Archive for the ‘permaculture’ Category

Spring is here!

Thanks to a recent bought of spring weather, my trailmaking project is coming along nicely. I’ve added several more trails to the one that was already present when we moved here last year (and now that one will stay accessible even when the stinging nettles are full grown). It’s exciting to be able to access areas of the woods that I haven’t been able to observe easily before. I’m noticing which areas are particularly sunny and open, and which are cooler and more damp. I can’t help but feel that we have the foundations of a bountiful food forest in here, with lots of diversity in both microclimate and soil type.

As a reward for my hard work, I take the dog for daily walks through the trail network. Once or twice I’ve brought along a small colinear hoe to sweep away any stinging nettles growing on the paths (these innocuous-looking small shoots will, I’ve now learned from experience, grow to about 5 feet tall by summer). As we go along, I’m looking out for species of plants that I haven’t yet identified.

One small tree had me puzzled for a while. It caught my attention a couple of weeks ago when I noticed it was already budding leaves when all the other plants had buds shut up tight. Soon small sprays of flowers could be seen. It looks so pretty – a sign of all the delights of spring to come. I took a sample branch and spent quite some time thumbing through my Trees in Canada book trying to identify it, to no avail.

Finally I decided to check my other reference, Plants of Coastal BC. I then learned why I was having so much trouble – my little tree was not, in fact, a Tree but a Shrub. And it’s an Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), a classic herald of spring in our coastal climate (see photo above).

I’m really enjoying the process of getting to know the flora and fauna of our place. It brings a sense of familiarity. This spring I’ve been watching the Vanilla Leaf come up, and remembering how astonished I was to see them for the first time shortly after moving here last year. They seemed so strange at first, these tall, thin green stalks rising up out of the ground, with nothing but a fan-shaped green tip. They came up in great swaths, looking almost alien in appearance. Now when I see the new crop coming up I remember how it felt to “meet” them last year.

Over the last few days I’ve been noticing Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) appearing, and today I saw one in flower. The Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) is coming up, though no flowers just yet. And today I discovered Menzies’ Red-Mouthed Mnium (Mnium spinulosum), a type of moss that is relatively easy to identify because of the red rings around the tip of the sporophyte. My daily walks through our woodland trails will allow me to watch the changes unfolding on a much smaller scale than I was able to last year. It’s a new show every week!

 

Low Maintenance Farming

I was talking with my neighbour today about her experiences growing up on a farm. She remarked on the huge amount of labour involved. She’s in her fifties now and not interested in extending self-sufficiency to such things as growing hay or planting acre fields of crops and veggies. Later, as I reflected on this discussion I realized that traditional farming is associated in our collective consciousness with long hours of back-breaking work and a level of commitment that doesn’t lend itself well to vacationing or lazy days at home, never mind early retirement.

I contrasted this with what I’ve been learning about permaculture, and realized that in planning our farm we were – consciously or not – endeavouring to create a homestead that did not meet the traditional model of hard work. It started with the wise maxim of taking things one step at a time. As Jenna of Cold Antler Farm recently wrote:

…running a farm, even a backyard homestead, is something you work up to. You don’t start with 6.5 acres, a flock of pregnant sheep, 50+ chickens, dogs, bees, geese, ducks, rabbits, an old barn, and a giant garden. You start with a 5×5 raised bed and a trio of hens.

When we bought this land the only things on it were an old mobile home and a newer garage. The previous owner had done nothing with the land, so we were starting off with a zero-labour homestead. We took our projects slowly, one step at a time, not taking on more than we thought we could handle, and not adding more until we felt comfortable with where we were. And somewhere along the way we stumbled upon a way of homesteading that wouldn’t compromise the freedoms we enjoyed.

We enjoy our lazy days at home, like to go camping on a whim when the opportunity arises, relish sleeping-in (which really means just getting up when our bodies tell us we’re ready, and not being dragged out of bed for some other task) and aren’t interested in committing to daily chores that can’t be worked around somewhat to accommodate life off the property. When we first announced to our family our plans to move to a small acreage and provide a semblance of self-sustainability we were met with dire predictions that we’d never be able to get away from home, and that we were perhaps too used to a sedentary lifestyle to appreciate the amount of hard work such an endeavour would require.

