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Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
38
cat dog duck food preservation forest garden fungi solar trees
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So I've debated on whether to put up a project thread for the property, code named "The Camp", and decided I'll just do it. Pros and cons, right? Hopefully others see this and chime in with some suggestions or caveats on the plans.

I'll keep this "short and sweet" since I'm about to get some dinner in me and just post up these three loose plans with some quick descriptive info.

Here's my proposed guilds list for reference:
WALNUT/HICKORY/CHERRY/BEECH GUILD
overstory: Walnut [nuts, timber], Hickory [nuts, fungus, timber], Black Cherry [fruit, timber], American Beech [fungus, timber]
understory: American Hazelnut [nuts, fungus], Staghorn Sumac [berries, forage/fodder], Serviceberry [berry, forage/fodder],
Mulberry [berry, forage/fodder], Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, fungus, heat trap/microclimate], Pear [fruit],
black locust [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder, timber]
vines: Greenbriar [food, forage/fodder, thorns for fencing], Seeded Grapes [grapes, food], Morning Glory [flowers]
shrubs: Elderberry [berries, forage/fodder], Hibiscus/Mallow [flowers, forage/fodder, medicinal], Bladdernut [nuts, forage/fodder],
Currants [berries, forage/fodder], Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus) [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage/fodder]
herbaceous: Pole Beans, Winter Squash, Melons, Perennial Sunflower, St John's Wort, Echinacea
ground cover: Peppermint[medicinal, bug control, biomass], Lambs Ear[toilet paper, edible, biomass],
Sweet Woodruff[medicinal, edible, biomass], Lobelia, Viola, Comfrey [nutrient accumulator]
roots: Beets, Carrots and Parsnips, Onions/Garlic, Wild Ginger, Giant Solomon's Seal, Gentian, Daylilies, Jerusalem Artichoke, Hosta, Ginseng
fungus: Oysters and Shittake, Lions Mane on Beech, Reishi on Hemlock, Chicken of the Woods?, Bluets?, Almond Portebella?


OAK/HAZEL/FRUIT GUILD
overstory: Sweet Acorn Oak [nuts, timber, fungus], Wild Oak [wildlife, fodder, fungus, timber], Chinese or Turkish Tree Hazel [nuts, timber, fungus],
Beech [nuts, fungus, timber]
understory: Apple [fruit, fodder], Crabapple [fodder], Mountain Ash [nitrogen fixer, berries], Black Locust [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder],
Mulberry [berry, forage/fodder], American Hazelnut [nuts, fungus]
Vines: Greenbriar [food, forage/fodder, thorns for fencing], Seedless Grapes [grapes, food], Chocolate Vine [fruit, food], Hardy Kiwi [fruits]
shrubs: Raspberries [berries, thorns for fencing], Blackberries [berries, thorns for fencing], Gooseberry [berries, forage/fodder],
Autumn Olive [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage/fodder]
herbaceous: Pole Beans, Bush Beans, Snow and Snap Peas, Winter Squash, Melons, Perrenial Sunflower, Lambs Quarters, Coltsfoot
ground cover: Perrenial Chamomile [tea, forage/fodder], Peppermint [medicinal, bug control, biomass], Lambs Ear [toilet paper, biomass],
Clover [nitrogen fixer, biomass]
roots: Dandelion [food, medicinal, nutrient accumulator], Chickory [medicinal, nutrient accumulator], Burdock [medicinal, nutrient accumulator],
Onions/Garlic, Jerusalem Artichoke, Potatoes, Wild Ginger
fungus: Oysters and Shittake, Morels on Apples, Hen of the Woods on Oak, Wine Caps, Chicken of the Woods?, Almond Portabella?


FRUIT SAVANNA GUILD
overstory: Ash [timber, fungus], Sweet Acorn Oak [nuts, timber, fungus]
understory: Peach [fruit], Sweet Kernel Apricot [fruit, nuts], Cherries, Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, fungus, heat retention]
vine: Seedless Grape [grapes, food], Dog Rose [rose hips, thorns for fencing], Groundnuts [tubers], honeysuckle [fun, hummingbirds], morning glory
shrub: Seaberry [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage], Autumn Olive [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage/fodder], Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus) [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage/fodder],
Raspberry [berries, thorns for fencing], Dwarf Siberian Pine [nuts, heat retention]
herbaceous: Asparagus, Millet, Amaranth, stinging nettle, Milk Weed, Hollyhocks [toilet paper, pollinators]
groundcover: Winter Squash, Melons, Clover [nitrogen fixer], Comfrey, Grass/Grains Mixes, Plantain, Ground Cherry
roots: Jerusalem Artichokes, Angelica, Burdock, Dandelion, Chickory [medicinal, nutrient accumulator], Lambs Quarters, Chinese Artichoke
fungus: Oysters and Shittake, Morels on Ash, Reishi on Hemlock, Wine Caps


PINE NUT GUILD
overstory: Korean Pine [nuts, fungus], Eastern White Pine [timber, fungus]
understory: Beech [nuts, fungus, timber], Black Locust [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder, timber],
Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, fungus, heat trap/microclimate]
vine: Wild Yam [fodder, biomass]
shrub: Blueberry [berries], Dwarf Siberian Pine [nuts], Blackberry [berry, thorns for fencing], Lingonberry [berries]
herbaceous: Sweet Cicely [food], Bracken & Ostrich Fern [nutrient accumulator, fiddleheads], Evening Primrose [medicinal, food], Bunchberry [berry],
stinging nettle [nutrient accumulator, fencing], partridge berry [berry], snowberry [berry]
groundcover: Strawberries [berries], Cloudberry [berries], Dewberry [berries], Wintergreen [medicinal], Viola [food]
roots: Daylilies [bulbs], Giant Solomon's Seal [root]
fungus: Reishi on Hemlock, Saffron Milk Cap


POND GUILD
overstory: White Willow (golden weeping willow) [forage, coppice, timber]
understory: Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, fungus, heat trap/microclimate]
vine: Seeded Grapes [grapes, food], Dog Rose [rose hips, thorns for fencing]
shrub: Seaberry [nitrogen fixer, berries], Highbush Blueberry [berries], Hibiscus / Marshmallow [flowers, forage/fodder, medicinal]
herbaceous: Meadowsweet [medicinal, biomass], Bistort [edible, medicinal]
"groundcover": Azolla fern [nitrogen fixer, biomass], Cattails [edible tubers/seeds, biomass, building material], Floating Islands of lettuces etc
roots: Lotus [edible tubers/seeds, biomass], Water Lily [edible tubers/seeds, biomass], Calamus [medicinal, edible, biomass],
Arrowroot [edible, biomass], Pickerelweed [edible, nut/seed, biomass]
fungus: Wine Caps on floating islands?


PASTURE
overstory: Sweet Acorn Oak [nuts, timber, fungus], Redbud [beauty, edible flowers/pods, shade]
understory: Poplar/Aspen [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder], Black Locust [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder, timber], Staghorn Sumac [berries, forage/fodder],
Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, fungus, heat trap/microclimate], Apples [fruit, fodder], Crabapple [fodder]
vine: Dog Rose [rose hips, thorns for fencing], wild Yam [fodder, biomass], Pole Beans
shrub: Dwarf Siberian Pine [nuts, heat retention], White Willow [medicinal, coppice, forage/fodder], Nannyberry [berries], Raspberries/Blackberries
herbaceous: Fava Bean, Hog Peanut, Lambs Quarters, Dandelion, Stinging Nettle, Comfrey, Bracken/Ostrich Fern, Horsetail
groundcover: Reed Canary Grass, Tall Fescue, Giant Miscanthus, Orchard Grass, Ryegrass, Winter Rye, Buckwheat, Amaranth, Quinoa, Pearl & Wild Millet,
White & Red Clovers, Vetch, Birdsfoot Trefoil
roots: Turnips, Beets, Daylilies, Chicory, Burdock, Jerusalem Artichoke
fungus: Wine Caps, Oysters and Shittake, Hen of the Woods on Oaks, Reishi on Hemlocks


WILLOW/PERSIMMON WETLAND GUILD
overstory: Weeping Willow [forage/fodder, fungus], Persimmon [fruit]
understory: Pussy Willow [coppice, forage/fodder, fungus], Cornelian Cherry (dogwood) [berries, coppice], White Birch [tinder, sap for beer, fungus]
vine: Dog Rose [rose hips, thorns for fencing]
shrub: Highbush Cranberry [berry], White Willow [medicinal, coppice, forage/fodder], Nannyberry [berries], Spicebush [spice], Swamp Rose [hips],
Cramp Bark [medicinal, edible sour berry]
herbaceous: Bracken & Ostrich Fern [nutrient accumulator, fiddleheads], Boneset [medicinal], Blue Skullcap [medicinal]
ground cover: Hog Peanut [nitrogen fixer, peanut style beans]
roots: Arrowroot [tubers], Cattail [roots, building material], Pickerelweed [edible, nut/seed, biomass]
fungus: Oyster and Shittake, Wine Caps?, Almond Portabella?, Chaga (if we can get it to take!)


The topography is a very gentle slope NW to SE, about 20ft elevation from corner to corner over the diagonal (image is oriented with north just left of top).

At this point, The Camp is very much rough and untouched since the clear-cut 7 years ago. The soil is heavily eroded and much has been carried to the lower half of the property. The historical topographic maps showed a seasonal stream running NW to SE through the center of the property, but this is gone since the logging along with nearly all the existing contour. The soil type is heavy clayey loam, between 65% and 90% clay, with a 1-3" layer of bentonite that covers much of the lower half of the property about 6-8" below the surface. Much of the cleared portion of the property is covered with 5-7yo saplings of white and yellow birch, aspen and sugar maple, with only a few dozen trees over 20ft that look like matchsticks since they grew in a forest, not an open field. Intermixed with the saplings is a very healthy population of blackberry and raspberry - some of the black berry canes are over 6ft tall! The lower half has areas dominated by reedy grasses as well, an obvious nod to the heavy erosion that took place for several years following the cut.

Over time, the animal systems I'm planning to introduce include: ducks (muscovy & indian runner/khaki campbell), goats (8-10+ to start dropping to 4-6) then sheep (6-8+ to start dropping to whatever is sustainable) then dexter cows (2-3), likely chickens, possibly pigs and quail, possibly geese. The idea I have with this is to bring in the muscovy ducks this spring as we have some existing water and would like to have them available as "mother duckers" starting 2015 for other ducklings. Goats will likely be brought in starting spring 2015 and intensively grazed using elecronet for containment until living fenced paddocks can be fully established and grown in. Sheep will be brought in when the system calls for them - ie, once the goats take care of enough brush and the forbs are taking over, we'll reduce the number of goats and introduce sheep in a rotation. Likewise with bringing in the cows - once the pasture area is tilting toward suitable grass dominance. Living fences of hawthorn, willow and rose/greenbriar, hazelnut in the shaded areas, will eventually replace the electronet.

