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Transforming clear cut land (94 acres)

 
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Hi,
We live in upstate South Carolina and are looking for a nice piece of land that we might share with family eventually. I am always looking for the “most bang for your buck” deals but they naturally always come with problems. I found a property nearby that is 94 acres and has recently been completely clear cut. The upside is that the price is very low compared to “normal” properties but it currently looks like a nuclear bomb went off which is pretty heartbreaking. I love the idea of turning this sad sight into something beautiful again. They only left 5 acres of woods, the rest of the 94 acres is pretty much wasteland at this point. There are leftover trees and branches all over the place and whatever is not covered is dried out clay, which is typical soil around here. There are also big tree stumps all over. My main questions would be.
1. How would you clean up the property, i.e. move remaining branches and small fallen trees?
2. How do you get rid of all the big tree stumps and should you even worry about getting rid of them?
3. How do you grade/level the clay to prep it for starting pasture?
4. How hard would it be to start pasture on clay and what would it entail?
5. What else besides pasture could be done to make this property appealing again?
6. What happens to parts of the property that we wouldn’t do anything to? Will it just grow wild again and how quickly will that happen?
7. How much would all of this cost roughly since I am assuming we would have to hire companies to do these tasks for us?
8. Am I crazy and should we look for something else?

I attached a few pictures I took yesterday.

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Thor,

Interesting question.  I am not exactly certain I know the exact answer but I have a couple ideas.  First and foremost, obviously, I would leave those remaining 5 acres alone, but I am sure you already had that in mind.

With a whopping 94 acres to reclaim, I think I would concentrate on removing stumps only from areas where you plan to build a house, establish a yard/garden (maybe 1/2-1acre?) and a driveway.  For starters I would leave the other stumps alone

I think my next step would be to collect fallen scrap wood left over from the cutting and store for eventual utilization in garden beds (wood chips, hugel mounds, etc.).  

I think the rest of the land I would want to cover with some type of cover crop, even if s very cheap crop just to prevent erosion.  Ryegrass comes to mind as it is cheap and establishes quickly.  When I built my house, it finished in November but the “yard” was a muddy mess with clear signs of erosion, actually a couple of small gullies were getting established.  I ended up spreading 1/2 bushel of winter wheat over about 3/4 acre.  The winter wheat established very fast and the erosion came to a screeching halt.

From there I would be tempted to just sit back and see what comes up.  I suspect that a lot of those stumps will send up shoots and might even slowly reforest itself.  This would take time and is no guarantee but I personally would not want to replant 94 acres.

Thor, these are just a couple of my ideas.  Let me know if they help.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Thor,

I missed the pictures in your first post and I missed the part that said you wanted to convert this to pasture.  First, you are certainly right in that it looks like total destruction!  Secondly, are you wanting to convert all 94 acres to pasture?  If that is the case then I assume you have a specific pasture mix in mind.  I guess if you want all 94 acres in pasture then I would want to get pasture mix on it quickly along with a nurse crop (maybe rye, maybe wheat) to get it through the summer and prevent erosion.

From the looks of your pictures I don’t think you need to grade.  I am thinking that the most cost effective option is simply to broadcast.  True, you will lose some seed, but the time and effort to remove all those stumps and debris would be enormous and expensive.  Those stumps might grow back, but if not they will rot.

I still would grab as much wood as possible for later use in the garden.  But anyways, you do have quite a project ahead.  Maybe this question is off topic, but do you have a tractor, atv or related vehicle?  Some mechanization would make this task much easier.

Eric
 
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wow. I have no idea where you would start. But I would look into buying your own machinery to remove the stumps.
I would also look around for local farms with live stock and see if they need some where to dump their Manure.
also a water feature would help with the wild life in the area.

Good luck, and please keep us posted with pictutes

here is an article you may like.

https://www.boredpanda.com/brazilian-couple-recreated-forest-sebastiao-leila-salgado-reforestation/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic
 
Thor Sten
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Eric Hanson wrote:Thor,

Secondly, are you wanting to convert all 94 acres to pasture?



Thank you for your responses. No, doesn't have to be all pasture at all. We would actually love to let it grow back and use maybe only 20 acres for pasture. I just wasn't sure how long it would take for things to grow back.

Eric Hanson wrote:
Maybe this question is off topic, but do you have a tractor, atv or related vehicle?  Some mechanization would make this task much easier.



No, we would have to buy a tractor once we decide what we want to do.
 
Thor Sten
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Phil Grady wrote:
also a water feature would help with the wild life in the area.



There is a creek that runs 800 yards along one of the property lines.
 
Eric Hanson
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Thor,

20 acres is still a chore but is a lot more manageable.  That would be a lot less pasture seed mix to buy.  If you had a tractor, I would seriously consider a broadcast spreader to spread that seed mix.  

I would still consider some type of cover crop for the remaining 74 acres, but you could certainly go with the cheapest option.  I mentioned wheat/winter wheat because it establishes quickly and is cheap.  It is an annual so you will need to re-seed, or hope for the wheat to re-seed itself (it probably will).  At any rate, I would still wait and see what comes back up on its own.  You can always go out and plant saplings later if you wish.

Eric
 
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Thor, welcome to Permies! I don't think you're crazy although it would be a creative challenge. Not impossible though.

Wow, what a piece of property. Am I correct that you are currently just considering buying it? I live in the Southeast, so my climate and soil are similar to yours and I can relate to your challenges.

94 clear cut acres is a lot! That being said, whatever your goals are, it would seem to me that you'd need a short-term plan set and and a long-term plan set. My first suggestion is to draw a map of the property including it's features and start to brainstorm over where things will go. House and garden? Barn and outbuildings? Orchard? Pasture? Fencing? Pond? What else? If you have this in hand and can set both short-term and long-term goals, I think it will help from becoming overwhelmed.

