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Starting out on mostly wooded land.. Zone 8a louisiana

 
Michael Gray
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Hi I'm in Louisiana zone 8a, I get 64" of rain annually and my land is mostly flat/bumpy with lots of low spots that hold water when it rains. I have a good bit of lawn, some 10 year regrowth (mostly wisteria and privet with pine and oak), and a lot of what appears to be much older regrowth. This was once prime farmland. It is now a mix of oaks, sweetgum, pine, magnolia, Chinese tallow, a few pecans... The wild edibles i have found are the pecans, a lot of chanterelles mid summer, elderberries and blackberries on the forest edge, and wild muscadines everywhere.
So my question is, if I am wanting to make the most income off of this land with least impact, what should I do? I know I can grow mushrooms under the closed canopy and maybe some shade lovers, but would I do better to start cutting trees and replanting with a more edible over story like more pecans and other nuts? We have discussed having a timber company come out so we can get a little more start up money and also have some more garden/orchard space, but I find the idea of cutting down trees ethically questionable (except for the tallow trees which are impossible to get rid of). I also don't trust the timber company to tread lightly on my land!
So does anybody have any ideas? I know that I already have enough cleared space to grow all my food and a little more.. But how can I utilize the rest of this land without harming it? Do I just leave it alone? What coul be grown under a fully closed canopy that has real economic value?
One thought I have is to cut a few clearings here and there with paths branching out from the house to the various clearings, creating many different edges, or I could just cut into the edge at points making a more wavy forest edge with little inlets. Any input is much valued, as I am learning this on my own at this point!
Here is a pic of my property
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Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9402
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Do you want to grow crops or would you consider animals? Goats, cattle, some breeds of sheep, ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs can all be raised in the forest. And they can help make clearings if you want more open areas.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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If you are new to the game at all, I would start by really focusing on the cleared land you already have and maximize the yield from that. Think about subsistence....what you yourself need to eat and/or use, and at the same time keep an eye on local marketing opportunities and see what's in demand for future expansion. The small early gardens will gain you valuable experience with your local climate, soil dynamics, ecosystems, and so on.
On anything more than an acre or two, whether kept in forest or not, you will soon face the limitations of your own time and energy. Most growers over this land area leverage their energy by means of 1. machinery and fossil energy 2. additional labor, whether hired, volunteer, you-pick, etc. or 3. using animals to concentrate and upgrade diffuse nutrients. So it will be important in your planning, especially if your plans get ambitious, to consider how and by whom all the work will get done. Without a lot of labor, and without a lot of capital and/or energy; most large-scale systems with a view to marketing focus on forest products and/or animals.
 
Michael Gray
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Fencing the property to keep in large animals is not really in the budget, but poultry is definitely going to happen. I guess for now working on zone 1 is the priority, along with utilizing the heavy shade of the forest and heavy rains for growing mushrooms. Your point about being limited by labor, resources, etc is definitely a valid one, so I will focus more on what can be done within my limits.
 
I think I'll just lie down here for a second. And ponder this tiny ad:
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