Archive for the ‘Living Fences’ Category

The last post I did, I described the area where I plan on building my library and observation area.  Behind this building I will put in a naturally shaded area to relax and read or anything else we want.  The shade will be provided by about 10 wisteria plants and will extend on either side to grape arbors.  There will be a butterfly garden on one side of the building as well.  Sorry if I a repeating myself from the last post.  I forget exactly what I said.  The area on the other side is going to be my vegetable garden at least for next year.

I had planted wisteria in the spring and it had to be moved so today, I replanted them.  Since the whole area is along the cliff side I lined the edge with rocks to attempt to hold everything in place.  Next I lined up some big rotting trees along the rocks.


I placed all the wisteria plants in the spots I wanted them along with a currant and a gooseberry plant.  I had bought these other berry bushes because they were shade tolerant and had been waiting for a good place to put them.  Since the wisteria will shade everything, these should do pretty well here.  I placed more rotting trees all around the spots where I wanted the plants to go.  Kind of making a hugelkulture bed.


I pretty much just took the plants out of the pots and plopped them onto the ground among the rotting trees.  This area is all ledge so I can’t really dig too much.  Hopefully, this will still work.  I plan to add some shade tolerant plants along the edge that have roots that will spread and hold all the new soil in place.


Then I covered the whole thing with leaves.  This should help hold in the moisture and break down to make some nice soil for the plants.  I will continue to add more leaves as they settle in place.


Right next to one of the wisteria plants is a young maple tree.  I decided to leave it in place for the wisteria to grow up.  This may very likely kill the maple, but it may not and either way the wisteria needs something to grow up.


I’m not entirely sure how we will support the other wisteria, but I may be able to put posts in the ground on the side of the cliff.  There may be enough ground below to dig holes that will support the posts.  I don’t really have time to get this done right now since we are focused on the house, but I did need to get these plants in the ground before winter.  I will have to mulch them quite a bit more to keep them protected from the cold over the winter as well.  Fall shouls give us a ton more leaves, so this won’t be a problem.



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This is likely the highest point of the property.  A perfect location for an star observation tower.

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We also decided that a library would fit perfectly under the observation tower.  This building may not be started for many years, but the landscaping around it has already started.  I want there to be a shaded reading and relaxing area outside the library.  I had planted some wisteria that had to be moved for the logging to get done.  The area it came from is not really there anymore so now I moved it to my future outdoor reading area.  The grapes are going to be moved up here too.  There will be arbor on either side of the wisteria.  I would also like to plant a butterfly and hummingbird garden outside the library.  This should be a really pretty area in a few years.

Here is a link to the site where we found the idea for the observation tower.  We aren’t really planning to build with cob because it isn’t the best choice for our very wet climate and we have more resources for building with cordwood.  We may very likely end up with something that looks a lot like this.

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I have been sitting around waiting for the Man to get the trees down so that I could start working on the garden and the living area.  Since there was nothing else to do, I started making some little improvements on the living fence.  I decided that where the two sections of fence met that I needed wisteria.  For now, they are in the ground with some small posts to climb.  I will eventually have a big arbor there, where the wisteria and grapes will meet.  Hopefully, the wisteria won’t overtake the grapes.  This may be something I have to keep on top of, but wisteria are really good for the pollinators like bees and butterflies.


I also went out and bought a couple more grape vines.  I already had 4 purple grapes, one may be dead, so I bought 2 green grapes.  I extended the border around the grape vines, strawberries, and rhubarb and popped the 2 new vines in.


Here are the grapes, just starting to grow!


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I’m doing all of these goals out of order, sorry.  Either way, one goal down and a bunch more to go.  Technically, the living fence is no where near done, but I got done what I wanted to for this spring.

Today all the new trees I bought were put in the ground.  Black and pink pussy willows, an arctic willow, a weeping willow, 3 grapes (all purple), blackberries, and blue berries.  Most of these were for my living fence.