I agree with Eric in that I'd only remove stumps wherever the house and garden will go. The rest I'd leave. Some of those trees may sprout back (think coppice), and whatever roots are left will decompose in the ground and build the soil. For the waste, I also agree with Eric for gathering it for the garden! Again, start in the house/garden area and gather into piles by hand. If you haven't researched hugelkultur yet, that would be a great use for a lot of it. So would making wood chips; they have multiple uses including compost, mulch, and mushroom growing.

My biggest concern would be potential erosion on all that exposed ground, and I would make that a priority. I wouldn't worry about grading it at this point. My short term plan would be to get it covered as soon as possible with a pasture mix and/or any cover crop mix. That would be a big project for all that acreage, but you could do this yourself, if you have the time and don't mind stretching your legs. If you don't plant something, mother nature will and it may not be what you want! (voice of experience here, lol. Ours grew back with pines, sweet gum, blackberry brambles, honeysuckle, poison ivy, kudzu, and ground ivy.) If you can get the soil covered and secured, you'll have some time to observe the land and the weather patterns and make more permanent long-term plans.

I think you could do at least this much without hiring anybody, if you're interested and willing to get very hands-on.

Whatever you decide, please keep us posted!
 
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You're describing the property I'm managing. 93 acres of clear cut. I literally saw the title and thought I posted this without remembering it. Haha.

Clear cuts are devastating to see, but they do offer a number of benefits. First of all, you get to watch succession happen before your eyes, which is one of the greatest gifts we can be so unlucky to receive as designers. The cornerstone of permaculture is to observe, and watching what nature does to turn decimated land back into forest is the best lesson we can receive. As far as speed goes, you've got many years to nudge things in the right direction, and many more than that to push things in the right direction. And many more years after that you can clean up sections and add in the plants you are seeking.

First the negatives: you'll get to see succession happen before your eyes. Boom and bust cycles are nature's way to balancing things out. The first thing to spring back will be herbaceous weeds; a mix of nitrogen fixers to add fertility, tap-rooted plants to break up compaction from all the machinery that was on the land, often with spines and thorns to discourage large animals like humans and deer from walking on it and created further compaction. Many of these plants, like thistles, are also calcium accumulators... heavy clays (at least, all heavy clays that I'm aware of) are the result of a calcium/magnesium imbalance. Calcium leaches out in the rain and the excess magnesium binds the clay... allowing those spiny plants to grow, die, and decompost is the first step to permanently repairing compaction.

After plants are growing, herbivores will arrive. Mice and rabbits and the like cannot live off of trees, so where they may have been few in number in the past, a sudden clear cut provides an explosion in growth in the things they eat and they breed like, well, rabbits. Food = breeding. If there's a lot of food, there's a lot of breeding. Which means eventually the predators will come in for their share of all of these herbivores that have shown up. Now, most people kill predators indiscriminately because they see them as a threat, but we should instead protect our own animals and leave predators to maintain the herbivore population, otherwise we disrupt the balance and allow the things that will eat our plants to proliferate out of control. We have an old female cougar the hunts the woods surrounding our property. In her old age, she has learned to respect the boundaries erected by humans. If she were to die, then young males might move into her territory and think that my livestock look like easy pickings. But until that day, she keeps those young males off of our doorstep.

There will be a period where you will not be able to grow plants. The herbivore population will boom and then they will over-consume the plant matter that's available to them and will be starving (we had 20 deer last year, and most of them starved to death from overgrazing... we're back down to the 5 or so that our property can actually support.) When things are starving they will eat things that they'd never normally eat, and they'll take more risks to get it, including but not limited interactions with humans or predators. You can invest a lot of time, money, and energy to importing predators (cats, rodent-hunting dogs, big dogs for deer/elk/etc.) or building fences... or you can just wait until the pest pressure is at a reasonable level. That's maybe 2 or 3 years in.

You should not be making major changes in the first 2 or 3 years anyway. That's your observation period. Figure out where the contours are, figure out how water flows over the property, figure out what plants want to grow where, figure out where the sun shines and where the wind blows, figure out how much precipitation you get, etc. That will prevent you from doing what the landowner did here and putting a road through a creek which is going to eventually erode the road without constant maintenance. This time is important to figuring out how to place structures effectively... if you're even allowed to. Many forestry lands have building restrictions, so the buildings that are on the property are the ones you're stuck with.

You don't need to do anything to create a pasture. A pasture will show up anywhere that trees are not allowed to regrow. I'm ended up with pasture that I don't even want because grass is the only thing that's aggressive enough to colonize that area. You'll get one really bad year of heinous weeds like thistle, and then those weeds will fall, mulch the soil, and in the wettest spots grass will grow on its own. If you want to maintain an area in pasture, cut it. Grass is one of the few things than can handle being cut repeatedly, so anywhere that you make a point of cutting or grazing on a rotation, will fill in as pasture. It won't be able to support a lot of foot traffic at first, so if you want to maintain it with animals rather than cutting it yourself, think small. Rotationally grazing rabbits in a rabbit tractor might be a good option. Allow them to cut the plants down to a couple inches or so and then move them before they cause more problems.

