The Re-Wilding of a Farm Field

We have a lot of wild areas out here in this corner of the prairie. I used to call them my faerie gardens but really they are just wild and out of control. I have no time for formal gardens that I cannot eat. I guess I garden with trees.

Re-wilding is a way to contribute to carbon capture quickly and naturally. A tree will take decades to grow but letting a field run wild will also capture carbon dioxide and sink it into the soil. Live trees and plants use the process of photosynthesis to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.  They then release oxygen that we breathe and retain the carbon to store in the wood and roots of the tree – transferring it into the soil.

This is another reason why I insist that our fields are covered in a crop at all times, whether a crop to harvest or a cover crop to nurture.

But back to re-wilding as one of our carbon capture tools.

Aunty Google tells me that Wilding means: a gang of youths going on a rampage creating havoc and doing violent things.

Re- Wilding is a little like that. The plants are left to go wild. The plants are allowed to do whatever they like. No more mowing or trying to establish our human order over the wild kingdom. The occasional grazing is OK too. Quite a natural process. But not yet, I am gong to let the trees in there show themselves first.

Once every four years is perfect for a gentle graze.

Two cows standing at the metal gate eating hay, fields and trees behind.
Wai the rescue potbelly, Mr Flowers the peacock partially hidden by the pig. A rooster behind, ducks getting caught in the peacocks tail, fence, willow tree.

As usual we have to pass a few of the animals before we can reach the wild meadow. In the above shot you can see Nelsons hutch – (under the willow tree – can you see it?) she still has not gone downstairs, which has a big area to wander about- even a door so she can come out. But she is content to sit up the top and enjoy the afternoon sun through her upstairs door. Getting room service.

The Wild Meadow

The field I have set aside for re-wilding is the one with the old root cellar in it. This is its third summer growing wild. And already the thistles have been choked out. There are some oak trees coming up which I found interesting and now I am wondering if the black walnuts will propagate. Boo has access too, as this field backs on to the chook house and this is great cover for a carnivorous critter.

We check around the back daily to make sure nothing is amiss.

Many people are creating wild areas more intentionally by clearing the space, eradicating the invasive species (good luck with that) and sowing the area in native flowers etc. I am not going to do that.

And ‘meadow’ is not the most honest description but it sounds nicer than scrappy abandoned field!

Field growing wild. Re-wilding.

I have just closed the gate and let it do its thing. The more green the better. I will be adding native marsh land trees but not much else. As well as being another carbon sink for my carbon co-pay it is also somewhat of an experiment to see what grows. Probably just weeds and wild trees but we will see over time.

The Field Garden

Sunset with clouds shaped like spears.

If you squint and look really hard at the above shot you will see the strip where John is going to sow the corn and plant his tomatoes.

I am going to sneak a couple of trees in there too, while it is garden. This field backs onto the slow growing Fellowship Forest. So trees (and bushes) belong down there.

Planting trees is like planting hope. Hope that they will be shade, air purifiers or provide food in the future when we are gone.


Weather on Wednesday April 26.

Still coolish this morning.

The asparagus has stalled totally and remains covered.

I am going to get scurvy waiting for my vegetables to grow!

Have a great day!


21 Comments on “The Re-Wilding of a Farm Field

  1. Our farm is only 30 acres and until we bought it, was used as grazing land by lease for cattle, then by the prior owner for her miniature horses. With nothing bigger than chickens grazing now, the upper area that is very rocky has been allowed to grow volunteer trees. We planted wintergreen and river birch along a run off creek and a few of the day lilies from my Dad’s garden when we purchased the farm. That riparian area has thrived, the volunteer trees have grown significantly. After the house was finished and we moved in, my son and I planted 60ish Earth Day pine seedlings in tall grass. Of those seedlings, about 25-30 survived and are now tall trees. In front of those, native maples, redbuds , and an elderberry were planted and some of them are now nearly mature trees. This year, as I am now 3/4 of a century old, a decision to not mow as much “yard” was made and though the fields will be mowed for hay by local guys for their cattle, a few areas that we have either mowed or had brush hogged annually have been left untouched for two years and more will be added to it as wild meadow. The farm has a woodlot to the south, west, and northeast of us, partly on our farm, partly on neighboring farms.
    If I could restore the entire acreage to woods except for the part where I vegetable garden and the orchard, I would gladly do it. The locals would think it sacrilege but I would be delighted.

  2. Not only do woodlands soak up carbon dioxide and return oxygen (gosh we need all of that we can get!) their falling leaves left to degrade make a wonderful layer of soil. This enlivens the earth which in turn encourages native plants to return which nurture birds, butterflies, and insects which are generally missing from solid grassy stretches.

  3. Sheila’s meadow!
    I thought your pig garden was pretty cool – not really rewilding, but wild and getting fertilised at the same time.
    Nelson’s funny – brave enough to hang out with Boo, but frightened of the outside world – maybe she’s never been outside.

  4. We always let a field set for at least two years. At the end of the two or more years, Terry turns the soil over and we are good to go. Always, Always the elevators express how much they like the color of his corn and the hay buyers are impressed by the color of the grass and alfalfa bales.

  5. we live adjacent to a protected greenspace. So it is definitely wild! We love living next to it and being able to see
    birds and animals strolling through- we even had a mother Wood duck come up on our deck with her babies as she was
    on her way to the creek below. So lucky to be here!
    Love the photo of the peacock next to the pig- love it!

  6. Kankakee Sands is an area that is being restored to prairie after being drained and turned to farmland many years ago. I’ve drive past and the first thing I saw was a herd of bison – not something I was expecting to see near the road in Indiana (US Rt 41 north of US Rt 24). They might even restore the lake that used to be there. It wouldn’t hurt to throw some seeds of native prairie plants into that field, just to see what might take and grow. I’m sure you’ll end up with something positive whatever you do.

  7. I love this: Planting trees is like planting hope. Hope that they will be shade, air purifiers or provide food in the future when we are gone. Well said. We had no trees on the prairie farm in southern Alberta. Just sagebrush and thistles. When an errant seed germinated in a ditch, my dad was delighted and asked the municipality not to mow the ditch as he had to save the tree. The only tree on his land.

  8. Oh my gosh! How wonderful to see the old root cellar! Wasn’t it Sheila’s home for a while, and also the hangout for a sheep or two?

  9. When I went to school down in southern illinois they had a big experiment where they were letting a farm field re-wild on its own in stages to see how long it would take to return to native forest, and the progression of plant life. I remember a big chunk of it was still being farmed, but they had big wide strips that hadn’t been touched in x amount of years. The oldest section looked like a young forest, but the newest sections looked like scraggly pasture. It was really fascinating!

  10. Unfortunately the trees that will take over here are box elder (basically giant weeds, practically immortal) and locust with nasty thorns. I read somewhere that people who plant trees believe in the future.

  11. I like Fallow for a field that is resting from output or ‘use’. It’s being useful in another way, building soil and insect life, giving pollinators something to work with. As my favourite YouTube homesteader says: “Nature is modest and likes to be covered” (Justin Rhodes). And left to herself, she does it very well. You are wise to leave it in her hands.

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