I've been lurking here for a long time, but this is my first post.
Earlier this year I purchased my first home on 6 acres in Iowa. I am USDA zone 5 and there is a gentle slope from north to south through most of the property. I own and am reading Gaia's garden, but most of my permaculture education is from Jack Spirko and Paul Wheaton podcasts. I am trying to figure out some good options for a permaculture plan. What do you guys think?
This is a satellite picture of the property.
This is an aerial taken in the morning this summer.
These are taken from my south facing back porch.
East South East
West (sorry, this was late in the day)
These were taken from my north facing front porch
Hopefully all these pictures are helpful, I'd be happy to take any other someone might want as well.
That is a very open ended question. There are many things you can do, especially with 6 acres. You will have to figure out what matters to you most and start writing it down to start designing your plan. I went with a forest gardenish because I feel it is the best approve to minimizing the required work and best mimics nature but as you will see on this forum, there are another permaculture approaches you can take to archive your goals.
The one advise I can give you is to break it up into stages. I live in a small urban lot and I have broken up my plan into six parts, two of which will be the pond and a another large garden bed in the middle of the yard. I will not likely start those two part for 5 years to allow the rest to establish itself.
I have 5 acres and plan on the same thing. I bought a set of books called "Edible Forest Gardens" by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. It was expensive to me, over 100$. The first book details how the forest ecology works and how the different plants live and thrive together, or not, and the multiple natural growing scenarios that occur in the forest. It is over 300 pages. The second book is how to do your own forest garden. You must have a pretty good site assessment and evaluation. That takes time and lots of observation. I moved to my property last March. I did a couple traditional gardens and paid close attention to everything around me and how the site works naturally. You don't want to fight Mother Nature.
I think you have good property with a water supply and lots of potential.
are your winds out of the north or west?? If so you might want to plant some sort of windbreak along the road, esp since your home faces North..Are a lot of your windows on the North and West? If so you also might want to find some way to protect them from the wind in the winter.
Maybe a strip of fast growing evergreens along the road ..that would also give you privacy, if you can grow one that bears nuts (pinenuts) that would also provide a food crop.
Can't tell if any of your trees are food producing trees or not, but if not, I would get some of those in in your zone 2 or 3 area, maybe surrounding any fencing you might be putting in for animals so any drops would fall into the pens and feed animals but also wouldn't be grazed..or damaged...hedges of berry bushes would also work along those fencelines.
I'm seriously into food forest gardening, so I would be making my tree plantings in beds with other guild plants, I'd make a list of the foods you most likely will want to buy to eat that can be grown in your area, and plant those first..I love fruit and nuts so I have planted as many different kinds of fruits and nuts as I can acquire that willl grow here.
surround them with nitrogen fixers, dynamic accumulators, insectory plants, etc.. and feed that soil.
Don't see barns, you might need fences and barns and paddocks for any domestic animals you want to get..so I'd plan for them and their access and water access to them first.
Bloom where you are planted.
Seeing the highway makes me think of making a very large berm to block out sight and sound. I don't know how close to the power lines you could place it and trees, but that is my initial thought. More privacy from the road sounds like it would be up your alley if you are also a Jack Spriko listener.
Easements are usually ten feet on each side of the power lines, though some areas allow planting of short trees closer to the lines as long as they will never grow up to touch them. Looking at the photo, I think there is plenty of room for a very large berm (hugelkultur! ) and tons of trees.
What a beautiful piece of property! I second Brenda's call for a hedge along the road for privacy. Perhaps even a berm planted with trees to lessen the noise form the road. A 10 foot berm and some tall trees and it should be plenty quiet. If it were me I would start with my earthworks: terraces, swales, ponds/dams, berms and hugelculture. I would also plant a bunch of nitrogen fixing trees that do well in your climate and of course your fruit trees. Start those as soon as possible because it will probably take a few years before they start to produce well. Once your earth works are established and secured by the roots of lots of different growing plants you can introduce some animals and graze them rotationally. You could probably do goats, chickens, pigs, and a cow or two. There is a lot of potential with that land. You could probably feed your family and make some money. Keep us up to date on what you decide to do. Good luck!
First of all, thank you everyone for being so welcoming and providing so much good information. I will try to answer the questions you've all asked as well as I can.
Goals - my primary goal is to provide food for my family and later my community.
Winds - they are well dampened. As you can see, I have woods on the south, east, and west sides of the property. It isn't really possible to see from the images I have available, but the road itself is a wind-blocking berm to the north. The west bound lanes are probably 20 or 30 feet below the east bound lanes. I might try to get some images of this later.
Existing plants - basically nothing. No fruit or nut trees, but there are a few leguminous trees I will keep. I will also keep the 1.5 acrewood (my property) to the west, the wood to the south isn't mine, but I hope to buy it some day.
Earthworks - these are one of the biggest things for me to figure out. I think I should put a swale just below (south of) the power lines, the legal edge of the property. I think another should be placed just below the driveway. I would like to put a pond in somewhere, but I'm not sure where would be appropriate.
Food forest - I would like to put in a food forest along the power-line-adjacent-swale and down through the eastern edge of the property. I will remove most of the existing sparse woods on that eastern edge to do this. I will use the widest possible selection of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, etc...
Hugelkultur - I will place some behind the house for tomatoes and such.
Livestock - I would like to use the majority or the exist pasture area for a paddock shift system with some combination of chickens, sheep, goats, and pigs. I have a long time to experiment with other animals as well ofcourse. I probably won't do any of this but free range chickens until 2014 as I will have to put in a lot of fencing.
@Michael Campbell - the aerial photo was sent to me by my real estate agent shortly after I purchased the property, not sure how he arranged for it or otherwise acquired it.
Because you're in a cool climate, you might want to look into turning the south porch into an attached green house to passively heat the house. An inspiring book about green houses is "Solviva" by Anna Edey, it has lots of ideas about how to incorporate food-growing and waste recycling into the home.
great idea Tyler, I did that here at my Michigan house..the porch is quite small..8 x 12..but I plexiglassed in 4x8 panels between the posts and put in a 15 light glass window door so it is all glassed..it will heat our entire house on a sunny day ..gets up to about 90 degrees in there even if it is 30 out, when the sun is shining..just open the door to the house and shut off our heat..wonderful..also have a closed in n back porch between our house and our woodshed, so we can walk to the shed from the house without going out in the snow a lot..and a place to be outside when it is cold..also shady in summer
Bloom where you are planted.
The back porch is actually in really bad shape anyway, so I am already planning on replacing it with an attached green house. That probably won't happen until 2014 though, due to financial restrictions.
For 2013, I really want to focus on my food forest, earthworks, and garden beds.