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Former Pasture Management Question  RSS feed

 
gardener
Posts: 825
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello all,

I have a couple acres of former pasture lands that I'm trying to improve. I purchased a scythe this year and it is working great but I got it a bit late and the grass already got brown and tough. My long term strategy is to scythe the field when the grass is about knee height and still green and repeat this once or twice a year depending on growth and moisture levels. But I'm struggling a bit with this year's tough grass - these are the options I'm considering (I don't have access to animals to help this year).

1. Push through it and use the scythe to cut the whole field - would take a while (tough grass and I'm still learning to use a scythe) and I have a lot of other projects to complete.
2. Use a plywood board to "flatten" the grasses - fairly easy but I'm unsure the benefit but it would flatten the field effectively - I'm hoping this would mimic animals mashing everything down.
3. Just leave the grass as is and don't worry about it - we don't get a lot of snow (some years none) so it will likely remain standing.

These are my main objectives:
- Improve the soil
- Prepare the grassland for scything next year

So what would you all recommend? Whatever option I go with it will only be used for this fall - next year I will start a regular management plan using my scythe and I will eventually be adding chickens to the system.

Thanks all!
 
pollinator
Posts: 2212
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I don't think your plywood idea will really do much good as it will probably just pop right back up in a few days time.

Finishing the cutting of it would be best as eventually that chopped stalks will churn into available nitrogen, but trust me, I understand prioritizing for sure. If your time is really pressed, and the area not too big and funds allow, could you bush hog it by a neighbor or something. I know, not the best idea, but it would achieve your goals in the least amount of time. Again, no one knows more than me what waylaid plans are and that sometimes we just have to do the ultimate work down the road and not right now.

As for leaving it, that too falls under the idea of well, "maybe next year I will get on the cutting aspect of it sooner." Again, I am in NO WAY knocking you for this. My farm plans get delayed all the time too. In fact everything I do, I have to prioritize. I just lack the time...and I farm full time!
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 825
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Thanks for the response. I guess in terms of using the plywood I was thinking that the brown and dry grass would not rebound - green grass would but I'm more worried about the tall stiff stalks that make it hard to walk through or cut with the scythe. I don't want these tall stalks around next year.

A big reason I'm time crunched at the moment is that a new project came up that needed to become my priority. The deer pressure was much greater than I expected it too be this year and some of my new plants got hit hard. Luckily, I got some fencing up around most of the new plants and most are doing fine. But since I'm already planning to plant a fair amount this fall, winter and spring I decided to focus on fencing the boundaries of my property to keep deer out (trying out a fairly cheap option that I will post about later). This was not my planned project but since I need to get it done before I do more plantings it has become my number one priority project.

I might just try the plywood option over a small area and then just watch it for a week - if the grass stays down great! If not then I can figure out something else. Money is a little tight at the moment so I'm trying to do everything I can to reduce costs. Been getting a lot of things for free but still some costs that can't be avoided. I would rather not use a brush hog since it would cost me around $400 to rent it for a day but I might not have a choice.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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I understand...

I had a big project I was doing all summer, got it done and now am waiting for my check as it was a grant from the government. That was good, and they paid what they said it would, but it took so long to do that other expenses crept in and the "profit" I thought would come from that is all burned up. I cannot complain; I have no debt and all my bills are paid, but not as much money in the coffers as I had hoped. So I fully understand your situation. I think that is why a lot of people like me on here, I can relate to their endeavors.

I wished you lived closer as I would bush hog your fields for free. I just got my bush hog back together. It was apart for a year when the angle drive busted the mounting ears off it. I had it turned down, rewelded and a new bearing installed, so the old 40 year implement is as good as new, but set me back by $330. That sucked, I was told it would be $150.

