This project has been an evolving idea that wasn’t even a clear picture in the beginning. I made mistakes and have tried to figure out what worked with the site location as the mistakes happened. I chose to look at a mistake as an opportunity to make a new plan and figure out how to evolve and change it to be better. What started as a clearing for a goat pasture has now turned into a full fledged Argo tourism farming project. I am building a destination that will be “a place to see”. I have 20 acres of thick woods. If I want to do anything other than “woods”, I first have to clear a space and cut trails to get from one side to the other. That limits what I can do because of the initial cost to clear as well as the logistics of HOW to do it.
I decided to hire an excavator to help clear some of the planted pines that were dying, falling over and threatening the barns and goats. It is rather amazing what a Mini Excavator can do with pushing trees to get them to go in the direction needed for safety. In this instance, those big pines were just pushing over and falling. The trees fell and stumped all in a oner. No deep roots there. Imagine what a little more time and wind would have done…along with the crushed barns and goats. It was time to clear that section. I ended up adding a bit more and a bit more until eventually had cleared about half an acre. This all started in April and I just put a pin it and quit the day before Thanksgiving this week. April to November is a long project.
Had I known this was how things were going to end up, I more than likely would never have started. So much has been done and yet still so far to go. I am not done but had to pick a point to stop for at least this year. It has been such a huge change that it makes it hard to recognize my own land. I am very excited when I do look at it. The possibilities have my head about exploding with ideas.
Originally our plan involved the slope as it was even though I had commented that it felt too steep for me from the beginning. I progressed with more work, laid weed suppression carpets down in militant rows and started planting. Again this was not what I wanted but what I thought I had to do. Than a wee rain came and washed it all a mess with sand and debris. In this area, we have some torrential downpours in the fall and spring and these couple of rains were not torrential at all. The devastation was still impressive. My heart sank the morning after that storm when I could see the Stone Circle and the Moon Garden area. These two areas had the most plants and stone work completed. I called the excavator and he came by to access the damage.
We decided a different approach was in order. Well …I decided … and said it is going to change because I have always felt it too steep of a slope and now a medium rain has proven that was accurate. Looking back, it is funny because the first thing Charlie said when he saw the project after a three month absence before this disaster was “I thought it was going to be terraced.” Guess it WAS going to be terraced, I just did not know it at the time. I dived into researching terrace building, pros and cons, and how to use terracing. I decided that a traditional terrace which usually is a large step down was not what I wanted. I wanted something a bit less involved which would avoid several of the cons. Construction with large involved rock retaining walls is both expensive, time consuming, and bound to fail one day later on. That kind of intense terracing requires maintenance on the terraces themselves or they will fail long term. In a catastrophic failure, the cost to tear it out and rebuild would be intense and likely destroy all the plants. I needed something different. I had to start thinking outside of the box.
I hate redoing things and thought about what could I do working WITH the slope so if worse case happened, I could still fix it with minimal destruction. If I had to build it myself instead of using an excavator, I would have to do mutiple levels that were shorter steps down. That is what I decided to have the excavator do. His skidster is 8 feet wide. So building a terrace that was 9.5 ft wide seemed like a good target. 1.5 feet for the rocks to hold the higher level in place, a 3 foot planting row, 2 foot stone path with thyme plants and another 3 foot planting row per terrace level. Dropping down only 1.5 to 2 feet maximum meant I could used 1 to 2 rows of large fieldstone to hold back the terrace edge. I like fieldstone. Weeds do not grow through a rock, around it yes, but not THROUGH it. Setting Stones is a lot of initial work and construction but stone is easy maintenance once it is in. Just look at Stone Circles and Ruins around the world for longevity of stone work.
We have a new better plan. The “Great Terrace Phase” has begun. 7 terraces are cut in up to where I quit this week. Two barns need removing with the ground and hills leveled. That excess dirt can be moved to build more terraces if I need them. I may need another partial terrace level later on but that is a project for next year. Stay tuned for more photos and the next bit of clean up and story next week.