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permaculture intro advice for novice  RSS feed

 
                                        
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Please don't misunderstand, I greatly appreciate the advice I have gotten so far.  Much of it has been helpful, but...

I have been reading through the posts here, and I am really frustrated.  I've never done any gardening or homesteading, so I am really ignorant on the topics.  I don't even know where to start.  And my reading what y'all write is like a third grader trying to pick up a college text book and make sense of it.  Is there not a "beginner's section" somewhere?  Are there pamphlets or something written at a beginner's level to serve as an introduction? 

Of the "introduction to permaculture stuff" I have seen, most of it has to do with the philosophy behind permaculture or the general principles of permaculture (all of which are too vague for me to use, given my level of ignorance)  I need specifics.  What should you do? What should you not do?  cardinal do's and don'ts kinda stuff.  Everyone says "Go take a course, but that costs money I don't have right now."

I really want to learn, but most of this seems rather unattainable for someone who doesn't already have a pretty firm knowledge base.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Baby steps. 

What is the part of permaculture that appeals to you?

Do you have some soil to work with?  Do you want to grow edible stuff?



 
                                        
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Hopefully I will "have the soil" soon.  My wife and I are supposed to close on a house with 4 acres on the 27th.  We would love to grow edible stuff!  And hopefully we could start with some chickens and maybe eventually some bees.  I'm open to other ideas as well. 
 
Leah Sattler
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a garden is the perfect place to start. my mind spins with alot of the deep 'permaculture stuff' too. I like to keep it simple and look into ways permacultre can help address problems that I encounter or help me plan for the future. 

in regards to your garden look into companion plants for the things you want to grow. and also look into things you can plant that will attract beneficial insects or repel the ones you don't want (though you may not know what you need to repel for a year or two)

chickens are a great way to start into livestock. they are relatively inexpensive and give you a very tangible reward (eggs) that you don't have to kill anything to get!

of course as far as homesteading goes I would promote a dairy goat next. (but I'm only a little partial to goats  :roll they are small and aren't dangerous (won't break your leg with a kick or break your feet by stepping on them) and also give you very tangible results without having to butcher (milk!) fyi. don't try store bought goat milk and think it tastes anything like fresh goats milk from a family milker. it doesn't. yuck.

above all. be patient but dive in and just deal with what comes up.

I am not a big pusher for classes or working on farms before starting. for one I could never afford it either. and two, it is too easy to clutter your mind with someone elses opinion and blue print that may not suit your situation. just keep taking step forward and enjoy the ride.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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The more specific you get, the easier it is to answer your question.

Permaculture is about systems working within systems working within systems.  "The big black book" is good at touching into a little bit of everything.  And then there are other books that cover certain aspects. 

So it's a little bit like you are asking "can somebody tell me how the whole world works?"

Edible stuff and chickens is an excellent start! 

Chickens - you might want to ask about that in the critter care forum.  We'll get you started over there.

Edibles - how cold does it get where you are?  That plays a huge role in what to plant.  What are five things that you want to grow and eat?



 
gary gregory
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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knuckledragger wrote:
Hopefully I will "have the soil" soon.  My wife and I are supposed to close on a house with 4 acres on the 27th.  We would love to grow edible stuff!  And hopefully we could start with some chickens and maybe eventually some bees.  I'm open to other ideas as well. 


One of my favorite phrases that I have heard permies use is "what wants to grow there?"  Or what do you observe growing there now?  Any edibles?  Fruit trees?    What are the healthiest plants on the site now?    Even looking at the health of the grasses and weeds can tell you a lot about the soil.    Making compost and collecting mulch materials would be at the top of my list. 
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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We get a lot of folks who want to know how to get the knowledge they need to design and implement a permaculture system. Eventually Doug Bullock wrote...er...channeled..."Cosmic Bob's Plan for Your Life". Although it was written tongue in cheek, it actually contains a really good way to go about gaining the knowledge you are seeking. You may not do it in the time frame he recommends, but it is a pretty good way to tackle the knowledge in bite sitze pieces.

Cosmic Bob's Plan for Your Life can be found on our website at http://permacultureportal.com/article_cosmic_bob.html.

Dave
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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JIm you already have a start for a plan..a garden for food crops and some chickens..we know you have a creek and so a plan for the garden near the house..with a path to the chicken coop, a compost pile between the two..so you can throw the weeds in the chicken yard, and the chicken manure on the compost heap..so when you close on the house..you need to locate the best of the garden close to the kitchen door and then work your way to the best place for the chickens..not so far away that you won't want to go there..but far enough away to give you a good garden between .

Make a list of the fruits and vegetables that YOU LOVE TO EAT..no need to grow something you don't like..then find out if you have the proper place to plant it ..and if it is going to grow there..obviously i can't grow bananas in Michigan..well maybe in a heated greenhouse.