Don't plan on developing the whole property at once. For starters, you probably wouldn't know what to do with 94 acres of production. Second, you're not going to develop 94 acres at once without hiring a big team, with lots of heavy equipment, and buying in tons of seeds and plants. Work on zones 0 and 1 while you're observing the rest of the property and thinking about the ways you want to nudge it. Figure out what plants are coming in all on their own and favor the ones you like (fruits, nuts, etc.) and disfavor the ones you don't. I weed around the wild hazelnuts as I find them to encourage them to get big and strong... which means they'll be easier to find in the future if and when I decide to intervene in a more profound way. Begin starting fruits and nuts from seed; you'll very likely get a lot of things that are quite amazing to eat, but for the things that are just so-so,  you know have an established root stock that you can graft your known varieties into. I'm starting a couple dozen persimmons, some quince, a dozen or so chestnuts, some black walnut, apples, pomegranates, and a number of other things from seed, as well as starting figs, mulberries, goji berries, pineapple guava, cranberries, olives, and hardy citrus from cuttings. You will not be paying $30 per tree if you're trying to develop 94 acres. I only have 3 fig varieties, but I know I can scatter them about the property and they will start producing fruit for me. Eventually, when I have more of that variety than I care to have, I can cut it back and graft all of those trees with different varieties. Or I can chop and drop them as mulch for other trees. When we propagate trees widely and for free, we don't lose sleep at night about turning them into mulch for something better.

Leave the wood where it is. That's food for the soil, and it's also helping to pacify the water flowing over the land. The only thing I would do is to make sure it's all in contact with the ground so that it will rot and not become a fire hazard. Anything that's stack up so that it's not in contact with soil should either be moved, collected as firewood, or burned in a controlled way to keep it from burning in an uncontrolled way in the future. If piles of wood have been mounded up, you can burn those into biochar, which will help maintain moisture, nutrients, and biology in the soil. If you must do something with the wood, I would either systematically burn it into biochar for use as a soil amendment, or else I would stack it on contour to further increase its pacifying effect on the water.

What else should you do besides pasture? Literally anything else. The land is trying to be forest, and the more you fight against that tendency the more work you're going to have to do. Grow trees. That's what wants to be there. How much does it cost? Well, I haven't had income for the past year and my project is still chugging along merrily. If you're spending lots of money then you're either doing something wrong, or you're trying to get things done before you've put in the proper amount of observation. If you spend a lot of money making mistakes, you will spend a lot of money fixing those mistakes. If you spend no money and make small mistakes, then you'll spend no money fixing those small mistakes. The land isn't going anywhere. It will slowly turn back into forest, but succession is slow. We speed up succession when we do water harvesting and we chop and drop, etc., but we can keep it slow by doing nothing at all. When we're ready to expand our influence we can start building out from the edges of our existing design. We can set up animals on the edge of where our design ends and wild nature begins and start clearing that sections. We can harvest small poles from undesirable tree species (for tools, fencing, firewood, etc.) and bring in more light for the species we want to add. Our property was replanted after it was logged (as required by local law), and in the 2 years since those trees went into the ground, most aren't more than a foot tall and could easily be cleared with my scythe. And those trees were already 1-2 years old when they were planted. So, at 4 years, they're not even firewood yet. Now, some are bigger... ones that happened to be planted in spots where water and nutrients gather, but they're the exception. I still have many years of planting things in between them before I ever have to start worrying about the wild stuff. And by the time they start causing problems for any of my productive trees, I'm going to want them for one project or another, which the unusable bits being dropped as mulch around my productive species.

Even earthworks can be done incrementally. You don't have to put in 7 swales at once. You don't even have to put in the full length of a swale at once. Do as much as makes sense for your current needs, plant it, and work out from there.

You can feed a family on a relatively small amount of land, even considering the amount of land that has to be dedicated to growing fertility for the productive land. You don't even need an acre of productive space to feed yourself. Start with what's within your ability to maintain. An acre is a lot to maintain by yourself. Figure out how to maintain the small space and grow that space as your ability grows. You will wear yourself out trying to maintain a large space unnecessarily. You'll gain momentum as the first parts of your design mature and come into full productivity.

You aren't developing 94 acres at once. Even if you had the money to throw at it, you'd have to keep throwing money at it to maintain it. Let nature do what it's going to do and only intervene if and when you can do something that's actually better.
 
Eric Hanson
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Mathew makes a lot of very good points.

I think my only, minor difference is that I would scavenge some wood for future use either as hugel mounds or for wood chips, but this would only be a small portion of what was available on the ground.  I do agree that I would not try to clear the ground of wood—let that rot in place!  In the meantime, it will help with erosion control.

But the choice is yours.

Eric
 
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Mathew's answer is really great! Like Eric, I also would harvest some of the wood for hugel beds. Especially in South Carolina where the climate ranges from "Hand me some oars, I'm going out there" to "please, please, please let there be three drops of rain this month." Hugel beds are perfect for regulating these flood/drought cycles.  Here in NC I have a few raised hugel beds (4 feet of buried wood, four above ground) that I haven't watered in years.  I strongly recommend the hugels.  However, I doubt it will even make a dent in the 94 acres so it doesn't significantly detract from the soil amendment.

If you want a water feature or three, which I highly recommend for mosquito control, you have the right soil for the easiest pond ever.  Get pigs.  Fence in a large area.  Maybe dig down a few feet with a tractor scoop to get things started.  Put caches of food under the stumps.  The pigs will root under the stumps and basically dig them out for you, so you can easily pull them out with a tractor.  Once you've enticed the pigs to root up each stump, you'll have lots of deeper holes in the penned area.  Come back in with the tractor and scoop out more dirt to level things, then let the pigs wallow in the clay.  It's called gleying.  With the high clay content, the weight of the pigs and their stomping will compact the soil so much it holds water.  Once it starts holding water, you need to move them out though.

You can also gley with manure/straw and a cardboard smothering layer.  Probably after you use the pigs to root up the stumps.

