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First steps?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 30
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Greetings, all. My name is Kevin and I completed my PDC in September at Jerome Osentowski's up in Basalt.

I am currently residing in Colorado and have been keeping an eye (and mind) on acquiring some rural property. Land out here can be very cheap, and I've been keeping tabs on stuff between $5-12k.

I've been thinking as to what the early steps would be. I think the most realistic approach to this for someone of my age and financial disadvantage (22 years old) is to install my plan in a sequence of steps.

I think my first-step would be to camp on the site, learn it, know it, etc. while sheet-mulching, installing rainwater catchment systems, and digging swales/ponds. (if applicable) Then I would probably head back to the east coast to reside with family, or couch-crash here in Denver with a buddy of mine to work during the winter, and return in the spring.

The second step would be building my home (cob would be the preferred method) and planting trees, and from there start small.

Beyond that, what would you folks say are integral beginning steps to establish a forest garden? Should I just lay some black poly everywhere I plan to plant? Seems it would also be a good idea to start collecting salvage and organic matter for mulch.

Ultimately I'd like to reach "do it all" status. 'Manage' a productive forest garden, cultivate mushrooms, keep bees, harvest small game, some aquaculture, etc.

Thanks to any and all who read this. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and opinions.
 
pollinator
Posts: 240
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Hi Kevin,

I am in those early stages you talk about.  Learning the land is important, and starting with water catchment (swales, ponds, check dams) makes sense since it is somewhat disruptive and better to do when you don't have much planted.  Planting low-maintenance trees for screening wind and neighbors is another thing to do early.  Maybe plant some cover crops to help build/restore the soil.  It is hard to do much beyond this when you only occaisionally visit the land.

Laying black poly is a big mistake that you would later regret.  If it is buried it inhibits soil development and causes other unintended consequences. If the poly is on the surface it will cook the soil and kill of a lot of organisms.  Between the dry air and elevation, the Colorado sun is intense.  If you are very high in the mountains, you can use stone to help heat the soil.  In general you are better off mulching. 
 
Posts: 37
Location: New Hampshire; USDA Z5
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I'm not from Colorado but I often see notes regarding rainwater catchment that this may be illegal in Colorado (and possibly other Western US states) because of rules in your state Constitution surrounding water rights.
 
kevin wheels
Posts: 30
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Ardilla -- Thanks for the tip. I was reading something in a book on forest gardens about a fellow who used black poly to disturb the area, and then vigorously plant. I guess I'll wait til I have chickens + chicken tractor

Longwinters, it is legal in Colorado. Though, even if I were living someplace where it wasn't, I'd probably still do it; just because I'm a rabble-rousing kind of permie.

Is there a specific mulch to start with that's recommended? I have some experience with urban organic gardening, but very little in planting forest gardens. Thanks for the help!
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i hope you finid the right piece of land, that is of course your first step..and then go from there..dependinig on the piece of land you get, i guess..and what you feel needs to be done first.

generally i suggest starting with your trees once you know the land well enough..established paths is also a good place to start..however the critters on the land are transversing it will be a good clue to where the paths might be placed?..

figure where your well, drainfield and house are going to be placed and then plan from there..so you aren't planting a tree in the best house spot..etc.

you might need windbreaks or shade..put the windbreaks in right away.
 
gardener
Posts: 1352
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Kevin,
Look at  http://water.state.co.us/pubs/pdf/RainWaterBills.pdf ; before you implement rain water catchment in Colorado. The State has lightened up but you can still get into a sticky wicket.
 
kevin wheels
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Robert Ray I thank you for that valuable information. I will do well to keep that in mind should I go forward with this.

Perhaps this was a foolish idea in hindsight, but I was originally thinking of skipping the well and septic altogether. As I said earlier, I was originally going to just put some temporary rain-catchment structures on the property (in a clandestine fashion) while doing other work there and collecting the water over several months during my absence. I understand that a lot of residential laws require the use of a septic, but I was planning on foregoing that as well, as I would be composting all of my excrement.

Some of the properties I've been looking at are very remote, with some cover of pines from the road and such. I was already planning on guerrilla-building my house, since the red tape on building a house out of cob is a bit lengthy to my tastes.

I have no illusions about the difficulty of this project, or the legal risks involved here. However, I am a passionate young individual and a big believer in innate human rights. My plan is to be well out of sight and avoid drawing attention to myself.

Is this totally unrealistic? I welcome and value all opinions.
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1352
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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I don't have a problem with intelligent thoughtful guerrilla land use, however it can be a huge disappointment when hard work has to be removed or eliminated due to code restrictions.
Composting toilets and greywater re-use are high on my lists of things that should be used more and codified in all areas.
Would a landscaping swale be considered illegal under Colorado rules? I think it would be a hard case to prove.
I see the need for building codes but abhor the idea of paying for permits on a structure on my property.
You are really just formulating now it seems. Dream it and move forward.
 
Posts: 631
Location: NW MO
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I looked a long time to find property that has no zoning and no restrictions. I can build any thing any way i want. I can plant any thing or raise any animals that i want. I looked at a lot of properties before i found one that had no restrictions and no zoning. I would not want to have to deal with all the crap that inspectors and permits bring into the life of the land owner.

I would be very careful before killing any plant by sheet mulch or any other way.. the weed you kill today may be valuable tomorrow... I'm not saying to not kill in order to make the place the way you want , just that you know what it is that you are killing.


Kevin you must have learned a lot at the course you took..as watching your land and learning from it is a very good idea,
Listen carefully to the land and everything that is on it... the place whispers to you the things that are possible and sometimes the place shouts at you what to do or not to do.
 
kevin wheels
Posts: 30
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ronie, sounds like you've found paradise

I would much prefer to find that, as opposed to being sneaky about it. I'm still on the hunt for where that is, I haven't settled quite yet!

