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3 acres and a dream

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
I picked up a small parcel a month ago, 3.7 acres with an antiquated trailer, fine garage and a livestock shelter.  Clear field with some trees around the edge of the property, fenced and cross fenced.  Since I moved in last month I have spent more time working out of town than living here.  I have yet to move the bed and kitchen table. 

Work has settled down, as it usually does this time of year.  This gives me the chance to get my act together and put the place on a paying basis.  I've been itching to get an organic/all natural farm up and running for some time.  I've done my homework and have a good idea of what I want to do. 

The first challenge facing me is keeping up with the place.  It has been raining frequently this past month,  the grass is a couple of feet high.  I've got a 19" reel mower, 20" electric mower, and a scythe.  I'd much rather spend a couple of days working on projects rather than spend that time on mowing.  I've been looking at goats, but a partial solution fell in my lap this morning. 

My new neighbor has a horse and little open space, I have a fenced pasture with a water supply available.  She came a-knocking on my door this morning to ask if she could put the horse out back.  I was all over that.  She'll be bringing him over in the morning.

My biggest challenge was always how to look after my chickens, and other livestock, when I'm out of town for weeks at a time.  I'm sure I can come up with some fresh eggs to trade for some attention.

Two problems solved, more to come I'm sure.


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
Neal McSpadden


Joined: May 04, 2009
Posts: 269
Congrats on the score, I'm totally jealous .  Sounds like you have a good solution there. 

If you are regularly gone for several weeks, I'd suggest long term, low maintenance crops like fruit & nut trees, garlic & onions, potatoes, etc.


Check out my Primal Prepper blog where I talk about permaculture, prepping, and the primal lifestyle... all the time!
Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
Cool Ken, glad you've got some time now to start your projects for the new place.

And the horse solution - wow, don't forget my post on using horse manure as fuel in the winter you may find those 'apples' have multiple uses for your new homestead. 

I'm really happy for you.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
wow this is very exciting, aren't you glad you didn't mow down all that horse feed.
every year i tend to reduce lawn area on our property. but there is always too much to care for anyway as I also do try to keep up some of the lawn area at my son's (which is mostly mowed field and baby grass over his drainfield since his house has only been there a few years).

I hope you are able to get any trees and shrubs that you want put in yet this year, so they can get a start on their growth, that is really important, but I'm sure you know that.

Great that you have this new piece of paradise..blessings on your endeavors.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
Just got home with 11 Rhode Island Reds and 14 Barred Rocks, all chicks.  Have them in the garage for now, getting acquainted.  I better go check on them, they have probably knocked the water over already.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
wow congrats on your new expansion..hope  they all survive wonderfully
Lisa Paulson


Joined: Apr 17, 2010
Posts: 253
I think that is awesome that an opportunity has come up that is enabling your dream, cheers!  Keep up the good work : )
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
Today my neighbor moved her horse from next door, nothing but trees, to my back field, healthy green pasture. The horse is all brown female named Fanny. She is 23 and sorely needs a healthy diet. She is this tall (holds up hand). Neighbor says she may be a thoroughbred of some kind. Not sure about that. She's a tired, scrawny old horse. The horse gets fresh grass, I don't need to mow.  I'll keep an eye on her.

The new birds are all doing fine.  The barred rocks are jumping in and out of their box.  Food and water are available in and out so I let them do their thing.  I picked up my 4 adult birds a few days ago.  They are slowly adjusting to the new environment.  They tend to stay within 100 feet of the garage but have started laying eggs again.  I ran out of those pitiful egg shaped things from walmart.  Now I can make some proper cornbread.
Lisa Paulson


Joined: Apr 17, 2010
Posts: 253
Keep in mind there can be some downsides to keeping a horse;  a horse can deplete the good pasture leaving you with thriving weeds and they can destroy plantings and even fences  ( there may be liability for you if the horse gets out and there is an accident) .  If the horse owner is responsible they will be worming the horse and supplementing hay and grain should the pasture get low and if  the horse is looking scrawny.  Generally if they are not prepared to really care for the horse, they  may be a poor association in general.  Hopefully just the opposite , it is a good mutual benefit and the horse mows your grass and the owner is appreciative and helpful.  It's very rewarding  when a sort of happy healthy symbiotic relationship works out. 
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
Neighbor comes over every day with a bucket of feed.  I saw Fannie RUN this morning.  She is perking up, but has a long way to go for a tired old horse.  Neighbor has no open space, horse was grazing in the woods.  Not much to eat next door.  She spends her day moving between sun and shade, grazing and drinking, taking little horse naps. 

