I know that the biggest hurdle for many to starting their permaculture homestead is money - from saving up enough to get land to sustaining it once you have it. I've been there done that and have something that I am really excited about for people interested in making their homestead a reality.
Me? I came from the rat race with no savings, money and piles of debt. The transition was a giant leap, quitting my job on the spot and moving to a off-grid hut in the jungle. But I learned a lot, and it took a few years to build myself back up and start a permaculture homestead from scratch. Anyways, thats 7 years condensed into two sentences but a lot more of the story I'll share soon.
Craig Dobbson wrote:Nice work Bret. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're motivated properly. A new family and new land will certainly get you up and running to provide the best you can. Congratulations. I look forward to seeing how you progress in the year to come.
How many here have roadblocks to starting their homestead? What are they?
In talking with people this winter I have heard a range of reasons why they haven't been able to start their homestead. Anything from not being able to afford land, lack of confidence, to existing commitments and more.
I put together a quick eBook addressing some of the topics around being able to afford land:
Start homesteading BEFORE owning land
Creative ways to purchase land without traditional financing
Ways to create positive cashflow for a land purchase
- Is our soil bad for growing (or do we not know enough)?
The Soil Surveys are only somewhat accurate - they were done a long time ago and both time and development can change soil. That isn't prime ag soil. When you walk around what do you see? Just rocks? Some topsoil? How much?
- We probably need to do a good deal of tree thinning/clearing--any advice for going about this?
Don't clear but definitely start opening up the understory to start being able to see the land. You would be surprised how plans can change once you see a new area of your land...
- Obviously we need to do a lot of observation before making any big decisions, but is there anything we should consider doing now?
See above. Where reasonable get the landscape open enough to see whats there. Setup taddle tales (light strips of material hanging from trees) to start studying wind direction. Start a journal and takes notes of plants, animals, weather, observations etc by date.
- How to deal with the lower half of the property which we likely won't have much time to tend to immediately. Just let it grow? Periodically chop and drop? Broadcast some beneficial seeds?
Tough call hehe 'cause I know the feeling of wanting to tend everywhere but not being able too. Start with Zone 0, 1, 2 first and work out from there unless there is a good reason otherwise. For example, if zone 4 and 5 present fire danger to your home get to some forest mgmt.
I do swales in clay slopes up to about 12% grade and haven't had any issues.
That said, the more I play with swales the less I am sold on them. They are kinda large disturbances and they create access issues. They certainly have benefits but are not appropriate for every place.
I might recommend looking into Keyline for water distribution and soil building though planting (esp grasses) for water retention.
I think consulting / teaching would be a valuable service with harvesting animals - at least in my area. Sounds like a good idea worth trying. What is nice about your situation is there is little investment needed as you already have the skills and tools. You just need to get the clients.
Thought I would take a minute to introduce myself.
A little over a year ago, my partner and I bought 30 acres of raw land in the mountains of Northern CA, with the dream of a developing a regenerative homestead. We had a little trailer to put on the land and that was going to be our home.
Two weeks later we found out we were going to have a baby! We joke that he was waiting for us to get the land before arriving. We knew we wanted him to be born on the land, it seemed fitting since the land was bought with the intention of being a subsistence life for us. We also knoew it wasn't going to work having a newborn in a small trailer in the winter in the mountains!
So, we dove in, with a 9-month deadline... by ourselves.
This past year has been crazy - grading water harvesting roads, power systems, gravity-fed water systems, building an alternative small home, woodshed, shop and more. While always in a rush to get our home built for the arrival of our little boy, we have applied permie principles as much as possible.
Somehow we also started an orchard, started a flock of free-range chickens, and developed a 1/4 acre veggie garden. Right, while figuring out how in the heck to be new parents!!
Today, I sit inside, our first winter storm of the season and work on getting caught up on rest.
Slowly but surely, I am compiling and producing our story in the form of blogs, eBooks and more. I hope others can benefit from our experience and want to share that with you all.
Marco Banks wrote:You plant on the downhill side of the swale (below the l berm, right where it meets the original slope of the hillside) because that is where the "lens" of water will slowly percolate and infiltrate the soil profile. Water tends to move parallel with the original slope of the hillside, so any water that collects in the swale will move down toward your tree roots below. Its easy enough to picture it running along the top of the soil, down the hillside. In the same way the water "runs" down the hill, but below the surface.
Inside the concave of the swale (the bottom) and on the convex berm (the top of the hump) plant ground-cover plants, preferably nitrogen fixing. These will accumulate biomass and fertility (particularly down in the bottom of the swale). That fertility will be carried with the water as it moves past the root mass of your trees.
In my experience the lens of water tends to be from the toe of the berm down about 30' on the hillside - dependent on slope, soil and amount of water. Therefore planting directly at the toe of the swale, from what I have seen is not necessary as you can move the tree downhill and still achieve the desired soil moisture benefits for the tree and reduce the access issues with the tree on the swale berm toe. But again, asking because I am not sure if someone out there has experience loving their fruit trees on or at the toe of the swale.
It seems so many permaculture cross section drawings of planted swales include crop trees on or right at the toe of the berm. I small for planting no maintenance plants and shorter crops like fave beans on swales or at the toe.
However - In my experience placing the trees here makes them hard to fence, maintain, access with ladders etc on a swale that is less than say 8' wide. Swale maintenance also becomes more difficult. So I tend to plant the trees below the swale according to the recommend spacing per the tree size.
Is there something I am missing? Is there some advantage to planting on or at the toe of smaller swales?
I am interested in getting an in-depth hands on understanding of permaculture earthworks from experienced permaculture educators or designers. Sure, I've done them on my property and have learned a lot, but what I am looking for is getting a high degree of experience with the earthworks so that I can take this onto clients properties with confidence. Google only yields Geoff's class coming up this summer down south but am preferring something state side. Anyone have suggestions or know of upcoming workshops or permaculture designers (aside from Brad Lancaster) specializing in earthworks? Or places to go to gain earthworks experience?
Those of you installing earthworks on clients' sites - how did you gain your experience to do so (aside from reading about it in a book and just trying it)?
Are check dams really beneficial to natural systems or are they actually disruptive? As I watch the video I'm thinking that check dams are all great - but I also recently watched the documentary DamNation and it points out the many issues with using dams and how they disturb natural watersheds. What's the difference? Are check dams okay only on seasonal drainages? Or?
Working on a re-design of our chicken area - into a chicken garden where my hope is between grasses (in wire cages), ground cover, perennials(again protected from complete obliteration by wire cages) and our compost piles we can have a near no-feed chicken garden.
Currently working on my research for plant choices. I have found a few web resources but thought I would reach out here to see if others in a Mediterranean climate here have experimented with this? If so, what plants did the chickens enjoy that were also drought tolerant?
Thanks Chris - that video is exactly what got me thinking about this as he does say he gets rain only part of the year it made me wonder if it was just that reason that he decided not to swale or a host of others (such as there being no run off).
My property has several swales I dug recently and a moderate grade 2.5:1 or so and I have noticed (after doing 3 of the swales) that much of the rainwater does not run on the slopes as it has natural mulch and that most of the runoff comes from the hardpack areas. I suppose time will tell what they do.
Just reading though Brand Lancaster's books (1&2) and I am interested to know more about when to and when not to use swales. He dones't seem to say tough I am guessing the reason being is that "It Depends". Who has more information on any general conditions when assessing a site or region to determine if swales are an option?
For example, here in the Sierra in Northern CA, we have heavy rains/snow Nov - April and then the rest of the year is dry. How would swales preform in this climate? Obviously soil plays a part here but in the grand scheme of rain patterns any thoughts / experiences?