Oh, and of course, this is being done on a shoestring budget, much of the money not even having been made yet. I hope to slowly supplant my web development "job" with income from the land but don't really expect to break even on investment for the first 7 years. This is a labor of love, but there's no reason it shouldn't also provide a happy retirement for my ass someday, right?

Already, there are changes to the loose plans laid out in this first post that haven't been incorporated, such as a re-placement of the cabin structure and some changes to the guildings. More to come when I have time/gumption.
existing.jpg
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Existing Land - apx prop boundary, existing water bodies
guilds-ponds.jpg
[Thumbnail for guilds-ponds.jpg]
Proposed (color coded) guilds, ponds and water systems
paddocks-structures-zones.jpg
[Thumbnail for paddocks-structures-zones.jpg]
Proposed zones, paddocks and structures
 
Hans Quistorff
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Posts: 791
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Interesting Project.
I spent 9 years in northern Maine so I am familiar with the winter snow. Is that what you are planning to fill the north pond?
From your description the water you show on the SE side must be to low to divert into the ponds.
Is the white line from the north pond to the center pond a water line? Do you plan to put a ram pump on it for a water tank?
I have 25 years experience with dairy goats. You will find if you are working on the land the goats will go with you an forage while you work. This can potentially cut down on fencing. If you are planning to over winter your does I recommend You plant red clover in the bare areas on your land this spring. It grows tall and fixes nitrogen and is easy to cut and dry for winter hay, If it is cut when some of the flower heads have set seed the goat berries will replant it when you take the goats for winter walks. We tested our goats for milk production. With red clover hay, and apple cider vinegar with molasses in warm water inthe winter we got the highest butter fat test.

I hope these ideas help.

If anyone is interested I have 5 acres with a similar slope available here on the Key Peninsula in western Washington state.
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
38
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Hans Quistorff wrote:Interesting Project.
I spent 9 years in northern Maine so I am familiar with the winter snow. Is that what you are planning to fill the north pond?
From your description the water you show on the SE side must be to low to divert into the ponds.
Is the white line from the north pond to the center pond a water line? Do you plan to put a ram pump on it for a water tank?
I have 25 years experience with dairy goats. You will find if you are working on the land the goats will go with you an forage while you work. This can potentially cut down on fencing. If you are planning to over winter your does I recommend You plant red clover in the bare areas on your land this spring. It grows tall and fixes nitrogen and is easy to cut and dry for winter hay, If it is cut when some of the flower heads have set seed the goat berries will replant it when you take the goats for winter walks. We tested our goats for milk production. With red clover hay, and apple cider vinegar with molasses in warm water inthe winter we got the highest butter fat test.

I hope these ideas help.

If anyone is interested I have 5 acres with a similar slope available here on the Key Peninsula in western Washington state.


Oops! I totally forgot to mention that part (white line from trout pond to perch pond)! We're offgrid now and plan to stay that way, using a combination of solar, micro-hydro and generator to charge a battery bank. The 5th wheel camper makes this easy as it's already outfit with a complete 12V system - just had to upgrade the batteries and add a decent inverter to the mix. So that white line represents the micro-hydro down pipe, feeding to the power plant located at the perch pond, with another 1 foot drop below that helping with aeration.

The property is fed by 25+ acres of additional watershed to the north-west with a similar slope (most of it in a tree growth management program farming white pines) so there's a fairly even groundwater supply coming into even the highest elevation of my property. With the central Maine climate, water isn't usually in short supply through the even the driest summers, but catchment of snowmelt will help even out the hydrological cycle even more. Currently, "The Camp" is already littered with surface springs which I plan to incorporate into the water management scheme as we find and mark them - the otherwise mucky, mosquito breeding grounds will be dug into off-contour swale systems (drains) and a series of varying sized ponds (mostly in the 500-2000 gallon range) encouraging frog and other critter populations.

To run the micro-hydro, I'm figuring on about 5-7gpm flow rates from the trout pond, so not a significant power source considering 7-10 feet of head but should be steady and sustainable. The trout pond will go to a max depth of 16-18 feet, holding about 4 acre-feet of water, and I figure on allowing up to a 30% drain during dry spells before shutting down the hydro pipe. The pond will in a fairly shaded location as the system matures, keeping evaporation to a minimum and water temps cool through the summer months, so hopefully we wont see any other significant drains on volume.

Due to the way the laws are structured, we'll be sticking to "carried and hand-pumped water" as long as possible to avoid needs for a grey water system, so no cistern/water tanks. Since micro-hydro is pretty expensive, even DIY, the line will double as an irrigation source (if ever needed). Utilizing the grey and black water tanks built into the camper, plus a free "dump station" down the road a ways, we're hoping to avoid the need for septic and grey water systems over the medium term, picking up a composting toilet once we have the expendable cash and only investing in septic/grey water when the majority of the "important work" is done.

Thanks for the tips on the goats. With not many animals to start with, this is definitely an option as we get the living fence established. That electronet is expensive stuff! My big fear around here is the constant onslaught of logging trucks - if one of the goats were to decide a walk sounds fun and I don't catch it in time...! I'd like to try using the invisible fencing and training the goats to stay away from the road with that, but I just don't think it'll work well enough to rely on.

I'll post up our work thus far and purchases (made and planned) re: planting and earthworks.
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
38
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I'll give some more background on us, the property, what's been done and what we've got or are getting in preparation for spring.

So me: I'm a 31yo single guy and have been a full time RVer for quite a few years, living in new hampshire, florida and even new mexico for a while, enjoying the relatively stress-free, open road mentality as I moved about. I grew up gardening and never quite got over the need to have dirt under my fingernails and sweat on my brow, always planting gardens and dragging pots of chives and tomatoes with me wherever I went. While staying at a campground in new hampshire for several years, for example, I turned my little campsite into a productive garden providing surpluses of tomatoes, green beans, snow/snap peas and leafies. I had enough basil and oregano dried and packaged up to last me years. I learned to eat the weeds and went on regular hikes throughout the year collecting edible and medicinal wilds. It was around that time that I started learning about polycultures, guilding/companion planting and green manures. I also started learning about alternative energy, especially passive solar heating and energy conservation.

Anyway, about 3 years ago I decided that I wanted to plant my own roots. I'm a freelance/contract web developer with relatively few clients, so don't make regular paychecks or have 401k plan to borrow against. Figuring out a way to create a homestead with a small and unreliable income was paramount. I began researching land prices, laws, etc and settled on central Maine as my target area. Between the rural settings, the wet temperate climate, the rolling landscape, the cheap land prices and the fact that a good solid winter freeze keeps down the bugs (2, 4 and 8 legged types), it was the perfect fit for my lifestyle and my dreams.

My mother worked as a graphic designer for many years but since the job market went south, has been unable to find work in the field. She did fast food/service industry jobs and even became a CNA, working in nursing homes and rehab centers. Thing is, she hated it. All thankless jobs where you work your ass off for someone else who gets rich off your back and pays you peanuts in return. It's a miserable way to live no matter how you look at it.

She's a lot like me - prefers the rural settings and dirt under her nails - and decided to come with me on the adventure if I ever found a place to plant myself. She's approaching 60 now and with no chance at a decent retirement through pensions or social security, she figured "what have I got to lose?". To her, a good retirement includes enough food on the table to get by, warm roof, good dog and a garden. It wouldn't hurt to have a horse or two either I think, though she says she probably can't ride at her age anyway

So in April of 2012, we made a scouting expedition to the area, looking at a few dozen properties for sale with owner financing and within our budget. We almost bought a cheap piece of "meadow land" just to say we had something, figuring that we'd reclaim a couple acres over time to grow some veggies. It didn't work out. We tried to buy another property that had a 50-50 mix of swamps and forest, smaller than we wanted and near the upper end of our budget. That didn't work either. We were losing hope and running out of steam after three weeks of tenting, but then I saw "The Camp".

The Camp was within the budget, around the size we wanted and wasn't completely flooded and swampy. About 9 acres of the land had been clear cut in 2006-7 and there was heavy rutting and obvious erosion over most of the cut area, but another 4 or 5 acres of successional forest, at least 45 years untouched, was left alone. Walking the property in early spring, it had character and felt "good" - that feeling like it would fit.

But it didn't work - they wanted more $$ down than I had on hand. We packed up and headed back south to gather our thoughts, strength and pride back up before making another run at it. It was then that I first heard the word permaculture (one of Paul's youtubes, of course!) and I went all-in, reading and learning everything I could get my hands on. Things clicked instantly and I realized how all these things I learned before fit together. I forced my poor mother to watch the 11+ hour permaculture design course videos available free on networkearth.org and I don't know how many back to back lectures and presentations from all the big names. I realized that if things had worked out for us the first time around, and we bought land when we came to Maine in 2012, we most definitely would have mucked everything up in the first pass.

I began planning, as an exercise, a permaculture eden using The Camp as the base. I hadn't spent much time on the land but remembered enough to work with it. I burned through dozens of hours studying, researching and planning, thinking the whole while that it was just an exercise and that it would never have the chance to be put to action.

Around May of last year I contacted the sellers again, asking about The Camp. It was still available and the owner was looking to get it sold. I offered, he accepted. By the end of July, we were here, parking the 5th wheel and setting up camp, and the first thing we noticed was that The Camp is A LOT wetter than I remembered it being! My plans didn't account for THIS much wetness. Mosquitoes and black flies were so thick you could barely breathe. Also, there was an odd silence where there should have been bird and frog songs. No crickets either. There were frogs around here and there, and there were birds nesting in the reedy grasses, a woodpecker here or there on the few standing toothpick trees, but it was like the place was dead.

So I dug a pond. I picked the wettest, muckiest spot I could easily access and started digging. Water drained from the surrounding soil, filling it to the top faster than I could dig, and the next day there were frogs singing in it! What's more, there was hardly a mosquito around it. The black flies were still just as bad, but hey, rome wasn't built in a day.

From there we continued digging. We dug out the drainage ditches along the sides of the driveway - they were filled in with muck and flooding over onto the road - and I dug in 4 more ponds on one side of the driveway, 2 more on the other side. By September, the sounds of the frogs singing was deafening even during the day! Birds were visiting in flocks just to bathe in the ponds I dug. Mosquitoes were still around, of course, but weren't so thick you couldn't sit outside at sunset. Dragonflies were buzzing all over the place from dawn to dusk.

It was then that I realized what was going on here. Because there was so much erosion after the clear cut, and so much clay settled on the lower half of the property, the whole thing was anaerobic. There were 1-2" branches buried 6 inches down in the muck that looked like they were freshly cut! Not the slightest bit of rot! Everywhere I dug on the southern half of the property, the water drained from the surrounding soil and filled the hole, then everything greened up around it, frogs moved in by the hoards and nature started singing. Sugar maples with browned leaves greened up, 10 year old ash trees started growing new branches and the birches put on nearly 12" of top growth in a single month!

