Aurora Cook wrote:I am actually looking for quite large pieces of land for animals, herb gardens, fruits, veggies and trees.
What qualifies as "Quite large" depends on who you're talking to. I'm in rural New Hampshire, I've got about 20ac and most of my urban/suburban friends think that's quite large. A neighboring parcel is 300ac of mature forest, and up the road there's 80ac of hay fields -- I think those are quite large. I've never lived west of the Mississippi, but I've talked to people out there and they talk about what seems to me like vast stretches of land as a "normal" sized ranch.
In someplace like the Ozarks (as Judith mentions) or New England, you could have small animals and enough gardens and orchards for your family and surplus to sell on 10 or even 5 acres if the soils are good and depending on what you've got for animals.
Also consider how much you'll be able to manage: I have an off-farm f/t job so keeping up with less than 1ac of gardens, a woodlot, homestead projects, family, and animals is at the edge of what I can manage effectively.
In northern New England, we've got at least 4 distinct seasons: Winter, Mud Season, Black Fly Season, Summer, and Leaf Peeper (tourist). There are still rural areas with relatively (for the Northeast) low prices -- probably more per acre than Ozarks. NH has no income or sales tax, which is generally offset by high property taxes but in practice on land over 10 acres you can get a big tax break by not building structures on your farm/forest land. It's like a conservation easement that you can opt out of (for a fee) in the future. Vermont has something similar but I don't know the details there. I don't know about Ozarks, but if you want to sell farm produce in NH/VT you can be in a rural area and still have access to some decent high-income markets.
If you don't mind annuals, I like peas & beans -- stacking functions -- fixing nitrogen, generating biomass (chop & drop), edible (pick what you want), and reseeding (about the easiest seed you can save). I like to scatter some oats so they have a little support. Oats don't stack quite so many functions though.
I'll second comfrey and burdock, just chop before they make seed. Horseradish always comes up in these contexts and it's on my list of things to try.
A short-rotation annual is buckwheat. Attracts beneficials, suppresses weeds, makes decent biomass. Reseeds if you let it go that far, but doesn't make itself a nuisance if you chop it before seeds form.
Lastly, look around you: what do you see growing vigorously at forest edges? Are there plants that you could dig up (or gather seeds from) and add to your garden that are suitable for chopping?
Renate Haeckler wrote:I noticed the same thing - we had a pile of cattle panels laying on the ground and the grass coming up through them was taller and thicker than anywhere else. I've read grass near any sort of barrier - fence, log on the ground, etc. will grow taller. Something about protection from the wind and drafts, I think.
Probably also keeps it from getting trampled and over the longer term, the soil from getting compacted.
Cj Verde wrote:Chickens are the bane of my existence right now. I'd kill 'em all except that I love those eggs! Half of them are contained but the other half are free ranging all over despite having clipped the wings on one-side. It's impossible to plant in the garden - or anywhere for that matter!
I know what you mean. I planted a hugelbeet with my son this weekend, and had to scurry to throw together some fencing to keep the chickens out before they were released for free-ranging that afternoon. The deer will at least wait until stuff has come up, but the chickens will go nuclear on anything within walking distance.
nustada adatsun wrote:The issue with insulation, is that it works in both directions resisting heating and cooling.
This is exactly what is happening. After the snow had melted this spring, I was scraping back wood-chip mulch around some trees to dress with some compost, and the mulch was still frozen solid starting at about 1" deep.
My pile of horse manure freezes at least a couple of feet thick in the winter (low temps around -10°F), but I don't think the very center/bottom of the pile gets frozen solid. If you wanted horse manure to keep the ground from freezing, I think you'd want it to be at least 4' deep.
My strategy for getting the ground to warm up faster in the spring is: (1) don't leave a thick organic mulch after the snow has melted and (2) raised beds. My "raised beds" are just mounded up soil, doesn't have to be a built structure of any kind. Removing mulch helps the sun hit the soil and warm it up, prevents the mulch from being an insulator. I also find that areas near where I have low stone walls seem to warm up faster -- the rocks absorb heat from the sun and release it at night, so on warm sunny spring days they keep the immediately surrounding area from cooling off so much when it gets cold at night. I've also been known to go into the garden and scrape away the last bits of snow off the beds so that the sun starts hitting the soil sooner than it would otherwise...
