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Maddening - Am I spreading myself too thin?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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So I purchased some land over last summer and I have huge plans...I mean HUGE plans.. I got to the land in late July and lost about a month between traveling for internet access (work online) and waiting on closing (almost didn't happen!), then another month in leveling a site off the driveway for my rig (5th wheel camper trailer). It's just me doing the majority of the work.

The plans for this 13-14 acre parcel include several guilded food forests (walnut/hickory/pear forest, oak/apple/hazel forest, oak "fruit savanna", willow/persimmon wetlands, 1.5-2 acre pasture, and a pines/hemlock "acid lovers" forest). I'm also planning a few large ponds (2-4 acre feet each) and need to dig LOTS of drainage since the property is quite wet (top 8-12" is nearly solid clay). I'll be taking hemlocks from the land to build a fusion wofati/cabin incorporating a ziggarat type structure bermed with earth, leaving the southern wall (possibly cordword construction) exposed for a largish greenhouse.

So my dilemma and my torture right now is that there's literally so much to be done that I'm psyching myself out a bit Working on my to-do list for "before spring", I'm looking at clearing another 3 acres and felling around 50 hemlocks. Once the ground thaws, I need to prepare around 150 holes for bare root black locust, autumn olive and rosa rugosa. Going into the late spring and summer, I need to dig about a mile's worth of small drainage/ponds, clear another 3 acres of brush, build mounds for at least 30 fruit and nut trees, hand plant about 3 acres of three sisters (w/sunflowers) AND find time to get at least three hugel beds set up for planting table greens and tomatoes.

I'm doing the math and it looks like I need over 30 hours of daylight per day between now and June 1!

The questions: How the heck do you guys (and gals) do it? How do you not take on too much at once like this? With so much to be done, and so long between planting, say, a walnut and then harvesting that walnut, how do you succeed in not spreading yourself too thin? Being new to all this, I'm honestly and genuinely curious
 
gardener
Posts: 7499
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I think you should make getting trees in the ground your priority IF you'll have time to care for them. I would forgo brush clearing except for spots that are needed immediately. You've got so much on your plate that the brush might grow back before you get back to a particular area. Start one hugel mound and finish it. Start other small projects and finish them before starting another thing. You will accomplish whatever you accomplish. Don't waste time and money on a dozen starts. Start something and finish it. Only then should you move on.
 
pollinator
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Tristan Vitali wrote: How do you not take on too much at once like this?



You don't. You always have bigger plans than what you can accomplish. And as you accomplish things on your "to do" list, you cross them off and add more to the bottom. And the paper is never long enough for the complete list, so you append more pages to the bottom.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. And then you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's only when you look back that you see how much progress that you have made.
 
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Work parties! We try not to abuse our friendships, but they are excited to help in a concrete way for short bursts of time. Tree planting is a good activity, if you can get the holes dug ahead of time. Having a hard date when people will show up organizes the priorities really fast.

So does renting equipment--locate every hole you might want to dig ahead of time so when you have the backhoe on site, you can just bang them out.
 
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Pace yourself. I know, from personal experience, how easy it is to want to do everything all at once. Take it in manageable bites. Not every thing has to be done this year. I do agree with starting on things like trees first, though, since they take some time to grow and establish. Your understory plants can come as the upper story grow. Since you have defined the guilds you want to incorporate, plant what will be your over story trees first and give them a year to grow before starting on the next layer down. Doing this, you will give the guild a better chance at establishing and being successful. I would probably also focus on the ponds so that you have a chance to get them in and start to heal the land around them that has been disturbed. The microclimates they create too, will potentially have a significant impact on some of the other projects/guilds you will be working on.

Remember, Permaculture isn't about instant results. Take some time to make some changes and see how they impact your system. Maybe some of those observations will show you something you haven't thought of and take you on a side journey. Keep your plan flexible and listen to nature tell you what is appropriate.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1453
Location: northern California
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There is a lot to be said for simply sitting tight on a new spot and observing it for the bulk of an entire year. Set up the necessary systems for subsistence.....seems like you have that with the 5th wheel....and maybe some potentially temporary gardens, and then observe. (Hopefully you are not in debt or "land poor", and have enough saved to support yourself during this period.....this should be part of any land acquisition budget)
Use this time for intensive study and planning......mapping and contouring, species surveys, finding out what grows reliably in the region and the neighborhood (this is especially important for people moving from a distance, who are unfamiliar with the ecosystem), find out about local support groups of various sorts. More than once I have seen a site where a "type 1 error" or more than one, was made at the outset of settlement which becomes a pain in the butt forever after, based on a decision made in haste at the outset, just to have it done. A badly placed driveway. A house built on a hilltop, etc. I once did a consult on a parcel where we found an endangered native wildflower growing right where a garden was being planned.....and it was an ephemeral, only in bloom for a short time each year and at other times, invisible. Only by chance was I on site at the right time to spot it and recommend relocating the garden a short distance away....
 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The regrets I have are from rushing into things. If you screw up your mainframe water management, you will have big problems. You need to observe some rains and some dry seasons.

