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Just bought ourselves a homestead. What do you guys think of my plan?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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Me and my girlfriend are in the process of purchasing about 20 acres in upstate NY. Knox specifically, a small rural town about 20 miles from Albany. I had kind of always wanted a big yard and liked gardening but the idea really catalyzed for me after I read "What a Way to Live and Make a Living: The Lyman P. Wood Story" so we ended up buying this land which actually used to be my great grandmothers.

Here is a picture of some of the land, pink is the property line:





The orange boxed areas on the bottom are areas which I plan on clear cutting in the spring and probably not this year but maybe next, putting in some small corn or wheat fields and it is divided into thirds so that I can rotate crops out with livestock pasture to keep the soil in good condition. I also need to cut the trees down since they block out sun for the green squiggles just above which is the location of this coming seasons vegetable garden and to get more sunlight to that green box just off the house which I will be tearing down our small garage and replacing it with a partially sunken bioshelter about 15x30ft, hopefully as a project for later on in the summer. With the tiny orange boxes next to that being a pen for chickens and rabbits.

The blue circle off the the left is a pond which actually already exists although I might try to put some ducks over there, not sure what i'm going to do with that area yet besides heavily thin out the tree cover around that area. In the area just above that which is currently already a field I would like to plant a couple of apple and mulberry trees for the south half, we already have 3 mulberry tress on the edge of the field. Then plant blueberries and raspberries and maybe grapes on the north half, we already have tons of wild black raspberries growing there with no input from us so they should be easy to improve.

And off the picture is a large amount of forested land. At some point I would like to clear a few areas and plant a few walnut and white oak trees for nut production. There are a handful of hickory trees although I have only found 2 so far that yield palatable nuts, both of them are shagbarks.

As of now the timeline for implementing stuff is kind of like this:

Land clearing, Vegetable garden, Bioshelter, chickens maybe like 12-15 of them: Before the end of 2014

Apple & Mulberry trees, Rabbits: sometime in 2015

Nut trees, grapes, berry patch: 2016ish



I'm curious as to roughly how much of our food needs a cultivated area this size could potentially meet? As of now its just the two of us but I would like to have extra of some things to give away and we aren't really going to be depending on this for survival. And hopefully there will be enough hours in the day for maintaining all of this as well, as it is now I'm self employed and work about 35 hours a week and my girlfriend works full time although that wont be necessary once she has finished paying off student debt within the next couple years or so. I have a Troybilt rototiller, a restored 1947 Farmall A which I could use for our small grain field, and a 1987 Jeep Comanche which has proved useful around the yard so far. Otherwise I would like to rely on human power for the rest of the work.

Also wondering if anyone has any interesting suggestions we could try? Our goal is to meet at least 80% of our food needs and and about 80% of our home heating fuel needs from the land which we live on. Id say those goals are at least 10 years away but that's not going to stop me from jumping right in this year.
 
Posts: 230
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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I have a similar property though I have not done nearly as much planning and goal setting as you have. Kudos! It looks like you've got a great start to your permaculture adventure. I can say that we got ducks right away due to the pond on our property. We've had them almost 4 years now and have been very happy with them even if we have had to learn how to keep them free ranging despite the predator pressure where we live in NW Vermont.
 
pollinator
Posts: 167
Location: NE Ohio (Zone 6a, on the cusp of 6b) 38.7" annual precip
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Hi Ian!

Welcome to permies!!! So glad you are here!!!

What a beautiful-looking piece of land you have there! And I think it's pretty nice that you are bringing / keeping this land "in the family" again.

So nice, too, that you included a pic of your plans.

The first thing that comes to mind, is what's what with your water and contours of your land?
And personally, I would want to know that, before I did changes in trees on the land. Because it might change what I did in that regard.

Here's a few things I would be thinking about:
- In upstate NY, near Albany, you presumably have lots of rain and snow.
- And you have an existing pond.
- So, that all points to your presumably having good water supply. But let's keep (figuratively) digging...
- Do you have a well? Does it ever run dry? (I've seen that happen even on a lush piece of property in upstate NY.)
- Do you have any springs / creeks on the property?
- Where are the high points and low points of your property?
- As you may know, a common planning step is to consider the water and land contours early on, and then ask yourself: would my land benefit from capture of water up higher on the land, and then slowing it down, and winding it through parts of the property, to hold more of it in the soil, before it leaves my property?

