April 14, 2022


Pasture improvement is something we are always striving toward. Ideally, it should be a self-sustaining perennial system, but in reality, this is not an easy goal to reach. In observing how our pastures grow, I noticed early on that when trees create light shade from a high canopy, our pasture forage does better than parts of the pasture that are in full sun. Lightly shaded parts of the pasture survive summer's hot dry spells, continuing to provide forage for the goats. Because of that, silvopasture makes a lot of sense.

Silvopasture. Silva is Latin for forest and, of course, pasture is where livestock graze, so silvopasture is a system which integrates forest, forage, and livestock in a mutually beneficial way. Our wooded goat  browse areas are a ready-made location for establishing silvopasture.

Our 2020 Master Plan
Hmm. Needs updating.

Silvopasture has been on the master plan for a couple of years, but it took awhile to get to a point where we could actually do something. Mostly because of



and this.

They're all mature pine trees, most of which either uprooted and fell, or broke mid-trunk and fell. Some of them Dan took down because for awhile, it didn't seem safe in our woods, especially when it was windy. 

On the one hand, these have become a source for homegrown lumber and woodchips. On the other, they leave a lot of mess behind.

Our tractor and PTO chipper in the background.

Needless to say, clean up has been slow. However! We finally made enough progress so that last fall I could toss down some seed. Here's how it looks now.

Silvopasture beginnings.

It's somewhat spotty, but it's a beginning. I'll work to add plant diversity and fill in the bare spots.

Learning that some goals are slow to achieve has been one of the lessons we've learned from homesteading. It's easy to become impatient and even discouraged, when things don't happen quickly. So much of it is simply plodding one step at a time. If we do that, then eventually we make progress! Now we just have to keep at it because living systems require our ongoing participation. 

Do you have any long-term goals that you feel will never be reached? Are you hanging in there with them?


Ed said...

Do you ever get people asking you what you do for the “rest” of the year like farmers do? When you own land and animals, there is always something to work on.

Sandi said...

It is Good to see nature. It heals the heart somehow.

Leigh said...

Ed, ha.The other one is, "you need to take a vacation." It's interesting how most folks don't really understand farming.

Sandi, absolutely! The challenge is learning to cooperate with it. :)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, one of the great truths that I never appreciated before I started my martial art is the idea that we never actually "arrive" at mastery, we are only, ever, making progress towards it. It has helped me accept the fact that improvement is much slower than I think it is, but real in spite of that fact.

If I were a smarter man, I would be reading of long established agricultural traditions in other locales that mirror my own (For the Ranch, Italy is actually not a bad example: Thanks. Columella, Cato, and Varro) for suggestions.

I have never made the mistake of asking anyone in any craft field (and agriculture is a craft to me) what they do for vacation. There is always work to do, and I think for many it is work they would rather do than be on a "vacation".

Leigh said...

TB, that mindset (of seeing things in terms of progress rather than mastery) is a valuable life skill. For some reason, it isn't easy to learn, but it certainly makes things easier, for all the ups and downs we face with every goal.

Studying historical examples for your growing climate is an excellent idea! Interesting, but practical as well.

Rosalea said...

Leigh...just look back on all you have accomplished up til now. An amazing amount of stuff. Isn't enjoying the journey, what life is all about? Love the new green of your pasture. Things are just starting to green up here now that the frost is finally out of the ground.

Nancy In Boise said...

You're getting there! Weather can sure wreak havoc

Goatldi said...

I have always strived to live somewhere that is home. Why would I want to go on vacation?

Leigh said...

Rosalea, what's helped is just taking it a little at a time. Each day we choose a project to make progress on, and eventually it gets done. When things get discouraging, we look back through my blog! It helps to look back at what's been accomplished, as well as looking forward to new and interesting projects.

Nancy, learning to pace ourselves has been key! It took awhile to switch from thinking in terms of checklists to thinking in terms of lifestyle. Dan and I both love being outdoors and active. It's great to look back at each day with a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small. :)

Goatldi, I think vacations are for people who really don't like what they do. Or whose job is so pressure and stress filled, that they need a break. Dan and I have slowed down quite a bit, and we pace ourselves now in manageable chunks. But our lifestyle gives us a sense of productivity and purpose, and nothing can beat that.

Nina said...

When we had goats they would stretch up against the trees, with their hooves on the trunk, as high as they could reach and strip the leaves, small twigs and branches and then the bark. The dairy goats were most destructive but the angora goats didn't seem to do much damage at all. Your new pasture looks lovely though, relaxing and peaceful, with the bits of shade and fresh, new grass.

Unknown said...

I didn't know it was called that, we observed the same thing here, but do many old farmers tell us that we need to clear the trees! Liz www.eight-acres.com.au

Leigh said...

Nina, that's interesting about the angora goats. I can confirm that dairy goats are very destructive if allowed to continually browse wooded areas. Great if one wants brush clearing, but not great if one wants things to grow!

Liz, so good to hear from you! I'm glad you've kept your trees! Funny, how even farming gets on "trends" that sound good but are ultimately counterproductive. So much of life seems to be that way.