But we’re learning that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Over the winter we reflected back on our first experience with raising pigs. It was not only fun, and resulted in a freezer full of delicious home-grown pork, but frankly it was pretty darn easy too. They were only here for 5 – 6 months and they required little more than being fed twice a day and watered once or twice, and that only because we did not have a proper setup that could have reduced these inputs to once a week or so. When we went on vacation, we hired a local homeschooling teen to come and feed the pigs and the cat. And just when the weather was getting cold and nasty, and the chore of ensuring ice-free watering troughs was looking rather unappealing, off they went to the processor.

We’d originally planned to get chickens, but we didn’t get it together in time for last year. After the winter-without-pigs it occurred to us that having laying chickens would not only be a daily commitment, but would be so 365 days per year. When considering that we have no less than 3 farms on our street that sell their own farm-fresh eggs, via an honour system setup that means I can get a dozen eggs pretty much any time of day, and for a very good price, it kind of seemed silly to take on a year-round commitment for something that would end up costing us not much less than what we currently pay for the same product.

On the other hand, the appeal of raising meat birds couldn’t be higher for folks already used to the idea of “seasonal livestock”. Meat birds reach maturity within a few short weeks, and are raised during the warm months of late spring and summer. We love farm-fresh chicken and having a good supply of our own birds in the freezer would be a real treat. Based on the price of local farm-fresh chickens we could do it for much less, too. There are no eggs to collect when you are raising meat birds: a simple moveable paddock or “chicken tractor” system is all you need. Feed and water them, and move them around as their foraging requires. Our local farm-sitting teen could easily handle feeding and watering the chickens should we decide on a holiday, so they wouldn’t impinge on our summer wanderlust either.

We’d been toying with the idea of getting goats. At first it was to clear the land, but then I wondered what we’d do with them when there was no more to clear. And then we changed our plans and didn’t need any more clearing than pigs could handle, which left me wondering why we would have goats (other than the fact that they are super cute!). I briefly considered justifying their keep by having a couple of dairy goats but really, as much as I enjoy chevre cheese the amount we eat is so small as to really not make it worth our while (and finding ways to use a resource that isn’t currently missed didn’t seem like a good enough reason to take on such a big responsibility).

Since pork and chicken are our main (and preferred) meats, sticking to these two endeavours would be enough for us in terms of protein. But what about plants? Well, thanks to our discovering permaculture, we’ve learned that we can obtain high yields of food with relatively little maintenance. The appeal to us was not just being able to harvest food while at the same time actually enhancing the health of our soil, but that we could do so without the massive commitments of time and labour that are required on a regular basis with conventional farming practices.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of adding to the farm some more. We’d like to have ducks and geese (the former for slug control and the occasional roast duck, the latter because my husband wants to try his hand at ethical foie gras). And who knows, maybe one day we’ll fall in love with a couple of pygmy goats and just add them to the dog and cat as family pets. But so far we are convinced that it’s possible to maintain a productive homestead without the heavy labour, year-round commitment, and lack of “get-away” time that is traditionally associated with such endeavours.

Permaculture Design: Goals Articulation

In working on the permaculture plan for our property I used the design methods detailed in Dave Jacke’s Edible Forest Gardens Volume 2. I have never studied design, nor any aspect of design planning, so it was with great interest that I read about the need for “goals articulation” prior to proceeding with site planning. While I’ve jumped the gun and already posted my first draft for our site plan, I thought I’d go back a step and share with you the process of goals articulation.

Sometimes we can think we have a clear idea of what we want, until such time as we go to lay it out on paper, and then perhaps we realize that we haven’t thought about it at a level of detail sufficient for creating specific designs. Jacke starts out the design process with a goals articulation exercise, which he guides the reader through step by step. First, he listed several dozen questions and asked the reader to grab a notebook or notepaper and simply write down the answers that spring to mind with each question. We were encouraged to write what immediately came to our mind and include all notes, corrections, and scribblings that spontaneously flowed from us during this process.

Some questions were broad and involved feelings, values, and other abstract concepts. For example:

Why do you want a forest garden? What are you yearning for that you believe a forest garden will give you? What value does it offer you, or what values does it embody?

Imagine that someone who has never before been to your place arrives and spends about twenty minures wandering around your landscape when you have it well under way, speaking to you about topics other than the landscape. As your guest leaves your place, a third party stops him or her and asks for five words that express the qualities of the landscape the visitor just wandered through and unconsciously imbibed. What words would you want your visitor to say? What qualities do you want you landscape to express?

Other questions were more practical and concrete:

Approximately how much fruit do you eat in a year? How many nuts? Would you eat more of these if you were growing them and had them available?

What specific crops do you want to grow?