However, I have to say, I would do a real gut check buying a property like that.  It depends on what makes you happy.  I would much rather clear out an acre of trees to make my homestead amid a forest than try to grow the forest.  I understand getting 100 acres at a great price and that is very compelling.  But you're looking at years of muddy shoes and burrs in your clothes and lots of effort that isn't directly going towards your quality of life.  Now if rejuvenating the land is it's own reward for you, that's great.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Eric Hanson wrote:Mathew makes a lot of very good points.

I think my only, minor difference is that I would scavenge some wood for future use either as hugel mounds or for wood chips, but this would only be a small portion of what was available on the ground.  I do agree that I would not try to clear the ground of wood—let that rot in place!  In the meantime, it will help with erosion control.

But the choice is yours.

Eric



Oh, for sure! My list was not meant to be exhaustive... I only meant to have a use for the material rather than just clearing it for no reason. If it's anything like here, the stuff that was left was left because it's not much good as building material. But I've definitely fashioned a chicken roost and trellises out of what was left behind, stumps make good impromptu chairs as you're hiking around, lots of stuff gets used as stakes in the garden or for marking out contours, and, of course, a lot of it is going into my Hugelpaths. Even just arranging stuff on contour can be the first step in developing hugelkultur. Arrange it on contour so it starts slowing water and catching sediment, and then at your convenience you can come through and cover it with soil and plant it. If there's anything that's still good as more substantial building material, then definitely make a point of getting it off of the ground and out of the wet before it rots. You can't get a vehicle to most parts of our property, so that's a big part of the calculation in deciding if something is worth salvaging over leaving it to feed the soil. I've also thought about using some of it to make cutting boards and dishes, but that's a low priority... everything might rot before I get around to that. My idea was to make "disposable" plates using large leaves like achira or hardy banana over simple wooden plates. At the end of the meal, the leaf goes in the compost and the actual plate would need little if any cleaning. Can you tell that I hate doing dishes?
 
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Definitely does look like a bomb went off, but don't lose heart!  The first thing I'd go about doing would be to get those branches and fallen trees cleared up.  You could either rent a woodchipper and chainsaws and do this yourself, or you could hire a tree and brush removal or lot clearing company to get it done for you.  Chippers usually rent out at about $600/day, so that might be something you'll want to consider depending on your budget (obviously depending on the manpower you have available that'll be cheaper than hiring a contractor).  You  said you have family who might share it?  Maybe split the cost with them, or get those bored teenage nephews up to the place for a few days of gettin' grubby running the chipper lol.  Stumps can be removed by a determined individual with an excavator (again, I'd try renting a small one for starters or just asking your neighbors).  You certainly don't need to get rid of them but if they are left to rot in the ground you'll wind up with big holes everywhere eventually...  If it's all clay, grading and leveling might require someone with a dozer or grader to smooth things out.  I'd even look at drainage ditching to ensure you won't get ponds in the low spots when it rains.  
   Starting a good pasture on the clay will probably require getting several tons of good topsoil brought in.  You could supplement this with a little mulch from the woodchips you've ground up.  Throw down grass seed, timothy, alfalfa, chicory maybe and spread hay over it to give it some nutrients to chew on.  Add some fertilizer for a jumpstart, and start compost piles for the future with whatever food scraps, hay, leaves, and grass clippings you can get your hands on.  If you're doing this all this spring, you might line up nicely for warmer weather to make things really take off!  
   Additional aesthetics?  Get some boundary fencing billings
in, plant some trees for your livestock to relax under and depending on your water situation look into getting good water lines plumbed into the ground.  Clean water vs. dirty makes a 20% difference in weight gains, with cattle at least (source; worked an Australian cattle ranch for a few years, my boss was incredibly detail oriented).  Land you don't touch will grow wild, but might sprout a ton of "repair plants" like brambles, blackberries, briars and such which will need containing to allow grass to eventually win the race for sunlight.  Could take years, depending on how much you actually leave it alone when it comes to planting trees etc.
   Cost?  A lot if you hire people, like at least $40,000.  That's not helpful I know lol, again, I'd suggest just doing what you can by yourself when possible to save money.
   You're not crazy, but know yourself and your abilities/budget/goals for the property before you get too deep into the project.  Nothing wrong with moving slowly with it and seeing how it recovers on it's own.  
 
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Take a peak at this thread to see how others delt with clear cut land.
 
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The only thing I would add is to keep an eye on those stumps.  Some may sprout again and quickly grow due to the existing root system.  Of course, this will beg the question, on a case by case basis, is it is a good thing or a bad thing.  Also, watch for erosion. If reasonably attended to, I suspect you will see impressive gains in 7 years or so.  

Oh yes, to answer one of your earlier questions, you are not crazy, but you are braver than I am.
 
Mathew Trotter
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John F Dean wrote:The only thing I would add is to keep an eye on those stumps.  Some may sprout again and quickly grow due to the existing root system.  Of course, this will beg the question, on a case by case basis, is it is a good thing or a bad thing.  Also, watch for erosion. If reasonably attended to, I suspect you will see impressive gains in 7 years or so.  

Oh yes, to answer one of your earlier questions, you are not crazy, but you are braver than I am.



Yeah. It was sure nice of them to coppice all of the hazels and willows for me. Keeps 'em nice and young.
 
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I have been through a similar step in Australia.
The mistakes I made are;
- tried to do much
- too soon
- did not wait and watch
- bought equipment based on advise that turned out wrong.