How to think that through? I learned that in geoff lawton's PDC. But methods of that are in a lot of permaculture books.

Your plan incorporates a lot of observation about plants and trees already thriving on your land, which I find totally cool.

Also, I'd be looking in my woods for ginseng plants. You may not be interested in ginseng harvest and nurturing, but it's a potential resource.
Here's a post I did, that includes resources about that:
http://www.permies.com/t/26855/eastern-usa/Permaculture-resources-ve-York-Pennsylvania

And, here is a thread from a few years back, with folks chiming in with resources for upstate NY:
http://www.permies.com/t/11499/eastern-usa/acres-NY-resources-information

You asked about how much area you'd need to meet your food needs. This comes up a lot. Here's one thread where it's discussed:
http://www.permies.com/t/11714/permaculture/acres-good-starting-point-permaculture

Best wishes!
Mariamne


 
Ian Taylor
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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Thanks, and no we definitely have no issues with rain, we consider it a real drought if it doesn't rain for like 2 weeks here. And we do have a well and as far as I know it has never run dry and comes up with good quality drinkable water. The ponds (there is another one back in the woods) don't hold a ton of water and are kind of out of the way to use as an irrigation source I think though, they are only like 1-2 feet deep and maybe 15-20 feet around and almost but not quite dry up in a drought. As far as springs there are a couple but nothing that I know of that produces water steadily, most of them just flow for a few days after a rainstorm.

So as far as irrigation I will be using rainwater collection off the house and bioshelter, I was planning on getting like a 1500gal tank to keep in the greenhouse as a heat mass and I can keep our rainwater in it, I think that size should about cover at least the bioshelter with a little extra in case we need to irrigate anything in the vegetable garden. Then I can still use the well if I really have to, I don't think there will be a huge irrigation demand up here though, where we live is on a small plateau at the north ridge of the Catskill mtns, about 1000ft higher than the Albany/Schenectady/Troy area. I used to have a small 30x30 garden down in the valley in Albany and between the fact that it rains slightly less there and the sandy soil it was easy for stuff to dry out if it didn't rain for a week. Up here though it seems to be slightly wetter and we have somewhat clay soil, its rare that the soil dries out more than an inch or so down around here.

As far as elevation the area immediately around the house and the areas south are fairly flat, a very gradual slope downhill to the north, which isn't exactly ideal but its not much of a slope, I dont think we lose 5 feet between the south property line and the house. To the north from my driveway however the slope gets much steeper which is the main reason I didn't want to bother planting anything over on that side, pretty serious northern exposure. Because of that I think I am somewhat limited as far as having gravity fed irrigation since I pretty much have to garden on the uphill, southern side of the house.

I didnt know that about ginseng plants, as far as foraging all I have gotten so far are wild berries/grapes, wild thyme and hickory nuts, ill have to look in the spring.

Also another question, the plan for the bioshelter was mostly to provide small fresh winter greens and vegetables and I wanted to try a small fish farm, but I also reserved like half of the space for some dwarf avocado trees and dwarf citrus. Has anyone had much luck with these semi warm weather plants in a colder climate like this? Our winter temps tend to average in the single digits at night through the coldest part of winter with -10 or -15 being the coldest we are likely to see in a year. I was planning on heating it with a 2 way air exchange vent to the house with the idea being I could heat the house on sunny but cool spring and fall days as well as somewhat heat the greenhouse with the warm air from the house in winter. The idea was also to sink the greenhouse into the ground 2 feet so the earth can act as a year round heat sink keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It will be about 15x30 and I figured out with an azimuth chart and a protractor that once a lot of the trees I plan to clear are gone it should get about 80% of the available days sun on the winter solstice. I'm just wondering how hard it will be though to keep it above 40-45 to keep the fish and citrus plants alive all winter.

