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Growing an Eden in PA

Posts: 7
Location: SW Pa
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Hi I'm Jamie, wife and mom of 3 young boys. I used to dream of setting up a homestead that was pretty agricultural, like here's the annuals garden we'll till that, here's the orchard we'll have to mow it or maybe run some geese in there, here's the chicken's run, here's the pasture. Well I'm in the country now with a large garden and some chickens, loving it but learning what I really want is to grow a more self sustaining system, just like the forest but put in species that I know we can use. We are moving again and for the last time with my husband's next promotion so that is when I want to start it. We don't generally eat grains and will soon get into a fishing and hunting habit, so once established for a few years I think I can reasonably grow/hunt/gather the bulk of what we need to eat (and cook and heat). I want to produce a few valuable things we can sell too.

I'm looking for a property in central PA (6a/6b) with maples (+birches, hickories) already on it, we love doing syrup. Either fully forested with mature trees so we can get some money clearing a part or buy land that's partially cleared. Say it's all forested, I figure we'll sell mature hardwood from a certain area we want clear, hire machinery for a day to further clear the homesite, and run pigs, goats, and fowl intensively in a rotation to clear more brush (electric temporary fences?), and bring the edge back out again planting fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, edible greens, flowers, tubers, medicinal herbs, mushrooms, and animal forage. We'll want a beehive too. I'll still want a small grape vineyard, strawberry patch, and asparagus patch in the sun. Someday I may want a milk cow and a pair of driving horses but only if I have the open land for hay and grazing.

Would this work, clearing with machines and animals then bringing the edge back out by just planting trees and groups of what understory plants I want? I'm curious about certain nitrogen fixing pioneer trees/bushes I've heard are good and bad in different ways. Useful and invasive is almost a plus if they are eventually self limiting, but should I or should I not use autumn olive, black locust, etc? I guess the thorns are what concerns me most, but also will they spread and compete with fruit trees? Also I'm having trouble understanding the permaculture stuff about swales and contours and such, maybe because my mind doesn't convert from words to spatial very well, can anyone help with what I need to know on that? Preferably with a link with pics or video?
Posts: 1444
Location: Fennville MI
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I would recommend going to YouTube and watching all of Paul Wheaton's videos. Some of them may not seem to be relevant at first, but they will all come together over time. Also, Geoff Lawton has quite a few videos out, some on YouTube and more at his site.

Geoff is pretty much The Man when it comes to swales. He understands them and explains them well.

Your plans really sound quite a bit like my own, although my target is SE Michigan.

I looked at Pennsylvania hard, and would suggest you consider Bedford county, it has a number of good qualities.
Posts: 4620
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Jamie, welcome to permies.

Here is a thread on swales and such that I really liked.

Take some time and look around at the other topics too, there is lots of info here at permies!
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