How do I fix this pasture?

Last year I cleared a vine infested quarter acre of my property in anticipation of refencing. Due to the eventful year whose name shall not be spoken, I just got around to having an excavator clear stumps on the new fence line and take out the blackberry roots. I felt good about finally moving forward until I realized the excavator had raked up reams and reams of half buried fence wire. It’s everywhere: the burn pile, the clean compost pile, mixed in with yards and yards of mounded up debris. It’s so rusted if you pick up a coil it disintegrates. I’m guessing the previous owners just lobbed all their unused wire into the wild hazelnuts and it was completely buried around the stumps. I won’t get into my opinion of that practice but if there is a word for half defeated, half furious that is pretty much my current mood. The only positive is it’s all contained away from my current pasture.

I can sift the burn pile ash since the wire will be on top of the soil and I can have all the debris piles hauled off the property along with my beautiful compost but I have no idea how to make the newly cleared area safe. Sweeping with a magnet is a start but that will only pick up surface debris. I have a metal detector that will detect a few inches down but it’s not very sensitive. What do I do COTH, remove soil, add soil, till, rake, go over every square inch with a fine tooth comb or give up and leave it fenced off? If I can’t integrate it into my pasture it will be a shame since it’s a really very pretty and usable spot but I will find something to do with it.

maybe, spend a little money to buy an old gold coin then take it to town to show people just what you found in that field…then post a sign No Trespassing, Absolutely NO Treasure Hunting Allowed

I really suspect you will be digging up metal from that site forever. I had a friend who was going to buy a ranch in Colorado, we were talking and I suggested that have an environmental inspection done as the land had be used to raise some crops.

They found two trash dumps that was estimated at $100k to clean up so he passed on that ranch

But our place, after we moved in my youngest son and his best friend (our Golden Retriever Molly) they did dig up a Gold and Diamond pendant necklace which was appraised at $3,000 back in 1985… I know about where they were digging and still kind of look some there every time I pass only to find a long lost nut or a nail.


Oh man, what a disappointing thing to turn up. I’d talk with someone about bringing in a skid steer to strip off the topsoil and replace it with clean fill. Not sure if that’s the best way to go about it, but that’s where I’d start. Good luck!

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Are there still stumps in the area? I know you said you had the stumps removed from the fence line but what about the rest of the area?

If no stumps, I’d get after that size of land with my box blade with the teeth all the way down and see what I could turn up. My dirt is pretty easy to work though, if you’ve got a bunch or rocks or super sticky clay my idea might be terrible.

I feel your pain. My new place is infested with old black plastic flower pots, bricks, broken glass and rusted out tractor parts. We also have aggressive out of control muscadine vines. Hate em.

How frustrating.

A metal detector is unlikely to help because it sounds like the issue is too widespread.

I wonder if you could till the area and expose the worst of it.

I understand your situation. I rented a farm for five years that had nails and metal galore in the pasture. The previous owner had several out buildings they burned down and left the remaining metal waste where it landed. They also used to have massive bonfires in the pasture and fueled them with anything they could find. The old burn pile had seemingly endless metal working up out of the ground. I fenced off the worst areas so the horses couldn’t access them. Then I regularly walked the field with a rolling magnetic sweeper. This was a daily task in the early days. I was finding scary amounts of metal daily for about a year.

Thanks all. Texarcana you are right about the area being juuust a bit too big to manually sweep but I might leave it fenced off and make metal hunting my new hobby.

I’m not sure anyone would fall for the coin trick here. Hah. I recently obtained the acreage because it was adjacent to my place and it was a one time opportunity so there was really no shopping around. Most of the land is in good shape but now I know why the fencing was way off the west side boundary.

All the stumps are gone; the area is pretty much scraped bare with three large debris piles. I toted off all the large pieces to be burned so all that is left behind is vine debris and short wire sections that look identical to vine debris mixed with soil. I don’t think you could have a better mix in which to hide rusty wire. Removing the the top soil and bringing in fill seems like the most effective option. I’m going to try a large magnetic bar on my tractor as well.

Well it’s hard to say without seeing the situation, but I’d go after it by hand, with a garden rake. And pick the pieces of wire out by hand, bag it, and take it to the dump. If anything is left over afterwards, it is deep enough that the turf will keep it buried once the grass has grown in.
I have a similar spot, though smaller than yours, and it’s looking pretty clear now. Our farm has been in use for 150 years, and someone, at some point, pulled out old barbed wire fencing (it’s very “old style” barbed wire), piled it and burned it. Then dumped rocks, picked out of the hay fields by draft horses and a stone boat, all over everything (I found broken leather harness discarded when cleaning/clearing the area). The rocks left last fall, an emergency as the village needed rock to shore up the sewage lagoon in town (before it burst it’s walls), and the contractor (a neighbour) needed a source of rock to truck in for this purpose. So offered to take our rock pile away. So the excess rocks left behind have now also been picked out, and bits of an ancient dead cow too, and the remaining wire has been collected. And like yours, there is probably more down deeper, but well set into the ground and no longer an issue for the purpose of pasture. I can not comprehend the stupidity of someone thinking that burning wire is a good idea, but it seems to have been a regular thing and common practice on the frontier.

A quarter acre may sound like a lot, but if you work at it a bit at a time, you can get this sort of work done. By hand. If you have the time, energy and the bone headed will. Do 1/10 of the area every day, and it’s done in 10 days. Once it is done, leave it to sit for a few months and get some rain on it, then check it again. A few times. You can run a magnet over it if you think it is worthwhile… my situation is “old” enough that most of the metal is quite rotten, if yours is not as rotten as mine is, it will be easier to find and remove. Anything I can’t pull out, I cut off below ground level.

Thanks Nancy, I think I am sufficiently stubborn to clear that area by hand, at least my SO certainly thinks so. :wink: I’ve been heading out there on my daily walk to poke around and find myself gathering up something at every trip. Some things are sticking to my small magnet but this land was part of an hazelnut farm for decades so there is likely more debris out there than I appreciate. I should probably thoroughly till the whole area before the dry season turns the ground to rock or I won’t have a very productive summer.

Maybe I can motivate my SO to join in the fun…Sushi night for every 5lb bucket of scrap retrieved? Dishes done for a week in exchange for so many pieces of rusty metal? This has possibilities…

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Oh yes, it’s quite addictive! A real feeling of accomplishment when you have rehabilitated a formally damaged and misused area. Black berries are bad though, they will try to re-establish, if they can. And spread. At least we don’t have THOSE here… we had them at our previous farm though. BTDT. I shall be driving my rotary mower bush hog over my area this summer for the first time, mowing down whatever crap tries to grow there until the grass gets established. It’s quite “park-like” now. Almost civilized. I got compliments from drive-by neighbours last year!