And thanks ill check everything out. We have been thinking about ducks but my main concern was the same as yours, i'm afraid they would just get eaten since their pond is too small to really flee from anything.
 
Posts: 53
Location: Northern New Mexico
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Hi Ian, and welcome,

Seems an ambitious (that's good!) and interesting plan. A couple of answers to questions you asked. On growing most of your food. John Jeavons has been formulating his "Grow Biointensive" method of annual vegetable growing for a couple of decades. He calculates in "How To Grow More Vegetables" that you can grow all the food needed by one person on 4000 square feet.

I'm busily designing a solar hot water powered radiant root zone heating system for a greenhouse and so in the midst of learning about heat loss, Btu's etc. AFC Greenhouses has a couple of heating loss/requirement calculators. I plugged in figures based on average low temp.s in Albany and a 30'x15' greenhouse covered with a single layer of PE plastic, no allowance for partial burial. the answer was 203 gallons of propane for six months of heating 450 square feet of greenhouse to 40 degrees. Not suggesting you should get one of their propane heaters for the job, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the amount of heat you'll have to add to your system to meet your goals. I would suggest looking at subterranean heating and cooling, pushing hot moist air through hundreds of feet of 4" pvc buried beneath your greenhouse to store heat during the day and pulling heated air back out at night.
 
Posts: 1753
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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When it comes to just plants trying to manage more than 2 acres without machinery is not a good idea.
How much acres do you need to clear to only feed your family veggies and perennials aka no grains.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: northern California
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I always remind new homesteaders of the importance of taking sufficient time for observation and planning at the outset. Admittedly this is difficult given youthful ambitions, much less the desire/need to produce food/income from the site ASAP.
But the literature (I believe it may even be in the Designer's Manual) recommends devoting the entire first year mostly to observation, research, and planning. Ideally permaculture is heavy on this and short (compared to high-energy conventional farming and even organic farming) on action. The goal is to find the leverage points where a comparatively small intervention will lead to large and lasting benefit (such as locating where to site a pond or swale in the landscape to capture maximum runoff as high and usefully as possible) Unless you are a very experienced designer, these points can be hard to discern in a walk-through, or even several. Time and again I've seen a site burdened by one or more "type 1 errors"....mistakes in layout and design that are pains in the butt forever afterwards. (a badly laid out, eroding driveway is near the top of the list, as well as a building site on a hilltop)
Especially if there is forest on the site that is anywhere near maturity, you would be well advised to devote some time....say a thorough walk and survey once a week during the growing season...to identify and familiarize yourself with the species on site, their niches and associations, etc. This is all the more important for people moving onto land from a distance, who are unfamiliar with local plants and ecosystems. One memorable recall pointing up the value of this was a consultation we did where during out walkabout I discovered an endangered native wildflower growing right near the site of a proposed garden clearing. Being an ephemeral, it was only in bloom for a short time, and otherwise difficult to discern, much less identify. Merely by chance I was there at the right time and place to see it, and so we were able to relocate the garden site a short distance away. Even things like edible mushrooms are often mycorhizal and come up in the same areas year after year, and once again, clearing these might deprive you of an important foraging and even income yield, when the clearings might be designed for mushroom-free areas nearby....
 
Ian Taylor
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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I agree very much with the sentiment of taking our time to observe the land, we actually already have though, we have lived here for about a year now. I was kind of all over the place as far as planning when we moved in, time has given us some focus on what to do. I would hesitate to clear the land although there isn't any "natural" ecosystem I will be disrupting in this particular case, there are scattered patches around the house and in the woods that are what best can be described as a red pine tree farm. In the 1960's there must have been some sort of subsidy for planting trees on unused land because there are red pines and pitch pines planted in neat rows on about 10 of our 20 acres. They are planted so close together that they crowd each other out and are just tall spindly things with a little tuft of needles at the top. Luckily they are at least straight so I can use them as construction lumber or sell them to use as telephone poles.

