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A curmudgeonly greeting

 
Posts: 12
Location: Chipley, FL
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Let me emerge from lurking and introduce myself.  Okay, I did post a couple times, but...

I'm retired from a career in IT ending in doing government consulting in IT security.  (Beware, paranoia is real!) I lived most of my life in the Atlanta suburbs, though I grew up far away in the tropics, and was born up in Michigan.  I spent a bit over a decade up in DC as last part of my career.

I thought I would go back to doing outdoor type things once retired, garden more, fish, raise chickens... but without yet having found Joel Salatin I did find his motto on my own: Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal!  Okay, fishing wasn't.  But despite the recent Georgia law allowing farming on your own property, the townships in suburban areas are trying to get around it by using zoning.  No chickens within 100' of a neightbor's property.  That rules out chickens in about 99% of the areas covered by those zoning restrictions.  They play other games too.  And there's Atlanta traffic to discourage getting out.

I forget what was the trigger, but something snapped and I decided I had to move.  This was end of June.

Oh, yes, it's "I" because I am an old curmudgeon bachelor.  No exs, no kids, no excuses.  So my decision, no committee required.

After poking around in middle Georgia and Alabama for something that grabbed me, preferably with a house already on it with no luck, I got a birthday card from a long-time friend, co-worker, and last boss from Chipley, Florida.  I called him up and asked what he was doing in Chipley (he used to be in middle Florida!) and ended up taking a look areound that area.  And found some land that was reasonable, 30 minutes from anything like a city but close to Chipley where there is some shopping and such, put it under contract, rented one of the few apartments in the area (talk about things falling into place) and started moving.

So, I have 17 and change acres, part field, part brush, part trees (mostly volunteer pines from where some where lumbered off a few years back) and part wetlands (guessing 4-5 acres).  There's no permanent surface water. The wetlands has been pretty dry but it's clearly usually anaerobic.  There are no buildings on the property.  Do have neighbors fairly close (in rural terms) and the two I have met are pretty nice.

I did about 10 trips moving, put house in Atlanta on market and it went onto contract first day.  It closed a couple weeks later and I have that equity to build new house with.  The county is more in my business more than I would like, but still fairly relaxed according to locals.  They mostly ignore local government it appears.

The plan: build house to live in, garden a bit, plant fruit trees, mess around with this and that, raise chickens and pigs, and maybe a few cows.  Maybe add some small water features.  Farm worms, black soldier flies.  Most towards self-sufficiency on the property more or less casually.  Sneak off to gulf to fish now and then.

Oh, bought the property end of July.  Been here four months.  Still working on getting power but looks like power company should have my temporary pole hot next week.  Need power to start building some infrastructure.  Not up to doing everything with hand tools!  

First thing I did was put in some bins for composting from T-posts and hardware cloth.  Also tried to line up wood chips.  That was close to a complete fail despite all the downed trees around still from hurricane Michael.  Did pick up some myself (and with some help from a member of the church) from a local church that removed some pecan trees and had the stumps ground.

So far the composting I've done has been from all local materials, namely biomas from the fields.  Got three batches through heating and piled up sitting until spring.  I laid out an area about 50x100' for beds and tarped one 50'x30" bed so I could feel like I was doing something.  Got a few beans from that before they frost killed last week.  Trying some carrots now and they are doing okay.  And got some comfrey started and kept that alive through frost by setting 5 gal pails over the plants that night.  Trying to get them well established so I can divide them in spring and plant more out in area where I am putting fruit trees.

Trying total no-till for now and using only tarps and mulch.  I have more beds mulched with biomas from mowing/scything.  Also have two 50'x24' tarps down trying to prep more ground in that designated area.  I had hoped I could get one of those clean enough to plant some winter rye as an experiment, but 5 weeks resulted in insufficient decomposition to make planting into it by hand more than I want to tackle.  I may end up tilling yet, at least to clear ground, but don't have anything but hand tools at the moment, and a puch lawn mower.

I'll probably cover crop those two areas in spring. I suspect the 10-week drought we saw here contributed to slower than expected decomposition of the grass clumps.

