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Permaculture design: first project  RSS feed

 
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We've just bought our piece of land on which we want to start a permaculture project. I have some experience with gardening, but absolutely none with permaculture design, so I'd like to use this thread to think out loud. Needles to say that any form of feedback is more than welcome and will be rewarded with eternal gratitude!!

Location and area:
30 NNE of Lisbon, Portugal. It's located in between 3 cities (8000, 14.000 and 123.000 inhabitants) that are each within 12 minutes driving distance. I see these as potential markets for selling, but of course it's also possible that we'd sell in Lisbon. Altitude is between 29 and 45 meters above sea level. Located in the valley in between 2 relatively small hills. Latitude 39° N.

Total area is 17.000 m2. The plot can be divided in 4 areas:
-The first part (area A) is rather steep (estimate 30%, but with random terraces) and has a small forest (more or less 50 trees, 15 of wich are cork). This area is the highest in altitude and contains the entrance to the property (with a small flat area to park cars).
-The second par t (area B) has the same steep inclination (30 %), but is just grassland. It contains a small chicken coop (20m2) and a shed (40m2).
-The third part (area C) is also grassland, but has a light inclination (5-10%).
-The fourth and by far the biggest part (area D) is completely flat grassland (max 1% inclination). For the last couple of years, it has been grazed by a horse and 15 sheep. In other words, it has been fertilized by lots of poop, but also compacted. As far as we know, no pesticides or herbicides have been used on the land for at least 30 years.




Climate:
Zone 9-10 (USDA plant hardiness scale)
Temperatures range from slightly below zero to 45°C. According to neighbors, it does not freeze every year and if it does, only for a couple of nights. I'd prefer it it always stayed above 0 of course since this will have an effect on which plants I can grow, but since the frequency is so limited, I'm hoping that it won't have a very significant effect.
Average daily temperatures go from 8-15°C in January to 20-28°C. Monthly hours of sun range between 150 (Jan) and 400 (July). % of sun between 45 (Jan) and 82 (July).
The area has dry summers (5mm and 1 rainy day in July) and wet winters (120mm and 14 rainy days in December). Total annual rainfall is 700mm.

Natural resources:
Besides the resources mentioned above (lots of sun, adequate rainfall, ...) there is a well with groundwater from the closest hill, on the S side. Supposedly, it is never dry. I still have to have it tested, but it is very clear and tastes good. Along the entire N border of the plot, there is a small river. Not sure if it is dry in summer. It does flow 3-4 meters lower than the land, so I'd have to use an electrical (or possibly a RAM) pump if I'd wanna use this water. There is a drainage ditch from the well that cuts all the way across the width of the property into the river. This ditch is basically the border between area C and D.
The small forest provides shade and produces some cork. We took some soil samples and although I still have to do a detailed analysis, it seems to range from sandy clay to pure clay. This is definitely a plus, since we'd like to build with cob.
We are connected to the electricity net, but would like to become energy independent. Solar seems the obvious way to go. Not sure how much difference in height the river would need for a water generator, but what we have might be insufficient.

Plants:
Besides the small forest, there are a number of trees and edible plants plants present on the property:
-6 orange trees (different varieties)
-1 lemon
-1 walnut
-1 bayleaf
-1 pear
-3 diasporo (a Portuguese fruit)
-a couple of m2 of sugar cane
-wild mint
-possibly raspberry bushes
Several neighbors grow a wide variety of edible plants, which we'll probably be allowed to clone.

Our goal:
To develop this plot into a sustainable agricultural project. We'd like to make (part of) it into a food forest.
Roughly speaking, we'd keep the small forest as it is. Maybe plant shade-loving plants. Area B might be where we live, with attached greenhouse (permaculture zone 0). The shed could be used to store but also to process harvests. Areas C and D will become agricultural areas/food forest. We might terrace area C (permaculture zone 1), but since we have such a large area D to start with, this is not our priority. Area D will become zones 2, 3 and 4.