So that's where we are now - around 6,000 gallons of catchment dug so far, exposing some of this anaerobic water to the air again and breathing life back into it. Around the ponds dug on the west side of the driveway, I transplanted about 75 blueberries into 25 clumps along the wooded side and hundreds of wild strawberries along the sunny edges. I've cleared about 1.5 acres of the brushy growth from what I hope to transform into pasture. Oh, and we picked probably 40lbs of blackberries, greedily making jams and syrups to last the winter

We've ordered seeds...over 200lbs of them...in preparation for spring and early summer seeding mixes. 50lbs of annual ryegrass and 20lbs of fescue, 50lbs of bush beans, 10lbs of pole beans, 10lbs of fava beans, 5lbs each of white and red clovers, 25lbs of buckwheat, 3lbs of diakon, 5lbs+ of various peas and 5lbs of japanese millet. We have hundreds of thousands of seeds more between grain amaranth, winter squash, sunflowers, nettle, burdock, chicory, roman chamomile, hollyhocks, roma tomatoes and peppermint. This is on top of around 10lbs of seed we brought with us including assortments of leafy greens, sprouting seeds, tomatoes, etc.

So far we've also ordered in 4 black mulberry, 2 goji berry, 2 nanking cherry and 50 cultivated strawberry plants - they'll be arriving sometime this spring. We've saved and planted about 60 apple seeds. We ordered in and planted 20 white oaks in two varieties and 10 american plums, both from seed. We'll be placing the order soon for the bare roots: 100 each black locust and autumn olive, 50 rosa rugosa and 25 hazelnut.

We're building the skeleton. Drains, ponds, ditches, berms, swales and mounds, cover crops, green manures, nurse trees and dynamic accumulators. We're doing what nature can't do herself but needs done. Looking through catalogs, I find myself feeling like a kid in a candy store without a penny to spend, but until the skeleton is in place, the earthworks in and the support species established, there's just no way I could ever hope to plant a sweet cherry or a walnut tree.

Ok, that's enough for now. More to come as I get time and gumption. Eventually, I'd like to pick up a video camera to document much of what we're doing here and will share videos as they're made - in the mean time, we don't even have a still camera on hand, but plan to pick something up before spring gets rolling.
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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So bare root orders are in. Due to the fact I got these orders placed so late, I had to change my orders a bit from planned:
25 American Hazelnut (non-graft), 1-2ft
150 Black Locust, 2-3ft
100 Rosa Rugosa, 2-3ft
30 Autumn Olive, 2-3ft
25 Seaberry, 2-3ft
2 Goumi (Elaeagnus)
4 Black Mulberry
2 Nanking Cherry
10 Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)
10 Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)

I decided to wait on starting hawthorn plantings for the living fence until AFTER the majority of clearing, cover-cropping and earthworks has been done since leaving a patch of this here or putting in ponds/drains/berms there could significantly alter the layout of the fencing. Needless to say, though, first order of business is setting up a bed to heal these guys in ... there's no way we could hope to get everything planted out over the course of a week or two.

We've also started our first batches of lavender, chives, oregano, basil (genovese) and tomatoes (brandywine) from seed. These all are on non-hybrid for seed saving.

Along the east side of the already dug "frog ponds", west side of the driveway, I transplanted hundreds of wild strawberry off the driveway late last year. We'll be placing clumps of chives in these strawberry patches as well as raised clumps of basil and bell peppers. We'll also be placing the two goumi and nanking cherry in this area to create a bit of texture and help with the nitrogen fixation.

Over the stumps of larger trees I've taken down (disease, poor structure, etc) throughout the savanna guild, we'll be creating mini hugel mounds about 2-3 feet wide and 2-3 feet tall, then planting in clumps of lavender and oregano. This we figure should allow for these to do well, keeping them up and out of the muck this year as we get the hydrology issues sorted out, while ensuring they have a good supply of nutrient and don't dry out during any relative dry spells. Hopefully, this will help keep them high enough for sunlight too as I'm sure the initial regrowth from the aspen, birch and berry canes will be pretty significant the first two years.

For tomatoes, we're planning several 10ft diameter tomato circles, with compost pile in the middle, separated 150-300ft - Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry (somewhat wild variety) and two or three circles of VF Roma. The circles will be composed of low hugel beds with at least 6" of grass, berry cane and twiggy mulch to cover, about 2ft wide in a circle with the south end left open. At the south side, we'll place a smaller mound planted with a black locust which should help provide some midday shade to the compost heap in the center of the circle. Some years down the road, we'll retire the tomato circles and plant in either apricots or cherries in the fertile ground, then coppice the black locust once those have settled in. The tomatoes will be allowed to sprawl out over the mulch layer which we'll reinforce with branches and saplings to keep the tomatoes off the mucky ground below. We're hoping to also innoculate with garden giants and/or almond portabella, but that's not set in stone (with so much else going on, getting a batch of bunker spawn going is a bit far down the to-do list right now)

The wild yams will be planted in sunnier openings of the pine forest. There's so few productive vines that can be grown in such an acid location that we settled on these - it will be a plus if the aerial tubers actually taste good enough to eat, but we're not expecting that. After tasting the ones growing wild in Florida, we definitely don't have high hopes, especially in a semi-shaded and acid location, but growing these beautiful vines beat growing poison ivy any day! Anyone following this project thread with ideas on what else might work for a vine layer in a highly acidic pine forest setting, please let me know

At this point, 2 days from the beginning of March, we're still experiencing temperatures dropping to the negative single digits and there's snow a little more than waist deep covering the entirety of The Camp. It's hard to believe that two months from now, the bare root shipments will be coming in.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Video camera is in hand (well, not right at this second) and I've grabbed a few short vids I'll put up here. I'm new to filming things so my camera work is probably sub-par and the editing has been terrible (need to find some editing software that's easier to use than what I have now).

I currently only have the videos on vimeo - will move things to youtube or my own private hosting at some point

Here's a walk up the driveway from road to the "landing" area you can see on the property maps above:
video

Here's an overview of the rocket mass heater in the sunroom:
video

Here's a 7 foot snow drift trying to snow us in on March 13th...the unofficial blizzard of 2014
video

As I type, our latest storm has dumped 3 inches of snow with at least 2 inches of sleet/ice pellets on top of that, and the existing snow pack was about 3.5 feet deep average with drifts to about 5 feet in places. In a mere 3-4 weeks, we have hundreds of bare root trees/shrubs and 50 strawberry plants coming.... I hope the snow melts in time to get the nurseries and heal-in areas ready
 
Hans Quistorff
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Reminds me of the comment by a visitor from N. Dakota at the end of December.
Now I understand why dad wants to live on Puget Sound; you don't have to shovel rain.

Then there was the man from Africa that could not believe we insulated the house by packing snow around it.

Really like the RMH in the bubble around your home.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Your project sounds really interesting; I hope you continue to post updates! I really enjoyed reading what you've done so far.
 
Sam White
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Interesting stuff, cheers Tristan!
 
Bill Erickson
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Tristan, all those trees coming is going to be interesting, and I hope your soil has thawed enough to put them in. If not, think about getting dirt and or peat moss, along with shredding a bunch of black and white news print (no multi-color stuff). Figure out a place where you can put all those plants back to sleep. I'd think about expanding the sun room area a bit, if possible, to give you someplace to get you back some dormancy without letting those rootlets get frozen. Use the shredded newsprint as your moisture dump and the soil/peat combination to provide insulation. Clean straw will also work as a way to provide insulation, but you have to watch out for rodent incursion to what they view as an end of winter buffet.

Or if you can, have the place you are getting them from hold them off for another month. I asked a nursery to do that, and they were able to hold my trees until mid-May, since the last killing frost is normally around Memorial Day. I found something from the University of Maine regarding various frost and freeze dates, hopefully that will provide you with some help in regards to what you face.

Unversity of Maine Frost/Freeze information

It included a link to this PDF of Frost/Freeze dates as well. Hope that helps you with your situation.

Also, your videos look good.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Hans Quistorff wrote:Reminds me of the comment by a visitor from N. Dakota at the end of December.
Now I understand why dad wants to live on Puget Sound; you don't have to shovel rain.

Then there was the man from Africa that could not believe we insulated the house by packing snow around it.

Really like the RMH in the bubble around your home.


LOL

Having moved back to New England after years away, it's been quite a shock to the system this winter. I'll admit that a handful of times, while digging my way through the shoulder deep drifts or being blasted in the face with 45mph blowing snow, I've caught myself dreaming about hightailing back to Florida It's beautiful and brutal in the same breath. And if the bunnies can deal, what the heck am I complaining about, right?

Bill Erickson wrote:Tristan, all those trees coming is going to be interesting, and I hope your soil has thawed enough to put them in. If not, think about getting dirt and or peat moss, along with shredding a bunch of black and white news print (no multi-color stuff). Figure out a place where you can put all those plants back to sleep. I'd think about expanding the sun room area a bit, if possible, to give you someplace to get you back some dormancy without letting those rootlets get frozen. Use the shredded newsprint as your moisture dump and the soil/peat combination to provide insulation. Clean straw will also work as a way to provide insulation, but you have to watch out for rodent incursion to what they view as an end of winter buffet.

Or if you can, have the place you are getting them from hold them off for another month. I asked a nursery to do that, and they were able to hold my trees until mid-May, since the last killing frost is normally around Memorial Day. I found something from the University of Maine regarding various frost and freeze dates, hopefully that will provide you with some help in regards to what you face.

Unversity of Maine Frost/Freeze information

It included a link to this PDF of Frost/Freeze dates as well. Hope that helps you with your situation.

Also, your videos look good.


Thanks for the links Bill - I very well might have to contact them to have the nurseries hold off an extra week or two, just to be safe, if the snow pack isn't gone soon. Shipment dates should all be in the week of April 20-26, so with some luck we'll get a string of 80s and 90s before then The running plan was to get heal-in areas loosened up by middle April so the soil could drain and warm a bit more. We do have the lean-to style "tarp shed" along the north side of the rig that picks up enough warmth from the sunroom and heater to keep it 10-15* warmer than outdoors at night, plus it's pretty damp and shady in there. Not the best place to be storing the firewood, but should work well for the bare-roots when they initially arrive assuming we're not still looking at Ice-Age Now out there. The strawberries might have to stay in the sunroom though. In an average year, we would have already started "mud season" by now (you know, that thing that happens between winter and fall), but we're at least 3 weeks behind schedule.

Temps for the rest of this week should be hitting the mid to upper 40s every day - no major cold spells or heavy snow storms in sight - so spring melt might be finally kicking in. Plenty of snow banks that need to be pushed back for me to practice the shoveling on this week, too

I'm hoping to have some video later this week of the new BSF "mating tent" and might put together something on the cabin plans I've been playing with (design and siting).
 
Tristan Vitali
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Been busy lately and never got around to getting the video of the BSF mating tent. It's a bust anyway - no larva still and I think our population is about to nose-dive (most of the prepupae have eclosed by now). Not sure what they're missing in there but things just didn't work out this time around.