Going through the long lists of questions really helped me to think about issues I hadn’t thought of before and go to a level deeper than I had (such as trying to estimate how many apples we eat in a year!). When I was done I had about 3 written pages of answers.

In the next step, Jacke suggests you look over your answers and see what pops out at you. This was a real delight for me, like discovering some hidden treasure. Because as I went over my notes I realized that, indeed, he was totally correct and certain phrases and concepts had shown themselves up again and again in my answers. Before doing this exercise I probably couldn’t have told you they were there, but now they jumped out at me. These particular ideas formed the basis of my Values in the next stage of the process (see below).

The next step was to arrange each idea or concept according to a hierarchy of Values, Goals, and Criteria. Jacke suggested using index cards and moving them around, or using a computer spreadsheet program, to create “trees” where multiple Criteria define a single Goal, and multiple Goals define a single Value (I used Excel). He gave examples, which were really helpful, and I was able to sort my ideas into this hierarchy without much difficulty.

Jacke also encouraged the use of specific language that gave “oomph” to the ideas. For example, instead of writing “Goal: to create a forest garden that will provide all the fruits and nuts my family will eat.” he instead suggests it be rewritten to read “Goal: my forest garden provides all the fruits and nuts my family eats”. At first I thought this was a bit silly but when I went through the process I could see that using the language he suggested made the list of ideas seem more powerful and compelling. Also, by phrasing it in the present tense (as in “it is” instead of “I wish it were” or “it would be nice if”) it also allows one to more fully examine whether an idea is consistent with one’s own desires.

This was all a very enjoyable process for me and when I was done I could clearly see the value in these exercises. As Jacke writes:

Many arguments about design ideas really concern unspoken values, goals or criteria conflicts. Vague, implicit, or internally inconsistent intentions can destroy or obstruct the process. Clear, explicit, coherent intentions generate a powerful creative force.

One aspect of the usefulness of having completed the goals articulation process is that the Criteria basically provide a checklist of all the elements that need to be incorporated into the design. Because they were organized under Goals and Values each criterion was important, there was no redundancy, and overall this list would prevent one from going off on tangents. I could see how easily that could be done. Any new criterion to be considered could be checked against the goals and values to see if it was really necessary, already accounted for, or would contribute to achieving the overall Values desired for the landscape. This was useful during the site mapping/zone planning phase.

When I had completed the goals articulation process my spreadsheet had four Values. It’s too long to reproduce here so I’ll share with you one of the Values and a few of the underlying Goals and Criteria that go with it.

Value: Our property is an abundant homestead.

Goal: We have an abundant supply of water.

Criteria:

  1. Seasonal water flow onto property is collected and stored in a system of swales and ponds for year round use.
  2. Rainwater harvested from house roof supplies irrigation for zone 1 food gardens.
  3. Greywater harvested from house irrigates non-food plants/gardens.
  4. Rainwater harvested from house roof is used in place of well water for clothes washing (front-loader) and flushing toilets.

Goal: We supply most of our property’s input needs from the property (minimize external inputs).

Criteria:

  1. Compost is generated on site from chicken manure, kitchen waste, and garden trimmings.
  2. Mulch generating plants are grown; “chop and drop” method of mulching.
  3. Fodder is grown for pigs and chickens.
  4. Sawdust and garden trimmings are used for mulch.

Goal: We give back to the land by providing habitat for wildlife (birds, insects, etc).

Criteria:

  1. Our property contains nesting boxes for owls, birds, and mason bees (near garden).
  2. Ponds provide wetland habitat for local flora and fauna.
  3. There are grazing areas for elk herd (Zone 5).
  4. We have some systems that are “ecosystem to plants” in design, retaining local flora and fauna as much as possible in these areas.
  5. We have some systems that are “plants to ecosystems” in design, creating an ecosystem compatible with our soil and climate but different from the existing overgrowth, and retaining existing aspects that are compatible with the overall plan.

Having gone through this process I can attest that it greatly helped when it came time to sit down and work out a site plan. When I’d lay out a potential plan (mapping zones, etc) I could easily go down my list of criteria to make sure that I had included all these elements and ideas into the plan. I now feel like I have a much clearer vision of what we’re trying to accomplish here, and am a big step closer to seeing it become reality.

