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looking for zone 3 to 4 permaculture design specialists  RSS feed

 
Steven Fordahl
Posts: 9
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Hi all ,
My name is Steven. My wife Ellen and I are learning about permaculture through a video series with geoff lawton and Bill Mollison teaching. The teaching is mostly focused on Australia and subtropical and desert environments. We live about 50 miles north of Minneapolis in Minnesota, on the edge of zone 3. As some winters can hit -40 and below, we want to work with only zone 3 hardy plantings so we don't lose years of growth on fruit trees, as happens to some people around here. Water systems are another point of particular concern, as we can have frost in the ground for up to 6 months of the year and as deep as 7 feet. (This is not every year, but once or twice in a decade). All this to ask a question of all you folks, which is this: Is there a Geoff Lawton of the north? By this I mean someone who has done years of permaculture design with our unique climate concerns and issues in mind. Maybe someone from Scandinavia, Canada or Alaska that you know of, or maybe Siberia? Any help with networking or guidance to info sources would be appreciated.
We appreciate all of the information posted on this site. Thanks to all who give their time and energy to help this to be a better world.
Steven Fordahl
 
Lance Wildwood
Posts: 41
Location: Sunshine Coast BC
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Same Same But Different
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 487
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I use to live and do my plant stuff in Alaska. What exactly are you having issues with besides temperature and short growing season?
 
Steven Fordahl
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What we are looking for is a comprehensive design plan for our 10 acre property. We have some ideas in mind concerning a combo chicken coop greenhouse and other pasture animals being a part of the total plan but we know enough about good design to know that we don't even know what questions to ask. I think we would benefit from attending a permaculture design course tailored for our climate. I just don't know of one. We have some woods, swamp, and open field so a little of everything. With the swamp we would like to do several chinampas beds, grow mushrooms in the woods, and do some grazing areas in the open parts. We are looking for as low an input as is workable with the greatest abundance.
 
alex Keenan
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Do your local regulations allow altering wetlands to create chinampas beds?
What is currently growing in your wetlands?

What are the main reasons for the chinampas beds? Is it to extend your growing season using water as heat sink to get past first few frosts?
It is having the water during the growing season? Is it to have ability to raise fish? Is it some other reason? Is it to harvest muck from the bottom of your waterways for your growing beds?
Are you planning on simply scraping up the detritus on the bottom of the waterway and adding it to the soil chinampas beds on an annual basis?
What watershed feeds your wetlands, what activities take place in that watershed?
Does water flow through the wetlands? If so where does it drain to?
These answers will shape your wetland design.

Here is a real life example:
Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s my grandparents raised rhubarb beside a small lake surrounded by peat bog. The east side of the lake received good sun and had a gravel bar going about ¼ the way around it. The gravel bar went up about ten feet above the lake. This area was put into rhubarb. The rhubarb had very large long roots when mature and could pull water from the lake most of the time. The lake helped keep the frost off the rhubarb. They averaged three harvests a season because rhubarb was a good long day crop. There was a market at a company that made jams and jellies for the rhubarb so it was a cash crop.
You stated you have issues with frozen ground. How much snow do you get? When do you normally receive it? Do you use snow fences now to capture snow? If yes why are you capturing snow? Is it to insulate ground so it does not freeze as deep? Is it for water storage in spring and early summer?

What is the layout of the land like. You have wood, swamp, and open field. What is the Topography of your 10 acres? Do you have a topographic map of the land? Do you know the actual slopes of the land as rise versus run?

Do you know what trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals can grow in your current ecosystem?
The farther north one goes the less diversity one finds. Much of permaculture that I have read seems to push diversity. In the north what I tried to find was a workable ecosystem based on the limitations that existed. For example, you will work very hard to do a lot with large fruits such as apples the farther north one goes. But, there is an abundance of small fruits all the way to the artic. You have to rethink your ecosystem. Also, you are likely looking to take advantage of long day crops, which can take advantage of longer periods of daylight to grow.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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It cannot be worse than Iceland. Here we have hard freezes typical of zone 5 or 6, but often without any snow protecting the ground. And also well into May, after some weeks of spring weather. Join that to often hurricane blowing winds and very shallow and acidic soils, and you have my growing conditions!
By the way I wish there was a Geoff Lawton from the cold climates. People like sepp holzer grow in cold winters, but they do not have the harsh arctic winds and cold summers as both you and me have.

Sheltering from the wind and gaining advantage of south oriented walls is important. They warm even in winter, and therefore the soil there melts first.

