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Waiting to close on 5 acres, overwhelmed already  RSS feed

 
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Hi all,

I've kept my eye on you for a good while, though just venturing into the fray myself now. I love permaculture theory and practice. I've read numerous books, but I have thus far lived in small, landless apartments in a large Midwestern city. The dirtiest I've ever gotten my hands is 3 summers tending a 32 sqft community garden bed.

And now, as of early October, I am closing on a house + barn + shed + 2 chicken/duck houses on 5 acres in climate zone 5. What a jump in responsibility! All of my dreams of weaving together this mesh of interconnected systems is about to meet the reality of life.

I am a physical therapist, and will be doing home health in the area in which I live, 4 days per week (we found a good enough deal on the place that I don't need to work full time). It allows for as flexible a schedule as I want during those days. I have a lovely wife + 3 kids under age 6, so most of the work will be my responsibility. We've got some family in the area that can pitch in from time to time.

Attached are some images of the property. It is gently sloping to the north, surrounded by woods, conservation area, and an older lady living on 1 acre in the SW corner. Across the street is ~150 acres of soybeans.

The back fenceline is low and moist, but doesn't flood. The western border is some kind of shallow ravine/wash. Most of the trees in the middle are some sort of small native cherry tree the previous owners planted to attract birds. Closer to the barn are some medium sized silver maples. There are no areas being actively cultivated. It is *all* grass. There are SIX riding mowers in the barn.

We would love to work towards being mostly self-sufficient, and slowly developing into an income-producing small farm. All I can think about now, though, is how to keep all that grass from turning into jungle. I have no interest in mowing more than 1000sqft so my kids have a clear place to run around.

I don't have an enormous amount of time to dedicate, and have very limited experience with animals. That being said, I would consider anything that would help us work towards our goals, and save me from endless mowing.

What are your ideas, suggestions, recommendations? I'd love to hear them all!

Paul
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Posts: 1788
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Being in zone 5 means that you just about have a 5 month growing season and a 4 month grass problem.
So buy a calf and raise it for 4 months then have it butchered. You dont even have to eat it.
You are going to need electric fencing that you have to spend 7 minutes moving daily.
 
Posts: 567
Location: Mid-Michigan
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Congratulations, Po!

It's exciting, and I was in your shoes last year- five acres, the small kids, came from an apartment, too much grass... Only difference might be that we had gradually been planting bigger and bigger gardens each place we lived, up to a couple thousand square feet.


So, first question: how's the house? Mine needed a ton of work, so that took precedence over growing things the first summer. If yours needs anything, I'd recommend doing it first. Happy wife, happy life.

Next question: are you done having kids? You have to be more cautious with your plans if she might get pregnant any day now. You've been there; you know that it turns your attention away from whatever you WERE working on.

I made a push to get asparagus and strawberries in the ground the first summer. That was good. They take a couple of years to produce well (asparagus mainly), so having that head start felt good. Same with a limited number of fruit trees. You can't try to plant them all, because then you're not inside where you belong, unpacking boxes and hanging coat hooks, but I was able to get seven in the ground, and we were both glad of it.

So to sum up: in your first year at the new place, take care if Mrs. White first, the house second, and the land last. You're in this for the long haul- take care of the foundation.

Best of luck! Show us some more pictures!

Edit: Five acres isn't that bad to mow twice a year, and that's all you need to prevent succession. So I mow an acre or so of lawn, then a set of paths through the tall grass. Twice a year, brushhog the tall grass down. The paths let me go enjoy the rest of the land- watch things, make plans, learn about the water and temperature differences, etc.
 
Po White
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Thanks greatly for the sound advice, Mike.
 
Posts: 397
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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You might consider letting at least some of that grass go ahead and start turning to jungle. I have noticed that active succession seems to powerfully galvanize natural life. As change accelerates, a dynamism arises that's absent once terminal succession sets in, and the stasis associated with artificial maintenance of any particular stage (especially an early one) promotes sterility. The equilibrium found in climax communities seems to entail less energy flow than the transformational processes in operation during succession. Some of the most vibrant and amazing places are disturbed sites in process of healing. So unless you have fascistic regulations forbidding you from allowing nature to function the way it does, let it be fruitful and multiply unmolested. The birds, insects, and soil will thank you. And your kids will discover incredible things going on between the other inhabitants of the land.
 
Posts: 1947
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Victor Johanson wrote:You might consider letting at least some of that grass go ahead and start turning to jungle. I have noticed that active succession seems to powerfully galvanize natural life. As change accelerates, a dynamism arises that's absent once terminal succession sets in, and the stasis associated with artificial maintenance of any particular stage (especially an early one) promotes sterility. The equilibrium found in climax communities seems to entail less energy flow than the transformational processes in operation during succession. Some of the most vibrant and amazing places are disturbed sites in process of healing. So unless you have fascistic regulations forbidding you from allowing nature to function the way it does, let it be fruitful and multiply unmolested. The birds, insects, and soil will thank you. And your kids will discover incredible things going on between the other inhabitants of the land.



I think this is valid up to a point. It is much easier to establish new plants through sod than it is to have to root up or otherwise kill bushes/shrubs and trees that form part of natural succession.

I'd probably resign yourself to mowing it for a while, but perhaps let the grass grow a little longer than the norm between mowings. We have a patch of meadow/jungle which we cut twice a year, once in spring and once in late summer after flowering. The late cut is an absolute female-dog. It gets too long and tangled for the ride on mower to get through, the hand mower even worse. A strimmer was our best bet for while, but it was backbreaking and had to be staggered over days. A large part of the problem was the preponderance of bindweed tying everything together.
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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I suppose it depends on what the timeline is; if it's years, that's a lot of futile maintenance. Better to just let some biomass accumulate. It's free organic material, courtesy of the sun. Turn it into hugelbeds when the time comes, and don't waste time sitting on a noisy contraption. Play with your kids in the jungle instead.
 
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