The Ranch

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The Ranch

Postby matt walker » Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:59 am

My 'stead, aka "The Ranch." First, a pic with contour lines. They aren't exactly accurate, but they give a pretty good idea of the lay of the land, North up in this one.

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And below is a basic outline of the first swales I'm planning. Bottom part of the pic is the orchard. Old, established trees. The blue is seasonal water, running pretty good right now, but all the way dry in summer. Red is the garden. Upper part of the pic shows the year round spring, small pond, and yellow are proposed swales. I'd like to accomplish a couple things. One is to hold the top soil on the relatively steep but short pitch over there on the upper east portion of the property. I had a garden there years ago, and it gets good sun, but drains right into the creek rapidly and since there is a steep roll over there, the topsoil washes away. I'd like to build the swale with grade just below the high water mark in the pond, but above the height of the current spillway for the pond. That way, during heavy precip, it would flow the runoff into the pond, but hopefully slow erosion and hold water in the soil over there longer. And provide a warm, moist, south facing berm to plant in. Veggies and edible perennials on the south side of the berm, fruit trees and such on the north, to absorb water. I dunno, I'm not too far into the planning yet, but that upper yellow line is what I've got staked so far, using my A level.

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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:41 am

A little info:







And this one, where he kinda blows it, but it's informative...

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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby CJ in VT » Sat Jan 14, 2012 8:41 pm

How about more info!
Location, animals, etc.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:15 pm

Those are intersting videos Matt. I did not realize that the down hill side of the swale was not compacted. I thought that it would be compacted to reduce errosion. I did not realize that the water soaked into the side of the swale as well as the bottom. I guess as long as you get something growing on the swale quickly errosion is not much of a problem. Very interesting information, Thanks.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:27 pm

Yes Guy, that's why I think it could work even in our saturated soils. It shouldn't increase the load on the soil, just minimize erosion and maximize moisture retention during the dry season. I'm getting more and more excited about that as I ponder it. If only I had that excavator!

CJ, I am really excited to share actually, so thanks for asking!

So, my place is just shy of 15 acres, on the north side of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. I'm about 17 miles from Victoria B.C., so a similar climate to there, but a bit less sun as I'm tucked up against the Olympics on the North slope of the foothills.

There's an old orchard, mostly small apples, a couple trees which produce larger, modern apples, and my pride and joy, a Mirabella plum tree that I would like to propagate all over the property.

I grow a fairly large garden, and put up a lot through dehydrating, canning, fermenting, and I attempt to cellar some food in my basement, although it's a little too mild here so I haven't had very good success there.

As for animals, I have two Dexter cows and a bull, currently about 28 Jacob sheep, 25 or so chickens, a Pyr and a farm terrier, a barn cat, and last season raised three Tamworths for slaughter.

With the animals, the garden, and some foraging, I'm able to provide almost all of my diet from my farm. I'd like to continue to refine this, although at this point I'm making more headway by learning how to do without some things, as I'm producing quite a bit of food with fairly low input.

I heat solely with wood, and am hoping to have a rocket mass heater in the house by next winter. I have cut all my wood for the last few years off of my property, but I'd like to greatly reduce my usage if for no other reason than I don't want to work so hard at staying warm. I've been cutting a LOT of wood each year, I'd love to reduce that.

I'd would love to cut my feed costs. I've been working on a rotational grazing scheme to maximize my pasture. The biggest hurdle here is cost of fencing and materials. I'm slowly picking away at the fencing. I have a very inexpensive technique I developed that works great for the cows, but the sheep require a more persuasive fencing scheme.

I'd love to incorporate more living fences to minimize fencing costs and maintenance. I have a lot of willow here, I just need to start doing it.

Hoping to also add hugelkultur and swales to upper pasture/hillside to increase forage for livestock and incorporate more edibles for me.

I've been brainstorming about incorporating Hugelkultur and south sloping beds into my garden area, as well as elsewhere. I have a lot of slash on the property as it was logged messily before I purchased it. Lots of material and ideas, now I just need time and labor.

Rocket Pizza oven! That's something I hope to get up and running for the summer, just for fun.

That's enough for now, I'll add more as I think of 'em.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby CJ in VT » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:39 pm

matt walker wrote:As for animals, I have two Dexter cows and a bull, currently about 28 Jacob sheep, 25 or so chickens, a Pyr and a farm terrier, a barn cat, and last season raised three Tamworths for slaughter.


So we do have a lot in common!

We'll need to brainstorm about the cow muck.

Is 1 LGD enough? I found I needed 2. One coyote will draw a dog away while the others go after the sheep.

I wound up with 125 lbs of pork from my small Tamworth and sold the other. Was your yield comparable? We are going through it awfully quickly. I may raise 3 next year & keep 1 1/2 for the family or raise 1 over the winter to slaughter in the spring.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:56 pm

Around here the county extension and the conservation society has programs and money available to small land holders for muck remediation. I need to get my ducks in a row and look into that. I'm pretty sure they bring in equipment and put in serious drainage, and then crushed rock. In addition to managing the animals movements, feeding and watering locations, etc. In the meantime, I'm thinking a well functioning rotational grazing scheme could go a long ways to help alleviate the muck.

One LGD is all I can afford to feed! Lol. She is great, and actually, yes I think one is plenty for my small pastures. She is exceptionally hard to contain, climbs fences like ladders and digs under what she can''t climb. If I could contain her 100% of the time I don't think I have any predation problems at all. Coyotes are not much of a problem here, big cats are a much more common threat. She's very effective on them, as they just look for easier prey.

I slaughtered my Tamworths at six moths old just about to the day. Big Pig hung at 217#!! The other two were around 90# a side, or 180# hanging. I fed only organic grains, and a LOT of cabbage, beets, greens, broccoli, and other garden stuff. I mean a LOT of garden stuff. Probably 8lbs of veggies each a day, on top of the grains. Oh, and eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. I was finding almost 24 a day in the barn, and just chucking 'em to the pigs, into brambles I wanted them to clear for me. The meat is great! I have 30# on the counter right now defrosting for an afternoon sausage making session.

I did exactly what you are proposing, kept 1 1/2, and sold 1 1/2. My costs were about $4 a pound, so I think of it as a luxury, but well worth it.

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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby CJ in VT » Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:14 pm

matt walker wrote: I have 30# on the counter right now defrosting for an afternoon sausage making session.

I did exactly what you are proposing, kept 1 1/2, and sold 1 1/2. My costs were about $4 a pound, so I think of it as a luxury, but well worth it.


I just made this last weekend:
Portuguese Linguica
5-lbs pork butt, coarsely ground
3-tbsp smoked paprika
2-tbsp minced garlic
5-tsp salt
1/2-cup red wine
1/2-tbsp sugar
2-tsp freshly ground white pepper
2-tsp dried oregano
1-tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix well
Stuff into hog casings or make into patties

Did you do on farm slaughter? We did but the processing still seemed on the high side.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Tue Jan 17, 2012 12:35 am

Awesome CJ, thanks for the recipe. Man, what a lot of work that was! I got about 125 links into the freezer by midnight Saturday night though, so it was worth the effort.

I didn't do the slaughter CJ, but hired someone who did do it here on the farm. It's around $45 a hog for that, then $0.55 a pound cut and wrap, that's with no extras. Smoking and sausage and the like are extra of course.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby CJ in VT » Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:55 am

Our costs were $30 per hog, and $0.55 /lb for cutting too.

I made 5 lbs and never got to freeze any of it, we ate it too fast!
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