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My Wisconsin Permaculture Project  RSS feed

 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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I am "officially" posting my project here to gather suggestions, learn from others, and to create a little additional pressure to keep things moving forward
My first project involves planning the major water features, property paths, and layout and I will post my thoughts as I go.




SPECIFICS:
10 acres located in Southern, WI (Zone 5) Continental?

Elevation is approx. 800 feet above sea level.

warm summers, cold winters with reasonable snow, average rainfall of 30" per year.

Property is nearly treeless at the moment and the only permanent fixture is the house that is located at the top of the hill.
I know that this may not be ideal, but it is what it is at this point. We do have a south facing, exposed basement with great solar exposure.

Land is hilly with approx 60 feet of elevation. Previous use has been marginal pasture.

North end of property is a public road
East end of property is a conventionally farmed field
South end of property is a conventionally farmed field
West end of property is a small stream.

There is an existing gravel driveway that runs up the east side from the road to the house, but I am somewhat flexible on that if it makes sense.


AGRO EXPERIENCE:
We have raised Meat chickens in a portable paddock with good success.

We have raised Egg layers in small portable structures with mixed success.

We have raised Ducks free-range with good success, but need to work on keeping them away from crops at certain times of the year.

We have a reasonably sized kitchen garden near our house for staples.

We have a small hop-yard with 10 varieties, very un-permaculture and will be looking to improve upon this.

We have a 30hp Kubota tractor with a Front End Loader, Snow Blower, Flail Mower, and Box Blade.


MAJOR CONCERNS:
Wind damage is a serious concern due to the way the land funnels the air though and because our house is located on the top of the hill.

We are surrounded on 2 sides with conventionally farmed fields. no till, but sprayed conventionally.


GOALS:
We want to establish a food forest with perennial plants such as fruits, nuts, and berries.

We want to reforest as much of the land as possible and create an intimate setting instead of our current "sitting in a corn desert" feel.

We want to minimize the input needed for watering and weeding.

We want to use animals sparingly. Not because we object to raising them, but because our experience is that we end up becoming their servants.

Start to minimize our footprint, utilizing alternate energies, improved efficiency, and sustainable practices.

We are not trying to create enough produce to sell, our primary goal is to allow us to provide for ourselves and to share with our friends.

We would also like to create an example that can be used to show the usefulness of these techniques in our area.


So the journey begins and I look forward to any and all comments.


 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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What type of earth works do you plan on doing.
What type of seed mix do you plan on using to improve the soil.
Being in zone 5 you can grow quite a few nuts and fruit trees.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Have you watched the sepp holzer videos? He is farming in a cold climate at the top (or near the top) of a hill/mountain and has been able to mitigate the cold considerably with earthworks including many large ponds.

 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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"What type of earth works do you plan on doing."
I have experimented with several methods, including swales and hugelkultur, on a small scale to understand them a little better. Now I want to have a reasonable layout of the land so I don't end up boxing myself into something less than ideal.
I have also been collecting wood this fall and have a reasonable amount to use on hugel beds when I am ready.
My biggest area of concern is regarding the water features. Obviously, there placement is important and from my experiments, this is something that is best done by someone with bigger equipment and experience.

"What type of seed mix do you plan on using to improve the soil."
I have experimented with several native prairie mixes and with last years drought, the established areas looked awesome. Nothing new came up however.
My soil is actually quite good, with nearly a foot of decent topsoil, then a mild clay layer, and finally sand.
This is another reason I am concerned about building ponds

"Being in zone 5 you can grow quite a few nuts and fruit trees."
Agreed, I am reading Mark Shepard's book right now and hope to emulate some of his methods on a smaller scale.

"Have you watched the sepp holzer videos? He is farming in a cold climate at the top (or near the top) of a hill/mountain and has been able to mitigate the cold considerably with earthworks including many large ponds."
I watched most of the videos, read his book, and it is all quite impressive. The whole micro-climate concept has me excited and I would love to have a pond that was large enough to not freeze over. Growing citrus would be fine too

I am a visual thinker and find the colored pencil, hand drawings very helpful and hope to work up a couple of versions of this to throw out for thoughts.

Cheers
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I am in Boston,MA both me and sepp have a min winter temp of 0F(-18C) so a 6/7, you are around 20 degree colder.
I do have flying dragon and a few of its citrus hybrids growing outside. However the hybrids might not survive your winter.
Flying Dragon will survive zone5 though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifoliate_orange

I am going to assume that the stream runs year round and that it does not freeze in the winter.
If you where to pump the water up to the top and let it run back down to the stream
You would be able to create a system similar to sepp.
It seem like it would be a good idea to build terrance/swale/hugelkultur at each of the 10ft contour lines.
You could also make apart of the swale deeper and turn it into a pond, for 5 ponds.