Also use coldframes, black plastic and peatmoss to cover the soil. This way I can keep an unfrozen soil even if the outdoor temperature is 8 F!

Perennials are a much safer bet than annuals in these cold climates. Think siberian pea, rhubarb, scotish lovage, groundnuts, honey locust, etc... however we often have trouble with fruit trees, because of common false starts to spring followed by very dramatic hard freezes. If you want to avoid that, you should plant the same as Iceland, coastal Alaska or coastal Siberia. If you have a rather more continental climate, then look for Siberian varieties or varieties from the midwest or Canada. Just to let you know that I had a plant of siberian apple, and guess what it started budding out now in March because February was so warm, but now mid March we are having a big freeze (without any snow in the soil).

With annuals you will need either a greenhouse or to grow first the seedlings indoors and then transplant outdoors (even if soil is frozen) by protecting them with plastic cups. Just read my previous threads!
http://www.permies.com/t/22575/permaculture/Ways-warming-soil-temperature-creating

http://www.permies.com/t/22790/permaculture/Permaculture-Iceland-introduction-video-world

Hope this helps. Please feel free to ask and share whatever you know and have been doing. We both need each other practical experience to fix our challenges.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2044
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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There are PDCs in Wisconsin every so often, so you might want to look at that. Mark Shepard is in Viola Wisconsin doing permaculture on a pretty large scale--you can search here for more information about him. Also, I also need to mention sepp holzer, who is doing permaculture in the Alps, as well as many other climates as a consultant.
 
Steven Fordahl
Posts: 9
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http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/assistance/backyard/privatelandsprogram/managing_woodland_wetland.pdf
The type 6 wetland on this page from the Minnesota dept. of natural resources is what our wetlands consist of approximately 3 acres on the east side of our property. The west side of our property consists of type 8 wetlands floating bog, tamarack, black spruce, approximately1.5 acres. The county road runs north, south on the west side of our property There is a rolling ridge angling north east to south west in the middle. This is where our house is. The trees that are here now are some old growth white pines (some over 40 ft. high) and a mixture of cherry,oak; red and white, poplar, box elder, birch,ash, and an understory of prickly ash,(nasty stuff to walk through) wild raspberry, elder. We have been organic gardeners for 20+ years and have grown most vegetables that can be grown in our climate. What we are interested in is growing forage crops for livestock and using our property to be more self sufficient, and maybe if possible provide an income ,some way, for us in the future. I believe a permit can be obtained from the DNR to dig into the wetland. Alex in answer to your questions about the proposed chanampras areas it is all of what you suggest, and to utilize and maximize the productive areas we have at our disposal. We have grown rhubarb by the house and get 3 crops depending on the year. I neglected to mention our soil is a heavy clay. It holds water well but needs to be heavily amended to be optimal. Paulo thank you for your ideas and information sounds like we have a cake walk compared to you there, but even in the harshest of places the earth responds to a man with vision and purpose. Julia, Mark Shepard is a bit of a hero to us. He lives about 250 miles south east of us and has done some spectacular things on his property we aim to visit his place this summer. Thank you all for taking the time to help us. Steve
Filename: FORDAHL-LAKEBERG-LOT-1-TOPOG.pdf
Description: block one is our property elavations included
File size: 42 Kbytes
 
alex Keenan
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Paulo very good advice, I remember the cold growing season and also the constant freeze thaw cycles in spring. Steven so you have a clay bottom peat bog and a clay bottom swamp without flowing water. It is likely that at one time there was some stream or other drainage. I tend to find that a lot of peat bog areas in the north start out as flowing water that gets blocked by beaver dams, falling trees, buildup of organic matter, etc. Since it is not flowing water things like wild rice are out. You cannot grow much in it because most plants of economic value cannot handle the low oxygen conditions of saturated soil. So you will need to provide conditions that the roots of the economic value plants desire. In simple terms you either lower the water or raise the soil. I assume that the land is flat with poor drainage so you may have issues trying to drain the land. If there is somewhere to drain it then putting in drainage may be a solution for part of the area. Another question, what is under your clay? If you have glacial deposit with clay over a material that drains you may be able to increase the drainage in the area by disturbing the clay layer. Also, if the amount of water is not constant you may be able to put in a pond to provide an area where the water can collect. I would advise talking to your local soil and water conservation person to see what options are available in your area for handling the water.

