Archive for March, 2014

The final project is due in my permaculture design class.  I know this is a long post, but I wanted to share my final project and what I would be doing for the next 5+ years.  Here is my project and future homestead:



The homestead section of the lot will be surrounded by a living fence (13).  It will be made up of willow, roses, ash, hawthorns, spicebush, highbush cranberry, nanking cherry, smoketree, hydrangea, elderberry, forsythia, buttonbush, and dogwood.  All highly recommended by a local nursery specialist in hedgerows.  There is a portion of the living fence that will actually separate the homestead portion of the land from the “wild” or zone 5 portion of the land.  This fence will be made of blackberries and raspberries.  I didn’t want to put berries that could potentially spread near other people’s land and I wanted access to both sides of the brambles for harvest and pruning.

The house will likely be an earthbag home with some extra insulation that will be bermed into an existing small cliff.  It will include rainwater catchment, passive solar heating with a backup rocket mass heater, solar/wind energy, composting toilets, greywater/greenhouse system, and any other sustainable techniques we can come up with (1).  There will be a nearby outdoor kitchen (2).  As long as it is warm enough, we plan on being outside to prep and cook all of our meals.  The kitchen will have its own seasonal potable water supply so everything can be done outside, even the dishes.  All the drains will be part of a grey water system that will water the bushes in the nearby chicken run.  Finally, there will a be a rocket mass heated bench which can also function as a rocket mass stove top.

The kitchen garden will be just beyond the outdoor kitchen (3).  Since the whole lot is sloped, the garden will be all in terraces.  They will start out as hugelkulture beds and gradually be built up into raised beds/terraces as we build them up over the first few years.  At the end of the terraces there will be a composting area.  The idea is to start at the top, and rather than having to lift the compost, you just push it down to the next lower terrace.  This will end in the lowest terrace where the potatoes will be grown in bins.  There will be a tool shed near the garden (4).

Beyond the kitchen garden will be a forest garden (5).  We will grow hazelnuts, apples, cherries, plums, berries of all kinds, and any perennial vegetables we can grow in our area.  There will be swales and a walking path throughout the forest.  The outer edges of the food forest will be full of more perennial vegetables and flowers.  I will make a wave pattern out of these vegetables and flowers to increase the edge space and allow for easy access for harvesting.  We will plant bird and butterfly gardens that will be full of flowers and bushes that the local birds and insects are attracted to.   The flowers will also feed our bee hives located nearby.  There will eventually be an art studio among the trees as well.

Animals will be near the food forest in order to easily bring scraps to them and to allow them to eat bugs from the forest.  The chickens will have a coop closest to the kitchen garden so that we can move them to that garden to scratch for planting (6).  The chickens will also have a grapevine that will provide some bugs and shade and pea shrubs for food.  Next to the chickens there will be a duck area with a pond (7).  The pond will be edged with blueberries and full of fish.  There will also be pea shrubs and other food plants for the ducks in their pen.  Once we have learned to care for the smaller animals, we will get some pigs (8).  The pigs will be able to feed off of fallen fruit in the forest, which will partially extend into their pen so that they have their very own fruit trees.  An option other than pigs for a larger animal would be sheep.  The wool from sheep could be valuable in the colder climate we will be in.

The guest house will be a temporary living area and also practice for building (12).  It will be set up very similar to the permanent house we will build the second and third years we are on the land.  It will have an outhouse that will be surrounded by willows (11).  They are heavy feeders that will break down much of the waste in the out house and in return give us branches for weaving.  Next to the guest house there will be a natural pool surrounded by bamboo(10).  The bamboo will provide us with small timber for many building projects.

Finally, the most important part of the whole project, the kids area (9).  The children will have a tree house built from lumber cut on the land.  We will use recycled tires to make climbing structures.  There will be a large bean teepee and other food sources like a strawberry spiral throughout the play area.  They will also have their own gardens to grow their favorite plants.

I would love any feedback anyone has.  Thanks!


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DSC_0340Squash is my favorite vegetable to grow.  I love the taste, the varieties, watching them grow through the summer and the fact that the winter varieties store so well.  There are tons of recipes of all kinds for squash from stuffed squash, to squash bread to squash pie. You can get squash in every shape, size and many colors and patterns.  I will never get bored of squash.

I want to grow every single kind every year, but I also want to be able to save seeds, so I have to be careful which varieties I pick.  There are 4 different species of squash: Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, C. pepo and C. mixta.  Each species has multiple varieties.  If you want to be able to save seeds that are true to the parents, you can’t have any 2 varieties of the same species near each other.  This is because bugs pollinate squash and as they bounce flower to flower, the different varieties will become cross pollinated.  You may want to do this though, you could get some very interesting new squash.

DSC_0005I have read that varieties of the same species need to be separated by 1/2 mile to keep them from crossing.  I plan on trying to put two varieties on opposite sides of the property to see what happens then.  I will save those seeds and plant them the next year to see what I get.  I won’t be upset if it doesn’t work because it should still be a good tasting squash when it grows.  You can also pollinate the squash by hand to try to ensure a true to the parent squash, but I’m not that advanced.  Once I get a couple good years of saving squash seed, I will work on that skill. Don’t forget, whenever you want to choose any vegetable to save the seed it had to be open pollinated.  Many of the hybrids also will not produce fertile seeds.  I prefer to go with heirloom seeds myself.  Happy squashing!

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Arrival of the Seeds


It’s almost spring and the seeds are here!  Just enough for a small vegetable garden to put away some stash for the winter.  I am keeping it simple this year because we are going to be so busy doing other things.

Generally, permaculture doesn’t do a lot with annuals.  Perennials come back every year so you don’t have to put  as much into them.  Plant them once and a little TLC every now and then.  But they also won’t be ready and providing food right away, and we do need to eat right away, so we will have a vegetable garden.  You also get very different vegetables annually than perennially, and I’m not willing to give up my squash!  Hopefully, every year the perennial garden will be more and more productive and the annual garden will shrink down to only the vegetables that I really like.

This year I will be just planting some  perennials, so I likely won’t get much of anything from them.  I will focus on really learning how to grow the few annuals I picked out.  I have corn, beans and squash/pumpkins which I will grow together using the “three sisters” method.  (I’ll talk about that later)  I also have cabbage, kale and beets.  That’s it. Nice and simple this year.  Maybe next year I’ll add a couple other things.

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Sectors of the landscape tie in to “the lay of the land” post I did before I started watching the videos for the PDC.  This is just another way to look at your property to help you decide how to set it up.  A sector map will layout for you the outside influences on your land.  This includes:  neighbors (particularly noisy ones or helpful ones), roads (how noisy or busy), where the winter storms come in from, where the summer winds come from, where the summer and winter sun is, where water might be, or anything else that may affect your future home in any way.  In more urban/suburban areas this can be very important for noise barriers or planting food furthest from potential pollutants.  Where I am going to be, I don’t have much around but other people who are fairly well spaced out to the point I didn’t even know they were all there.  I am more concerned with protecting myself from the winter winds and pointing everything at the sun for warmth.  Here is the sector map I made for my lot:

sectorsAs you can see, this is very simple and there is hardly anything on it.  That is what we wanted though.  NOT to have loud streets and tons of neighbors and things like that.  Perfect.

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