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There is a good discussion occurring on one of Jerry's Farm Question threads. In an effort to continue this discussion I have started this thread.

Jerry tells about his efforts thus far on his farm. He has made amazing progress in his farm's fertility as well as tackling several erosion problems.

I too have seen great gains on my previously worn out farmland. I, like Jerry did not have limitless resources so as to be able to dump money on my soil. What we did have was manure, the ability to mow weeds and grass and the desire to make improvements.

Jerry and I do not know each other, yet our approach to farming mirrors each other. We both divided our farms into small fields or paddocks. We grazed these areas and mowed/clipped the vegetation. The next thing we did was stop erosion and apply manure and compost.

I am a firm believer that if a farmer can do nothing else, timely mowing will help him make great gains. The clover and grasses will start to recover and grow. The grazing animals moved often from pasture to pasture, deposit manure. They also cause the grass to regrow during the rest period between grazing rotations.

I also saw great improvements on my farm from frost seeding clover. The clover seed is broadcast in very late winter or very early spring when the frost causes the ground to "honeycomb". The only equipment I use is a small spin seeder slung on my shoulder. The clover supplies needed nitrogen to the other grasses. The manure and mulch from mowing starts to increase the organic material available to the growing crop.

I plant a little corn followed by a small grain crop in a 5 year rotation around hay and pastures in my paddocks. I use some fertilizer (organic) on the year that I plant the heavy feeding crop of corn. The grain crop that follows, cleans up the extra phosphorus and nutrients in the soil.

Compost helps to buffer pH in the soil, but a liming program based upon soil tests, is probably one of the best ways to spend your money. In this regard I should follow my own advice a little better.

The take away here is that farm fertility will be increased by mowing, rotational grazing and the application of manure and compost. Farming in such a way to manage water run off enhances these efforts. This type of farming is the foundation for sustainable self sufficiency that will ensure your success on your piece of land.

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-07-19 20:40:05 (CST)

Good advice, Ralph. The described approach, though, is based not only on biological knowledge, but also on patience, the latter one being in short supply nowadays, even among many farmers.
When I started on our farm eleven years ago the meadows were overgrown with shrubs, most of them thorny locusts, and the grasses were thin. The arable portion on many places showed signs of compaction and was low in organic content. Where I plowed we soon became infested with pigweed, lamb's quarters and other undesirable plants( I have to admit, though, that we sold lamb's quarter in early spring for$ 6 a pound).
Today we have lush pastures and hay land and good growing areas for our vegetables.This doesn't mean that all problems are solved, just that one can make progress without investing a lot of money. The locusts I cut down, the shrub and sprouts were decimated by our flock of goats, frost seeding with red and white clover increased the fertility of the grasslands, lots of manure, crop rotation, rapid succession of feeders and givers, shallow and deep rooting plants, and like you said frequent mowing, all of that helped together. It doesn't happen overnight, but it can happen without the application of any herbicides. I am convinced, that working the ground with horses instead of with mechanical power also has its own benefits.
Today I am trying to counter the obvious consequences of climate change. One of the measures I take is that except for some smaller flat areas I do not have any bare ground , not even during summer or winter fallow,even though I was always convinced that hard frosts and hot sun could help destroy weeds. But now with torrential rains being the norm rather than gentle ones, I have to be concerned about erosion more than ever before.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-07-20 05:51:04 (CST)

We have done a lot of things on the farm to combat erosion and repair previous damage. The major thing is the filling of gullies, and we continue to do so. Recently we have been fighting oriental honeysuckle and using the cuttings from it to fill ditches and it seems to be working. We also have an abundance of cedars that do very well. We have done my grandpa referring to as "spiling" on area near a creek that flows through our property. In places where the creek has gotten up and created side channels, we set rows of posts across the new ditch. Grandpa called these short post "spiles" They catch the debris carried by high water and over time fill the low spots. It seems to be working. We have used our hay feeding to improve a lot of ground. We line our rolls up on the crest of a hill and then, in winter, roll them down the hillside over what is some of our poorest soil. The next spring the bales can be tracked by the five foot wide swath of clover that comes up. Someone asked me if I didn't waste a lot of hay by feeding this way, but I don't consider it a waste. The following hay crop nearly triples from this application of organic matter and I've seen enough calves bed down in the hay in bad weather to believe if it saves just one calf, any losses are more than offset. My biggest current issue is my hill sides. We have some slopes that were in pasture when we bought the place, but are now growing brush too large to be mowed. When we started, we kept the hillsides cleared with a scythe. It took two weeks twice a year to keep it scythed. Then after an accident, we weren't able to scythe for four years in a row. The brush grew, and is now too large to be cut by anything but a chainsaw. My neighbors all tell me to bring in a dozer, push it into piles and burn it, but I am afraid of losing too much top soil. I toy with the notion of cutting by had and painting the stumps (on honey locust) with an herbicide. My thought is that by painting I will use less chemical than if I sprayed and the application will be more concentrated to the area on which it is needed. After this I can clip with a team and a short barred (4-1/2 foot) sickle mower. I have about 15 acres in hillside pasture like this and though it was bush hogged in years past, suddenly no one wants to work on land that steep. Our tobacco rotation helped some of our level land improve. We did a three rotation, with tobacco followed by either alfalfa or clover. At the end of the second year, just before plowing under for the tobacco crop, we grazed the legumes with pigs. The pigs benefited from the pasture, but they also ate a lot of weeds as well as grubs and worms that would have been pests in the following crop. They added a lot of manure as well. I feel like, on our level land, we have gotten about as much improvement by grazing and clipping alone, that we can get. Having pulled soils samples, I feel like that I will have to lime this year to see much further improvement. According to my soil tests, my soil could also benefit from fifty pounds of phosphate tot he acre which we are considering doing. I have an old farm manual that shows a 59 percent increase in grass hay from lime alone. The same field showed a 32 percent increase from phosphate alone, but when phosphate and lime were added together, the increase in yields were 188 percent. The total was greater than the sum of the parts. I've read this for years and would really like to test it to see.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2017-07-20 10:35:14 (CST)

