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From forest to farm

 
Mattes Schmitz
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Hello to all of you at permies,

I registered here, because me and my wife want to hear the opinions of permaculture people on what we will (try to) do.

My wifes parents will offer land to us for the self-sustaining life we want to live. This feels like a great opportunity, as it has been my greatest wish. Even more so since reading "Walden" sometime in 2006.
The land offered is entirely covered with forest, so cutting a clearing is obvious. The property has a brook/stream running through it. It is our goal to have chickens, bees, Hügelkultur beds, food forests wild hedges with berries as barriers for game, wind turbines (the atlantic ocean is a 5 minute drive away), a water turbine and an Esse wood stove for cooking and as a heat source. Pigs for clearing and fertilizing the land are an often returning idea as well.

The region I am talking about is the Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia, Canada. The hardiness is 5b, there are 130 frost free days. A governmential document might help me explaining the location a bit more in deatil:

"Climate. The Sheet Harbour Ecodistrict is
characterized by moist summers with no moisture
deficit. It has a mean annual temperature of5.8°C,
and mean summer and winter temperatures are
16.3 and -5.0°C, respectively. The ecodistrict
receives about 1440 mm of precipitation annually,
including about 535 mm ofrain between May and
September. The ecodistrict accumulates 1522
annual growing degree-days (5°C basis) and has a
growing season of 196 days.
Landform. The Sheet Harbour Ecodistrict is
predominantly located on a rolling to hummocky
till plain. Much of the topography is controlled by
the underlying quartzite and granite bedrock and is
covered with stony till. The dominant till is derived
from quartzite, is found on rolling topography, and
is excessively stony. Till veneers and bedrock
outcrops are common. Moderately fine-textured,
reddish-brown till, derived from Carboniferous
shale, has been deposited to a notable extent as till
plain around the Moser River area and as drumlins
south and east of the Musquodoboit Valley. A
gravelly medium-textured till veneer caps
Wittenburg Mountain, a high narrow slate ridge
located along the northern boundary of the
ecodistrict. Peatland is associated with very poorly
drained depressions, shallow lakes, and sluggish
rivers and streams.

Vegetation. The northern elevated edge of the
ecodistrict is a hilly area that is far enough inland
to be immune to the cold summer temperatures
common to the Atlantic coast. This elevated area
supports tolerant hardwoods, such as sugar maple,
yellow birch, and beech. Red spruce, white spruce,
balsam fir, and hemlock cover the upland flats,
lower slopes, and valleys. Between the hilly,
northern edge and the coastal zone to the south, red
spruce, balsam fir, yellow birch, eastern hemlock,
and white spruce are common species on welldrained
sites. Beech, yellow birch, red maple, and
sugar maple are found on the higher hills. Exposed
bedrock cliffs commonly support white pine and
black spruce.

Soils. The ecodistrict is dominated by the well- to
rapidly drained, stony sandy loam Halifax and
Gibraltar soils (Orthic Humo-Ferric Podzols and
Ortstein Humo-Ferric Podzols) that have developed
on quartzite and granite-derived tills, respectively.
Imperfectly drained, stony sandy loam Danesville
soils (Gleyed Humo-Ferric Podzols) and Bayswater
soils (Gleyed Ortstein Humo-Ferric Podzols) and
poorly drained Aspotogan soils (Gleysols) are
associated with Halifax and Gibraltar soils on
seepage slopes and in depressions. Moderately
well-drained loam Wolfville soils (Orthic Humo-
Ferric Podzols) have developed on till derived from
Carboniferous shale. Well- and imperfectly drained
gravelly loam soils of the Rawdon association
(Orthic and Gleyed Humo-Ferric Podzols) cover
Wittenburg Mountain ridge. Bogs (Fibrisols), fens
(Mesisols), and forested swamps (Humisols) are
associated with poorly drained soils and slowly
flowing streams.

Land Use. Forestry is the dominant land use.
Residential development is concentrated in the
Halifax-Dartmouth area."

I added pictures of the ground and some trees. They have a funny size, but I have to respect the people originally appearing in those photos.

There are also oaks, sugar maples and other hardwood trees.