The field has some weeds and bushy growth around the perimeter.  Most of the field is open and primarily grass.  The end of the grass and start of the weeds is a distinct line, leading me to believe it was plowed and seeded not too long ago.  Previous owner had a horse until January.  That horse was wormed, I don't know about Fanny.  Even if she is wormed, I'm willing to accept the dosage given to one horse being spread on the field.

I have no heavy equipment with which to develop this field.  Messing with the rototiller, won't draw a spark so I'll have to take it apart to check the magneto.  Once I get it running, it will take time to get the front field developed the way I want.  The horse has plenty of time to tend the field before I need to add fence.  Gives her something to do and gives me time to do my thing.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
Ken it sounds like this is working out well for you..you could ask the owner if she is wormed.

nice of her to remove the weeds and manure your field for you.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
Yes, the horse is wormed: Ivermectin.  This is on the OMRI list (.PDF) of approved synthetic substances.  It needs to be composted or exposed to the sun.  Another article about Ivermectin ecotoxicity.



Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
It took every penny I had to buy the place. After a year I refinanced, and again, it took every penny I had. Then the work dried up for a few months. The workload is usually slower in the 2nd half of the year. This year was no different, but I prefer to have a certain amount of cash around before I go spending more than I absolutely have to in order to get by. Come September, the workload picked up, and the wallet began to fill out again. Thank Heavens!

I bought the place in May last year. We've been at drought level 2 or higher since August of last year. 16 months? Are you freakin kidding? I've tried growing a few things, but most was laid waste. The beans gave me less back than I put in. The sweet potatoes barely showed up. The Irish potatoes never had a chance. I was lucky to get enough grass to grow for the bull to eat. For a while I thought I'd have to buy hay in the summer.

I've done other things around here to move it towards what I need in order to do my own thing. I moved, fixed, installed some fence here and there, piled up massive heaps of leaves and a couple of heaps of sticks/logs/branches. Did a few repairs. Put in a few apple trees and berry bushes. 2 apples have survived. A landmark project was getting the front fenced and gated to keep the chickens out. Most importantly I spent time getting to know the place-where the critters are, how the water and wind move, and what's going to happen where if left to nature.

Wednesday a truck pulled in to dump 15 cubic yards of mushroom compost. It's not certified organic, but will serve my needs. Organic compost is simply not available at a reasonable cost out here in the woods. I've tried making compost, but the drought refuses to lift-all those leaves are sitting there doing nothing. I'll use it as mulch. This load of compost is enough to get the garden beds going. I'll get more when I use it up.

I've discovered an interesting aspect of drought. Without the moisture, material does not break down. Leaf litter builds, manure stays whole, and the compost heap grows rather than shrinks. Drought creates an abundance of compostable material where regular rain allows that material to break down and be consumed. When the drought lifts, I expect to see it followed by a surge in natural growth.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Hi Ken,

Congrats on getting going on the dream. One last thing on horses. Sometimes they need minerals (though since they evolved on this continent, not as badly as cattle, sheep, etc). If you notice the horse barking trees, or chewing on fence post, get the owner to buy some salt, etc.

What they need depends a lot on what is readily available in your lands.

Horses can be pretty interesting, and friendly. A little work on their part doesn't hurt them, even if they have some age. We use them to haul sacks of stuff into the farms at times. Not sure your neighbor would let you, but horses need something to do, too.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
R. Peacock


Joined: May 24, 2011
Posts: 35
Location: eastern part of West Tennessee
This is something that probably not a worry for you, but you and everyone else in your situation should be covered. Make a rental agreement with your neighbor to cover you both leagly, even if it's $1.00 a year. I know of cases where people have pastured their livestock on other people's land then then the landowner claiming the livestock as their own. Also cases of people claiming the land they use as their own.


There are too many new and different mistakes out there waiting to be made to be wasteing your time repeating the same old mistakes.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
I happened into a bull in summer of last year. The horse was evicted once she and the bull were caught up on the grass.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Ken Peavey wrote:I happened into a bull in summer of last year. The horse was evicted once she and the bull were caught up on the grass.


