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Archive for the ‘Permaculture’ Category

DSC_0161I try to do everything as naturally as possible.  I also don’t like to spend money.  These are some of the things I love about permaculture.  Using what you have available that is provided to you in nature.  Mulch is something that I use a lot in planting, all of which I collect from the land.  Some plants have special needs above and beyond rich organic soil.  Blueberries like acidic soil.

So where do we find this in nature?  Evergreen trees.  The needles are quite acidic.  This is why not much grows under pine trees.  But blueberries like the acid and grow best in this kind of soil.  So I mulched my blueberries in evergreen tree branches.  The needles provide the needed pH and the woody part of the branches provide the organic matter.

DSC_0162This is not a science for me at this point.  I scattered the branches around the blueberry plants and then did the same in the area where I want to plant more blueberries next year.  I may need more and I may need less.  I will monitor the pH here and there and see what happens.

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I don’t know what everyone believes about loving your plants and talking to your plants and how that does or does not effect the plants growth.  If loving plants works, then these plants will be huge.  Now that my son knows that these plants make blueberries, he spends a lot of time with them and even tells them goodnight before bed.  I’ll let you know how healthy they are in the future!

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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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Hoverflies look like small bees, but are harmless to people.  Hoverfly larvae eat aphids, small caterpillars like cabbage worms, thrips, scale, and tiny mites.  You attract adults with nectar rich blooms.  I have looked all over the place for what to put in your bug hotel for these guys and what I have found is pith rods like brambles, elderberry and roses.  I have not found anything explaining why though.  What ever the reason bundles of pith rods are a good place for bugs that I have already built a spot for, so I’ll make a hotel room out of pith rods.  

I don’t have any kind of picture for this I’m sorry to say.  I have tons of pith rods on the lot, but can’t really get to them right now.  The snow has come in and taken over everything and it would not be an easy walk to get to the area where I would find this sort of thing.  It doesn’t really benefit me to go out collecting this stuff anyways.  Then I would just have to find a place to store it all.  I learned this the other day went I went our collecting the tree bark for the beetles.  I can’t collect enough of it and store it somewhere safe through the winter.  I guess that I am only really doing this post so that I don’t leave the hoverflies out of the picture!

 

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Permaculture Ethics

These are pretty self explanatory.  Ethics to follow throughout permaculture and life.

1. Care for earth

2. Care for people

3. Share the surplus: produce, time, and energy

Permaculture Principles

There are different versions of the principles depending on where you look.  The principles that I am using are the ones presented in the permaculture class I found online.  I will go into more detail on each in it’s own section, but for now, here there are with a brief explanation, many straight from the class:

1. Observe and interact

“Continuous observation, using all of our senses, to detect and learn the patterns of nature, is the foundation of understanding how best to relate to the natural cycles.”

2. Relative location

“We set up working relationships between elements so that the needs of one element are filled by the yields of another element.”

3. Energy cycling

“Use incoming energy at it’s highest possible level, then at it’s next highest level, and so on.”

4. Each element performs many functions

Nothing that you have on site should do only one thing.  The more use you can squeeze out of each element, the less you need.

5. Each function is supported by many elements

Have backups for anything important like food and water.

6. Efficient energy planning

The things you use most and that need the most attention should be closest to your home.

7. Small scale intensive systems

1/4-1 acre is plenty to have a permaculture system.  When you have less space and have to put a lot of thought into it, you tend to pay more attention to it.  There is also much less ground to cover when you are tending to your garden

8. Use edges and value the marginal

There are not straight lines in permaculture design or in nature.  Water flows in curves naturally.  When working with water runoff or trenches in your garden, wavy lines are better because you get less erosion and the ground has more opportunity to soak up the water.  Say you plant 36 plants in straight rows, now plant the same amount of space in wavy rows.  You can fit 45 plants in the wavy rows.

