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Dream with me: What would YOU do with my steep, undiggable property?

 
Posts: 35
Location: The Ozarks
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So, I have 40 acres of steep hills with seasonal draws. If you make an "O" with your forefinger and thumb, making a spyglass-type fist, that's what my land looks like, from knuckles to middle joints. It drains and slopes to the south.
Good views. We want to build a house on the "middle knuckle" of the place because it has a view of the valley. The "road" up to it is so steep it requires a 4wd automatic (stick has to ride the clutch down) with GOOD clearance. [We do not yet have said vehicle.]

It is on BEDROCK, and is made mostly of clay and stones. Digging is really not an option unless you have a dozer, and even then it depends on where you're at on the property...kind of like a terrible easter egg hunt for bedrock.
To give you an idea, electric netting isn't a good option here because you have to "plant" it into the soil when you move it. Have fun discovering all those rocks. Maybe in 6 hours you'll find a spot that'll work.

It was logged before we got it, so the wild stuff has taken over and we have felled logs & branches EVERYWHERE.
As for plant life on the property....
FRUIT: wild black raspberries, blackberries, and some grape.
GREENS: Mullein, thistle, sorrel, some plantains, many useless "weeds"
TREES: oak, hickory, redbud, dogwood, maple in draws, sassafrass.
MUSHROOMS: turkey tail, brown witch's butter, false turkey tail, and more.
UNDESIRABLES: broomsedge, pokeweed, many yet-unidentified weeds with and without thorns/spines.
PLANTED: Clover and winter rye is doing OK where I planted it for cover in disturbed soil (dozer cleared spot for tiny house).

If this was YOUR land and you also had a limited budget, what would you dream of doing with it?


I see potential in the fact that the fruit and nut trees are already here. I also definitely see a dire need for goats. Rotating them will be a challenge with the soil and felled trees everywhere.

 
pollinator
Posts: 758
Location: 6a
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Hi Kay,     I was thinking Hugelkultur mounds or raised beds.  Check out this permies link with a discussion on this issue.  I'd start stacking decayed logs, gathering some green stuff and start building some beds with fruiting bushes, perennials and nitrogen fixers and then move into fruiting trees. I've seen discussions where people are placing hugel mounds on concrete and planting with success.    I'd try to wedge some logs in place and then backfill to create a kind of terraced effect.  Sounds like you have plenty of material to build topsoil.  

Permies


Regards, Scott
 
Posts: 38
Location: ne kansas
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why is poke weed an undesireable . many people like it, and its a dependable crop. it grows from rhizomes and comes up every year.
with all that stone maybe you could build some terraces.
 
gardener
Posts: 1408
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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It's encouraging to hear that trees have grown on the property in the past, and that you've got plenty of stuff growing on the land right now.  When I first starting to read your post, I imagined a rocky wasteland with nothing on it.  So trees grow on there -- that's great.

If it were me, I'd plant trees from seed on contour, creating a kind of above ground living swale.  I would imagine that your soil is deep enough to scratch in seeds, yes?  Plant them by the hundreds.  Once you had a picket-fence of trees, you could use them as a line of posts for terracing.  It would take a number of years, but if you were to plant something like black locust on contour, planting them tightly -- like every 5 feet or so -- they would serve that purpose.  The easiest way to establish contour lines is with a laser level -- much much easier than the old-school way of using an A-frame.

Black locust would serve multiple purposes.  It's rot resistant, fixes nitrogen, goats and chickens love it, bees go crazy for it, it makes great firewood and it's fast growing.  It makes a great living fence.

Have you seen this thread?  Seems like the same region as you and with similar concerns.

https://permies.com/t/60907/Planting-black-locust-quantity-simply

 
master steward
Posts: 2670
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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If this were my property, I would make the best of what I have.  Since you have identified some plants, start identifying the other "useless" weeds and find what properties they have to offer.  I am finding that almost all plants have some use, even some of the poisonous ones. Wonderful berries to make all kind of sweet treats.  Mushrooms, yum!