First steps?
Some ideas on where I'd start:
-Start composting large quantities. Portuguese people love drinking coffee, so I can easily turn tons of their waste product into black gold. The composting area will be in the beginning of area D.
-Start working part of the land with the goal of already producing as much as possible this year. I'd aerate and work lose a patch at the beginning of area D, add finished compost and plant some annuals that I've already had good yields from (such as butternut, sweet potato, pepper, hot pepper, tomatoes, beet, ...). I am not sure yet how large this initial area should be (600 m2?). Any tips are welcome! I guess it depends on the available time and the compost. Since I am not sure how fertile the land is until I start growing, I'm not sure how much compost I should add per m2. Not sure how to determine the balance between covering it over a big area and spreading it thick?
-When to start fruit/nut trees and perennials? I'd like to start as soon as possible, but am I correct in assuming that I have to make sure the soil is fertile first? I was thinking about preparing random patches throughout area D with compost and fungal extract to plant trees.
-In the closest parts of area D I want to dig a swimming pond as a water catchment system. If area D is 7000 m2, my pond should be 700-1400 m2, correct (10-20%)?
-Keep 1 sheep and 1 goat in the areas that I will not work on in the first year to graze.


 
pollinator
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Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Sounds great to me! I don’t have a PDC so i don’t really get this zoning thing. But get the pond as high up as you can on your land. Water, water, water.There was this fellow a week ago on permies who used a hoop house to fill a pond with, high up his land. Then have additional ponds and wetter zones down the land. Or maybe even a natural swimming pond.
A hoop house prolongs the season as well as it will give you early salad and tomatoes.
Look into green manures as well to make your land more fertile. Maybe get acacia robinia on the go to fix nitrogen in root nodules. And chop and drop.
Learn from the other portuguese permies what grows locally as well. Things like comfrey, bio accumulators, but then locally.
Maybe get a chicken tractor on the go or ducks.
 
pollinator
Posts: 279
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 5b
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Congratulations on your property. Since you just bought the land I would suggest finding the best location for a structure if you plan on having one and work on small things around this area. The benefit of starting with this small task is that it gives you adequate time to observe the property, you can't have enough observation. Map, record, think through a thousand ideas for every square foot and then do it all over again.

I agree with Hugo, think about the water potential and build off of that. Water is life  and will be the backbone of your property.

Good luck, sounds like an awesome property with tons of potential.
 
Hugo Morvan
pollinator
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Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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hoophouse with pond topic
 
Philippe Elskens
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Hugo Morvan wrote:Sounds great to me! I don’t have a PDC so i don’t really get this zoning thing. But get the pond as high up as you can on your land. Water, water, water.There was this fellow a week ago on permies who used a hoop house to fill a pond with, high up his land. Then have additional ponds and wetter zones down the land. Or maybe even a natural swimming pond.
A hoop house prolongs the season as well as it will give you early salad and tomatoes.
Look into green manures as well to make your land more fertile. Maybe get acacia robinia on the go to fix nitrogen in root nodules. And chop and drop.
Learn from the other portuguese permies what grows locally as well. Things like comfrey, bio accumulators, but then locally.
Maybe get a chicken tractor on the go or ducks.



Definitely planning on getting ducks, partly to keep snail pressure low.
Green manure is definitely a good thing! Should I disturb/aerate the ground before I plant these or simply put seeds down?

So the idea of the 5 zones is simple: zone 1 is your house, zone 2 is the closest outside area just outside of your house: you spend the most time here, so you have the most time to observe and to work in. The things that you need most, you locate here. It doesn't make sense for example to locate a herb garden far away from your kitchen. Keep it close for efficiency. Zone 5 is far away, for example a forest where you almost never come. Let it grow wild and maybe only go there for firewood. Zones 3 and 4 are in between...

