My husband and I decided when we purchased our farm that we would discontinue mowing the fields, which for the last few years had been mowed for hay. These now fallow fields, green in the spring and golden in the fall, are slowly being reclaimed by nature. Once plentiful native grasses and wildflowers are re-emerging to provide a source of food for deer and other browsers, seed for birds, nectar for pollinators, and places for wildlife of all kinds to find shade, nest, and hide from predators.
Looking across the fields, we watch the seasonal sequence of green shoots emerging, wildflowers blooming, monarchs and swallowtails nectaring, sparrows singing from atop grass stems, and bees gathering pollen to take back to their hives. At sunset, they become swallowfields as white-breasted tree swallows make low sweeps back and forth, plucking insects from the air, and after dark, they are the mating grounds of the fireflies.
After four years of no mowing, native grasses are better able to compete with non-native species. We’re seeing an increase in such natives as Eastern gamagrass, Indian grass, and little bluestem. We’re also seeing more blackberry brambles than ever before, and more wildflowers, including some species we haven’t seen before such as butterweed, goatsbeard, and butterfly weed.
We mow a small area around the house and outbuildings and along the edges of the lane, but leave the remaining woods and fields to the deft hand of Mother Nature. There was a time when I liked an orderly, weed-free lawn, but now I see a tangle of weeds as a sanctuary for crickets and toads, a stand of thistle as a feast for goldfinches, and a tall reed as a singing platform for a sparrow. Beauty is, indeed, in the eyes of the beholder.
In upland mowings now no longer mowed, the banished weed again lifts high its head, ennobled by some quaint ancestral name. Benjamin T. Richards