Goats are a great idea, they will make use of all that wild undesirable stuff.  You could build debris fences to keep them in.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Parts of the land I just purchased are the same.  The first thing I am going to do is take some of the downed trees and some rocks and make mini-dams to slow the water leaving the property.  My hopes are that the areas will fill in somewhat, and I can create flatter areas within the valleys and then build them up a little higher, and continue that process.  In a few years, I should be able to create some springs this way, as well as creating some areas that hold water longer and so will support more wildlife.
 
Posts: 11
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If it's too steep to put stakes in for electric fences, maybe something like the tumblewheel design? If you're unfamiliar, it's set up kind of like the spokes of a wagon wheel, allowing it to be dragged/roll along and bring the fence line with it. I'm sure a google search will turn up some useful information. Goats might work well even without an electric fence, if you found a breed with a particularly strong herding instinct, and just tethered a couple in the correct area. Sure wouldn't be as easy as electric fences, but it might work.

Other than that, what's already been suggested sounds good. Mulch areas, build hugels, build up the topsoil as much as possible. Plant fruit and support trees, plenty of tillage radishes, maybe with seedballs fukuoka-style.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2249
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Focus on zone one initially, and work outwards as time and resources allow.

Also, I strongly recommend reading the "Permaculture Handbook". It is a bit on the heavy side, but is full of great content when considering a big project. For example I can already see one planning "no-no". You propose building your house up on a "knuckle". If you build you house on top of the hill you can't make use of gravity to supply your water to your house or your zone 1 plants.
 
gardener
Posts: 6168
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Kaye Harris wrote:So, I have 40 acres of steep hills with seasonal draws. If you make an "O" with your forefinger and thumb, making a spyglass-type fist, that's what my land looks like, from knuckles to middle joints. It drains and slopes to the south.
Good views. We want to build a house on the "middle knuckle" of the place because it has a view of the valley. The "road" up to it is so steep it requires a 4wd automatic (stick has to ride the clutch down) with GOOD clearance. [We do not yet have said vehicle.]

It is on BEDROCK, and is made mostly of clay and stones. Digging is really not an option unless you have a dozer, and even then it depends on where you're at on the property...kind of like a terrible easter egg hunt for bedrock.
To give you an idea, electric netting isn't a good option here because you have to "plant" it into the soil when you move it. Have fun discovering all those rocks. Maybe in 6 hours you'll find a spot that'll work.

It was logged before we got it, so the wild stuff has taken over and we have felled logs & branches EVERYWHERE.
As for plant life on the property....
FRUIT: wild black raspberries, blackberries, and some grape.
GREENS: Mullein, thistle, sorrel, some plantains, many useless "weeds"
TREES: oak, hickory, redbud, dogwood, maple in draws, sassafrass.
MUSHROOMS: turkey tail, brown witch's butter, false turkey tail, and more.
UNDESIRABLES: broomsedge, pokeweed, many yet-unidentified weeds with and without thorns/spines.
PLANTED: Clover and winter rye is doing OK where I planted it for cover in disturbed soil (dozer cleared spot for tiny house).

If this was YOUR land and you also had a limited budget, what would you dream of doing with it?


I see potential in the fact that the fruit and nut trees are already here. I also definitely see a dire need for goats. Rotating them will be a challenge with the soil and felled trees everywhere.



First off I would use those felled logs to create some terraces, all you need to do is drag them into place (I use a come-a-long or my jeep and a cable). I also use a 1/2" auger bit in a 1/2" drill so I can pin logs together and to the ground with rebar pieces.
Once you have the one or two log high terrace walls in place, nature will help you out as far as the filling in with back fill.
Poke weed is edible if the leaves are picked young and boiled three times changing the water each time, they taste great with a little fat back added for the third boiling.
I love that you already have lots of good trees growing, these will benefit greatly from mushroom slurries being used all around each of them to get fungal hyphae going in the soil around their roots.
Broom sedge can be used for making baskets and brooms should you want to make use of it.
As you improve the soil base, those weeds will start to go away all on their own.

