I am a permy wannabe, lurking these forums and writing in for the first time. I've been reading about permaculture now for a year or two, and have slowly started trying various techniques around the yard. We currently have chickens, turkeys and bees, as well as our favorite fruit trees (apple, peach, pear, cherry, plum, mulberry, pecan, etc.), a small vineyard and a garden on our current land. All of the above is new to me as my only background to date has been working for the military. That background makes it difficult to really love any piece of ground, because you will need to leave it again in another four years.
My big focus is twofold: 1) providing the most for my large family with the least inputs, and2) avoiding chemicals and expensive off-property inputs. Having a large family means I have labor that needs to be gainfully employed. I do not expect to always have such labor available, which has led me to looking into forest gardens--I'm just not there yet.
My family and I are considering selling our current property and moving to an 80-120 acre property. We have not yet found the perfect property, which is a good thing because we are not yet in a position to buy. My main purpose would be to provide opportunities to my young children, to enjoy the land God has given, and to provide for my families future from the land. I am still in the stage where neither I nor my wife are yet certain that we could pull off such a transition. In the meantime, we are practising on the land that we have.
Sounds like you have a pretty nice place to start from. I like your attitude to make the best of the current place while opening your eyes to larger scale possibilities.
I wonder ... in your search for that 80-120 acre spread, what have you seen of the prices asked for acceptable parcels in your area. I like to track land values and also TRENDS in land values.
By the way, where (generally) are you in Virginia. Largely rural or urban?
And are you working off the farm too? I imagine so. Is there any possibility of you earning a living from landed activities?
Best of luck in your search and in tending that large "flock" of yours.
W. Jay Vinekeeper
One of the benefits of permaculture is that as your land matures, it needs less labor, and less inputs.
This is good as you age, and perhaps your children move away.
A big key is to teach your children to love and respect the land. Most farmers raise children who can't wait to get away from the farm. The children usually see it as hard labor, versus that 'easy life' they think the big city offers.
I think with a permaculture of a multitude of perennial food crops, a child will grow to see the beauty of the land rather than the alternating green/brown cycles of the typical cereal crop farm. A child growing up in a maturing permaculture environment will learn to see things much differently than somebody growing up in an environment that is based on exploiting the land to realize a huge profit. He will see a Garden of Eden instead of a field of labor.
Good luck. The world's children need to see a world changing for the betterment for all.
To answer your questions,
Jay Vinekeeper wrote:I wonder ... in your search for that 80-120 acre spread, what have you seen of the prices asked for acceptable parcels in your area. I like to track land values and also TRENDS in land values.
In our immediate area in Northern Virginia, there's one place down the street that has 20 acres being listed for roughly $20k/acre. Another location down the street is a fully functioning commercial vineyard, listed for $5 million. If you wander out from where we are at, places in our community may go for as low as $10k/acre. Of these $10k/acre places, there aren't that many that have 80-120 acres. The typical plot is 10 acres. Unusual plots range from 20-40 acres, maybe up to 50. 80 acres is very unusual. Further out, and into West Virginia, I've seen things listed for $5k/acre, although I've been told that the listing price tends to be high compared to what the land is worth. Once or twice, if I look hard, I've found listings for $2.5k/acre. It sort of makes me wonder what is wrong with them. I'm not against buying property with something wrong with it, in fact I sort of like the idea as a challenge, but as a newbie to purchasing agricultural property I wish I knew more of what the problems were and made sure I had a plan before diving into remediating a property of any type.
Jay Vinekeeper wrote:By the way, where (generally) are you in Virginia. Largely rural or urban?
We live in a transitional area, sort of a cross between suburban and rural. We're not all that far outside of DC.
Jay Vinekeeper wrote:And are you working off the farm too? I imagine so. Is there any possibility of you earning a living from landed activities?
I'm not sure what you mean by landed activities, but I am certainly working off "the farm", if you wish to call our property that, at present. It's all I've ever known, and jumping into a full time lifestyle based upon the land is ... a jump I'm a little intimidated by. Hence lurking on the permies site and studying, to get an idea of what I might be getting into. Indeed, it seems that what makes the permaculture approach successful is lots of study and practice. Hence I'm getting started.
Thanks for your interest, and your encouragement!
Thank you for your response and your warm welcome!
John Polk wrote:I think with a permaculture of a multitude of perennial food crops, a child will grow to see the beauty of the land rather than the alternating green/brown cycles of the typical cereal crop farm. A child growing up in a maturing permaculture environment will learn to see things much differently than somebody growing up in an environment that is based on exploiting the land to realize a huge profit. He will see a Garden of Eden instead of a field of labor.
I would love to believe this, but I will admit I am a realist. Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out, things have been labor. I don't expect to ever be able to undo God's curse--thus my realism. On the other hand, the pictures I've seen have been amazing.
My eldest son is no believer in permaculture. He is concerned that I will go for a permaculture lifestyle over his backbreaking work in the field and my harsh criticism from a comfortable chair. His work and labor of love so far has been his chicken and turkey flock, and I'll admit we haven't been very successful integrating that flock into the rest of what we are doing. For example, my apple trees are planted close to the road and our local zoning ordinance won't allow the chicken coop within 60' of the road. (Our neighbour has already called the zoning inspector on us multiple times in disgust.) So much for getting the chickens to keep the apples free from worms. The peaches are in a similar situation. His chickens wander from being in the epitomy of health, to needing more work. As an example, he just lost some customers of his many eggs because he delivered them dirty with manure on them too many times. (Oops!) I know if you keep the coop with fresh straw regularly you won't have that problem, but that's something that he needs to learn the priority of. It's a great lesson for him. Will he learn to love it? I don't know. His current future plans involve architecture with no particular love for land. I've got some work to do certainly. My younger son wants to work with me to build a food forest. This son, however, still needs to learn the meaning of work. He's at least excited by the idea of having a larger place where agriculture is encouraged.
Our big success to date is one garden that has come close to that "Garden of Eden" style. At the end of last year, we put all the leaves we could rake up from the neighbourhood into it and let the chickens play there all winter long. Thus summer, we planted melons, sweet potatoes, zucchini, three sisters, tomatoes and more. In all honesty, I'm not sure I've ever seen a garden so lush. We kind of have to fight to get into it, and work to get around within it, but it seems to be growing nicely. Some lessons learned? Don't plant your tomatoes in three rows, hexagonal spacing. Although we can get to the bed from both sides, we can't get to the inner row very well. Likewise, the 1' path between the beds has been encroached upon significantly. Next year, we ought to think of wider paths and low growing plants on the path edges. On the other hand, I'm not complaining.
Now what I need to find are good zucchini recipes that the family likes. We have an abundance right now, from only one bed even. Maybe I should go around looking for unlocked cars to deliver our abundance into?