9. Accelerating success and evolution

If you take a piece of bare land and let it grow naturally it will go through a succession.  First prairie grass, then small shrubs, then larger shrubs, then deciduous tress, then evergreens.  (Very simplified)  Not take that succession and plant it all together.  Large nut trees with small fruit trees, large fruit shrubs, small fruit shrubs, vines, perennial vegetables etc.  Once a fruit tree has been around for most of its lifespan, cut it down and fill the area with sun loving smaller plants and a young fruit tree in the middle.  As the tree grows, it will block out some of the sun, but by then, you have cut down another fruit tree that has grown old and started the cycle all over again.

10. Use and value diversity

A permaculture garden may look a lot like chaos.  That is because instead of one section of garden filled with tomatoes, you have guilds.  Groups of plants that grow well together all in the same bed.  You can also create microclimates.  A tall plant may shade a shorter, cooler weather plant from the sun allowing it to grow longer.  You can even grow plants and animals together.

11.  Use biological resources

One word: Manure.

I’ll get into more details on everything as I go along!

 

 

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Ground beetles eat all kinds of nasty bugs that are ground dwellers.  Snails, slugs, cutworms, etc.  I have read that the best way to encourage ground beetles is but laying boards around your garden to give them a place to hide.  Apparently they also will like tree bark in stacks in your bug hotel to hide in.  Spiders will hide in there too.  I’m not sure that I believe that ground beetles will climb up into an insect hotel, but plenty of other bugs will use the bark bundles, so I’ll set it up and see what happens.  I’ll put it near the bottom of the hotel too, just in case.

Here is my collection of bark I have started.  I collected it off dead trees that had fallen.  Then I found even more on standing dead trees.  This was even easier to collect and wasn’t as rotten.  I have a bundle started so far, but when I put the bug hotel together, I assume I will need to collect even more.

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After my less than awesome experience with the online PDC, I decided to re-watch all the videos from the PDC that I really liked.  Here is the link if you are interested.  As I go through and watch everything, I will attempt to take notes and share the information with you as I go.  It is a ton of information, but I figure that it can nothing but help me out as we are waiting for spring to come so we can dive in.  I have written up a project brief and posted it 6 months or so ago, but I have learned a lot and spent a lot of time on site since then.  The whole plan may be turned upside down, but I knew that was possible when I started.  All of the permaculture learning posts I do will be posted to a permaculture learning page in case you are looking for them at any point.  I hope to have a nice little informational page by the time I am done.

Here we go:  What is permaculture?  Broken down into its parts permanent agriculture.  It is a sustainable living methodology including home, garden, and community.  According to Bill Mollison, one of the founders of permaculture, it is,

“The conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems which have the diversity, sustainability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the harmonious integration of the landscape, people, and appropriate technologies, providing food, shelter, energy and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

The other founder, David Holmgren, has this to say:

“Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre, and energy for provision of local needs.  People, their buildings and the ways in which they organize themselves are all central to to permaculture.  Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.”

What permaculture means to me is getting the most yield with the least work with the least amount of damage done to the environment as possible.  I want to be able to set up and maintain my land and still have time for my children.  I want to teach them to grow their own food without chemicals, but by using nature to maintain the system.  I want to have more food than we will ever need so that we never go hungry and have food to share.  The first few years, I have often heard 5 years as the magic number, will be a lot of work.  Designing and putting together a system like this is not quick and easy.  Taking the time to take in all that is around you and use what you have to build the system takes time.  Building without spending a ton of money takes more time and thought than if you just went out and bought everything.  But once you have a basic system established, the system should thrive, even if you neglect it some.  That is the whole idea of using nature as a role model and working with nature rather than against it.  Make it easy for nature to take over and it will.  Things will grow if you give them what they need.  This goes for plants and animals.  Give animals a food source and you won’t have to constantly feed them.  You won’t have to clean up after them as you would on a traditional farm because there is no waste in nature.  Redirect the “waste” and put it to good use.  Everything has a use and all needs can be provided for within the systems you create.

Permaculture goes beyond just your happy little homestead.  Get involved in a community.  If everyone keeps to themselves then most of us would never even know what permaculture was.  Get out there and share your ideas and time and find others who are interested in what you are doing.  There are many projects out there where you basically are an intern.  People need help getting the work done and you need the help to learn about what they are doing.  There is so much available because so many people are out there sharing and getting together to get things done.  Keep things going and get out there and find everything and everyone you can who has any interest in permaculture.