Ronie, I whole-heartedly agree with you; I am not trying to make too much work for myself, and more importantly, show any disrespect. I intend for my role to be more of a cautious, observant semi-conductor rather than an ecological nuisance. I did learn a tremendous amount at the PDC, and am eternally grateful I was able to take part in such an experience.

For those who hold reverence for nature, I recommend a book that my mother recommended to me. It's titled, "The Secret Life of Plants," by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. It's spot on

 
ronie dee
Posts: 631
Location: NW MO
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Yep it is paradise... Life shouldn't be spent trying to please inspectors, boards or neighbors.. It should be you and yours and the things you want to accomplish.

Thanks for the book info..
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i'm kinda not too fond of the government telling me what i can or cannot do..esp when they change the rules midstream..i've lived on this particular property for going on 40 years and I guess if i've done it for 39 of them, i'm not going to change just cause they say i have to in my 40th ..

if it works it works.

we have been informed, by  the news, that some of the things we do could cost us 90 days iin jail..well duh..we've always done them, just cause they change their laws..doesn't mean that i'm going to be complying

for instance the small herd of deer that have been breeding on my property are now not allowed to eat anything that we have on our property including our apples that fall from our trees, our plants, our fallen bird seed, etc..or we can go to jail..bah humbug
 
ronie dee
Posts: 631
Location: NW MO
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Give those deer a stern warning to stay away and make a sign to that effect in plain site so the deer can read the sign and know that they are breaking the law.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Some first steps I might take:

Identify as many as possible of the plants that occur there, and look them up online.

Install habitat for wild animals, with a particular focus on pollinators, insectivores, and easy habitat to install. Brush piles & solitary bee habitat both sound easy to do, and I think bat boxes would be a good idea if either mosquitoes or phosphorus tend to be important.

Find any keypoints on the property, and mark out keylines. In contrast to Yeomans, I say local laws might suggest you plan on mulched swales where the Keyline Plan calls for dams.

Have large amounts of wood chips delivered, if any local arborists are willing to do so. Craigslist's free section can help in finding this and other resources.

Introduce or nurture plants that help you make the changes you intend & can survive without much care. Nitrogen fixers like vetch or medic climbing over the new pile of wood chips. Rye and/or fava beans in rows above the keyline, where it would be difficult to carry biomass. Fruit cores and pits where you intend your forest garden to be (scion is easy enough to get, for those that don't breed true). Daikon, mustard, buckwheat, sesame etc. where soil needs to be loosened.

I'm amazed at how inexpensive seed is when it doesn't come in envelopes; I really enjoy seed shopping in the bulk section of a good grocery or natural foods store, although the Mexican spice section and the bagged starchy food section can also be worthwhile. There are also good opportunities for seed-collecting along some sidewalks. Maybe obtaining some seeds would be worth doing before you even have the property.

I might put down small windrows of organic matter (emphasizing nearby stalks and branches) first, then maybe do a little digging to get a trench and cover the uphill side of each windrow with soil, only digging full-on swales if there's time to both dig and plant them. Then again, I tend to think in terms of heavy clay soil; working your soil might not be as difficult as I imagine.
 
kevin wheels
Posts: 30
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Joel, thank you for the informative and thoughtful post. Establishing habitat was not something that had occurred to me in these early phases.

Can you elaborate a little on your methods of seed collection? Originally I was planning on getting in touch with Jerome up in Basalt, as many of his heirlooms have adapted to the high altitude, but that may not be as economical as I hope.

The clay (and sometimes frozen) soil here can indeed be a real pain. Though, at this stage I'm not even 100% sure that Colorado is going to be the destination. The more I think about this project and goal, it occurs to me that I should take at least a few more months to put some money away to get started with, and give the research phase more energy. The design phase is the most key, after all.

Thank you all for the informative posts thus far, I encourage you to keep them coming! This thread has the potential to be informational gold for neophytes like myself and others in the future! Love, Kev.
 
Posts: 386
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Def NO on plastic mulch. tell us more how the land looks like. I would look around in nature and bring as many wild plants into a habitat. Look for forest edges in your are, you can learn the most from them if you want to create a forest garden.
 
                                  
Posts: 175
Location: Suwon, South Korea
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Some really good advice here.

I would add the following: 

* Post your land to discourage trespassers and poachers.

* Buy/build a shed to store your tools and stuff.

* Do a soil sample.  Find out the pH and what your soil has in excess and lacks before determining what you're going to mulch with.  If you are good at identifying plants, you can do a quick and dirty soil sample by observing what pioneer plants/field herbs (that's permie-speak for "weeds" are growing on your property already.  (I think Paul Wheaton writes about this a bit in his lawn care article, if I'm not mistaken.)

* Prudently bush-hog enough land for your cabin/mobile home/trailer, access, paths, and kitchen gardens.

* Obtain a wood chipper to create your own mulch from the bush hogging matter, fallen leaves, dead plants and prunings.  It's not good for getting rid of dead bodies, though (see the movie, Fargo).  You could also do some hugelkultur with the larger logs and branches.

* Talk to the neighbors and local master gardeners and nursery people about what grows and what doesn't, what to expect from the weather, regulators, etc.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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bruc33ef wrote:If you are good at identifying plants, you can do a quick and dirty soil sample by observing what pioneer plants/field herbs (that's permie-speak for "weeds" are growing on your property already. 



Excellent idea! There are good resources out there, this was the first to come up in a web search:

http://www.oregonbd.org/Class/weeds.htm
 
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Rumpelstiltskin ain't got nothing on this
https://permies.com/wiki/92731/fiber-arts/Homegrown-Linen-transforming-flaxseed-fibre
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