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33ac Problem

 
Derrick Eads
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I know, a problem many would like to have, but I still need help.

We have recently purchased 33ac in East Central Alabama, and what we hope to turn into our Permaculture Farm/Green Residence dream.
At the moment it is completely wooded, and with the exception of a steep slope on the very north and west side the property is primarily rolling to almost flat.
Our thinking at this point is to clear cut all but the steep hills and just start from scratch - planting alternating sections of food forests, pastures, greenhouses and gardens.

Despite my intensive self education and personal experience over the last few years, the idea of committing to a design of something so large - and so permanent - scares the snot out of me.
I have contacted the AG Dept at Auburn University (45 minutes south of the property) in hopes of getting some guidance - from anyone who may have more experience or knowledge than me, but have yet to get a response.

I knew in advance that contacting them (or any other college, including some AG specific colleges) was a potential long shot, especially since permaculture "knowledge" is not exactly conventional wisdom - even within the walls of "cutting edge" colleges, so any ideas as to where else I may turn to for (hopefully) on location advice or guidance on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your thoughts
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I strongly advise against clear cutting it because it is too large an area for only one or two people to manage. I would concentrate on a couple acres to start with and work from there. Start right near the house and gradually work outward. This is from my own experience trying to work with 20 acres, which is way too much for me, I am only able to work on less than an acre.

 
dan collins
Posts: 72
Location: Nova Scotia
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Slow down, don't clear cut. I myself have 30 acres and have been only yet been able to develope 1-2 so far. THe landscape is mostly pasture and though it is a open canvas I wish I had your trees, life is short and they take decades to grow.
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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Is it because you cannot cut trees yourself that you are thinking of having the whole thing clearcut? Or are you strapped for cash? My experience from homesteading in central GA on 30 acres not long ago told me pretty quickly the same notion Tyler refers to: that about five acres max was all I could imagine keeping up with myself, with help from my wife, plus the occasional intern. That included garden, orchard/food forest, water catchments, humanure, graywater, solar PV and hot water, small greenhouse, etc. etc. The rest of it we fenced, ran goats and poultry on it, gathered mulch and firewood in it, and otherwise let it do its thing. We later made some more clearings with a fantasy of starting a community, but even these didn't cover more than an additional five acres, and it took a bit of maintenance just to keep them clear....mostly from the sweetgum sprouts. (not enough goats?)
In a nutshell....don't bite off more than you can chew! If you're ambitious you can always clear more land later. Start at the door and work out....
 
Tom Davis
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Our thinking at this point is to clear cut all but the steep hills and just start from scratch - planting alternating sections of food forests, pastures, greenhouses and gardens.

Despite my intensive self education and personal experience over the last few years, the idea of committing to a design of something so large - and so permanent - scares the snot out of me.

It may be that the "scary" portion is your gut trying to tell you something?
I swear I remember a Permaculture expert mention that if one runs across a stand of trees, 20 years or older, at this point in the game, it is more helpful to the planet to leave those trees standing -- but that is just one person's thoughts. Maybe slowly harvest the trees selectively and transition to a more edible landscape?
How old are these trees?
This article has some nice words to consider
webpage
 
Derrick Eads
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OK, I obviously left out some important info.
33 ac, the home plus 5 sections - woodlot, pasture, food forest, garden and greenhouse.
Home and pond just over 2 acres
Woodlot is 9 ac,
pasture(s) 4 ac
That leaves 18 acres for food forest, garden and greenhouses

In my experience, our fruit and nut trees have been REALLY slow to grow - and imo, unreliable until at least they have been in the ground for 2-3 years.
No, I do not intend on rushing into planting a 10ac garden, nor do I plan on building 20 greenhouses
BUT... I DO intend on "properly" designing the property, and planting 100+ fruit and nut trees right off the bat, as well as their companion ground cover and shrubs.
If I am fortunate "most" of those trees will survive. If not, I will suffer a setback and wait ANOTHER 2-3 years for those I have to replace to be even slightly productive
But knowing my long term plans - I am hoping that someone with far more experience would be able to help me with a master plan.