What is your opinion on this land? What would a premaculture expert do on that land? What are the advantages and disadvantages he would see and make use of?
We definately want to start it all there, since our daughter will have her grandparents near and we will get the land for free. There is more than enough firewood as dead trees and trees for lumber, to be cut with a mobile sawmill, as well as stones as building material.

Thanks for your opinions and suggestions.

Have a nice day!

Mattes from Germany.
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Sean Banks
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clearing land is going to be alot of work.....you might want to get a section logged. The money you make can be used to buy any resources you need like fruit trees or animals. Or you could just try to work with the forest and plant shade growing perennial crops like wild leek/edible bamboos/etc. Mushroom logs would be another crop and maple syrup.
 
jesse markowitz
Posts: 151
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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Looks like a pig paradise!

At the last farm I worked on, we would keep a few pigs in a forested section about the size of an acre or so for a couple of months at a time. By the end, the pigs really clean up the land to make it easier to move around. Lots of small brushy stuff gets uprooted, and you can move around a lot faster. Plus all the food the pigs get from the land means you don't have to feed them as much.

sepp holzer does a lot of this kind of stuff. Since you guys are in similar climates, I would study his work closely.

Good luck!
 
Mattes Schmitz
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Thanks for your answers so far

Does anyone have links to websites about pigs in permaculture?
I found only a few and those would not get into detail at all.

The idea of having some land logged by a company sounds like it would make our life a bit easier and speed up clearing the land, but I don't feel good about that, since there will be major distortions and deep tracks by the machines I guess. And I also want the challenge of clearing space in a forest full time with saw and axe, as well as help that will bring a chainsaw for bigger trees. Every day. Some people might not understand that point of view, but I would feel like we cheaped out if it got logged by a company. You get nothing for free in life and spending much time and sweat doing that clearing makes us really deserve that life there and one will appreciate it much more. I am not lazy when it comes to that and love work that makes other people curse all day, hehe.

What kind of pig races are there in North America? Especiallly in Nova Scotia. I guess they should be an old breed, very foraging, hard enough for Winter in their shelter, etc.
And where can we get them from later?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here on permies Walter Jeffries might be one of the most expert at raising pigs in a permaculture way. His family does it for a living. http://sugarmtnfarm.com/home/

sepp holzer also raises pigs, but unfortunately doesn't post at permies. http://www.krameterhof.at/cms60/index.php?id=151

Here are a couple sepp holzer videos:





 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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Mattes Schmitz wrote:
What kind of pig races are there in North America? Especiallly in Nova Scotia. I guess they should be an old breed, very foraging, hard enough for Winter in their shelter, etc.
And where can we get them from later?


Tamworth X Berkshire is quite popular around here (Vermont/New Hampshire). Check out the local Craig's list to see who's selling what locally.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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First, walk the land, take inventory of what valuable trees are where and then map the lay of the land on a topographical map. This way you know if maple syrup might be a commodity for an income flow. As for the logs from the trees you are going to remove, think about using those for home construction or other out buildings construction. Once you have that information on a map (makes it easy to visualize what goes where) then you can mark the trees you need to remove for each phase of your homestead build. Just as houses have blueprints to make it possible to build the way you want the house, so it goes for a farm or homestead. When you have the home site picked out and marked on the map, you can then plan barns, coops, hog pastures, etc. and make everything fit neatly in place and not find out later that x should have been over here and y over there for good work flow and ease of access.

There are several breeds of hogs that would work for you, this will depend on what direction you want to take with hogs, only meat for yourself and family or as a small production commodity. This decision will guide you to the best choices for your situation. We live in the South, and that led us to the decision to raise American Guinea Hogs, since they are smaller, a heritage lard hog breed and one of the endangered species. The size means we can handle them easily as we grow older, their lard means we will be able to have our own cooking oil/fat and the endangered species part means I can exercise my science background as a breeder. One of the breeds we looked at was the Mule Foot, then we went to the Livestock conservancy Livestock Conservancy where there is lots of information on every breed of most animals found on homesteads and farms along with links to specific breed associations.

Getting organized is the biggest hurdle for most of the people we talk to that are homesteading, so far everyone we have met has been very helpful and willing to share all the knowledge they have learned over their years of doing the work.
Good luck, and if you need help just ask away.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looking at maps of other people's farms has been very helpful to me.

