I’ve been remiss in getting back to my Sassafras Farm tour, but I’m back! I’ll have to divide the pasture tour up into three different posts as this farm is too big to talk about in only one. One hundred acres is a lotta land. The photos in this post are drawn from earlier photos as there’s snow on the ground now and you wouldn’t be able to tell much about the pastures from that.
I’ll start with an overview. (I’ve whited out some non-necessary identifying details on this map.)
At some point, I’ll come up with a more detailed Sassafras Farm map, but this will give you an idea of the general layout. The farm spans both sides of the road, though the majority of the pasture is on the house/barn side. Much of the farm is wooded, but more is cleared than you can really grasp from a satellite map. The “golf course” just across the top border of the farm is a scrupulously cleared area because it is a cattle farm, and I haven’t figured out yet how to find those people because I don’t know what road fronts that farm on the other side. They might be handy to know when I can find them, though they are further away than it appears because that is the far back side of their cattle farm that borders the far back side of this farm–by road, it’s probably 50 miles to their place. (Just kidding. That’s a little West Virginia humor. But remember that the hard road turns to a dirt road past my farm, splitting off in a couple directions, and it’s quite rough, so I’m not up for exploring out that way at the moment.)
I think of the pastures in three areas–the lower fields, the upper fields, and the “disconnected” fields. There are five lower pasture areas, which are intended primarily for the use of the smaller animals (goats, sheep, donkeys) while the upper pastures are intended for cows. I refer to the five lower fields as the Rear Barn Yard, the Front Barn Yard, Blueberry Hill, the Goat Yard, and the Park.)
The “first” field in the lower pastures is the barn yard behind the barn (aka the rear barn yard), which was fenced when I got here.
There is a door at the back of the barn that opens into the alleyway, but I keep that closed. I don’t want the cows and their giant cow patties in the barn. As you can see noted in the above photo, there is an outdoor access stall where the cows and donkeys can shelter without giving them full access to the barn. This is a fairly good-sized field, but it has fencing issues that currently preclude me from allowing the smaller animals into the field. It’s only secure for larger animals. (There are some places where the fencing is loose or coming up at the bottom and there is also a creek crossing issue.) It’s fine for the big guys, so fixing the issues here isn’t tops on my priority list, but I’ll get to it sometime! When the cows move up to the upper pastures, I may leave the donkeys in here, or I may move the donkeys at least temporarily to one of the other lower fields while I give the rear barn yard a rest after its hard winter with the cows. The rear barn yard has gates that open to the front barn yard (around the side) and to the back of the barn yard out the other side to an access road.
In front of the barn is a field that was open when I got here and I had it fenced in to connect up the barn to the other fields. (Now known as the front barn yard.) It will be part of the sheep rotation. This field has gates opening to the driveway at the house, Blueberry Field, the goat yard, and the rear barn yard, and of course is open to the alleyway in the barn.
Above the field I just had fenced in is an additional area I want to fence. It’s a hillside that the previous owners referred to as Blueberry Hill because they had some idea of planting blueberry bushes there. It’s a sunny location. If I were to plant blueberries there, I’d call it Deer Blueberry Hill because that’s who’d get to eat the blueberries if you planted any there bordering the woods. In any case, it’s going to be Sheep Blueberry Hill (actually, I just call it Blueberry Hill, because I got used to it) when I’m done with it because I want to put it in the sheep rotation.
The white line shows where I want to add fencing to connect it up to the side of the rear barn yard and the arrow pointing left shows where the field goes on out beyond what you can see in the photo.
The Blueberry Hill field runs back along the front barn yard and the goat yard. It has a gate currently opening into the front barn yard, and when it’s fenced, there will be an additional gate so I can access the land beyond it without having to go all the way around the barn.
It’s hard to tell from the perspective of this photo, but the goat yard is a pretty big field. The goat yard gate opens in the front barn yard, and it has another gate that opens into the park field.
It’s about twice the size of the goat yard at Stringtown Rising, and has a small goat house. Except for winter times when I take the goats to the barn, the goats will live in the goat yard fulltime. They couldn’t eat down the goat yard at Stringtown Rising by themselves, so they’ll never eat this one down. I had the sheep in here with the goats temporarily after I first moved the animals, but from now on, this is a goat-only yard.
The park is dubbed thusly because there’s a park bench way back in there at the back of the field.
This photo is taken from the woods beyond the park.
This is another photo from inside the park. You can see the studio and house in the distance.
The park connects to the goat yard with a gate, and there is also a gate that opens to the area in front of the driveway so you could get in there with a tractor without going through the other fields. There is a creek crossing, so that is one of the issues that needs solved before I put animals here. This field will be part of the sheep rotation. The arrows in this photo point to the direction from here to the studio and house. The park is not far off the end of the driveway.
Currently, the park is actually part of the upper pastures in the sense that there is no fence dividing the park from the first upper pasture. I think that makes no sense and I want another lower field for the sheep, so in this photo you can see the line where I intend to divide the park from the first upper pasture with a fence (and there will be a gate, of course).
I only have four sheep, but sheep eat a lot.
The park and Blueberry Hill don’t have any structures, but they are summer fields only, so I will be adding some simple shelters for the sheep to get out of the rain. NOT THAT THEY WILL USE THEM. But it will make me feel like a benevolent farmer.
I have my work cut out for me in the spring to prepare the park and Blueberry Hill for the sheep rotation (not to mention the electric that needs done in the upper pastures for the cows), but I love having five connected lower fields around the house and barn. Easy access for me to take care of the animals, easy to take a look out the door of the house and see them for a quick check, and plenty of fields for rotation for the sheep. Since they’re all connected, there will be no need to go outside fencing when moving animals, including the cows–they can be moved to the upper pastures from the front barn yard through the goat yard and the park without ever leaving fencing. It’s a “fur piece” for bringing a milk cow to the barn–I’ll discuss that issue in the next post.
Next up on the tour–the upper pastures!