I did get one video of the snowpack before my project induced hiatus. Truly hard to believe there was that much white $*^# on the ground a mere month ago!
https://vimeo.com/93911632

In the meantime, the snow is gone (discovered a few patches in the shadier uncut areas the other day) and we've been working on some of the projects that needed doing. I took a few minutes to get out there and grab some video - a four part tour of the camp as it is and will be:
Part 1) https://vimeo.com/93911479
Part 2) https://vimeo.com/93940832
Part 3) https://vimeo.com/93943803
Part 4) https://vimeo.com/93938581

And some night sounds from our resident frog orgy. Yes, lots of vids for anyone watching the thread this time around
https://vimeo.com/93939464

Since these vids, we've put the stropharia spawn into the center bed (substrate layer is twiggy debris from RMH fuel processing plus some wood chips/sawdust, cased with 2-3" of the clayey soil), we got several tripods set up behind the blueberries with dozens of sugar snap peas, moonflowers and morning glories planted around them and a line of dwarf grey sugar peas amongst the wild blueberries. Things are ready for planting in the beds (no sight of frost/freeze in the long range models!). Tomorrow, assuming it doesn't rain-out again, will be shaggy manes (on vermicompost substrate) in the upper bed (either side of that soggy path you see in the vid) and the main event then begins. Strawberries, red clover, chives, spinach, garlic, onion sets, leeks, catmint, etc, etc. We're still waiting on our 50 strawberries from Gurneys, along with the goji and nanking bushes in that same order, but we're planning to put in some meadowsweet over the lions mane patches which we do have on hand already (thankfully - hate the idea of leaving them even semi-unprotected). We also have our wild yams in which will be going in the pine forest just behind the ponds where they should get decent sun but still have some sturdy trees to grow on. It's a bit early to put the pole beans out behind the blueberries, but we just might chance it anyway - dying for fresh green beans here and the patience wears thin!

And, lest I forget, we also brought home our first livestock guardian puppy on Friday night - female 3/4 Great Pyrenees and 1/4 Anatolian Shepard. Casey's a little over 9 weeks now:
https://vimeo.com/93925568

She's quite mouthy - EVERYTHING has to be tasted and nibbled on, be it hands, sticks, cabinets or cats, but she's already proven herself to be a sweetheart and a cuddle-bug. Very headstrong, too - I've never heard a dog make so many frustration noises! If she's determined to jump over that log, she's going to do it come hell or high water, even if she can easily walk under it She doesn't yet understand the word "no", but overall she's not much trouble. She came to us paper trained with a preference for the outdoors, which has been a huge plus

We'll be getting a male later this year as well, likely 100% Gr Py, but the expense up front for both (and the fear of having two tiny puppies to contend with while still getting out there daily to dig in the muck) was a bit much all at once. We need a backhoe ASAP and saving the money up for that is too high a priority. When they're both adult enough, we'll hopefully be offering LGDs here in the northern/eastern New England area (a sorely needed service IMO).

So much to do...so very much to do...but enjoying every minute of it!
 
Tristan Vitali
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Been a few months since my last update to the project thread and haven't been getting all that much video "done" (it's shot, but not edited and finished). I made sure to get these two ready since family and friends wanted a look. Our livestock guardian dog, originally named Casey, was renamed pretty quickly to Penny, a more numerologically sound name for us and a bit more fitting ... we call her Pretty Penny. The first video is some clips of her, a couple from her first night here at 2 months old and several playing fetch last week at 5 months. She's weighing about the same as a sack of grain, so pegging her at about 50lbs, and still working on getting some adult teeth. Overall, she's been a small nightmare and quite a terror as the breed just doesn't "train" well, but she's also incredibly lovable, protective, sweet and really just such a good dog. Quite a personality

https://vimeo.com/101984062

She's already been hard at work each night and morning (I sleep in since I work nights most of the time) guarding the ducks. Yes, we have ducks...well on our way now! In mid July, we were able to have my aunt stop on her way up from NH to pick up a dozen week old muscovy ducklings around 4 hours south of here. They arrived in a box and spent the first couple weeks bedding down in Penny's old puppy crate. I've since built them a small house to hold over until we've built the cordwood shed/duckhouse later this fall. These little guys have amazed me with their sense of community and responsibility to one another. They're right about 1 month old and starting to get some adult feathers now, but weren't when I took the video of them. We also lost one to (not predation and all the others seem healthy and strong) so have 11 now. At this point, we're pretty sure that one is a drake and at least 8 of the others are girls. They haven't been hatch-sexed or anything so we're just going by leg thickness, size and presence of the muscovy "moobies"

This video covers the duck pond I dug last year from earlier this spring through to current with our "mother duckers" swimming around.
https://vimeo.com/101984063

So updates on the rest of the project follow. I've been splitting time between so many projects it seems like nothing ever really gets done, but so much is taking shape. We still have black locusts and autumn olives that are healed in, awaiting planting, but all the rest of the bare root is in.

The main strawberry beds were innoculated with edible mushrooms this spring, one with Stropharia (garden giant or wine cap) and the other with Shaggy Mane (aka inky cap). Both show signs of the mycelium coming to the surface now with the stropharia bed showing quite a lot of colonization. I'm hoping to harvest a couple mushrooms before fall, but we'll see.

The beds were pretty much all clay with a little bit of topsoil. The Stropharia bed, composed mainly of our reddish clay (it's light brown/orange and fires pink/red) was underlayed with about 4-6" of sapling twigs saved from our RMH firewood processing covering over 60 square feet of area (the bed itself is around 120 square feet). We heavily planted with white clover in the spring for living mulch and green manure. The whole process is starting to pay off as the soil is softening, full of earthworms and turning a darker, richer color. Where we had a very difficult spring and early summer, with barely any spinach harvest to speak of and maybe a 1% seedling survival rate on romain, chard, etc, we're now seeing a near 90% seedling survival rate and quite a lot of growth. We currently have to clip/pull/tear-up the clover every 3 or 4 days to keep it from strangling the strawberries, tomatoes, chard, bush beans, etc. We aren't expecting much of a crop from this bed this year, but that was expected before starting and it's already starting to impress me with the number of beans we'll (hopefully) be harvesting soon. This bed is currently planted with: carrots, parsnips, cabbage, chard, beets, bush beans, romaine lettuce, buttercrunch lettuce, malabar spinach, curly dock, plantain, coltsfoot, spinach (leftovers that bolted), tomatoes (a few different varieties), wood sorrel and sheep sorrel. The main crop for these beds being strawberries, we planted in 50 fort laramie in june, though only about 15 survived Like I said, very difficult spring/early summer. There's also meadowsweet and a couple types of willow, chives and basil.

The shaggy mane bed was also pretty much all clay but in this case it's mostly bentonite...not pretty stuff. There was also a good amount of surface muck and grass clumps mixed in to this one. The fungus was mixed with fresh vermicompost, including some of the red worms and enough of the partially composted food to keep them going for a few months while everything else started to rot, and then buried 3-6" under the clay/muck/grassy mix. We did plant heavily with clover here as well but very little took. Instead, what took was the wild strawberries - they've gone nutty in there with nearly a 6 fold increase in number of plants (runners) and some plants already reaching 8" or more in height. Currently, this bed is planted with bush beans, tomatoes, zuccini, scallions (spring onions). Other seeds have been spread and planted, but not much seems to take...bentonite isn't for everyone evidently. This bed's main crop is the local native wild strawberries and there's some meadowsweet planted in as well.

A third strawberry bed (and an extension of the shaggy mane bed) was not innoculated with mushrooms - these were planted heavily with onion sets, garlic, spinach and carrots. The spinach wasn't harvested before bolting, and we just left it to go to seed (it's a hybrid, but meh). The carrots planted were "bullet" type (atlas I believe) and are about thumb thickness currently. The garlic didn't take well, but some have stayed the course, and the onions are actually doing quite well with some showing bulbs nearly two thumbs thick already. Much more than I expected from these beds. For strawberries here, we have just a wally world special, june bearing variety. Out of 25 planted, we have over half remaining and doing quite well, starting to runner a bit.

The strawberry beds are where we've focused our annual gardening efforts for the summer, partly because everything else is such a mess still and partly because we want to make sure we've done everything we can to improve the soil there as much as possible for next year.

The three sisters plantings turned out to be a total failure. I have not seen more than maybe 30 squash sprout of the hundreds planted, all but two of which were eaten off by slugs. Worse, not even ONE sunflower seems to have sprouted in our soil. The pole beans have certainly sprouted, maybe a third of them even reaching their first true leaf, but that's about as far as they get before being eaten off by the slugs. The three sisters plantings were put in at 3 different locations - one being somewhat wetter with heavy clay to the surface and a light mulch layer of grass, one being a well drained area that was mainly grassy with some saplings and mossy surface that was scythed and mulched, and one being a combination area where we had a sort of mix of the two plus a decent amount of rotting wood at/near/below the surface. All failed after not just one but two seeding attempts.

At first I thought maybe the soil temp was just a little too cool, causing the seeds to rot and sprout weakly, reducing vigor and leaving them prone to attack, etc, so I monitored and re-planted when soil temps were 68-72*. Still no luck. I thought maybe the birds and mice were eating the seeds. Nope, I was able to find seeds 3, 5, 10 and 30 days after planting. They just wont sprout! I'm not sure what the issue is at this point, but this has been the case with a lot of other seeds as well - forage turnip, diakon radish, comfrey, buckwheat, field peas, bush beans, pretty much any flowers, amaranth, millet...heck, even half the fescue and rye grass seed I put down didn't want to sprout. I'm stumped and a little disappointed.

Clearing the dense brushy growth for the savanna area has been going slower and slower through the summer - first there were the black flies, then the heat set in and sweating was the issue...then came the deer flies and horse flies. We're starting to see a break now, with such a cool summer and the end of the main biting fly season(s), and it's been possible to get some work done out there. I've opened up about 1/8 acre of the "oak forest" area, the whole of the "pine forest" (as much as I'm planning to initially open it anyway), and the hopefully finalized cabin site (directly north of the "perch pond" area). I've also started on the main body of the "fruit savanna", with two areas I'm planning to focus on 1) peaches and 2) cherries. I've planted out around 250 linear feet of living fence for the pasture area thusfar, comprised of 50 rosa rugosa, 20 sea buckthorn and it must be well over 500 willow cuttings (6-10" lengths hammered down 4"+ into the soil). We have 50 of the black locusts planted out around the area as well, with the first 25 taking wonderfully and showing nearly 4" of new growth over the season and the second 25 going into severe shock, losing all their leaves and making me question my stupidity in planting trees at the end of july

The sunroom garden bed, which will host leafies and peas for the winter season, was left to the white clover for the first half of the summer, was limed fairly well a few times, and was recently turned (by hand...literally...leaving the existing pea plants in place with undisturbed roots best I could). The soil at this point is looking EXCELLENT (will have that in video soon) - this bed was put together last october using a hodgepodge of our blue and red clay, swampy muck, clumps of grass roots, and forest humus/leaf mould, then was planted with white clover, spinach, lettuce and peas. We placed three old tires on top of the soil and used these as red worm composters, adding food scraps and coffee grounds, through the winter season. The efforts have payed off amazingly so far. The peas (sugar snaps and snow peas) have held their own all summer and produced at least 10 meals for two worth of pods (all the while being the only thing around here the hummingbirds seem interested in). We planted just a couple of weeks ago with cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, peppers, bush beans, chard, etc, all sprouting *vigorously* (quite a change from the rest of the season). We even have dozens of cherry tomato plants coming up after turning the soil - they were planted in I believe April before taking the plastic sheeting down for the season! Nice to have such a choice seed bank in place Soon will be spinach, kale and a fresh planting of edible pod peas.