YOu might want to plant a few things to shade the chicken yard that will bring food for the chickens..the chicken people know more about that than i do..but any forage that will drop into their yard..will be less food you have to provide for them..so maybe some trees or shrubs along the fenceline that will drop food in or near their enclosure..or if they are free range..you can let them forage your area for food..

I would say the week you close on your home, if you have some cash..begin to shop for the trees and shrubs that produce edibles that you like..gotta get them in early.

so say if you plan to plant apples, cherries, plums, peaches, and other fruit trees, you might want to try dwarfs..they are easy to plant and care for and are great understory trees, you can plant them in the semi shade of a taller tree, but not in deep shade..they should get some sun..

also you might want to put in some nut trees for future protein sources if you like and eat nuts.

watch for your berry crops..if you have acid soil..(test it with a soil testing kit cheapo from store)...then you can grow blueberries cranberries, wintergreen etc..with regular soil of most kinds you can grow raspberries, blackberries and other bramble berries..as well as strawberries..

the brambles will be a bit invasive so put them where they won't take over the rest of the garden..maybe along a fencline?

know your wife loves tomato plants so have those bought and ready to haul out to the house with you..leave them in large pots before the move.

it is a bit late for summer crops of a lot of the cool weather crops for your area..but they can be planted for FALL crops..so don't despair..work up some soil with some humus and fertilizers and prepare for fall planting..you genearlly have to count back from fall frosts to know when the latest you can start fall crops..lots of things grow in the cooler fall weather better than in summer..like peas, lettuce, carrots, spinach, cole crops such as cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc..they can all still be planted for a fall crop. I think you are in zone 7..not sure how cold it gets there in zone 7..my map says that your lows are 0 to 10 degrees..which means you often drop below freezing..but not below zero..so there is a season right before and right after your frost and freeze times that you can grow cold weather crops.

allow yourself time to settle in before you get too excited about planting your annual garden crops..you still have time to put in things like melons, cucumbers, beans, corn, squash, zucchini, peppers, tomatos, and other HOT weather crops now..but don't try to overdo the first year..you are just moving..you will be busy.

assess your property ..your paths, your ground..is there an area all ready for a garden or are you going to have to work it up?

don't be discouraged..you can't do anything until you get there..except maybe be buying up some garden seeds at the garden center or local walmart..and checking out the nurseries to see what might be available for planting tree and shrub wise..so you can see what you might want to put in.

kinda late to be ordering trees from the mail order..so go with nursery stock that is grown in large pots..better for your situation right now.

go slow..don't feel so much pressure..know you are a get it done guy..but relax..take some time..get the paper work signed..get moved..etc.

is there a house on the property?? a chicken coop?? a garden??
 
                                        
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Thanks to everyone for the replies and encouragement.  I got off work at the engine house at 7:00 this morning (after writing the post on all my frustrations last night) and I went to work as a reserve police officer today and didn't get home until 6:45.  I was very encouraged to see how many people had responded and to see how understanding everyone was.

There is a house on the property.  There is also a 30x30 slab poured, but no workshop has been framed up - yet.  There are no chicken coops or rabbit hutches, but there is a pond and a creek.  There are willows and sassafrass galore.  There are some sweetgum trees, wildflowers, a ton of honeysuckle and, of course, poison ivy.  There are also alot of plants I can't identify.  What are some good field guides?  Could I post pictures of some of the plants on the forum and get some input from some of the resident pros?

Thanks again for the help.  I'm determined to figure all of this out.  It's just that there is so much to learn and sometimes its difficult to know where to start.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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there is a plant ID thread ..lookk down for it..on the list..or you can probably put them in one of the general links as well..for more likely to be seen?

some of us are a bit North of you but we'll do our best to ID your plants.

sounds lovely..so the pad will be a workshop..that is nice.

30 x 30 is a good size shop..

POlice too..wow you are a real blessing to your community.

you know the sassafrass and sweetgum can be harvested and sold..the sassafrass it is the root..don't know how but you can find out..and the sweetgum it is the balls for crafting..is the honeysuckle VINE type or SHRUB type..i have both here..the humming birds love them..mine are just about to open their flowers on the shrubs..vines are later.

fortunately poison ivy doesn't grow here.

my favorite field guide to edible plants is  "edible wild plants" A north american field guide..but it only has edible plants in it..I also have a North american wildlife ....book..but it is line drawings.

check with your cooperative extension service for some free brochures unless cutbacks are cutting back on free hand outs?? also the home extension type offices..might have some material.

other possiblities would be DNR in your area..that would be department of natural resources.

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I once had some advice that the first thing you should do is bond with the land.  I ignored this advice and later got to thinking there was a lot of value to that. 

 
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