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Starting from scratch

 
cs mayoto
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Greetings all, new here. We are establishing a very small farm in zone 5a/b (and warming). We have built six 70-100' hugelkulture beds on contour around the site to dispose of tree material and to create the backbone of a permaculture system. Our goal is to grow a range of annual crops as well as berries, fruit trees and possibly black locust for a future fuel source. I have many, many questions for forum members, but mostly will just lurk. This, alas, is not a full time endeavor.

My main questions as we embark are these:

1) What are the 4 things you know now that you wish you knew at the start?
2) What is the best way to maximize the benefits of a hugelkulture system over the long term? (annuals, perennials, crop rotations....)
3) What was your worst mistake and why did you make it?

I'm posting this since I figure others are in my shoes. Thanks Paul, for hosting a great site. I've already learned a lot!
 
Geoff Lawton
permaculture expert
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Hi CS
ok nice questions lets go one by one:


1) What are the 4 things you know now that you wish you knew at the start?

The most important things in design are the main frames which also appear to be the simplest and we tend to skip over them too quickly because we want to get to all the small fine details. There are very few main frame design decisions to make and they are usually the most permanent and enduring and set the themes of your design, take your time and be absolutely sure and confident and comfortable with this, enjoy the journey with all your heart, and don't be surprise that when you get to all those incredibly numerous diverse fast moving flexible finer points that they can be just intuitive blink decisions. Nice and meditative events at the fine end of design implementations are truly the best human therapy for the modern world chaos that most of us have been inflicted with.


2) What is the best way to maximize the benefits of a hugelkulture system over the long term? (annuals, perennials, crop rotations....)

Perennials on the the corners, ends and edges for security and stability, annuals over the area, companion plants preferred over crop rotation where possible, don't forget the mushroom crop, or having lots of fun.

3) What was your worst mistake and why did you make it?

Putting in good design patterning harmonizing with the continuum of form in the landscape and not succession planting because I thought I was young enough, and fit enough to over power the need for the appropriate succession species required to build soil in that climate and because as a young Englishman farming with permaculture for the first time in Australia with a romantic passion to grow bananas, which are not actually trees be large herbaceous plants. A hard lesson anchored in my memory by the blisters on my hard working hands.
 
cs mayoto
Posts: 7
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Geoff! What a remarkable treat to have my first post answered by one of the great visionaries here. Thank you so much.

Couple quick responses.
1) Yes. The main frames seem crucial. We have placed the hugels on contour for this reason, and in a sloped area, we are trying to take advantage of micro-climates as much as we understand them at this point. This is an extremely important point, though, and we will bear it in mind as we proceed. One issue we struggled with was whether to place the hugels more or less together, or to use them in various spots around the land. We chose the latter. This may limit the degree to which we can move toward a food forest, but we look forward to learning from the land. We do think, re main frame, that we may use upper hugels in a protected area for fruit trees. We have a s/sw exposure, so these would not shade plants above us and I think as the hugels gradually degrade, the trees will benefit.

2) The fun. Yes. Never forget. And thank you for these other observations, they seem key.
3) What a great answer. I know the "Overpower" response, but at 56 find that I'm a little more limited, and realistic. And no bananas for us, though they do call our little spot the "banana belt" because in a frigid area, it tends toward warmth.

Thanks again. I will continue to avidly follow your work, and to watch for others who weigh in here.
Cheers
cs
 
Michael James
Posts: 50
Location: Zone 5B: Grand Rapids, MI
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Trying my best to absorb the vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom that is found in each of Geoff's answers. Gonna have to read them each several times before I'm comfortable that I've gleaned most of what he's on about. It's a privilege to have found this resource. Thanks a million Geoff!
 
Josh Ritchey
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Let's see if we can reinvigorate this old thread.

In Sepp's Permaculture book, he seems to advocate terraces as the first step on a hilly property. What else could you do as a first step in generating faster income while building for the long term?

My first thought is chickens, but you can't readily move a pen through the forest and what would you do about predator pressure when invading wilderness?
My second thought is pigs, though that is a pretty significant upfront cost, especially when you've just bought a tract of land.
My third idea is cows, but that is a lot up front, as well as a fairly long wait.

Do anybody have any thoughts? Unfortunately there simply isn't a large market for goats in Eastern Tennessee or that seems like a perfect solution for brush clearing with low input.

Hope to get some rich discussion going. I'd love to hear what others have done when starting their permaculture system, especially in the temperate climates like TN.
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