Getting the water high... I've though about it, but it seems difficult. First of all because the highest part is forest (which we can't take down legally and even if we could, we wouldn't) and small parking lot. Then there's the downhill part, so it doesn't seem easy to have the pond here. In part because this is the only place where we are allowed to build. And then the rest is just flat. I'll post a diagram in the original post later today. A possibility would be to have the large swimming pond in the flat area, but also make a smaller pond higher up that overflows into the big one...
 
pollinator
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For me it has been very helpful to see how other people have designed their land with permaculture.  So I recommend looking at videos by Geoff Lawton especially.

This link has video and a map of Geoff's place: https://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

 
Philippe Elskens
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I edited the original post: added a map and a sketch of the topography
 
pollinator
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As with permaculture zones (0 - 5), I'd start with projects closest to the house.

1.  A composting system
2.  A couple of raised beds.
3.  A chicken tractor
4.  Some sort of nursery or cold-frame for new seedlings.

All of these are moveable, but all of them will provide a return within the first few months.  If you don't like their location, you can easily pick them up and relocate them.  That will give you the satisfaction of starting something, but also give you time to walk the land, experience a full year of seasons, take notes, sketch plans, etc.
 
Posts: 17
Location: Arruda dos Vinhos, Portugal
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Hello Permies

I'm Paulo of Lugar da Rocha, and new on the permies.com.
Philippe, by indications, descriptions, map and a sketch of the topography, your property is almost a paradise, congratulations!
I think we are almost neighbors, because Lugar da Rocha is located in Arruda dos Vinhos, 20 km's north of Lisbon. - Can you confirm?

All good

Paulo - Lugar da Rocha












 
Philippe Elskens
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Lugar Rocha wrote:Hello Permies

I'm Paulo of Lugar da Rocha, and new on the permies.com.
Philippe, by indications, descriptions, map and a sketch of the topography, your property is almost a paradise, congratulations!
I think we are almost neighbors, because Lugar da Rocha is located in Arruda dos Vinhos, 20 km's north of Lisbon. - Can you confirm?

All good

Paulo - Lugar da Rocha



Bom dia Paulo!

Yes, we live extremely close to each other! A 5 minute drive I estimate.

Can you tell me something about your project, please? I'm very curious
 
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Looks great, as for micro-hydro:

Micro-Hydro is about head and flow. Head means from which height your water flows (in a tube) and low how much water/time, mostly l/s.

The key equation to remember is the following:

Head x Flow x Gravity = Power

So you need at least either much head or much flow.

Example, 40 m head and a flow of 3l/s:

40m x 3l x 9.81 m/s² = 1117 W

Presuming you have 50% total efficiency meaning you get about 588 W out.

Now if you had a creek supplying 6l/s (one should not take more then 50%, so you "use" 3 l/s) with those 40 m head that would make a great hydro-power system, generating about 14 kWh daily, usually 365 days.

In general mycro-hydro is much cheaper to set up then solar (PV), provides power 24/7 and quite often you have the highest water flow when you need the most energy. Also set up as above wouldn't need much (expensive) batteries.

In any case you should see if it is possible to set up a gravity feed water system. You gain 1 bar pressure with each 10 meters. So only 25 meters will leave you with about a bit over 2 bar (rest lost due to friction in tubes/etc). That is usually enough for household usage as well as irrigation, though a bit more would be great, but then zou have to use what is avilable. And gravity feed water supply doesn't need electricity or/and complicated things.
 
Philippe Elskens
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Mike Homest wrote:Looks great, as for micro-hydro:

Micro-Hydro is about head and flow. Head means from which height your water flows (in a tube) and low how much water/time, mostly l/s.

The key equation to remember is the following:

Head x Flow x Gravity = Power

So you need at least either much head or much flow.

Example, 40 m head and a flow of 3l/s:

40m x 3l x 9.81 m/s² = 1117 W

Presuming you have 50% total efficiency meaning you get about 588 W out.

