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What to do with 3/4 of an acre

 
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Hey Permies! I have a question about starting to practice permaculture in my new back yard. It's in northern Indiana, zone 6, and we'll be moving in to the house in early June. My youngest son will be living there in a couple of weeks, and can begin some early work if need be. The attached photo shows the property from the county GIS tax record website, with the property boundaries and lengths. The southern end of the yard ends at a seasonal creek/woodline. Not sure what types of trees yet, but the yard gets a lot of sun in the center, and maybe the possibility of putting in a food forest along the wood line.

I would love to engage with anyone who has ideas, thoughts on what you'd do if it was your property. We're looking to get into beekeeping, I'd consider hugelkultur, food forest, aquaponics setup, whatever other ideas you all might come up with. Not sure if the woodline is deep enough to get mushrooms going. We may add a solar array, it is at least a thought. I may eventually add a cabin or Appalachian Trail type 3-sided shelter, area for a solar oven, maybe even hook the cabin/shelter up with a rocket mass stove. Any thoughts on making the house more energy efficient through passive solar or other ideas are welcome.

Help out a newbie if you have time or interest! Thanks.

Jim
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My new 3/4 of an acre
My new 3/4 of an acre
 
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Hi James,

Nice back yard!

Just by looking, I think you would have plenty of room to put in a garden.  If you really want to maximize the output of your garden space, try raised beds.

If you are interested in mushrooms, I suggest wine caps as they actually like a little bit of sunlight.  I am a bit obsessive about wine caps, but if you are interested, I can offer some input.

But really, you have a very nice looking back yard.

Eric
 
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Around the perimeter you can plant fruit trees and or vines on the fence line.
I really like your recommendation of having 2-3 beehive. With a 50% survival rate for bees at least 2 hives are needed.
Growing some fish and chicken/egg onsite sounds like an awesome idea.
A dedicated vegetable garden sounds like the very 1st step.
Second would be a herb garden: mint/thyme family, garlic/onion family, celery/lovage/carrot family.
I have had great luck with oyster and wine cap mushroom.
Berries sound like the next thing to get a quick harvest from.
Fruit trees and nut trees sound good too. I like to get mines from starks bros, onegreenworld, and a few local places.

There is also the soil building part of things: swales, mulch, woodchip, tillage/daikon radish, dutch clover, aerated compost tea/fertigation
 
James Garlits
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Thanks, Eric. I'm definitely open to learning about growing mushrooms.

JIm

Eric Hanson wrote:Hi James,

Nice back yard!

Just by looking, I think you would have plenty of room to put in a garden.  If you really want to maximize the output of your garden space, try raised beds.

If you are interested in mushrooms, I suggest wine caps as they actually like a little bit of sunlight.  I am a bit obsessive about wine caps, but if you are interested, I can offer some input.

But really, you have a very nice looking back yard.

Eric

 
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Looks like you have a pretty epic yard compared to your close nieghbors!  

The house is not positioned ideally for passive solar, as it is not due south, but if you want to put in a stand alone solar panel system for power, you can do that.  The closer to the house the better so that you can minimize transmission loss, and maybe put it on top of a chicken coop or rabbit cages (if you are so inclined) or with your hives or a tool shed?  You also want to be able to have your batteries indoors where they wont freeze.  I would suggest the area to the west near the road, possibly for this, unless those trees are too tall and shade the house    

Near the house you also want your main garden, and that place between the two trees  and right near the house would be the place to start your garden project.  I would suggest sheet mulching this area with cardboard after mowing it as low as you can and getting it good and wet with a sprinker.  Pop holes in it and place transplants of large plants like squash, or potatoes. Most of the sod will die under the cardboard and be turned to soil by worms and other microbes.  

Get some nitrogen fixing trees like Alders in the ground asap in areas to the south where you are considering doing food forestry.  The nitrogen will be a huge boost to future plantings of fruit and nut trees.  Try to figure out the best way to get the water off your rooflines to head into your garden and make it take the longest path in your soil systems before it makes it's way either to the water table or the waterway to the south.  

