Dry Run

Just when I thought autumn had finally arrived with a two-day rainstorm, the winds changed and summer is back. It’s as dry as ever, and no end in sight. In keeping with this year’s extreme weather, I noticed something different on my running loop.

Earlier this year, after a wet spring, a local meadow was in fine form. This is a stretch of grassland that is used to graze local dairy cattle. It sits between a copse of trees and a local forest, and is divided by a stream that usually goes dry in mid-August.

spring, pasture, running, green
A local pasture in springtime.
Photo: PKR

This year, the stream was already dry in July, despite the spring rains. It fills up briefly if we have a heavy rain, but then dries out again. This is the same meadow in early September.

Dry golden pasture, mountains, Jura, running
The same pasture, four months later.
Photo: PKR

What’s surprising to me isn’t that the grass is golden and dry. The new thing this year is that the grass has been harvested. In two decades of living here, I’ve never seen the grass harvested for feed. Usually, this meadow is openly grazed until snowfall, and then again as soon as the last frost has passed.

And then I noticed that two other meadows usually left untouched for open grazing had been harvested for grass. In fact, all the meadows surrounding my running loop had been cut down to the ground.

A dry horse pasture in late summer
A nearby horse pasture.
Photo: PKR

Some of these meadows are on private estate lands, and I’m wondering whether there’s some new local law to harvest grasses? More likely, I think, is that the feed harvest has been so bad this year that the local dairy farmers and horse stables are trying to access any kind of local feed to augment the bad crop yields – after all, the local crops were already fields of dry stalks by early August this year.

The only crop that seems to have done well around here is a field of soy that was flooded in early rains, and has since gone golden. Surprisingly, the soy proved resilient.

Soybeans dry in the sun
A soybean pod from the field.
Photo: PKR

So now I’m wondering what kind of impact all this meadow cutting will have on local wildlife that usually depends on having a rich supply of winter grass to use for burrowing, eating, and general merriment. The times, they are a’changing.