The Home Orchard Society and Agrarian Sharing Network both do a great job of promoting fruit diversity and the preservation of antique varieties here in Oregon. Every late winter/early spring there are propagation fairs - a handful of smaller local ones (ASN) and a big one up near Portland (HOS) - with scion, rootstock, and grafting assistance available. I don't know if this happens in other states too but if so, it's an amazing resource and well worth seeking out.
If you want an easy animal to start out with, you want geese.
Then how about this - a duck flock for eggs with a pair of geese in the mix for protection from predators (and making more geese for the freezer)?
Like so many other people have said, it's pretty subjective. In my yard, the ducks are much better foragers most of the year than the chickens. There's no comparison. They are also easier on my flower beds (except for the hostas) and do less damage if they accidentally get in the garden which almost never happens because they don't fly. My chickens don't either but only because I clip the little devils' wings. On the other hand, chickens can dig up a dormant garden like pros and leave it nearly weed and pest free for spring (and fertilize it in the process). However, if and when I have to pen them up, ducks are disgusting. I swear they can take one cupful of water and use it to turn an entire 10' x 20' run into a stinking, soggy mess. Even their poo is watery which, if they are free-ranging is great because it disappears into the grass but if they are penned, just contributes to the general sogginess. So, if you want them loose and you have a place to put a pond (and what has worked the best for me is a low, 20 gallon trough that we empty and move to a different spot around the orchard every few days), ducks are great. If you want to coop them up, maybe chickens are better, but either one has plusses and minuses so in the end, go with what appeals to you the most.
rabbits are not efficient at deriving nourishment from what they eat; they often eat their own poo at least one time through for that reason. I think that rabbit poo is likely, for that reason, to contain a lot of broken down but unabsorbed nutrients that are superior plant food.
No, not exactly. They make two different kinds of pellets. The one they eat after their food goes through the first time is soft and green - like a goat's cud, not like poop. Their poo pellets are just poo and they do not re-eat them. I find it to be pretty equivalent to goat poo as far as the effect it has on my plants, no better, no worse.
I wonder if it were possibly to legally raise a couple of wild rabbits and then breed them with a larger, domesticated rabbit? Still, that does not give one the thrill of the hunt.
Probably not, apparently most strains of wild (American) rabbit are not closely related enough to domestic (developed from European) rabbits to crossbreed. Though don't quote me on that, it's from reading on the 'net, not personal observation. Interestingly, My father insists that the wild buns in our brush are descended from some that a neighbor released that went feral.
How much work is it to raise rabbits? I have never raised them for meat so cannot speak from first hand experience. I know of people who do raise them.
Easy enough. I keep my buns in my garden, makes it easy to give them cuttings and I don't have to haul their poo. A couple does and a buck can produce all a person would care to eat in a year, plus some for the dog. You do have to get outside input for your gene pool now and again, but there are lots of bun raisers out there, it's not so hard to find someone to swap with. If you want to pasture them, there's more work involved in setting up, you either have to invest in a way to keep them in an area or keep them out of your garden (assuming you have one), but then they pretty much feed and raise themselves. Personally I wouldn't bother with wild ones at all unless you're worried about introducing an invasive species. Just get a non-white color and the domestic buns will probably adapt fine to being outside. They haven't completely had survivability bred out of them, but they grow much bigger and faster then the wild buns.
The trouble with using your milk cow for plowing is, even my fat little Dexter drops weight pretty dramatically if I'm milking her. She drops less if she only has to feed her calf, but still, putting her to work in the field would be asking a lot, and there can't be much power in a skinny Jersey butt. If you have that small of an acreage that you're worried about feeding something big enough to work, I'd try pigs or chickens or just mulching and not tilling first. Not saying that you couldn't make it work by factoring in planting times to your calving schedule, adapting the work load somehow for their reduced capacity, whatever, but it would be complicated. And slow.
I was wondering are there people trying to do their food forest with mainly native plants? or are they using adapted exotics.
