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mid-Atlantic 1/4 acre analysis-paralysis

 
                                
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Hello everyone. I've been readings books, watching videos and poking around the internet for permaculture information. I think I have a general idea of the concepts but no hands-on experience. I'd like 2012 to be the year that I start transforming my yard into a permaculture garden. However, I'm having analysis-paralysis.

Any advice on what to do first?

Here's some stats on my property:

Mid-Atlantic
1/4 acre
Sandy soil
Existing landscaping is grass with trees around the perimeter of the yard.
The only food bearing plant is a black walnut tree in the front

Here's what I want:

Chickens
Perennial food plants
A sustainable garden grounded in permaculture principles

Should I start by building the chicken coop and compost pile? What would be a  "good start" for the first year?

Thanks for any and all help you can give.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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It has been said to start at your kitchen door, and work out from there. 
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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first would be to make a list of things you want, things you would like and things you need.

next would be to research systems that work well for your area. for example, if you live in the desert and there are no trees around, hugelkultur is not going to help you out.

then observe, observe, observe.

and i like the start at the kitchen door
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1012
Location: Northern Italy
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What resources are handy?
That was the kind of the limiting factor for the speed of getting things going. You have to pounce with a vengeance on potential resources and get them working in your system quickly and efficiently.

You could just decide what to do based on what you can get your hands on conveniently.

I'm a big user of straw as a kind of general, all around useful thing. Manure is nice, best if you can coax an animal to give you some, rather than trucking it in. That being said, networking with farmers is probably worth the added expense of trucking in some resource, if it's a good one.

If you have animals, you'd want to design a way to shift them around your property, and not have them sitting in one area for too long.

The sandy soil could use organic matter. Plant and chop things. Look for biomass plants.

Heres a series of videos you might want to watch for perennial food plants. And a book to buy.
http://blip.tv/chelseagreentv/eric-toensmeier-tours-his-backyard-perennial-food-garden-part-1-of-4-1577738

Forget the compost pile if you have chickens, they need food. Just create something for woody things. I cycle three houses worth of kitchen scraps through one garbage can with layers of straw (no chickens here unfortunately). When it's full (a few weeks) it goes on the ground somewhere, not fully composted.

If you can keep your food plants and the chicken's mouth separated, you could skip the coop and just use portable fencing. Like fencing off places that you want to eat from, and letting them roam about in places you aren't eating from. Obviously you have to make sure they don't over eat a patch. Take this with a grain of salt, I know next to nothing about chickens.

william
 
                                
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Thanks for the advice, all.
 
Joshua Msika
Posts: 66
Location: Nova Scotia
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The most challenging thing for me was (after getting off my butt to actually start something) sourcing things. Everything. You need organic material, you need cardboard if you're sheet mulching, you need seeds, seedlings, chicks, etc.

I had so many great ideas about what I wanted to do but eventually I realised that I had to take into account what was available and work from there. See what's around and start building your system from there, that way you're always ready to integrate anything you can get your hands on.

People say experiment and try new things but it's really hard to experiment if you've got nothing to experiment with...

You can never have enough organic matter or enough seeds.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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do a search (upper right) on walnuts (juglone) and learn what plants can be planted near your walnut and start there..as it is there.

work out from there putting barrier plants between the walnut juglone area and other areas that you will be working on, to protect those areas from the juglone..then use tolerant plants for a ways out to keep a good barrier.

then you can go with your fruit (maybe dwarfs) and possibly other nuts, perennials, etc..but just be aware of the problems with juglone
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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I like the "start at your kitchen door" and start using it. Don't do too much at a time, but let it grow, and connect the dots. Much of permaculture is merely creating connections so that you don't have isolated plants, but an ecosystem.

And let no waste, be waste.
 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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I always think that trees are the best place to start.  They give a structure to the space, and take time to grow so they need to get going ASAP!

You might want to consider a succession plan with lots of legumes to get started.  The videos by geoff lawton linked on Paul Cereghino's website about this are quite useful:

http://ecosystemstewardship.blogspot.com/2011/09/geoff-lawton.html
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Regarding trees, I am pro-tree since it is what we do, but remember trees are later in succession, so you might not do so well in planting trees first, try bushes first, and fast growing trees. Your slow growers need a better environment.

Some fruit trees grow fast, produce fast. Probably won't help much with my examples, but, I learned the hard way to first plant bananas, plantains, cashews, papaya, and then plant citrus, cacao, macadamias, etc. Get the fast growers in place, and then start the ones that grow slower, and also like the better environment produces by the fast growers. For example, without shade, cacao will just die.

If you have trees, start moving out in circles from the trees, think edge. This works very well for us. But, again, beware, we live in the tropics, where I have to give shade to tomato plants!
 
If you're gonna buy things, buy this thing and I get a fat kickback:
2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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