So if you start out with just the small deep swale "ponds" on contour,
Then you could "follow" the contour expand the pond at both ends as a shallow swale, as the years goes by.
You could build hugelkultur behind the swale on contour.
You would then be able to plant the food forest slowly on the swale/hugelkultur as you build it.
If the deep swale/pond is filled with unfrozen water in the winter, at 32F.
You might be able to grow citrus 3 citrus around each 5 pond so 15 citrus/fig/pomegranate/zone pushers .

I would spend $30 a year on some new pest control semi-feral chicken. If they live/survive the winter or not who cares.
The pest control will eat the fallen fruits, thus no pest eggs. The will spread mulch, add manure, eat pest in mulch/etc.
If you are lucky you will get some eggs and meat, but thats not really a goal.

If you want you could always make a little nursery pond near the stream and restock the higher ponds with fish every spring.

stream>nurserty pond1>pump>pond2>pond3>pond4>pond5>pond6>wetlandpond7>stream.
If you have enough water you might even be able to do the whole pond/deep swale without pumping any water.

So how to deal with the pond/swale overflow.
You could have the ponds flow down to the next one sepp style.
At the two ends of each contour wale you can have overflow that runs down. to the next contour swale.
Uhmm, thinking it now seems that the swales should pour their water into the "ponds" to be sent down hill.

I would run the stream water straight up one side of your plot and then offset each pond then empty the last pond on the other side of the property.
This will give each pond more down slope stability.
It will also water the land better, as each "leaking" pond will not overlap and water the same place.

If each of the 5 contour lines is around 600ft,
You will end up doing 3,000ft of swale/hugelkultur at 8ft width.
How long do you see this taking you.
How wide do you plan on making the swale...4ft
How deep do you plan on making the swale...2ft
How wide do you plan on making the hugelkultur....4ft
How high do you plan on making the hugelkultur....3ft
How deep do you plan on making the hugelkultur...0.5f

How much of this do you see yourself doing per year...(money for machine), (time/strength by hand).

What type of YEAR 1 food crop will you plant untill your nut/fruit forest(swale) is complete, so that you can sart eating NOW.
According to the biointensive guys you only need 4,000sqft (60ftx60ft) to feed a adult male for a year minus meat.
You could look at how do they it for inspiration. And take whatever little bits you like
Their system have you growing your own compost, and aerating the soil.
They also have you eating, 12 different grain/corn type crops, 6 different root crop and, dozens of vegetable crops
http://growbiointensive.org/grow_main.html









 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2045
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
174
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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? What is the line that is not a contour line and runs roughly parallel to the creek?
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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Julia Winter wrote:? What is the line that is not a contour line and runs roughly parallel to the creek?


The odd looking line is showing the area that is currently in a CRP program with the state. It is basically a Riparian Restoration.

Pheasants forever seeded it with a Native Prairie mix and I agreed to leave it mostly alone for 10 years.

This term is almost up and the plants are finally established. With last years drought, while the rest of my land was brown, this prairie area was filled with flowers, sedges, and insects.

 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2045
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
174
bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Cool!

As for what to do, well, the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago and the second best time is now. I would plant a few trees. Oikos Tree Crops is a good source for northern landowners. They are in Michigan, on sandy soil.
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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S Bengi wrote:
I am going to assume that the stream runs year round and that it does not freeze in the winter.
If you where to pump the water up to the top and let it run back down to the stream
You would be able to create a system similar to sepp.
It seem like it would be a good idea to build terrance/swale/hugelkultur at each of the 10ft contour lines.
You could also make apart of the swale deeper and turn it into a pond, for 5 ponds.


Regarding the stream, it is really a marginal stream most of the year and only captures the tiled runoff from the local farm fields, so I am not sure that I would want to pump that onto my property.
However, I really like the swale/hugelkultur idea at 5 or so levels. I have been trying to observe the property and define a layout, but it is really difficult when everything is a green canvas... This definition can be the beginning points of the picture.


S Bengi wrote:So if you start out with just the small deep swale "ponds" on contour,
Then you could "follow" the contour expand the pond at both ends as a shallow swale, as the years goes by.
You could build hugelkultur behind the swale on contour.
You would then be able to plant the food forest slowly on the swale/hugelkultur as you build it.
If the deep swale/pond is filled with unfrozen water in the winter, at 32F.
You might be able to grow citrus 3 citrus around each 5 pond so 15 citrus/fig/pomegranate/zone pushers .


