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Welcome to Aufplum Acres

 
Posts: 11
Location: DC Area
4
dog forest garden urban
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Fair warning: once I get started talking about our property, I can't seem to shut up.  

We closed on a 5-acre property coming up on two years ago.  Our immediate concern at the time was a place with enough infrastructure to house my dad and stepmom under the same roof...  we succeeded in that, with enough available space to keep the four adults from driving each other mad, at least most of the time.  

Imperfection reigns supreme.  The house isn't nearly as energy-efficient as I would like - it is an owner-built creature with no discernable architectural value, finished in the halcyon days when it was still possible to believe that everything could carry on as it was, indefinitely.  By which I mean 1993.  The addition occupied by my dad was completed in 2003.  When we got it, nothing had been updated since the day the occupancy permit was granted.  We're slowly addressing the various and assorted interior deficiencies, largely with the assistance of Restore, local architectural salvage outlets, elbow grease, and youtube.  My fantasies include retrofitting our stick-built house with hempcrete and putting a rocket mass stove in the basement.  For what it is worth, I have discovered that I'm a terrible drywall mudder.  

Our outbuildings consist of a derelict greenhouse, the 1800 sf garage (which was built to house the original family while the house was being built, and so includes a bedroom, a 3/4 bath, and a now-demolished mini kitchen), and a tractor shed.

Of the 5 acres, ~4 are wooded.  I know nothing of Maryland's original forests, but the woods are old enough to have poplar trees that I can't get my arms around.  It seems like there are a lot of dead trees falling down, but maybe that's normal?  I'm not terribly interested in clearing our woods to make room for a garden, though the trees do present some serious challenges for us.  In the pro column, the trees are stabilizing our clay soil where it starts sliding into our ravine.  In the con column, the most likely space for growing things to eat is shaded.    

The greenhouse was probably perfectly functional when erected in 1993, but is now shaded out by the surrounding woods.  It is constructed with posts set in concrete and T-11 for the waist-height walls, then your expected framework in a steep A-shape that supports the glass roof.  My current fantasy for the greenhouse is a "renovation" permit to install a rubble trench for a foundation and cob or light-clay straw infill, or rammed earth walls for a studio space, perhaps with a 1/2 bath - composting toilet - and a lean-to type greenhouse space.  

Falling tree branches have wreaked havoc on the glass roof of the greenhouse, and the ground is covered in broken glass.  Which is in keeping with the various and assorted junk dumped around the property: glass clorox bottles, old televisions, surprise carpet under the leaf litter, an antique fan, tires, appliances...  You name it, and I can walk you to a place on the property where that item has been discarded.  The clean up is slow going, but the age of the detritus tells me that this may be land that has never been cleared.  

The grounds haven't had much TLC.  Two years ago, there wasn't much by way of pollinator-friendly stuff going on.  I've planted some, but there is so much more to do.  Our primary screening from the road is provided by three clusters of invasives.  I've demolished one of the three, but need to get the replacement screening stuff growing before I attack the remaining two.  I've decided and changed my mind repeatedly on what exactly those screening items are going to be.  

Our topography is a mess.  There is erosion happening around the foundation of the house, the yard is lumpy and nowhere near approaching level.  I plan on doing some terracing, probably with relatively short rammed tire walls.  I've seen enough of failing retaining walls to have discarded the notion of a single wall taller than 4 feet, but it seems to me with a gravel bed underneath, and gravel behind, plus low terracing (and a half-formed notion of putting a gabion-like facing on the tires, because I do need to retain the overall salability of the property and things built from tires are not terribly attractive), I could do something to slow the erosion and make the yard a little friendlier for my elderly parents (and for my future self as I am, inevitably, headed the same general direction.)  Then there are the raised beds to support the step-mom in her gardening (I have ... we'll call them creative ... plans for those too).  

I get a panic attack thinking about all the things that need doing, how little we have by way of disposable income to make it happen, and the challenges of doing the work yourself when you also have a full-time job.  We aren't headed in the direction of being full-blown, pure permies.  We might not even make it to being half-blown, semi-pure permies, though the ethos of making things better whilst doing no harm is pretty important to us.  My priorities are driven by a desire to do right by the land we've taken stewardship over, and within that framework, to feed ourselves to the degree possible.

Currently, I'm trying to set up space where my optimistic purchases will go: elderberry, native plum, damson plum, fig, peach trees, and edible crab apple.  I also want to find a good solution for some wildlife/pollinator-friendly understory shrubs to further stabilize the slopes into the ravine without blocking sunlight.  I want to attract more wildlife into our woods.  Research says opossum are good for tick-eating, owls make me happy, and bats to combat the mosquitoes.  We already have an abundance of deer, the occasional fox, and the fattest woodchucks imaginable.  My parents are determined in their feeding of the blue jays, cardinals, and hummingbirds, averaging about 40 lbs in seed every month.  

My decision-making goes like this:

Native > Exotic
Low-maintenance > Fussy
Food/Functional > Ornamental
Anything > grass
DIY > Purchased
Salvage > New
Chemically inert > Unknown chemistry with unknown consequences
Imperfect today > perfect never

With all of this, we have one more challenge:  I don't know what the **** I'm doing.  So I'm here to soak up knowledge, take recommendations/advice, borrow the lessons from other people's learning opportunities, and share seedlings locally, when practical.  

cal.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: San Diego, California
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Welcome to Permies, Andrea!