If you start a soil improvement regimen you will find the soil getting better fairly quickly (see my soil threads for how to do it, and do ask if you need specific advice).
The biggest thing is water control on steep, hilly land and those logs are going to be great for building those structures, do this work as soon as possible so your erosion rate will be slowed down.
Good luck, it sounds like you have the makings of a great homestead or farm there, goats might seem like you need them now, but wait till you have the water under control, otherwise they might turn into a nightmare.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Like others, I'd suggest using logs to form terraces.  It's amazing how much debris (leaves, soil runoff) a single log laid across a slope can catch.

On the uphill sides of those terraces, I'd plant trees and fruit bushes, either by seed or by transplanting after a couple years of passively building up debris behind the logs.

Fence posts don't have to go in the ground.  Joel Salatin talks about the early years on his farm, when they had to set metal rebar posts in buckets/cans of concrete because they couldn't drive them far enough into the ground.  That probably wouldn't work with electronet, but you could certainly make semi-permanent electric wire fences that way (so long as you could set some reasonably braced corner and end posts, or just use existing trees), then commence with the goats.

Beyond that, it depends on what your plans are.  But being on a limited budget, I'd seriously explore harvesting all those wild edibles, either for home consumption or for sale, or a combination of both.  And supplement with critters (deer, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys), too, if you're so inclined.
 
gardener
Posts: 2967
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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If your land is crossed by seasonal ravines, I think a good first place to concentrate on landwork would be terracing to fill those in. They will be where erosion concentrates, and if you have good catchment, anything washed off the ridges will stop there. As soon as you have the most vulnerable areas covered, terrace the rest. Is there much slope above your land, or are you near the crest?
 
Posts: 96
Location: Mediterranean-Temperate transition zone
18
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I'll leave it to others to dream, but...

Since you are eventually going to want to clear various parts of the property, dig down, sculpt or till something... at some point in time you are going to have to deal with the question of what to do with all of the rocks you come across.  I would suggest that you come up with at least one plan for rocks.  Maybe one plan for large rocks and one plan for small rocks.  Maybe different plans for different-shaped rocks.  You might want some large feature/moss rocks/boulders for a pond, you might want lots of small rocks for a French drain or retaining wall, you might want flat rocks for a dry-stacked animal pen wall, you might want mid-sized rough rocks for a Gabion wall across a watershed...

Come up with a rock plan so that when the inevitable rocks do occur, you already know where they will need to be transported to... so that you only need to handle them once.  Moving rocks without (really) heavy equipment takes an incredible toll on the body — so minimising double-/triple-/quadruple-handling of rocks should be a priority.

Having a plan for rocks also makes you view them more like a resource than an annoyance, which makes the laborious task of moving them much less dispiriting.

That's all I've got.  Good luck!
 
Posts: 8
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For $25,000 I would tow up a 4 wheel drive vehicle that runs good for you, I'd also bring you a couple of brush hogs (one is mine but I could give you the other for you to keep if you want), a couple of chainsaws, buckets, tillers and at least one other person and spend a day or two helping you clear out some land, planting things you actually want to grow and I will haul off as much as I can from the things you don't want on your land..


There's tons of ideas of what to do with the land.. Use some of those slopes to make water features like small waterfalls, small ponds, etc.., set up an Aquaponics System to grow various vegetables, fruits, nuts or crops.. instead of digging into the ground to grow things use containers like plastic IBC totes to grow things and set up above ground Aquaponics Systems.. Use Vertical Grow Methods like Vertical Grow Towers for things like Cabbage.. Use Micro-Growing Techniques to grow things like Raddishes, Herbs, Mint Leaves.. The possibilities of things you can grow and the ways you can grow those things all without digging into the ground are endless.. Keep Honey Bees.. Goats.. Sheep.. Chickens.. Turkeys.. If you find rocks on your land you can sell them.. Yes.. People BUY ROCKS (or give them away to people who can come to your land to haul them away.. same thing with any plants you don't want.. people can find a use for anything and everything even all of those thorns)... you could fill up buckets with just dirt or fill up some sandbags with just dirt and sell them (People will buy DIRT) or give them away.. with a piece of land that size the world is your oyster
 
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