Sunday, February 11, 2018

From Pines and Poison Ivy to Pasture and Poles: A Year of Pasture Development

In November of 2016 Beth and I purchased the nearly 20 acres beside the horse lot for the use of our program. The land had been farmed for at least 150 years and was planted as pasture in the 1990's. For most of the past 18 years it was not managed and most of it grew back up in sweet gum, Mimosa, pine, ash, and wild cherry.

No heavy equipment was used to clear the land. Nearly all of the work was done with three chainsaws and Wendell's DR brush buster.

Cherry and mimosa were cut into fence posts. Pine and sweet gum, which do not hold up well in the ground were used as 11 foot long poles for the fence. The interior of the fence was lined with electric wire which kept the horses from pushing up against it.

Last spring I began to put horses on the New Land. They foraged and consumed so much healthy browse that for a few months we reduced our monthly hay bills by over 30%. The land was so super fertile that the coppiced tree stumps grew to such heights that not enough sunlight reached the ground to allow for full grass development. Honey suckle, which had only covered a very small part of the land flourished and spread beyond imagination. In early spring and post frost fall the horses consumed the honey suckle well, but not enough to keep it in check. We added additional strains of electric wire and today I hope to move our herd of Spanish goats onto the land. I expect them to erase the honey suckle and to keep the coppiced trees in check. The mimosa coppices will continue to provide great forage for the horses.

Boy Scout and Girl Scouts have volunteered to help clear land and build brush piles. The land was already loaded with rabbits and we are building a wildlife paradise with brush piles and allowing small stands of pines to remain in place, giving the land a varied eco-system.

Over the summer and fall I have been studying biological farming and have taken a great class from Simple Soil Solutions and that I where I learned of the importance of rolling hay out over the land to develop microbes that will reduce soil compaction, inhibit weed growth, and serve to reseed much of the land.

We have built a strong vermiculture program and will be using that along with foliar fertilizer whose active ingredient will be the IMO's that we are raising on site to enhance forage growth. We do not use any chemical fertilizer, herbicide or pesticides on our land.

And best of all, much of this work is done by hard working kids who are learning the joy of building soil, conserving land, water, and heritage breed horses, goats, hogs, and turkeys.

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