The blackberries were added to the front property line closest to the road.  There is the remains of a rock wall on one side of the future fence and then it drops down to the road.

DSC_0177I know that you can’t see the actual plants, but the are still dormant anyways.  I put up a little bit of a trellis for the berries to climb on once they get bigger.  For now, it is really just to mark where the tiny plants are growing.  I can’t really tell you how I tied the posts together because I’m not sure I know myself.  In my family, we call these “Sarah Knots.”

The next part of the fence is my favorite.  The grapevine.  The plan is for this to be a gorgeous walking path where you are surrounded by grapes.  It will also be functional in the sense that animals can be moved from area to area through the walkway.  I will get some really awesome gates to separate the different sections.  I will have to plant some small bushes between the vines so that it will be animal tight, but that will be a project for next year.  I am open to suggestions.  It would be ideal if it were something that fruited a different season than the grapes so that the walkway would be productive for a long time.

DSC_0173It doesn’t look like much now, but once those grapes fill in, it will be awesome.  The trellises that are up now are to serve as a temporary while the plants are still small.  I just don’t have the time this year to build a big arbor.  It’ll happen eventually.  The trees used to make the trellis were the ones I had to cut down anyway to let the sun in.  The logs on the ground were old rotted ones I found laying around.  Here is a closer look at each grape vine bed:


DSC_0174You can kind of see the tags on the new vines.  Still dormant though.

The last section of fence I did this year is the willows.  I moved a couple of fantail willows that I had bought last year and added in the new ones.  I have the willows all lining the very wet drainage stream that runs through the lot.  I am just hoping that the area is not too wet for them all.  The soil in this area is also rich, dark soil so the willows should grow very well.  I may fill in between the willows because I did spread them out a little too far.  I may be able to train them to grow together though.  Anyone know of any smaller willows or another plant that I could use to fill in the spaces.  It is practically a swamp spring and half of the summer.  It also fills up whenever it rains, but does clear out.

DSC_0184The willows are all off to the right.  They are just starting to break dormancy, so you can’t really see them clearly either.  If you look close, you can see the name tags on each of them.  But you get the idea.

The whole area that I am working on closing off is about 1/4 acre.  This area will hopefully be for ducks not too many years from now.  It will be set up to provide fr the ducks and filled with plants that will also benefit from the ducks.  Once this area is all set up, we will move on to the next section and hopefully get some more animals.  It seems as though it doesn’t really have to be sealed up tight for ducks either.  My neighbor has ducks that aren’t penned in at all and they never stray too far from home.  I am curious if this is too big an area for ducks though.  Too many places for them to hide their eggs!

The beginnings of the living fence.

This years tree purchase.

The link to my information sources on living fences.

I had trouble finding much on living fences that I could add to this list.  For much more information, I suggest you check out the forum at permies.com.  There was plenty of information there.

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I do not want to work as a nurse for the rest of my life.  I’m not saying it is an awful job or anything, but I want to work for myself on my own land at some point in the future.  I have been looking at some possibilities of what I could do instead for some time now.  I know it will be a few years before I can officially quit my job, I am particularly excited about one potential job idea.  Coppice agroforestry with livestock.

The idea is that you plant your land with various trees and coppice them in a five or so year rotation.  Coppicing is to cut the tree without killing it, allowing it to grow back even stronger in the future.  This means that you don’t need to replant yearly in order to maintain your lumber supply.  You can incorporate animals into this system easily, making it even stronger.  The animals provide manure and pest control and can graze more naturally.  There are many considerations to make in this system, but it can all be figured out with some research.  This type of a system would help to provide me with income through selling meat, eggs, wool, fruits, vegetables, lumber, and fibers.  I’m sure there are more things I could incorporate, but this is fairly new research for me.  Here is what I am finding so far:

Coppicing: Coppicing is the practice of cutting trees for the timber and leaving the stump to regrow for future cuttings.  By leaving the stump and root system intact, it provides a faster and stronger growth for the new lumber.  The new growth is called poles.  Pollarding is the term used for coppicing above the level where animals may be able to eat the new growth.  This allows for the incorporation of animals in you coppice agroforestry.