Yeah, after I posted I saw that the OP was some time ago.

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
In my continuing study of leaves I took a leap of faith and bought a leaf blower. With some luck, the 100 bucks wont be the only thing I blow. This has a vacuum/bagger/mulch setup, but I think it is the blower that will serve me best. It is too big of a task to gather the leaves from just this property using muscle power/rake/tarp/wheelbarrel/ibuprofen.

I considered the impact of removing vast amounts of leaves, as well as the smaller, aged, decomposed humus which the blower will surely disturb. Using a blower will strip the ground cover down to bare sand. The soil will be exposed and subject to direct sun and wind where it has been covered for years. This action will be akin to raping the land, and I do not take the decision lightly, but I am compelled to continue this project, and can back up my notion with reason.

For the past year and a half, this region has been experiencing drought conditions. While there has been some rain here and there, the soil is dryer than my mouth after going to the dentist. Without regular moisture, the leaf litter has not been able to decompose at its normal rate. I have mentioned before on these forums that drought is a means of storing organic matter in a forest. It is building up-I'm talking 6 inches deep as you get into the woods and away from the pasture. I find it to be quite impressive. There is a dark side to all this dry debris: it carries a heightened risk of fire. Being so dry for so long, there is little moisture under this layer to slow a fire. Considering the high density of rednecks in the area, gathering the stuff up may be a prudent act.

An interesting aspect to the foliage down here which I noticed after moving from the north is dual foliage drops. Up north, the leaves fall in the fall. In Florida, there are trees which exfoliate in the spring. The ground will not be naked for more than a couple of months. In a normal forest, there is a cleansing fire every few years that will remove a build up of dry debris. The difference between a fire and what I'm doing is the fire would leave behind a residue of ash with it's mineral content to help get things going again. I must admit that I am strip mining to a slight degree, but the debris will be used on site, just moved over a few hundred feet.

I had a neighbor who would rake her lawn every month. She had a small yard, but kept it tidy, and I was thankful that she tossed those leaves over the fence for me. Her lawn responded to her efforts by growing grass where the soil was raked. The removal of the leaves was the removal of grass blocking mulch. Perhaps I'll get some extra green grassy spots for the bull to munch on.

The depth of the leaf litter and the area covered around here offers a copious amount of volume, if I can get it gathered into heaps. I can surely make good use of every bit of compost I can get my hands on, as well as the mulch needed for the vegetable crops I intend to raise. I did some simple arithmetic which concludes a potential windrow of material 100 feet long, 5 feet high, or about 100 cubic yards, should be a reasonable result. Finished compost down here can be purchased for about $35/cuyd, giving these leaves a market value in the range of $3500 if I can also gather sufficient green material to compost them. It's enough to defray the cost of the blower and some gas.

I justified the expense and scope of the project to my satisfaction. Now I have to get the job done. I had enough daylight left when I got back with the rig to get started. I cleared an area along a fence 150' long, 20 feet wide in about an hour. I've got a heap about 3 feet high as long as that section of fence, took about an hour. Done with a rake it would have taken all of my spare time for the week. I've barely scratched the surface, but the job of tackling just my woods is achievable. My neighbor has 3 acres on the other side of the fence with exactly the same conditions. I'll set my sights on that when I get all the stuff over here processed.

Now I have to find some greens...
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Hi Ken, many years ago I picked up a huge amount of leaves and just sheet composted them. After all, that works in the forest just fine. The broke down quickly too, and gave me the best garden I had ever had. By summer time, they had all broken down.

I might have ran over them a couple of times with a mower just to help.
Stacy Zoozwick


Joined: Dec 15, 2011
Posts: 74
Hi, I am so happy to see you are using a horse to graze your grass. I do it all the time with my 3. FYI the 23 year old horse probably needs a good teeth floating. When they get to that age their teeth can get sharp edges and they can’t proses there hay or feed. A good floating and a lil veg oil in there feed will fix them up real fast. If a horse is skinny they need grain or more specifically the crude protein.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
The Leaf Adventure continues...
A big area of leaves with a bunch of trees and some undergrowth needs a combination of tools. Rake, blower, shovel and pitchfork, plus a wheelbarrel and tarp did the trick. The area in the front cleared is about 150x100. Figure about 15k square feet, took a couple of weeks of working at it a couple of hours a day.