Some ideas;
- unless its a commercial operation dont hire contractors unless absolutely necessary.
- if no drive existes, place large rock, at least 1 1/2 inch crushed rock which will form the base of an ultimately good driveway.
- If building a house, stat small and design it in modules.
- create a toilet and shower facility and a cooking area quickly. Its nice to clean up at days end. Even if they are rudimentary initially.
- keep notes and draw plans
- think about planting a manure crop to stabalise to soil. Check with people that know.
- dreaming is permitted
 
pollinator
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What to do is a question of what resources/skills you do have now.

As they all have already said, first thing is to prevent erosion, so you don't lose all that soil. Even if you don't do anything about half your property for years, at least try to save this, since it is very hard to recover soil to the point where the property is useful again.

Then you have to plan your income sources, preferably something you are proficient at. If you are good with animals, but not growing seeds, well, that says where you would prioritize your efforts. If you were absolutely rich, maybe you could design your whole property now and place workers where needed, but that's unlikely. If you are to hire staff, you need a steady income.

If you have watched some Permaculture Design Course, you will know that it works by zoning, and best zoning for some operations depend on your water sources location. Water sources are very valuable for market gardens and also human consumption, but you want your house built over dry terrain. Find the best spot for your house (maybe also think about worker houses, barns, etc.), dry, solid ground, close to water sources, etc, that's zone 0. Next to the house is zone 1, the place where you grow things for your home, your garden, it's not a farming place so you have to manage it differently. Once you know where your house is going to be, design your roads and pathways. An ideal road will be helpful to collect water and prevent erosion by following altitude lines, not just for moving your car. Pathways should be at least dry.
If you have a zone that is somewhat steep but not too much, that's ideal for orchards, and if you have a zone where the water plateau is too high, giving a hard time to trees (they don't grow naturally here), that's ideal for pastures. If too steep, then leave it for wilderness. Even if the terrain is not ideal for some operation you can make it if you work hard and invest on it, but the more you work with the land instead of against it, the easier for you.

I can't stress how important it is to focus on one investment before commiting to the next one. Almost any investment is a year of losing money, followed by ten years of slow recovery before it starts to be profitable. Not many people are able or willing to invest, work and wait. Let's say you want a full farming operation in your property, with orchards, pastures, all sort of animals, woodlands, grain and market gardens. It may well be that you can't manage it everything yourself. But you could create a working grain field, and once it's stablished you can rent it to a willing farmer accepting your conditions or maybe hire someone who take care of that part of your enterprise if you want to keep control. Then you could invest in an orchard, while you make a live from your grain operation, and once the orchard is productive, rent it or hire someone to manage it for you while you focus on your next enterprise.
With a grand design, you could integrate all your operations so they reinforce each other, using the wastes from some of them as inputs for the others, reducing operation costs.

Even if you don't do it right at the beginning, it could be a good idea to plan where or if you are going to build water retention structures such as ponds. Cascading ponds are great, both for the livestock and for keeping the humidity and temperature of your surrounding soils right. They are a huge investment though, so maybe they have to wait, but if you know where you would build them, don't use that zone for any other permanent use.

 
Mathew Trotter
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John C Daley wrote:I have been through a similar step in Australia.
The mistakes I made are;
- tried to do much
- too soon
- did not wait and watch
- bought equipment based on advise that turned out wrong.

Some ideas;
- unless its a commercial operation dont high contractors unless absolutely necessary.
- if no drive existes, place large rock, at least 1 1/2 inch crushed rock which will form the base of an ultimately good driveway.
- If building a house, stat small and design it in modules.
- create a toilet and shower facility and a cooking area quickly. Its nice to clean up at days end. Even if they are rudimentary initially.
- keep notes and draw plans
- think about planting a manure crop to stabalise to soil. Check with people that know.
- dreaming is permitted



This.

A lot of the things I dreamed of doing when I first got out here turned out to be terrible ideas once I had put in the time to actually observe the land. I'm glad I never had the resources to make a lot of the mistakes I wanted to early on. Luckily I never had the money to buy more than hand tools, but even some of those I feel like were a waste of money now.

On the subject of driveways, the one thing I wish I'd had more input on is where the landowner had put the driveway. It was going to have to cross flowing water at some point, but I wish it had been placed a little more thoughtfully with regard to the shape of the landscape rather than basically being a straight line. To be fair, winding roads are longer and thus cost more, and it wasn't my money to spend. BUT, the placement is such that the water flow is already working on undercutting the road, and now it's up to me to come up with a design that will prevent that... whenever I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off with the other couple dozen or so projects I'm juggling simultaneously.

But yeah. I second everything on this list.

If building permits are anywhere near as heinous there as they are here, then the cost of the permit to build an addition is much cheaper than the initial construction. We're building the smallest size of house that can be legally permitted and everything else will be an addition. It's practical to start small, but it also makes financial sense.

Having a place to wash up and cook is also a huge deal, but doesn't have to be fancy. We have a little 4-burner camp stove that sips propane... just 10 gallons this past year for all of our cooking. A solar oven is on my list for summer cooking, but we had enough solar power to run a rice cooker or crockpot while the sun was shining, as well as keep a chest freezer running during the day, which then stayed frozen overnight until the sun started shining again. We now have a second chest freezer that we've converted to a refrigerator with an external thermostat. It's not as convenient as an upright refrigerator, but it takes hardly any power to run. I built an outdoor shower that I can use in the summer when it's warm enough. In the cooler months I heat water for a sponge bath or occasionally bum a ride into a friend's place where I can take a proper shower. They tell me that I should shower for longer, but compared to what I'm used to it is a long shower. Bathing is utilitarian; there are other luxuries I'd rather indulge in than wasting water. But I will say that it does really suck sometimes to come in from working hard, drenched with sweat and coated with mud, and not be able to just take a hot shower. Most of the time it's fine, but there have definitely been days where it's just too cold and wet to force myself to go out and work when I know that I'll never be able to get clean and warm again. But the good news is that your body acclimates to the temperature fairly well if you aren't constantly subjecting it to climate control. It's frequently too warm for me to wear a jacket  in the winter even when it's freezing out, unless all I'm doing is sitting.
 
