Clay said goodbye to his father, James “Jim” Theeck, and we all said goodbye to a teacher and good friend in the ranching community in September. Jim appeared in this newsletter series many times, sometimes without attribution and sometimes known to you as “Coach” and “The Wise Man” for all of the wisdom he gave Clay and shared with me. Coach Theeck was also the one who recognized the benefit of crossing our Irish Angus bulls with his composite breed, which coincidentally led to one of “ours and his” steers winning the Louisiana State Championship. Jim had an eye like no other for recognizing good genetics and he was the rare rancher who was willing to share his vast knowledge on the subject. We were lucky to know him, and lucky again to have his first descendant as our ranch manager. But the day after he left us, we received 1.4 inches of rain. So we know he’s still looking out for us. Thank you, Coach Theeck.
Last month we reveled in the glory of the clover bloom. Results, long awaited. A long term investment in the health of Jolie Vue beginning to pay dividends. So satisfying. Food for the soil, creature and soul.
Long before the clover surprise, we were planning to make an adjustment in the ratio of our 15 varieties of grass. We had observed that one of our grasses, Johnson, seemed to thrive in drought just as it did in wet weather. That’s a big deal as we encounter more frequent droughty weather. Even more impressive was the cow’s vote — when she entered a new pasture holding good grasses, she went straight to the Johnson before considering other good choices. It had become the girls’ “ice cream grass”.
That was enough for us — if it grew in hot, dry conditions and the girls voted it number 1 for taste, we needed to increase its presence. But we could not find any seed, and trying to gather enough from our existing crop would not provide enough seed to make an immediate impact. So we turned to The Wise Man, Clay’s father, Jim Theeck, a/k/a, “Coach”.
Coach understood our problem — Johnson grass was not being harvested by any seed farmers, having been left behind by more modern, hybridized grasses when the push came to fatten cattle more rapidly on pasture before the haul to the feedlot. But, Coach said, there is a hybrid seed available that was made from Johnson and which reverts to Johnson grass in 2 to 3 years, known as Sorgum Alum. That was our best shot for adding more Johnson to the mix. Sure enough, the seed gatherers had it. Order placed.
Grass and clover planting is a time-consuming project. If we were going to take it on back to back, we wanted to maximize our time and money. So we gave thought to other varieties as well because you can just as easily add others to the seed hopper as one. We decided to add crab grass, chicory and alfalfa to the mix. Crab and chicory are known for their richness. Alfalfa, while not native, is unusually beneficial because it is a warm season legume, so it enriches the soil during the summer after the other clovers have faded. Seemed like a good combination, though you never know if soil compatibility is going to take. Worth a try. Do it and hope for symbiosis. Once again, farmers are risk takers. No place for the timid.
Early results indicate that we scored again. Looks like the girls led us in the right direction — “give us more of that Johnson grass”. The cows lead, we follow. Wise Man tells us how to get there. Looks like 2 hits back to back. First the spring clovers, now the warm season grasses. We’re on a roll.