Farming plans #4.

Making multiple use of marginal land. That is one key to making our farm sustainable.

The northwest section of our property is covered with very sandy soil. In some places it is so sandy that it looks more like beach sand than soil. From what we can tell, it does not appear to have been farmed any time in recent history. We don’t know that for sure because people have farmed here at least 200 years but we haven’t seen any evidence of farming activity. While in recent years small red cedar have been springing up in abandoned pastures and hay fields in elsewhere on the property, great eastern white pines and red pines seem to have been established much longer in that area. We would like to learn more from locals about how the area was used in the past.

The land is marginal, but it is not useless. In fact, multiple uses are already beginning to take shape in the lovely area.

Jonathan’s research indicates that chestnuts grow well in similar soils to pine trees. So we have planted about 20 chestnuts in that area thus far with many, many more to come. (For a good explanation of the types of chestnuts, see Jonathan’s comments in Farming Plans #1.) There is enough space that we haven’t had to remove any pine trees to make room for the chestnuts. The pine actually are helping in the process by producing large quantities of needles, now partially composted, that we have gathered from under them and used as mulch to conserve moisture and enrich the sandy soil for the chestnuts. Eventually, both the pine and chestnuts will grow large enough that we may have to cut down some pine but by that time they will be big enough to provide useful wood.


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Seedling chesnut trees planted in the sandy north-west corner of the farm with pine trees in the background


In addition, as you can see in the pictures, below, the goldenrod is abundant in this area and that certainly is not useless as far as the beekeeper in the family is concerned. It was good to hear the steady humming of the bees as they harvested the nectar the past few days.

Also, even though we don’t have plans for it in the next few years, the area could also be grazed several times a year by livestock.


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It is possible that we will be harvesting chesnuts within 5 years but it will take years for the trees to become large. In the meantime, bees are harvesting nectar from the goldenrod and some of the pine are getting close to being large enough to harvest.
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If you look closely you should be able to see a honey bee on the goldenrod, slightly to the upper right of the centre of the photo. The photo can be enlarged (and it gets much clearer) if you double-click or tap it).

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