Not to start off my first post here being argumentative or to question your experience, but what exactly is it about 1 acre that you find so overwhelming? I hardly think I'm a superhuman/supergardener, but I keep a full time job and still manage a small rabbitry, a dozen chicks, a 20' greenhouse, a half acre of apples & peaches with an acre and a half of mostly square foot raised bed garden. The only time I feel even slightly stressed or pressured is planting, and harvest of course. What am I missing here?
 
Derrick Eads
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Matt Maxon wrote:

It may be that the "scary" portion is your gut trying to tell you something?
I swear I remember a Permaculture expert mention that if one runs across a stand of trees, 20 years or older, at this point in the game, it is more helpful to the planet to leave those trees standing -- but that is just one person's thoughts. Maybe slowly harvest the trees selectively and transition to a more edible landscape?
How old are these trees?
This article has some nice words to consider
webpage


Under normal circumstances and untouched "woods", that is probably pretty decent advice, but this property was a pine plantation and was cleared back in 1997, and not replanted. What I have now is some random 6" pines, random (and I do mean random) oaks, maples etc, that are fairly well established, with the vast, vast, vast majority being 1-2", 6-8' scrubs trees and vines.
 
osker brown
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Location: Southern Appalachia
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Derrick Eads wrote:I DO intend on "properly" designing the property, and planting 100+ fruit and nut trees right off the bat, as well as their companion ground cover and shrubs.
If I am fortunate "most" of those trees will survive. If not, I will suffer a setback and wait ANOTHER 2-3 years for those I have to replace to be even slightly productive


Making large investments of time and money that are contingent on "fortune" doesn't follow any natural patterns that I've observed, whether or not it is "proper" I have no idea. Working out from a controlled front, planning for succession, and following the natural patterns of your landscape may prove to be a more productive method. The landscape you describe sounds like it could be fairly easily managed for deer, turkeys, goats, and pigs. Some of the oaks on your site may have edible acorns, which means you have seedgrown 18 year old nut trees, no need to clear them and replant. Those that you do clear could be fuel wood or mushroom logs or building material, but you'll need to work at a slower pace to utilize them for those purposes. Cleared areas could be run with animals to finish the job, then planted with lots of pioneer species to nurse your edibles (black locust, eleagnus, bayberry, siberian peashrub, honey locust, sea buckthorn, basswood, are some of the things I'm using). The pioneers can be either seed planted or bare root planted very inexpensively. This would allow you to slowly expand your fruit and nut areas at a reasonable rate that relies less on fortune.

You mentioned in the original post that you want to clear cut so you can start "from scratch". I don't believe there is such a thing, as the soil seedbank is always full of something, and most of it (along with stump sprouts) is likely to outcompete most of what you plant. This is where animal rotations and designed pioneer successions would help. I know it's exciting to get fruit and nut trees in the ground, but working slowly will definitely give a higher success rate. On my site I'm establishing minimal amounts of select cultivars, my plan is to use them all as parent stock. For pawpaws, persimmons, and chestnuts I'm starting hundreds of trees from seed, so that by the time they're ready for grafting my parent trees will have lots of available scion. Elderberries, aronia, and hazelnuts I'm acquiring in small quantities which will be cloned as they mature. I've got quite a few mature hawthorns on site, which I'm going to graft with pears and medlars and possibly serviceberry.

The concept of a "master plan" doesn't exist in natural systems, and it's prevalent use by permaculturists is a major flaw in my view.

For what it's worth, I'm not a seasoned expert, I am in my first year of managing a 100 acre farm which is mostly forested.

Good luck, I hope you come up with something that works for you.
 
Brenda Groth
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clear cutting the property could easily have devastating consequences, loss of moisture being the biggie as well as loss of all that mass..

I guess a lot depends on what you want to use the land for..but almost everything but haying will be OK with some of the trees left..esp the food forests.

