• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

Permaculture options for homestead property  RSS feed

 
Posts: 26
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a far-reaching question, but we'd like to start a homestead at this property eventually, so I'm putting it on this board. I'm soliciting permaculture options/ideas for the land, as described.

General
Below is an aerial photo of the property, taken in spring before full leaf/veg conditions. 16 acres total. All but about 2 acres is heavily wooded and in the 100-year floodplain. There is a high and dry buildable area of about 1.3 acres in the northeast corner of the property (funny-shaped green boundary). This small area has been partially cleared already, and there is quite a bit more high area within this boundary that has "marginal" trees that could be selectively cleared to make more room if necessary. There is a very steep (but stable) bank that slopes down from this 1.3 acre area to the floodplain below. This area is a good 20 feet or so above the 100-year flood elevation and an old levee on the other (west) side of the creek. This area will not flood unless we get a Noah type of event and half the state is underwater. I'm in USDA Zone 5 (Iowa), and get about 33 inches of precipitation a year.

Creek/Floodplain
The creek came out of it's banks in 2008 and 2010. On "average", I'd say the floodplain has standing water for a period of 3-5 days once or twice in a wet year. I'd say in the past 10 years, it has flooded every 2 or 3 years, but again, the water does not stay there long. There is very little scour in the floodplain away from the banks. Water appears to move slowly, judging by the silt and sand that has accumulated in areas. There is not more than 2 feet or so of variation in elevation across the entire floodplain. The creek bank is incised and probably 8-10 feet deep. There is some water year round, though this year the drought slowed things to a foot deep in a channel not much more than 10 feet wide at the driest point of the summer. The channel is probably about 150 feet wide, bank to bank.

Timber
The timber consists of, in order of prevalence, the following species (I realize this is not a high-value stand in the eyes of most arborists/foresters):

*cottonwood
*silver maple
*hackberry
*mulberry (primarily white, I believe)
*elm
*boxelder
*black walnut
*honey locust
*a precious few red and white oaks in areas well above the floodplain

The understory consists of:
*nettles...lots
*wild (black) raspberry
*bush (amur) honeysuckle...bad
*multiflora
*precious few goose and elder berries
*a host of things I haven't identified, yet.

Here's the aerial:


Here's a close up of the high/dry area during leaf-out conditions:


Goals:
In general, we want to be as self sufficient as possible from a food, water, and energy production standpoint. If we have surplus anything, we'll sell or barter with neighbors to generate a little income. I'd like to maximize production of edibles, whether it is more managed or from foraging wild plants.

Specific ideas:
*wood heat f(using primarily downfall, selective harvest to improve the timber, and/or coppice methods)
*Small livestock, including chickens (layers and broilers), a couple pigs, and possibly a small dairy cow or two (or alternatively, a few dairy goats).
*"Improving" the timber by establishing more desireable species, such as swamp white oak (primarily for acorns for wildlife and/or livestock), red maple (syrup), and more edible understory shrubs (i.e., berries)
*Encouraging wildlife, especially deer, turkey, rabbit, and squirrel. Deer use this riparian corridor as a sort of interstate, but they don't appear to bed down here or have much winter forage.

I'd love to hear ideas and thoughts about opportunities that I may be overlooking, and how to build towards our stated goals. Sorry for such a long post and open-ended question. Hopefully some of you can have some fun with this, and our dialogue will be mutually beneficial. Please ask questions, I can provide more detail as needed.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From the looks it seems you have some potential if you keep on the right track. Which it seems you are. I first would start looking at what you have, and from what you listed it's a great start. And from there reorganizing the natural resources to your property. Mulberry can be coppiced for lots of things, willows near the rivers edge to help stop free flowing sediment and nutrients from outside of your property. If distributed right as mulch you can have and endless supply of incoming organic matter. Check to see if you can do those sort of things, or make it look like nature did it.

 
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
141
books chicken duck forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmmmm, lots of potential with 16 acres.

Do you have water rights to any of the water flowing in that creek? That could be a great asset for you, maybe use a ram pump to fill a pond for ducks/geese and to water livestock, maybe get a little hydro power out of it - doesn't look like you have the drop to really go all out hydro power though. As far as wood heat, are you familiar with the rocket stove Mass Heater that's discussed heavily in the wood heat forum here? They're a great option, especially with the access you have to wooded land.

