The recovery of the pig pen goes well, there are green tips up through the snow, happily growing in the relatively warm weather for this strain of rye. Rye is a cold-tolerant grain that geminates in cool soil (34-40° F). It is great for winter erosion control, but prefers well-drained ground which is a challenge in Western Washington. Rye has a fibrous root system that reduces leaching of soil nitrates, another important part of the recovery in this pig pen, as hogs put out heavy nitrogen poo. By next spring, the grass should be well established and thick enough for pasturing new animals like chickens or goats.
Because this pasture is fenced, I’m trying to take advantage of having a protected space to grow more sensitive plants that would otherwise be predated by deer, goats, and other larger vegetation feeders. I’ve already planted young hazels in the enclosure and hope to start many medicinal and herbal plants, both native and analogue species which can thrive in the pen, enjoying the well tilled soil (thank you pigs). Chickens would be ideal in this space, with electric mesh netting to keep them focused in certain spaces without eating up all the young plants. It might also just be a rest year, allowing the ground to recover fully, and new seeds take root. I hope to at least have two chickens in this pen by next spring to glean and clean the soil of its predator bugs. Snails, slugs, and aphids are on the pest list and chickens are the answer. We’ll see come spring.
Another great lesson that this space is teaching involves erosion. This space looks pretty level on the left side, but if you look closely at the picture, the right side starts to drop off and if you were to walk a little further back in the paddock, the steep hillside heads towards the creek to the south with enthusiasm. This does encourage the land to be well drained, but also sends the nutrients and soil down the hill in heavy rain. You can see how a well laid pile of logs on the upper left had helped in holding the bank above. With additional planting of new young shrubs and small trees further down the hill, I hope to reenforce the hillside to prevent future erosion. However, I recognize that Leafhopper Farm is on a hillside, and that erosion will happen regardless. With smart planning, the problem can be slowed, and if more vegetation continued to grow, the land will stabilize enough to continue its productive growth through this century.