View Full Version : Spin off: making do w/4 acres

Dec. 31, 2010, 08:33 AM
I've enjoyed that thread---my farmette is very small...but the location is the 'homeplace', and where we'll retire to, so there wasn't any option for me.

Reading the thread, I was encouraged by all who felt its very do able. I've got Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping on a small acreage, and while I appreciate that reading, I'd love to hear from you who DO this, what are some of your most successful efforts/ideas/adaptations that you feel have made your smaller acreage farm work well?

Anything and everything you use/do/manage...and pics! would be great. I'm trying to learn all I can (!) before the actual move and completion of the set up. I've got time (!) as the move will be in the future, so I can finish/finalize the horse keeping part 'over time'

Dec. 31, 2010, 10:43 AM
How exciting for you! What buildings are on the land right now?

We are refencing our small place and *this* time both good turnout areas will connect directly to the large sacrifice area where the mares spend most of their time. My horses can come and go from their stalls all the time and if someone else has to feed, they never, ever have to touch a horse, enter a stall or open a gate. Reduces the odds of something being left unlatched and a horse getting loose. :)

The best thing we did last year when we tore down a small barn we first built (ourselves) and replaced with a contractor built barn was to create a nice, large gravel covered turnaround. Now, no matter what the weather any size truck, rig or automobile can drive directly in and easily turn around. It stings to write those checks for $2500 and up for loads and loads of gravel but wow, it makes such a difference the rest of the year. ;)

On the new barn we have 6" gutters with down spouts on just one end of the barn which has allowed us to divert water much better. Our ground is nasty black clay so water can be a constant problem. If your on septic, you must manage the water running onto your leech field.

If you don't have elevation on the site plan on spending $$ to have it built up. You want your barn and home to be sited very well.

I do feed round bales in the winter and *this time* I created a better way to get my hay guy in and out. With the help of my compact John Deere tractor (a must have) I clean up old soiled round bale hay before putting out a new one. It is keeping the area much nicer and less treacherous with frozen chuncks of manuare, et al. Plus, I burn the pile of old stuff and add the ashes to my compost pile. :) I cannot believe how much we use the tractor which we've only had a year and half. It has made horse keeping and management so much nicer. Get one for yourself!! :)

And always have a turnout area viewable from your kitchen/den windows. There is no better way to start and end your days than gazing out at your horses just hanging out.

Good luck!

Dec. 31, 2010, 11:11 AM
Yes, careful space planning is key! We make the most of our space by having an area in the middle of the property for house/gardens/entertainment space. All the rest is fenced turnout areas. We have paddocks of varying size and rotate very aggressively to keep some grass somewhere year-round. We have a small dry lot around the barn, and a small paddock directly off the barn that is now used as a larger dry lot, but put in grass for summer.

Plan on feeding hay year-round! You may be able to supplement with grazing, but if you want to have grass, you will have to control access to grazing and make use of dry lots. Google "paddock paradise;" this is a very useful concept for smaller properties.

Smaller properties usually mean closer neighbors. Flies and funky smells annoy neighbors and cause them to act in unneighborly ways. So manure and fly control plans are paramount. We love to garden, so I keep multiple small composting piles well-watered and-turned to provide a constant source for the gardens and pastures (and some of our neighbors, as well!). Actively composting piles don't smell bad at all. Keep the poop picked up or harrowed so it doesn't smell (or look unsightly if you have really weird neighbors). This combined with maintaining a healthy population of various fly and malicious insect predators helps control those issues.

Mostly it comes down to planning so that you make the maximum use of the space and resources you have. We keep two very comfortably on <4 acres and can (and have) added a third with little effort. This is with essentially 24/7 turnout with free access to stalls/shelters.

King's Ransom
Dec. 31, 2010, 12:03 PM
SLW -- can you come over some time and give me some ideas for re-organization here? I would LOVE it if I could set it up so someone coming to feed would never have to touch a horse, enter a stall or open a gate. Especially now with the two new guys. Rocky can be a handful coming in and Cooper going out. I can handle them, but would not ask someone else to do so (not yet anyway).

Dec. 31, 2010, 01:28 PM
Thanks guys! I hope other 'widdle farm' people will add on :D

I have shared this before, but here is a link to the slide show of the property


Just shared again, because, you can see that the 'cleared land' and the house is already there----house sits back with wooded ravine and creek behind it. Only 'horsey' room was out front, and we've already fenced/crossfenced and adapted one existing outbuilding for the small barn.

Stalls won't have turn out directly 'from' them, but...there is an attached run in that opens to sacrifice area, so anytime? someone 'else' would have to feed it shouldn't be TOO hard....

I'm quite excited that since these pix were taken: the 'aisleway' is now edge to edge with interlocking mats...and as soon as we get another mild weather break, my barn guy is bringing and installing my double 'barn doors' with windows in the top halves and the 'x' cross bottom halves! I also have my full set of dressage letters to hang on the dressage arena fence area.

Little by little...step by step.

Dec. 31, 2010, 04:45 PM
Our first place was five acres - only about 3 1/2 fenced. We had five horses of our own and often at least one rescue horse.

Now, we were just south of Houston where the water table was high and we had plenty of rain. So that was a blessing and a curse.

We had one paddock that was 6/10s of an acre. The stallion and his gelding pal were turned out there. We had another pasture that was about 2 1/2 acres. Then there was a pole barn and small barnyard. We had another acre or so we planned to fence, but we had to move before that happened.

