The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Locating the pig pasture

Pasture map

I realized I'd never shared how the future pig pasture fits into the bigger picture, so here's a map for those of you who enjoy them.  The aerial photo is from around this time last year, before we took down the yurt.  What's hard to see is that our core homestead, the pig pasture, and the yurt are all on little semi-flat plateaus, separated by gullies, but elevated a good distance above the floodplain.  I'm hoping the semi-flat part will mean less erosion from pig feet as they tear up the Japanese honeysuckle.

Sleeping garden

For map-phobes, here's a photo instead.  I'm standing in front of the trailer and looking southwest over the front garden toward the pig pasture.  (Yes, Thursday was a very gray day.)

Clearing ground

Entering the pig pasture from the blueberry patch, Mark had already cut down a few little trees at the time of this picture, but not very many.  You would expect more growth than this for an area that's been vacant for three or four decades, but I suspect over-farming combined with invasive Japanese honeysuckle held trees back.  The vines also make it tough to cut and clear the trees, but we persevered.

Log pile

Here's the result of an afternoon's work.  Trees in this stack will become next year's firewood and include sassafras, box-elder, sourwood (which I would have kept for the bees, but missed IDing until it was already cut), and black birch.  Mark also cut some of the saddest-looking black locusts I've ever seen, but I saved a few nicer-looking ones as nectary plants.  There's one big oak who will also be saved for the acorns, along with some little nut trees I planted here a few years ago.

Brush pile

I always feel a little guilty making brush piles because I know that in some parts of the world, this would be the only wood available for cooking and heating fires.  For us, though, the juice isn't worth the squeeze, so I piled branches up on the edge of the plateau, past where the fence will run.  In a perfect world, the brush might rot down in five or ten years and provide a rich terrace for fruit-tree planting.  Or maybe it'll just keep the songbirds happy.

Looking up the hill

Mark cleared about a third of the plateau in a couple of hours Thursday afternoon, but we've got some big decisions to make today.  I've started eying the hillside just above the pig pasture for orchard expansion --- it flattens out into a little ridge before heading back up the main hillside.  But if I want to clear this area, some of the biggest trees will need to come down now before fences go up downhill.  I've regretted it in the past when I've rushed and left trees like this in place, so I suspect we'll go ahead and take them down, even if that makes it less likely we'll get all of the work done in time to buy pigs this spring.

Our chicken waterer is the clean and easy way to make chicken-care fun.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Couple points from experience be careful about placing brush piles near gardens they attract rabbits. When we first moved to this farm we had brush piles and couldn't figure out where all the rabbits were coming from that raided our gardens nightly that spring. Seems several mama rabbits were raising litters of babies under the brush piles my husband had not burned yet.

I grew up in Louisiana and some of my fathers property was swamp. They actually used the swamp as pastures because the pigs cleared out the snakes so he said. Did you know a pig can eat a poisonous snake and not die? Much of his original farm was actually cleared by pigs and then fenced for pasture.

Comment by Canned Quilter Fri Mar 22 09:59:51 2013
From the first comment it seems like it would be beneficial to somewhat align the brush pile so you can sneak up and be able to take a shot at your other new potential free range livestock wild rabbits. I'm very excited about your new project and the slope looks like amazing potential for fruit trees and potential terraces.
Comment by Brian Fri Mar 22 10:16:25 2013
I LOVE your blog! Found it a few months ago and have been catching up in the archives while checking in to read the latest posts. So much info! I am jealous of your pig pasture. I can second the fact that pigs will take out snakes of all types. Please tell me you are serious that the brush pile will degrade in 5-10 years. (please please please) I have a huge pile of mostly pine that has been composting for 3 years. I hope it does turn into rich yummy compost. Oh Joy! :)
Comment by Elaine S Fri Mar 22 18:36:08 2013

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