The Pastures to the East

Until recently I haven’t spent much time on the Eastern portion of my property. A distant cousin rented it and that was that. Well, in 5 days his cows will exit the property so my son and I took a walk, mainly to inventory the mature honey locust trees and check the condition of the fences. Some portions of the farm are pretty remote. Steep creek banks prevent access with a tractor. If something dies out there, there really is no way to retrieve it. Obviously this is unfortunate but it’s reality. The coyotes ate well for a few days. Apart from the smell, the kids were fascinated.

CalfThe lack of intensity on our farm over a number of decades has caused those steep creek banks as well as encouraging the thorny pioneer tree species. Further up hill we are seeing damage in the pastures. I can repair this quickly with hooves and rest. Hopefully fixing this will help heal the land further down hill…closing up the wound like closing a zipper.

StreamWashI would have to cross two washes like this to get back to a 9 acre corn field…which means we can’t get there. But we would like to get there to at least shred the corn stubble but it would be nice if we could run a drill across that field to plant it to pasture. I may just have to do it with cows, broadcast seed and hay. That’s probably the right way to go but the mechanical solution sounds cooler.


That corn field is surrounded by electric fence, mostly on contour. That fence is on my list of fences that will be removed. More on infrastructure another time.

All in all the pastures and field to the east don’t look too bad. The North-facing slopes are a patchwork of weeds, sparse grass and moss. The moss has to go but hooves, chicken claws and manure will take care of that. The chicken tractors are out there now. The creek is pretty badly eroded further down. I don’t have a picture to share as it was getting too dark but it isn’t pretty. Just know I can’t climb down, I have to fall and I can stand in the bottom and can’t see out. And I’m not short. I have a lot of work to do with my chainsaw but the cows should do the majority of the real work. I just need more cows. And more time. A bulldozer would be nice too. Sigh.




12 thoughts on “The Pastures to the East

  1. I always think bulldozers and permaculture are philosophically contradictory, but in fact some of the really well known and successful permaculturists have used bulldozers extensively in the beginning – Sepp Holzer certainly comes to mind with his terracing and hugelkultur beds. Lotta bucks, though. It kind of sounds like you need a track to the back of your land, and a bulldozer might be the way to make that happen. I mean, it’s going to be a ton of fun lugging posts and wire reels and whatnot all the way across there on foot. Oh wait, you have access to horses…

    Speaking of chicken tractors, I see from your 2014 schedule that you only have 2 harvest dates planned – have you mentioned that and I’ve forgotten? Because it seems like a change from last year. And I love your pricing breakdown for the different parts – if I’m ever able to sell pieced chicken, I’ll go that way. Except – what are leg quarters? I’ve only ever done legs into 2 parts – drumsticks and thighs. Maybe 2 legs to a package, hence 4 parts?

    Exciting to get started with the new section, and to see what you can do in the way of rehabilitation. Just wait till I get some NZ pictures posted and you’ll think you’re sitting in clover.

    • Leg quarter is the thigh and leg together. A quarter of the bird…as opposed to a breast and wing making the front two quarters.

      Heavy equipment speed biological time and help us get things running immediately. Current fuel prices make this an economical choice over hiring an army of people with shovels. What fuel would be involved in transporting all of those people? Permaculture is all about economy so I don’t see the contradiction.

      • Of course, leg quarter makes perfect sense when you put it like that. I think we just call them legs when they’re drumstick and thigh together.

        David Holmgren’s 12 design principles, principle #9. Use small and slow solutions. That’s where my head was.

    • We did two harvest dates last year too. The year before that we tried to do 150 every month. That didn’t work well for Julie’s summer. She was always pulling chicken tractors around. The year before that we butchered 75 every other weekend! By doing larger batches at the ends of the season both farmers and livestock are happier and we get the middle part of the summer to focus on other projects. Also, we found that customer demand for chicken waned in July and August as it is just too hot to cook. But cookouts between Memorial Day and 4th of July sell a lot of meat as do family get-togethers in the fall and early winter.

  2. He he too hot to cook in July and August…we wait for it to get warm then so we can cook 😉

    Gotta love the bulldozer – heavy equipment is appropriate technology if used timely and you have good operator. Finesse is the name of the game.

    Gullies are odd things, we don’t really have them here, despite decades of continuous grazing, and heavy rainfall. Is it because of summer rains? We get 100 inches per year but none in the summer when crop land is likely to be bare. What’s your take on that?

    • I fell into a snowmelt stream on Mount St. Helens late in June of 97 while observing salamanders with my professor. We start swimming in April here though most pools don’t open until Memorial Day.

      I see lots of pictures of PNW erosion on the interweb as well as guides for planting for erosion control. In fact, the pictures I’m seeing make me feel ashamed that I even brought the subject up.

      I would guess the freeze/thaw cycle with spring rains on ground that has been denuded for 6 or 8 months with poor root systems causes most of my problems.

      Our ponds were built to catch the neighbor’s fertility. Water storage was just an extra benefit.

    • You know, I think a big part of our problem is the absolute lack of organic material remaining in our soil. The dirt gets hard as a brick in the summer. There is nothing to soak up the water. Nothing to hold it together. Like sand, much of our dirt is just a loosely-bound aggregate that is easily washed away. It’s not the hooves I need, it’s the organic material. The hooves are the delivery mechanism.

  3. I guess I meant here as in our farm when I said “here we don’t have gullies.” Erosion is huge in the clear cuts or logged over lands. Or any place there is cropping done in the valley without any kind of cover crop. I guess no gullies is from having land that isn’t suitable for crops, so it becomes sun-loving pasture instead, if not forest. I’m still keeping the bulldozer though just in case.

    I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the big landslide north of Seattle.

  4. If you had been able to get into that pasture what would you have done with the dead cow? In Cdn Prairie winters the ground is too frozen so you cannot bury them and a frozen cow seems too big to haul to a compost pile. Round my parts carcasses just get hauled out to the back 40 to let Mother Nature take it’s course. I liken it to paying property taxes to all the wildlife that homesteaded here long before mankind. My area does not have a lot of poultry or small stock and the coyotes are mostly welcomed around here for the carrion cleanup work they do and assist with the never-ending gopher population and the holes they create in the pastures and yards. We also have a few badgers that are kind of cool to see slowly ambling down the roads like traveling salesmen going from farm to farm looking for work.

    • They could be burned in an incinerator or buried. Alternatively, you can call the rendering company and they will haul it away.

      I don’t mind the coyotes and appreciate their service in this instance but that skeleton is in a weird place. I’ll probably remove it before I graze cattle there again…just have to let it decompose a little longer.

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