This picture isnt my mine exactly but looks almost exactly the same:



The rest besides the small clearing near the house is wild growth which began sometime around that point, with a few ancient sugar maple and red oak trees scattered around which presumably used to make up the old hedgerows between fields. Since most of this isn't a diverse natural forest I figure the ecosystem only stands to improve by thinning them out and letting some gently managed wild growth retake some of the areas. As far as mushrooms I wish we had more wild ones but in my extensive exploration of the property I have found very few, I found one giant puffball although it was unfortunately a little overripe to eat.

And we do have have machinery, I have a Farmall A and a rototiller, the vegetables I would do by hand just because its not much easier using a tractor unless you are doing a fairly large area. It takes too long to set up everything for only doing like a couple thousand sq feet of garden and I don't have much desire to grow enough excess to be worth selling.

I'll look into the geothermal heating, I think for the purposes of building at this point it will probably overrun my budget though, I only want to spend like 2500ish on the bioshelter and considering our heat is almost free in the house (Since I have a nearly unlimited supply of wood to heat with, in addition to our 20 acres my grandfather owns an adjoining 80 which I have access to), as is i'm not worried if it becomes a bit of a drag on the house to heat. It should insulate a bit better than the example too, i'm going to use twin wall poly with an insulated north wall abutting part of the house so there actually should be next to zero heat loss on that side, possibly even a gain. Plus the fact that its sunken I think I can do a bit better than that, we don't even use that much heating our whole house for the winter.

Thanks for the help, I think i'll make a thread in the project section, just saw that it exists.
 
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Just a quick thought...you mentioned that your ponds are not very deep. Have you thought of dredging them out a bit? One, it would give you more water storage and allow for more fish diversity options if you want to stock them and the material that you dredge out of them would be like a gold mine of nutrients, allowing a unique soil building opportunity (maybe even for the beds in your bioshelter that you will be developing).
 
Ian Taylor
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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You know that had never occurred to me. Despite being pretty difficult to do (i'll have to dredge them by hand) I think its a great idea to possibly get some super nutrient rich material, Ill see about doing that in the spring.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1126
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Ian, it looks like a great place. And since you already have some experience and skills, you should do pretty fine.

Just some things to think about.....
If your goal is to produce 80% of your food, that should be do-able as long as you can preserve the bounty in some fashion. Freeze. Dry. Can. Pickle.
Plus you may need to adjust your diet. We had to do that when we developed our homestead. Our dependence upon fast food, prepared foods, non-local foods had to be severed. Our meals gradually changed over to home cooked, made from scratch, created around what the garden/farm had available. Thus we gradually eliminated store bought foods and weaned ourselves away from our addictions to soda, candy, breads, etc. Over time we developed new tastes, learning to eat things that we had never done previously. But they were things that we could grow or raise.

Some of the difficult things for me to figure out were which crops to grow and how much of them. While radishes are so easy to grow, we didn't particularly like to eat them initially. Same with several other veggies. I had to come up with new recipes and be creative. Then the question was how much did I need to grow. In the beginning I grew either far too much or far too little. Once I got a handle on it, I was able to grow just about everything we needed with enough excess to use for trading. The same issues pertained to our protein sources: eggs, chickens, fish, lambs.

We trade most of our excess for things that we don't produce ourselves, such as beef, pork, milk, cheese, and certain fruits.

I find that growing most our own food is time consuming. Store bought is far easier and quicker. But I prefer to live a more basic lifestyle.
 
Posts: 1944
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Ian,

Nice to see people starting out and making grand plans. As you are fairly new to the forums you might not have seen some of the better inspirational resources around and about. My first impressions are that you are staying rather close to conventional crop rotation systems - one of the great appeals of permaculture is that there are many alternative approaches that are simply not available to conventional farming.

Take a look at Geoff Lawton's videos, in particular the one entitled property purchase check list - he goes far beyond a simple checklist and does essentially a quick walkthrough of permaculture planning a new site (second half of the video). It is quite eye opening and an different insight might be helpful. He is posting new videos quite regularly at the moment and his email list updates when new ones are out. You'll get a feel for the importance of considering slopes and water flows in your landscape. While you mention that there is already a pond you might find that making a new one higher up the hillside is useful for gravity feed irrigation.