Permaculture Site Plan: 1st Draft

I’ve been very busy these past few weeks: on any given sunny day, and on several slightly rainy ones, I could be found outside with my 100 ft tape measure, a stake and a mallet, and a sheaf of paper (sometimes wrapped in a clear plastic bag). I was using triangulation to create an accurate map of our property and the major features on it: driveway, house, shed, etc. It took me a few days to get all the measurements, and parts were tricky. In order to use triangulation to locate a specific object in space you must start with two known points that, together with the object, form a triangle. Our property is large and does not contain many two-point features, so often I had to work my way out to a desired object, by locating two trees I could use, or even by planting stakes in the ground.

The result of all this hard work (and a bit of fun with a compass and square-ruler that took me back to grade-school geometry class) was this:

This shows the complete North boundary (North is Up), and the east and west boundaries. The southern boundary is not shown, as it lies way down the page. What you see is approximately half the true length of our property. The Northern boundary lies some distance from our street, which runs west to east, ending at a dead end about halfway along the length of our northern boundary. East from there one enters the forest through a hiking trail. So while it looks as though the house is practically on the street edge, in fact we have a fair amount of yard that extends northwards past the true property boundary to the street.

The dotted lines show the Right of Way (ROW) for the local utility company. A pair of residential power lines runs through this corridor (the poles are not on our property) and there are restrictions on building within this area.

Our driveway begins in the northeast corner and wraps around the house so that the area marked by solid lines including the house, garage, and shed is all gravel save for the tear-drop shaped garden area in front of the deck. This area, enclosed by the solid lines, is flat, having been dug into a hillside. Thus the shaded area behind the garage and part of the house, which is a steep grade of earth that rises abruptly to the high point on our property – the northwest corner. Standing at the northwest corner of the garage the earth rises about 8 feet almost straight up, but quickly comes down as one walks southwards, so that at the site of the shed the land is only a couple of feet higher than the grade around the buildings.

The roadway that extends downwards from the main living area is, as of right now, dirt and rather loosely defined. It wanders southwards until, within the ROW it turns to the west and leads out of the property through a gate, and into the forest next door.

Using this map I was able to play with siting our future cob house. I cut out a square whose dimensions corresponded to 33 x 60 ‘ (2000 sq ft) and moved it around to see where it would fit. I wanted the parking area to be north of the house so that the southern views were not marred by cars, which also renders the south yard area quite unusable. I wanted to avoid doing any more grading and earth moving if possible (I hate the fact that they dug into the hillside in the first place: it looks like a wound on the earth having that great wall of earth rising up behind the buildings). And we could not have the building anywhere within the ROW. Since there is a neighbour to the east with a house close to the property boundary we wanted to avoid building along the east side. I eventually settled on a site for the future house, though mostly for the purposes of moving forward with the design process: I’m not certain this is where it will end up, but it gave us a starting place.

It then took some time and many false starts to finally come up with a plan for how to divide up the property into the various Zones of permaculture.

This map is almost the entire property; it should actually extend a bit further down but I decided not to be accurate there for the sake of having a manageable paper size. The living area shows the future house (largest black rectangle). Zone 1 is outlined in pink and will contain the kitchen garden, patio and other outdoor living areas. Zone 2 is outlined in yellow and will include more kitchen garden plants, including some dwarf fruit trees and berries, a greenhouse, chicken coop, greywater ponds, rainwater harvesting barrels and cisterns.

Zone 3 will contain most of our polyculture guilds: fruit and nut trees around which guilds are built. These will form our Food Forest. It also contains a spot for drying out logs and milled lumber (brown area on west side). Finally, this Zone contains our water harvesting system, which I’ll now describe in detail.

When it rains, a small stream forms that runs into our property through the West Gate. This is water that comes out of the forest and collects along the power line roadway (which forms a natural ditch that directs water onto our site). A substantial amount of water flows through here during the wet season and we wish to capture and store it and use it to our advantage. So the dark blue line starting at the West gate shows my idea for digging a proper ditch that would then have to run under the road (a simple culvert would do) to get to our Zone 3. This ditch would feed into a system of swales – ditches that run on contour, on the downward side of which are mounds of earth (berms) that are planted with polyculture guilds. The swales capture the water, spread it out over a long stretch, where it slowly sinks into the berms and irrigates the plantings on the berms. Each swale has an overflow area that feeds into the swale below. I’ve only drawn two swales here but probably we have room for 3 or more (this area slopes rather steeply to where I’ve drawn the larger pond). The final swale feeds into the pond. Right now this area is a seasonal “giant puddle” that is overgrown with salmonberry bushes. We’d like to dig it deeper and turn it into a true pond, create a wetland garden around it, and figure out how to make it less permeable so it holds the water year-round. This area will then be home to some geese and ducks, who will do double-duty providing eggs and meat as well as patrolling the food forest for slugs. There will be an overflow for the large pond – a gravel-filled trench, that will lead eastwards under the roadway (culvert) to a smaller, secondary pond. This is currently another seasonal “large puddle” where salmonberries abound. We may try to fix it so it is still wet when the pigs are here, providing them with a place to cool off. But the main source of water for the pigs will be a rainwater harvesting system on the distillery building.