I'm in NH, USA; about 40" of rain yearly, much in the form of snow which is on the ground November - April. Fall and spring tend to be wet periods -- we'll get a week or two of rain/dampness at a time with no real chance for anything to dry.
I'm planning on building a small family-size cob oven. I have no experience with cob. Should I plan on building a roof over it or otherwise protecting it from moisture?
I'd suppose that using it regularly will bake away dampness...
I've seen wood stacked 8' high between a couple of sturdy trees to work as a privacy fence.
Last couple of years I've used all the rakings from under the pile after the firewood is gone as the base for a hugel bed. In years prior I've sent it through a chipper/shredder and used it as mulch.
Wood pile makes a nice home for mice, which keeps the cats entertained. (Though I still don't think this is actually a net positive unless I delude myself into thinking that they have a home outside and won't come in my house...)
It's an effective snow fence -- as long as you don't need to immediately use the wood on the side of the stack that's all full of snow.
As you tear down the pile, remove the center so that you have 3 sides. This makes a little temporary "room" that can provide a bit of shelter from the wind. I sometimes store things in here that I don't want to blow around.
A wood pile catches sunshine and warms up faster in spring. Lots of thermal mass here. Seems like it could make a useful backstop for a greenhouse, or even behind some shrubbery that you want to get a head start on spring thaw. Or as protection if you're trying to grow something that's a little out of your hardiness zone. Or alternatively grow something on the north side of a pile that you want to warm a little more slowly in the spring.
Wood piles can mark the edge of a driveway/parking area in the winter so that you know where to stop plowing.
The kids want to help me with tending "chicken gardens", so I had some help yesterday moving debris from the log yard to a new hugel bed. We'll end up with a couple of C-shaped beds with the opening facing both southwest and uphill to catch runoff from heading down slope. It's below the manure pile so they'll trap nutrient runoff too. And it's within hose-reach (but still downhill enough to have pressure) from the water barrel under the barn roof gutter so I can irrigate easily when needed.
Now the dilemma: I have a spot where I could drag out some decent sized logs for piling up in a big hugel bed. They've been sitting for a few years so they've got a good start on getting nice and spongy. But I have a hunch that there's a skunk hiding in that pile! The cable on the winch is 150' so I can be a good distance away when the logs move, but someone's got to climb around on the pile and hitch a chain around each log to begin with...
Leila, we have considered goats for exactly that purpose, but ultimately rejected the idea. Commitment, housing, fencing, feed ... and if you end up deciding to maintain a flock, milking, births, butchering, etc.
Yeah, my understanding is that the new-style chainsaw chaps use some kind of kevlar that shreds up and jams the saw before it can cut you too deeply. Thanks for the link, those look nice for other uses.
Unfortunately I can't tell you about any long-term results, but last year I planted a couple of plum trees into a relatively low (2' above ground, maybe 8-12" deep dug-in portion) hugel. Comfrey in between them and some annuals around the side. Everything in that bed did *really* well last year, even during some really dry, hot stretches of weather -- I irrigated, but not as much as I would have expected given the weather. The beds were freshly built, but much of the wood was several years old and well weathered.
I'm planning to do something very similar this year with siberian pea shrub and goji. There's a mulberry going in too, but I have not yet decided if it will be on top of a hugel or in solid ground just downhill from a hugel.
Ok, I don't really know anything about judo, but isn't there supposed to be something about using the momentum of your adversary?
I was hacking at some of the wild blackberries that are out of control here and wondered if I'm taking the wrong approach. We do like to eat the blackberries... what should I be doing to the canes to encourage more (or better) fruit? Is it worth it? I have no intention of planting cultivated blackberries.
(I'm still going to hack some of them down, but maybe we can come to some sort of truce in a few areas here.)
It's one of those gorgeous, warm, sunny spring days but there's still snow on the garden, so I get to sit on the deck and pretend I'm actually gardening.
I went to pot-up the cuttings today and none of them had rooted
And the honey locust seedlings were starting to get a little yellowish so I've repotted them too. Nice root systems. Too bad the germination rate was so low. Debating whether to add a little blood to the new pots for nitrogen...