Assuming you do not drain then another option is mounding up. Digging in the swamp without draining can be a major undertaking even with heavy equipment. Putting in chinampas beds will likely require careful timing either with driest time of year if one exists. Or timing when frozen surface to support equipment. This is assuming you wish to build beds. Another option is from gold miners who used pumps to bring up silt. You can create a small pond and turn it into soup then pump this muck on to straw, mulched leaves, etc. What you are creating with your plant beds are settling ponds. You prepare the ponds in advance. They can be like your chinampas beds but that have to be able to handle very soupy stuff so they need organic matter to trap the find material and allow water to settle out. You are creating ruts or channels in the swamp so you have to put in something to stabilize the channels like the supports in a chinampas bed. Otherwise the muck on the sides will just cave in an you will have a pond. If a pond is desired then you just move the muck to beds you have added on top of your swamp. You will use the muck and mulch to build up the area. For this to work you have to plan for drainage an put some cover crop in ASAP to start holding the material together. You can even add more muck on the cover crop using the cover crop as mulch.

Finally, you can just lay in chinampas bed like material when the grown has frozen. You can drive in stakes in summer then start laying in retaining material after ground is frozen. In the most extreme case they just fill in the swamp in winter. Where you add material and how much you add will depend on what you plan to grow and how you plan to work and harvest the land. One thing I do remember working in northern swamps was the value of geotextile fabrics for holding material together in clay and tundra. These types of material will go a long way when it comes to keeping material together. Such as any gravel you may wish to add or keeping the chinampas bed together instead of using reeds.

Also when you plan your swamp work think about snow fences and planting wind protection for winter months. These need to be part of your plan BEFORE you start any work.
 
alex Keenan
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Steven,

One factor you need to take into acount when looking at your two wetland areas is "Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act of 1991"

The Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) is a "no-net-loss" state wetland-protection program passed in June 1991. The WCA prohibits the draining and filling of wetlands unless replaced by restored or created wetlands of equal or greater public value under an approved replacement plan. This state program is administered by local government units (LGU's) and includes a comprehensive, yet simple, wetland function and value assessment to achieve wetland replacement, and a state wetland banking program.

Many areas in the USA currently have such programs which can make doing any work with wetlands very hard. You would likely want to start off by talking to your local soil and water conservation district to get a better idea on what you can and cannot do based on current state and federal wetland laws.

From past experience doing any work in wetland can be a real headache due to regulations and paper work. One view I tried to take when working with wetland was to find any win win situations. Those generally involved making changes that improved habitat or value of the wetlands. Not all wetlands have the same value. For example a bog with no surface flowing water is very common in your area. Such an open unprotected area has limited use for wild life. It may be possible to alter the bog in such a way that it can produce some type of useable product for you and better habitat for wildlife while still remaining a wetland. For example we had some areas that were peat bogs where stumps had been dropped. The stumps were hollowed so we could fill them with dirt mix. These stumps were then planted with berry bushes like currents. What we found was that the stumps provided habitat for a number of wildlife. However, we could still pick the berries when they grew. It was a win win without destroying the wetland. Such actions depend on if you are allowed to add micro environments to the wetlands. There are a number of ways to do this. Several of these ways can take advantage of the wood products you have in your area such as tree stumps. The key would be to add useful plants.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Steven

Where I live, the soil is also, like Alex said, is shallow and with a layer of clay (and peat) just a few inches under.

I recommend several possibilities:

- One is to plant adjusted to the slope. In flat areas, the soil is bog-like, so plant water tolerant species. If you are next to a natural stream, use that space. In slopes, soil is very shallow but drier, so you can plant more dry tolerant species like seaberry or elaeagnus.

- Add organic matter. The soil freezes hard every winter, and with snow it compacts, and it breaks with freezes and thaws. Add a lot of organic matter, such as tree leaves to mimic the soil of a birch forest. That soil is much more stable and less prone to be compact or suffer big changes due to hard freezes.

- Under the clay is probably a bedrock. In glacial valleys (mine is one) it seems really not worth to disturb the clay. The soil still remains very soggy, because the water table is very high. Even if we have very porous volcanic rocks as the bedrock. Iceland is just an invisible soggy sponge under the visible soil landscapes. The same might be for your situation. In these cases, it is better to use slopes to set up more water intolerant species. But remember to shelter some of them from the winds. However soil is much poorer in a slope. In glaciated flatlands, the soil is much richer.

Here is a pic of a part of my garden. I live in a slope. Soil is therefore shallow and very poor.

