Savanna Restoration Series: Part 2

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(Read Part 1 of my Savanna Restoration Series HERE.)

(Read Savanna Restoration: Part 3 HERE)

(Read Savanna Restoration: Part 4 HERE)

Here at Farm on the Hill, we are faced with the problem of a lush but tired hayfield in great need of food: the natural fertilizer that grazing ruminant animals can provide.

Our long-term plan to solve this problem has been to build up our farm for management intensive, rotational grazing: free-ranging ruminants “cut” and “fertilize” the grass; free-ranging poultry follow several days behind (to allow for the length of the fly cycle), scratching through the droppings, gobbling up larvae, insects, and worms, thus sanitizing the pasture and providing the natural protein poultry need and crave as they add their own nutritious fertilizer to the pasture.

To this end, our first order of business during our first two seasons as the owners of this land has been building infrastructure to support future livestock. After an accurate survey of the property was completed and boundaries clearly marked, electrified, permanent perimeter fencing was professionally installed over a two-year period. Next to the farm purchase itself, this fencing was the single largest investment we made.

Bryan built a Joel Salatin-inspired mobile chicken coop called the Eggmobile to house our laying hens. Eggmobile and occupants went out onto the front end of the ridge top hayfield, enjoying its grass and bugs, and leaving nourishing fertilizer behind.

We invested in major repairs to the barn’s old foundation …

… and cleared out old crumbling silos and other junk that was in the barnyard.

Finally, last fall, we brought in the four ewe lambs that will be the builders of our flock, plus a guard llama whom we named “Kuzco.” These five have been providing needed fertilizer and grazing to the previously weed-filled barnyard.

Ultimately, the ruminants need to head up and out into the old hayfield to graze and fertilize it. But there’s a small problem: Hayfields like to be in full sun, all day long. Animals do not. Modern farm machinery used for haying doesn’t take well to trees … thus, there aren’t any up on our ridge top acreage.

Last week’s postmentioned the past and present of our land. We’ve decided to take our farm back in time … back to its origins as a Midwest Oak Savanna!

A savanna is, simply stated, grassland with trees and shrubs scattered through it. It provides perfect support in nature for herds of grazing animals. With their input (healthy “pruning” plus fertilizer to continuously rejuvenate the grasses), the savanna is one of planet’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.

The Bible says that God created by simply speaking things into being. The theory of evolution claims they “evolved” over millions of years. We have no such power, nor so much time! Just a shovel, a tamping rod, the sweat of our brows, and boxes and boxes containing … get ready … 500 tree and shrub saplings. YES … FIVE HUNDRED. Let me tell you … how we wish we could have handed this job to God to simply speak it into being! But He seemed to indicate this was something we had to go through.

Join me next week for our continued journey into the past … as we plant ourselves an old-fashioned Midwest Oak Savanna!