Wednesday, November 9, 2011

big round cornstalk bales

big round cornstalk bales
wrapped in green plastic netting
in a drought-dry field

Rain yesterday, sleet this morning, now clear again. Before the rain, a long summer drought, and before that, record rains and flooding. The wet spring meant a late start in planting crops and baling hay. Then the drought meant no more hay. Grass in pastures dried up so farmers had to feed their cattle with this year's hay. By harvest time, it was clear that the yields on corn and soybeans would be low. And since hay was in short supply, some farmers chose to bale their corn for cattle feed. The tough cornstalks are hard on the baling machinery. The big round bales must be wrapped in plastic netting and cannot be left in the field like hay because the stalks do not form a thatch to protect against moisture, so they must be moved right away to a storage facility. Cornstalk bales are not as nutritious as hay, but it's better than nothing.
          Today I watch a red-tailed hawk sail down from a tall, bare tree to a harvested cornfield to snatch up a mouse. Other animals, Canada geese, crows, raccoons and whitetail deer, will also forage on the spilled corn. Deer are on the move right now, the bucks looking for mates, the does with their big fawns looking for food and shelter. While I'm driving through town, approaching a stoplight, I slow as the car ahead of me starts to turn left. Suddenly, the car swerves and brakes. A doe sails over the top of the car, legs flailing, then lands and bolts on down the street. The car drives on, so I'm hoping there was no collision. As for why the deer was walking down a busy urban street in the middle of the day, I guess when food is scarce, foraging in town is better than nothing.

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