Yes. Western Oregon has a very wet season and a very dry season and there aren't many plants that can handle saturated soils and standing water in the winter, then go to bone dry in the summer that aren't native to our climate. So the parts that are so far from the house that I know they won't get attention, mostly have natives. However, many of the native plants just don't taste that great and I like diversity, so I squeeze in lots of non-natives in the areas that have good drainage and are close enough to keep an eye on.
Blackberries make a good nursery for those regenerating plants
Well, yes and no. It works for trees, but all the little undergrowth can't compete with the berries until they get shaded out at which point, it's too dark for the others as well. I'd keep an eye on them, don't let them get a foothold. If you keep the noxious weeds from taking over, a lot of stuff should fill in on it's own. Also, if you wait and give some thought to what you do want growing, around February you can pick up a bunch of native plants and/or trees super cheap at the seedling sales. Not that I'm saying that all you should plant is natives, but they're certainly low maintenance and a good place to start.
Also, I got goats because my own property was overrun with noxious weeds. I have a small woods that, now that the berries/roses are cleared out, is springing back to life and every day I see something new in it. I'm not saying run out and get goats, I limit their access to my woods now because I don't want it empty, but used carefully, livestock can just about work miracles, it's something to consider.
Seems like. From personal experience, I've seen my father's horses and cows take the occasional nibble (cleaned the suckers right out of their field) and they're still perfectly healthy, but they're in a large pasture with plenty to eat, so they're not likely to overindulge in anything. I feel pretty confident letting my goats eat them given that goats seem to have a higher tolerance for toxins than many other animals. I do wonder if there are other factors - soil/weather/etc conditions that contribute to toxicity. My father swears they don't make good fence posts either, that they just rot. I haven't tried that yet, my trees are babies, but maybe the toxins just aren't as concentrated in the trees here or something. I have to admit, the conflicting info all over the web and the not-knowing are one of the reasons I planted some. Curiosity gets me every time.
Do you have a county extension office you can call? They would know what would grow where you are and where to get it. We have seedling sales every winter here, you can get lots of trees (of course this is OR, we're all about the trees) and native plants for super cheap and the extension office knows who/when/where for the ones they aren't directly involved in.
SO... the question: do I keep trying to get them into the box at night, so as to possibly 'train' them that the box is a good place to be (safer, warmer, etc) or should I just give up and let them roost in the trees, with the idea that they *probably* won't get found and eaten, or that it will be impossible to fix this behavior anyway?
If you clip her wings, maybe by the time her flight feathers grow back in she will be used to the coop. I had to do that to my leghorns this year to keep them from going over the garden fence. They're even more nervous and twitchy now that they can't escape as easily, but it saved their lives
Grass should choke out violets if it's healthy enough. At least around here, if a person't not careful, grass chokes out everything. Being a little on the lazy side, my first thought would be to figure out what the grass needs to help it along - more sun? Water? Food? After that's figured out, I'd consider over-seeding if there's just not enough of it, or it's the wrong type.
Do you think it could depend on the chicken breed? Some being more insect aggressive than others?
Probably. It seems like foraging is a skill bred out of a lot of them, although being raised by a hen instead of an incubator makes a huge difference too. I think it's a learned behavior as well. For instance, it took a couple years for mine to figure out mice were edible, but then I hatched a handful of relatively fierce roos and once the others saw them eat a mouse, the mice were no longer safe. I'd be inclined to put them in there, but keep an eye on them. Having them clean up parasites and stuff is a good idea, but it's not that big a jump from eating dead bees and larvae on the ground to eating live bees.
Probably the best thing to do with the duck bedding is try it in a small area so you will know for sure I'd be inclined to think it's too rich, but your climate is rainy and your soil is poor, so it might be ok. What I do with my chicken bedding (similar, but different) is either the compost pile or sheet mulching. It smothers grass nicely and I can plant in that spot the next season.
but I'm thinking of purchasing a small tractor with a backhoe(I know some people just say rent, but I'm the type of person that likes to pick away at things and not plan and having a tractor at my disposal will be more convenient.).
By all means, buy a tractor. Get one with a bucket too, if you can. They are handy for all sorts of things all the time, especially when you're first starting. As for whether or not you need earthworks, you're the one who is there. Water is always good, I wouldn't cut your trees down to make a pond or whatever, though.
