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Creating organic farm, park and bird sanctuary

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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  The story of how I'm creating a park is a few paragraphs down. This started out as a bird feeder story but has morphed into something much larger .

    My big dead Maple is in a spot where it won't hurt anything when it eventually falls. Remembering how we made birdfeeders with a chunk of wood and peanut butter in grade 5, I decided to turn this tree into a wildlife smorgasbord and motel. Using the tip of my chainsaw I pushed the nose 6 inches into the wood twice to make an X pattern. I did this in a dozen different spots. Then using my cordless drill I drilled several holes about three-quarter inches in diameter and 4 inches deep. I jammed all of these holes with peanut butter and other leftover food items to entice the birds.

    Some of the food was consumed right away but in other places it ended up as a bug food. These holes were soon excavated by woodpeckers and another bird which I don't know the name of. Over time all of my original cut marks and drill holes have been completely excavated so that it all looks completely natural. Several of these holes have been used for nesting and many others are regularly visited by woodpeckers and ravens. The nesting birds appear to take over woodpecker holes and then excavate them to their liking. One family(swallows?) used a mud mix to make the opening smaller than what was provided by the woodpeckers. The combination of all of this digging and bird poop have accelerated the decomposition process. Although that was not my intent I can see how creating the right conditions for birds and other wildlife might be a perfect way to make use of tree stumps and logs while accelerating their decomposition.

    I have quite a few hardwoods which will need thinning soon. I will harvest those which yield useful logs but there are quite a few twisted gnarly ones which I will kill by girdling and then do the drilling and peanut butter thing to start another wildlife motel/buffet. Most of these unwanted trees are within 20 feet of my half-mile long road. It's a very skinny property on a south facing slope overlooking a large river. This is a natural choice for nesting birds. Large tracts of forest adjacent to my property have had most of their hardwoods removed in favor of Douglas fir. Even aged stands of fir don't offer great nesting opportunities.

  I'm 7 1/2 miles from the city of Nanaimo BC. My property has become a de facto hiking trail/park on a section about 700 m long at a comfortable distance from the building area. The presence of neighbors walking their dogs and riding  their horses doesn't bother me and I believe it may be useful since marauding idiots on motorcycles are less likely to invade an area like this. I know that there are many more people in my neighborhood who have small lots which are hemmed in by forest and don't provide the panoramic views which are available from my property. Many owners of larger properties in my area have had theft and vandalism problems and they post all manner of threatening signs to keep people out. Thieves often scout the area on motorcycles. Their efforts aren't always successful and illegal dumping is common. I suspect the hostile nature of all this signage is keeping many of the decent people out.

  I'm going to try a totally different approach and invite my neighbors to pass through the land for recreational purposes(no motor vehicles, no hunting) and I'm willing to bet that allowing friendly neighbors to use my hiking trails will reduce the risk of illegal dumping, thievery etc. Three of my neighbors have much larger properties than mine. I'm hoping to prove to them that this is a better way to manage visitors and if they agree to it I will create several more miles of wildlife corridor and hiking trail. Then if I can get permission from the lumber company who owns a big block to the east I will construct a 2 km long trail to connect my network to the trans Canada Trail. They constructed this trail shortly after I bought the place. Having a nice trail connected to this one makes a lot of sense.

    I may seek some sort of park or wildlife sanctuary designation for the property especially if that will have a positive effect on my tax rate. But I won't be joining any organization which wants any part of managing the property since I won't consult a committee when making management decisions. I want to continue to manage the forest for timber and manage other areas for agricultural purposes.

    I will construct a nature house, similar to what you see in other wildlife sanctuaries and I'll place a few benches and picnic/rain shelters along the way. Some of this area is quite steep and not suitable for agriculture but I may harvest native plants such as ferns and Oregon grape and sell them to others who want to create a more natural landscape around their homes. Hugelculture beds will be built on some of the flattish clearings and will blend with the forest. I'll have to be careful on what I plant since deer and bear are common and will surely consume many crops.

    The building and farming portion of my property is being developed as a bed and breakfast and organic farm. It's quite likely that hikers will become produce customers. I need to come up with a catchy name. I've considered "hiking trails organic farm", "wildlife trails bed and breakfast"  and "River Ridge organic farm, bed-and-breakfast, bird sanctuary". The last one is pretty long but it comes closest to describing the situation.

    I'd welcome any input and also alternative name suggestions.
 
                                                              
Posts: 24
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
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Awesome, well written, and a joy to read.  I know I'd love to maybe see some pictures if possible?  It's a shame about the motorcycle bandits!  Birds are such fun to watch and even learn from, you must be pumped.  I think I might try out asmaller scale version of those holes, sounds interesting.  Can't wait to see how you make out, best of luck.

