This is my first post in the forum, so please be gentle with a newbie.
My wife and I are in the process of buying a cabin with 6 acres of land in the North Carolina Piedmont. 3 acres of this property is fenced pasture, on a hillside sloping to the northwest. The pasture is somewhat overgrown with weeds and brambles, although there is also a lot of grass present. I'm not sure when the last time it was used but it must be at least several years. My hope is to begin planting a variety of fruit and nut trees on this part of the property, using swales and Hugel culture, hopefully I will succeed in producing some good crops of fruit and nuts organically and sustainably.
My question right now though it is what is the best use of the pasture land as it currently exists. I would like to get it cleaned up, get brush the grass cut regularly and clean out some of the brambles. I had thought of trying to find someone locally who needs hay, to cut the field in exchange for the hay. However, after asking around, I'm not sure anybody's going to be interested in a small acreage such as this. Since I have a full-time, 50 hour per week job, I don't really have the extra time nor do I have the equipment to take on this task myself. Unfortunately my wife would not be able to do much physical work, because of health issues. So I thought that another solution would be to get some grazing animals, such as donkeys or sheep, and subdivide the pasture area into paddocks, and they could help take care of the overgrown areas. At first I thought about goats, but I'm a little bit worried about them escaping, and also as I understand that they tend to be browsers, not grazers, so I'm not sure they would be very happy eating the grass. The animals, should we get them, would no doubt quickly become pets, so it would be pointless to plan to raise them up and then send them off for slaughter, it just wouldn't happen once we got attached to them.
You might be able to lease the pasture to someone else who would bring their animals to it. Look into Holistic Management....they go into great detail about the use of mob grazing to rehabilitate soils and landscapes. My sense is it doesn't really matter which animals you use, provided there are enough of them and their activities are focused on a small area at a time, when that is eaten down, they are moved on. Also look into Keyline plowing, which will improve soil structure and water infiltration. Ideally, even in a heavy rain, you should see no runoff leaving the area.....this is also the purpose of swaling.
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