Pine needles can cause abortions in cattle. Goats seem to be surprisingly tolerant of toxins (my one azalea is dead and my goats aren't), but that might be something to consider if your goats are or will be bred.
What should we look for in a good dairy cow/heifier?
A large, well-supported udder and, if you're going to hand-milk, nice big teats. Conformationally, pretty much the same things as your show cattle, probably, except skinnier You probably want to consider volume as well. My neighbor's little Jersey puts out about 4 gallons a day with little to no grain, my Dexter does maybe half that. A commercial-type cow would put out even more. If you're just wanting some for home use, sometimes you can find beef/dairy crosses that milk pretty well and also make big meaty calves. And you might have already considered all that, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.
What type of testing does she need to have done? Does the milk need to be tested for anything for it to be safe to drink?
It's not a bad idea to test for Brucellosis and TB. It's probably just a formality if you're getting a healthy cow from a reputable person, but it's not expensive and could be a liability issue if you don't and then sell milk.
(I assume it's much like a goat. You milk into a cup, make sure it looks good, and go on. Filter milk and get it COLD! Make sure clean teets and healthy animal etc)
Yep. Except bigger and dirtier and more likely to kick you in the head or pee in the bucket. Can you tell I have a wayward cow?
In my humble opinion, we should have a mix of both systems. A small amount of private property for each person is desirable, but it is not fair that certain individuals own a lot of land, while others own nothing (like me).
I like having a bit of land, I also like the publicly owned forests that I live near. I appreciate that the private company that owns the majority of the timber land around us is pretty relaxed about people hunting, hiking, etc on their land, even though some jerks dump their trash and have campfires up there in the dry season. I don't know that I'd be so generous. It's possible nearly any system is doable if the general population values the land and none will be great if they don't. There are a few public areas that I no longer go to because the people who camp around there are filthy pigs, judging by what they leave behind. Since it happens on the public lands and the large private tracts both, I'm inclined to say it's not the style of ownership that is the problem.
My only thought about this is that I heard that the scotch seed can stay dormant ready for germination for years, this is kind of like the mother nature knows best saying. If the scotch comes back then we know there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Is this a valid thought process?
Well, kinda. It's not always an indicator of poor soil either, I still have seedlings popping up in my fertile veggie patch. If new seedlings pop up, it's because there's enough light getting to the soil to trigger germination so in an orchard that could indicate a problem. Yes, the only thing that I've found that can choke it out is trees. However, it doesn't pop back from it's roots when you lop it off at the ground which is incredibly more wonderful than the blackberries which pop back as soon as you turn around. Once you get your clearing and planting done, it's not so hard to lop off the occasional seedling. As long as you get plenty of ground cover under your fruit trees, and you walk through with pruners on occasion, it shouldn't be too bad. Also, for what it's worth, my goats love scotch broom. It's all gone from their field so the stuff that pops up in other places I toss to them. I don't know if there's room in your plan for a livestock component, but it might be worth considering, though goats and fruit trees definitely don't mix.
You can test for Brucellosis, TB and Jonnes, those are the ones that may affect people. It's unlikely your goat has any of them, but not impossible. It's also wise to test for CAE. That one does not affect people, but can be hard on a goat.
Anybody know if goats destroy pine? oak? pecan? or fast growing firewood trees?
Yes. Unless they are already huge. Anything you plant in reach, they will pick at, even if they don't particularly like it, until it's gone unless there are parts of it they can't reach. If it's already a big, mature tree, it might be ok since they may not strip the bark and they can't reach all the leaves. Mine have never met any fruit tree (I have lots of volunteers in my woods) that they didn't love, bark and all. My neighbor's goats girdled their mature fruit trees, even though they were wrapped in wire and those are well-fed goats.
Has anyone fed goats hops?
Yes. Not on purpose, the little boogers.
Anyone feed their goats amaranth?
Yes, again, not on purpose.