I'd start there, with the consideration of where to put your paths and irrigation lines a must before you install anything else.

 
 
James Garlits
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Thanks for the suggestions. I've had blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plots before. They went wild. I'll have to find the best place to put them in the yard.

Jim

S Bengi wrote:Around the perimeter you can plant fruit trees and or vines on the fence line.
I really like your recommendation of having 2-3 beehive. With a 50% survival rate for bees at least 2 hives are needed.
Growing some fish and chicken/egg onsite sounds like an awesome idea.
A dedicated vegetable garden sounds like the very 1st step.
Second would be a herb garden: mint/thyme family, garlic/onion family, celery/lovage/carrot family.
I have had great luck with oyster and wine cap mushroom.
Berries sound like the next thing to get a quick harvest from.
Fruit trees and nut trees sound good too. I like to get mines from starks bros, onegreenworld, and a few local places.

There is also the soil building part of things: swales, mulch, woodchip, tillage/daikon radish, dutch clover, aerated compost tea/fertigation

 
Roberto pokachinni
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[quoteI've had blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plots before. They went wild.] probably better near the creek end of the property.  A row of raspberries closer to the house is good, but not too close to the garden plots as they will creep in.
 
James Garlits
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I'll find a spot where they get the ideal amount of sun and do a planting close to the house. Thanks!

Roberto pokachinni wrote:[quoteI've had blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry plots before. They went wild.]

probably better near the creek end of the property.  A row of raspberries closer to the house is good, but not too close to the garden plots as they will creep in.
 
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I'd say prioritize; transforming the property will be a years-long task.  My mind says that trees and shrubs should be the first decision.  
Plant some young trees now, and in a few years as the rest of the land is coming together nicely, your trees will start producing, too.  Every year you go without planting a fruit-er is one more year you go without fruit  Same goes with nuts!
 
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Work in the order of greatest permanence.  So swales need to be mapped out and dug before you start to plant trees.  I wish someone had told me this before I went ahead and put 30 trees in the ground.  About year three I realized that had I just thought it out a bit more, I could have easily dug swales to capture millions of gallons of water, but I was in too much of a hurry to get those trees planted.  Once those trees are established, you can't go back and dig a swale right where a tree is standing.

If it were me, I'd live there for at least a year before I did anything permanent.  I'd want to see how the water moves after a big storm.  I'd be curious to know the microclimates as you move around the lot, as well as the various soils that you'll find across the property.

You can always buy small bare root trees and pot them in 5 gal. pots.  They'll be ready to plant a year from now.

I'd also give some thought to portable infrustructure (chicken tractors, mobile electric fencing) as an intermediate solution before you decide long-term where you'll want to build (for example) a chicken coop or fixed animal fencing.  You'd be able to introduce animals right away, and then in a year or two, if you decide to build a stationary coop, no big deal.
 
James Garlits
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Thanks, Jen! I'm looking at this as a lifelong project, so I want to make sure I do as much right as possible from the get-go. Someone has said to focus on gardens close to the house, so that's a priority, especially not knowing how long this virus is going to disrupt things. We'll be scouting out the best places to put fruit and nut trees (keeping swales in mind...want to get that right). As soon as possible, getting equipped for bee hives. Since we're in town, I'll have to research whether or not we can do chickens.

Jim

Jen Fan wrote:I'd say prioritize; transforming the property will be a years-long task.  My mind says that trees and shrubs should be the first decision.  
Plant some young trees now, and in a few years as the rest of the land is coming together nicely, your trees will start producing, too.  Every year you go without planting a fruit-er is one more year you go without fruit  Same goes with nuts!

 
James Garlits
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Marco,

Duly noted on swale placement before committing to tree placement! I'll also do soil testing and watch how stormwater moves across the property. Selecting bare root trees and bucketing them first seems like a great idea, too. Still have to research city code on in-town chickens.