John C Daley
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A butane Hot Water Service can be found anywhere.
They use little gas and the end of day clean up I find really refreshing.
Think about it again for use in winter and sun.

I even have a cast iron bath built over a fire to act as a spa/ hot tub.
It eases the strains when I need to.
 
Mathew Trotter
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John C Daley wrote:A butane Hot Water Service can be found anywhere.



Oh yeah. We've got such a water heater. Our "plumber" just didn't finish the bathroom/water heater hookup before he ran away for the winter to escape the cold. I have cold water hookups and a spot where a shower's supposed to be, now just waiting for the rest of it to get finished.
 
John C Daley
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Why cannot you hook it up?
 
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In my area (Alabama) a clear cut like that can cost as much as $1000/acre to pull all the stumps and clean & prep a seed bed to convert to pasture. If you have several years to wait, you could leave the stumps and debris to rot down to a soft enough state to pull a disk through. But by then you will have a lot of new growth to contend with that will need to be mulched. Skidder-mounted mulching can also run $1000/acre so you're back in the same predicament. You can always clean it up by hand if you're really young and energetic - or with an ox or mule like great grandpa did. People often clear-cut a property to cash in on the timber money right before they sell it, and the buyers don't always realize how expensive it is to fix the mess that's left behind.
 
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This is exactly what we are doing on 38 acres we bought in British Columbia last August. Previous owner had clearcut more than half the land about 5 years ago. A minefield of giant stumps and woody debris. We saw potential for a homestead and farm business.

My daughter and her partner have been cleaning up planting areas for the past 6 months. Its been a full time pursuit for them. With the two of them and a small tractor they have gotten about 3 acres prepped for swales which they are starting to build this week. We made a decision right at the start not to burn the slash piles. They are pulling apart and sorting them instead. Logs are salvaged for firewood sales or fence posts or future building material. Other materials are for wood chips, biochar or hugelkultur. It has been slow work but worthwhile. They also salvage and pot up young trees and other desirable plants which we will either replant in other parts of the property or sell if they are surplus to requirements.

We are making swales and planting nut trees in the cleared area this week and underplanting with other food, pollinator and native plants. The alleys between the swales will be mob-grazed by goats, geese and chickens. Another area that is in progress of cleanup is being turned into the start of a market garden area for sun-requiring species which will be a mix of perennial and annual food plants.

I should note that the first thing I did when we closed the deal for the land was an online PDC. I have been gardening and farming for 50 years and have a PhD in ecology but I didn't have the design experience so that PDC helped us get on the right track with planning from the start.
 
Andrea Locke
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Also, about stumps. We have areas we will be planting nut trees and their associated polycultures among the stumps. This being coastal BC, some of the stumps are bigger than a car. Here, we will make individual small earthworks to hold water for each tree. We are packing manure into some stumps to rot them out faster but its not a big deal if they remain.
 
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Thor Sten wrote:

Phil Grady wrote:
also a water feature would help with the wild life in the area.



There is a creek that runs 800 yards along one of the property lines.



I was looking at the property online on the National Map and noted there appears to be a intermittent stream shown on maps crossing the property near the road. I went ahead and put together a couple of overlays showing that info and that of the USDA Soil Map
C7DF5B03-4934-48C0-B86A-2B8203D2F667.png
[Thumbnail for C7DF5B03-4934-48C0-B86A-2B8203D2F667.png]
1AFAC2AD-C771-4931-97AF-585C320E87A5.png
[Thumbnail for 1AFAC2AD-C771-4931-97AF-585C320E87A5.png]
10419ED4-91FD-4D41-84C6-D4EE8A00A412.png
[Thumbnail for 10419ED4-91FD-4D41-84C6-D4EE8A00A412.png]
 
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I loved reading your post. I've been considering buying a 27 acre parcel of land slotted to be clear cut and have been wondering about all the things you mentioned. I see it as part of my retirement plan; plant trees and wander.
 
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Thor,

What kinds of trees were there before clear cutting?  I've seen oaks, locusts, and other trees send out new growth from stumps.  It may grow back sooner than you expect from highly developed root systems.
 
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I created an account just to respond to this post. I hope the author finds my response. I am appalled to find a 100 acre clear cut with no responsibility by the logger to clean it up or regenerate the land. I don't think there is a state in the western US that does not require clean-up of slash and replanting within a period of time. There is absolutely no selling of land like this.  Is this really legal in your state?

I am also concerned at those who recommend leaving the land to its own device or to plant random clover or grass. If you want this land to be as close to its original state as possible you will need to contact a naturalist in your area, someone who has studied the development of the forests and knows which plants were first, when which trees came in, how sun and shade affected growth, etc. The bare land will just allow the easiest growing invasive plant to take over and you definitely do not want that.

Would love to hear a follow up on your adventure.
 
John F Dean
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As a follow up to Sandy, In my younger ....and poorer ......years, I used to follow up on logging operations to subcontract with them to do the replanting.  What was really neat is that those operations were not interested in the branches......so I could harvest a good deal of firewood for myself or to sell. Hopefully, some struggling homesteader will read this and benefit.
 