My county fair has a goat exhibit every year where they take one of those pre-built wooden sheds (with asphalt shingles) and build ramps or steps up to each of the eves. The goats climb up the steps/ramp, onto the roof, and down the other side. Their steps are made of small boulders on one side, and a wooden ramp on the other, but you could use any number of other material. (Do keep in mind how you might want to clean the whole system, as you can be sure they will poo on it.) You could even include a rough section to help wear down their hooves so you don't have to trim as often. The goats seem to really enjoy it, and so do the people watching.
Yes, to all of this ^^^ Mine love to lounge on the highest spot they can, especially if it's got some morning sun to warm them up and/or afternoon shade to cool them off, and even the "mature" ladies like to play king of the mountain. My neighbors on the other side like to hang out on their porch in the evening and watch the kids.
This does not make goats happy, they might melt There are problems that go along with that, since goats are more of an arid-country critter. We get lots of rain too and the two problems that pop up over and over are one, they have a high mineral requirement and constant rains can leach that from the soil. And two, they can be very susceptible to foot-rot and other fungal stuff. I guess what I'm trying to say is that getting goats from a successful breeder nearby in the same rain might be more important than actual breed because they will be selecting for goats that thrive in your climate.
As far as mixed or purebred, mine are mixed because I'm cheap, but I have good does and I make sure to pick good quality bucks at breeding time because milking ability is important to me. In general, though, I think purebred breeders might be a little more careful than mutt breeders about the quality they breed.
Kinders are, I think, a nice compromise between milk and meat if you get a good quality one. The problem being that almost no one considers milking ability when breeding Pygmies. Just breeding them to a dairy breed does not guarantee that the offspring will have decent udders or production. However, that's all they were to begin with, a Nubian x Pygmy. If you want one and can't find one, get a Nubian doe or two and a Pygmy buck and make your own. If you get less than ideal udders, it gives you a goal to breed for.
One purebred LaMancha buck and 4 mostly-Mancha does. We got them for brush-clearing, milk, and meat. I'm completely sold on their weird little faces and their personalities. They're quiet and snuggly, even though I don't do bottle babies, and aside from the one part-Nubian, they are drama free. The cheese is amazing - we eat what would be $10/lb cheese in the store, as much as we can stand. The whey goes to the pigs and chickens, the poo goes on the garden, bones to the dog, everybody gets something from the goats
It's funny, the different solutions everyone has. Probably what you need to do is find out what works for you and hope your garden survives while you do Here's mine - I can't do only electric, they just learn to scoot through faster. However, I have some pretty marginal woven wire that, with a couple strands of electric run along it, works great. It keeps them from jumping through long enough to get shocked. I also tether for 12 hours at a time during the summer - babies stay in, mamas come out for the day to browse. They keep my fenceline clear of blackberries. Mamas get miked, go back in with babies for the night. I have swivels on each end of their tethers, they have to be where they can't reach each other or a tree and they do pretty well. We have a pretty safe area, predator-wise and I'm always in earshot. However, I wouldn't tether 24-7. They seem to be happier with a break and I would worry at night. Also, they are pretty sure they will melt if they're stuck out in the rain...
Did you find anything? I live in western Oregon too so I'm interested in whether you found something to work or not. The only thing I've found that really keeps growing through the winter is the grass and that's pretty slow. Also, with the rain it's hard to keep the ground in good shape, though having little cows has helped with that. They nibble the blackberries and the ferns, but not enough to call it feed, more a supplement.
Ooh, at 18 my parents couldn't really guide me at all. I think at that point, you gotta let him do what he's going to do and set a good example. If he does enter the rat race, maybe he will gain an increased appreciation for "not the rat race" and in a few years when he realizes you knew what you were talking about, which we all seem to do, he can leave it behind and not wonder what he's missing.
For my little ones, there's almost no TV and no video games, we do play and watch a little on the computer, but they are insulated from the advertising and we live in the boonies so sticks, dirt, and water are what they mostly play with. If you have a TV and your son is living at home, you can turn it off, that gives a little instant distance from pop culture, but other than that, I got nothing. If you try very hard to deprogram him, he will likely push back and it may drive him further away.
