March 22, 2020

Pasture Soil Building Update

I've been going through my photo files for pictures for 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel. I found these and had to stop and be amazed. They were taken in February and March of 2015 and 2016, before we started on our pasture soil improvement strategy in 2018. I know that soil building takes years, so the then-and-now photos I'm about to show you are extremely heartening to me.

February 2016

March 2020

March 2016

March 2020

March 2016

March 2020

March 2015

March 2020

I didn't even remember that they once looked like that in winter. Is anyone else as amazed as I am?

The straw at in the bottom of the last photo is one of the methods I've been using for building soil in the pasture. I toss a diverse forage seed mixture down on the bare spots and cover with dirty barn bedding. The other method has been to subdivide the pastures and rotate where the goats graze. The rotations have been sporadic, especially in winter when forage growth is slow, but we've still been sticking with it and doing it the best we can.

It's not as lush as I'd like it, but considering the time of year I can't complain. On the plus side is that  we've had a relatively mild winter, which means more growth because fewer species will go dormant. Even so, because of the temperatures, regrowth is slow. But something is there! And it looks so much greener than anything we've ever seen on our property this time of year. I am exceedingly thankful.

21 comments:

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Wow Leigh! Fantastic visual evidence of how improvements actually work. Very encouraging!

Mike Yukon said...

Certainly worth the effort! The critters are going to love it! :-)

Ed said...

Intensive grazing techniques play a really big part in pastures looking like yours. When our neighbors started doing that, I remember seeing big differences in early spring pasture appearances.

Leigh said...

TB, very encouraging. For a long time I saw no change! I continued because I believed it would work.

Mike, it's a relief, really. :)

Ed, seeing is believing. :)

Cockeyed Jo said...

Doing things the organic way takes time. But the overall benefits is worth it.

Leigh said...

Jo, it does, indeed. For awhile, I admit it was pretty discouraging. But I trusted the process and new that eventually the soil would respond. Here's hoping we can keep on keeping on and see even better improvement in the years to come.

Unknown said...

it looks great!

Retired Knitter said...

Wow. There really is a major difference. Persistence! And science. Works.

wyomingheart said...

Wow, Leigh! Seeing is believing, for sure! You have done a wonderful job, of not only rebuilding your pastures, but of chronicling the history. Can you see a difference in the animals from the past to now, on vet bills, or consumption of purchased feed? Well done! We are using those methods for our hay pastures, which were previously used to grow gmo soybeans and winter wheat. I know it will take a few years, but we are hoping to turn those fields around to good horse hay. Thanks so much for the encouragement! It really helps us to believe it can happen here as well!

Mama Pea said...

Isn't it wonderful (and also super-encouraging!) when you can see the results of your efforts? To my mind, having pictures to supplement record keeping is invaluable. Because we quickly let slip from our memories the image of what once was.

Renee Nefe said...

I miss your piggy adventures!

Kelly said...

Wow! That's a major difference! Looking at those pigs.... do you (or did you) raise them? We have such a feral hog problem around here, I always cringe a little when I see anything that oinks. They can tear up a pasture lickity split!

Leigh said...

Unknown, thanks!

RT, it's a shame that the original science was so wrong about soil. We did a lot of damage through scientific chemicals, which have turned out to be very destructive. Trouble is, a lot of people still buy into the old science. The science of soil biology is only a couple of decades old, with exciting discoveries still being made. But here's the proof!

Wyomingheart, I have to admit that there were times I was discouraged. On the other hand, I knew our original way of doing things definitely wasn't working. In his book, Soil Owner's Manual, John Sitka says it takes 3 - 5 years to start to see results. So hang in there! You're heading in the right direction!

Mama Pea, oh yes! And I'm so glad I've been keeping this blog as a journal. It's true we forget, but the reminder is invaluable and a good record of the changes.

Renee, lol. We still want to get pigs again some day. Once we can deal with trees falling on fences. :)

Kelly, yes, those were our pigs. They're American Guinea Hogs. It's true pigs can naturally till a plot of ground in no time! We really like the breed but had to get rid of them when we lost a lot of fences due to falling trees.

Annie in Ocala said...

Great to see your progress! It is encouraging for sure. The pics tell the story. I'm doing similar on the Bahia / bremuda grass here... Getting some deer plot mix to plant every fall... Here it's so frustrating the fall an spring are our dry times... An in a drought now with less than 2" this year an around 4-5" total since sept. The Bahia is green and slowly growing. The mix I planted in oct is burning up now.... I just thinned the herd to lessen the pressure on what's growing an what I have to buy. And then... When the rains come often it's a deluge that washes a lot of fertility down the hill.... And things... like the weeds the goats don't like... grow like crazy!! And I know I'm preaching to the choir there! Lol! Thanks so much for the update.... It definitely helps keep me focused on pressing on. Especially now. Although I have been putting the barn cleanings, old hay, composted leaves, ashes/charcoal bits an stuff on the land for a long time.... Just last spring I done some cross fencing an attempting the rotational grazing thing....

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Looks great!!!

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, we see the most difference in purchased feed consumption in summer. Winter less so, especially if it's a cold one for us. The improvements in the forage promise higher nutrient density, which should decrease the need for feed even more. Ruminants eat until they are nutritionally satisfied, so the better the forage and hay quality, the less it takes to satisfy them.

Annie, well, I can empathize! Hot and dry spells have caused setbacks for us as well. I'm heartened to know, however, that as the soil biology improves, so will moisture retention. We aren't there yet, but I'm encouraged now, and that gives me a boost of energy to get out and cover more bare spots!

Nancy, thanks!

Rain said...

Amazing! And what an improvement Leigh...and a reminder of how time flies!

Chris said...

Lovely green pasture is always a sight to behold. Well done for all your hard work. Green things grow, much better, when animals are incorporated. It's the original blueprint of one follows the other. As long as we get the timing for rotations right.

Fiona said...

Those are amazing changes...proof what careful research and hardwork can acheive. We are noticing changes here but still have a lot of work ahead. You are such an inspiration as to what can be done๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Amy G said...

This is really encouraging. Did you do anything to change the soil ph in order for this regeneration to occur?

Leigh said...

Rain, when you move to your new place, take lots of pictures and document, document, document! Won't be long before you'll be sharing your own amazing stories too!

Chris, without animals, there is no ecosystem. Without animals, the same results are very difficult to accomplish.

I admit that my wildly varying seasons make getting the right rotations correct. But the better the soil biology, the better the moisture retention, the better the results.

Fiona, thank you! We need to encourage one another. I'm thrilled with these results, and encouraged not to give up but to keep on with renewed enthusiasm.

Amy G, no! Soil microorganisms transport the nutrients and adjust the pH. You just plant the seeds and supply a source of carbon (my straw mulch, for example). I highly recommend John Stika's A Soil Owner's Manual. He does an excellent job of explaining how it works and how to do it.