Edit... also, any website or online resource on your farm?  Didn't see one in your profile.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I love this idea so much!   

My dream and goal is to have a garden which I can open to the public though it would probably be a lot more limited and by reservation, on  very small scale compared to your plans.
 
Lolly Knowles
Posts: 159
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I loved the story of your bird feeder and motel, and am sure I have a few trees that would be good candidates for something similar.  

Offering to share the hiking trails through your property is a wonderful gift to the community.  The comfort spots would be a wonderful addition for the old, young and in-between.  Your intended goal sounds like a worthwhile endeavor.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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"Wild Bird Natural Farm"

"Wild Bird Farm Sanctuary"

"Bird Trails Farm"
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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OurPermaTrip wrote:
Awesome, well written, and a joy to read.  I know I'd love to maybe see some pictures if possible?  It's a shame about the motorcycle bandits!  Birds are such fun to watch and even learn from, you must be pumped.  I think I might try out asmaller scale version of those holes, sounds interesting.  Can't wait to see how you make out, best of luck.

Edit... also, any website or online resource on your farm?  Didn't see one in your profile.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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  I definitely need to fill out a profile soon. I've pretty much written a book on this forum in less than three months. I've taken several photos and movies on my android phone. It's an eight megapixel job which is pretty good for a phone. Now I just have to find the cord that hooks up to a computer. Computers are a mystery to me and I just follow prompts .

  It's not much of a farm yet although I have piled about 150 m³ of red alder and Cottonwood waste for hugelkultur beds. No website.

    I bought the place nine years ago but various financial calamities and alternate priorities have kept me from developing it until now. Six years ago I had gathered enough materials to construct a home and then I hurt my hand. A few months later I returned to find that everything was stolen or destroyed including the building materials, a car, a camper van and most expensively a high ab crane truck. No insurance. All gone.

    So it took several years for me to rebuild my resources and my resolve but I'm in a pretty good position now.

    On a more pleasant note my clearcuts now contain trees up to 10 inches in diameter and the property which I paid $58,000 for is probably worth over $200,000 now. It was too cheap when I bought it due to an alcoholic fool real estate agent and his less than astute clients. I constantly keep an eye on his listings since he does nothing---- no signs, no legal description available, he can't ever find the surveys or lists of easements, he seldom returns a phone call and potential buyers are left stumbling through the wilderness wondering if they are at the right place . All he does is sit in the bar and solicit listings. Then when nobody buys the property he convinces the vendors to reduce the price every six months. This is the only drunk with whom I look forward to doing business in the future .

  I created a thread called my biggest mistakes. I guess I'll have to come clean on piling a whole house worth of materials out in the wilderness and having too much faith in my fellow man. . I'm being much more careful this time and already have someone living on the property. He owns an excavator and thus is the ideal tenant. He's already helped me improve 1 km/half a mile of road.
 
gani et se
Posts: 215
Location: Douglas County OR
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OT, but you may not need a cable. The phone is likely to have the ability to connect wirelessly to the computer via bluetooth. Whether the computer has bluetooth capability, that's another question.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Dale, your place sounds amazing. With the name, I'd tend to go with something relatively non-descriptive like, I dunno, "Woodpecker farm" or something, then have more descriptive stuff underneath about it's functions:  b n b, sanctuary, hiking, organics etc.
"what's in a name..." Lots and lots! I'd imagine how people would describe the place to their friends, since they'd be a great source of free advertising.
I'd be more attracted to something with a slightly 'poetic' name and my imaginary conversation with my very wealthy, wilderness/organic-loving friend would go something like: "I've just spent the most incredible time at...Woodpecker farm...which is a... b n b, sanctuary, hiking, organics blah blah blah."
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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   I've investigated several options for the park. There are a couple of different land trusts who wanted far more power than I'm willing to give them. Many of the charities which we see advertising land preservation insist that it not be used for anything other than wildlife so this is incompatible with my farming and forestry endeavors. I won't be hooking up with any organization which employs a committee which could have anything more than an advisory position.

   The best one I've seen so far is the world wildlife fund. They work with private landowners, forestry companies etc. in creating habitat without adversely affecting the core activity of the property.

   I'm willing to accept all sorts of advice and help but not at the expense of registering restrictive covenants against my title. I've known people who had their homes listed as heritage buildings in order to save a few bucks on taxes and later they find that it's impossible to make sensible changes to their property without a lengthy and expensive process. I won't be setting any traps for myself in this regard.

    One important consideration in allowing all of these people in is that whatever tax relief I receive must be enough to pay for an all-inclusive insurance policy since I don't want to open myself up to undue risk. 

