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question about becoming a nomadic permie/homesteader/starting a stealth food forest

 
Emily Aaston
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Location: montana
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My partner and I are in the place now where we are working, saving our money, and tryng to live like paupers in order to buy land soon and get started. We work seasonally for the park service and move at least every 6 months. This limits our ability to root down, but we pretend we are on a farm and source local food, ferment, and geek out on permaculture books. I have decided recently that I want to take it a step further now by growing as much as possible, composting, etc. We move at the end of May to Grand Teton NP where we will have a small cabin and are planning a great experiment, to see if we can come into a new place and start a mini homestead within a week that will last us 5 months. We plan to ransack local recycling centers to find containers, set up a vermiculture box, start our ferments, and the big new one will be trying to create a permaculture food forest container garden. We will be on government land, so will not be able to start a full garden, but we have about 40 packets of heriloom seeds and want to see what we can grow in 5 months. We are doing a lot of research, but need some Permie advice. Can we create a container food forest in 5 months? Although we will have to leave after 5 months, we may be able to gift some plants before we leave. We need help! What should we grow? It is a Zone 4a and on a recent website I've found it said that Teton had "no growing season" so it will be a challenge. Anyway, help us create a nomadic stealth container garden food forest! Thank you.
 
Michael Milligan
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I don't think it can be done. Mainly, it's called Permaculture for a reason. Moving it around destroys the whole process of being permanent, adapted to climate, developing the soil (which you can't do in containers).

Container gardening can be done, obviously, but it is by its very nature the highest input growing fashion there is.

Perhaps with each move you can find some local permies and hang out at their place a lot! lol


 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Since you are a nomad, why not focus on wildcrafting and hunting and making cool handwork stuff to trade with the more grounded peasants?
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Emily, I spent two years living just north of the park. It is a tough area to grow but can be done. You will have more like two or three months if you plant outdoors and it can snow at anytime. We had a good snowstorm on the 4th of July once! So place the containers on the south side of the cabin. hot houses and greenhouses from old windows will help. Be ready to cover tender plants everynight . It can get cold there at night all year. Start plants indoors if you have room.
Wildcrafting is a good idea. There are lots of edibles in those forests.
 
Emily Aaston
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Location: montana
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Yes, you are right. We will not be able to create a permanent agriculture in a container garden in 5 months. But I still want to grow things, so I will still try out a container garden using permaculture principles, if I can. That is, I would like to find larger containers so I can grow many things in one container, and have different sizes to create layers. I guess I will have to come up with a new name like "nomadaculture". And definitely hang out with any Permies in the area, and forage. We always look for berries and edible mushrooms on forest service land but could expand our foraging. I am still curious to find out what to plant, but I will try a lot and see what works, I guess. Thanks!
 
Emily Aaston
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Location: montana
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Thanks Miles! Great advice. We will have to be vigilant and see what will grow. Do you have any recommendations for particular plants to try?
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Any colder zone stuff. lettuce, beets, potatoes, strawberries, peas, stuff like that.
 
Dave Jacke
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Emily, this is a tough question for a tough environment. But I have heard of folks building a trailer and pulling their garden behind them when they move! Windscreening is a must in that case. But lots of energy to pull a trailer of you are going far--probably not that great on a net energy basis. Though it could be pretty cool!

Annuals are probably more worth the effort than perennials--you can get a higher yield in a short time. Digging perennials and moving them reduces production.

Nonetheless, some of the perennials I think are best for container gardening would include alpine strawberries, for sure, and perhaps even one or two fully dwarf or columnar apples or pears--these can be grown in pots and moved *relatively* easily. If you make the pot the right size, it will be movable (perhaps with a hand truck), and you will have room for alpine strawbs, maybe some Profusion french sorrel (never goes to seed, produces greens all year; see Richters.com), a few Rebecca or Little David violets (delicious!), some miner's lettuce, and maybe an akebia vine growing up the fruit tree, all in one pot. A fun little traveling polyculture . . . and I'm sure with more time you could think of other good options.

Peace and blessings, send me a picture if you do something similar to this!

d
 
Emily Aaston
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Location: montana
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Thanks Dave! This gives us some great ideas to play with. Can't wait to see what happens, and we'll post pictures. We will have to use your model and come up with other mini container food forest ideas as well. If we upgrade to a bigger vehicle we may try the mobile food forest idea as well.
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Emily, if you can find or buy some largish plastic tubs (like rubbermaid) and drill holes in the bottom and lower sides for drainage and air, you could fill with a lightweight soil mix like for square foot gardens with lots of vermiculite, to reduce the weight of the container. You could even fill the bottom with some shipping peanuts for extra drainage and to reduce the weight further. Then you could scatter some of your seeds in a polyculture of mustard types, salad greens, herbs like dill and parsley, a few beets, chard, kale, and a cabbage or broccoli, etc, you could likely harvest greens over the summer, especially if you buy some clear containers the same size to use as a mini-greenhouse to cover at night. or on cloudy days. Maybe use a stick to just prop the top open on cool but sunny days.

