WHY the heck are you doing it?
What’s your motivation?
What’s your philosophy?
What’s your vision? (see my vision here: Permaculture, homestead, food forest VISION)
What makes you get up every morning and say, “yes”… this is what I want?
Permaculture is fun. It's relatively easy to do if you just pay attention to the natural patterns. It's like it evolved that way or something, as we did, so it's natural for me to think of going with that particular flow and designing things as those mechanisms have evolved over time to work.
I mean, I have always thought the idea of asserting dominance over a global living system that predates our evolution by, what, hundreds of millions of years, a little arrogant; look what we've already done to it in our ignorance.
In many ways, for all the earthworks
and hydrological control elements, permaculture is something of a humble approach, one that most ideologies would embrace. If judeo-christian belief hadn't come out of the oral traditions of pastoralists and nomadic herders, but out of those of early horticulturalists, instead, I'd wager the parables and mythos would concern gardeners tending and nurturing, and by extension, planning, rather than shepherds guarding, tending, and sacrificing sheep.
Basically, I want to go out into the country to live on about a hundred acres of Ontario boreal/temperate hardwood transitional zone forest, away from corn and soy agriculture, and if it doesn't have that level of biodiversity when I get there, it will eventually. I want that because of the freedom it would mean: mostly, freedom to proceed as I see fit, unburdened by what I consider to be the irrational choices of others. I want to be free to grow and eat my own food, and free from the noise and crowding, and the smells and toxicity, of living in close proximity with millions of other people, some of whom hold truly disturbing (in my view) positions on what is healthy, and even what is considered "food."
I want to be a horticulturally-minded land steward, setting up food systems that provide rude abundance for human and animal, wild and domesticated, even in the worst years. I want to be a stay-at-home dad while my much-better-half continues to pursue her art
career. I wish to raise children in permaculture as I see it, which admittedly leans heavily on concepts of Regenerative Agriculture, but also many of Salatin's ideas, and those of J.M. Fortier.
I want on-contour swaled rows of food forest 3 trees
(at least) deep, with nut trees in the middle row spaced for their eventual maximum growth, with fruit trees, basically all the pomes and stonefruit that will grow in my climate, and berry shrubs, in the southmost row, and mulberry trees, hazels, and Robinia pseudoacacia
, for nitrogen-fixing bacteria) filling in the back row, along with other understory trees and plants, and rows of cane berries planted between. I would alternate between species and variety to produce a drawn-out harvest with constant pollinator support in mind.
Between food forest rows, I want alleys suitable for either garden beds
, field crops, or pasture. I would space them as the terrain allowed, but the idea would be to service everything with a small electric, possibly two-wheeled, stand-on tractor
, and to size everything to that scale.
On the family end, I want laying hens. I would love a quick, humane way to caponize male chicks, because that would mean those male chicks that I don't choose to keep as roosters become my meat birds, and I don't have to keep others. This, though, is just an idea, and I will keep meat birds if I need to.
Guinea fowl are high on the priority list, because where we've narrowed our search is in the path of future, and potentially current, tick territory. Guinea fowl are used by friends of ours living in tick country to keep the numbers down on property.
As our meat needs are just going to be familial, I want two sows, mostly for social reasons. I was thinking about american Guinea Hogs, but specific breed choices will wait until we see the specific conditions.
I have no real want to go into larger meat production. I am much more likely, I think, to go in on a small herd of meat cattle
with some neighbours and share out the grazing than I am to get a small herd myself. Hell, if I don't need to keep cattle for meat myself, I would be happy to buy beef
on the hoof from a neighbour whose practices I trust and pay someone to come by to take care of the harvesting and butchering.