If your forest is predominantly cottonwood and you're wanting to convert to other species then you could clear 90% of the cottonwoods along with thinning some of the other trees for overall stand health. All these trimmings would be great fodder for Hugelbeds, which I personally would place on contour all over the property on the east side of the river, maybe leaving the farthest east/south-east area to be converted to a less forested silviculture area for some livestock. Don't forget (or underestimate) the need to store feed for all your animals for the times when they won't be able to feed themselves.

I'd say to try to keep the forest on the west side of the creek more "wild" working on native game forage and timber/other forest resources. If you keep a few pigs and go heavy on the oaks on the west side, you could run the pigs through the woods in the fall to fatten them up and there's a good chance that if there's deer in your area they'll love the acorns too. I'd personally add some chestnut trees and other nut trees to the mix also - great forage for the animals and the people! Outside Pride sells a deer forage mix (http://www.outsidepride.com/seed/deer-food-plots/sweet-spot-northern-mix.html) that's supposed to be pretty good for understory planting for attracting deer and it'd make decent fodder for other animals also.

As for the buildable area, I'd bet that if you build with solid passive-solar principles in mind and throw a rocket stove in to boot, you'll have no problem keeping the house warm in the winter. Skip a formal lawn and try to put more Hugelbeds in that are planted with more of a focus towards things you find yourself using very often - things you would find yourself going to harvest a little every day or few days instead of one big harvest for preserving or trading. With a little rainwater catchment and using Hugelbeds I don't think you'd have any problems keeping things green through the summer months. If you want something a little more lawn like, consider pasture areas around the house that are part of the paddock shift system for your livestock. Even then, you'll have times where the plants are long before you bring the animals in and you'll never have a golf course flat lawn, but if you're here, I doubt that's really your style.

Hope I haven't rambled too long, blank slates like that are always exciting. Good luck, I hope to see lots of progress on a projects thread of your own here at the forums!
 
Dave Aiken
Posts: 26
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great ideas, Michael. Thanks so much for your response. I'll provide some answers and a bit more detail in the context of your post below

Michael Newby wrote:Do you have water rights to any of the water flowing in that creek?
That could be a great asset for you, maybe use a ram pump to fill a pond for ducks/geese and to water livestock, maybe get a little hydro power out of it - doesn't look like you have the drop to really go all out hydro power though.

Yes, I have a water right, but I'm not sure of the details. I'm east of the Missouri River, so water rights aren't that big of a deal here (at least not yet). This year was a drought, but most of the last 10 years we've had too much water. Definitely too flat for hydro, but I like the idea of a small pump to keep a pond or livestock tank full. The challenge with a pond in the area between the green boundary and the creek is that it is low and flat, with a 25 foot steep bank down to the floodplain at the SW side of the green boundary, and 10 stream bank. I could dig a little depression that would hit groundwater very shallow and hold floodwater. That'd be great for encouraging diversity and wildlife, but probably not reliable for fish production. Ducks/geese would love it, but they'd be easy pickin's for coyotes, fox, and other predators down there. An island would help, but there are mink, muscrats, and raccoons, too.

Michael Newby wrote:As far as wood heat, are you familiar with the Rocket Stove Mass Heater that's discussed heavily in the wood heat forum here? They're a great option, especially with the access you have to wooded land.

I'm familiar, but need to read more about them. We would have a relatively conventional house (i.e., no earth bags, cob, yurt, etc), so I'm wondering about the "insurability" of homes with rocket mass heaters. We may build a very heavily insulated metal shed with in-floor heat that runs off an outdoor boiler (and can also use LP). With that, I'd love a rocket mass heater or an old-fashioned wood cook stove.

Michael Newby wrote:If your forest is predominantly cottonwood and you're wanting to convert to other species then you could clear 90% of the cottonwoods along with thinning some of the other trees for overall stand health. All these trimmings would be great fodder for Hugelbeds, which I personally would place on contour all over the property on the east side of the river, maybe leaving the farthest east/south-east area to be converted to a less forested silviculture area for some livestock.

Yes, loads of cottonwoods and silver maples for hugelkulture. But again, the flatness of the area between the green boundary and the creek means the whole area is practically on contour. And, floodplain regs would not allow me to build up hugel beds in that area. Of course, that's happening naturally all over the place down there, as fallen trees/branches collect soil and things grow on them. I do want some hugel beds up in the buildable area, but space is limited so I'll have to pick my spots well.