Here's geoff lawton's farm, in a very different climate from yours, but showing the relationship of structures to contour: http://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

Lots of helpful videos here, from different climates: http://geofflawton.com/
 
Kate Everett
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Hi, just cheering you on! Some good ideas above. I have a piece of ground in Scotland which was very heavily wooded, some plantation spruce, some deciduous. Have been clearing the spruce year on year, a bit at a time. Have needed help - these are BIG trees and also I didn't want to cut too many at one go (small and slow solutions, danger of windthrow, too great an impact all at once, finances ya de ya...) all I can say is that I have seen great benefits in taking it steady and really getting to know the land. We are also toasty warm all winter thanks to all that wood! We have been using some byproduct for hugels and also growing mushrooms (not in spruce logs but under some spruce canopy). Shade is ALWAYS an issue for us northerners!
Farming the Woods (Mudge and Gabriel) well worth a read.
Sounds like a fantastic project for you and your family - look forward to following progress.
 
Mattes Schmitz
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Thanks to you all!

There are some good ideas among the mentioned. We will get into pigs more at another step, but what can you guys tell us about taint or tainting? Is it, that every time you get a pig it is a bit of gambling with wether or not your pig will have it?

Kate, thanks for the nice insight to your similar experience. The book you mentioned was ordered immediately.
We would not clear the land bit by bit, but the main clearing completely as the first thing to happen. I am still young and I can not be satisfied with things happening gradually and such. We want to stay away from having one big clearing. It is still a forest area and we want to keep it that way, so we will have a main clearing that might be roundish in shape and the others attached to it, so there will be one circle, touched by smaller circles around it with 3-4 meter wide openings to get onto them.
Unfortunately, we can't report about progress at this point in time, but maybe from February 2017 on. Our will to start now is very present, as it has always been.

When should one clear a forest? I guess the best time to do it is really the wintertime, right? The wood will be more dry. Good for building purposes and firewood.

Cj Sloane, Berkshire is a pig that is known to me here in Germany. We have it almost like a delicacy in a nearby store. They were raised in Belgium and are very very tasty!

Thanks for your step by step description Bryant. How does one draw a plan of the site in reality? I mean, I had the same thoughts like you, but the forest is very dense and it is very hard to impossible to stay in one direction when walking it. But we will see.

Tyler, thanks for the videos and information on Sepp, but I always felt like we is very disclosed about how he really makes things work. I bought something like a video CD of Herr Holzer many years ago, and it discusses certain topics, but it is more entertaining that informing. At the end of it, it feels like you know nothing more than before.

People and Websites that really impressed me are TCPermaculture and especially Justin Rhodes. Does anyone else have good websites for us that deal with Permaculture in a 5b climate?

Thank you all
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau, Mattes, The best time for clearing depends on what you plan to do with the wood once the trees are felled.

If you're going to use them for fire wood, then indeed winter is the time to cut.
If you plan on using them for building, then spring is perfect as the bark will slip from the new flow of sap up the tree as it wakes up. This makes getting the trunks stripped a lot easier.

If you are plagued with ticks, winter can be the best time for all cutting.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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There is an old saying "the hurried I go the behind I get". If you go doing things in a rush, such as getting all your clearing done at once, without making yourself take the time to really understand the land and what you are going to do on it, you will find yourself trying to correct mistakes, or committed to a course that really could have been much better with a little bit more time spent planning.
Being young, you have time on your side.
Walk the land, think about what you will do on b it, how and where, visualize working on the land, again, what will you do, how will you do it and how does that best fit this piece of land?

For example, if you do all your tree clearing at one time, where are you putting all that debris from the branches? What will you do with the timber? Where will it be stored while it waits? Will you have a logger in to harvest your trees and remove them? Will his equipment fit through your two or three meter wide lanes between circles?

Another question, why circles? Have you thought about what you want to grow in these meadows? Have you considered the sun path and what light will hit these meadows in what seasons? Have you considered the edge phenomenon and how to benefit from it?
There are many things to work your way through and none of them benefit from rushing.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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I return to this thread with something of a new perspective of my own. My wife and I are about to buy twenty wooded acres in western Michigan. Time swiftly approaching for me to follow my own advice.
 
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