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Observations from our new property

Posts: 6
Location: Nashville, TN
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Hi y'all, This is Christine Buckingham in western middle TN, just a few mile east of the Tennessee river.
So I'm standing at the south end of our newly acquired property thinking "look at all those trees, there must be so much great soil underneath all that"...
Wow, was I wrong. The first thing I noticed was the lack of bird songs, since then I have seen a couple wood peckers and heard one blue jay, but otherwise very few birds in this part of the property.
Next I look at the soil, lots of old leaves and downed tree parts from the select cut logging operation 5 years ago, but when that stuff is moved there is no life, dig down a couple inches and still no life. Now it hasn't rained in 2 months here, but I would have expected this area to have collected a decent amount of water from before the drought due to the amount of humus being created, but it didn't. The only thing growing in this area is a few scraggly thorn vines and lots of very small seedlings, and enough big trees to make a complete canopy cover.
Then, after visiting this spot many times I note the lack of squirrels, this place is a squirrels dream, lots of white and red oak dropping lots of acorns, but not a squirrel in site. Also, no snakes, been trekking  up and down many draws and yet to see one snake.
Last, just last week we identified fire ants on the property, fun fun.
Could all this be just from the drought?
Are the fire ants really running off all the small animals in the area?
Will our efforts to catch more water and cycle animals through these areas be as helpful as I hope?

Any insights or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Posts: 1699
Location: Denver, CO
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Welcome to Permies!

Is this second growth forest? If so, low diversity and less the ideal soil is to be expected. What kinds of trees are there other then oaks? Is the canopy closed and are the trees overcrowded? If so, some clearings might help improve diversity in the understory. How many acres do you have?

In general, grasslands actually have better soil then forests. Not that forest soil can't be improved, but there is a reason that most of the East coast was once farmland, but was later abandoned to trees again; it played out very quickly. That does not have to happen, but in an area with lots of rain (usually) nutrients will leach out of the soil quickly. I'd recommend reading Steve Solomon's book The Intelligent Gardener. Be warned that his style can come off as a bit contentious, and that he does not like mulch; but that said, it is a very useful book. Your soil is also probably geologically old; there have been no geologically recent glaciers or volcanoes to restore minerals to the soil.

Drought can have a huge impact on organic matter cycling in the soil. The soil might bounce back to life with a bit of rain.

I don't know about fire ants.

Christine Buckingham
Posts: 6
Location: Nashville, TN
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There is actually a decent diversity of trees in this area oak, maple, sweet gum, sycamore, cedar and at least two others I have yet to identify.
It's at least second growth if not third. It seems to me there is no part of Tennessee that hasn't been logged at some point in the past. The last operation was select cut so there are still some good sized trees. And the canopy in this section is closed.
We have a good amount of land, the plan is to let this section be zone 5 due to it's distance from the plate were the house will be, and the steepness of the area.
Will check out the book you suggested, thanks.
master steward
Posts: 4041
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Christine, you may have more wildlife that might be hiding from you.  On our property I rarely see the wildlife but it is here as we see it on our game cameras.  Do you have a source of water for them?  If not then they are where the nearest water might be.  Wildlife need water, food and shelter.  And yes the drought might have some influence.

Have your soil tested.  Contact your local County Extension agent for information.

Welcome to permies and congratulation on your new land. Think of it as a restoration in progress.
Posts: 6686
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Christine, I am addressing many of your issues in this threadprime goal of permaculture

Look! I laid an egg! Why does it smell like that? Tiny ad, does this smell weird to you?
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