Klaus, you bring up a very good point with the rains coming in torrents rather than showers. It is wise of you to manage for the down pours. I am flat here, but I still am mindful of fast moving water. Even on the flat, lots of soil can get displaced by moving water.

Jerry, and others, here is another point to consider;
As my farm becomes more productive, it is tempting to sell extra hay and straw. So far I have resisted and just increased my stock numbers instead. I think running that extra feed through livestock increases my profitability more, than the quick buck made from selling a load of hay and sending my fertility to someone else's farm. I also get the increased manure from doing so.
I also agree and have done as Jerry said, increasing pasture improvements by feeding hay on the ground and letting them waste a little bit. It is just as Jerry says, it is not wasted when you see the effects of new seeding and lush grass the very next season.

Klaus brings up one of the greatest points of all...patience! It takes time to see Mother Nature work, even when we help her...but it is worth the wait!

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2017-07-20 21:43:24 (CST)

I fill in washouts and blowouts by feeding my cows on them in the winter I take round bales up the hill cut the strings or net rap and let them roll so the center ends in the washout the cows most of the time don't eat the center then, the washouts are filling up. I cut cedar trees and roll them into the washouts and blowouts also. All it takes is time and very little money.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Billy Foster says 2017-07-21 11:12:06 (CST)

I have found feeding hay on pasture in the winter to be the best way of re-seeding poor weedy pastures as well. Timely mowing and bale grazing can make some very nice pasture on very poor ground. I once heard a saying that I remember to tell me when to mow weeds “mow them in May and they will grow like hay, mow them in July and say goodbye.
Also: It is nice to go to Google Earth and use the timeline tool to scroll through the years and see ones progress.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2017-07-21 14:21:02 (CST)

It's nice to be in the company of so many land stewards!
Good idea Billy. I don't think about the technology available to me for checking progress. Most of the time I'm just a "Man Out standing in his field" LOL

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-07-22 11:23:43 (CST)

With all the good ideas brought here, let's not forget cooperation with neighbors. The young man who had his livestock on our pastures sold them all in spring, but it was noticeable where his cattle had grazed, the pasture was fertilized. I noticed that a neighbor's pasture was all nibbled down, so I invited him to bring his nine head of cattle and a horse over to use some of ours. I don't charge him anything, but since he has a lawn mowing business he started mowing our lawn in return.
Both of us benefit!

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

JerryHicks says 2017-07-24 05:19:12 (CST)

We use the online images quite a bit. I have printed out maps of my place and have notebooks with the maps in them that show anything that has been sown on them as well as regular stock rotations. They also have yearly notes showing grazing days per field as well as crop yields. They show permanent as well as temporary fencing. Klaus brings up a very good point about the rains, but I feel like our climate in our area is changing drastically. We are getting very warm wet winters now where we used to get a lot of cold and snow. Crops in our area are being planted much earlier than once would have been the case. It seems like we are witnessing a lengthening of the growing season. Rains are not as reliable though. They don't seem to come with reliable frequency but when they do come, they tend to be damaging. I have now seen 18 feet of water on some of my low pastures four times now in 13. And this from a little branch that most times I can jump across it and it's rarely deeper than shin high at any point on my place. Other than controlling brush, my other big issues on my farm are the dying Ash trees and in the invasive plant species. Elms have been dying for some time. 3/4 of my white ash trees are dead. Hickories are staring to rot where they stand. Wild Cherry trees seem to have rotten hearts and they don't grow very large. I have no trouble these days filling my wood pile, but I'm wondering what I'll do for usable timber in the future.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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