Or you could do something similar with recycled pots (like from large potted trees) but it is a bit harder to cover those, though still possible. Or if you can find some old 2x boards, of whatever size, you could nail them together and make a bed, then just take it apart and scatter the soil when you have to leave.

Don't try to use regular dirt in containers, it packs down and is too hard for the plant roots, so a mix of peat, compost, and vermiculite seems to work better in container gardens.

Don't plant too thick, Toby Hemenway said about 1 seed every 2 inches is about right for a polyculture, then pull out plants to thin so they aren't too crowded. You can cut the bottom inch off green onions you buy and stick the bottom into your "planter" as well, and be able to snip off green leaves to use in stir-fries etc. I read that you can do that with celery, too, but mine haven't done much growing.
 
leila hamaya
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my first thoughts about what to plant are greens of all kinds- lettuce, arugula, spinach, mizuna.....chard, and brassicas- broccoli, kale, and cabbage/etc because they are ok in cold, have shallow roots and dont take much nutrients or fussing to grow and produce food almost immediately....and then keep producing abundantly for your little effort....

these all do ok in containers too, even smaller pots. maybe start off with a garden that is for salads...start the greens and then start adding things you would want in a salad alongside it...some edible peas....maybe some carrots, beets if you like them....nasturtiums are interesting edibles, but they like lots of water......within a few weeks you should be able to start harvesting at least some food. these are just plants i like, you should obviously figure out what you want to eat and like and if and how to grow it in your climate.

i like the rubbermaid idea, i have a couple of containers just like that from some free plastic tubs i manifested. its not the most aesthetically pleasing but it actually works great. i ran out of room for potatoes so i starting filling a couple of those up...the potatoes in there actually do a LOT better than the big potato beds i have in the ground.

and yeah this is a bit off to the side of "permaculture" or food forest, that just takes a lot of time in one place...but i personally wouldnt let it stop you ...i havent let it stop me from planting long term gardens in places where i thought i wouldnt be long term....i suppose you need to choose plants that have a good chance of self perpetuating. and be the rare kind of soul who is willing to plant a bunch of stuff they might not get to eat, but just for the land and wild creatures, or future humans. perhaps start some nut trees that like your climate, these wouldd be popular wildlife foods later on....or you could move some of them to your next place.

look for self seeders, or hardy perennial plants that can grow without human input, things that grow like weeds and are useful/edible...then hope that you can get them going well enough to continue to self perpetuate even after you leave.

some examples off the top of my head- red clover, chammomile, any mallow/hollyhock/hibiscus, borage, strawberries/any berry, thimbleberry or any ribes/rubus- currants and such...miners lettuce, any arugula, even kale...i have seen kale naturalize itself and self seed....growing like a wild kale tree =) at least here where its warmer. and maybe you wont get to enjoy harvesting all of it before you leave, but if youre ok with just doing it anyway, just go for it and see what happens.

potatoes, garlic, and onions are all really easy and do ok in colder areas...but they do take the better part of a year to finish up. in the meantime though you can pull them up and eat them immature, or at least i do sometimes, plus eat the chives from the onions/garlic/leeks. egyptian walking onions are very cool, and have a shot of continuing for a long time after you left for whoever else later on.....

another obvious thought is to go about in the woods where the cabin is and find out about the local plants that grow there that are useful and edibles....take cuttings and gather seeds when you can and grow them.... move them close to your spot.

you might also look into making some hotbeds, with straw...or especially with straw bales. you dont have to use straw bales to get the hotbed effect, but its a good idea and raises them up higher.....just using tons of straw, maybe manure if you have some available, makes the bed hot....as the straw decomposes it heats up from the inside of the soil. maybe thats a little less stealth style, but perhaps with some larger containers, like big found wooden boxes or crates or something you make...you could fill them with a lot of straw and a little manure for this effect and then top it off with some kind of bag soil.
 
Emily Aaston
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Location: montana
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Thank you everyone for the great suggestions. I look forward to experimenting this summer and hope to gain the experience I need to be able to grow food wherever I am until I get some land and can implement all things permaculture! I am sure I will have more questions, and will post updates as the summer progresses. Any more input is welcome!
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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You could also take a look at the ipermies ebook discussed on another thread. He has several chapters about how to "permaculture" a kitchen, grow sprouts, microgreens, and other ways to practice permaculture ideas, even without having any land.
 
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