Creative uses for land
February 4, 2019 11:23 AM   Subscribe

We have a two-acre section of land in Northern CA, zone 9a. We want to do something other than just grow weeds on it.

It has been used to grow melons in the past but that use isn't necessarily guaranteed or even desired in the future. We are interested in brainstorming ideas for using the land rather than let it go to the weeds. We are not ready to commit to taking care of animals so no grazing or chickens.

We could plant trees on the perimeter but want to keep the middle open in case the land will be wanted for ag usage. We have thought of planting a vineyard; growing native grasses and flowers; growing blueberries. What else do you suggest?
posted by goodsearch to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever you do, make sure you cut it enough to keep trees from growing in (unless you want trees there). Keeping land clear is pretty easy, getting it back to clear after just a few years of tree growth can be very expensive and time consuming. An alternative to mowing would be to lease the land for pasture. 2 acres is enough to keep a horse or two. It generates income, keeps the land cleared, and sometimes provides justification to help pay taxes on the land as agricultural land.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:37 AM on February 4 [9 favorites]

Are you open to leasing it to a company or organization? How urban or rural is the surrounding area? You could set up a group to farm it and then donate the harvest to a local food shelf, if you think you can get enough people to volunteer.
posted by soelo at 11:43 AM on February 4

BEES! or if you want to take care of bees, plant a ton of non-invasive, pollinator friendly plants! bee balm! clover! lavender! borage! wildflowers!
posted by evilmonk at 11:43 AM on February 4 [21 favorites]

Build house. Let people live there.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:51 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Contact your local organic growers association or land connect program and lease it to some beginner farmers looking for land access. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. If Chico state has any sort of sustainable Ag program they might have ideas too.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:01 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Get your soil tested to find out what would grow well in it with zero or minimal modification. What do people in the area do with their land? You could make it a community garden if you have access to water on it.
posted by mareli at 12:21 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

Is it close to a town?
posted by Baeria at 12:37 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Yes, bees are a great option. Or find out if there are any young farmers who want to rent it from you... or perhaps barter for some portion of the crop. Land is expensive, and many younger farmers are leasing under-used land.
posted by terrapin at 12:43 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

depending where you are in northern california, when I spent some time out there I noticed lots of folks live in campers/rvs/tiny houses and the like, maybe you could rent the space to one of those folks, and/or barter all or a portion of the rent in exchange for helping to keep the land clear/mowed? I'd imagine it might depend on local ordinances.. and you've probably already thought of this and dismissed it for one reason or another, but.. since you asked : )
posted by elgee at 12:50 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

posted by Mistress at 12:57 PM on February 4

Lavender. Easy to grow, bee-friendly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:01 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]

Sage is easy to grow, and sage honey has special properties.
posted by Oyéah at 1:03 PM on February 4

CalCannabis has licenses for outdoor weed Cannabis grows.
posted by porpoise at 1:21 PM on February 4

The suggestion of some bees is great as long as you have someone knowledgable to establish them and look after them. ERTH NEEDS BEEZ (Planting native flowers & grasses is a close second.)

Do you have water, power, mail delivery? That might limit what you can do there.

Boy & girl members of ScoutsBSA often need a place to practice orienteering, and it requires no construction. Same for geocachers. (The Scouts come with built-in insurance, not so much the cachers.)

Walking trail. Walking trail that traces something rude on the map. Walking trial that has workout stations. Walking trail that has nice benches and shades.

Like a dozen Little Free Libraries along the road.

A Little House in which to relax.

(I have been dreaming for years about having a half-acre on which I could throw sticks for my dog, hang up a hammock, and tent camp. My kids' Scout troops or just their friends could come and camp there. It would be awesome. *sigh*)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:22 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

How about putting up a yurt? A yurt with a firepit and a hammock sounds like an awesome time to me!
posted by jraz at 1:40 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

It might be a little small for this, but you could plant some stuff that would attract game species and sell hunting leases. Apple trees attract deer, sage and other low brush attract grouse and pheasants, etc. Check to make sure the local governing body doesn't have any prohibition on hunting or firearms discharge, and obviously if this is in a more built up neighborhood it could be a challenge. However, if this land backs up against any amount of open space it could bring in a lot of attention from the local wildlife.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:41 PM on February 4

How much rainfall do you have? Is there a creek/lake/river? Is there city water?
posted by gregr at 2:29 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Permaculture food forest!

