The Promise of Pasture


Culvert by culvert
and ditch by ditch.
We’re going to make this pasture rich
With cover crop planting and livestock grazing
Turning all into fertile ground.”

I’m convinced that the goodness in this world grows from the goodness in the Earth and nothing quite embodies this like good green grass.

When we first bought our farm it was mostly rough acreage of “brush and trouble,” exactly as Greg Brown talks about it.

Since then it’s been cleaned up and hayed now for two years in a row.

We’ve seen noticeable improvements.

While I haven’t done a soil test yet, I’ve seen many of the good things you want to see in the soil.

Things like increased numbers of earthworms, less dense residue, less compaction and much more organic matter.

Looking for something new to learn on the farm, I enrolled in an online course through the Cornell Small Farms program.

It’s all about soil health and increasing fertility.

It’s a six week course of webinars and other online resources that dig into the dirt and sing the praises of minimal tillage agriculture.

I’m a big fan of no-till farming practices.

And not just because I do not own a tractor.


Reclaiming Old Pasture

New sections of our land are also getting reclaimed for pasture as well.

Without even asking, my friend who hays for us has been over several times with his brush mower clearing up the fields and providing ideas for optimal pasture and grazing for next year.

Our soil is a majority of clay loam making it great for those times of the year when a drought occurs.

The clay holds it’s moisture very well as long as it is not bare ground, of course.

But when it rains, as it did this June with 10+ inches, we found out fairly quickly that in order to make the land arable, we would need some way to drain off the excess water when the water table rises.



One way to help channel water to where it needs to go and help the soil dry up after a drenching rain is with tile drainage.

I had always thought tile drainage meant putting in some kind of clay tile under the soil but really it’s just a term for 4 inch perforated black plastic pipe.

The drain pipe is laid across sections of land and placed so it slopes downward over a distance to let water flow with gravity down to a central location.

We have two culverts that come off of the road into our property.

They used to run down deep ditches into a main stream that then flows into the Boquet River.


In one ditch it was obvious that it needed to be cleaned out and dug deeper because we could see water flooding a nearby field whenever it rained.

The other ditch was not so obvious.

When the land and brush got cleared recently, we noticed that the other culvert was totally washed out and filled with sand.


This allowed the water to go wherever it wanted and most of the water was draining down into another field being at a slightly lower elevation.

The good thing is that we know pretty much exactly what to do to remedy this.

The bad thing is that putting in drain tile can be expensive!

Luckily we don’t have a large area in need of drain tile.

What we’re looking at is an area of about 200 feet.

We will place two pipes in a “V” pattern.

Plus we can use each of the ditches as down slope locations for the pipes to drain into.

Here is a diagram of what I’m referring to:

Ditches and drainage

You can see how one pipe will traverse the top portion of the slope and lead to the Eastern ditch.

The other pipe will traverse the other culvert and go off into the other ditch.

Another part of this project is to rent an excavator or backhoe to get each of the ditches cleaned out and dug deeper.

Three ditches in total.


Getting by with a little help

Probably not something that we can afford to do all at once, but at least we know it will help make much more land on the farm usable for pasture and hay.

On the brighter side, while other farms are getting grants to reclaim land and other projects, we have friends who are helping us out on our small farm to do the same things for free!

We are so lucky to have so many supportive friends in our neighborhood.

So little by little and ditch by ditch, the promise of pasture is close at hand!


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