    In the course of taking a pleasant walk down the trails visitors will be exposed to hugelkultur beds in forest clearings, aquaponics and selective forest management. Little kiosks with photos and written explanations will explain what is being done and why. These will look just like the information boards you see at trailheads in national parks. I'll also include some advertising on the largest of these which will be located closest to the house. It will advertise the fact that I have vegetables, meat and fish for sale. I will also include some advertising for my 24 passenger tour bus which will take people on camping vacations which include stopovers at organic farms and green building events.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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we and several of our neighbors have hiking trails and we have all tried to interconnect them so that they make a huge maze of trails..but we don't have the amount of land that you have..a few of mine are photographed in my blog below..they also connect to a field, woods and pond that adjoin a road so that it can be entered by walkers
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Since starting this thread, I have learned how to load photos. A monster is born.

The Photos ---
These first three are all views from the property to the river valley to the south.

1. Looking due south from a spot about 200 ft. from the building site. The Nanaimo river is hiden down there. It is pretty loud this time of year. There are some river glimpses, mostly in the winter.

2. Looking south west from the same spot. North facing slopes are still holding snow. My slopes all face south, so spring comes earlier and fall arrives a little later.

3. Another south west view from the upper floor of the cottage.

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Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Scenic!
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Scenic!


Hi Ludi , there's lots more. This thread is going to become my photo album for all of the property's natural features and anything related to the park aspect. I will only show things that I grow or build, within the context of displaying the landscape.

The Photos --- The Road
--- The property is long and skinny. My road is 1.2 km or 5/8 of a mile long. Most hikes would naturally include walking along this road. There are many panoramic views which I open up by removing Scotch broom and lower branches. That saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees certainly applies in this environment. In many places there are broadleaf maple and alder saplings growing so thickly that nothing beyond is visible.

1. This is a steep section, where the only level area is the road itself. Being a former railway, my entire road is nearly level. This feature is bound to be popular with elderly visitors.

Immediately beside the road, there are areas so steep that it's hard to walk even when using small trees as hand holds. I'll make some paths along the upper and lower slopes. This type of terrain makes the place feel bigger than it is with sight lines looking miles over the hills and deep into the valley.

This photo was taken while I was clearing branches during road improvements. It was taken in October, when the leaves were still on the trees. In winter, it's hard to judge the amount of pruning needed to open up a view. A little maple the diameter of your thumb can put on a surprising quantity of leaf.

2. I have always liked big tunnels made of branches. This is one of many areas with potential for a little sculpting. This tunnel is high enough to allow a dump truck through.

3. Another view of the road, looking west in the dimmer light of a winters day that was rainy.

All of my photos are on a phone, so there is always a delay as it makes me type everything first and then go back and load them. This is a good test of memory, since I comment on each photo before loading them. And our system requires loading in reverse order. Whose idea was that.

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Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Quite a bit of my land is level or mildly sloped in the 4 acre area where the house and other buildings will be. The land drops off abruptly toward the river valley along my 1 km long southern boundary. This transition zone has the best views and in many areas it has beautiful natural undergrowth. There will eventually be a path running the full length of the river ridge.

The Photos --- All of these photos are taken near the southern boundary, in areas where I will restrict foot traffic to pathways in order to preserve the meadows of salal and oregon grape.

1. This is the southern lawn of the cottage. It sits a few feet from the ridge.

2. The forest is thin and the soil very well drained along this area. This salal is about 1 foot tall and grows slowly. Path only in this area.

3. Oregon grape thrives along the ridge. I won't farm this section of the property. I may help some of these naturally occuring plants along and then sell thinnings to others who want to naturalize their landscape.

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Dale Hodgins
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Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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The waterfall --- It's more of a cascade. This is seasonal run off. During peak flow during winter rains, it flows at about 10 garbage cans per second. Right now it would take 2 or 3 seconds per can. By the end of may it will stop and it won't start again until September or October.

This starts off in a flattish area to the north of my property and flows into a l swampy ditch which sometimes holds water until July. There are no fish but frogs, dragonflies and mosquitos breed there before it dries up. I'm going to dredge out some of the muck in the hope of storing more water but this will not make the little river flow any longer into summer. The water district bleeds out a large pipe every August and the effluent fills up my dried out swampy ditch for a few days, giving all of the trees a mid summer drink.

The waterfall pours over the hillside on the southern boundary and splashes into the valley 120 ft. below. From there it dosen't go directly to the big river which is about 500 feet away. The valley floor is so gravelly that the water percolates through the ground and into the river that is about 15 feet lower than my neighbour's field at yhe base of the hill. During heavy rains, a shallow puddle 2 acres in area develops, but it quickly percolates when the rain stops.