I also like the small pocket ponds at the ends of the swales. It would be relatively easy to create these and expanding them in the future could be done when I have access to the proper equipment.
Some microclimates created by the natural contours and a couple of deep ponds would be awesome.

S Bengi wrote:I would spend $30 a year on some new pest control semi-feral chicken. If they live/survive the winter or not who cares.
The pest control will eat the fallen fruits, thus no pest eggs. The will spread mulch, add manure, eat pest in mulch/etc.
If you are lucky you will get some eggs and meat, but thats not really a goal.


Do you think that ducks would be a reasonable alternative? We raised 6 ducks this year and I like them way more than the chickens. They seem to be just stand-offish enough to not get attached to, but fun to observe. They are also incredibly active and a short fence keeps them contained when necessary.

S Bengi wrote:So how to deal with the pond/swale overflow.
You could have the ponds flow down to the next one sepp style.
At the two ends of each contour wale you can have overflow that runs down. to the next contour swale.
Uhmm, thinking it now seems that the swales should pour their water into the "ponds" to be sent down hill.


I am really interested in how to create the run-off sills. I read a fair amount about pond sills and how to create them to accommodate the eventual overflow, but it seems that a simple method could be used with multiple overflows and smaller areas between swales.

S Bengi wrote:If each of the 5 contour lines is around 600ft,
You will end up doing 3,000ft of swale/hugelkultur at 8ft width.
How long do you see this taking you.
How wide do you plan on making the swale...4ft
How deep do you plan on making the swale...2ft
How wide do you plan on making the hugelkultur....4ft
How high do you plan on making the hugelkultur....3ft
How deep do you plan on making the hugelkultur...0.5f

How much of this do you see yourself doing per year...(money for machine), (time/strength by hand).


I think that I have gotten pretty good at a technique using my front end loader. I built my A-frame the same width as the bucket on my loader so I can pull up to the contour line and easily line up the edges of my bucket with the flags I used to find my level.
Then I dig a bucket full of dirt out and tip it downhill from the line. I can move over a bucket width and repeat and get a really nice looking ditch in a short period of time. The hydrostatic tractor certainly makes this an easier task.

I did several trials of this a couple of months ago and did fill in one of the swales with wood and then covered it with dirt. The dimensions are pretty similar to what you described above, but getting enough wood to create a hugel bed the length of my swale will take me some time ;(

This is great stuff so far and I am almost done with my first possible version of the water features. I will upload the picture as soon as I am complete.











 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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Version 1.0 Update



Brown Line = Driveway
Blue = Pocket Ponds, typically at end of swales
Dark Green = Hugelkultur Beds
Light Green = Swales / Swales connecting Ponds
Black - Possible Outbuildings
Tan - Walk Paths
Red - Kitchen Garden

The goal would be to plant a food forest along each of the swales and possibly on the Hugelkultur beds as well, similar to Mark Shepard's layout, Nuts, Fruit, Shrubs, etc...
The raised area along the South and East Property lines are primarily to create a separation between the conventional farmed fields adjacent to our property, not sure if we would plant many edibles due to possible overspray.
I also want to purposely leave a wildlife corridor along the creek.

I am primarily interested in critique on the water and earth works at this point, since I would like to "finalize" my thoughts on this before moving further.
I realize that things may change and everything is a work in progress, but I would love to at least have a rough idea of where this is headed

Thanks for your input.
 
Rufus Laggren
Posts: 479
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Where does water for the ponds come from? It sounds from what you said the stream will not be the source, so... Is 30"/yr enough on just our property to keep standing surface water or are you part of a water shed that extends west and provides you significant runoff? You didn't mention where the water table was and clearly that matters to the ponds, also. If the farms to the west are/were tiled it says somebody wanted to sink the water table or dispose of significant surface water.

Rufus
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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Rufus Laggren wrote:Where does water for the ponds come from? It sounds from what you said the stream will not be the source, so... Is 30"/yr enough on just our property to keep standing surface water or are you part of a water shed that extends west and provides you significant runoff? You didn't mention where the water table was and clearly that matters to the ponds, also. If the farms to the west are/were tiled it says somebody wanted to sink the water table or dispose of significant surface water.


I am also concerned about where the water will come from, especially near the top of the property where we would like to have a rather large pond
In our area, the water typically comes in somewhat large rain events. Rather than raining a couple of times a week, we typically get an inch or more every couple of weeks with several 2-3 inch storms throughout the year.
Right now, this almost always results in all the water rushing down my hill into the stream and off of my land forever. I think that the swales will help, but I would also like to have some reservoirs created to capture the larger rain events.

I am not sure where the water table is on our property, but the well that was put in 5 years ago is at 60 ft.

