Please let me apologise if I am posting this in the wrong place.
Here is my background:
- Just purchased a 27 acre farm in Elizabeth, IL
- Property splits about half hardwood forest and half ag
- Last few years the ag has been in alfalfa and soy
- Property has quite steep contours. The forest goes about 150 ft top to bottom, but is readily accessible via a cleared path. However, there are many downed trees to remove.
So here we go. My question is, where to start...
So many things that I want to do, but only limited time. I am there every weekend, but I work in finance (it's not a 9-5 either).
Here's what I want to do this year:
- Start vegetable patch. I was thinking of starting off on an acre. I have read Ben Falk's book, and probably wanted to look at building some swales into the land given the sharp slope.
- I want to get some fruit trees going
- i have a big decision to make right now. The land is currently rented out. I need to decide what I do with this. Farmer wants to go corn this year.
What books do I need to read. Is there somewhere on the forum to start.
Sorry I know I seem quite scattered in my thoughts.
Unless you need the income, I wouldn't let the farmer grow corn. I'd find some local kid that would be willing to raise chickens or pigs in a Joel Salatin-style set-up and start healing the land. Skip the one acre vegetable patch as that will take up all your weekends all summer long and you won't have time for anything else. Start with 100-500 sqft if you really want vegetables this year. The first thing you want to do is any earthworks that need to be done, ponds (build at least one as high up on the property as you can) and swales, and then I'd focus mainly on getting orchards going.
I think it is too late for you to back out of the rent for this year, most ag states have a late fall or 1/1 deadline for cancelling rent for the next year. Farmers have to pre-order supplies and often prep the ground in the fall. Even if it isn't the law, it is better to work together for a solution.
Getting him to not do roundup would be a huge success.
Tom's idea is fine for next year. Or your farmer to start a hay crop.
You veggies will not survive the deer unless you are there 24/7 and even then they may win
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
R Scott has a good point about working collaboratively with the farmer. We bought our 10-acre place and found that the previous owner had an agreement with a neighbor who could come over and cut and bale the hay in return for keeping the other areas of the property brush cut and looking nice. The neighbor has goats for some of the hay and sells the rest. Since we bought the property in Dec. the guy baling the hay already had plans for the hay that following summer. It would have been a crappy thing in my opinion to not keep the former arrangement since it was mid year like that. Besides, it helped me make good neighbors with the guy who cuts the hay ... he's since helped me a lot with his big tractor and front-end loader with a few things and he was more than happy to help because he knows he was getting the hay from me. As Wendell Berry put it, we must be good neighbors on this planet.
What this did was allow me to focus on getting my polyculture orchards going and start my earthworks in swale building and planning where the pond will be. I'm not an experienced permaculture practitioner, but the one thing that I would recommend is to spend more time in observation than you think you really need. Become so intimate with your land that you know when it hiccoughs or burps. Observe, observe, observe. From my one-year of experience in the start of coverting 10 acres of pasture into a prennially producing food forest, I have found that observation is way under rated and I could have stood for a bit more time in observation before taking my first action. Upon hindsight, I would have been better off simply spending time out on the land and making careful observation of everything: water flow through the landscape (including my neighbors'), wind tendancies, solar angles and shadows, wildlife patterns, etc. I also have learned not to trust my eyes when trying to understand the topography. I now use a water level (two tall stakes and a 20-foot clear tube of water attached between them) to help me find actual contour lines. Maybe others have a better eye than I do, but now my contour lines are determined within 1/2-inch tolerance.
So, put shortly, OBSERVE!!!
If I had 12-13 acres of woods as you have, I'd seriously consider running hogs.
I agree with a lot of your suggestions. The biggest one being to take a step back.
I am going to get a pro in to come and give me some advice. I have a really respected guy in the perma field that I've been introduced to and trying to get him to come out to the place. Fingers crossed...
Not sure where in Ill. you are, Andrew, but that's where Midwest Permaculture is located (Stelle, Ill., which I guess is a bit north of Champaign). Here's their website URL: http://midwestpermaculture.com/ They do PDC there and have a collection of videos and other information at their website.