How hard is it to turn woods into pasture/garden? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 04-28-2008, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm probably not being specific enough, but whatever. We are considering some land that is all wooded (not thickly, but the trees are old and big). How hard is it to clear forest to make an acre or two of food-growing land?

And it's only just shy of 4 acres, which feels like not-very-much. We were hoping for 10-15, though DH says it's all in how USEABLE the acres are, and most larger lots have a portion that is useless. Also, our reason for wanting more was to maintain our privacy, but I think we'd have reasonable privacy due to the location of this land. I don't know whether to consider something smaller than 5 acres. We want to have the option of growing most of our own food (at least for DH and I once the kids are gone) and some smaller livestock as well (chickens, sheep, maybe a goat). We were hoping for a woodlot so we could meet our heating needs ourselves if necessary, but I wonder if that is too much to hope for.

Anyone have thoughts or experiences to share?

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 8 Old 04-28-2008, 12:41 PM
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I'm interested in this as well. In John Seymour's self suffienct living book, he talks about clearing land. It sounds like a lot of work and like it takes a significant amount of time. Maybe if it's salable timber, you could get someone else to do some of the labor, and get paid for it. But if it's not very much, that might not be an option.

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#3 of 8 Old 04-28-2008, 07:25 PM
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Right now timber prices are at rock bottom. So low that no one is even bothering because gas is so much. I think hemlock is selling but thats about it. My husband does a small amount of logging on our property and keeps on top of prices and this has been the big discussion this month. We are not far from you. As for clearing the land chances are you will pay unless you have a whole bunch of really good trees. And these days you will most likely pay, especially on such a small lot. Also its not just logging. They have to stump and clear brush. There are lots of options for stumps. I would not recommend allowing them to be buried on your property unless you have the space to give up for buried stumps. Then you may have to address topsoil if you plan on farming the area and you may also need to bring in fill to fill holes from the stumps.

One thing to keep in mind these days is that it can be cheaper to buy a really old fixer upper and then rebuild. The septic, electricity, driveway, & cleared land is already there and often cheaper then if you went out and did it all from scratch. Prices are going up. From gravel to lumber to gas to run a piece of equipment to just the local contractor to get to the job site.
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#4 of 8 Old 04-28-2008, 11:11 PM
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I was just outside today dealing with the holes in my land (from pulling out stumps) filling them in with new dirt thinking, hmm, someone on mothering warned me years ago about how hard this is.
Our land was thickly forested and we had to do a lot of clearing for our house, road, and garden. The garden was tiny last year but gave lots of food. This year I really wanted it bigger so we cut a few more trees, pulled out the stumps and are putting a nice mix on top from the garden center. It's maybe 1/4 acre and that is all we can handle right now.

If we had brought all our wood to the house before the big snow, we would have had a lot more of our own firewood and not had to buy any. I read in a Firefox book years ago that it's nice to be two years ahead of your wood pile so it's nice and dry. It's a lot of work but totally possible. We like to thin out the thick areas and use that wood for our fire. One thing that I did learn is that all that slash that is left over can really be used for fire starter and we burned a lot of it because it felt overwhelming to chop it all up.

I also want to add that it can be such a mess. It was hard to see the beautiful forest go from being nice to having big piles of slash, then piles of ash, then stumps hanging around that I don't know what to do with.

I know one day it will be amazing and it's already getting there. The forest looks like a massacre sometimes but then I keep at it and it starts to look nice again.

Good luck.
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#5 of 8 Old 04-29-2008, 01:55 AM
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It depends on a few things. How sunny can you get it? What water source will you be using? And when you say wooded, what kind of trees are you talking about? If it's pines, or something tall like that you will have to find the optimal sunny area to clear because there shade will cover if you don't plan right.

The soil might be wrong. Pines make the soil very acidic so you may have to amend the soil quite a bit. If you have some extra money, you can get 2-? truck loads of good soil depending on how big of growing space you need.

I think you have more than enough land. I was part of a communal garden that was exactly 1 square acre and it fed 40 families so no problem there.

How exciting for you and what a great experience you have in front of you. I'm envious.
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#6 of 8 Old 04-29-2008, 09:58 AM
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I have several friends who have cleared and stumped for horses. It's a ton of messy, hard work that needs a several year vision, IME. And since our land had a couple of acres already cleared I haven't had to do this myself. Except some low bushes, and that was a job! If you can buy really low however you will certainly have a more usable and valuable piece of land if some of it is cleared.
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#7 of 8 Old 04-29-2008, 11:42 AM
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location is another thing with privacy, we are in the hills here so something close to the road and by 'civilazation' my be pretty shelterd or it may give you an open view of everything going on around you. Noise level too... even in some of the crooks and crannies of the hollows you can ear road noise or music playing at the neighbors.

you really don't need much land to keep some chickens and grow a garde. Adding the smaller animals like sheep and goats... depends on if your feeding them supplemental garin and or hay. Are you hoping to cut and put up enough feed stuff for them also? if your willing to purchase then you can get away with much smaller amt of land... and tractor and other 'farm related things'.

for big trees, you can cut and clear youself if your comfortable with a saw, stumps are a problem but you can leave them if you aren't going to be tilling. May not be the ultimate best mow into hay pasture but grass will grow and you can keep the sprouts from the trees cut down or you can use the goats as a built in shrub control.

for the tilling part of the land for growing garden, it would be nice to get the stumps out, lots of work if you do it all by hand but much easier with each upgrade in machinery... from a tractor to a dozer.... how much $ do you have to invest in something like that, whether your wanting to hire it done or do it yourself... lots of factors to think of.

You never know wheter the amt or quality of land will be enough or what you want until you have lved there for awhile and it's such a hard choice to make.
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#8 of 8 Old 04-29-2008, 06:19 PM
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How about working with the land rather than against it? Sure remove a few trees if you need to, but what about creating a forest garden (google it) and having animals that are happiest in woods(chickens and pigs come to mind, and goats will keep down any new growing saplings).

We have 2.5 acres, it´s fine for us (though we are not growing cereals), we are partially wooded and as my OH is a tree surgeon we are able to harvest enough firewood without killing trees.

I´d urge you NOT to deforest, surely one of the reasons you want to go off-grid, self-sufficient is because you care about the environment? Deforestation is not just huge clear-cutting, it is each and every little step that humans take to replace wilderness with something else. And it is one of our greatest environmental problems.
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