I have a small plot of land - about half an acre with a small barn on it (2 stables and a workshop/storage space) a small shed which needs re-building, and the base of a 10x15 greenhouse which also needs re-building. I also rent about 2 acres of grazing just down the road.
I have 2 ponies, who come in at night and go out to the 2 acre field in the day to graze. 10 (at the moment) goats who mostly live in with a couple of hours roaming in the paddock each day while I do chores, Geese, ducks and chickens.
Yes, I am overstocked for the amount of land I have but am struggling to see how to cut that down at the moment.
The land at the barn is divided into a couple of sections and I would like to plant small food forests in 2 of them.
There is a space approx 30' x 80' which was originally fenced against pigs so should be fairly secure against the goats. This space has nothing in it at the moment, has a few elders in the hedge line, and I am hopign to plant up the hedge properly this winter. This space is a slight slope but is at the bottom of a slope and so tends to get washed over a bit, is a bit compacted and clay underneath. but reasonably sheltered from East, North and West. I dug a small swale in this one earlier this year and am looking at what I need to do to the soil.
And there is another similar sized patch behind the barn part of which will be shared with the ducks at certain times of year. this patch is VERY sandy, has an elder, 2 small hazels 1 crab apple which has jsut taken off and a buddleia, and comfrey. It is very sheltered being an East facing bank, but with the barn on the East slope and South facing having the shed on the North.
I want to start to plant one or both of them up as food forests this autumn/winter.
I have an abundance of muck that I can use - both very well aged with woodshavings and fresher with straw.
I am really struggling to get to grips with what are the best things I can put in first by way of plantings, and how much I should do to the soil before I start and how much I should let nature take care of.
Can anyone offer me any suggestions or advice please?
At purely face value: you answered part of the issue yourself: a need to destock.
If the animals don’t pay their way, get rid of them unless it’s a luxury you can afford. Horses are nice, but they need to earn a living too. In regards to the goats, if they aren’t clearing infested land, providing milk or meat, then they’re expensive pets.
The old pig yard seems like prime vegetable garden.
You have alot going on.
Land Size=half an acre
Soil=Sandy, bottom is more compacted clay.
Animals= Geese, Ducks, Chicken Manure Production Area= Houses 2 horse+10 goats (during the day they live offsite on 2acres)
Before doing anything extra I would start of with the foundation aka the soil.
Earthworks like swales and berms even if you only have half an acre.
Carbon, I would cover the entire half an acre with 3 inches of woodchip.
Soil life, I would spread/spray finish compost + worm tea + mushroom slurries over the entire half acre.
Mineral, rockdust, azomite, sea90, etc
Ground Cover, 90% coverage with dutch clover. 10% will consist of mint/thyme family, daikon radish, dill/carrot family, onion/chive family
I would plant on 15ft centers
Quince/Pear/Crabapple/Apple (including the Asian species+Hybrids)
American-Asian Hybrid Persimmon
Pawpaw (Sunflower and Prolific)
Juneberry (Regent+Prince Edward)
Arctic Kiwi (10ft vine)
Akebia (20ft vine)
Hardy Kiwi (100ft vine)
Grape (100ft vine)
Flying Dragon Bitter Orange (because why not)
Have one near your house maybe even turn it into a 3-season hoop-house or 4-season greenhouse. Might need some protection from chickens/etc.
Oyster Mushroom on strawbale
Wine Cap Mushroom on woodchip
The above doesn't need much prep or maintenance, but if you want something more involved then logs+drill+cap+watering also can be done for other species
2 Warre Beehive with just a April visit to split-recover and harvest.
Poultry, it sounds like you already have a good system already. The woodchip will have a bust of soil life that they will love.
Offsite 2 acre Pasture
The usual, swale+carbon+worm tea+mushroom slurry+mineral
Then daily rotational grazing (30 or more sections)
You might have to seed the pasture more often to keep it balanced.