I never really bush hogged for income. I did one year for a lady who is mega-rich and asked me to do her pastures (no animals though). I did, and when I got done, before I could even speak she had it all figured out. Accounting for this and that, reducing for everything possible deduction, then paying me a measly $25 an hour AFTER her deductions. I just said thanks and never came back the next year. I'll let her pay one of those for hire people that charge $65 an hour, go so fast it just makes the grass mad instead of cuts it, and never get close to obstacles or anything.
 
gardener
Posts: 4892
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Daron,  Have you ever seen the method some tricksters use when making their fake "crop circles"? You need a length of 2x4, a piece of rope long enough to make a loop over one shoulder and a way to drill two holes, one at each end of the 2x4.
Then you simply step on the 2x4 to press down the straws and shuffle the board forward a bit and step again. The straws will bend and stay down as long as they aren't green.

This method should work nicely for you and once the pasture has been laid over they will begin to rot in place. New plants will grow up from the roots and you can then use the scythe on the new grass plants.

The best deer prevention I've found is electric fence wire with peanut butter smeared on it. The deer will lick it and get shocked, once that happens they rarely return.

Redhawk
 
Posts: 18
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"These are my main objectives:
- Improve the soil
- Prepare the grassland for scything next year"

Those two objectives are still a bit nebulous and I think if you flesh them out further it will help you determine your next step.

What are you defining as "improved"soil? For example are you going to plant a garden or grow crops in the field? What are the needs of your future crops? What is your baseline right now with you current soils?

I have seen a lot of people put a lot of work in for the sake of "improving the soil" just to figure out that they could have been more effective if they spent the same amount of effort with long term planning.

What are you going to be scything next year? Do you plan to cut the field for hay?

I have cut a lot of land with a scythe, a brush hog, grazing, and a haybine. Each has its place it just depends on what your long term goals are. The timing of cutting on each and every species of plant will have an impact on its life cycle and influence the composition of the field. Once you know your longer term goals you can work you way backwards and choose each tool that you have appropriately.

My advice would be to not feel guilty if you don't get it done and don't run forward in haste. The plants that exist in the field right now are still playing a role even if they go lignet and set seed. If your next step is chickens you will see that they love overgrown pastures and they need woody shrubs to get away from aerial predators and to use as shade. Chickens are also well equipped to pick the seeds off of the over mature grasses and turn them into protein. 

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

 
Posts: 11
Location: Olympia, Washington
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Hi Daron--I am in Olympia and have an acre of pasture probably a lot like this. Are you new to this property? Mine hasn't been grazed in a couple years now and I haven't cut it since I moved here over 10 years ago. However, even though you can barely walk through it in the summer, and mine is being colonized by Canadian thistle, it will die back down over the winter. At least that is what happens on my pasture--it stops growing, the fruiting stalks fall over and the mild wet winter causes all to biodegrade. Planting for me is near impossible in the summer or fall in the pasture, but not in the early spring when the grass has not begun growing again. I have lots of deer too and most of my trees and raised bed areas, berry hedges, etc. are caged due to deer--I like the deer so put up with the occasional loss--sometimes it takes a sense of humor more than anything. I had some Soay sheep and, like goats, they love Himalayan blackberry, and Scotch broom, trailing buttercup, etc. but they are worse than deer when it comes to fruit trees. They are more primitive sheep. The animals I am hoping to sometime have for grazing are small-to-medium size geese (Shetlands) and Kune Kune pigs. Neither are hard on fruit trees or fences. As far as I can tell, I have to scythe/mow two times a summer to exhaust the Canadian thistle and I was going to buy a scythe for next spring. I'd love to hear your fencing idea as I'm always up for new ones! I'm currently in Arcata, CA right now and coming back to Olympia in a few weeks. I'm going to be pretty busy for a while getting the well pump replaced and such, but it sounds like we have similar challenges and could share ideas and experiments. I tried laying some old carpet on a portion and the result was wonderful shelter for a lot of voles I haven't had any problem with them though. My pasture is the worst grass and I'd like to improve it too but it seems almost a necessity to have critters helping to eat it! I've been planting fruit and nut trees, vines, shrubs--wildlife habitat and food for me.  I am also hoping to have ducks soon--Ancona ducks can produce more eggs than chickens, eat slugs, love this weather, and I think are even hardier than chickens. You can't beat something that eats slugs and produces such tasty protein. I'll be doing a lot of planting this coming winter/spring too. Would be happy to meet up sometime and check out our pasture situations.
 
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