I put time and thought into managing the land. I kept the horses in stalls if it was very muddy so they wouldn't tear the grass up. (My exception was one time when we had months of rain, I finally had to give in and let them out). I kept most of the horses up at night, too. That gave the pasture some rest and helped avoid having it overgrazed.

It I was on the same small property still, I would put in small sacrifice paddocks. I would also have the pasture mowed/shredded more often than I did to help encourage grass to grow and to get rid of the weeds. I would also fence in that other acre and move a few fence lines over - I want a TINY yard and more pasture. I hate spending time mowing and on lawn care.

Good luck!

Dec. 31, 2010, 05:33 PM
I do feed round bales in the winter and *this time* I created a better way to get my hay guy in and out. With the help of my compact John Deere tractor (a must have) I clean up old soiled round bale hay before putting out a new one. It is keeping the area much nicer and less treacherous with frozen chuncks of manuare, et al. Plus, I burn the pile of old stuff and add the ashes to my compost pile.

I bought those big Green Buddy Bale Bags...and never have to worry about string or nasty round waste areas. With 14 horses out in 4 diffrent fields we use alotta round bale and can't afford the waste. 3rd year with them.

Keeping the paddocks picked up..waste and Pest management goes hand in hand with water run-off issues.

Also gating the driveway and fencing whole perimeter in. If/when a horse gets loose so much less worry.

Agree carefully planning where every gate goes and we put gates mid fence line so we can drive from field to field thru double fence rows. Makes moving horses and mowing and getting hay put out a breeze.

Every space counts, my free school doubles as a small turn-out and the ring gets used as sacraficial in deep winter.

Flexible movable interior fences will help with rotating pasture space and helps with over burdening it.

Exterior light, really look at where you need lights and wehn you put water lines in, add electric to the same area so you can heat troughts.
If I could I would put heat under my tackroom floor as well.
Having a spot out of the way, well lite, hi n dry to store trailer where you can hitch up in dead of night is an asset.
we don't have a bank barn but the loft is now easy to drive alongside of door and got a used hay elevator so unloading hay n straw is much easier. Place feed room whwere you can pull up or back up to. Mine is on opposite end of barn and a real pain. Door even opens wrong way. On to do list.

Dec. 31, 2010, 05:56 PM
The farm looks lovely from the slide show. I would definitely pick my paddocks daily.

Dec. 31, 2010, 06:02 PM
KR- in a couple weeks my plate will be clean and we can hook up. :)

Ditto Judybigredpony and the trailer hook up. In the new barn plans hubba really wanted the GN to be able to fit in it. He said "you'll love being able to load and unload safely in all sorts of weather." I thought "nah, it's no big deal" but we built the barn to house the trailer too. Wow, it's so nice to pack and unpack the trailer under cover, out of the wind, rain, heat, whatever Mother Nature is throwing out.

King's Ransom
Dec. 31, 2010, 06:04 PM
SLW -- I will hold you to it!!!

Jan. 1, 2011, 03:28 PM
Thanks, Chemteach! Lots to do yet, I know, but thats sort of the point...I can learn and do little by little. :) (and, you'd laugh at me now 'at visits'...since, we don't have a 'manure' removal/composting/spreading system yet, I end up, prior to hauling him back home---walking the paddocks/pasture with a manure fork and 'flinging' the piles to be sure its all broken up and 'spread'. I'm sure mom's neighbors think I'm nutz. :lol:

Jan. 1, 2011, 08:17 PM
I have 5 acres, 3.5 or so fenced. With an outdoor in one pasture.

I could ramble on here, but the biggest "surprise" I had was the "need" for a tractor. I had not factored that in. I can't imagine life without my tractor.

Other things, like well draining sacrifice area, water close to where you water, placement of sheds/run ins re wind, also VIP.

Jan. 2, 2011, 08:58 AM
After living on an 11 acre and then 12 acre parcel on clay footing in the MW/NE, I have decided I would rather go with a smaller acreage and take the money I would have spent on more land and install some really good all-weather footing in a sacrifice paddock as well as nice all weather riding arena. For me, bad weather turnout was always an issue regardless of how much space I had, as was being able to ride in wet weather.

That being said, both of my properties were incredibly fertile - on the 11 acre parcel I only had 3.5 pastured but still didn't need to feed hay for a good 4 months of the year. On the 12 acre parcel I had probably 5-6 acres pastured and still had to mow all summer long.

Jan. 2, 2011, 10:18 AM

What I can say is 'good' about the property in terms of small acreage is the amazing well draining soil. NOT 'fertile' specifically, but NO clay....And, knock on wood, I've never 'seen' 'mud' there. While I had builder auger drain holes in stalls, run in and wash rack, that I refilled with bluestone , I can say? I probably didn't need it at all...thats how well this soil drains.

I did (if you notice the pix) foot : washrack, aisleway, stalls and run in in blue stone. And, I did also section off a 'sacrifice' area that the run in is open to. At first, I investigated the big $$ of geotextile, etc, etc...just for the sacrifice/run in area after all of my reading/learning. After 'being' there with horse and visits and observing, I can say I'm actually hoping that won't be necessary after all. Of course, I know the 'grass' in this area will be non existant once there is horsekeeping 24/7...but right now, I'm expecting it to be sandy/loamy area just 'as is'.