Figure out a good species mix and percentage mix for your land. I like
10% Medicinal (mint/thyme family, chive/onion family, dill/carrot family, etc)
10% Aerators/Miners (daikon radish, comfrey family, sunflower/dandelion family)
Your current manure production area (barn) has a wonderful purpose, keep on using it.
If your future goat pen cannot keep in a dog it 700% cannot keep in a GOAT.
My family had a pig pen made out of concrete, super strong and they never got away or knocked it down. but it could never contain a dog much less a goat. They climb, the jump, the move stuff to make a ladder, they are super smart.
Overall I wouldn't move the goat until another 3 years after you have done your other improvements.
Here is a plan of the site - it isn't to scale but gives an idea of the layout.
The ponies are family pets and are here to stay.
The goats are under re-evaluation at the moment. As I said to a friend yesterday, the idea of having the goats was self-sufficiency - at the moment they are taking me further and further away from that goal as I have to buy in all their food an dbedding and then at the moment I am keeping them purely for the meat from the kids. With everything else going on I just don't have time to milk/make soap/ make cheese etc which was the original idea.
Area 9 was my original veg garden 20 years ago. It was originally fenced to keep the pigs out, and I subsequently used it to keep pigs IN LOL. Pigs are long gone and this is the area I am looking at as a forest garden/orchard. 8 and 10 are paddocks which are used for the goats to wander about in and also for the occasional day of very bad weather for the ponies but this is very occasional. 7 is where I am planning to have the new veg garden - there are 2 muck heaps at the eastern part of that which I forgot to put on the plan. And a nice rich area that was a muck heap in the past.
The patch to the West of the barn, where the Comfrey is, is where I am thinking about planting the other half of the fruit trees/bushes/forest garden. It is quite a steep sandy slope, but is very sheltered and I am thinking that there are some trees/bushes that the ducks could live under and be quite a harmonious partnership.
Can't think of anything else to add at the moment.
OH - I forgot to mention in my OP - I am on an island in the South of the UK.
Essentially, the things you use often like, for example: herb/veggie garden should be closest to the house, and then storage sheds, poultry, fruit trees, paddocks, etc. A natural progression from what is used the most to the least. This may not flow from the front of the property to the back (oh, that would be too easy!), it’s dependant on the sun (shade diagram), prevailing winds, land grades and so on.
Soil quality is not necessarily a big deal, but making crap soil good will take time and labour.
With established structures, like sheds, that can’t be easily relocated, the surrounding areas can be modified to create microclimates to allow a particular zone use e.g. strategic placement of hedges and trellis.
Determining/creating the zones is perhaps the hardest thing of all, but stick to the ‘rules’ and it will work itself out.
It seems Paddocks #8 and #10 could be changed to run parallel to Paddock #9, which would create three zones where you could choose the usage e.g. herd rotation across all three, fruit/timber trees, whatever.
My consultancy fee will be sent shortly, preferred method of payment is beer!
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7 AHS:4 GDD:3000 Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
Lets say your land is 100ft by 300ft
100ft side = 7plants * 2 short side = 14
300ft side = 20plants * 2 long side = 40
Total = 54 plants You can think of this as windbreak/erosion control/wildlife habitat/privacy screen
The planed orchard area can now have more than '1 row of trees along the fence line'
It looks like you could probably plant another 3 rows (15 plants) for a total closer to 70.
I would suggest that, as per earlier suggestions, you take your stocking rate down if you intend to maintain the diversity.
If you're using paddock-shift grazing to cycle nutrients faster, you can do with fewer goats, maintain some milking capability (which you might get the chance to do if you have fewer to handle) and still get some kids for meat.
If you're so inclined, I would second S Bengi's bee idea. If you're looking to get more productivity with only minor investment in time, bees are it.
And ponies are expensive pets, but they help cycle nutrients too.
But let us know how it goes, and good luck!
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