Last summer and fall, Valerie and Kevin cleared about half an acre, renting an escavator, pulling the trees out completely, so that it isn’t stumpy out there, which is great. There are still a few large brush piles out there, though. We tried to burn one this winter, and probably got two-thirds of it gone, but the other one is too close to the sheep winter pens, so will probably have to wait until spring.
Unfortunately, none of us had time to actually seed out there in the fall like we’d planned. I guess the current plan is to get out there as early in the spring as we can and plant annual rye grass, which will come up quickly. I really want something nutritious and protein-rich for the girls to have while they are nursing the new lambs. Then, before we pull them out of an area, we’ll reseed with a more permanent pasture mix, and they will till it into the soil for us. We have to remember to make sure we pull the chickens out before then, so they don’t happily eat all that new seed.
We’ve got another half acre or so cleared but not fenced on the other side of the house, and I will work the herd around using electricnet fencing. I’d really like to get them down the driveway again this year. They did a great job clearing it of brush and brambles two years ago, so it should certainly be ready for them this year. Valerie tried to get them to do it last year, but they weren’t grounding the fence properly, and the sheep kept getting out and coming back to graze in my gardens. Arg!
Actually, one of the things I’m trying to figure out is some sort of semi-permanent fencing for the driveway. We’ve got seven-strand high-tensile fence the whole way down, behind the stone wall, because we plan to have pasture on that side. But there’s that long, narrow strip in front of the wall along the gravel driveway that gets all brushy and brambly. Frank won’t let me put up something like a pretty picket fence, because the snow plow guy would knock it out to be sure. I’m wondering about the feasibility of 800 feet of semi-permanent wire that I put up in the spring and took down before snow fall.
When we build the little farm stand at the end of the road, I’d like to have some sheep continually man the place and keep the driveway all cleared and pretty for me. Surely 800 feet of 10-20 feet wide could keep a couple of sheepies fed for the summer, right? Okay, back to our real pasture plans, not the driveway strip bits.
So while I try to keep our beasts fed on what little pasture we have cleared, and get it all planted properly, we will also continue to clear land. Frank really doesn’t want to do the escavator route again, because it’s expensive and he wants to save the timber better. It’s also really hard to keep up with, so you end up with brush piles like we have now, and feel very behind the game.
The current plan is that we will use some electricnet near where we have the seven-strand run to mark off an area of woods. We’ll let the sheep in to get all of the undergrowth out. Then we’ll pull down some of the smaller trees, and let them have the tree tops, which they absolutely love. Two summers ago, whenever he started up the chainsaw, the whole herd would go nuts. Trees! We like trees!
Then we will log that area properly, leaving stumps (which I hate! sloppy looking!), pulling the timber, chipping the tops in place. We’ll then put in the pigs, to root out the stumps and rocks, work in the chips. Tamworth pigs are really good rooters. We will restrict their feed of grain to minimal, which will make the growth rate slow, but that’s not important to us. We want the rooting. Then we’ll seed that area for pasture, and only move the electricnet after that point.
I’m not quite sure if or when we’ll put the chickens into that new area. Frank was wondering if we should have them in with the pigs, but I’d worry that hungry pigs might think chicken is yummy, especially young chickens. We’re not going to have that many chickens next year anyway, so I bet we can keep them busy just keeping them in with the sheep flock.
We have so much land that we need to have cleared, and quick, but I know it’s going to continue to go slowly. Of our 343 acres, we probably only have two acres clear, including the house. We’ve got probably 30 acres of swamp right next to the house, but it’s drying out really slowly. The beavers left it about ten years ago. I haven’t a clue when it could be used for pasture, but I dream.
I’m hoping to not need to use Other People’s Pasture this year, but I bet I need to. I better get in touch with my prime suspects soon, and see if I can get it set up. It’s fairly easy to move the boys somewhere and leave them when they are behaving well. Without the Shelties, too, I’ll have better luck moving the girls. Two of my flightiest sheep were Jarrett and Valentine, and when they refused to follow me, mayhem ensued.