The only exception to this is a dream I have. I would love to start a group in an appropriate place, partnered with at least one First Nations community, to sponsor the rewilding of an appropriate area with Bison bison athabascae
Bison). It could happen in conjunction with, or separate from, another First Nations partnered rewilding program concerning Castor canadensis
(North American Beaver) and their introduction and management as food source and ecosystem engineer, and their utilisation to turn beaver-constructed wetlands slowly leading to the ocean into highways for the reintroduction, or just introduction, of Salmo salar
The bison would be managed with a seasonal cull when appropriate, harvesting all but the necessary male breeding stock, at a ration of somewhere between 15 to 20 females to every male. This would be used to feed the families and communities of all involved, as well as covering operational costs. The management of the beaver population would likely be left in the hands of the hosting First Nations community. I hear that the meat is delicious, and that beavertail is apparently traditional pregnancy food in some regions, especially in winter, but I have no personal knowledge of this. Introducing healthy new salmon runs would have environmental benefits far outweighing the rejuvenation of wild Atlantic Salmon stocks, but managed annual harvests would work to cover operational costs and feed people in the same way as the bison operation.
Going back to the homestead farm, I am thinking that, if it works out, I might try a small dairy
herd, no more than two of the smallest jersey milkers I could find, and that mostly for social reasons. I still need to know how much time I would need daily, not only for the actual milking, but for making things out of said milk
; if the jerseys were too high-yielding, I would definitely look to other heritage A2 breeds. Perhaps a Guernsey. I think I read that they can yield around eight gallons a day on grass when not nursing a calf. I think I remember reading that Jerseys produce something like 20 gallons a day. I love the 5% butterfat content, but I don't think that I could deal with 40 gallons a day between two cows. That's more cheese, yogourt, kefir, and butter than I can make in a day.
Wait. Ice cream. I forgot about ice cream. Hmmm...
My much-better-half's mother is a knitter of some note. I love the socks she knits me. We would definitely be looking to keep some alpacas, a llama, a donkey, perhaps a peacock and a peahen or two, and probably a small flock of sheep well-suited to our specific terrain and climate. I want merino, for the wool, as a merino alpaca blend can feel heavenly on the skin, but there are other options, and context is king, in permaculture as all things.
To cap the security system of llama/donkey/peacock, I want an LGD
puppy girl, probably something huge like a Caucasian Mountain Shepherd Dog, who would be my personal companion puppy girl. When she was ready, we'd introduce her to whatever working LGD mix or breed that was favoured by our neighbours. My money is on Great Pyrenees, but I have seen Komondor in the area we're looking. Lovely dreads on those dogs, but apparently some can be so family protective that special caution is required with stranger children. Great Pyrs might bark at night to establish sonic territorial boundaries, but at least they're up there with Newfs as being kid protectors.
I still want to look to the shelter
system for rescues, but I also acknowledge that specific breeding and heredity are required to achieve specific goals sometimes. If I had the room and time, I would probably open a piece of the property to rescues I would host and rehabilitate from trauma. I would definitely have the inclination, but there are a few things I want to do other than this.
I want a minimum of two, but hopefully more, distinct ponds or small lakes on our property. I will dig them myself if I have to. I want them to be connected by raceways that run the water
from the top to the bottom of the system, where a solar and/or wind pump
moves the water back to the top of the system, where it is ejected in a jet fountain that aerates it as it falls onto a chinampas-style filter bed built for the purpose, growing species good for reed bed filtration, as well as the waterfowl we'd have, probably runner ducks and geese.
system will be stocked from the ground-up with local
species. I will establish the flora first, of course, and the filter-feeder fauna might have settlement ponds all their own in-line with the system, but I want brown bullhead catfish if the system is tiny, and possibly something larger, up to the size of channel cat, if it were larger. I don't know the local species of minnow, but it looks like what you get at a bait shop for ice fishing. I would probably contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and avail myself of any natural restocking plans
or programs they keep up. If I could get lake or rainbow trout, pike, walleye, smallmouth and rock bass, and some panfish, I would catch-and-release until my fishing intervention was actually needed, or the counts and individual weights were high enough
to warrant harvest.
The potential for freedom from this rat race for me and mine gets me up and working towards this every day.