So I have posted about this in other permies forums in different forms but this one has a different angle since last posting the other ones. I am soon to be traveling to NW Arkansas about 20 min SSW of Huntsville Arkansas. I am meeting a gentleman that is a father of one of our friends. He is a very generous man and is giving us a very good deal and maybe even a better one if I consult for him in addition to our land that we buy. Depending on the plot(s) that we purchase the land can range from hill/mountain to bottom river land.
For more back ground information the main markets will be the Fayettville AR area. There are some unique challenges to our situation I will outline below. Our eventual plan is to have a market producing full scale permaculture farm and eco-tourism site(the lake is beautiful). The site has access to a 40 acre spring fed lake and a spring developing in the lower properties. I am confident I have the PermaChops for this but our situation is kind of different to say the least.
Our situation. I am currently active duty serving in So-Cal and have one more move left before I retire(about 4 years from now) and won't find out for at least 8-9 months where that is going to be. I'm hoping for stateside but who knows. The gentleman would like for me to be on site right away but it can't work out right now unless I get a duty station that is within 2 hrs(almost impossible). We are looking at any where between 9-20 acres maybe split between areas of a larger parcel he owns. I know what I would do for my property with a plan to only be there at a minimum of twice a year until we move in, but he said that if I can prove I can make it happen he would open up another 30+ acres for use/lease/buy. One of the main parcels we are looking at already has an old school house that we will rennovate to live in for a while tiny home style. the land owner is trustworthy enough to monitor contractors if I so choose to use them. There is a strong Mennonite Communty for builders and a huge lumber mill facility right up the road for any timber that may be pulled off the site.
My questions to the group is as follows:
1. What can be done on a semi-annual time frame(1 week each) or from a distance that will provide fruitfull down the road when we permanantly get there?
*My initial ideas are putting in a full perimiter planting of saplings with a mix of Nitrogen fixing,forrage and edible trees.
*Perennial cover crops and any cover crops that would be needed to repair any soil problems.
2. Mainframe earth works if required wont be put in unless I am there, but what other things can be done in that vein?
*If needed may sub soil plow to help build the soil.
3. Other than trees and soil ammending cover crops what else would you plant that are long term producers that can just be left to grow while we are not there?
*Zone 6b-7a 1300 feet river valley
*All forrage would be protected from deer and other pests *Any food yields would be taken care of by the neighbors.
4. In an attempt to sweeten the deal and keep access to the other land the owner has what kind of operations would you set up to prove yourself on short time frame visits or from a distance.
*I'm thinking a plan for agroforrestry long term high value productive trees.
*Labor is an issue at this point as I don't know the market.
*Development of a WWOF'er/intern program.
*I know the owner would like to make the site a destination, but needs positive cash flow and master plan for the site. The site alread has an air strip and was at one time marketed as a skypark community.
Since you won't be at the site very often, I am thinking MasanobuFukuoka's techniques would be highly useful for your situation; (there are three different links in that sentence for more information). I also thinkRuth Stout's techniques may also come in handy. What I am thinking could happen, would be that seedballs could be made en masse from tons of different plants and just scattered everywhere to get some forward momentum going on the site. Plants For a Future has a good database for looking up plants that will work in your area. I think the plants are smart enough to come to an agreement eventually on who grows where, maybe...
Yeah Fukuoka's techniques are one of the tools I will likely be employing at least to some degree. So to not be that neighbor that just has his land overgrown I will have someone locally brush hog it on a set schedule based on the cover cropping plan I build for it. Not many of the neighbors are capable(old) to do any labor so I kind of have to keep it as simple as possible whilst maintaining a balance between production and maintenance. The things I put in place must be able to function or do its task with as little intervention as possible.
Another technique I think would be useful for your situation, if seedballs will be too time consuming, would be to spread seeds in the manner that Toby Hemenway suggested in his book Gaia's Garden: use a seed broadcaster and spread seeds one shape and size at a time all over the site. The reason for broadcasting them according to size and shape is so that they are evenly broadcast all over and not the big ones here, small ones here, etc. It requires little planning and should be relatively quick to do. The main reason I suggest this, even without having done it myself, is that the eventual balance of ecosystems is self-evident in nature; the organisms are all alive and capable of taking care of themselves. If they can't, they'll die, and another species will fill that niche. I think it would be interesting to watch if a food forest can self-assemble.