These can be fairly small, so you could just use a portion of the land near the edges and keep the middle open as you wish to do.
posted by lollusc at 2:29 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Flowers for bees and butterflies (lavendar and milkweed).
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:47 PM on February 4

I like all the suggestions for bees, god knows they need the habitat. Bees N Blooms is in 9B zone, but maybe a good resource for information.
Lucky you!
posted by Gusaroo at 2:49 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Pumpkin patch!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:27 PM on February 4

Fruit and nut trees provide food and habitat. Apples, cherries, avocados, almonds, walnuts, etc.

this would be a good question for the Cooperative Extension service in the area.
posted by theora55 at 4:24 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

If you bring people in, you may have to haul trash out. As in junked appliances and mountains of household debris that they refused to pack out regularly. Just casual use can cause a lot of damage (ruts from vehicles, human and pet waste, fires that can result in damage to neighboring property.)
Will you be able to keep a monthly drive-through check on the place, or will your neighbors find themselves confronting casual users about any issues?
I cannot emphasize enough the problem of an unattended rural property becoming a local dumping ground.

I'd suggest something that you can start and maintain yourselves, or something a neighbor is willing to do for the benefit. A neighbor that has livestock may need the extra land, particularly if you chip in the supplies and fuel for fencing. A neighbor with a connection to youth groups (Scouts, church groups, school groups) may appreciate some space for gardening, camping, etc.
The point is that the neighbor is taking responsibility for the usage, and will control the outcomes since it can also effect his land, too.

Seconding the part about not letting brush and random trees get a start. Cedars and other evergreens are terrible in a wildfire. Wrapping a chain around a small tree and ripping it out of the ground with a truck can be harder than you think.
I regret the pecan trees in our backyard, since we do not keep the nuts picked up. Otherwise you might try some sort of grove, with lots of space between trees to drive a riding mower through and a commitment to pruning, pest and disease control, and harvesting.
My husband's parents do enjoy their pecan grove. Other than some sort of tree shaker and laying out tarps to gather the nuts, they pretty much let the trees do their thing. The squirrels and bugs get some, and they get the rest.
The pies and cookies and raw pecans are very nice. I wouldn't invest in something I don't already use.
posted by TrishaU at 4:45 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

food forest is a good idea, but If you have spare lumber you could raise a ton of beds and then you could host a community garden for your neighbors with less space in their yards for veggies and the like. But that might be a lot of work. If you did this though, their would probably be more than enough flowers for bees adjacent.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:09 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

Definitely need to control weeds, and the Land's 'desire' to clad itslef in trees. inedible weeds, e.g. ragwort, thistles are the first stage of this. When I had rural land I did a regular ragwort patrol.

Grazing is your best bet while you gather your bearings, and learn where the winds change thru the seasons, and when and how much rain you get. But IMO not horses; horses (and alpacas) tend to be picky eaters and weeds start building up. Sheep are good, Wiltshire sheep are best as they self shed their wool and have less foot care needs and parasite issues. Goats are good if you are very well-fenced.

Does the land slope in a useful way re solar gain for crops? Do you have an irrigation allowance?

Where land use is a bit uncertain for a while I often get a grazer or haying operation to care for the land for a few years. Do you have nearby small Farmers?
posted by unearthed at 5:34 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]

Solar panels? I wonder if even a smallish setup would be enough to power your home.
posted by mdonley at 5:41 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

I love this ”and the Land's 'desire' to clad itself in trees” mentioned above, as that is what is most needed for the environment. A food forest could be the best combination of environmentalism and production. (I’m not that educated in it, so if I’m wrong, someone please let me know) Traditional “ag” can be pretty crappy for the earth, so it might be a perfect solution for you.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:31 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]

Fiber flax is a low water crop and there are some efforts to re-establish it as a US crop (because linen is a pretty sustainable clothing fiber).
posted by janell at 9:18 PM on February 4

theora55: this would be a good question for the Cooperative Extension service in the area.

Good point: unless you want to spend plenty of money on watering plants -- and maybe even be forced to give that up if water shortages worsen -- I would be seeking suggestions from master gardeners who your state employs to be experts on the local climate.

(This goes double for water-intensive plants!)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:04 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Where I live it is illegal to create a garden to lure animals to hunt them. But something you could do is plant flowers to lure wildlife - for photographers. You could also create either wildflower fields or sunflower fields and charge photographers to use the field for backdrops for family or wedding photos or...
posted by cda at 5:39 PM on February 5

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