I've decided to start a thread to chronicle my progress on a more-or-less daily basis (at least for September) of my permaculture project which is rather ambitious, but I'm confident it's doable.
Feedback and comments absolutely welcome!
Today I managed to move some of my ornamentals out of the garden and transplant them (there were two in one pot). Put them on the porch which is now being used as my propagation station. That will be moved to the rabbit house once it's done.
The bamboo has been split for the rabbit house (not by me). We need more, but this was all we were able to get this time. So we'll have to improvise. The local metal shop is making grid covers for the top part of the wall and I'll run chicken wire on the bottom part to keep the chicks in. The rabbit cages are also being made. Hopefully we'll get it together sooner than later.
I planted a nice Baptiste mango that I'm hoping I get to taste some day. Gorgeous mangos! You can see the dirt driveway leading from main campus to our house (the campus guest house where hubs and I have lived the past 3 years). I've planted, staked, and fenced baby trees all along the road on the west side and cut white grocery bags to shield the harsh afternoon sun. To the right will eventually be the university banana and plantain garden, irrigated with gray water from the cafeteria kitchen.
To the left of the driveway (the east side), I'm taking advantage of the larger thorny local trees to shade the young trees. I put a cardboard box on the east side of my new Noni tree to block the rather strong wind that comes off the lake.
I am almost half done with the basic digging of the Swale, which I'm doing by hand with a shovel and grub hoe. My strategy is to take 50 shovels full and 100 swings of the grub hoe each night. It's getting there! Deciding what I'll plant on the mounds and how I'll keep them in place. I definitely plan to plant a bunch of moringa and vetiver all over to stabilize and serve as chop-and-drop.
The far end of the Swale will overflow (when it does) into the future banana garden, but I've decided to try banana circles, so I have to change things. Waiting for more pallets to go around the banana garden and join to the rabbit/hen house.
Moved a stressed hibiscus from the front of the house where it was getting fried, to a better place with filtered afternoon sun. I also hauled a bunch of Jathropa this morning and cut it up to add to the organic material.
That's about it for today! Thinking these reports will keep me motivated and help me see the progress.
It was so hot on the 6th, I finished working at 9am. Then yesterday we had to go into the city for some errands, and shortly after we got back in the afternoon, it started raining and continued with a nice gentle rain for about 6 hours! So here's a quick update on the bit I accomplished on Friday morning. . .
I have read most of your posts and I have to say that you have come a long ways in a short time! Congratulations!
Judging from your pictures, you have some challenging conditions with which to work. I started my own permaculture journey a couple of years ago starting with comfrey. At the moment I am focused on woodchips and fungi (stropharia to be specific). I am really focusing on making all my garden beds raised beds filled with mushroomcompost made from my own land. My ultimate goal is to never need any fertility that is purchased or originates from outside my own land.
With this in mind and given the substance of your previous posts, may I suggest that you try planting either a cover crop or a woody material that can be made into woodchips? The latter will take longer, but the former can yield results in the first year or two.
Cover crops can do wonders for your soil fertility. It looks like your ground is dry. Cover crops can really help soil hold onto precious moisture. They can fix nitrogen and really help with other nutrients.
Woodchips are great for topping garden soil, encourage fungi (the good kind) and can also save/regulate soil moisture.
These are just a few of my thoughts for you. You have an impressive array of accomplishments and I think that you are laboring under a goal similar to mine—to make yourself fertility independent. If this is indeed the case, then these are just a couple of options that may help.
Please keep us updated on your progress. You have some really great posts and I wish you success.
I've started some moringa seeds in the garden and some in milk cans this past week. I also cut three branches and am attempting to root these. Last time the little leaves roasted before they could really get established. It's raining now, so it should be better.
I also plan to plant a bunch of Neem, Lycenna, and Gliricidia all as chop and drop. The goal is to chop them a couple of times a year (at the beginning of the rainy season) and let them shade other plants in the dry season. Then as the other trees (edible trees) fill in, we'll gradually phase out the majority of the support trees.
We will also be planting several thousand plugs of vetiver all around to control erosion, direct rain water and recharge groundwater, build topsoil and organic material, and to use as chop and drop mulch.