Now if you had a creek supplying 6l/s (one should not take more then 50%, so you "use" 3 l/s) with those 40 m head that would make a great hydro-power system, generating about 14 kWh daily, usually 365 days.

In general mycro-hydro is much cheaper to set up then solar (PV), provides power 24/7 and quite often you have the highest water flow when you need the most energy. Also set up as above wouldn't need much (expensive) batteries.

In any case you should see if it is possible to set up a gravity feed water system. You gain 1 bar pressure with each 10 meters. So only 25 meters will leave you with about a bit over 2 bar (rest lost due to friction in tubes/etc). That is usually enough for household usage as well as irrigation, though a bit more would be great, but then zou have to use what is avilable. And gravity feed water supply doesn't need electricity or/and complicated things.



Many thanks for explaining!!!
I have no idea yet what my Head and Flow are exactly. Our part of the river is 150-200 meters long, but the height difference between begin and end point is minimal. I'll try to get an estimate for Flow using the float method, since there are no waterfalls and it will take some time before I could construct a dam for a more accurate bucket method. I've only seen the river once and it was 2 meters across, 1 meter deep, but I have no idea how much less this will be in the dryer months of the year. Also, there's the fact that it's located 2 meters below the land, which makes it more difficult to use gravity-powered methods of pumping water. But electricity production is definitely on the table!!
 
Paulo Barros
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Bom dia Paulo!

Yes, we live extremely close to each other! A 5 minute drive I estimate.

Can you tell me something about your project, please? I'm very curious



My English is a little poor / rusty, but I will do my best!

Lugar da Rocha, have 12000 m2, and means boulders/rocks place.
As been abandoned / without human action for fifteen years.
Has three terraces, but not very defined.
The entrance to Lugar da Rocha and a small flat area to park two or three cars is located at the north side and lower altitude.
Near the entrance is localized a small dam - this year without water
And nearbye/next the small dam there are two small vegetable gardens.
More a less in the center of the land, there are two very small sheds, one for pack things up, the other for firewood and wood/timber.
We collect the rainwater from the roofs of the two sheds.
The electricity comes from a neighbor who is connected to the electricity grid.

There are many autochthonous trees and shrubs, as:
Carvalho-Cerquinho - QUERCUS FAGINEA;
Sobreiro - QUERCUS SUBER;
Freixo - FRAXINUS ANGUSTIFOLIA;
Loureiro - LAURUS NOBILIS;
Pilriteiro - CRATAEGUS MONOGYNA;
Oliveira - OLEA EUROPAEA;
Abrunheiro - PRUNUS INSITITIA;
Abrunheiro-bravo - PRUNUS SPINOSA;
Aderno-de-folhas-largas - PHILLYREA LATIFOLIA;
Aroeira - PISTACIA LENTISCUS;
Carrasco - QUERCUS COCCIFERA;
Sanguinho-das-sebes - RHAMNUS ALATERNUS;
Mata-boi - BUPLEURUM FRUTICOSUM;
Giesta Pascoinha - CORONILLA GLAUCA;
Alecrim - ROSMARINUS OFFICIBALIS;
Salsaparrilha-do-reino - SMILX ASPERA;
Silva - RUBUS ULMIFOLIUS;

And some fruit trees, as:
Marmeleiro - CYDONIA OBLONGA;
Pereira - PYRUS COMMUNIS;
Ameixeira - PRUNUS DOMESTICA;
Nespereira - ERIOBOTRYA JAPONICA;
Macieira - MALUS DOMESTICA;

The googlemaps image from 2017 (the current one) does not represent what exists at present, but it gives a general idea.



All good
 
Philippe Elskens
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Lugar da Rocha wrote:


Bom dia Paulo!

Yes, we live extremely close to each other! A 5 minute drive I estimate.

Can you tell me something about your project, please? I'm very curious



My English is a little poor / rusty, but I will do my best!