Jim

Marco Banks wrote:Work in the order of greatest permanence.  So swales need to be mapped out and dug before you start to plant trees.  I wish someone had told me this before I went ahead and put 30 trees in the ground.  About year three I realized that had I just thought it out a bit more, I could have easily dug swales to capture millions of gallons of water, but I was in too much of a hurry to get those trees planted.  Once those trees are established, you can't go back and dig a swale right where a tree is standing.

If it were me, I'd live there for at least a year before I did anything permanent.  I'd want to see how the water moves after a big storm.  I'd be curious to know the microclimates as you move around the lot, as well as the various soils that you'll find across the property.

You can always buy small bare root trees and pot them in 5 gal. pots.  They'll be ready to plant a year from now.

I'd also give some thought to portable infrustructure (chicken tractors, mobile electric fencing) as an intermediate solution before you decide long-term where you'll want to build (for example) a chicken coop or fixed animal fencing.  You'd be able to introduce animals right away, and then in a year or two, if you decide to build a stationary coop, no big deal.

 
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raised beds and square foot gardening. some say 50 square feet can feed a person year round that way, roughly 2x as efficient as row crops. I'd also go ahead and determine where you want your perennials going and getting a start on them, same with fruit trees, since they'll take awhile to grow. If you want to do a worm bin with bought worms, get them now. they take time to grow in number. If you want to use local worms, nothing special needs to be done unless you want a captive population, which i did for fishing bait. if you have a wood stove in the house, planting some trees you can coppice could reduce bought wood by a great deal. as for early work, all i can think of is maybe starting a batch of leaf mold or spreading cardboard to shade out the grass for a garden bed. maybe a few beehives?

Legalities allowing, I'd look into drilling your own well (theres a wonderful website on how to do that). maybe for your aquaculture you can use some crayfish and/or minnows collected from the creek? both make good bait.

ETA: almsot forgot about an outdoor kitchen! rocket stove oven or cob pizza oven...
 
James Garlits
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Oh, definitely an outdoor kitchen. Pizza oven FTW! I'm we can't dig a well. The creek is seasonal, so probably no minnows. Crawdads possibly. But we're only a short hop to the Wabash River.

I hadn't thought of a worm bin. That's a great idea. Thanks!

Jim

Morgwino Stur wrote:raised beds and square foot gardening. some say 50 square feet can feed a person year round that way, roughly 2x as efficient as row crops. I'd also go ahead and determine where you want your perennials going and getting a start on them, same with fruit trees, since they'll take awhile to grow. If you want to do a worm bin with bought worms, get them now. they take time to grow in number. If you want to use local worms, nothing special needs to be done unless you want a captive population, which i did for fishing bait. if you have a wood stove in the house, planting some trees you can coppice could reduce bought wood by a great deal. as for early work, all i can think of is maybe starting a batch of leaf mold or spreading cardboard to shade out the grass for a garden bed. maybe a few beehives?

Legalities allowing, I'd look into drilling your own well (theres a wonderful website on how to do that). maybe for your aquaculture you can use some crayfish and/or minnows collected from the creek? both make good bait.

ETA: almsot forgot about an outdoor kitchen! rocket stove oven or cob pizza oven...

 
Jen Fan
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There are work-arounds to some livestock restrictions.  For instance, if you need a meatstuffs but can't have chickens, or livestock in general, and you don't mind flying under the radar, rabbits are a great way to go.  They don't make noise unless they're terrified, they don't stink, and they're prolific.  One good doe can be producing you 5-10 rabbits a month, each of those rabbits is comparable to a standard chicken in meat provision.
If you want eggs must fly under the radar, coturnix quail would be my vote.  The loudest noises they make just sound like wild birds, and it's the male quail chirping out alarms/warning, so the noise can be avoided.  Otherwise they're very quiet and make lovely whispering chirps and whistles.  They need a much higher protein diet than chickens,but they eat way less.  A good hen can produce close to 300 eggs per year, almost 1 per day.  Roughly 3 quail eggs makes up 1 chicken egg.  So 3 good laying hens can out-produce the standard laying hen.  If you got into incubation (or your quail were relaxed/happy enough to go broody) you could also use them as a fast-turn around meat stuff, since they're ready to eat in 2 months and sexually mature in 3-5 months.  The other thing I love about the quail is that you can incorporate them into a garden without the destruction that comes with chickens.  You'll need to have the garden netted over with bird netting or chicken wire though.  

