Just discovered these forums a couple weeks ago, and I am impressed! This is what I've been looking for on the internet.....
I just bought 40 acres of beautiful ridgetop land in the driftless region of SW Wisconsin. 20 acres tillable, ringed by 20 acres of woods. The tillable land has been in a conventional corn/soy rotation for the past 15 years or so. Luckily, last year was a soy year. My job keeps me on the road most of the year, so turning this land into a self-sustaining homestead is going to be a bit by bit process.
My plan for this spring is to plant hay on nearly all of the bare tillable land. Eventually, I see having only about half of it in hay, but I figure for now I would rather have 20 acres of hay than 10 acres of hay and 10 acres of queen annes lace and wild parsnip..... Here are my questions for the forum:
-I'd like some advice on what sort of a mixture I should plant. We plan on having a couple of goats and a flock of chickens in the next year or two. The soil has a decent "crumb" to it already, easy to sink a spade into, mostly clay. The farmer who had been farming it tilled as little as he could.
-How should I plant it? My partner and I want to see just how much we can do without the help of fossil fuels, so we would like to broadcast the seed by hand. I have heard that this can be done when there is still a little snow on the ground (to help see where you've cast), and that a few freeze/thaw cycles will work the seed into the ground. My worry is that I will just be throwing birdseed out there......
We have been living on a friends homestead for the past few years, raising goats, chickens, turkeys, and about an acre of vegetables, but we have zero experience with hay (besides buying it and feeding it to the goats!).
Thanks in advance, I'm really looking forward to learning from and contributing to these forums.
Congrats on buying your new place. I think your plan of starting off with hay and working up from there makes alot of sence. I agree that native grasses may have some advantages, but since you already have the goats, and have been feeding them Hay, why not see what type of hay they like the best and plant some of that. Just a thought, the hay is after all being grown for them. It might make sense to feed them something they like the best.
Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Formerly pa_friendly_guy_here
Ludi - We love the idea of returning some of this open land to native prairie grasses, but quite frankly we don't have the money to buy the seed right now. We have some friends who have some great prairies, and we'd like to do some seed collecting in the next few years, but right now I'd like to just put in a hardy hay crop that can cover this bare ground while I'm out on the road building America! (I'm a journeyman ironworker.....)
Friendly guy - Thanks! That's a great idea. I'll ask the goats, or rather my girlfriend, who is the goat-whisperer on this team. Although want to make some considerations for the land itself as well, get some good deep roots in there to help build my organic matter content. Also, what mix will work well together? A quick search of the forums for "hay guild" doesn't turn up any results.
Just make sure whatever you plant won't be a pest in the future when you want to try to transition to prairie. For instance here we have King Ranch Bluestem which is originally from Africa, I think. It lodges horribly and kills itself and other plants out. Just hateful stuff that makes planting natives that much more difficult. You might be able to find a foundation prairie grass with affordable seed, such as perhaps a native bluestem. Because prairie restoration is becoming more common, some types of seed are being grown in large quantities and sold less expensively. You have to shop around.
A native or non-invasive adapted clover might be a good choice as an interim hay crop.
I would plant some trees too. Trees are always good. Some nuts, timber, fruit whatever a good mixture. You have to separate this from your goats. If the trees are a bit bigger you can run some sheep with them, they don't destroy bigger trees. Are you both working full time? Because so much land is a huge amount of work! Especially if you want to do things by hand.
We are planning on planting some fruit trees, and perhaps some evergreens for some windbreaks in a couple places, but we do have 20 acres of great woods, including loads of shagbark hickory.
I travel with my work, and I try to keep it to just the colder months, giving me the warmer months to be productive on the farm. My girlfriend will be working part time and living on the land year round (thanks baby!).
Alfalfa might be a good choice (if your goats like it). It will fix nitrogen into the soil while growing (and add even more if/when you plow it under). It is perennial so you will not need to keep buying seed. It has a deep and massive root structure which will help keep your soil loose while it is growing, and provide lots of deep organic matter to the soil once tilled under. Good luck on your endeavor.
To: Elliott From: Royal A. Purdy, A. H. Tuttle and Company Re: Driftless region suggestions
Elliott, 02/22/2011 AM
I’ve just finished a low resolution “keyline” plan for a farm in this same region. My “Clear Choice – Elysian” work mainly involves deriving solutions for pasture based situations such as yours.
The ambient seed load on most any land would be sufficient to allow it to manifest on its own with some dedicated grazing management effort from you and your herd animals, but if you are also interested to cheaply “get something else going” I would advise folks to consider frost seeding Red Clover seed by hand (five to fifteen lbs. per acre – I tend to go lighter rates than most recommendations); as it will only enhance the type ground you describe and a clover – timothy hay mix as much easier to hay than straight clover alone. Both types – safely harvested would be quite valuable on the open hay market or as in-house feed as well.
If “Bird-feed” avoidance is of a real concern, then a light coating of any regional clay slip will prevent that via a Fukuoka seed pellet coating we advocate for our readers and mentored client base; but it is mostly unnecessary.
If frost seeding – wait until a late winter or early spring windless morning (April around here) around four or five AM, when the frost is hard but most if not all snow is gone and broadcast as well as you can manage. A split application (1/2 seeding rate once over in one direction – the other half in the other direction) will cover well with a seed fiddle or you can “spin” it on with a hand seeder.
All this will take time to establish but have patients and it will most likely come around.
After watching a video on another site, my thought process brought up the idea of Hay from the Permie point of view. I am very happy I found this forum with Royal and other members answers. Very informative.
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