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Help needed planning food forest/permaculture design

 
Lauren Dixon
Posts: 67
Location: Kalispell, Montana
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Alright, so I've been studying Permaculture design and have begun to understand the thought processes involved. I am just now getting a grasp on tree guilds, water catchment, etc, but am having a hard time finding examples for my climate and situation. I am running up against some confusion about what to do with my land, and how to slowly begin massaging it into a more dynamic, edible landscape. I thought I would just put a photo out there and see what you guys would do with this particular landscape.

I feel particularly burdened by the lack of sun here. We are living right on the edge of 1.5 million acres of forest service land. We are absolutely buried in Coniferous forest, most of which is very dense and dark. We have very little sunlight, as illustrated in my primitive paint drawing. I would say that only 15% of our property gets sun penetration at this point, in the high summer. We have cleared out some of the obviously diseased trees, and did some serious thinning of the little sickly young trees, but still the sunlight is minimal. I am having an ethical issue with how to get more light in without conducting a wholesale doug fir holocaust. They are lovely trees, but alas, we don't eat fir needles (aside from an occasional cup of needle tea). They are really cumbersome.

Another issue is the water on the property. I LOVE that we have a creek and pond, but it is only seasonal. The seasonality of it essentially precludes us from using the pond for fish raising, or wetland creation. As soon as the creek dries up in the early fall, the pond is dry within a day or two. There is absolutely no water retention. The pond was constructed with a pipe system bringing water from the creek, and another outlet pipe carrying it back to the creek. The way it is built means we have no control over the in/outflow, nor can we manage the level. It is a very static, dead pond. Nothing grows in it but a frog here and there. It is plastic lined, so no nice plants. Just cold, sterile water. It is aesthetically pleasing, but functionally handicapped. The only thing we have been able to do is cut a few small trenches in the pond wall to allow a trickle of water down the 3 ft. stone retaining wall into the three sisters bed planted along the base. I am sure we could do so much more, if only we knew how to fix the pond design and incorporate it more. Seems a terrible waste of good water just letting it run out as fast as it runs in. The few hundred feet of creek is the same; just runs on by, providing little help to the property. What can we do with this?

The goat, chicken, and pig pens depicted are their winter quarters, where they reside right now. In the warm months, we rotate all these guys around, and often just let the goats browse the entire property freely. How can we better incorporate the critters into our design?

The scattered fruit trees are very young. We just planted them this past summer. We are planning guilds for each of them, but haven't yet added the tree companions.

I would love to hear opinions and ideas from those more knowledgeable than I. Any input is greatly appreciated! I must admit, this is a scary venture. I am always afraid that I will do permanent damage here to a piece of property that is really quite lovely.





Home place.jpg
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S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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If you block the pond intake pipe and reseal the pond then it will hold the water, except for evaporation in the cold winter months.

Once you reseal the pond you would then be able to over winter fish.
Your pond needs might need more oxygen in it. (Air stone, water fountain in the middle, pump the water from the creek and let it cascade(absorb O2 while falling) in to the pond

The water might be flowing too fast. So try and slow down the flow.
The water might also need more nitrogen for algae bloom for the fish to eat ( nitro-fixing plant/animal waste.
You might need to increase the amount of sun light. Go ahead and open the canopy.

If your aim is to have a natural forest then leave your land as is.
However if your aim is to build a food forest then you are going to have to cut it down.
If you want you can do it over a 5 year period.
Cut 1/5 of the tree use it to build hugelkultur plant some trees. Do this every year.
This way you will still be surround by edible 12-20ft trees (3-5 year old) vs bare muddy ground.
You will not have to deal with soil erosion/etc and you will not bite off more that you can manage.
If you aren't sustainable harvesting your own food then someone else is doing worse and then also shipping it to you


 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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you are likely in a similar zone to my property, however your elevation is probably higher than mine (Michigan). You can check out my blog for information on what I am able to grow etc.

As for the conifers, I believe that you make sense in removing the diseased and young ones that are in your way and put some trails through the woods so that you are able to get to any natural clearings that might be availabe ..you might be able to locate clearings by looking at it from the air with google maps.

The baby fruit trees you have will give you time to get some guilds built around them, I prefer to start with things like comfrey and some perennial vegetables with a hedge of fruit bushes, to give some quick food..

If you find a clearing in your forest put in something that will enjoy the type of soil that is there that will soak up any sun, you can generally plant a fruit tree on the North or West sides of trails that you build and get some sunshine as the trails open up to the sun a bit..some mushrooms also will grow under conifers and also we found wild blueberries under conifers on the back part of our property when we built trails..so think about blueberries.

as for your pond..do you have ANY clay soil? my pond was built on clay soil..before we dug it really deep it would dry out when we had our summer droughts (we have no creek) ..but now that it is really deep in some spots those areas have never dried out yet..so deeper is better and no liner if you have clay.

my blog has a lot of info on our pond in it.

 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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I think a wholesale fir holocaust would be a bad idea. It's always best to make small incremental changes so you have a chance to observe the results. Pay special attention to the wind, so you don't remove important wind breaks.

What kind of pipe is the outflow of your pond? Perhaps you could install a "Monk" (See sepp holzer) allowing you to control the water level, as well as areating the water downstream.

It sounds like you are off to a great start. As your experience and knowlege base grows, so will your confidence.
 
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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as long as we are channeling sepp about ponds and such...

sepp clearly states he learned his pond sealing techniques from pigs. I see pigs in your plans bring them to the pond when it is drying out and they might seal if for you.

I see goats in your plans, goats (along with the pigs) would love to come in and clean out the under story of those trees. If you just want two goats...it simply takes longer. Chickens wouldnt mind lending a hand either for that matter.

I keep saying the same thing. There is no point being in a hurry most of the time. I suggest you pick an area to work on and decide what you want and just do that one. Maybe plant a dozen fruit trees which will be too shaded at first here and there around the other areas.

Now if you are like me, you dont exactly take down your own trees, well not larger ones anyway. Bringing some tree guy in to take out the trees each year for five years can be expensive but it would give you a chance to rethink each tree removed. That time to think and be careful is worth much as well. I have no experienced your land year round, I have no idea if you really must remove all that many trees or any at all. Give yourself time to think.

The animals might be a good place to start. You already have a forest, you just need to make it produce more food than it does now. Introduce some fruiting bushes! Now I have no experience but you might have to keep the pigs away from the bushes, ask others.

For me there is some confusion between the food forest and allowing animals to intermingle with your crops to fertilize them and to keep the weeds under control....wont the animals be just as ruthless with your food crops as they are with the weeds?

I almost forgot to say....if you fell any trees, you might want to grow some mushrooms. I think there is some variety which grows well under each kind of tree allowing you to keep the trees and eat them too! Hoggleculture giggle...ok i will never remember that word...is the catch phrase all over the place this week and i do love the idea of the raised bed with the sheet composting in it but I would not compost my larger wood there, when the mushrooms are done growing on it, the garden can have the left overs.



 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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What we are aiming for is not a dark forest but a savanna setting, where there is alot of edge so we will have to cut down those tree and replace all of them with edible/functional ones. Right now you have a forest with 4 species of trees you can bring that up to 4 dozen trees/shurb and even more vegetable/herbs. As for the animals in a big farm. You run them thru after you harvest a crop. Think 6ft wide mono cultures. Or you just leave then to eat all you ground cover while you get food/money from your trees starting 4ft from the ground.
 
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