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Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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1. This swampy ditch is the source of my waterfall. I will soo clean it up so that it will hold more water. It opens up to a large shllow seasonal pond on forestry property beyond. I might try to make it navigatable in a small rowboat. The highlight of any such boat trip would be the big culvert under the water district road. Beyond the culvert lies a seasonal swampy grove of cedars and berries about half an acre in area. When I first bought the place, I followed my ditch to its "headwaters" as I imagined some sort of shangrila. Turns out it's a slightly nicer ditch with a very impressive culvert.

The water looks clean enough to drink. It is abott 5 feet wide just before going under my road and over the hill. I widens as you go toward the source.

When I'm done landscaping, it will be quite attractive and will hopefully inspire visitors to trudge through the muck of the culvert to make their own discovery.

2. The slopes leading to the water will be landscaped. I will build a bridge so that all can be viewed from above.

3. Nature is practicing hugelkultur on this stump which is right by the little river.




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Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Standing Dead Wood --- This thread started out as a wildlife tree description. Now some photos.

1. This big fir log is is about 15 feet tall. Ten years ago it was 50% larger. Woodpeckers work on this one regularly. On three occasions,big chunks have come down and smashed the small arbutus (madrona) below. Each time it has come back from the broken trunk.

2. This big stump is 7 feet tall. It was cut 15 years ago and decay has only just begun. It may be in the way of one corner of the house unless the region allows me to make some adjustments to the plan. If it has to go, I'll include it in the landscape by a pond. It costs money to dispose of big "ugly" stumps. I have asked my tennant who owns an excavator, to keep an eye out for good specimens. He will charge for removal and dumpage.

3. A dead cedar can stand for a long time. If this one dosen't get smacked by a fallen fir during a storm, it could still be there in 50 years. One of my living cedars has a dead top. I asked a guy who has lots of forestry experience how long it will last. He said "maybe another 100 or 150 years."

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Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I'm going to link up to a few of my threads that relate to the development of this property. A large meeting area with cooking and sleeping facilities is planned for an area close to the house. It will sometimes serve as a public meeting area for park visitors. Go to ---Dale's Rocket Mass Heater/ Grill/pizza oven/Hot Water Heater – One appliance does it all. It's about the contraption and the building that it resides in. http://www.permies.com/t/19603/stoves/Dale-Rocket-Mass-Heater-Grill---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have definitely ruled out any connection to the local land trust and their embarrassing financial record. But, I still want to align with some sort of nature or environmental group. This should result in some good press and help to get my plans through city hall.

Any arrangement must not in any way limit my usage of the property. Parks are often closed after a certain hour and I intend to make sunset the rule most of the time. Many of the park facilities, including picnic shelters, wildlife blinds and other structures will be occupied by paying customers after dark. Even during the day, there will be instances where certain areas will be taken over for an event. This won't necessarily mean exclusion of the public. Suppose a tour group is learning how to build a cob oven or hugelkultur beds. Passers by would be invited to watch or join in. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Scroll back a little to the picture of the tall rotting tree. The Nature House will be near here and hung over the bank so that views of the valley are unobstructed.

I will eventually create a “nature house” similar to what is often seen in larger parks. This building may also serve as an amphitheatre which would be useful when I host weddings or conferences. The nature house will have at least one resident. That person would need to limit their personal belongings to a small area during open hours and they would need to not be present during certain times. The nature house will have some of the features of the building pictured below but walls will be covered in earth plaster and my gabion pebble wall system. See --- Dry Stone Pebble Wall. Stone Siding for Wooden Buildings - Requires no mortar or masonry skills. http://www.permies.com/t/12592/green-building/Dry-Stone-Pebble-Wall-Stone The roof will grow plants and the building will be heated by a rocket mass heater.

I want every major park feature to relate to the general theme of the farm as a place to learn about green building, and ecologically sound food and energy production. Visitors will be exposed to these ideas any time they come upon a structure built of natural materials with wildflowers growing on the roof. Even sign boards will have living roof systems. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The photos. 1. This amphitheatre is about the size and style I like, but mine will use different materials and serve a wide array of functions.
2. Sign boards like this will be attached to small wildlife viewing buildings. Placed strategically, these blinds allow bird watchers etc. to comfortably view wildlife without scaring them away. During our rainy winters, visitors are bound to appreciate these amenities.
3. A large picnic area like this will be much more useful when fitted with rocket stoves, RMH and removable wall panels and windows to make it into a year round facility. In the summer it would look like the building in this photo, but with a living roof. In winter, it would look more like a giant sun room centred around a RMH and oven.








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