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Converting A Boggy Woodland To Productive Grazing.

 
Michael Unger
Posts: 2
Location: Elma, Manitoba
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I have 80acres of mostly peat bog, being completely wooded mostly with conifers. Stands of alder and young tamarack grow were there was logging some 25 years ago. (According to the locals) The idea now is to establish some small pasture area so we could raise goats, sheep, and grains.
Right now my plan is to coppice the new growth, in the former clear cuts. Thus allowing for lots of fodder for goats. As the goats clear the regrowth in an area I would cut the alders to the ground. Follow that with cover crop seeding via chicken tractor. The next year would maybe see pigs pastured before seeding grains and grasses.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
-Duck grazing?
-Is moist peat bog a problem for hoofed animals?
-Ideal chicken, goat, and pig breeds for woodland and pasture foraging? (Cold Hardy)

 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Michael,

We can wait to see what others have to say, but I have very strong reservations as a Permaculturist introducing such invasive agrarian practices into a "wet lands" of any kind. These are very sensitive biomes, and though they can be utilized in a homeostatic fashion, we must be diligant not to be exploitive to the point of causing harm. I would never introduce swine into this ecosystem, and only limited introduction of other live stock. This is all dependent on many factors of your watershed, as wel as, if you have enough land to be selectively rotational. There are other concerns and modalities to consider, yet at this point, I would like to read what others feel.

Regards,

j
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Hi Michael,

You must be in some northern clime to describe it as a peat bog. Just how soggy is it? Does your water table fluctuate, or do you have low variations in rainfall and water level? Is it flat, or is there a definite low spot where water collects and is seasonally inundated?

If it does get inundated, I have just the thing for you -- bald cypress. They would need to be protected the first few years, but cypress wetlands are quite productive ecosystems, and if you decided to pasture some turkeys, they really like the bald cypress seed cones.
 
Michael Unger
Posts: 2
Location: Elma, Manitoba
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The ground is flat and the water tables is high. The ground can be moist into June. Digging 3 to 4 feet down you hit water and clay. I've only dug another 2 feet into the clay after that. I am trying to be respectful of the woodland's natural way of doing things. Working with many preexisting clearings, and clearing windfall and young bush to expand. I would like to incorporate the alders into my hedgerows for their nitrogen fixing properties. The total area of space we are talking is 1.5 acres. Definitely not looking to shock the woods in the same way the loggers did.
 
Mike Sved
Posts: 42
Location: Geraldton, Ontario -Zone 1b
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Hi Michael,

We just purchased 26 acres that are very similar to your acreage, although I think our ground is more muskeg than peat and our zone is 1b versus your 2b. I'm very interested in what your approach will be as we are trying to decide on our own. We have primarily black spruce, poplar and tamarack along with alder, willow and at least two lonely birch trees. Our topography seems to be contained within about 15 feet of relief, so I think that nearly qualifies as 'flat'.
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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books fungi hugelkultur solar wofati woodworking
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Michael Unger : After Jay C. White Clould's thoughtful comments, I am a little hesitant to propose this but, On property I had a 'family interest in' we had two
experiences that changed our land usage on 100s of acres!

Most Everyone who has a wood lot larger than they can maintain themselves has had an experience with hiring Loggers to harvest timber and having good
roads and land rutted and drainage damaged, destroyed creating additional wet lands, We actually had the opposite happen when a deep very long Log -
skidder Rut punched through a thin layer of clay 4'' - 5'' and changed the drainage for about 75 acres and opened up access to land our 'Family' had
considered unreachable as we could not provide firm footing for horses except in the dead of winter !

A few years later we had a problem with a large beaver dam, beaver flow that many in the family considered too large, too dangerous to remove, Long after
the Beaver were trapped out, the beaver dam finally failed. Acre feet travelled through miles of stream valleys and again major change was made in a series
of 'Hanging Valleys' as the hard clay pan of ancient shorelines were scoured away! You may find that your drainage can be improved if you are willing to do
a lot of work in digging exploratory holes. However, this should also be considered a cautionary tale, be careful what you wish for - you may get it ! Big AL !
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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It sounds like you already have great grazing --- for moose. Many hoofed animals don't want wet feet. Goats will do poorly with wet feet.

Your land is a good candidate for hugelkultur. The beds get your plants up off the cold damp. You might also have luck with Saskatoon berries on higher spots, blueberries and cranberries.

With highly organic soils like yours, disturbance usually causes gassing off of carbon. This can lower your elevation. There are many drained swamps that have been turned into market gardens. Over time they must have the soil level topped up or they revert to swamp as the soil gasses off. Additional drainage would seem to be the answer, but once the soil level drops to a certain level, there is nowhere to drain to as these soils are found on level ground.

Rabbit and poultry tractors would allow you to use the forage without rutting the place up.

Are you able to drive a pickup truck through the prospective pastures ? If this would surely end with the truck badly stuck, I don't think that the land would do well with heavy hoofed animals on it.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Michael,

Now I have something to work with (see if you can get us some photos...could you?) I don't like introducing nonnative species very often, yet John E.'s advice is one I would possible try as there is limited chance that species would go invasive.

If your test holes are not filling with water and you do not have permanent standing water, then this is a dryer bog habitat. It is also smaller than anticipated at only 1.5 acres, though I would still like to se some rotational activity if possible.

How much land do you have governance over?

The turkeys sound good as do muscovy duck, indian walkers or another eggs production breed. I like chickens more for pets and/or some meat, but duck by far are probably the best eggs producing avian breed (2 per day at peak) convert food fast to meat-egg production, and are less invasive than chicken. Pheasant-quail ssp are another option to consider.

I would also condone "free range" goats, but you may have hoof issues if it is too wet and/or they do not have things to climb and get out of the "muck." Swine need to be penned and moved weekly and observe for damage to watershed, generally NOT RECOMMENDED for this biome type.

Try Rabbits in movable pens as a replacement for the piggies. Rabbit is a great meat, best feed to meat production of any species I know of (other than some fish.) Droppings are great fresh right onto the garden and don't "burn" plants like other non composted waste. When (and if) we get sustainable domestic Deer available, two Does would be excellent to have in place of or in addition to Goats.

Lets see what others say now...
 
C. Letellier
Posts: 221
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Anyone in the US thinking of doing this be very careful. If it qualifies as wetland the government red tape is huge to be able to modify it at all, if you even can. And if you get caught not following everything the fines can be in the thousands of dollars per day till it is corrected to their satisfaction.
 
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