5 acre alyce clover / joint vetch field to the left.

Looking south into the 13 acre burn unit with the cut cedars.

The cut cedars looking north from the south fence line.


[MEDIA=youtube]0BNtAw9xSkU[/MEDIA]


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Old 04-13-2021, 08:09 PM   #47
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Swung by the farm today and mowed the food plots so I can spray in a week or so. The winter deer plot turned out gorgeous. The crimson clover, vetch, peas, and cereals all exploded this spring. The camera has picked up a bachelor buck group of 4 using the plot over the last 3 weeks. I know the transition to the summer plot will take a toll on their frequency, but I take it as a good sign that theyíll use it this summer.

The wildflowers are starting up as well. Not many are blooming yet, but false indigos, clovers, and Indian paintbrushes have all started.












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