The “roundabout”-looking thing in Zone 3 is a large bigleaf maple tree that sits atop a hill, near the centre. We plan to extend the dirt road and make it go around the tree. From this point southwards the property is all woodland. The brown dotted lines are current trails through the forest. The future Distillery building will go east of the maple tree; an area will be cleared to the south of the building to allow solar access, and within that part of Zone 3 will be more fruit and nut guilds with which my husband hopes to create some interesting spirits.

The light green areas are Zone 4, which can be divided into 3 sections. The first lies along the east side of the driveway and is currently full of trees and shrubs. We’re going to leave this as is for now, as it provides a nice privacy screen to the neighbour’s house. South of that area is a roughly 1/4 acre pasture which will house our pigs each spring/summer. We’re hoping there is enough land in there for them to graze without completely digging up the place, but if necessary we can divide it up into 2 or 3 sections and rotate them through it. The third section of Zone 4 is north of the house. This will be a reserve grazing area for the pigs should the other pasture not be sufficient in size to prevent them overgrazing it.

The grey lines show where we plan to install permanent fencing. The entire area from the house to at least the southern edge of Zone 3 will be perimeter fenced so that deer and elk cannot get into the food forests (I’ve shown it extending around the entire southern half of our property, but am no longer sure if we need to do that). However, I wanted to include in our plans a way for the local elk herd to continue visiting our property. It has been such a wonderful and meaningful experience to wake up to the sight of these gorgeous animals grazing so close to our house, and I wanted to include them in our design plan. So you’ll note that, in the northern section of Zone 4, the permanent fencing ends about halfway along the northern boundary as you approach from east to west. This is so we can leave it open when not in use by the pigs. The elk have been accessing the property through the northwest corner (which is forested) and grazing along the western strip of pasture, then leaving through the West Gate. So by leaving that part unfenced we retain their access. The bit of permanent fencing can easily be closed off by running a short length of temporary fencing (dotted grey lines) for when the pigs need to use it. Removing the temporary fence will open up that part to the elk when the pigs are not using it. Thus, the area in red denotes Zone 5: the wild, untouched zone.

This leaves the bottom 2 acres below Zone 3 to design. I scribbled some notes in there, but have since changed my mind. In wandering through the woodland this winter I’ve fallen in love with it again and am increasingly distressed at the thought of disturbing it much further. I’m hoping that the area already set aside for Zone 3 will provide enough fruit and nut trees to keep my husband happy. Then I could leave the rest as is, though I have some ideas to experiment with what is called “ecosystem to plants” design, basically starting with the current woodland as a template and adding or replacing certain other plants to increase ecosystem health, restore at-risk native species, or just experiment with new polyculture blends. I’ll talk more of this in a future post about my upcoming farm project, which involves this area. For now, I’m hoping to leave this area “as is” and see what we can do with it while preserving its unique beauty.

Well, if you’ve followed me thus far I hope I’ve kept you interested. The process of permaculture design is fascinating to me and I’ve really enjoyed the process so far.

A Farm by Design

When we moved to this property in late February, what we found were four acres of land that had not been tended to in many years. Dense woodland covered most of the property, but it was not what I would consider a healthy forest. It hadn’t been managed well. In summer we found that the rampant stinging nettles (they grow over 5 feet tall) and thick stands of thorny bushes prevented us from even walking through that part of the property. Several of the trees were dead or dying, saplings were spindly and not thriving well. I’m sure given a few more decades Nature would fully reclaim these woods and turn it into a healthy, balanced ecosystem. But in the meantime we were faced with land that was basically useless to us.