I live in a old glacier valley, about 25km for the start of the Icelandic highland desert, and about 45km of the edge of the ice caps. Because of this, the soil here is both nearly pure clay and peat in flatland, and a mix of very shallow volcanic sand soil with peatmoss in the slopes. But I tell you: any small trees around and any small forest creates a much thicker and healthier soil and stable ecossystem!



It is going to be now the 3rd year of growing. The problem is still the same: compaction occurs after every winter and organic nutrients leach downwards. I also do not know yet whether to mulch or have bare soil (I want mulch but I also want a fast spring warming of the soil). So far i have been experimenting with all options with no clear preference. I think raised huegelbeds are going to be my future solution.

 
alex Keenan
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Yes the water expands as it freezes and the aggregates that help create the meso and macro pore spaces can be destroyed.
I did find that if you add inorganic porous material to clay you can keep the pore spaces when you have freeze and thaw cycles. Think expanded shale, ceramics, perlite, volcanic sand, clean bottom ash, coarse biochar, etc.
I have done a number of experiments and there is a lot of work published over the years on different porous materials being added to clay.
The trick is to add around 20 percent by volume when double digging. Then top cover with mulch only when soil is warm ( I plant potatoes at soil temp 43 F . I heavy mulch potatoes with soil temp above 60 F).

I also may have something for your soil temperature. You can add dark material such as black sand, biochar, etc. to the soil in spring to increase absorption.
Then apply mulch AFTER soil has reached desired temperature (43 F for potatoes). If you treat much with carbon like biochar you can also produce a dark mulch.
Think of adding ground charcoal to compost pile of leaves. The key in cold climates is dark surfaces that will absorb energy. You also have to watch how much mulch you use because of the cooling effect mulch can have.

You can likely grow radish so you may consider tiller radish. The radish will freeze in the soil holding space until the spring when it rots.
It also leaves the soil uncovered when the leaves freeze. So you do not have as much cooling like you do with other cover crops.
When you get a chance check out the different large radishes and turnips that can be used as cover crop. They may help with soil compaction.
 
Steven Fordahl
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Thank you so much Alex and Paulo for all of the information. You all have given me much to think on. Alex I will contact soil and water to see what is possible. When we put our driveway thru the peat bog to the west of the house we ran into a wall of red tape but finally did get approval. The excavators used a fabric base for the driveway materials like you had suggested for the chinampas beds. Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond to our post. I only hope one day that we will be able to help some one with what we have done that worked.
 
alex Keenan
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Steven,

When you talk to soil and water the two likely means to do anything is either habitat improvement or squaring a lot.
If you have alot of invasive plants in the wetlands that can be one factor. Cases of errosion is another. You may also look into raingardens to control runoff from roads and animals.
You may be able to add stumps and tree poles. I have read somewhere a person growing mushrooms in wetlands by using logs with one end buried in the much. The wetland provides the humidity needed. It may work with spruce and some type of oyster mushroom.
Finally you need to see what plants you can add. At the very least you may be able to get bog blueberries, moss berries, cranberries, salmon berries, etc. These are all low growing plants you can find on tundra.

Also you are likely to want to sign up for a mushroom foray at www.minnesotamushrooms.org
If you do not know your local mushrooms aready this would be a safe way to learn about mushrooms in your area.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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I am not a design specialist and my garden is in zone 4, not 3, so some of the plants would NOT be hardy there (some are marginally hardy here) but do check out my blog, it might give you a few ideas..link below.
 
Steven Fordahl
Posts: 9
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Thanks, Brenda, I will check it out.
 
Jeff Thorpe
Posts: 23
Location: Underhill, Vermont
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Steven,

Try Ben Falk at http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/ - Vermont isn't quite as cold as Minnesota, but Ben focuses on resiliency in design, maybe he can help you out.

 
Lindsay Rebhan
Posts: 4
Location: Minnesota Wisconsin Zone 2-5
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Hi Steven,

My colleague Paula and I have a permaculture design business. We are located in Minneapolis and work on urban and rural sites, including small farms and homesteads outside of the cities in MN/WI. The business is Ecological Gardens, it was started in 2000. Paula Westmoreland is the owner of Ecological Gardens, co-founder of PRI Cold Climate and co-author of Perennial Lands. Depending on how far away you are we could help you with site assessment, schematic property design, detail plant design, implementation phases, sourcing, etc. We have a Design Questionnaire on our website, if you want to fill it out and we could follow up.

Website: http://ecologicalgardens.com
Questionnaire: http://ecologicalgardens.com/what-we-do/getting-started

Yours in permaculture,
Lindsay
 
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