Shredding Pit
I ended up dumping the leaves in a spot about 20 foot square. Pile up a bunch, run them over repeatedly with the mower...does a fine job of shredding them up. Then go get more leaves. I piled up leaves around the outside of the area to contain the leaves. This worked well, with smaller debris blowing up to this berm rather than blowing to kingdom come. Kept it tidy. In the end, the berm was also shredded. The mower blade took a pounding, had to put it to the grinder to bring an edge back and it needs to be sharpened again. The trailing edge of the blade is well worn. Shredding is handy, but I think I have all the shredded leaves I need. The leaves in the rest of the field will only be shredded if I need them. No point in the extra work and fuel.

Sifting of Fine Material
I built a small sifter with 1/4" screen to fit on top of the wheel barrel, sifted some of the material. More than half of the material going into the sifter went through. I filled a 32 gallon trash can with finely shredded leaves, then stopped, as I don't have a use for it just yet, all I'm doing is seeing what I can do with the stuff. Poking around online I found several references that say this will work well as a substitute for peat moss. That will save a few bucks. I ran a gallon of gas through the mower, another gallon through the blower. That barrel will save enough on peat moss to offset the cost of the gas.

Water Retention
I measured a quarter pound of the fine material, added measured amounts of water, let it rest, then tried to pour out water. At 16 ounces of water, a few drops trickled out. This says the shredded leaves have a 4:1 water to weight ratio. It's only a single data point, but that's close enough for me. I was quite impressed with this feature.

Ending Volume
I have a heap of shredded leaves 6 feet wide, 16 feet long, and 4 feet high. Accounting for sloped sides, I calculate about 8 or 9 cubic yards of material from 15000 square feet. Thats a cubic yard of material for every 2000 square feet of area. I can expect some compaction as the stuff rots down, but I cant say by how much. Whole leaves shrink to about 1/4 of original volume-around here its almost all oak leaves. Shredding has already reduced their volume considerably.

Healing
The area was cleaned up down to the soil. Where it was once covered, the land is bare. There are some spots in the middle of a bunch of trees that was not taken down to the soil because it aint moving. Leaves are still falling so the soil will get some cover, with a fair leaf drop expected in the spring.

Now What
-I need more leaves
-I have another section about the same as this one.
-I have a section out back with twice the area and considerably more depth.
-Next door is a 3 acre plot entirely covered with leaves. They need to come up before they burn this place to the ground.
-If I stick with this adventure, coming up with dozens of cubic yards of leaf mold is possible.
-I mulched the peas with shredded leaves
-I mulched the onions with whole leaves.
-I have started in on the section out back. I'm dumping them in a spot that is mostly sand.



Lori Crouch


Joined: Sep 26, 2011
Posts: 104
Location: Amarillo, TX.
    
    1
I realize this is an old post, but I want to forewarn you of something I came across while living in rural Virginia.

The trick of the locals around there was to do what your neighbor did in finding land that you had unused and placing their animals on it under the guise of mutual neighborly benefit. If you did nothing to this land for I believe it was 5 years and this person still had their animals there, they could fence off that portion of your land they had been using for their animals. They would then go down to the county and petition that for the last "x" amount of years they had been keeping animals on this land and doing the upkeep. The law of that area was that they now owned your land. They didn't have to give you a drop of money for it, they would just steal people's land out from under them. Sometimes they would just build a fence on a person's adjoining land without having animals there. If you didn't notice or did nothing about that fence, they would petition local government after "x" amount of years and take your land out from under you.

Hopefully this neighbor is not like the type I ran into during my travels. Yet, for anyone reading this it is good to check the local laws of your area and make sure that someone can't steal your land under the pretense of being a good neighbor.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2169
Location: FL
    
  54
After the horse was here for a couple of months I picked up a bull to mow the grass. Horse went home nearly a year and a half ago.
david x tyler


Joined: Feb 21, 2012
Posts: 1
Strong work Ken, congratulations on your new found freedom that you are chained to for life. I hope you build a cob house and a methane digester and the goats are a great idea, they can be little buggers somtimes but they are so much fun and loving.
 
 
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