My property is located on an east/west ridge that drops off from my house in all directions except to the east. The large field located to the south of my property is what has been tiled, since several hundred acres feed it from the north/east.

I am not too concerned about the pocket ponds holding water all year long, but I would like to figure out how to keep a couple of the deep ponds consistent enough for fish
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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How can we use that insecticide/herbicide/fungicide/nitrogen/phosphorous infected water.
How can we stop it from affecting even more places down stream and polluting the well water for others.

We could plant biomass plant and use the uphill for humus protection, grow them for lumber.
Grow them fore firewood, mushroom production. As feedstock for animals (nut for pig, mulberry leaves, fruits)
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1066
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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with only 5 acres i can seem difficult to use the stream for stuff you might not be comfortable eating yourself but it could be designed to help the water be cleaned and come out clear and mostly safe for life downstream, it seems the stream is not only further from the house from most things but way down hill and after putting in your earthworks and such to increase surface area, you could be adding another half mile or more of walking distance to get some places along the stream(that may or may not be exaggerated depending on how you design things i suppose but all and all i would suspect that the distance from house to stream will be increasing)

now simply putting water into the ground and storing it as long as possible could clean it up a little bit anyway as opposed to the runoff that is currently feeding it on occasion but you could also set it up so that the stream has to move through many filtering places and is much clearer on the other end, doing so could potentially give wildlife that is shunned on surrounding farms and eventually may (if you so decide, no requirement there) provide income as a place where boy scouts or local wildlife enthusiasts can come and observe nature at its finest

a good example is miguel medialdea in spain is a good example, he turn what was originally a wetlands turned farm back into wetlands by simply reversing the fow of water from the dikes and instead of pumping water out he allows it in, it comes in at the end of a very dirty river, brown, polluted and not very healthy, and when it leaves his property and enters the ocean, it is clear, clean and healthy, his property is so healthy compared to surrounding lands that some rare birds in the area (i think they may have been flamingos but they could be herons as well, im sure he has both if there are both in the area to begin with) have been recorded to travel over 60 miles to get dinner at his property
my point is that you could just let taht nasty gick run through your property and treat it as the plague, or you can do your best to filter it out, and maybe, just maybe, by the time its gotten halway through your property, it test safe enough that you might trust letting livestock eat the things that come from it or perhaps drinking its water, and then by the time it has gotten to the bottom of your property, its trustworthy enough for you to harvest plants directly from it and perhaps there will be habitat for fish as well
 
Dale Bunger
Posts: 45
Location: WI, USA (Zone 5) Continental ~33" avg. rainfall
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I wanted to add a couple of pictures to help clarify my current state

Here is a Google view of my property as of last summer.


and some pictures from a project last fall.

Here is the starting of my first Hugel bed, designed to act as a windbreak/microclimate for our bees.



Once it was filled with wood, we put the dirt back on top and mulched it with oat grass straw.


Here is another view showing the bees and general shape of the bed.


 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Newbie here, but wanted to chime in, we have a 24' X 40' barn, and in just a few good storms the runoff from the roof filled quite a large pond for us. My roof gives 600 gallons per inch of rain, and since the pond is downhill from the barn it also collects runoff once the ground is saturated. A similar size roof on your home could fill a pond with 18,000 gallons of water a year (you said 30 inches of rain a year??) just from the roof runoff.

IMHO the hardest part will be making sure the pond can hold it, with the sand layer and all. Several people have said putting pigs in the pit for awhile will make it hold water better. Of course, do that before it gets filled. I've also read putting some straw in will feed bacteria that make a biofilm that keeps the water in. Of course, if you get fish that "clean" an area for spawning they may stir up some trouble for you there.

Rohm and Haas did a study that never got published in which they found that horseradish really absorbs a lot of toxic chemicals from the environment. So a row of horseradish near the perimeter where your conventional farmer neighbors live may be helpful. I grow it by buying a root from the grocery store, cutting it into 3" chunks and planting them. You can grow a plant from any healthy piece of root, so a few pieces can be dug and spread and make a large row in a few years for very little investment. Also you may want to look at the work of paul stamets (i.e. his book "Mycelium Running") - using fungi to detox the environment. He has some research using fungi impregnated bags of mulch that clean water as it flows through. Maybe dead wood in the streams could do as much.
 
Andor Horvath
Posts: 91
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Hi,

if you're not already familiar with him, check out Robert Frost's blog (he's in Jefferson County, Watertown area) OneStrawRob.com great site for permaculture stuff, not just theory, from beets to beer this guy's about action!

Also search for the SustainJefferson site to learn about other local leaders like Greg David...

I'm in Milwaukee, and happy to offer more appropriate/sustainable advice in the areas of food, energy and transportation.

Andor
 
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