Out in front of the sunroom, I've started on yet another small pond, this one around 15-20 feet diameter. So far, it's just the topsoil that's come off and has been mounded for use in next year's new garden beds. I'm putting together a progression video of this that I'll share once things are finished, planted and growing in nicely, which will of course be sometime next year. The subsoil, mostly our red clay, will be dug out to a max depth of around 4-5 feet and used for both the RMH bench rebuild project, which we're looking to start in the next week or two while the sun is warm and the air is dry, as well as the cordwood shed/duckhouse project for the north side of the 5th wheel. Last year's frozen hands and steambath, wood wasting drying process left us thinking ahead Our water-in-the-pipe issues have been traced to three main problems: 1) pipe dips in the middle of the bench, trapping condensate away from direct heat in a place difficult to reach, 2) the bench is directly attached to the ground, with no moisture barrier and a high water table, allowing the bench to wick up far too much moisture year round, and 3) burning green/wet wood in a plastic bubble. To correct 1 and 2, we're tearing the bench out completely and underlaying with a layer of plastic followed by a layer of aluminum foil, then ensuring we have a decent angle on the pipe draining out to the far end away from the manifold. We're also extending the bench to include a dead-end along the east wall of the sunroom and running the bench under the overhang of the 5th wheel, placing the stack on the north wall of the cordwood shed. The bench will divide the shed structure into the shed proper and the duck house, providing a warm area for the little guys during our bitter white season.

To tackle issue #3, I've been seasoning massive amounts of saplings since late winter and spring, and have started processing these saplings into proper length pieces for the feed (turns out to be 18-22" for Jerry the RMH). So far, I've only processed about a half cord worth of wood, which was about half of one small pile. We have another 6 of those at that size and several much larger. This year, with the ducks and Penny needing the warmth out there, I not only want it to be warmer, I need it to be. The fact I'll save more money on propane heating is just icing on the cake!

I'll stop here with the post since anyone in their right mind had stopped reading some 50 paragraphs ago and has clicked over to the funny cat youtube vid by now Overall, things are coming along and there's been mixed, slower than I'd like progress, but certainly still progress. Looking back and realizing I've only been here just over 1 year, and realizing how much has been done already, it does put a smile on my face. Over the winter, when you're by necessity doing more "thinking" than "doing", it's easy to lay out all these enormously far reaching goals that you could never hope to actually attain, but after putting in a summer, I do still expect that next year's plans will be just as grandiose and overzealous as this years were I figure that if I can finish the peach and cherry "grove" thinning/clearing, plant another 100 black locusts and 20 autumn olives, dig a 4500 gallon frog pond, build/rebuild a 40ft long rocket mass heater bench, build a cordwood shed/duckhouse, prepare all the firewood we'll need for the winter and still have time to make enough money to hopefully, someday, afford a much needed backhoe/loader, all before the snow flies again, I'm doing pretty damned good! If I can tell fellow permies about it all and maybe make a few videos showing what's going on, I'm friggin superman!
 
Hans Quistorff
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I am really glad you have the ducks to eat the slugs. I am interested how they do through the winter with your RMH. They should be able to keep ahead of the slugs next spring. Our Muscovies would would be returning from their daylight patrol with slug slime hanging from their bills and their crops dragging the ground. Also I liked that they are quiet, no lud quacking like other ducks.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Well Tristan, I am so glad you decided to show us the Camp!
I think you all are doing great things, really awesome! Keep it up.
 
Tristan Vitali
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So I took an all too expensive supply run down to Bangor the other day and met a young lady working at the Home Despot that was actually into this stuff She's familiar with permies and rather than try to explain all the plans I have for this little piece of mud while she was on the clock, I told her to check out my project thread. If you do, welcome and don't be a stranger - sign up and start sharing! I'm sure I can speak for all the folks around here when I say we'd love to hear the details about the compost heated aquaculture greenhouse fueled by elephant crap

Since I haven't actually posted an update against the original plans posted above, I figured I'd take a few minutes to put one together.

To start, here are the plantings so far per the various guilds, including what's been planted out, what was already there and what's been planted and is ready to transplant out this fall. In many cases, we planted a lot more but the seed just didn't take, like squash, beans, peppermint, thyme, lavender, chamomile, etc

WALNUT/HICKORY/CHERRY/BEECH GUILD
Untouched (really hoping to get up there this fall!)

OAK/HAZEL/FRUIT GUILD
overstory: White Oak, Red Oak, American Beech
understory: Apple, Crabapple, Mountain Ash, Black Locust, American Hazelnut, Sugar Maple, Goosefoot Maple, Yellow/White Birch, Quaking Aspen, European Beech
Vines: Greenbriar
shrubs: Raspberries, Blackberries, Autumn Olive
herbaceous: Coltsfoot, Oregano (we planted lots of others that just didn't take this season)
ground cover: Lambs Ear, Clover, partridge berry
roots: Dandelion, Chickory, Solomon's Seal, Sassafras
fungus: None yet


FRUIT SAVANNA GUILD
overstory: Ash, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Red Maple, Yellow Birch
understory: Eastern Hemlock, American and European Beech
vine: morning glory
shrub: Seaberry, Autumn Olive, Raspberry
herbaceous: Milk Weed, Hollyhocks, Lavender, Oregano
groundcover: Clover, Comfrey, Grass/Grains Mixes, Plantain
roots: Dandelion, Chickory
fungus: None yet

PINE NUT GUILD
overstory: Eastern White Pine
understory: Beech, Black Locust, Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple, Goosefoot Maple, Yellow/White Birch
vine: Wild Yam, Snow and Snap Peas
shrub: Blueberry, Blackberry, Autumn Olive
herbaceous: Sweet Cicely, Bracken & Ostrich Fern, Evening Primrose, Bunchberry, Stinging Nettle, partridge berry, Bush Beans
groundcover: Strawberries, Dewberry, Wintergreen
roots: Daylilies
fungus: Stropharia (wine caps), Shaggy Manes (inky caps)


POND GUILD
overstory: White Willow
understory: Eastern Hemlock
vine: "Rosa Rugosa" Rose (not really a vine), Snow and Snap Peas
shrub: Seaberry, Autumn Olive, Highbush Blueberry, Nanking Cherry
herbaceous: Meadowsweet, Leafy Greens, Bush Beans
"groundcover": Azolla fern (some *may* have survived), Cattails, Water Hyacinth, Frogbit (spongewort)
roots: Calamus (sweet flag), Arrowroot, Pickerelweed
fungus: None Yet


PASTURE
overstory: White Oak
understory: Quaking Aspen, Black Locust, Staghorn Sumac, Eastern Hemlock, Apples, Crabapple, Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, American Beech
vine: "Rosa Rugosa" Rose (not really a vine), Morning Glory, Snow and Snap Peas
shrub: White Willow, Raspberries/Blackberries, Lavender
herbaceous: Fava Bean, Lambs Quarters, Dandelion, Comfrey, Bracken/Ostrich Fern, Horsetail, Oregano
groundcover: Reed Canary Grass, Tall Fescue, Orchard Grass, Ryegrass, Buckwheat, White Clover (Red didn't take!), Vetch, Black Medic
roots: Turnips (tentative), Chicory
fungus: None Yet


WILLOW/PERSIMMON WETLAND GUILD
Untouched (this one wont be touched for a while yet)

"Clearing" the brushy/scrubby sapling jungles has proven to be a slow process and I've only gone through about 2.5 acres so far. By "clearing", I do mean clearing most, but definitely not all, right out to ground level. The pasture area has apx 1 acre "cleared" with another half acre partially cleared (part of this is going to the pasture pond eventually). The pine forest has been "cleared" as much as it needs to be for the time being - about 1/4 acre spread over the main body and another 1/4 where we've been contemplating a sort of blend from pine forest to oak forest utilizing hybrid chestnut. Finally, I've fully cleared about half an acre for the cabin pad just above the future perch pond and another 1/2 acre of what is the beginning of the fruit savanna (this area going to mainly peaches). Going into the fall, I'm hoping to move through another 2 acres of fruit savanna (a sweet cherry grove is planned as well as some "glade" type openings along the edge of the oak forest area), as well as do a sort of "razed earth" clearing in the walnut guild area so we can begin the planting there in the spring.

For earthworks, we've mainly focused on what I'm calling the temporary zone 1 area. Last year I put in several ponds and this year we've put in some additional drainage systems, one additional pond (well, it's partially dug anyway) and have deepened two of the existing ponds. As the summer progresses into fall, I'll be spending more time on earthworks and clearing again, but heat and humidity (even the relatively little of each we've had this summer) are just not very conducive to that kind of work.

For animal systems, we do have our Muscovy ducks - a raft of 11 with two definite drakes, one that's still not quite showing if it's a girl or a boy (uh oh - maybe it's both!) and 8 definite hens. Until the perch pond area is dug and the cabin built, they live "down here" in temporary zone 1, around the small duck pond I dug out last fall. The run area they currently fertilize daily will eventually (maybe next year?) be turned to annual crops, then to pasture after we've moved up to the cabin. Their bedding is going to compost heaps to help heat the "compost tent" greenhouse (currently in the works) and provide plenty of delicious duck poo for the black soldier flies over the fall and spring seasons (winter too if they don't go dormant on us again). The compost produced will be used for growing clover and chickweed (in hanging baskets) over the whiter months to provide fresh greens for the ducks.

Next spring, we'll try taking the temporary fencing down for the run (it's already planted with black and white willows, so living fence will establish over time, though it wont have filled in by then). The ducks will effectively have free range of the area, hopefully taking care of slug, grasshopper and beetle problems, along with helping to increase the fertility of the temporary zone 1 area in general.

We have one LGD growing up - 6 months old-ish and in training. Currently, we're feeding her store-bought kibble but the plan is to switch her over to home-grown feed. We're looking at rabbits or guinea pigs for meat source, both of which should work out nicely at least 8 months of the year, combined with eggs and greens. Her poo currently just goes where it goes, and mainly feeds the slugs from what I've seen, but at *some point* we'll begin harvesting this resource as another feed for the black soldier fly larvae (then to compost heaps and the red worms).