Here is a reading list if you are interested:

Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

His website is The Center for Pattern Literacy

Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison

The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook

The Carbon Free Home by Stephen and Rebecca Wren

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

His website is Holmgren Design

 

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The article I posted the other day about changing the world inspired me to reach out to my fellow bloggers and get their stories.  I wanted to share them with all of you and show the many different things people are doing to make the world a better place.  I asked them all 4 questions about what they are doing and why, and I got more replies than I thought for sure.  The first response I got was from Family Yields.  Here is her story:

I found you through your blog. What is your blog and/or project about?

“My blog was started as a way for me to share what our family is doing to live in line with Permaculture Principles and Ethics.  We are homesteading on half an acre with three young children (4, 2, and 7 months).  My husband has completed his Permaculture Design Certificate and is very interested in Forest Gardening, having recently started his own nursery.  His work is pushing him in some very interesting and wonderful ways.  As his wife, I found myself a bit lost as my strengths do not lie in garden design and frankly, I just don’t get a charge from digging in the dirt like he does.  What I do know is that my work is that of growing as well, except I’m cultivating our family.  My blog is a way for me to bring some clarity for myself on issues of inner permaculture or inner transition.  I try to look at all of the simple ways that we are pulling Permaculture into our daily lives, hoping to show that anyone can do it through slow and small changes.”

I believe that you are someone who is helping to change the world in your own way. How do you think what you are doing is making things better?

“I believe that the only thing in this world we can truly change is ourselves.  By changing my inner landscape, I am hopefully becoming a better role model for my children.  I also hope that in sharing my stories with others, they can realize that we’re all just muddling through The Great Turning.  As a family we are committed to sustainable living in as many ways as possible; permaculture, forest gardening, homesteading, sustainable animal husbandry, preparing and eating whole foods, preserving, disconnecting from mainstream media, mindfulness, unschooling, eating locally, the transition movement (including an inner transition group), and in general, deeply listening to how each of our choices affect the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share.  I am involving myself in things that are important to me.  From there, hopefully my actions will inspire others.  “Be the change you want to see in the world” ~Ghandi”

Many people, myself included, have not always been on this particular path. What inspired you to start doing what you are doing?

“I am currently on leave from teaching middle school aged children.  What I see when I walk into the classroom scares me.  Children are so disconnected from nature that it makes me afraid for the future.  They have difficulty thinking for themselves, and authentically responding.  I also have the feeling that what I’m doing in that room makes little difference, as I am often pushing against all that the children bring with them from their home lives and culture at large.  The current of our culture is often too strong to allow me to guide my students upstream and it sweeps me away with it.  As a mother, I know I am able to create lasting and meaningful influence in the lives of my children.  Through my mothering, I hope to inspire my children to impact the future in unfathomable ways.”

Doing things that are not the “norm” are sometimes difficult to get going with. What advice would you give to someone who may be out there trying to start their own unique adventure?

“Just take action, no matter how small that action may seem.  Feeling like someone else is an expert or has it all figured out is self-defeating.  I had to get over the feeling that everyone else out there doing ‘permaculture things’ knew more about it than me.  Even the smallest actions initiate change.  Don’t be afraid to be different, we all bring our unique gifts to all that we do.”

Be sure to check out Family Yields at her blog!

I think that just living on a homestead is a great way to better your life.  Getting closer to your work, food, and children is a perfect way to feel better about yourself and the work you are doing.  Changing ourselves is truly the most important thing any of us can do to better life.  You can’t change the world unless you start by becoming what you want to see in the world.  Along with that goes raising your children to see that better world.  So many people say that they don’t want to have kids because the world is such an ugly place.  Well, it doesn’t have to be.  We can teach our children how to live better lives and live outside of the ugliness.  There is no reason that I can see that their world can’t be beautiful and happy.  I think that children growing up in the kind of environment that a homestead provides is an amazing opportunity for them to become connected adults who understand the importance of happiness and self sufficiency.

 

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