Newbie needs advice on reworking old farm
My elderly grandmother owns an old dairy farm with about 100 acres of hayfields. The cows have been gone for 20+ years. Some of the hayfields were harvested up to 4 years ago, until my grandfather passed. Since then, nature has started to reclaim those fields. Saplings are growing throughout the 6 foot tall grass. Thistle plants everywhere.
A couple of the fields haven't been worked since probably before the cows got sold, and they reverted to woods. I have been cutting a lot of these trees for firewood, but there are a lot of stumps.
All of the working equipment was sold long ago, i.e. tractors, cultivators, etc, etc.
I would like to start using this land for raising vegetables next year, but I don't know where to start. I have limited resources, and no one to currently help me farm the land, so I was going to start slowly in my spare time, using only a small parcel and raising vegetables that don't require a lot of work during the summer.
I need some advice on what equipment to buy or rent, and how/when to use it. When I was a kid, I helped my grandfather work this land, but it's been over 20 years since, and many things I don't remember how to do, or never learned how to do.
For equipment, I have an old small Roper tractor with a sleeve hitch. Also, a hydraulic pump can be fitted onto it. The small tractor doesn't run great, but it does work acceptably. I also have a walk behind tiller. As much as I would like to, I don't think that I should buy a larger tractor right now, but maybe someone more knowledgeable thinks differently?
I have been told that the easiest and probably best way to reclaim this farm is controlled burning, but getting a burn permit is next to impossible here.
Am I wrong to think it would be easier and cheaper to work the overgrown hayfields than the recently cleared area filled with stumps?
I figure that the thistles and saplings can be cut from the overgrown hayfields. Then the fields can be hayed, and roundup applied to kill the roots of the thistles. Then the fields can be plowed and cultivated, and they will be good to go. Or am I missing something? Is it cheaper to hire someone to do the work, or rent the equipment to do it myself? And about how much would it cost per acre? It would be nice to work 10 acres next year. I would like to at least work a couple acres next year. I could do a couple acres all by hand, BUT I really don't want to. Machines and equipment are around for a reason.
Also what's the cheapest and easiest way to cultivate the stump filled parcel? And how much would that cost?