For food production, we really didn't do so well this year as SLUGS ATE EVERYTHING! The "sunroom" garden was attacked several times by the slugs as soon as the plastic came down to make room for screening, then when the slug population backed off a bit and seedlings started to take, Penny decided it looked like a great place to tunnel to China. Not much came from the sunroom garden, though we did get a couple harvests of spinach this spring and dozens of decent hauls on sugar snap peas. Currently, things are looking up - we've been harvesting buttercrunch thinnings and are looking forward to some decent chard, broccoli, etc.

The strawberry beds being brand new this year did terribly for the first half of summer, producing basically nothing noteworthy. We've had one head of lettuce, a few beet and chard greens, a few handfuls of bush beans and ...well, think that's it. Things perked up around late July, with the white clover first taking over nearly everything then, after several heavy thinnings (chop and drop style) the rest has perked up and started growing. We have yet to have much harvest from these beds, though several handfuls of bush beans per week look likely until frost and we've started harvesting wine cap mushrooms by the dozens (today's cap count was 73!)

For berries, strawberry season was halfway respectable, but none of the domestic strawberries were able to produce this year as the beds were brand new and the plants were late arriving. Of the strawberries we harvested, we have a mere 3 jars of preserves. Raspberry season wasn't terrible either, but we didn't do our part and only harvested enough to enjoy fresh and put away another 3 jars of preserves. The blueberries aren't yet established, but we got nearly a handful of delicious little berries over late July and early August. Blackberries are ripening now, but what an awful year this one turned out to be for blackberries. In areas we picked gallons last year, there's not even a handful of berries to be had. Thankfully, we still have some jars of jam from last summer to help carry us through winter

We are getting a small harvest of brandywine tomatoes, which is at least a tasty consolation prize, from around the cattail pond. We started 16 plants in the early spring/late winter and they were transplanted into a "muck bank" along with 50 rosa rugosa that were treated with mycorrhizal innoculants. The tomato transplant holes were also fertilized with half a handful of ash mixed with burned bone from the RMH. We're also looking forward to a small to modest garlic and onion harvest this fall, though the size of the bulbs will be small.

Everything else was a failure, which I mentioned in the previous update. Three sisters plantings never took - slugs, mice, deer, birds, residual allelopathic anti-sprounting compounds in the soil....something put a major damper on that. The amaranth seedings never took. Even the otherwise doing really well potato plantings went sideways recently when voles discovered how fun it is to chew through the stems of the plants but not eat anything! Waking up to find 20+ plants per morning, wilting away for apparently no reason, was quite a bummer Next year, the potato stacks all go on top of hardware cloth

So I think that about covers it. I'll have more videos soon-ish, but with such a long to-do list, I rarely find time to jump on here and make updates
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Vids Update...finally

Cordwood Shed / Duck House
https://vimeo.com/113228485
This dang thing took three months to build and still isn't really complete - winter has forced our hand and made us wrap up work. Most of that time was spent cutting wood, digging up clay with a shovel and mixing the cob. With a backhoe (which I STILL can't afford - slow down with work so I'm living on savings) it might have taken as little as one month with mostly just me working on it. We used hay instead of straw since straw is somewhat harder to find in these parts (not exactly cereal country up here). We also used a combination of hard and soft woods, both green and semi-seasoned. Very rough and not expected to last. I didn't explain in the finished vid about the foundation since I flubbed my words on video - foundation is packed soil (clay) with sheet plastic water barrier over it, then cob/rock on top. I'm expecting some frost heaving issues, but hopefully not too much. The biggest threat for this is the drain pipe that runs under the wall and through the duck house.

So far, at the far end of the shed (farthest from the heater) we're seeing temps dropping to 25*F while it's single digits outside. The roof is not complete and not yet insulated, so there's a major heat loss there. The duck house portion isn't dropping below freezing at all so far (their water hasn't started to ice) and we've seen temps down to about 5*F outside. The bottom of the interior wall in the duck house is the RMH bench - the mass is currently around 55*F and air temps are around mid 40s. Considering the duckers don't seem to care about cold and happily swim around, dive completely under and bathe themselves merrily when you break a hole in the pond ice, the only major concern I have is teens and twenties below zero causing their water to freeze. Hopefully there wont be much of that this year

RMH Bench Rebuild
https://vimeo.com/113231147
This video shows our RMH bench rebuild. Last year's bench left much to be desired - it was undersized, incomplete and crumbly (too much sand). The ducting was originally laid flat but had settled so there was a dip in the middle that kept puddling with condensation, which we cleared out every day or two with a mop tied to a rope (not a pleasant job). Additionally, the exhaust stack was less than the height of the sunroom, resulting in a pressure problem that caused a lot of backflow. When it was warm and humid (read middle 30s and sleeting) it wouldn't run well. The stack also ended with just a 90* bend sticking out the side of the sunroom, facing east. When it was windy, especially north east winds (nor'easters are practically a weekly occurrence here), the damned thing would breathe fire - flames shooting sometimes 4 feet high from the feed tube.

I spent most of August building the new bench, using more than 5 times the amount of material and setting the duct at an outward angle, draining away from the manifold. We underlayed it with sheet plastic and a double layer of aluminum foil - shiny side up. I sculpted in a couch and steps directly, plus incorporated a dead end wrapping the east wall of the sunroom which doubles as a moisture seep for any condensation. The bench then runs under the overhang of the fifth-wheel and out through the shed's "foundation". This section, under the overhang and through the shed, is what doubles as the base of the interior wall of the duck house. I also extended the exhaust stack to rise above the roof of the camper, eliminating the stack effect, and I crowned it with an H (composed of three T connections) which performs exceptionally well in high wind.

The bench is still not 100% complete. I didn't get the final coat over the section from the door to the exhaust stack, nor over the dead end. I'd also like to get the thing dried out nicely and plaster it so it's not so...well...dirty looking A nice dark plaster would help hugely with solar gain. But hey, it's FAR better than it was last year.

I also upgraded our heat riser to use ceramic fiber blanket (2600*F). I soaked one side of the inner layer with clay slip and molded it around 8" ducting pipe so it would keep its shape when the 8" ducting burns out, then wrapped it with a second layer, giving an insulation width of 2.5 to 3 inches. I then packed ash into the bit of space between the ceramic fiber blanket and 14" surround for a little extra. Rockety rockety

So far, our barrel top temps are enough to nicely cook and brown a turkey on T-day (took 3 hours for a 15lb). The internal temperature of the ultra thick manifold is holding between 120 and 140*F. The couch is starting to get up to temp (surface temps around 85-90*F) and the "bump" beside the steps is just starting to warm at 65*F. A lot of steam still coming from everything. We're burning up to 8 hours a day right now with temps dropping to teens and single digits - the sunroom's inside temps are staying cool but comfortable, bottoming out at 35*F when the heater isn't actively running with temps well into the single digits outside.

What I didn't include in this round of video is sunroom construction, though it's very straightforward. Over the summer, I had sheathed the sunroom with fiberglass screening to keep out the mosquitoes - we left this in place for the winter, placing a layer of .7 mil plastic sheeting over this, then a layer of bubblewrap, then a 6 mil plastic sheet. The interior wall of the sunroom is lined with black landscaping cloth for solar gain.

In other news, and no surprise, I haven't gotten much else done. August through Turkey Day have been consumed with cobbing and retrieving the materials to do that cobbing. What did come from all of this resource gathering was a "good start" on the "Blueberry Pond", a steep walled hole apx 5 feet by 15 feet and 4-5 feet deep, as well as a series of 3 "pond beds" running down the west side of the driveway. These will be planted with arrow root and pickerel weed come spring and should make a fine addition to the overall hydroscaping of the area. I might also add two more of these "pond beds" in the series. The Blueberry Pond will be MUCH larger when it's completed, but one guy digging the whole thing with a shovel is just insane - until the backhoe happens, it's just a nice area for harvesting clay

We're also down to 10 ducks as one of our girls hung herself on the solar panel frame early morning while we were sleeping. She had just started to cool when I found her, so I wasn't able to properly bleed her out before butchering, but I wasn't going to let her go to waste. I'm AMAZED by how similar the flavor of muscovy meat is to beef. For anyone who's been thinking about muscovy for meat ducks, it's true - just like beef! Because she wasn't bled out properly, the breast meat had a bit of a gamey flavor, but I'm hooked. The only thing saving those little mother duckers from the dinner table is the current relative cost-benefit - right now, those would be some VERY expensive steaks. I need eggs and more muscovy out of them before I start butchering, and even then I'll likely stick with mainly harvesting drakes. With two very horny drakes, I expect to have a lot of fertilized eggs once the girls start laying and will be looking to sell/trade for fertilized campbell and runner, chicken and maybe goose eggs. We might also look into selling/trading ducklings at some point depending on circumstances.

The slow down with work I mentioned is also delaying purchase of our stud LGD, who I was hoping to bring home sometime around now. Penny is currently weighing in around 80lbs and, at 9 months, it's only a matter of time before she's having regular heat cycles. With a little luck, finances will free up again and we can get moving on this as well.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Updated vid of Penny - she definitely growing into her job now that she's settling down a little, but still such a puppy

https://vimeo.com/113245988
 
Tim Arbo
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Good Heavens, Tristan.

Wow.

I'm down here outside Belfast.

I'm just hankering to do some work on my 2 acres.

First, the family requires the woodstove installed. That'll take the edge off the oil bill.

How do you like this heat wave?

Sincerely,

Tim
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Tim Arbo wrote:Good Heavens, Tristan.

Wow.

I'm down here outside Belfast.

I'm just hankering to do some work on my 2 acres.

First, the family requires the woodstove installed. That'll take the edge off the oil bill.

How do you like this heat wave?

Sincerely,

Tim


This here's been beach weather, and the wildlife thinks so too! We had a close encounter with moose the size of draft horses yesterday. They decided the heavy fog layer was a perfect invitation to brave the noon time sun and check out the camp for goodies. My poor mother nearly had a heart attack when she stepped out with Penny to find these two 8ft tall "horses" staring at her from only a few yards away.

In all the hysteria, I forgot to grab the camera to get some video of the lumbering giants trying to figure out if we were a threat or not.

If you have the ability, I definitely recommend a nice RMH to help cut back on wood use, as well. Just don't be stupid like me and build it late in the year - start in June! And if you need clay, come up for visit and help dig our ponds

Do you have plans for your little piece of Eden?
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Haven't updated this in quite some time now so figure I should give a run-down of goings-on. Going to have to break this into a couple of posts, though, since I'm more wordy than I thought right now.

First thing's first, the RMH worked amazingly well over this last winter. We had regular frosts in the sunroom garden due to the fact we dropped so damn cold for so long (recorded -26*F three times this year and we were at or below -10*F for something like 28 days between middle January and middle March...call it the whole damned month of February). However, that RMH kept things almost comfortable in the sunroom and the additional protection on the north side with the cordwood shed kept things pretty darn bearable. I believe the propane heating cost this year was around...let's see, $25 times 2 tanks every 2 weeks from November through March...plus or minus a bit...roughly speaking...$350. That would include cooking and hot water as well. Overall wood use was *down* on the RMH as well with the more efficient burn, additional mass and additional insulation - would say about 4 cords this winter.