Read up on hugelculture beds. These use buried large diameter logs at the base of a planting bed to increase fertility, water retention, etc and make lots of interesting niches for different species. I'm not an expert on them, but it sounds like you will certainly have the raw material on hand to make plenty of beds. There are one or two large scale commercial hugelculture establishments.

There are many different ambitions in permaculture, but one of them is generally to move away from annual food crops which need intensive planting and management towards perennials that, once established, can be productive for years and years. Species depend on your climate etc... but with the effort that it would take to plant one field of annuals you could establish a food forest that keeps on giving year after year. An added benefit in your case is you could leave the old pine stumps in place and just work around them as you wouldn't need to plough the soil. I don't think was can get totally away from annuals at the moment, but in time we may breed more perennial species that can provide us with some of our staples.

The was a great comment that stuck in the mind which (I think!) should be attributed to sepp holzer. When discussing the best way to deal with a blackberry problem Sepp said "Let the pigs eat it". The follow up was "what if I don't have pigs?" Sepp's response - "Then you must do the pigs work". I'm not suggesting that you rush out and get pigs but you will probably find that integrating some kind of livestock into your systems actually helps. I'm planning a major expansion of annual vegetable beds, but I struggle to find time to prepare the soil, weed beds, mow around them etc... I want to run chickens through the area for 12 months with plenty of deep woodchips and add the compost to their run. When they are done I hope/expect splendid soil, an absence of weeds (especially the bindweed) and increased fertility due to the chicken poo. The hens pay me in eggs while they do the work for me.

I know you mention wanting to keep chickens and rabbits - but have you thought how they are going to work for you in your system or are they another drain on your time. Can you trade your time looking after them for less time spent preparing beds/weeding etc... This is a snippet of a Geoff Lawton video where he integrates chickens into his land development process to make a food forest.



All the best and good luck! I'm envious that you are in a position to start this. It is going to be at least 2 years before I'm on my own land.

Mike
 
Ian Taylor
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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This is a pretty cool forum, its rare that I post something and get so many well thought out responses, thanks.

Yeah I feel like we are moving along pretty quickly, I'm actually only 22 years old and we have lived here for a year already.

I have seen a couple of Geoff Lawton's videos and I do like his whole system for the food forests, although here in upstate NY there is a much more limited number of perennial edible and good tasting crops than most of the locations he works on. The food forests also seem to take a long while to get established, especially in a climate like this where growth can be slow since for 5 mos a year there is little or no plant growth. I do plan on trying to implement them to some degree though to produce acorns and other nuts. I plan on clear cutting most of our red pine plantation and then trying to establish some nut and a few fruit trees in their place, that's kind of a long term plan though and there really aren't enough trees or perennials native to this zone to provide a huge portion of our diet and most of them wont start producing for many years.

He also seems to do a lot with irrigation planning although I don't think that applies very much here either. We get plenty of rainfall and our soil has excellent water retention, bordering on too well actually. From my experience in this area its rare that anything has to be watered once it gets established or if it does only very little. I guess I will find out but I anticipate the roof runoff from the greenhouse and regular house being stored should meet most of our needs.

And as far as adjusting our diet, that is the plan. One of the biggest reasons I want to do all of this is for health and a having a more balanced/less processed diet. We could potentially just buy all of these same things from a farmers market and trade for fresh food but I prefer to do things myself. I enjoy large scale gardening so i'm not upset if I have to spend 3-4 hours a day working on it, Its not like I have something better do with my time hahah.

As far as preservation I think I might buy a large freezer to stick in our basement year round, its always cool down there so it wont take much to power it. Also ill try and set up a space where the mice wont get at to use as a root cellar.
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1944
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Ian, I know what you mean about struggling to find perennial tree crops. We have some fruit trees (apples, plums and pears) but most of the perennials I'm establishing are more like the mid and understory crops...

Things like globe and jerusalem artichokes.
Strawberries
Perennial bunching onions, Egyptian onions
Raspberries
Red and black currants
Perhaps interplant with some nitrogen fixing trees that you can coppice occassionally for animal fodder/firewood.