We're also both socially awkward, so we'd really have to work on keeping plugged in socially. I guess that's where I would find a like-minded home schooling community a bit easier,
I feel your pain, truly. I do not love meeting new people, I don't like people in groups. If I didn't have so much family nearby and neighbors that I can't avoid (and thankfully like and am incredibly grateful for) our social lives would be pretty sparse. I just couldn't resist a little dig at a complete stranger (hmm, wonder why I'm not more popular). If you're in east Linn county, you are welcome to hang with us, we could be awkward together and avoid discussing religion (wait, does it say where you live on your profile?). We don't actually do much schooling with groups, we hang with other homeschoolers sometimes because we're all not in school at the same time, but most of my kids' friends go to the public school. I guess what I'm trying to say is "don't worry about it". Even if every homeschooler near you is crazy, if you're not socially isolated, your kids won't be either. They are very capable of forming relationships outside their peer group and they only need a few in their peer group to be happy. Also, you don't have kids yet, right? You will probably meet piles of other new parents when you are one, everyone is looking for a support group at that point Also, kids are the best to "geek it up with" because everything is fascinating and new to them. They are like little sponges with amazing absorption powers, so fun.
I had hopes that the home schooling crowd here would be made up of all the progressive people who are hiding out in the cracks and crannies, but i looked into it and it seems more dominated by people who are hard core fundamentalists upset with our government's putting things like 'tolerance' and valuing diversity on the curriculum...that was kind of disappointing for me, to find out that there would be no community there for us...
It's good for you and them to hang out with someone who thinks differently Actually, it depends where you are, I guess, and people with strong (loud?) opinions are always the first one's you run into in a new group. There are pretty conservative folks homeschooling around here (they're generally the ones willing to go without that second paycheck because they feel the mom should be home with the kids) and sometimes young-earthers (not my favorite church movement ever) but rarely rabid fundamentalists, at least the homeschoolers I hang with. I homeschool one of my kids, the other goes to the charter school down the road. That way, we make life as complicated as possible They are 9 and 10, we don't homeschool due to religious beliefs, yes, we are Christian but I figure I have smart kids, they are learning to think for themselves, school only gets them part of the day after all. The interaction between children at school concerns me more than the school's curriculum, as they get older, they get a little more unpleasant when they hang in large groups. There are so many awesome things about homeschooling. The kid I have at home has Asperger's Syndrome (catalyst for taking him out of school) he's smart, we don't do busy work, we don't do drills (things that would have him crying under his desk, breaking pencils, throwing chairs...), we don't plant a bean in a cup and call it biology. We read books and discuss them, we plant gardens and see and discuss the relationships between plants, bugs, animals. When we butcher, we examine the innards, when we find a plant/animal we don't recognize, we look it up. He doesn't think he does much "school" since the only part he views as school is the math and writing. I make him write me stories if I can't think of any "real" assignment, sometimes he draws comics, sometimes they are even funny. Do you know, a kid can come up with a brand new story idea every day? The only thing he's missing is "socialization" according to the school staff, but since he has friends (some next door), cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and a brother, and no one has defined that "socialization" for me, I'm not too worried. If the only thing he doesn't ever learn is how to do Riggs spelling drills (gag me, I'd probably crawl under my desk too) at a desk with 20 other kids doing the same, I'm ok with that. I want to homeschool the other too, but he's mr social butterfly and loves sports, so I haven't had the heart to cut him off yet.
I don't want my kids to have to deal with the type of bullying from authority figures that stifles learning and causes kids to become disinterested in school.
Sometimes it's not even bullying. My son's teachers were all very good, kind, concerned about each student and it is a charter school committed to individual learning with small classes and a full time aid in each one. The principal is a great guy, likes my kids, said on more than one occasion that, "The problem is, he makes a good point" about my son arguing when he was sent to the office for the umpteenth time for disrupting the class. The trouble is, the teacher has to teach in a classroom setting and the kids have to behave appropriately in that setting which does not mean you can discuss with the teacher, in the middle of an assignment, which stuff you feel you don't need to do because you already know it and you can't burst into loud, uncontrollable sobs because there is exactly one hour for math and you were obsessing about the computer time you might get if you finish your math ahead of time, but you went to fast so you had some redos and another kid finished first and got to the computer before you and you don't deal with stress well and you already were under some because you got shut down on the "why should I do this when I already know it" discussion and you don't understand why your opinion shouldn't have as much weight as any other in the room because even though the teacher's authority has been explained, you don't get it instinctively like the other kids who don't question, they just do because an adult told them to... He tried, they tried, the reality is that sometimes it's not a good fit. It's a miracle as many children do well in schools as they do. I'm more convinced every day we are not meant to learn in classrooms, and that they are just a safety net at best, to be sure that everyone is exposed to some sort of literacy. It's good for rote learning and that's about it.