I also have perennial peanut seeds on order and am looking for silver licorice plant seeds. The challenge is to plant stuff that will grow faster than the goats will graze, and to plant when it's raining, so they can get a head start. I have jack beans growing in my garden that I planted for rabbit food and nitrogen for the other ornamentals planted in front of them. I'm getting quite a few seeds off of them, but need to get more pallets to make my second garden to plant them. I'm looking for pigeon peas too.
This hot weather has me feeling so unproductive. I did read a lot, but that doesn't have much to do with my garden (except one gardening book).
But today I accomplished a bit. I began trenching a new "future" garden bed which will hopefully be fenced in soon when we get more pallets. I'm trying to run it east-west, to take advantage of the sun, but that will put it at an angle to the house and rabbit house. No problem. It will look more interesting that way!
My trench went down a shovel blade length and on the bottom I put some sawdust. On top of that, some used tissue and kitchen scraps. Over that, more sawdust and some dried goat manure with ash and charcoal powder. Then scooped the soil back on and dug out the next row to be trenched and put THAT soil on top as well. Laid sugarcane scraps over the top, and I'm hoping it doesn't blow or wash away if we get any flooding.
I also planted some veggies in egg cartons. I tried them direct a couple of weeks ago, but the sun seems to have conquered. So I'll try them in the "trays" and will transplant later.
I did plant my remaining morning glory and trumpet vine seeds (haven't gotten the trumpet vines to germinate at all. The morning glory germinated easily, but the sun killed it during the dry spell) and the rest of my Roselle. They are getting a bit older and I know seed doesn't last well here, so decided to plant it all.
My little kenep trees have found a nice spot on the fence behind the rice bag I'm using to shade my jackfruit tree. They seem to be taking well to being out with the big kids so I hope to get them planted next week.
My moringa cuttings all have little leaves on them already (about a week after putting them in the ground with nightly rain), and the seeds I put in the milk cans are all coming up as well. Haven't noticed any action on the seeds I planted along the garden beds, but that should be successful as well. It shouldn't take too long to get a ton of the little trees going around here, and if we can out-pace the goats, it should give a ton of biomass and fertility as well as shade and eating.
Progress has been slow. Dogs dug up the trench compost site to get the macaroni that was in there. I need pallets, but that's not easy. Hubs works long hours and if he IS able to find pallets, he can only bring 5 or so at a time, and prices vary widely depending on how much people think he can pay. We're waiting for a source nearby, but we've been waiting literally months for that source. Impossible to get ahold of them.
I'm debating the potential of making a fence out of rebar and wire.
The gas crisis is ongoing, so staff haven't been in the office, which means I haven't had a chance to speak with our director. I need to find out from him the plan for fencing of the campus. That will help me plan.
I'm seriously debating hiring someone to sit on my porch and throw rocks at the goats while I'm teaching. If we can have patrol here most of the time, the goats should soon learn to stay away . . . theoretically. All I need is to get some of my trees up a reasonable amount so that they can handle some grazing. And if we get a lot of stuff growing, nibbles won't add up so quickly on any one.
Moringa seeds are shooting up happily. I planted them a week ago . . . Or less, and some are 4 inches high already. I only have a dozen it so right now. If I had 50 or 100 or more, I'd maybe risk planting then out on the more-or-less finished part of the Swale and around. But I don't know if I can keep constant watch. At one point yesterday, I think there were 50 goats in my yard. Our tree cover is the only shade around where the weeds and grass grow happily, so it's like Old Country Buffet for them!
Machete is broken so I need someone to help cut stakes for planting trees. I have a little hand saw that's ok, but it takes a bit more work. Might be able to convince hubs to bring home another machete but I don't know. The students who are helping to make the rabbit house used it to split bamboo, and busted the handle clean off.
Yesterday I mixed up a 3-day-old bucket of my super-sawdust mix. Meaning I dumped it out on a tarp and mixed if up and tossed it back into the cracked bucket where I let it homogenize for the first week or so. I added some crushed eggshells. I get a lot of eggshells because been eat eggs every day. And the worms can only handle so many. So I figure it will be slow release calcium goodness for whatever gets the super-sawdust. The remainder of the first and second batches of super-sawdust are marinating in the grain sack I keep them in. It's woven plastic (you know what a grain sack is . . .) So it keeps a lot of moisture in while letting things breathe. This is good for the whole process. Those first batches are a nice dark color, though the sawdust pieces and some of the goat droppings are still recognizable. The third batch will join batches 1 and 2 at the end of a week or so.