We're all excited to hear of your progress(both forward and backward), and we'll do what we can to help provide knowledge and encouragement every step of the way
 
Posts: 136
Location: Romania
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Paw paw is a nice tree to have and tolerates shadow  ( young trees actually need shade or elese they get sunburned).
I would plant cherryes,apples,red fleshed apples ,pears almonds,hazelnuts,apricots ,quince if you like to cook with them and all soird of temperate fruits not necesarely native like the paw paw.
Grafted trees if you want high quality fruits.I have manny seedlings not geafted that i make moonshine from the fruits because they are not too palatable.
 
Andrea Cunningham
Posts: 11
Location: DC Area
4
dog forest garden urban
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Mihai Ilie wrote:Paw paw is a nice tree to have and tolerates shadow  ( young trees actually need shade or elese they get sunburned).
I would plant cherryes,apples,red fleshed apples ,pears almonds,hazelnuts,apricots ,quince if you like to cook with them and all soird of temperate fruits not necesarely native like the paw paw.
Grafted trees if you want high quality fruits.I have manny seedlings not geafted that i make moonshine from the fruits because they are not too palatable.



I don't think I can cram *all* of those trees in the space I have, unless I start chopping down existing trees.  Cherries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, persimmon, and apricots are all on the list.  I've ordered my first batch of trees from Willis Orchards, but I worry about getting them all at once and not being able to get them in the ground properly.  Part of my work this winter is being ready for what I've already ordered. (!)

As for the grafted trees... I understand the reasons why you would go that way, but resilience is really important to me.  My sister planted a bunch of fruit trees at her place and had a lot of them fail after about 3 years of production.  I'm buying into the theory that genetic diversity is important.  For me, it is worth planting a bunch of seedlings and seeing how they turn out.  If I end up with applesauce, or cider, or fat and happy deer... each of those is an acceptable outcome.  Of course, a touch of experience may send me screaming for the closest grafted tree I can find.  I'm YEARS away from knowing how any of this turns out.  

Above all other questions/concerns, there is this: how ideal does the situation need to be for a plant to thrive?  If I have five hours of sun, can I put a full-sun plant there?  What if I have full sun in a spot in June, but by the time we get to the end of August, it isn't quite full sun anymore?  If the guidelines for the tree say to give it a solid 15 feet of space between it and the next tree, can I make it 10?  What do I risk if I'm not fully within the guidelines and preferences of the plant?  

I can let go of the idea of doing things perfectly, but I'm really struggling with the idea that I need to do this *right.*
 
Mihai Ilie
Posts: 136
Location: Romania
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Biggest danger on your land is not your lack of experience  but the deers.
Read about how to protect the young trees from the deers .
Do not entirely follow the guidelines that you see on the label when you buy a tree.You can sometimes plant them closer especially if the soil is rich and has good moisture retention.
I have doubts that you ordered trees from a nursery and they sold you non grafted varietyes.Basically 95 % of the trees sold in nurserryes are grafted.
You could post pictures here and i will be glad to help you with somme advice.
 
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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Mihai Ilie wrote:
I have doubts that you ordered trees from a nursery and they sold you non grafted varietyes.Basically 95 % of the trees sold in nurserryes are grafted.



I've found a few nurseries that sell ungrafted fruit trees in Canada.  Depending on the kind of fruit.

Damsons are usually ungrafted, but I'm not sure about Damson Plums as that's a different kind of tree.  Elderberry grow well from cuttings.  Fig and most peaches generally grow true from cuttings in my experience.  

You can also special order stock and scions.  
 
Andrea Cunningham
Posts: 11
Location: DC Area
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dog forest garden urban
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Mihai Ilie wrote:Biggest danger on your land is not your lack of experience  but the deers.
Read about how to protect the young trees from the deers .
Do not entirely follow the guidelines that you see on the label when you buy a tree.You can sometimes plant them closer especially if the soil is rich and has good moisture retention.
I have doubts that you ordered trees from a nursery and they sold you non grafted varietyes.Basically 95 % of the trees sold in nurserryes are grafted.
You could post pictures here and i will be glad to help you with somme advice.



With our clay, I'm not sure we have "rich" soil...  I'm used to thinking of rich soil as being the deep, loose, black stuff.  We're pretty slim on the top soil, it's weeds into clay for the most part.  I guess I'm following the spacing instructions on the trees after all.  

I went back to my order and it looks like I have a mix of grafted and trees grown from seed.  My crab apple and american plum are grown from seed, the peaches and the damson plum are grafted.  In 10 years, I'll be able to have an informed opinion on which has done better.  :)

I guess my next adventure is figuring out how to add photos of the compound.  Thanks for all the input and knowledge.  

-cal
 
Dustin Rhodes
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: San Diego, California
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This probably won't work in every area you're hoping to grow in, but if you've got only one or two big branches from one of your native trees that's throwing off too much shade, you could trim that tree.  now you've got extra firewood too!
 
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