I see machinery rentals or hiring it out as smart money if you plan. Things will get done faster and cheaper if you use the right tool--and lower environmental impact because you are getting returns so much faster.
 
Posts: 398
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Many of us have been in the same circumstance! My high level advice would be:
1. Minimize effort in the destructive side and focus more on productive: Example: Don't go chopping down hemlocks until you are bursting out to use the space - who knows, in a year you might be wishing you had a bunch of hemlocks there instead, or you might come up with a new use for them like a pole building..
2. Don't skimp on effort when putting things in: Example: planting out 200 trees with no site prep, browse protection, or watering may end up yielding 0 trees in a few years. But planting out 20 trees with adequate care may yield 20 trees!
3. Have plans in place, both long and short term. If you're planting out oak trees for pasture pork, you're on a 20-year plan -- choose locations and other plantings carefully so you get the right progression in the right place. And always plan in your access roads and paths or you will feel silly cutting out your prime trees to gain access.
4. Plan out soing the right things in the right season to minimize work. Compared to digging out a big area of sod in Spring, laying out some smothering black plastic in Fall is far less effort. Use your advanced planning as a tool in saving labor time.
5. Be prepared to change your plan often! The more you grow and understand your land, the more your plan should chnage course..


Plans are nothing; planning is everything. - Dwight D. Eisenhower
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. -Theodore Roosevelt

 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Wow - thanks for the responses Taking on so much as just one person does seem like an impossible task and in a lot of ways it is. I do have help on the finishing and filling in as things progress (seeding/cover cropping, some lighter planting and animal care, plus those hot meals and clean clothes which are oh so necessary after a day of digging in the mud), but all the rough stuff is on me. I guess I just really feel like if I want this to happen, I need to focus on the big picture at all times: while out clearing brush (mostly 5-7yo aspens, birch and maple saplings) I'm careful to leave tall straight ones I want to grow in right and use most of the thicker cleared wood for fueling the RMH, I'm creating piles of twigs and branches with hugels in mind, and I'm leaving clumps and lines of hemlock and fir for wind/frost protection and heat traps. Each low spot that's large enough is marked in my mind as a potential frog pond, each rise is marked as a rose bush or apple tree...

I'm building a frame for a house in which nature will hopefully thrive, entire eco-systems from microbes and worms in the soil up through the layers of vegetation to the woodpeckers and chickadees that will live in the overstory. THIS is what I love about applying the permaculture principals - the idea that you're creating a truly holistic community in which not only yourself but all God's critters are taken care of Not only beautiful to look at, not only tasty to walk through, but something that will endure and become so much more than the work you put into starting it. I think that's the only reason I haven't dropped dead from exhaustion already!

On a limitless budget with plenty of people to help, right? In reality, I'm finding myself now trying to break the bigger projects up into sub-projects...Cut A and Cut B, each with its own time frame and purpose, named drainage systems (tamarak stream, blueberry pond, raspberry lane) each with its own set of sub-projects (cover cropping, nurse plants, etc). Building a garden of eden takes time, and tackling the whole thing in one fell swoop is definitely foolish. We need to stack function, not effort

One thing I'm thinking a lot about is bringing in animals sooner to help - a handful of goats in a 40x40ft square can tackle the brush a whole lot more efficiently than I can, creating meat and fertilizer from it, while I focus on getting something else crossed off the to-do list. I just worry that bringing in animals before we're ready for them would be counter-productive, resulting in me chasing goats half the day instead of getting things done!

John Elliott wrote:The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.



I think that quote is pretty much the embodiment of what we're all doing here. Already, in just the few months I was able to put a shovel in the soil, I was able to look back at what we arrived to (a flooded mucky driveway bordered by tall grasses and infested with mosquitoes) and realize that my efforts made a dramatic difference (7 frog ponds with aerating waterfalls, less than half the mosquitoes). Each shovel full of dirt will have a lasting impact on not only the 5 square feet in which it was dug but on the entire watershed, even if subtle, perhaps lasting longer than I do Each blueberry or black locust, each walnut or peach, each burdock or comfrey seed, will touch not only my life in the obvious ways but also those of countless microbes, insects and critters

I guess it boils down to making sure you make time to stop now and then to review what you've done...to see the forest for the tree for a change and to realize just how much of an impact what you're doing really has.

That coffee smells damn good!

Again - thanks for the replies. It's actually a comfort to know I'm not alone in facing the impossible
 
Posts: 1983
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I began my Permaculture journey with a terrible feeling of desperation. So much I wanted to do! Get the trees in the ground! Dig dig dig!

Phew. I've calmed down and made some good progress. It's going to take a while. I'm really glad I've taken time because I understand my property so much better now.

The above advice is good. Take time to observe the way the water wind sun wild animals etc move around. Meet local farmers, ask questions and listen to the answers carefully.

