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Rock Harvesting - step one to transforming the land.

steward & author
Posts: 29621
Location: Left Coast Canada
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It use to be chicken pasture, but the hens dwindled due to age, and it got to be jut too much for them. So we decided if it won't grow eggs, then maybe it will grow other yummies.

The project: To transform 1/8th of an acre from chicken pasture to field/garden.

I say 1/8th, It is probably more. Or less. I haven't measured it yet. Somewhere between 1/16th and 1/3rd of an acre.

5 years with over 20 chickens on it, means that there isn't a single weed to be seen... at least until after we took the chickens off it. But even then, there are very few weeds and lots of lovely chicken deposits to help get things started.

Imagine lots of lovely, compact dirt, on a slope.

Now add rocks the size of a squash.

And I mean that. There are tiny decorative gourd size rocks, and monstrous, win first prize at the fair, can barely nudge with the tractor rocks. But most of them are fist size.

The problem: it's on a ridge created by glacial deposits - Lots of rocks.

The method so far: We put the plough on the back of our little hobby tractor to break up the soil. This reviled a lot of rocks, so I got some buckets and gathered the rocks. Then we started sculpting the filed into terraces (more on that later). Gathered rocks. Lightly tilled the first tarrice because it's already time to get the plants in the ground. Gathered rocks.

I have kale, favas, garlic, and other over winter crops waiting to get in the soil, but the rate we are going, it's going to be next year before enough of the rocks are gone to till the soil properly. UG!

A Different Problem: We have no way to irrigate this during the drought. We are already nearing the limit of the current well system.

The Solution: To grow staple crops that don't require irrigation or much other input. To shape the land to reduce the water needs.

By planting mostly winter, and over winter crops, we get around needing to water. Plants that can withstand the frost and go in the soil in the fall or early spring, before the weather dries up, can usually get their roots deep enough that they can source their own water. We also have a lot of dew in the summer, which some plants find sufficient to live on.

I also hope to experiment with different planting dates. For example, I read in a few different places that flax was grown as an overwinter crop in some parts of the world. I love growing fibre flax. I hope to plant a square foot or so every week the soil can be worked, then observe how it grows, how the weather effects it, and the final quality of the fibre produced.

My other plan is to do a wee bit of plant breeding, work on my landrace barley and amaranth, and maybe get started on some other staple crops like chickpeas, wheat, and soup peas.

I think I can grow a lot of calories on this little bit of land.

If it wasn't for these darn rocks.

In the meantime, we are shaping the terraces and I was thinking of putting rocks along the slopes to help gather the dew in the summer. The land slopes west, south west ish. Maybe a bit more to the west. So it stays moister in the summer mornings than the rest of the yard.

If you are in my neck of the woods and would like to harvest rocks please let me know. I figure for an hour rock harvesting, I can feed you soup (let me know in advance if it needs to be vegan or other dietary requirements) made from ingredients grown on my farm. For a second hour, you can go home with a bag of yummy produce from my farm.

I'm not rich, or any good at making money. But I excel at growing yummy things and am willing to trade them for help.

I think it needs about 6 people working two good hours to clear the land of enough rocks to move onto the next step... do you think this is the kind of thing I would get a response if I advertized on Used-anywhere? Do you think I could get the right kind of people who would actually work instead of gushing over the cute animals? Where else could I seek help? What other solutions to my bumper crop of rocks do you suggest?
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Location: NC (northern piedmont)
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You could talk to this guy....

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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Could you make rock piles at certain intervals to both collect water, and clear some areas for more intensive planting? I remember watching a documentary about easter island that showed one of their farm lands and it had been covered with rocks for this purpose. Seems like it would take less work to pile them together in the field, and then just Use the tractor weaving through the piles.
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