Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reclaiming the Land: Making the Most of Seven Acres

There’s more than corn in Indiana, you just have to look for it. The fertile soil lends itself to growing crops so most level ground has been cultivated and is planted with corn, soybeans and the occasional wheat field. Sometimes you’ll see something else growing, but not often. Rarely do you see wide-open pastures for grazing. In Indiana, pastures are generally relegated to land that is too steep and rocky for row crops.

This old house was once part of a large farm including hundreds of tillable acres; now though, it lays claim to a mere seven, half of which are a wooded ravine, a winding creek, and a small, spring-fed pond. A century-and-a-half ago when the original house was built, it must have appeared to be the ideal location for a homestead with its water source and ample supply of wood for heating.


The pasture behind the house and just outside the barn had sat unused for generations allowing the undergrowth to take over. Last year’s drought made it abundantly clear that we need to have more space for forage. In order to renovate the pasture for grazing the first order of business is to remove some of the trees, since not much can grown in dense shade.

Just like the pioneers, the stockpile of firewood will not go to waste. It will be used in the new woodstove the guys recently installed in the workshop. Now there can be no more excuses that it is too cold to get any work done.


Obviously we cannot bring in heavy equipment to till the ground back there, so the only option for planting is overseeding. When rejuvenating a pasture by overseeding  it is easiest to let the animals overgraze the area first to clear it. Over the past year the goats cleared the bigger stuff and the alpacas came in and did a fantastic job as the finishing crew. I can assure you they’ve eaten every living thing out there and asked for more.


Soil testing is the next step to determine our fertilizer and lime needs. The local county extension service should be able to help with that, in addition to providing information on which type of forage grows best in this area. Once we determine the results, we will make the necessary amendments.

We have to factor in the nutritional needs of our animals before selecting which grass or legumes to plant; llamas and alpacas have different needs than more traditional livestock such as cattle. Availability of the seed is also a consideration. I have determined that an orchard grass/white clover blend would be ideal for our needs and this area, now I just need to figure out where to get it. As odd as it sounds, February is the proper time to start planting, the frost/thaw cycle of late winter helps the seed make contact with the soil. With any luck we’ll start seeing some lush pasture by springtime; which reminds me that I should caution readers that if you try this at home, don’t forget that chickens are birds and birds eat seeds. If you’re not careful they will follow behind you snatching up your pasture seed as fast as it comes out of the seed spreader. Don’t ask me how I know this, just trust me.


Gone Country said...

I love your wood stove! I'd like to get one some day and have it installed in my house.

My hubby and I looked at some of our property this morning to determine where to put some fencing to make a pasture for a few dairy goats. Right now, it is dense woods and a path needs to be cleared to install the fence. I figure I'd leave the rest of the clearing to the goats!

It's all hard work but so rewarding. Good luck!

Theresa said...

Byron seeds. Email me and I'll find the info for you. It is located off of 36, before Billy Creek.

The land looks great!

Tammy said...

Looks like you have a nice piece of land to start with. I've tried to plant an assortment of seeds--lespedeza, white clover, as well as timothy and orchard grass. The sheep like the legumes and with abundance of fescue this blend helps the pasture keep going through the summer. I just don't have enough land to let it all rest properly. Sigh. Just an idea, but putting the sheep (llamas, alpacas) on the pasture after over seeding will utilize them to work the seed into the ground. (Works better if you have a large flock, but I figure every little bit helps). Have fun with your new project. It'll be so nice when all that green comes up in the spring!

Beyond My Garden said...

Reclaiming overgrown pasture is something my husband loves to do. I usually urge it the other direction. This is a constant conversation.

Kellie said...

I once planted a large handful of sunflower seeds; about an inch down in the ground. I did not see the black bird watching me until after I finished and began to walk away....he made quick work of them. Not one escaped his beady little eyes!

Historical Ken said...

Ahhh...springtime on the horizon!

Karen Patrick said...

Like the new pic of you.