At least one of the pea shrub seeds has germinated. If they germinate well I'm going to have quite a few more than I need!
Started some lupine and sweet and hot peppers today too.
Got a bunch of trees flagged for felling a couple of weeks ago. Should be more than enough for a season's worth of heat -- and tons of branches for hugels. Now I just have to get to work dropping them...
Indoors under the lights I have some seeds started. Optimist Spinach for the cold frame, siberian pea shrub which will be part of the Chicken Forest, and a few thornless honey locust trees. Also some cuttings rooting from forsythia, blueberry, and a mystery shrub -- these will go in the experimental plant nursery for growing to reasonable size to be planted in final location next year.
I've tried putting road apples from the horses into the wood boiler. The smell was pretty bad, though I guess in midwinter when you're not hanging around outside to smell it it wouldn't be so bad. It's also possible they needed to be dried more (not that I was using fresh dung -- they were at least mostly dry).
I'd personally prefer to avoid handling waste from cats and dogs as much as possible. My animals just do their thing outside and it all breaks down in good time without my intervention.
If you have the right kind of bacteria in your soil, you don't need to supply the inoculum.
With an annual crop like peas, this is really easy to test: grow the crop and check for root nodules at harvest time. If you find the nodules, then you have the rhizobium in your soil. If you don't, then no rhizobium and you need to inoculate if you want N-fixation.
With a permanent crop like trees, trial-and-error doesn't seem like an effective strategy... I'd probably just buy the inoculant and put it on the seeds.
Unfortunately they don't make it so that the link to the search results retains your search criteria, so I can't see the list you're looking at.
I've found PFAF to be a good resource for generating ideas. (Beware that they're using UK growing zones and these aren't the same as US zones!) I'll take a list of plants from there and then do research on other sites -- Wikipedia is good for general info, http://plants.usda.gov/java/ has good information, Missouri Botanical Gardens has a good plant finder (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder.aspx). You will often find that one site directly contradicts another -- e.g. PFAF might say something is medicinal while Wikipedia says it is toxic...
Once you've figured out what you want, you can call local nurseries to see what they have for availability, or search around on the web for suppliers, or turn to catalogs to see what they have.
As Brenda and Alice mention, you can find low plants that work in shade. You can search for plants that fit your criteria at http://pfaf.org/user/plantsearch.aspx -- tick the boxes you want in the list for "habit", boxes for 0cm through 1m, and full shade. I just did a search with perennial/biennial and got dozens of results; you can filter by hardiness and uses to get a smaller list of candidates.
I bought a small solar fence charger last year for fencing deer out of the garden. I needed the charger, fence posts, insulators, ground rods, some connectors, and the wire. In my opinion, if you're going to go the solar route, you might as well just get a solar fence charger unit just for the simplicity of setup.
I saw a friend's setup who had movable mesh-type fencing for goats. She had the charger/battery sitting on the ground outside the fence and a couple of connector/clamps to connect the charger to the fence.
I agree with Wayne -- they will compress the daylights out of your pasture and chew the good grass to oblivion while leaving weeds behind to flourish. An additional problem with grazing them in forest is that they will strip bark off the trees in the winter when there's no grass and they're bored. A pair of horses killed about a dozen maples around the edge of my winter paddock, even with 2x daily hay.
My "nice" pasture for the horses only has them on it in summer, and only when the grass is getting high, and I have to mow it a couple times a summer to knock the weeds back because the horses are picky eaters.
Horses are giant, destructive, expensive pets. Worth it if you love them, I guess, or maybe if you're using them for work and have excellent year-round pasture.
Linda - Thanks for the ideas. I've tried your 1-8. (The dog can't be loose outside, though, and even if she could be, she might do as much damage to the garden as the deer...)
Soap, cats, hair, shiny stuff, human urine, single electric fence at 7' high -- these don't work over the long term (not more than a week). Hungry deer get used to stuff pretty fast, especially when they know there's "candy" on the other side of the obstacle.
Blood *on specific plants* works -- e.g. if I spread blood meal on the spinach bed, they will leave the spinach alone and eat the beets instead.
