DIY land clearing for pasture

green tree on grass field during daytime

So in the fall of 2012 just after we got married and purchased our first home, we began creating our first home for horse and humans. When we were searching for a home we knew it needed to have a barn and space for a few horses or at least have the potential for it. We ended up buying a home with no barn or horse facilities whatsoever… yeah. On 23 acres of mostly wooded land and decided we would work at turning it into the horse home we wanted it to be. So after we had moved and settled into our new home we started forming a plan for how to make it happen. The first step of that plan : land clearing for pasture space.

Land clearing

We needed to clear an estimated 5 – 6 acres or so. Parts of the pasture space were already clear but what was wooded was pretty dense with trees and brush. This step was definitely the step we most underestimated in labor, time and money to complete. We started clearing land in October of 2013 and didn’t complete every bit of it until mid 2015.

The first step for us was renting a bulldozer. If you are looking into this I recommend renting the largest you can if you have large trees or hillsides. When you push over a tree (which is the easy part) the root ball that comes up with it is huge and extremely heavy and hard to move, pretty much impossible without very large equipment. There are lots of different methods of land clearing as we discovered in researching options.

land clearing for pasture with bulldozer

So tree down by tree, my husband Jeff cleared the future pasture space. He had some help from some coworkers, which is also essential. With each tree you push over with the equipment you then have to cut off the root ball and move it where you need it, then deal with the tree branches and trunk.  Basically there’s lots of chainsaws, pulling logs, sweating and slow hard labor involved.  This can also be very dangerous work which is where helping hands are appreciated if doing it yourself. On the plus side doing this yourself can save you major money. We did get a quote on having less than half of the space we ended up actually clearing done professionally, and it was comfortably in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.

clearing trees with bulldozer

Also, I know this method of clearing unfortunately creates a lot of lost soil when you push over a tree with a bulldozer. Other methods would be to cut down each tree and then grind or burn each stump after. For us we decided that with the amount of space and number of trees to remove that wasn’t the best option, but that is something to consider based on the attributes of the land you are clearing. We left a lot of cedar trees and some selected trees that were in the area for shade and to help with soil stability. Any cedar trees we did have to remove, Jeff cut off the branches then cut the trunk into 8 foot lengths to use for future fence posts.

The worst part of the land clearing in our opinion, was dealing with the aftermath of what you’ve cleared out in the form of : root balls, tree stumps and branches, brush and rocks. Because our pasture space is surrounded by a large margin of wooded space on our own property, we opted to push most of it to the edges of the would be pasture, up against the woods line that surrounds the pasture with the bulldozer. The rest we picked up by hand or with the tractor and burned. We did cut up some of the usable wood for firewood as well.

Even after all the work with the equipment, the ground still needed some tlc before being ready for seed. We spent a lot of time picking up rocks, tree limbs and debris by hand. Then filling in holes and leveling spots where large tree roots left low spots. It was slow and sweaty work and sometimes discouraging because it felt never ending. We did a lot of work ourselves to save money (just a fraction of the area of land we cleared done by professionals was in the multiple tens of thousands) but if you can get this done professionally it would save you some swearing tears questioning of all your decisions  effort.

rock debris brought up after using bulldozer to clear land
tree debris after clearing
More debris from the last area we cleared
trees after land clearing
This was the last and smallest area to be cleared behind the barn. All this we cleaned up by hand by cutting up larger pieces and moving it and burning the smaller stuff.
cleared area for barn
Some of the smaller debris post clearing. This will be future barn spot.

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