This is probably the first time I've mentioned my kids here because I usually come looking for specific information and ideas about growing stuff.
Personally, I was moved to comment when I read your position, because the FIRST thing I thought when I looked at the photo is the young gardener is SO fortunate to have this warm little recessed area on his hillside overlooking the chilly Pacific ocean! HA!
Yeah, if that was the PNW, he might even be able to squeeze out a melon or two and some peppers. To be fair, I would have done it different too, but it's not my yard. Of course now I'm thinking a little south facing wall to capture the heat, maybe a tall, semi-circular hugel-bed, I wonder if I could grow watermelons. Ok, back on track, you know that guy isn't going to stop there. If he doesn't give up on gardening altogether, that sparse square eventually isn't going to be enough. Pretty soon he's going to be either pulling up bits of concrete or building raised beds, or stacking pots in the corners, maybe growing hops along the walls. It's like an addiction. He will end up on permies, wondering how to make it all fit and work together...
which animals wouldn't work for this setup? cows seem to strong. snakes to hard to harness, winged creatures?
I tether my goats and I tether my cow. I tried a sheep briefly, but they're dumb and panicky and the collar gets lost in the wool. I have to untangle probably twice a day on average but because they wrap around brush, not themselves. The goats hogtied themselves a couple times early on but now they seem to have it figured out. The cow never has, but she's a short-legged Dexter, it might be physically impossible to do to her. It probably wouldn't work so well on a wild range cow. Their tethers have swivel clips at both ends which helps keep the lines straight, I wouldn't put clothes and goats on the same line. It's a high-maintenance way to go, the best way I've found to keep the outside of my fences clear, but it's only a good option if there's no other. I had one horse ever that I would trust to tie out, they have such long, fragile legs and necks. I wouldn't tether birds. Or bunnies...
If you only have cows you probably wont need them. Especially if you get a heritage breed like Belties that are very good at protecting their young.
For sure. My little bitty Dexters keep their field clear of everything that doesn't live here including wild turkeys, deer, cats, and the neighbor's poor dog. LGDs are barkers, not a problem on a hundred acre spread, but something to consider on 5 acres.
I think, the two main factors to consider are: What do you prefer to eat and drink, and what kind of forage do you have? Goats are browsers, cows are grazers. All else being equal, if you have brush and weeds, goats will be right at home, if you have grass, cows fit better. Otherwise, if you like cow milk and beef, get a cow, if you like goat milk and meat, get a goat. In my experience goats have been significantly easier/better in every way except fencing and even that hasn't been too bad, but we like the taste of cow milk and beef, so we have cows with our goats now. They're unregistered Dexters which, while they're not always easy to find, are going for roughly the same price per pound as any other beef cattle around here.
Other things to consider, milk freezes just fine, you can store some away for dry periods if you go the cow route. Even if you do goats, sometimes it's nice to have everyone dry at the same time so you can have a break. Goat milk can have the same amount of fat as cow milk but look like less since it doesn't separate much. It hurts way less to get kicked by a goat than a cow and if you go the mini route, be prepared to pay through the nose for an experienced milker, or to tame and train your own. I guess it may be different in your part of the country, but here, most mini's are raised for beef. If you don't go the mini route, you could look for a dairy cull. My neighbor had a lovely Jersey with one bad teat who still milked 4 gallons a day, way more than enough for one family and if you breed your Jersey to an Angus, you get a pretty nice calf for the freezer.