Oh, and the ducks LOVED the RMH bench running through their house. The duck poo was amazingly not a problem - any on the bench dried out quick with such regular use and stink was at a minimum considering volume I measured a toasty 90*F under the duck butts on some pretty cold nights. The air temp was usually between 35* and 45*, though some of the colder nights (and after the longer stretches of seriously sub-zero weather) we had their water freeze up overnight.

Penny, still being such a puppy early this winter, did break into the sunroom garden a few times to see if she could meet the Chinese people "just down there a ways"...instead, she found such things as parsley roots and the water table. Needless to say, the sunroom garden didn't fair well between that and a few frosts and we called it a loss around middle-February. The few things that did survive and come back got some extra care, but most of it was replanted in March.

Over the spring melt, the wind damage to that poor vinyl tarp we had over the shed really started to show - had quite a bit of water leakage. We expected it to some extent when the winter winds were ripping at the thing, but hoped it wouldn't be as bad as it became. Sections of the cordwood walls got wet and, well, wet cob is synonymous with mud in anybody's book, so some of the walls started to give out. Surprisingly, most didn't! Two major issues we found were: #1 - wet duck crap hay pressing against the bottom of the walls actually caused them to push out off the foundation a bit around middle March (manure packing technique) which caused a partial wall collapse and #2 - doors and windows need sturdy, durable framing to support all that weight (we had a couple windows break and the door frames went skewed, eventually leading to more partial collapses). Overall, I was amazed at how well things held together considering we used a lot of green hardwoods in full rounds rather than split, seasoned softwoods as well as hay rather than straw.

So since the spring melt, a lot of little projects went into action. Mucking out the duck house gave us a really fertile mulch to use for our "Ruth Strout" garden partially started last year. We expanded it in length initially and planted in daffodils around a couple peaches and a sweet cherry. Unfortunately, we bought the peaches and cherry from Burgess and none were alive...all rotted in the ground. The daffodils are still there in circles, ready for replacements.

** Side note here - if ordering from Burgess, be prepared for a nightmare when most or all of your plants are DOA...guess they're notorious for that and the ensuing game of "we didn't receive your letter" they play when you try to get replacements or your money back. And be sure to save that shipping label, not that it will do you much good. That said, many items we bought from them did survive and are thriving now. It's hit or miss with them. **

Anyway, back to the "mulch bed" garden...along with the fruit trees and daffodils, we popped in some wally-world bought hyacinths to help draw in the early pollinators, yellow storage onions from sets and some 35+ roma tomato plants we started in early March on the RMH. After a couple of late frosts and a late freeze, we did have some issues with the romas and lost a section of them. The count of survivors is something around 25+, so definitely not a total loss, and the ones that survived are (for the most part) thriving...just need bees now since they've all been in flower for over two weeks with no sign of pollination STILL. We also put in peppermint, anise hyssop, OP genovese basil, a few perennial "sacred basil" and OP mini bell peppers. In addition to the herbs and veggies in this bed, we placed a couple of siberian pea shrub between the (now missing) fruit trees, a couple of rose bushes, a few types of lily and a couple of peonies...if you're from Maine, you know Mardens and probably love their sales on roses and bulbs as much as I do Along the back of this bed, I put in a trellis of bird netting and planted sugar snap peas, morning glories and moon flowers, then just a few days ago kentucky wonder pole beans. Overall, the bed is approximately 40ft long and 4.5 feet wide, though we just recently expanded it up the hill to the side of the driveway, making it technically about 10 feet wide with the path down the middle. This new section is planted with only siberian pea shrub thusfar - soil is all hard compacted clay so we want to give it some time to loosen up under the cardboard and mulch.

Another application for the duck poop (#2 of 4) was creation of an asparagus bed behind the pond I dug last year (think I mentioned it). Since the stropharia (garden giant/winecap) mushrooms were just so delicious and so easy, I decided to grab another bag of mycelium from Stamets' website and we placed 1/2 of this under the asparagus bed on a layer of sugar maple (chunks, chips, dust and twigs). Over this is a layer of duck crap hay, followed by a layer of clayey soil, another layer of duck crap hay and a final layer of mucky topsoil. The whole thing resulted in a bit of a dome. Planted in were purple passion asparagus from wally world last year that never got planted (doh!) and jersey knight asparagus that we bought from Burgess this year (which seemed to all survive!). Overall, something like 20 crowns in a 6ft diameter and 2ft high dome. Since the asparagus wont be needing all that space for at least a couple of years, we put in several striped cavern tomatoes around the outter ring, living mulched the dome with white dutch clover and popped in some (OP genovese) basil seedlings. So far, it seems things are happy

Application #3 of the duck poop was to create a 1ft deep layered garden bed in front of the sunroom - an L shape apx 20 feet long and 3 feet wide with the shorter section about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. In there went all sorts of greens, peas, favas, etc. Currently, we're harvesting more lettuce than we can eat, have borage about waist high just starting to flower, have peas about 5ft tall all along the shady side with enough pods coming in the next couple weeks to can them up for winter and what looks to be a really decent harvest of full size broccoli heads coming later this season.

That duck poo is magical stuff!

Finally, application #4 of that mucked out duck poop went to another garden bed over stropharia, this one on the side of the "nursery pond" where it gets full sun, bakes with heat and stays pretty well drained. Again, sugar maple for the stropharia covered with layers of the clayey soil and duck crap hay In this are planted a couple more roses (dirt cheap - thank you Mardens!), patches of creeping thyme, 4 hardy lavender, a few patches of purslane, several OP cherry tomato plants, OP jalepeno peppers and OP long cayenne peppers. Oh, and some nasturtium
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Ok, post #2 on this fine night... where to pick up?

Blueberries...cultivated this time. 100 of them. Planted all around the back of the "blueberry stream" ponds. They're doing good.

Strawberries...again, cultivated.. 100 each of ozark beauty and fort laramie. These are around the "paddies" (did I mention these already?) and in the main gardens from last year.
In case I didn't mention the "paddies", these are smallish (6x10 ish) rectangular wet areas dug out between the future "blueberry pond" and the "blueberry stream ponds" you can see in the videos I posted last year. These are along the side of the driveway, across from the cattail pond shown in the vids, each paddy being a step-down effect from the previous. We're trying to 1) minimize flowing water, 2) create more edges and 3) produce quantities of edible starches (arrowhead). The paddies are all planted with arrowhead, though none has sprouted yet, and there's 5 total. Strawberries are planted along the driveway side of these and on the divider "dams" between each paddy. I'll have to get video of this up at some point.

Apricots - out of 3 ordered, 2 are alive and doing well. Machurian type

Peach Grove - planted with 6 bare root peaches and 4 sweet cherry, none of which survived. Well, that's not entirely true - the root stocks survived on the red havens but everything above the graft was gone. The rootstock didn't even surive on the hale haven peaches I also planted in 7 black locust, 12 autumn olives and seeded with clover.

A mouse ate our apple and oak seedlings this spring (that bastard!) **right before I was able to plant them!!! Literally, a few days before the soil thawed enough I could get them in the ground, they disappeared. All I found was the root masses. I planted those out, just in case, and didn't expect anything from them.....so much for the 100+ apple trees and 15-20 white oaks I was counting on. So mad about that

Walnut Guild - half of it is "done"! Because it was taking so long to do the clearing up there, I cut things short and planted all the black walnuts and butternuts in the little more than half of the area I had cleared. This leaves less roof than I would have liked for the black cherry next year, but better we have less black cherry and more plants not dead That's 25 black walnuts and 10 butternuts, plus roughly 30 black locust and 30 autumn olives, planted over 1.5 acres or so. The soil up there is way more fertile than I realized - no joke, by the time I cleared 1 acre, where I started was grown back in to waist deep with blackberries~! Just hoping the blackberries don't swamp out the walnuts now!

Ugh, I could go on and on all night with the little projects, so I wont. One more post on the current projects, then dinner and bed
 
Tristan Vitali
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Ok, so final post for this update - the current project is a shed overhaul. I had started cutting some hemlocks for the cabin early this spring with all intentions of getting started on that about this time of the summer, but with the shed falling apart from leaking on the cob and a minimum 3 years (read: 3 very long winters) expected to build the cabin before we move in, I decided to focus in on that this year instead. The logs I cut for the cabin are still going to the cabin, but a shed overhaul gives me/us much needed experience and ability to experiment with more of these natural building methods.

So the plan: roundwood timber framing - post and beam style with primarly 6 foot spans - mostly balsam fir and (short lengths of) sugar maple. I worry about using the sugar maple for anything much, especially the main supports or longer spans since I know how much it loves to twist and pull over time, but I refuse to use our pines and hemlocks for a temporary, experimental structure!

On top of this roundwood post and beam frame sits a green roof - apx 3-6" thick peat moss / clay mix with lots of these god-awful clumping grass root clots to help hold things together. Roof pitch is running up to about 30%, which is pushing it for a green roof from what I've read, but it doesn't seem to be a problem once the root structure is there. The roof will be primarily seeded with white dutch clover and two species of grass (tall fescue and annual ryegrass) as well as buckwheat.

Walls will be cordwood infill in places, strawbale style infill using haybales (I don't care if it survives 15+ years...just need 3-5 out of it), and a fusion of the two.

The 4" RMH system I was planning to install last year but ran out of unfrozen ground time to do it will be going in this year. We'll also be building a super-insulated "ice chest" (it's makeshift, but should do nicely if the plan executes smoothly), putting a BSF bin into the RMH bench for overwintering the little guys, and hopefully putting in some shelving to store all these canned fruits and veggies

So that's the current project. I've already cut the posts and we've torn down the remaining 80% of the shed that didn't come down on its own, so next step is to start digging holes and placing the posts. I did have a small introduction to roundwood timberframing when I set up a "summer house" for the ducks this spring (had to do something when the walls started to give) and that went surprisingly well. I'm feeling good about this project

Oh, and speaking of ducks.... we currently have about 60+ eggs ready to hatch in the next two weeks. In fact, Egghead's nest is due today! No sign of any hatching or peeps yet, but today was day #35. We have 3 nests being sat on - one in the main duck house where Egghead set up over the early spring, one in the duckling house where we put Blondie (she turned into a nasty little thing once she got broody) and one in the summer duck house, which has three moms (Patch, Surrogate and Brownie). It was originally Patch's nest, but Surrogate decided to get broody and forced her way in. Patch eventually accepted her into the nest and they started taking turns sitting. Just in the last week, Brownie decided to get broody and started forcing herself in as well. Now they all 3 take turns sitting We got around 4 dozen eggs out of the girls before they started going broody, but then even the ones that hadn't gone broody stopped laying. That was three weeks ago. Very strange and a little frustrating with egg prices up like they are.