Work parties are great. Have you considered taking on wwoofers? Even if you just had tents for them it could work. If you have everything lined up and in place, two weeks with two sharp bright wwoofers can be amazing for someone used to working alone. Especially for large tedious tasks. If you're interested I can send you the application I send out to wwoofers.

It's so exciting to have the land! Best of luck. All will be well.
 
Posts: 21
Location: S.E. South Dakota
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Wise man once say: Slow down.. The race is long, and in the end, its only with yourself.. Now what I say is enjoy the experience, dont be in a big rush to get it all done immediately. Im not sure how long you have been able to survey this land, but some would attest that you need at least 3 years to asses the situation and observe the lay of the land. Learn its shade, its moist spots, its dry spots etc etc..
 
pollinator
Posts: 909
Location: Longbranch, WA
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" each burdock or comfrey seed"

I recommend against anything with burrs. I have a dock plant that doesn't have burrs If I find a seed head I will send you some but may not be till fall.
Comfrey is usually started from root cuttings not seed, Usually pencil sized pieces. Plan carefully because If you dig them op every tiny piece that breaks off when digging them will regrow.

Both comfrey and dock should do good in your clay soil. The dock will be biannual possibly triennial but no problem if you dig it up.


Experience in Fort Kent Maine with clay soil. We needed a water well. The back hoe man said no problem. He dug down 16 feet all gray clay with visible seams of water traveling through it. With a layer of gravel in the bottom and a stack of cement rounds 4x4foot diameter and surrounded by gravel. The next morning it was filled with water almost to the surface and we cold not pump it down faster than it refilled.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Thanks Hans - we actually have a lot of curly dock seed we collected last year, some that's already been planted last fall and some going in this spring. It's one of my favorite wild edibles I was a little shocked it wasn't already here on the land while it's common along the roadsides, but with a mostly brush and reedy grass phase going on, guess it just didn't have the right place to gain a foothold. Looking over the old satellite shots and aerial photos, the majority of the property was in a mostly evergreen pine/hemlock/fir growth before this last cut, then mostly cedar and hardwoods before the "first cut" back in the 50s or 60s (first cut in quotes since I have no idea if it was cut again before that).

With the burdock, I'm planning to place it carefully into the "Oak Forest" areas where I'll be keeping a close eye on it - we don't want it to become a problem, but the biomass accumulation and other benefits (edible, medicinal, dynamic accumulation, clay-busting tap root, etc) weighed in just enough to give it a shot. Definitely hope it doesn't become a problem considering it's so tough to get rid of. Same with the comfrey - we're going with a fertile seed variety and hoping for the best. We *want* it to spread about quite a bit, but if it becomes a problem....

The clay on the property is mostly a light brown/tan clay that fires to reddish, but there's that awful gray bentonite layer on the top few inches that makes everything a mess to start with. The erosion on the site from bad logging practices was terrible. I've only dug down about 5 or 6 feet so far and haven't hit a sandy or gravely layer yet, but while digging one pond I came across an old stream bed that ran through the property before the "first cut" and that was definitely gritty and gravely. The bed was a good 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep of dark brown to black gravel and grit. Breaking through into that layer, things were bone dry which surprised me, but seems almost all our ground water is trapped above 3 feet by the clay (and a huge majority above 6" by that bentonite layer).
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
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That old stream bed may be a hugely useful discovery. Ere is a thread about sepp holzer creating springs by taking advantage of barrier layers and natural water flows. Your stream bed is a natural channel for your ground water to follow, if you can get it through your clay layers.

I strongly recommend looking at Sepp's work in this regard to see what you can apply on your property.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Peter Ellis wrote:That old stream bed may be a hugely useful discovery. Ere is a thread about Sepp Holzer creating springs by taking advantage of barrier layers and natural water flows. Your stream bed is a natural channel for your ground water to follow, if you can get it through your clay layers.

I strongly recommend looking at Sepp's work in this regard to see what you can apply on your property.



Now that is cool - I'll definitely look into that. I was remarking just the other night that I spend all this time trying to re-invent the wheel, coming up with something nearly genius, then suddenly remember "oh yeah, this is how Sepp does it" and feel like a fool
 
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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Tristan - I can relate to you very well. There is so very much I want to do on my corner of the world and winter ground much of it to a halt. Perhaps it's rest for the weary. Now that spring has returned I'm out there plugging away...a 25 year old trapped in a 60 year old body. I realize that not everything I WANT to do will probably get done. So I focus first on the things I NEED to do, then just keep chopping away at the somewhat prioritized wish list as if it was a big ole redwood. Planning and organization helps. If you can afford it, what can you hire to get done. You might get a couple of high school kids to work for the summer for a reasonable rate and a win-win. In any case, you can't expect a 10 year plan to unfold in a single season. Pace yourself and just keep plugging away and when you turn around and look back, you'll be surprised how much you got done.
Best wishes!
 
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