I'm trying an experiment here with some runner beans to see if I can get the to perenialise from one year to the next. They need some frost protection for the roots, but I'm hopeful.


A "forest" doesn't necesarily mean tall climax trees.
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
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Ian Taylor wrote:This is a pretty cool forum, its rare that I post something and get so many well thought out responses, thanks.

Yeah I feel like we are moving along pretty quickly, I'm actually only 22 years old and we have lived here for a year already.

I have seen a couple of Geoff Lawton's videos and I do like his whole system for the food forests, although here in upstate NY there is a much more limited number of perennial edible and good tasting crops than most of the locations he works on. The food forests also seem to take a long while to get established, especially in a climate like this where growth can be slow since for 5 mos a year there is little or no plant growth. I do plan on trying to implement them to some degree though to produce acorns and other nuts. I plan on clear cutting most of our red pine plantation and then trying to establish some nut and a few fruit trees in their place, that's kind of a long term plan though and there really aren't enough trees or perennials native to this zone to provide a huge portion of our diet and most of them wont start producing for many years.

He also seems to do a lot with irrigation planning although I don't think that applies very much here either. We get plenty of rainfall and our soil has excellent water retention, bordering on too well actually. From my experience in this area its rare that anything has to be watered once it gets established or if it does only very little. I guess I will find out but I anticipate the roof runoff from the greenhouse and regular house being stored should meet most of our needs.

And as far as adjusting our diet, that is the plan. One of the biggest reasons I want to do all of this is for health and a having a more balanced/less processed diet. We could potentially just buy all of these same things from a farmers market and trade for fresh food but I prefer to do things myself. I enjoy large scale gardening so i'm not upset if I have to spend 3-4 hours a day working on it, Its not like I have something better do with my time hahah.

As far as preservation I think I might buy a large freezer to stick in our basement year round, its always cool down there so it wont take much to power it. Also ill try and set up a space where the mice wont get at to use as a root cellar.



So many things to do. It will take a lifetime, be glad you have yours ahead of you and are likely to see some of those longer term projects come to fruition.

Let me, please, recommend to you the works of Eric Toensmeier and Dave JAcke. Together they authored two volumes on the edible forest garden, often recommended here at the permies forums. Eric has published a volume on perennial vegetables, and while I found there were fewer temperate zone options than I might have hoped for, there were definitely more than I knew about. You will be amazed at how many perennial vegetables will grow, quite happily, in your climate.

Please don't clear cut anything more than you can immediately replant, as it will just open the door for all sorts of chaos that will cost you loads of work to undo. Exposed soil does two things very fast - it disappears through erosion and it disappears under pioneering plants that will not necessarily cooperate with your plans! Plan what you will put into an area before cutting it, be ready to plant once the clearing is done. Will save lots of hours later down the road.

Please look into the water retention/management issue deeply. Even in the Pacific Northwest (temperate rainforest, huge quantities of rain), people are finding real benefit in planning water retention and management systems. If all you were to do was to deepen your two ponds, add swales off the ponds that ran for a hundred feet, planted some fruit trees on those swales, put ducks in the pond and let the overflow from the ponds back up along the swales - well, you would be collecting water to keep the ponds full, fertilizing that water with the ducks and then fertilizing the fruit trees with the pond water. And your effort was a one time labor to dig the deeper pond and the swales.

Also, consider that time you spend on your vegetable garden really is time you could be spending on other things,as there are always more potential projects than we have time for, if we just look around at what "needs to be done".

And please, nothing I am saying is meant in a negative way, but rather as suggestions for things to consider in order to make your life on your homestead better, more enjoyable, more productive and more satisfying.
 
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You say that you didn't find many mushrooms but there may be more than you think.

Last fall our local county park had some expert mushroom foragers come in and give a 4-hour tour and lesson on mushroom hunting. I was astonished at how many different mushrooms they found that I had never seen and this was in a park that I walk through quite often. It seems to take experience and a trained eye.

Maybe you could join a group of mushroom foragers or have them come onto your land. I bet you will be surprised.

 
Barry's not gonna like this. Barry's not gonna like this one bit. What is Barry's deal with tiny ads?
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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