There are many different types of trees you can grow for the purpose of coppice.  A common variety is willow, which tends to be know for it’s rapid growth rates, especially with enough water and nutrients.  (The nutrients could come from manure.)  You could use apple trees.  When done in the right rotation, you would have apples and apple wood for many years.  And so would your children and grandchildren.  It’s the same idea with nut trees.  You get the wood and the nuts and you extend the life of the trees.  Keep in mind that you will have new growth from the trees, but I’m not sure how many years before they would begin to produce fruit or nuts.  More research required on my part.  You could also include nitrogen fixing trees in the system to increase the nutrients in your soil.  Don’t forget about including trees for animal fodder.  The animals will love the variety of food supply and there will be less food that you need to supply for them.

Your living fence can easily be incorporated into this system as well.  Willows are great for living fences and are great for coppicing as I mentioned before.  You could make more willow baskets than you could possibly imagine.  I know brambles are great for living fences too, but I’m not sure yet what you could do with coppiced thorny vines.  I’ll work on that thought.  Some research will have to be done on which plants won’t be good for corralling livestock.  All the different berries that can be used in living fences will provide an excess of fruit.

Adding animals into this system makes the system even stronger.  The animals fertilize the plants.  They eat the pest bugs that could destroy your trees.  They eat the low branches off the trees that would otherwise need to be pruned.  Animals can eat the weeds among the trees or keep the grass between the trees mowed.  I wouldn’t plant grass myself, put you could plant nitrogen fixing clover or some other tasty treat for the animals.

Depending on the animal you choose to keep, there are different benefits that can be offered.  Ducks and chickens provide eggs meat in addition to pest control.  Grazing animals like goats, sheep, and turkeys are wonderful at eating worm infested fruits as they fall dead off of the trees.  This interrupts the life cycle of the worms and maggots and helps to resolve this pest problem.  Removing rotten fruit from around the trees can also help from spreading disease by destroying the spores.  The rotten fruit is a good food source for these animals too.

This can be an excellent system to feed your family and provide a source for timber.  However, it can also easily over provide and allow for a source of income in your life.  This could be an excellent solution to the problem I have been having in deciding what to do for a new “career.”  My biggest issue in deciding what to do with myself was that I needed variety.  I can’t imagine that I would ever run out of variety with a system like this.  I can’t say that I have come up with any potential ideas that offer anywhere near as many different things that can all be incorporated into one idea.  Any thoughts, ideas, or insight?

The link to my list of information sources.



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I put in my order for the new trees and bushes for the homestead today!  Now we have to wait until May to pick them up.  I ordered from Fedcoseeds.com.  We are lucky enough to have a local permaculture group, the Maine Resilience Hub, where we were able to take part in a group order and get a discount on the trees.  It really is nice to finally have some people in the area who work with permaculture.  We did not have anything like this in Connecticut.  Let me tell you a little bit about what we bought and why:

Grapes:  First of all, I love grapes, I have to have plenty of them growing n my lot to make grape juice and jelly and whatever else I come up with.  Grapes fit into permaculture nicely too though.  If you plant your grapes over the area where you keep your chickens you get extra benefits.  The chickens love to eat the japanese beetles that will try to eat your grapes.  Apparently, if you go out in the morning and shake the grape vines a bit, the beetles will still be sleeping and will fall right out of the vines for the chickens to feast on.  The vines will also provide shade for the chickens in the summer.  I look forward to having a beautiful arbor on the lot as well.  I plan to incorporate this into our living fence as well.  Here is some info on grapes.

The next thing I picked out was blackberries.  I had attempted to transplant some blackberries from our old home to here, but I’m not sure they made it.  I won’t know until spring, so I got some more.  They will also be incorporated into the living fence.  You get tons of delicious fruits and the thorns can help to keep thing away from the fence.  I did not but any more raspberries, but I believe the ones we bought last year are alive and well.  Here are some links with information about blackberries and raspberries.