We did also pick up 10 fertile campbell eggs and stuck those under bums just as Blondie and Patch got broody, so we wont be monoculturing mascovy soon. I figure we should be keeping apx 30 ducks over the winter with the rest going for meat - basically, that's a tripling on the number of overwintering ducks. They had plenty of room in the duck house over this last winter, but this one might be a little tight. Going to build in lots of perches so they can go vertical Better start getting lots of eggs out of these girls, because that's going to be a lot of bellies to fill over the winter.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Two little yellow ducklings today out of Egghead's nest - the first critters born here so acts as a sort of milestone. Now it's only 58+ more to go! Also started setting posts for the shed rebuild. No pictures or video though...not yet. Will try to do so but it's hard to remember (and then when you do you're right in the middle of whatever and don't want to stop to get the camera).

A few other major plantings I had forgot to mention in the previous posts (was rushing so I could get some dinner in me, which I am again now!):
25 standard american plums (from seed) planted in 4 groups through the west side oak forest area
25 fox grapes (also from seed) planted throughout the left side oak forest area with a couple put in the peach grove area above the future perch pond
200 hazelnuts planted along the western property boundary (future fedge)
75 hawthorns (25 to go) planted along the pasture fence line (future fedge)
a bunch of nitrogen fixers (black locust, siberian pea shrub and autumn olive) planted out to the west side oak forest area
several hostas in the pine forest

Regarding the current "vegetable" patches:
-3 gardens along the "blueberry stream" ponds
southern most was planted last year with primarily (june bearing) strawberries and annuals that went in this year include bush beans, garlic, onions and carrots
middle (underlayed with stropharia last year) was planted with fort laramie strawberries last year, then this year with lovage, and annuals this year include assortments of greens (chard, lettuce, spinach, kale, etc) as well as pea pods and bush beans
northern most was planted last year with wild strawberries last year and annuals this year include bok choi, cabbage, lettuce, green onions (scallions), garlic and parsnip
-"front garden" (just in front of the sunroom) is planted with all annuals right now - spinach, chard, fennel, broccoli, lettuce, radish, mustards, pea pods, borage, cabbage and a few zuccini and slicer tomatoes (oregon spring)
-"mulched bed" (heavy straw mulch) is planted with roma tomatoes, mini bell peppers, basil, roses, daffodils, anise hyssop, peonies, siberian pea shrub, peas, beans (both bush, as of yesterday, and pole), peppermint, onions, lilies and hyacinth
-"hot garden" (heavy mulch straw, underlayed with stropharia) is planted with lavender, roses, creeping thyme, purslane, cherry tomatoes (black cherry), and hot peppers
-asparagus bed (also underlayed with stropharia) is planted with jersey knight and purple passion asparagus, heirloom stuffing tomatoes (striped cavern) and basil
-"tomato circles" (mulch piles from last year surrounded with a partially buried ring of rotted wood) are planted with heirloom beefsteak tomatoes (brandywine), northern climate cantaloupes (granite state), pie pumpkins and bush beans
-sumac patch (planted last year and just starting to establish) is surrounded by 5 hills planted with a 3 sisters-esque setup of sunflowers, pole beans and acorn squash, and along the forest edge beside the patch is apx 1lb of jerusalem artichokes along with a few more pole beans
-above the perch pond, 10 tire stacks of potatoes are growing happily in (yet more) duck poo hay...I swear, everything absolutely loves that shit ...and behind them along the back edge of the old skid trail is the other apx 8lb of jerusalem artichoke
-behind the blueberry pond area (which is right now surrounded with what looks like it will be an awesome harvest of raspberries) is another try at the 3-sisters garden patch that failed for us last year due to slug pressure and poor seed germination - sunflowers (sunseed), pole beans (kentucky wonder) and squash (waltham butternut)
-the duck run area has a few strips planted heavily with kale, chickweed and lettuce, which they've been keeping trimmed and weeded for us

The pasture area is really coming to life now - grasses are becoming quite lush, things are filling in nicely, all the scattered about wood and sticks are actually starting to rot down quickly and the worms have gone bonkers It's really starting to look pasture-y now, which is a far cry from how it looked last year at this time (full of sapling stumps and unrotted slash sticking out of the soil, puddles everywhere and a lot of bare dirt). Clover is even taking this year, which it wouldn't do last year, likely due to high acid. I spread several varieties of wildflower and forb seed around with still not great success, but much of it was in need of cold stratification and I was a little late in getting it out there this spring since May came in *way* warmer than expected - we went from snowmelt to middle 70s in a matter of two weeks, which was very weird. I still have some work to do with clearing around the periphery, pushing back into the eastern forest edge a bit and would like to further thin some of the brushy areas we're leaving, but it's definitely coming along fast now

I also spread a lot of other wildflower seed, including sweet joe pye weed, lobelias, skullcap, virginia bluebell, columbine, etc, throughout the pine and oak forests. Got them a little late too on account of the early warm-up and it's hard to pick the seedlings out amongst the forest floor litter, so not sure if any have/will be up this year. I'm expecting a lot of these might not sprout until next spring after they've had their required cold stratification. Some of these were also planted out in areas we've been watching more closely and I think I can identify at least a few seedlings amongst the weeds, so we'll see

With two solar panels powering us, we're finding we haven't needed to run the generator for weeks at a time since middle April. It's working out very nicely. I'd like to add one more solar panel and two more 100ah batteries to the setup if I find myself suddenly flush with cash, but really not expecting that any time soon.

Will have to find some more time at some future date to get on here and detail things a bit more. Anyone watching this thread would probably like to see at least photos, so will TRY to get those for you, while for me, this project thread is a good way to keep track of progress over the years...from concept to reality, step by step, along with both successes and failures, so I definitely want to make sure everything gets written down. Thank you Permies folk for having it here - we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude
 
Genevieve Higgs
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Thank you for sharing your adventure - it's a huge inspiration

Any idea what % of your duck's food come from slugs and other plant destroying crawlies? According to the Internet the have slugs have about 90 kcal per 100g and 7% protein. At any rate they certainly sound like they're earning their way with the fertilizer production btw Laughed a lot imagining you guys sneaking a thermometer underneath a sleeping duck's but
 
Tristan Vitali
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Pictures time - took a few today to run around and get some shots. I do have videos but they've proven to take time and be a serious pain in the rear to get online, so wont be doing as many of those for a while.

So will start with the various growies mentioned - first the front garden
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Front Garden 1
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Front Garden 2
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Front Garden 3
 
Tristan Vitali
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This is the front pond dug last year - it's shallow and a bit slimy still since it's new, but coming along. Makes a great area to sit and have a campfire

Around the banks are chammomile, wild bergamot, wood mint, spearmint, skullcap, great blue lobelia and cardinal flower, rose mallow and swamp thistle. In the pond are water hyacinth and duckweed, pink hardy water lily and a few arrowhead. We'll hopefully be popping a few pickerelweed in later this month.
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The front pond
 
Tristan Vitali
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More. In the sumac patch, the tall dead sticks are the original sumacs put in last year. They winter killed down to the roots, so those are dead but there's 6 or 7 trees sprouting from the roots now. Also planted back there are jerusalem artichokes (not showing much growth yet) and some cucumbers right at the base of the dead trunks.
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Mulched Bed - Ruth Strout method
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Sumac Patch and Squash Hills
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Cattail Bog and Rose Nursery
 
Tristan Vitali
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Here's the "pond gardens" I mention - lower, middle and upper (going south to north) - then the paddies and the blueberry pond at the top. Behind the pond gardens are the wild and cultivated blueberries (roughly 100 of each) edging the pine forest, and behind the paddies is one of our dedicated blackberry patches.
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Lower pond garden
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Middle pond garden / stropharia bed
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Middle pond garden / stropharia bed
 
Tristan Vitali
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cont'd
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Upper pond garden
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Paddies
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Blueberry pond area
 
Tristan Vitali
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More pics
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The asparagus bed, underlayed with stropharia and interplanted with tomatoes/basil
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Hot garden and nursery pond
 
Tristan Vitali
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In the tomato circles there are brandywine and a couple of cherokee purple heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupes, bush beans (hopefully sprouting soon) and new england pie pumpkin.
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Tomato Circles
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Tomato Circles
 
Tristan Vitali
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And finally, above the perch pond are jerusalem artichokes (also not growing much yet) and potatoes in tire stacks. There are 10 stacks of tires (hard to see them all in the shot). The stacks were done on top of hardware cloth to help prevent critters getting in and eating the potatoes like happened last year. I stripped the grass off the ground, laid the hardware cloth down, placed the first layer of tires and put a layer of mucky, clayey mud over the top of the hardware cloth inside the tires. I then placed the potatoes directly on top of the mud and mulched them in one tire deep. A second tire was added immediately but only mulched when adding a third tire to the stack.

Further down the old skid trail is where the peach grove is situated.
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Above perch pond - potatoes and jerusalem artichokes
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Close up of potatoes
 
Tristan Vitali
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A few of the woody growies out in the oak forest area
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One of the american plums planted this spring
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One of the hazelnuts planted last spring in the hazelnut nursery
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Wild fox grapes planted this spring
 
Tristan Vitali
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Here's a series of shots of the pasture area - keep in mind that it was all brushy undergrowth as recent as fall 2013. I think it's almost ready for a couple of dexters!
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pasture entrance from driveway
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Tristan Vitali
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Some more shots of the pasture
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Tristan Vitali
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Here's a shot of the general pasture composition so far. There are a few types of grass in there now - the timothy grass moved in on its own, I seeded annual ryegrass and both tall and fine fescue, plus we have several native perennial clumpers like canary out there. There's some clover starting to take as well, though not much yet. There are a lot of sensitive fern, some cinnamon and even bracken fern, along with some goldenrod and fleabane. There's also lots of dewberry/blackberry/raspberry/strawberry. A few dandelions did come in this year, thankfully, and I'll be seeding both yellow dock and common plantain again to hopefully get some of that going next year.
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Tristan Vitali
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A look around what I cleared of the walnut guild. The shot looking north shows the northern property boundary - that large hemlock had one of the neighbor's posted signs on it until the latest rains. The shot looking east shows where I ended early - this should go back about just a bit less than the width of the area that I did get to this spring. The shot looking south shows where the trout pond shoreline will be - just to the left of the hemlocks.
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Looking north
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Looking east
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Looking south
 
Tristan Vitali
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The first is one of the butternuts in the walnut guild. Because the area is so heavily planted with nitrogen fixers (autumn olive and black locust mostly) I didn't want to walk around much and didn't get any shots of the black walnuts.

The other two pictures are of one of the pines I took down in the walnut guild area. These pines should make for some nice furnishings in the cabin someday....just a matter of figuring out how to get them down here where I can work with them without killing myself in the process!
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Butternut
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One of the pines
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Closeup of pine
 
Tristan Vitali
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Here's a few shots of the peach grove area - I left primarily quaking aspen saplings (what the locals call popples) since they're N-fixers, plus added in autumn olives and black locust.
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