I'll add details on how I'm doing this in the thread specifically dealing with this project (in the soil section, I believe).
Yesterday I got about a meter dug in the swale, and this morning I dug another meter. My little buddy came in nice and early with another sack of goat manure on his head. After feeding him some breakfast, he took over some of the swale digging and then asked to watch a movie. So it's break time for everyone!
I'm feeling like I'm stuck now. Waiting on everyone in the world before I can move forward. Need hubs to bring stuff from the city. Need the people to get back to me about the pallets. Need the director to come so I can plan on fencing and talk about buying more trees and vetiver. Need someone to come cut down some posts so I can plant trees. Need a paycheck so I can buy some of the things I need. Need my slingshot and seeds to arrive so I can plant and keep goats away . . . And now waiting for it to cool off this evening so I can do more work.
Having a month of vacation can be highly annoying!
Tried an experiment today. We'll see how it goes. Planted two of the several moringa babies on the finished part of my swale, just over a foot apart. Covered them with 10 Jathropa bushes. Hoping the toxic Jathropa will discourage the goats. The question is, am I smarter than the goats? Highly unlikely. Haha
The Jathropa seems to have worked to keep the goats away from the baby moringa. But they're relatively tiny still. We'll see how it goes once they're larger. Hopefully the toxins in the Jathropa don't negativity affect the morning babies. If this works, I might just put moringa seeds directly into the soil and cover with Jathropa to let them take hold.
Now I need to find Lycenna seeds or take some cuttings. I'll try cutting neem on the road.
Planted a handful of seeds from a very sweet papaya between a couple of young pineapple plants. Hopefully the ants don't eat them all. I hear ash helps with ants, so I might try that next time.
Speaking of ash, crammed a larger tin can full of dry twigs and a few pieces of dried sugarcane scraps. Poked holes in the bottom and stuck it on a smaller can. Lit a rolled up stick of cardboard and got it burning well. I want the potassium for my carrots which I planted in sawdust mixed with local soil (prior to my coming up with my super-sawdust method). But I hope I don't burn the carrots. Advice? It's all an experiment at this point.
The can was still smouldering hours later, so it should have some nice ash in it tomorrow. How do you all use ash on your plants? Maybe I'll start a thread on that. I'm definitely going to be putting a generous amount into my super-sawdust.
Speaking of which, I layered the super-sawdust at the top of both worm buckets, and the wormies have happily moved up and are munching away and procreating nicely. My theory is that at almost any point I could sift it and whatever comes out will be excellent. I'm thinking it doesn't need to be fully processed by the worms.
I'm also thinking of making a top-load/bottom-harvest bin to age the super-sawdust in. Basically something a couple of feet square with an open top or a cover. Open to the ground would probably be some advantage . . . Dump in each bucket after the first week of mixing and ageing. Then take shovel fulls out of the bottom . . . Assuming I get enough for that. It will be sorta like a compost pile, but not quite. . .
Anyhow, a bit of a lazy day. Weekends tend to be that way.
Hit a major turning point last night when hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and many tons of silt and debris washed across our agriculture land where the food forest was going. Half of my baby trees were washed up. I've found all but two. My Swale is gone, filled in with stones. My banana garden form (no bananas yet) is still in tact and full of water.
The garden got a lot of water and silt in it as well, even with the pallets blocking much. I've found most everything, and it's salvageable. All seedlings are gone of course. Moringa is all gone except for the cuttings. But those are easy enough.
So new plan: no swales, just enormous amounts of vetiver in an alternating dash pattern to hold water back. But we're going to have to start further up hill, or it will just overflow.
Hey, Priscilla, how are you? How is your project going now? So sorry to read of and see the flooding, yikes.
This may not be the right thread for this question, but I've been reading Leah Penniman's Farming While Black and she has a sidebar on the Haitian konbit communal labor practice, in which "typically 3 to 15 individuals [...] take turns hosting work events on their respective farms," with shared meals, and music for more challenging tasks. Is that still a common practice where you are?
"Do the best you can in the place where you are, and be kind." - Scott Nearing
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