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Sustainable Land Clearing

 
            
Posts: 12
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Hey everyone, one of my first real posts here, looking for some advice

My father and I have been hoping to clear some land to plant for multiple livestock forages for goats. We already cleared about 1.5-2 acres, but it is obvious we did not do it right. A trackloader and tractor compacted the soil and accelerated erosion over time. Clearly not a good practice as we found out the hard way, and now we are planting cover crops and grasses and letting that land be for it to come back to health. I have seen the birds and other creatures slowly moving back over the past two years and we are trying to intersect multiple different types of perennial covers.

We need to clear about 4-5 acres that has great carbon content in the humus and I would not want to let this great soil wash away. What is the best way to clear land using permaculture/sustainable methods? I was thinking and guessed it would be something like starting from the inside moving towards the outside of the section in question, clearing the land with chainsaws and leaving shade trees/diversity trees but enough taken away so there is sunlight for some crops. Then, I guessed that a stump grinder would be good to get rid of the stumps while leaving the roots to hold the soil. The section in question would ideally in the future be turned into fruit and nut trees similar to the food forests I have read about in permaculture books, but I am no expert. I would like to be able to grow fruit/nuts/and then plants on the ground such as oil bearing seeds to produce biodiesel...

What do you all think? What is the best way to clear land (which is semi hilly) without losing the valuable topsoil, compacting the soil, and hurting the environment any more than can be avoided? Thanks for your time and I appreciate any advice!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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There's no particular reason to grind the stumps, in my opinion. We just left all of ours, cut close to ground level or wherever convenient. We've also left low windrows of slash across the contour, to stop runoff.



 
Nicolai Barca
Posts: 15
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Haven't done much myself, but when I did, I realized I bit off more than I could chew, so I'm going to say "Start small and expand upon success".

If it is steep and you are worried about accelerating erosion, sonsider stacking logs and cut brush on contour.

As for stump grinding... never done it but it sounds labor intensive. Some trees will die simply when cut down. Others you could cover up with something to stop resprouts. I don't know about your area but there are many trees here that you cannot get rid of without herbicide because every exposed rootlet could become a new tree.

Consider if you can just kill the tree standing. It's ugly and you may need to worry later about dead snags falling, but killing trees standing provides some benefits like retaining some protection from the elements, less cost and labor than felling and clearing, and minimal soil disturbance.
 
Lolly Knowles
Posts: 159
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Several threads in other parts of the forum have discussed inoculating stumps with mushroom cultures. You get benefit of the mushrooms while they take care of the stump you want gone.
 
            
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Thanks for the replies everyone!

I will heed your advice, place some slash on contours to stop erosion, and innoculate the stumps with mushrooms. Does anyone know what the optimal height would be for the stumps to be left at?

I also hope to keep some of the trees to try hugulkultur...I have started one attempt in a raised bed but do not think I left the logs to sit long enought before placing them in the bed, oh well they will break down eventually!
 
Bryzantium Langford
Posts: 21
Location: The Great State of Louisana
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Ill tell you what me and most people I know do when we clear alot of land. Its almost always for deer feed plots. Step one is clear it. Step two limit any fast run off. Step three Find you a good deer plot mix like rackmaster elite from pennington and seed your plot. Nothing protects against run off like plants. Find a good deer plot mix with things like rye,oats,clover,turnips,kale,winter peas, etc. That way you can clear it this winter and seed it. It will immediately start growing and willl only accellerate with more annuals as the year goes by. Sometimes it will even self seed. Even if it doesnt that will protect the land from erosion and make it alot harder for weeds or other things to get a food hold. When you are ready to plant whatever its also easy to get rid off just till it or flatten the plants with a log. Hope that helps.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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You might consider leaving some 6-8 foot stumps for fence posts. They will eventually rot out (depending on species and climate), but should last long enough to get a good hedgerow growing.
 
Mick Cressman
Posts: 23
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I second the slash on contour. We did this last year and the number and varieties of birds in the area were unlike anything I'd seen on the property before. I hadn't seen a rufous sided towhee for over a decade, and a mating pair nested in one of our brush windrows. Moreover, the brush must have attracted insects as our ducks spent most of their time rummaging about the edges...maybe for slugs?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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Around here I have done a lot of clearing. First I would do it the way most do it, chop, stack, burn. Obviously this is not th best course of action. Over time I have developed a three or four stage process.

Stage one is chop and drop. At first you want to clear the side branches off of the trees leaving poles, which can be used for other uses around the homestead, I refer to cut them after all the brush has been cleared off of them and I can take the time to evaluate the good from the poor. The trick to this stage is to chop everything as small as possible.

Stage two involves moving the cut brush to it's best location. For me this is to rake with thrush rake into piles on contour, our area hilly so this slows down water and traps forest floor debris eventually creating sort of a terrace. I like this because the farthest the material travels is a few feet from where it was cut.

The next stage here is regrowth. All of the plants , trees, bushes were just cut at ground level so some will grow back. At this point you can put it goats or cut the regrowth yourself. I've done both and I prefer the goat because while he ears regrowth you can be clearing more land. At this point if your just trying to feed animals if they eat the regrowth you can start a rotational paddock system to feed them while letting the plants regrow for another period of browsing. So if this is your path then you can stop here.

If you want the land cleared for other uses continue to let the animals clear until regrowth has stopped. From here the lane will be well manured, clear of brush, and ready for planting. In my case the debris Swales decompose, I add mulch to them when I have some close by.

I find this method to take more time but the overall ccondition of the land is improved rather than depleted or destroyed. I have cleared 3 acres this way in only a few months. One more tip is to take it on in sections you can manage. I will usually do a 20 x 50-100ft area at a time.

My 2 cents
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 468
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Some neighbors had grass hillsides with young trees on it, and the extension service labels that soil as "Highly erodable".

They removed the trees and the grass took over. BUT THE GRASS WAS ALREADY THERE!

If your trees are already large enough to shade out the low growing vegetation, then I would remove SOME of the trees to let the light hit the ground, let the smaller plants grow up and get established, and then cut some more trees out. In my humble opionion.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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Do you have any plants growing in the woods that are poisonous to goats? If not why not just clear along the outside edges of the land you want to pasture and put up your fences. Let the goats do alot of the work of clearing things out for you. As the goats clear out alot of the brush for you it will be alot easier to chop and drop other large trees to let in more light. Goats are great at eating brush and clearing out the woods. If you do not want to spend the money for the fences right now you can just stake the dominate Doe in the area you want cleared and the rest of the goats will stay close to her and not leave her, [ assuming that there is not a ram in your herd ] Make sure that they have water there for them. Just a thought, work smart, not hard.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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goats will strip the brush they will not clear it. in my case most of my brush is dry, old, deadwood that was shaded out by the upper canopy of brush that was growing too dense. not really any food for them to eat unless its 10ft+ up. once cut the regrowth is on ground level making easy forage for livestock.

we have lots of poison oak, some goats dont eat it while others like it.

i have tried that approach and my method above takes little physical effort (just more time) and the end result is far superior to fencing it in and tossing some livestock in.

i wont say its the only way to go though, for my environment i havent found anything that gives a better final result. while improving the soil greatly.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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