"Cages" over specific beds work. I bent some old welded wire fence over a couple of beds to keep them off low plants. This is a relatively easy solution, but expensive to scale and it makes weeding a hassle.
What did mostly work was an inner 7' high electric fence and an outer 4' fence about 4' away from the inner fence. (Unfortunately this is ugly -- and annoying for mowing around the garden perimeter.)
I've done posts in buckets for a chicken area, and may go back to this for temporary areas like you mention. Thanks for the reminder.
No point trying to fence the guineas in -- very flighty (they end up on the house roof sometimes).
I'm definitely interested in hearing how this works out. I've had ideas along similar lines but at a smaller scale -- building hotbeds inside a greenhouse/coldframe using horse manure.
I vaguely recall hearing about something like this being done, maybe in the 80s, maybe in Massachusetts (Martha's Vineyard?) -- with so-so results. Try searching for "compost heated greenhouses" or related terms. If I manage to find the links again I'll post them here.
One challenge I see is that when outdoor temps drop below 20°F or so, your windrows will probably freeze, stop composting, stop generating heat for you. Maybe they'll be big enough to avoid this happening, but I'd guess that if you pull heat of the pile out by piping water in you may speed up this process. I'm not sure you've got enough day length in midwinter in Buffalo to get enough solar gain to actually transfer heat back into the pile?
I think that if your expectations are low, and you are growing cold-weather survivors (spinach, kale, etc) then you might make it work.
Looking forward to hearing updates... and pictures
As Erika mentioned, it doesn't sound like your pasture is in any kind of shape for cutting hay. I personally wouldn't pay for hay that came out of that field, and I might not even be interested in hauling free mulch hay if it was all full of weed seeds and brambles.
Jay's suggestion of paying someone to come in and mow/brush-hog is probably your best bet. This will help keep the woody stuff at bay. You may also want to overseed with a pasture mix. A soil test will tell you what kind of shape the soil is in, and what you need in terms of nutrients.
As far as trees, swales, and hugels go with working full-time-plus, I suggest setting some very small, achievable goals. If you haven't done any of this before it's a lot more work than you might expect, especially if you don't have any help and no machinery. A good starter project would be to measure out, say, a 6'x10' area, build a hugel bed there and plant a fruit tree with a couple of smaller fruiting shrubs and some ground cover. If you have deer/pests you'll need to figure out fencing/protection -- 40' or so of fencing is manageable.
This is a large enough project that it will be satisfying to finish, small enough that you can actually see progress and achieve it, and it will give you a good idea of how much time similar future projects are going to take. (It also gives you a chance to make mistakes on a small scale so that you can make corrections the next time around. I did some plantings -- in what sounds like a similar situation to yours -- a few years ago that I would definitely do differently today.)
I don't have the heavy clay, but I do have rocky soil so digging is hard here too. One thing I have done is to use a heavy digging bar, punching it down into the soil and rocking back and forth to loosen up the top 8-12". (This is also helpful for finding rocks near the surface.) Add amendments on top of this. Last year I made a not-too-tall hugel bed (2' finished height) on top of ground that had been loosened in this way: loosen the soil, remove the big rocks, pile 1' of sticks on top, horse manure and leaves over the top of that, soil, and top dress with compost. The plum trees, comfrey, and various annuals from seed did really well even during a dry summer where I didn't water them much.
Less labor but more time would be to loosen the soil as mentioned above and then plant short-lived plants with deep taproots to break up the soil even more. For example, fodder radishes have very long taproots, grow quickly, and can help in this respect. Plant in fall, leave to rot over winter, and then use the holes that they leave behind as a way to get deeper with your bar (or do your double-digging at this time).
Looks as though you have a pretty good plan formulated. Best of luck
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I haven't had a plan yet that has survived contact with the enemy deer. We'll see how this year goes, I'm trying to account for them up-front... may have to go looking for a couple of cast iron kettles so I can make up some bone sauce and see how that works.