I tried broadcasting a cover crop mix overseeding mown grass/weeds.  Total fail probably because I sowed expecting rain (it was forecast!) which didn't show up for 10 weeks.  Not seeing any still, but they were warm season seeds mostly, so may be too cool now.  Where I planted some in that one bed I got a little germination from hand watering.  I have a few really nice daikon radishes.  And one Mexican sunflower came up, bloomed, and got frost killed.

Oh, also built my first chicken tractor.  I overengineered it and it's too heavy to move by hand.  Have to use my SUV to tow it a bit at a time so the silly chickens don't get run over.  How do I know they can get run over?  One died.  Over a couple weeks.  Another that was trapped is okay.  So I am left with a cockerel and three pullets.  Mystery mixrs I picked up about 4 weeks old when I got them.  Since I still have no power, not able to brood my own chicks yet, but wanted to get some going.  I am working on a second, smaller (3'x 6-7'), pvc-based tractor now that I can use more easily right in the garden beds.  I plan to use animals to do manual work for me where I can (animanual work?).

The pullets should be reaching hen status before long.  Some fresh eggs will be nice.

Got a worm farm started. First try was a fail.  It was really hot and in the drought, and I had some old bedding in my bin I didn't replace.  The latter might have been the problem, but temperature probably played in.  It was really hot.  First day after I dropped in the worms they were still there, second day they were all MIA.  I waited untl the drought was over in it was a bit cooler and replaced bedding and put in another batch and they are fine after a couple weeks.  Adding a few more worms now and then when I visit the local bait shop/feed store/country store.  Hope to have castings for tea before too long.

Put in two pear trees and two fig trees as a start on food foresty area.  Actually, going a little more towards the trio-based system with underplantings.  So far only some comfrey with those trees.  Plan to plant more trees come spring, probably mulberries, more pears, blueberries, elderberries, persimmons.  Not a lot of any of them, just a smattering of each preferably of different varieties.  Will put some understory herbs and maybe strawberries in there too.

Soil is sandy, but with SOME clay in there.  Drains too well.  Plan to pile on as much orgranic matter as I can and feed soil with compost teas, etc.  And run animals where I can keep them from eating the plants.  That will be interesting.

I wouldn't mind figuring out something I can sell, but this isn't market garden prime country as the market part is skimpy.  Might do better with livestock but no hurry.  Don't NEED the income, but income is nice.  Once I am in house on property and not paying rent, I should be in the black on my Social Security benefits.  

I am fairly confident I can get things to grow.  Soil not bad.  Haven't tested yet, but looks like 3-4" of topsoil.  Below that sandy with some clay mixed in as you go down.

I have watched way too many youtube vids, read posts here and things all over the web, and read more than my share of books.  Head knowledge yes, practical gardening experience a lot less, but not negligible.  I have made plenty of mistakes and hopefully won't have to repeat those this time around.  This is one reason I am careful about outside inputs.  Got some killer big-box compost that killed a whole flower bed once.

So we'll see.

Most immediate projects:

Make biochar and get it soaking (for now, later will be able to innoculate it). Just got barrel set up today and working on filling second retort pail with carbon to cook.  Since doing that by hand, may be a few days.  Using twigs and branches lopped into 3-4" pieces to pack it in reasonably well. I'll mix the first batch of soaked char into my semi-finished compost pile. Looking forward to seeing how my first burn turns out though.

PVC chicken tractor. That will let me get the existing fearsome foursome onto the prepping bed areas. I am thinking I will pull back the mulch and let them scratch the surface where the sod is decaying.  See how it goes before I decide how often I can move them.

Storage shed (once I finally have power!).  Everything on site is out in the open or under a tarp shelter I put under some handy pine trees.

Continue clearing brush and chopping high grass into mulch.  Can use a lot more though could easily end up with more "prepped" beds than I want to actually work.  Am using a lot in orchard rows to get them prepped though, so can put a lot to use.  I'll probably go for a lot of perennials to keep the me labor lower.  But some annual garden crops, yes, and I do want to mess around with some grains on a small scale.  Sorghum, amaranth, oats... and we'll see.  Buckwheat as cover crop, might try harvesting some of that. (local extension guy warned me those are problematic here.. but I have a beautiful small bunch growing where the chickens scratched in some feed.)  This is what I want, chance to just try stuff and see what happens!  But most of the fields are mown down and it's not fast growth season, so not a lot more decent composting material, but what I do get is okay as mulch.  Trying to keep the fields in "teenage" status (by Joel Salatin's description) by mowing to maximize biomas/photosynthesis for now until I have livestock to do that.  Also trying to discourage the brushy plants and move towards more pasture type forage plants.  