Depends on how old it is. If it's young (under a year) you can use it anywhere you would use beef. It's lean, so slower and lower cooking is better. My favorite way to do a leg is to de-bone it, stuff it with feta, garlic, rosemary and sauteed onions and swiss chard, roll it up, tie it, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and roast it. Otherwise, we use it in chili, curry, stew, jerky... If it's older than a year, you might be better off with crock pot recipes, and if it's a buck, be very clean when you butcher, and plan on making spicy things.
I'd cut 'em down (says the logger's daughter). They are big light hogs. Here where I live, the only thing that kept the firs from swallowing the valley back in the day, according to what I have read, is regular fires, so I suppose as far as working with nature, you could consider yourself a fire replacement. Forests need the occasional meadow, the edges are where all the good stuff happens. With 1 1/2 acre, you really do not have enough room for firs and anything else, and I'm going to assume you can step across the line into the wilderness to forage so there's no real need to work them into your system. As far as soil fertility, it shouldn't be too tough. Maybe you can treat your stumps as instant hugelbeds They aren't like black walnuts that chemically inhibit other plants, they just hog the light. If it's any encouragement, the clear-cuts around here grow brush like crazy starting almost the instant the trees are logged. The only caution I would give, is that they do not grow back quickly like flowers. Envision what it will look like without them, consider whether there are any that are best kept, since you can't just change your mind and put them back, and then cut anything you don't need.
Cute place BTW, and being next door to a National Forest - awesome.
I love my Dexters For you, I'd look into whatever smallish breed is near you. Or, many times you can get culls from dairies that don't produce enough for a dairy but more than enough for home use, my neighbor got a sweet Jersey that way that transferred to grain-free with no problem. A bonus there is that they are already tame and used to milking, and you can always cross them to a beef breed for meatier calves. There's a bunch of good advice in here, I would add that, if you are going to milk your cow and you're looking for a heritage breed, try and find someone who is selecting for milk and if they are actually trained for milking, that's a bonus. Many heritage breeders breed for type or color or beefiness, or anything but milking ability and udder quality, even if it's a breed labeled "dual purpose". You do not want to make milking any harder on yourself than it has to be. I'm not going to say absolutely don't have a bull, but they are often more of a nuisance than they are worth. If you can get by with three gallons of milk a day, you should only need 2 cows (if you get something like a Jersey, maybe only one), keep in mind that their offspring take a couple years to mature so 2 milk cows means one calf and one yearling each so six head of cattle at any given time, and it's generally not worth keeping a bull as well to breed only two cows a year. We have had good luck borrowing or renting bulls for the most part. Also, if you expect them to produce on grass only, your pastures need to be very high-quality, no cow can make something from nothing. Also, a bull with horns - yikes. I hate horns. Dexters have pretty ones, but after having them just a few years, I got excellent bruises backing into my gentle cow's horns on a couple occasions, one steer killed a goat and nearly killed another (he was just playing), they do a lot of damage to stuff just itching their horns on it, I'm doing my best now to remove horns and avoid gaining any more "experience".
As for chickens and pigs, chickens are awesome in the field, they break up the cow pies and eat bugs. I can't say for pigs. No way would I let my pigs in my field, they do too much damage and their unofficial job is garbage disposal anyway which would be much more complicated if they're running free with the grazers. I've heard that some people are successful with them in the pasture though.
If they aren't in rut and peeing on themselves, and if you are very clean with your butchering (I've heard that some people bathe their bucks before butchering), then it probably won't be too bad. We butchered a yearling buck because he broke his leg, and there was a little gaminess even though he was neither in rut or even completely mature. He went in curries so it was unnoticeable. I wouldn't eat my current buck unless I was really desperate, that's a horrible stench in breeding season, and even in summer he has a distinct presence. Also, they can, as someone else pointed out, breed very young and if you are not using them for breeding, there's no point to their their testicles. I wouldn't castrate a mature buck, but we band the little guys as early as we can get away with it. I like to leave them on their mothers until late fall when we butcher, and I don't want to take chances with their mothers or sisters getting bred.
Also, on a side note, it's not just the castrating that gives them a high voice. My tall and macho buck with a huge... beard, has the nicest soprano voice you could hope for.
Can you run a hot wire along the fence? I was having some trouble with mine starting to wander too, but she got shocked a couple times and now she won't even test any fencing, just in case it's electric.