Lugar da Rocha, have 12000 m2, and means boulders/rocks place.
As been abandoned / without human action for fifteen years.
Has three terraces, but not very defined.
The entrance to Lugar da Rocha and a small flat area to park two or three cars is located at the north side and lower altitude.
Near the entrance is localized a small dam - this year without water
And nearbye/next the small dam there are two small vegetable gardens.
More a less in the center of the land, there are two very small sheds, one for pack things up, the other for firewood and wood/timber.
We collect the rainwater from the roofs of the two sheds.
The electricity comes from a neighbor who is connected to the electricity grid.

There are many autochthonous trees and shrubs, as:
Carvalho-Cerquinho - QUERCUS FAGINEA;
Sobreiro - QUERCUS SUBER;
Freixo - FRAXINUS ANGUSTIFOLIA;
Loureiro - LAURUS NOBILIS;
Pilriteiro - CRATAEGUS MONOGYNA;
Oliveira - OLEA EUROPAEA;
Abrunheiro - PRUNUS INSITITIA;
Abrunheiro-bravo - PRUNUS SPINOSA;
Aderno-de-folhas-largas - PHILLYREA LATIFOLIA;
Aroeira - PISTACIA LENTISCUS;
Carrasco - QUERCUS COCCIFERA;
Sanguinho-das-sebes - RHAMNUS ALATERNUS;
Mata-boi - BUPLEURUM FRUTICOSUM;
Giesta Pascoinha - CORONILLA GLAUCA;
Alecrim - ROSMARINUS OFFICIBALIS;
Salsaparrilha-do-reino - SMILX ASPERA;
Silva - RUBUS ULMIFOLIUS;

And some fruit trees, as:
Marmeleiro - CYDONIA OBLONGA;
Pereira - PYRUS COMMUNIS;
Ameixeira - PRUNUS DOMESTICA;
Nespereira - ERIOBOTRYA JAPONICA;
Macieira - MALUS DOMESTICA;

The googlemaps image from 2017 (the current one) does not represent what exists at present, but it gives a general idea.



All good



That sounds great!!
I'm still in Porto now, but once we've moved, we should get together to discuss ideas If you want you can add me on FB.
 
pollinator
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Nice plan!

I don't see a house listed in the design - are you planning on commuting to your plot(or is it tucked under the trees in the picture)?

If so, you're going to want to beef up fencing and other protection measures, as you can't respond to animal(or human) pests in the heat-of-the-moment.
 
Philippe Elskens
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:Nice plan!

I don't see a house listed in the design - are you planning on commuting to your plot(or is it tucked under the trees in the picture)?

If so, you're going to want to beef up fencing and other protection measures, as you can't respond to animal(or human) pests in the heat-of-the-moment.



We're planning on building a house, right where the chicken coop is now. Getting planning permission is a huge challenge of itself, but we're hopeful
 
Paulo Barros
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Hello Permies :)
Philippe, yes, when you come back from Porto, we get together to discuss ideas.
I don't have FB account.
"Getting planning permission is a huge challenge of itself, but we're hopeful" - you can trust that
All good
 
Mike Homest
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Philippe Elskens wrote:

Many thanks for explaining!!!
I have no idea yet what my Head and Flow are exactly. Our part of the river is 150-200 meters long, but the height difference between begin and end point is minimal. I'll try to get an estimate for Flow using the float method, since there are no waterfalls and it will take some time before I could construct a dam for a more accurate bucket method. I've only seen the river once and it was 2 meters across, 1 meter deep, but I have no idea how much less this will be in the dryer months of the year. Also, there's the fact that it's located 2 meters below the land, which makes it more difficult to use gravity-powered methods of pumping water. But electricity production is definitely on the table!!



You can measure the head using a (digital) cheap barometer usually quite well (many allow to calibrate if you have a known landmark ore are at sea level), GPS is not really accurate enough. 2 meter wide, 1 meter depth? So you have quite some flow. Iirc there are even units that just sort of swim on such a stream to make electricity. But I have never looked deeper, as I have little flow but quite some head.
 
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