We also bought some more highbush blueberries.  I liked the blueberries for the living fence because we have a lot of wet but well drained areas on the lot and this is what blueberries like.  I’m not sure how well they do for the living fence, I’m not sure how thick they grow, but from what I understand they can be pruned to be thicker.  If not, I can plant something behind the bushes to make it more of a fence.  I will plant my bushes on either side of the main water flow through the lot.  I think this will work well because this area will always be damp, but the roots will not be soaking in the water.  I will plant something that like to sit in water between the blueberries.  Growing information for highbush blueberries.

The last of the items I bought were all willows.  I really like the willows for a number of reasons.  They grow fast and grow thick so they will get us off to a good start on the living fence.  The willows I bought last year should give me a few cuttings to attempt to propagate to increase the fences size for free.  You can use the willow branches for a number of craft type projects like basket making or decorative pieces.  Many animals will eat different kinds of willow.  I will do more research on this before I feed them to my animals, but it could be an excellent source of fodder for cows.  Willows can also be used to make rooting hormone substitutes.  Apparently you grind up the willow branches and soak them in water and then use this to propagate other plants.  I hope to try this with the brambles that I planted last year.  The kinds of willows we have are: weeping willow, Japanese fantail willow, arctic blue willow, and black and pink pussy willows.  All willows like wet areas, so this may be an excellent plant to go between the blueberries in the wet area on the lot.  We have quite of few of these nice, wet areas, so there is plenty of room for all of the willows that I bought.  I’m not quite sure how wet or dry an area the willows really need, so there will be trial and error in this area.  Most of the lot really has plenty of moisture, so I think most areas will be great.

I am trying my best to match the best locations with the best plants so that I get the maximum benefit all the way around.  If you take the time to get the perfect spot for your plants to grow, they will be much healthier and happier.  By the time this living fence is done, I will expect there to be dozens of different varieties of plants incorporated into it.  This will make it much more viable and much more valuable to us and the ecosystem we are trying to create.

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One project I am sort of starting this year is the living fence.  Ideally, the fence will run about 2200 feet to contain the front portion of the property.  This area will be fenced in to contain the kids and animals and be the area we live on.  The rest of the lot will be left as is for the most part.  I might get around 30 feet of this planted this year.  I know that’s a joke and why bother, but once I get a handful of plants started, I can root some clipping and the fence should take off.

So what is a living fence?  It is a fence made of plants, bushes and trees rather than built with standard fencing or wood.  It will take at least 5 years to establish rather than a few days, but it will be well worth it.

There are may reasons to go with living fences rather than regular ones.  Living fences are beautiful and blend in with nature.  No ugly wiring to look at, but it can still block out whatever is on the outside of your fence.  They attract beneficial insects and birds.  They can include insect friendly plants with flowers and birds friendly plants with berries and seeds.  Living fences can be a food source.  Some of the first plants in my living fence are brambles that will provide us with more berries than we could ever eat in years to come.  These fences can provide you with materials for making useful household items.  Willow is another plant I started this year.  The willow branches can be used for basket making, woven fences, and rooting hormone.  Living fences are valuable windbreaks.  They can provide fodder for livestock.  You can grow medicinal plants in living fences.  I may even throw a couple grape vines into the mix with beautiful arbors to walk through.

What I have  planted so far is about 5 feet of blackberries and maybe 15 feet of raspberries.  They are tiny now, but brambles grow quickly.  I will put up a small support trellis up through them when I have a chance.  I’ll share the pics I have so far, but there isn’t much to see.  Like I said, the plants are pretty small and I haven’t cleared around them much yet.  We have a hand saw, but that takes a while so I am going to have to wait for the chain saw to be broken out to make much of a difference.  Hopefully that will be in the next couple weeks.  I put red arrows on the pictures so that you could see my baby raspberries.  I had to show you something…

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