I think I might try something like, getting some trees that you want for your food forests and placing them where there are natural openings from dead or dying trees, removing the dead and dying for firewood or hugelbeds, and planting the new trees in these openings..or edges..or on the slope (maybe with swales or terraces?)

then go from there..an older woods will have a lot of things ready to remove, and you can always put in what YOU want to grow for your replacements..and build the food forests around those
 
Alder Burns
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Now that I know more details of what you're thinking of, it seems all the more ambitious and likely to lead to overwhelm! All that, PLUS you're working a job off-site?
I would venture to guess you are planning to use machinery to maintain all that? That was one commitment I made at the outset of our homestead in GA--to stay away from tractors, and indeed any engines larger than a chainsaw. If you are planning to market stuff and make an income from the land....that might be the only way...at least to get it all started.
Getting new trees established is a big challenge....they all need to be watered if needed the first 2-3 years, they need to be protected from deer, etc. BTW are you on grid water or have a pressurized system? We were on gravity from a well, solar pump, and cistern on the high point of the land...this limited the amount of irrigation I could do. Planting more than you can baby and let them take their chances seems like a recipe for disappointment, especially if the investment is large (like nursery-purchased, grafted trees) A site of your scale really needs its own nursery where you are starting stuff from seed and cuttings in the quantities needed....
 
Allan Babb
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Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
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Derrick Eads wrote:I know, a problem many would like to have, but I still need help.

We have recently purchased 33ac in East Central Alabama, and what we hope to turn into our Permaculture Farm/Green Residence dream.


You should wait until you have seen how this land behaves before moving further with anything. I know you're eager to start(I would be!), but you really need to learn your land through at least each season first.


At the moment it is completely wooded, and with the exception of a steep slope on the very north and west side the property is primarily rolling to almost flat.
Our thinking at this point is to clear cut all but the steep hills and just start from scratch - planting alternating sections of food forests, pastures, greenhouses and gardens.


Permacultural practices would dictate small and slow solutions rather than large scale and abrupt changes.


Despite my intensive self education and personal experience over the last few years, the idea of committing to a design of something so large - and so permanent - scares the snot out of me.


Your instincts are probably right.

I have contacted the AG Dept at Auburn University (45 minutes south of the property) in hopes of getting some guidance - from anyone who may have more experience or knowledge than me, but have yet to get a response.

I knew in advance that contacting them (or any other college, including some AG specific colleges) was a potential long shot, especially since permaculture "knowledge" is not exactly conventional wisdom - even within the walls of "cutting edge" colleges, so any ideas as to where else I may turn to for (hopefully) on location advice or guidance on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your thoughts


Check to see if your AgCenter sponsors a Master Naturalist program(mine is starting one next year). These people should be able to guide you better in a "native and natural" direction. Though permaculture might be out of their purview, but then again, I'm a Master Gardener and hope to soon be a Master Naturalist!

Then talk with whatever person does their organic farming stuff, or better yet, take a Master Gardening class(it does require that you volunteer some time in the community) so you can network and find information easier. I've built a lot of inroads being a MG, but it does take time. And yes, even a few MGs will know about permaculture(they may even have some permacultural projects), you just have to find them. For some reason the whole Cooperative Extension system severely lacks in the advertising department(whether that's good or bad, I don't know).

At least my AgCenter(LSU) has all the "pieces" of permaculture, just not the complete holistic view(though it does have some holistic points). Also, you're probably trying to contact overworked and underpaid/funded people(budget cuts have been bad for gov't). I know my Ag Agent works a horrendous amount of hours.
 
dan collins
Posts: 72
Location: Nova Scotia
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Permacultural practices would dictate small and slow solutions rather than large scale and abrupt changes.


Well said.
 
Jessica Gorton
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Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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I think you should take all these replies to heart, honestly. I just bought my dream place too, and I'm itching to do all sorts of things. But, I'm also planning to take a deep breath, and live here for a little bit before I do anything drastic. Which is not to say that I won't be planting come spring...but I won't be doing it all in one season.

And, I'm so jealous of your abundance of trees! What a blessing! Take a moment to thank each one you cut down...
 
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