Need to work on getting a well in too.  So far been catching rain off tarp shelter and in open pails and totes to handwater the single bed, fresh transplants and the chickens.  Supplementing that with well water from my apartment complex when no rain.  Hauling it in totes in back of SUV.

And probably a cattle panel "greenhouse" aout 6' x 12' for seed starting, my potted mango tree that needs room, etc.  Also, more storage offering some weather protection.  Until I can get a barn... after house.

Meanwhile, house plans should be ready to look over in a week or two.  I am not doing the general contracting myself.  Have other projects I prefer to spend my time on than that, so hired one.  Hurricane Michael has builders pretty busy around here still, but found a small one I like.

Would love to get a walk-behind or real tractor, but house first, then see how budget looks.  Probably get a seeder (Earthway or Jang, not sure which is better for my needs.)  And a dog, or three, but not until in house because no-pets in apartment.

Feel free to tell me I'm doing it all wrong.  I'll read and consider, then probably keep doing it wrong, but who knows? I am trying to learn new tricks...

So that's me, Dan, in short.  Err, long.  I expect I'll be haunting the forums.
 
gardener
Posts: 2389
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Dan;  Welcome to Permies!
Sounds like your moving forward rapidly with your plans! Congratulations!
I've added your post to a few more forums.
Get your greeting a little more exposure, hopefully there will be others in your area to connect with.
 
master steward
Posts: 3011
Location: West Tennessee
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Hey Dan welcome to Permies!

I'm impressed with your ambition and all you've done so far. Sounds like you have a plan and know what you want with your homestead. I think you'll thank yourself later for planting fruit trees early. I planted some pawpaw trees yesterday, it rained today, and tomorrow I'll be back out planting some apple and pear trees. If I may make a suggestion not knowing if you've raised chickens before, consider getting a few more pullets if you plan to keep the cockerel as a rooster. Three hens will be miserable with his advances and breeding with them all day long, every day. A good number of hens per rooster is 9-12. I do recommend having a rooster with a flock of chickens. He keeps order, and also keeps a lookout for danger while the hens spend their days with their butts in the air and beaks to the ground, practically oblivious to their surroundings. Anyway, glad to have you here and looking forward to updates on your homestead progress.
 
Dan Scheltema
Posts: 12
Location: Chipley, FL
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James Freyr wrote:Hey Dan welcome to Permies!

I'm impressed with your ambition and all you've done so far. Sounds like you have a plan and know what you want with your homestead. I think you'll thank yourself later for planting fruit trees early. I planted some pawpaw trees yesterday, it rained today, and tomorrow I'll be back out planting some apple and pear trees. If I may make a suggestion not knowing if you've raised chickens before, consider getting a few more pullets if you plan to keep the cockerel as a rooster. Three hens will be miserable with his advances and breeding with them all day long, every day. A good number of hens per rooster is 9-12. I do recommend having a rooster with a flock of chickens. He keeps order, and also keeps a lookout for danger while the hens spend their days with their butts in the air and beaks to the ground, practically oblivious to their surroundings. Anyway, glad to have you here and looking forward to updates on your homestead progress.



Thanks, James.

I am interested in pawpaw too, they should do well here.

On the chickens note, yeah, I do have that in mind.  This is more a starter, screw it up without feeling too bad, flock.  I plan to get chicks once I have power to brood with and go for a bit larger flock.  This one... well, I may segregate the rooster or find another use for him.  No issue yet.  They aren't quite that mature.  

For now I want all the scratch and poop I can keep. :)
 
gardener
Posts: 376
Location: Piedmont 7a
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Welcome aboard, Dan!  Looking forward to the updates on the (many) projects!
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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