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In 1971 my parents moved to biggest house in the smallest town (Hartford, NY) of Washington County NY with my sister and me from Long Island when I was 3 years old. The barn and farmland had not been actively farmed for ten years or more prior. My parents had no intensions of being farmers. They rented the barn and farmland to a few dairy farmers over the years until around 1980. During the rental period no improvements were made to reclaim the overgrown pastures and all fences were in dire need of repair. In fact, one reason my father cites for ending rentals to farmers were cows getting out in the middle of the night and being awoken by passer-bys reporting cows in the road. So the farmland was left to nature and the beavers for another 25 years. Oh the beavers...
From the age of 10 to 16 I worked for neighboring dairy farms and when I got my drivers license I decided there must be a better way to make money than working on a diary farm.
In 1988 my father divided a parcel of the farm and my grandmother built a hilltop log home (in the corn field). She move up full-time shortly after from Long Island and planted lots of flowers and a productive pear tree. She loved to grow things and I wish I was more aware of life and growth when she was alive. I could have provided more of it if I knew then what I know know. She would have loved the cows!
After college, I spent a few years living in Georgia, Alabama, Vancouver, BC and Castlegar, BC Canada as a project field engineer in the pulp and paper industry. No thoughts of caring for cattle ever crossed my mind during this time.
In 1993 I started a software company and in 1997 moved to Manhattan to lead software projects for banks, universities and brokerage firms. No cow thoughts what so ever... When my grandmother died I purchased the log home and traveled back and forth to Manhattan. It was my escape from the city where music was the theme, a recording studio was built in the basement, we played loud and everything was recorded.
In 2005 I began working from home full-time which allowed the "Farm Project" to develop. In fact, the person who suggested Scottish Highlanders was the dairy farmer I worked for when I was sixteen who stopped by to see what I was up to with the clearing. He died shortly after I got my first three heifers.
The four pictures below were taken in November 2005. The "Farm Project" started in July of 2005 when I hired someone to do two days of brush hogging and built a one acre corral with 5 foot high no-climb horse fence. It will hold anything from chickens to bison. In the pictures you can see the clearing, corral and a couple of sheds to the left of the house. To the right of the house lawn expansion (pasture) was underway. Prior to that, there was about one acre of lawn around the house everything else was 4 to 5 feet brush mixed with trees and thick patches of trees you could not walk through.
In 2005 my brother started clearing brush, dead trees and old fence from the apple orchards on my parents property next door. You can see some of the brush hog tracks in the picture below to the right.
The first serious clearing phase started on September 12th, 2006 and continued for about 4 weeks. I have hundreds of pictures of this first major phase. Here are just a few.
The summer of 2008 I hire a forester for suggestions on best use of the woods. Based on the forester's suggestions, we removed about 6 acres of Pine trees planted in the late 1940s or early 1950s. You can see the clearing in the lower left of picture below. The trees were planted for telephone poles but were not properly thinned out over the years never going to grow big enough to become poles. Eventually this will become green pastures for the cows.
We also removed Poplar trees scattered over 5 acres along the forest edge close to the pond, spring run-offs and field ditches. Beavers had been feasting on these trees for years and made quite a mess out of the place. They had 5 or 6 damns and flooded the back fields. Complete beaver removal took a few years and their reign came to an end by the time the logging was complete.
In 2009 I installed 1000 feet of underground water and power lines to 5 strategic pasture locations - 4 frost-free hydrants and 1 heated continuous, heated (year-round) waterer which was a needed improvement and time saver. Watering more than 4 head of cattle with a 250' garden hose in the winter is not practical.
As of December of 2010 about 60 acres of pastures have been reclaimed, more than 2 miles of ditches constructed or cleaned, 10 culverts installed and about 30 acres of forest has become accessible again after clearing old logging trails.
There is still another 20 plus acres of pastures to reclaim, a couple of ponds to build and a lot more fencing to do but the hardest work is done.