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yup, all those branches and stuff are a resource, could be chipped up to make compost piles, could be gathered and cut up and sold as firewood, could be buried for hugelculture.
I dont know about there but here on the edge of the smokies when acreage is clearcut it doesn't have to be replanted because there are so many seeds and sprouts that the forest will just naturally start to regrow.
everything takes labor, to start and gather branches up and spread some type of grass seed to make pasture starts with the seeding and then onto fencing to keep your livestock in.
one thing that turns me off on properties such as yours is when someone comes in and piles up all the branches and makes them into giant bon fires when the resource can be utilized in so much better productive ways.
good luck with whatever you try to do but can be a worthwhile endeavor.
 
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I assume you want a 2 acre personal space with:
1/6acre house
1/3acre beehive + chicken + rabbit + fish/irrigation pond (1/4acre)
1/4acre vegetable garden
1 acre orchard
1/4 acre windbreak/pollard firewood/privacy fence/etc

Maybe you want a total of 5 such personal space, for future family members. So thats 10acres plus the 5acres that is still wild, leaving about 80 acres to play with.

I have lots of ideas for the 2acres homestead sites but lets focus on the 80acres remaining.  
Earthworks (Road Access, Ponds, Swales/Terraces)
Carpet the entire are with dutch clovers
The swales/terrace on contour would be filled with nitrogen fixing adler ever 15ft on the uphill
The swales would be filled with fruit and nut trees on 15ft centers on the downhill. Because you are planting seedling/seeds, you would plant maybe every 5ft and then cull.
The swales would concentrate water into pocket ponds.
Between the swales would be the dutch clover pasture, this could probably support 10cows year round with buying winter hay, or 25 with bought winter hay.

Basically I am proposing silvo-pasture/alley cropping. Between the adler and fruit trees, you could grow less grass and more vegetables.

You can probably put in a 2+ acre pond by the creek at the property line.
 
Andrea Locke
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We're just over a year into our farm and homestead development on 38 acres of which more than half was clear-cut (and left in an awful mess) by the former owner about 6 years ago, and having taken photos to document the one-year mark it seemed like a good time to post an update here. 99% of the physical work on-site has been done by my daughter and her boyfriend, using my subcompact tractor (I would have bought a bigger tractor had I known this property was in our future). I commute up when possible and help out for a few hours, but with a fulltime job and the livestock still living at our old place, I can only manage occasional day trips. Looking forward to the time (maybe next year?) when we are fully moved to the new place and are no longer splitting our energies between two properties and spending so much time on the road (we are not too far as the raven flies, but the round trip for humans involves 4 ferry rides and the accompanying long waits in ferry lineups so it's loooong).

Original condition of property:
- approx 15-20 acres clear-cut, full of slash and giant stumps and even stacks of large usable logs (very wasteful! but we're salvaging as much as we can before it rots), badly eroded (we figure from the soil level on the stumps about a foot of soil was lost), regenerating mainly as sparse invasive plants with the occasional seedling of native trees and a few resprouting stumps, provincial soil survey characterized this area as sandy loam coastal Douglas fir forest, currently loamy sand with very low nutrients
- approx 1-2 acres former homestead/farm site, old apple/pear/hawthorn orchard, some bricks (chimney, foundation?) are all that remains of a house that was found inside a massive overgrown invasive holly patch from a mother plant that was probably planted by the old house
- approx 3 acres very overgrown and wet field, remnants of a horse shelter, remnants of a barbed wire fence
- few areas of the property completely escaped the logging, even if it was removing the higher-value trees only. Wet alder areas were not logged.
- logging roads in bad condition criss-cross throughout the property

Accomplishments to date:
- Farm gates installed across the two access roads, and the roads themselves made usable for access with a pickup truck or tractor - ditches and culverts installed (eventually these will connect up to ponds), graded (box blade on tractor has made this a much faster task than the tractor loader bucket),  roads surfaced with homemade wood chips where possible, supplemented with one load of purchased gravel in the worst areas. This has succeeded so well that one day this summer when my elderly truck was in the shop I was able to (carefully) drive my small car that has very little road clearance up the (admittedly best) road to reach the RV.

- About 2 acres completely cleaned up (slash piles dismantled;  usable lumber salvaged; firewood chopped, split and sold; posts set aside; branches and rotted lumber chipped and/or turned into biochar), invasive species uprooted and biocharred, native species rescued and either moved and replanted on the property or donated to the native plant depot, swales constructed, berms planted with European x Japanese hybrid chestnuts, underplanted with a bunch of different things (peas, potatoes, various squash, perennial bulbs and pollinator support flowers, herbs, strawberries, asparagus, clovers, oats, fruit bushes), irrigation installed (because the swales only got built in the spring after the rains were mostly done, and this is a sandy soil with very little organic matter in a place where there is almost no rain from April to September - we hope to minimize irrigation once the trees are bigger and the soil condition and moisture retention improves). The chestnuts were planted with a sprinkling of a commercially available mycorrhizal inoculant and we have a couple of bathtubs in use to propagate king stropharia on cardboard and burlap, which is being distributed out into the planting berms under woodchips where and as possible

- Another 3 acres fenced and partly cleaned up, continuous with the first 2 acres - cleanup and planting to be finished this fall, hopefully - we may bring some of our goats up to help with clearing brush. The goose house was dismantled and moved up from the old place for the goats to live in, if they come up to help.

- Well installed last fall, pumphouse built, pump put in this spring, presently powered by generator when needed as there is no power to the lot and will be hooked up to off-grid solar, eventually. Latest improvement is a hot-water-on-demand system hooked up to an outdoor shower. To irrigate, start generator and pump water to a 250-gal tote on the back of the truck and haul to top of hill where a big tank is hooked up to the irrigation system...

