When I consider the amount of field I had available, I’m astounded by the amount of vegetables I produced in 2017. The field – approximately an acre and a half – was/is filled with saplings, weeds, fallen limbs, etc. I cleared some land when I first moved out in the fall of 2016 – enough that I was able to feed myself and my roommate and had tomatoes and onions for egg clients. I also sold pints of salsa and tomatoes – and have enough verbal interest from potential clients that Field Clearing was moved to the top of my winter project list.
It is my preference to do fieldwork without gas powered machinery. This choice is largely based on budget – I don’t have funds for the large equipment that would make quick work of the project. My primary reason for growing my own food, however, is knowing how it is grown – I don’t want to risk gas or oil leaks into the soil if (when!) equipment breaks down in the field. I don’t want to breathe in fumes from a combustion engine, or expose my livestock, barn cats, pets, and wildlife to them either.
This may seem seem like an overly zealous choice, but it turned out to be a practical one. Check out this “before” shot. The field on this property is significantly sloped, littered with rocks and other debris, filled with tree stumps, and lined with trenches from water run-off. Any power equipment would likely be damaged or become dangerous if I attempted to use it!
Besides – I love the physicality of field work. There is nothing so satisfying as looking back to see clearly what was once blocked by trees, to dig out stubborn trees stumps and roots, to pull out weeds and wild grasses as I dream of fresh greens and tomatoes. I love being exhausted at the end of the day, sleeping the deep sleep of hard work. I love seeing the difference a few hours of hard labor can make – and knowing my work will make a positive difference to my health and those I serve.
So far I’ve cleared about 5x the field space I was able to use last year – getting me to about 1/2 the total space cleared. I lost a bit of space to the goat expansion, but it was a pretty shady space and only kale grew well there, so it wasn’t a bad loss. I’ve relaid four previous beds, added a couple teepees, and laid out two new large beds. I have room to add a second row of teepees and at least one more large bed – and that’s before I finish burning out the largest stumps and digging out the smaller. Planting season begins in about a month (cabbages, greens, and root veg), so I’ll be down in the field as the weather allows over the next few weeks. When its too inclement, I’ll be working on my sketches, planning where to put what, and making sure I rotate crops to avoid the pests that plagued my tomatoes (hornworms) and squash (squash beetles) last year.