Our initial idea was pretty simple: we’d clear most of the land, leaving a handful of mature maples and cedars, and turn it into pasture. We wanted to open up the southern exposure to bring in sunlight, views, and provide us with a place to grow food or have animals, or just enjoy the lovely sight of “fields and fencelines”. We started by clearing a section of land on the northwest part of the property, beside the house, to bring some much-needed direct sunlight to the house, and to visually open up the space around us. Summer brought an end to land-clearing work as the heat made it uncomfortable to wear proper protection, and the explosion of plant growth tripled the work involved. Our plan was to get going with more land-clearing when fall arrived, but I spent that time digging my new vegetable garden. With Spring not far away (it comes early here) it’s time to decide what projects will be tackled first, and how best to go about them.

I admit that there are some things about having wooded property that I don’t like. I crave light (living in a north-facing apartment a few years ago really depressed me) and I like open views. While I absolutely love the forest, and spend as much time in it as I can, I don’t want to live in the middle of one. Part of me was really looking forward to clearing the bottom acres so that we could have more sunlight and a lovely view of the valley below us. But then again, part of me was feeling a bit conflicted about ripping up this woodland. Healthy and useable or not, it is home to many lovely birds and I can see various habitats within it: seasonal small ponds, rotting logs that provide food and shelter for wildlife, dense leaf-fall that enriches the soil. We do have 160 acres of forest right next door to us, but it is a different kind of woodland, not the young transitory wood that we have onsite filled with alder, maples, and few evergreens.

Last week, Husband and I watched a BBC documentary called A Farm for the Future. In it, filmmaker Rebecca Hosking ponders the future of her family’s small Devon farm (UK) in the context of a world where fossil fuels may no longer be cheap and easy to come by. As she looks for solutions she stumbles upon the concept of permaculture and, skeptical at first, goes about interviewing and visiting with farmers who are putting the principles of permaculture into action to produce sustainable small farms from which they can make a living. This movie seemed to really resonate with my dear Husband, and I eagerly agreed to join him in further exploring permaculture as a design strategy for our own homestead.

While I was familiar with the word “permaculture” I didn’t really understand what it meant. I had picked up a gardening book some time ago, and all I’d gotten from it was a system of designing gardens around trees. I didn’t see the point, and I didn’t see the relevance to our situation. This movie made me realize that permaculture is much more than gardening, it’s basically an idea and a set of principles that one then uses to design systems based on one’s own unique situation. One concept that really appealed to Husband was the idea of a Forest Farm. It’s essentially a managed woodland in which edible plants are mixed in with other plant species that provide different roles: soil nourishers, nitrogen fixers, shade providers, leaf (mulch) providers, structural elements, medicinal plants, etc. In short, it was a whole new way to grow food: instead of using plots and rows and isolating the veggie patch from the rest of the property, these veggies (and fruits and nuts and herbs…) were integrated into the whole system, spread throughout the property based on their unique inputs, needs, and outputs. In this way one small property can have a lovely little forested woodland, open spaces for pasture animals, and beautiful garden spaces with all these systems working together.

For me, the immediate appeal of this idea was realizing that we didn’t have to tear down our woodland, reduce it to only a few trees, in order to enjoy our property. Permaculture could give us a system for designing our property so that we can have the things we want (some open spaces, sunlight, pasture for animals) without having to fight against Nature (weeding, tilling, drilling new wells or running miles of pipes underground) or destroying what we already have (which, while not useful at this point in time, nevertheless has taken several decades to get where it is today). So I very enthusiastically agreed with Husband to pursue the topic further, to learn everything we can about permaculture, and use that knowledge to design a homestead where all elements work together (water harvesting and flow through the land, animals, plants, wildlife).

We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface, watching all the permaculture movies we can get our hands on, ordering books from the library, etc. Our immediate goal is to create a design for our farm, a detailed site map of what we want this place to ultimately look like, and all the projects that will require. Only then can we set out on a lovely winter day, tools in hand, dog at our side, to wander over our land and perform the work necessary to achieve those goals, one step at a time. It’s likely that we will end up hiring a consultant to aid us in the design process, as there is just so much to learn and understand about all the systems involved (gardening, microclimates, water flow, greywater recycling, plant selection, plant grouping, etc). But before we do that we’re going to educate ourselves as much as possible so we can participate as much as possible in the design process. Hopefully, we will end up with a detailed site plan and a list of all projects necessary to complete the plan. It won’t all happen at once, and that is very okay. We’ll take each project as it comes, as budgets and time allow. I’m excited that we have found an approach to farm design that fits in with our values. And I’m even more excited that implementing the plan will be a process, a journey, one that cannot be rushed, one that can be enjoyed in stages. I can’t wait to see what our final plan will look like; in the meantime I’m creating a lot of lists!

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