I would disagree with the 50sq ft garden being enough to feed 1 person in the light that it depends on your zone and growing season.  If you can grow year-round, yes you probably can.  If you're like us and only have 100~ days to grow, no, it's not enough space.  

If you have a seasonal creek, you can look into making a pond, perhaps?  Are you interested in greenhouses?  You could build a fish pond inside the greenhouse and dig it deep into the earth, below the frost line and away from prying eyes.  It can be fed by the stream and the greenhouse can be irrigated from it.  Or if you can't utilize the stream, and you get decent rainfall, you could catch the water off the greenhouse to fill your pond.  Or use the well since you'd be using it to water your garden at that point anyway.  You can grow goldfish, koi, or others in the pond and you won't have a mosquito problem.    As long as there's nothing abusing it, greenhouse plastic makes decent pond liner, especially in a controlled setting like this where animals and free radicals are limited.  Let's say "It works until it gets a hole".  We build with 6mil greenhouse plastic.  If you don't want to worry about holes, go with HDPE rubber pond liner material, it works awesome, it's just way more expensive.
 
James Garlits
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Thanks again, Jen!

Jen Fan wrote:There are work-arounds to some livestock restrictions.  For instance, if you need a meatstuffs but can't have chickens, or livestock in general, and you don't mind flying under the radar, rabbits are a great way to go.  They don't make noise unless they're terrified, they don't stink, and they're prolific.  One good doe can be producing you 5-10 rabbits a month, each of those rabbits is comparable to a standard chicken in meat provision.
If you want eggs must fly under the radar, coturnix quail would be my vote.  The loudest noises they make just sound like wild birds, and it's the male quail chirping out alarms/warning, so the noise can be avoided.  Otherwise they're very quiet and make lovely whispering chirps and whistles.  They need a much higher protein diet than chickens,but they eat way less.  A good hen can produce close to 300 eggs per year, almost 1 per day.  Roughly 3 quail eggs makes up 1 chicken egg.  So 3 good laying hens can out-produce the standard laying hen.  If you got into incubation (or your quail were relaxed/happy enough to go broody) you could also use them as a fast-turn around meat stuff, since they're ready to eat in 2 months and sexually mature in 3-5 months.  The other thing I love about the quail is that you can incorporate them into a garden without the destruction that comes with chickens.  You'll need to have the garden netted over with bird netting or chicken wire though.  

I would disagree with the 50sq ft garden being enough to feed 1 person in the light that it depends on your zone and growing season.  If you can grow year-round, yes you probably can.  If you're like us and only have 100~ days to grow, no, it's not enough space.  

If you have a seasonal creek, you can look into making a pond, perhaps?  Are you interested in greenhouses?  You could build a fish pond inside the greenhouse and dig it deep into the earth, below the frost line and away from prying eyes.  It can be fed by the stream and the greenhouse can be irrigated from it.  Or if you can't utilize the stream, and you get decent rainfall, you could catch the water off the greenhouse to fill your pond.  Or use the well since you'd be using it to water your garden at that point anyway.  You can grow goldfish, koi, or others in the pond and you won't have a mosquito problem.    As long as there's nothing abusing it, greenhouse plastic makes decent pond liner, especially in a controlled setting like this where animals and free radicals are limited.  Let's say "It works until it gets a hole".  We build with 6mil greenhouse plastic.  If you don't want to worry about holes, go with HDPE rubber pond liner material, it works awesome, it's just way more expensive.

 
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