- Water storage in tanks, totes and barrels catching water off all possible roof systems - the newly built pumphouse, outhouse, small storage shed, and RV - most shed building was done with recycled pallet wood, salvage from the old horse shed, and rough lumber chainsaw-milled on site

- RV parked on site and made more livable and comfortable by addition of solar panels, deck made with chainsaw-milled lumber, bathroom has been removed and installation of wood stove is in progress in former bathroom - bathroom was not in use - built an outhouse with composting toilet with solar powered fan, and the outdoor shower mentioned above. A second RV was donated, needs some work but this might be my home next summer which is my goal to move up/sell the old farm.

- Small car-shelter greenhouse in use inside the fenced 2-acre chestnut polyculture orchard, growing plant starts, some veggies (hot peppers, tomatoes), etc. Nursery holding area for potted trees and fruit bushes that were moved up from the old property but not yet planted is temporarily sited next to this greenhouse as it is the only area deer-fenced

- Bigger Solexx-covered hoophouse (12 x 25 ft) partly built in the middle of the property at the same level as the orchard. We paused construction after a barn swallow decided to build a nest up under the roof - for now, we refer to it as a wind tunnel, the ends are yet to be built. The swallows have moved on so we can finish the ends now. This area is where the nursery operation, most vegetable gardening and future farmstand/nursery sales will be located but the area has to be fenced first. Soil is much better than up on the hill, and I think of it as the Goldilocks zone - neither too dry or too wet for most plants. A few raised beds next to the wind tunnel grew huge garlic, fava beans, some deer-resistant herbs, and an experimental plot of saffron. Most of these were lightly munched by deer later in the summer. Chestnuts were planted up in the dry zone as the drainage is better there and once established they can handle the dry.

- Orchard rehab. A multi-year process of removing broken limbs, cutting back the holly that was smothering the orchard, other invasive plants. Underplanting trees with comfrey, herbs, etc. and spreading wood chips. seaweed and composted manure.

- Two beehives installed on the edge of the orchard are doing well.

- Mushroom logs were prepared from a freshly killed maple tree that blew down in a storm, and installed in the wet alder woods - oyster mushroom, turkey tail, reishi, shiitake. We've also tried seeding morels and chanterelles but that's more of a long shot.

- Starting to clear and level space for buildings - 20 x 20 livestock barn will be made from 2 shipping containers with a roof over the gap; and there's a 46 x 20 steel quonset kit coming in Sept.  Much as we would like to build with wood milled from the site, fire risk is a major consideration and we're planning the larger buildings will all be built with fire-resistant materials. Earthquake resistance is also a consideration here.

- Built a mobile chicken coop on an old boat trailer - so far not in use, as the chickens are still at the old place. But will be used with electric poultry netting for silvipasture between the chestnut rows.

- Listed last, but was one of the first activities initiated and is ongoing - observation and discovery. Figuring out the patterns in soil, water and light; developing a native plants list for the property; wildlife cameras; etc.  In general the original design for the property is still valid, but some details of building placement were tweaked (adjustments for soil moisture) after a year of observing the site.

Long term plans:

- This will be a multi-generational homestead and farm business. The main 'cash crops' of the farm will be the products of the nut polyculture (mainly chestnuts, but also other nuts, fruits, berries, herbs, etc.) and a nursery operation specializing in perennial food and medicinal plants. Essentially a permaculture/regenerative farm and garden nursery. We're not quite halfway through planting the trees we have on hand at the moment for the polyculture orchards. Got some income already this year from sales of nut trees, fruit bushes, etc., and have pre-orders for garlic, saffron and other bulbs that we'll be selling this fall. It will be a few years before the farm income comes close to matching the farm expenses, although selling the old hobby farm and eliminating that mortgage will help. Until we're closer to breaking even I keep my day job.

- The rest of the clearcut mess needs to be cleaned up (a multi-year job), and as this happens we'll plant out different areas or set them up as pasture for the times we can't have livestock in the tree alleys.  We have a few hundred trees and shrubs in pots awaiting planting. Some of these will go into the second chestnut area, but trees that are less drought-resistant than chestnuts (quite a few of the trees, in other words) will need to be planted in the lower and wetter parts of the property.

- Thanks to the deer, all planting areas need to be fenced like Fort Knox. We want eventually to fence the whole perimeter with deer fence but the distance is a full mile and there are higher priorities to do first.

- We'll be building two small houses and a bunch of other outbuildings, off-grid solar-powered, also rainwater storage in lots of ponds as well as the tanks that will eventually be repurposed for domestic-use rainwater storage. We want a bunch of ponds not just for irrigation water storage but also to act as fire breaks around the property, plus have plans for a big one with an island in the middle planted with edible and timber bamboo. The drainage ditches and planting swales and future ponds will eventually all be connected together as one cohesive water management network.


Sorry, this has turned out a lot longer than I intended! But it's been a busy year. Maybe I should start a thread for the farm and probably will do that soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading and I hope this will be useful documentation for someone else starting out.






 
Andrea Locke
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Part 2 - some photos to go with the 1-year progress report.
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Looking into the chestnut orchard from the RV deck
Looking into the chestnut orchard from the RV deck
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Looking downhill in chestnut orchard. A slash pile outside the fence.
Looking downhill in chestnut orchard. A slash pile outside the fence.
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Still in the orchard. In the distance, the giant white wind tunnel greenhouse.
Still in the orchard. In the distance, the giant white wind tunnel greenhouse.
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A few trees produced a few chestnuts this year
A few trees produced a few chestnuts this year
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It pretty much all looked like this, a year ago
It pretty much all looked like this, a year ago
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A more lightly logged area. Skinny and wonky trees left behind.
A more lightly logged area. Skinny and wonky trees left behind.
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Earlier days, building swales with the box blade
Earlier days, building swales with the box blade
 
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