New Hampshire, US
about 1200' above sea level
about 20 acres, about half wooded (firewood)
house/barn are at the high point, land slopes down toward the east
steep in some places; total drop is about 100' over a 1500' run -- see image generated by http://www.heywhatsthat.com/profiler.html from Google Maps elevation data
about 40" annual rainfall (maybe 1/3 as snow)
frost-free about 90-100 days
gravelly to loamy
lots of large rocks
granite ledge outcroppings; few places where ledge is deeper than 2' ("digging is hard")
Hay Burners... I mean horses (2 -- pets)
Laying chickens (20-25)
Guinea hens (for bug control, entertainment, annoyance, and food for foxes and people; they come and go, I think we've got maybe a dozen now)
an annual round of meat chickens
a couple of really good cats (and by "good", I mean "ruthless murderers with a quota")
a useless pet rabbit
a really good dog (and by "good", I mean she hasn't killed a chicken in over a year)
A grapevine that hasn't amounted to much
Young apple trees that haven't produced any fruit yet
Young peach trees that gave a couple of armloads last year
Plums that just went in as whips last spring
Annual veg garden
Some newly-planted elderberries that might have survived last summer
More wild blackberries than you can imagine, and the odd black raspberry here and there
Fox likes to eat guinea hens; guinea hens don't really function properly in an enclosure (i.e. they can't range around and eat ticks)
Deer like to eat everything Rocks everywhere; while rocks are useful for many things, they make digging challenging, and some "rocks" are immovable
Anything that isn't mowed regularly will revert to dense forest, starting with blackberries and progressing to black cherry, white pine, beech depending on the area. (This is a resource, but also a maintenance issue.)
The veg garden
The Woodlot -- annually cut/drag/buck/split/stack-ing 6-8 cords of wood for heat & hot water
Maintenance on everything above...
Hugels / soil-building on the hill below the barn. Soil is nutrient poor, acidic, rocky, thin. This area can capture rain from uphill and nutrient runoff from the barn area. This field is where I am building a food forest.
1. I'm working on a plan for chicken forage. There's a slow water flow from the barnyard/paddock down the hill behind the barn. I think this will be a good beach-head for a food forest. (The land is too steep and rocky for horse pasture.) Since it is close to the barn/coop, I'm going to focus the initial plantings food for the girls. Challenges here are keeping the deer away so the chix will have something to eat, and keeping the foxes away while the chix are out there eating. I've got a long list of plant candidates, the work is narrowing it down to what I will actually be able to acquire, plant, and protect this year. This could consume many full days' worth of work. I need to cut it down to probably 3-4 half-Saturdays -- terracing/earthworks/mulch, fencing, and finally planting. The area I'd like to tackle is about 50x50', but what I'll probably manage is maybe more like 20x20'.
2. Establishing a plant nursery in an area of former veg garden that won't be used for veg any more. I don't know enough now, but I'd like to learn more about propagating my own plants and this is where I'll be doing that experimentation. I think there's a day's worth of work here; it doesn't need to be elaborate, and the soil is already garden-prepped, just needs protection from deer.
3. Planting a wind break to the northeast & east of the house and east of the barn, possibly also on the northwest of the house. I've wanted to start this for several years but I'm overthinking it; I need to just stick a bunch of white pine in the ground and get something started. The winter winds from the nor'easters are vicious. I can always cut some down and replace with something more useful at some future time.
4. I'm thinking that if I'm smart about how I process the firewood, I can haul up the smaller branches for use in hugels next year. (This is more a thought-experiment / process improvement than an elbow-grease type of project.)
I'm wondering about how your overflow works. I'm working on a pair of single-tote designs, and I too do not want to cut holes in the sides. In the video you mentioned that you hadn't yet seen how well the overflow design worked.
Does the rain simply fill that vertical overflow pipe and run out, or did you end up needing to modify the design in some way?
We get several nights in the -10F range every winter, and a couple of solid weeks this year in the single digits F during the day. Red Star has been a great breed. Super friendly (aggressive toward the cats, which is probably just as well). Hardly slowed down laying even in the dark of winter -- and we didn't give them any extra light. They stay in a coop in an unheated barn during the winter, just half a dozen hens.
I'm not from Colorado but I often see notes regarding rainwater catchment that this may be illegal in Colorado (and possibly other Western US states) because of rules in your state Constitution surrounding water rights.