Michael Newby wrote:I'd say to try to keep the forest on the west side of the creek more "wild" working on native game forage and timber/other forest resources.

Yep, so much to do that this area will be largely untouched for years, expect for foraging and perhaps some game harvesting. May try to get a few oaks and edible understory plants going, though.

Michael Newby wrote:If you keep a few pigs and go heavy on the oaks on the west side, you could run the pigs through the woods in the fall to fatten them up and there's a good chance that if there's deer in your area they'll love the acorns too. I'd personally add some chestnut trees and other nut trees to the mix also - great forage for the animals and the people! Outside Pride sells a deer forage mix (http://www.outsidepride.com/seed/deer-food-plots/sweet-spot-northern-mix.html) that's supposed to be pretty good for understory planting for attracting deer and it'd make decent fodder for other animals also.

I'm thinking about having a few pigs on the east side of the creek, but definitely want to get some swamp white oak and/or burr oak going. I also want to try and get some red maples going to replace some of the many silver maples. Reds are better for syrup production. Great link to the food plot mix - thanks a lot for that!

 
Dave Aiken
Posts: 26
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Some new photos that show some existing features of the property. Note the steep bank between the high and dry buildable area (in green) and the large, flat, heavily-timbered floodplain area east of the creek. There is an existing trail down a more gentle portion of the bank and an existing trail through the woods.

Also note the roughtly 6,200 sq foot (0.15 acres) circular depression with wet soil and reed canary grass. Any suggestions for how to and what to replace the reed canary grass with? Either an edible (for me) or something for the deer and turkey. The depression is very minor and not noticeable to the naked eye, if not for the reed canary grass. Not even a blip on the 2-foot contours. I've thought about the following options:

1. Exagerating the depression so it actually holds water part of the year. This pond would flood and wash out every 2-3 years when the stream gets out of it's banks. And it would likely be a stagnant, shallow pool, so I don't know that aquaponics is feasible. But a shallow pond may provide other benefits.

2. Replacing the reed canary with a wet meadow mix of some kind. It will be hard to get rid of the canary, I'm afraid. I could fence 2-3 pigs in that area and let them root around. But unless I immediately establish something else, I'm guessing the reed canary grass will come back. Thoughts/ideas?



 
Posts: 1754
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
42
forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I build a house and the main orchard on that 1.3 acres.
the level area after the cliff, I would clear it out and have a goat/sheep/nut silva-pasture.
Total area cleared 3 acres,
I would then use the rest of the area 12.7 for vines, berries in clearing, semi-wild turkey, maybe a pond, mushroom
firewood, ramps/garlic/onions.

You have a pretty steep drop of 26ft in just 50ft, be careful if you do plant anything on it.
 
Posts: 16
Location: Florida Panhandle AKA L.A. (LOWER ALABAMA)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dave, It is my understanding oaks take up to 25 years before they start putting off acorns, did i hear Black walnut? heard 10 years ago that a 12inch diameter, 8 foot long (had to be straight!!!) was worth more than a few thousand, are they putting off nuts? blueberrys might work for you, water flow and control of both banks, envious a hydro bonanza 10 foot wide 1 foot deep flowing @ 1 ft per sec is 10 cubic ft of water @ 7.48 gallons per cubic ft round it to 75 gallons x 8.3 lbs in excess of 620 lbs of force, 8 foot diameter whirlpool, 4 foot radius x 620 lbs that would be over 2400 ft/lbs of torque, would definitely need good brake to stop it for any maint. need to find a couple of links one for power production the other for pumping water

regards Stark
 
Fm Stark
Posts: 16
Location: Florida Panhandle AKA L.A. (LOWER ALABAMA)
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A spiral pump for pumping water it would allow for oxygenating the water, pumping into a pond and would keep it from being stagnant >>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY-AQrWOjw4

For power>>> http://www.ecogeek.org/component/content/article/2488, combine both into one design and compensate for temporary flooding,

Havent read all of the forum so these are probably already out there but i believe perfect applications for your situation

regards Stark

 
Would you turn that thing down? I'm controlling a mind here! Look ... look at the tiny ad ...
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!