Monday, July 13, 2020

Pasture Improvements and Barn[yard] Glow-Ups

A silver lining to COVID-19 is that I've had ample time to work on things around the property. Usually I feel pulled in multiple directions: photography gigs, hangouts, post-work libations with my coworkers, potlucks, travel, etc. Noooot so much now. As a result, my to-do list for the barn and property that I expected to take until autumn has been completed.

Preparation and Liming of the Pastures

I'll likely lime my pastures for a few years in a row to get them up to a better pH. When I tested the soils last year, they rung at a pH of 4.6  This wasn't at all surprising, but it is a bit too acidic to grow lush pasture grasses.

To prepare for liming, I spent a few days picking up rocks, firewood, and wood scraps/shavings from the milling process last summer. This involved three more pick up loads of firewood to be transferred (we had already done a good 6 loads last fall), raking and shoveling of all the scraps and shavings, and clearing out rocks that remained from excavation.

I slowly did these tasks over a period of a few weeks while I waited for the weather to get its shit together so I could lime. When I finally found a window of time, I headed up to Oakland to get a buggy from Southern States that was full of pelletized lime and returned to spread it in the first pasture (I'm waiting to do the other one this autumn). 

Spring pastures sans all the firewood that had been piled up here!
Wheelbarrow with scraps, one jump that hadn't been moved, and tarp-encased slab of wood we're letting cure before turning into a bench 
Hooked up to the buggy waiting for pelleted lime to fill 
Hooked up and about to drive around the pasture spreading the lime
And the only morel I've ever found in the middle of my damn pasture!
It was a funny shaped little thing, but I was happy to discover it right before liming. I totally ate it with dinner that night lol

Rock Path

As my barn routine normalized, I began to notice that I was wearing a path down to the barn. This wasn't unexpected or surprising in the least. What was a slightly surprising and a bit frustrating though was that the last 6 feet or so was muddy because despite spreading top soil back, the vegetation was really struggling to reestablish itself. My constant trodding on it really wasn't helping either. The area was muddy and becoming worse by the day.

A big reason why I designed the barn/dry lot/pastures in the manner I did was to avoid ever having to step in mud again. I hate mud and one of my big goals with the barn project was to do all I could to effectively manage mud around my property. And so, in an effort to resolve the little bit of mud I was encountering on my walk down to the barn, I began building a stone path. 

It wasn't anything special at all, but it did help get me up out of the mud! I worked on it bit by bit this spring. First the topmost and bottom-most sections. The middle remained incomplete for a long time. And when I was about to mobilize and go fetch rocks to complete the middle section, I screwed up my shoulder. 

Fortunately for me, my brother - who has been back in WV for a few weeks and staying with me during that time - took it upon himself to upgrade/complete my rock pathway last week. Thanks, brother!

Norah checking out the lower part of the walkway
Middle missing
Rock walkway pairs well with the rock perimeter on my flower bed
Brother and his work in progress
A lot of the small rocks in the middle of this image and the next have been replaced with giant river rocks
I'm a big fan!

Barn Mats

While not the biggest or craziest upgrade, I did finally buy a few more barn mats. These damn things are pricey - especially when one needs to buy multiples. I'd like to eventually get about four more before calling it "good", but for now this is more than workable. I LOVE having mats to sweep. It's so much simpler than raking them for cleanliness.

Earlier this spring, I just had a narrow strip of mats up the middle.
But now mats fill the very large majority of the space!
We're pretty happy about this development for all barn aisle needs.


  1. i covet your barn still. of course that stone path down is so adorable and looks like something out of a fairy tale.

  2. Oooh I love that rock path! What's your pasture rotation plan with the ponies? Any plans to split your fields down even smaller and do more rotations?

    1. Not currently planning to cut them down on size any more than they already are. Each pasture is ~1 acre right now and they're out for 3-4 hours on good weather days. To cut them down further would really limit their space to move around.

      So far, I've been rotating 1 month per pasture. But as the weather/growing season changes, my turnout and rotation plans will likely change. Trying to feel things out as we go along!

      The grass has really stalled with growth the past few weeks due to hot weather and no precip. Beyond that, the ground actually looks really good and when we got a stupid amount of rain (inches) dumped on us in 45 minutes the other night, I was pleased to see minimial erosion from the deluge.

    2. Would love to read more about your pasture management plan/turnout schedule and the reasoning behind it. I've been casually looking at farms and it's going to have to be small acreage so inquiring minds want to know :P

      you know you've done a good job when youre not seeing any erosion!

  3. Love seeing all the work you are doing on your farm!

  4. Love that stone path!

    Can you tell me more about liming? I think we need to do our backyard but for some reason I am worried about the dog tracking it and eating it.

    1. Taiga ate the pelleted lime for a day or so. It was annoying. We didn't let her out long enough to get much and she had no adverse effects.

      I'm liming based on my soil analysis stating that my soil was acidic. Most states have programs that you can submit samples to for free. I went through WVU. Check in your state and see if there is a similar program. Then you can get yours tested and see what would be best for your soil. I don't think you can really go wrong with liming. Knowing what amount is needed may be difficult without a soil test is all. Then just do it right before a rain event so that it gets soaked into the ground really well!

  5. Looking great. It is the tiny improvements that make the biggest difference in daily life. I'd really like to put mats down my aisle, currently have four in the cross tie area only, but you are right - those things are expensive.

  6. This looks fantastic! So cool seeing all your update photos!

  7. I love how the barn wood is weathering already - it looks so perfect and homey!!!

  8. Excellent work!! It is so satisfying to do those jobs around the barn. Good work on the pastures - I need to do some soil testing and sort my pastures out. I have a lot of weeds and I likely need to lime/fertilize or something. That is my research project for the near future.

    Love the rock path! And you can't beat rubber mats - I need to redo two of my stalls and I'm pricing out mats - man they are expensive here! It will likely have to wait until next year for that upgrade.

  9. The improvements never cease. The best thing for pasture is lime and to aerate every spring. Rain helps. right now my back paddock is dead because we've been so dry. I'm completely bummed about it.

  10. i too have mats in my aisle (NOT that i use them now that Remus is not home and donkeys are wild) HA! But i still like the look!

    MUD is not a problem right now due to not having rain but i hear you on mud issues.

    Your place looks great.

    and can i have a brother that is useful rather than the twit i got loaded with HAHA

  11. I'm in love with the rock pathway and the vibe it gives the whole setting.