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Permaculture on the Homestead  RSS feed

 
Posts: 13
Location: Helena, Montana, Zone 4A, semi-arid, cold, mountainous
bee forest garden trees
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Question for Cody;
Do you plan on implementing any permaculture practices on your homestead? I've been a long time follower and it seems as though you are still doing classic land use practices such as clearing and burning for your forest preservation project. Have you considered chipping the wood to retain nutrient in your forest soil? Also have you considered goats or another animal to help you with the pruning of your forest and regenerative growth of your pasture/meadows?
 
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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MrsW has read a ton on permaculture and we have been trying to figure out what to do with the pasture. We aren't ready to raise animals yet but have discussed with a neighbor about running cattle on the property in order to restore the soil. We have different ideas about how to protect the water on the property from the cattle. We actually do a ton of chipping and use the wood chips in the garden, orchard and in the forest. Unfortunately, some areas are too difficult to get to with our chipper. Additionally, the previous owners had loggers come through who left a ton of logs rotting not the ground decimating the land. no green remained, you couldn't walk through it - like a wasteland. In our attempt to clean it up a bit we have done some burning. Sometimes the amount of material we have necessitates getting it out of the way in order to continue repairing the forest and land. We have many snags, piles of trees,etc....a lot of the piles and chipping are just not shown on videos - it's tough to show it all and the chipping is so noisy and the piles are just big piles so not visually so interesting for videos.

 
Mark Roeder
Posts: 13
Location: Helena, Montana, Zone 4A, semi-arid, cold, mountainous
bee forest garden trees
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Thank you for the reply. It is nice knowing what is going on "behind" the scenes. I hope you enjoy your winter and we'd love to see some cross-country ski videos. Can MrsW use her jogging paths for skiing? Have a very Merry Christmas.
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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We only have about 4 inches of snow and spotty in lots of places so no cc skiing yet. Hoping to get dumped on tonight! We prepped the generators as we always seem to lose our power. 8 or more inches. We shall see....running with traction devices as it is pretty slick out there.
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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I guess I'd like to add that our orchard is about an acre and our garden is 100 x 100 and both and ALL of our property are organic and mulched and drip irrigated in order to use the least amount of water possible. We also keep bees. We are working hard to repair over 20 acres of forest. We planted over 800 trees last year in our pastureland. We are working on the health of the ponds on our property. I guess I think we are doing permaculture....don't you think? There are only 2 of us - no crew so we can only do so much....although our 10 year old does help a lot - way more than he thinks reasonable!
 
Posts: 109
Location: Southern NH zone 5b
31
chicken food preservation purity trees woodworking
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I'd like to suggest that you experiment with hugelkulture. Pretty much take any sort of high density carbon material (mostly wood of any sort except cedar, walnut, black locust) and bury it in soil while trying to keep as much of the wood surface in contact with the soil and not other wood, then put mulch over it. This will not only build soil that will naturally hold water for much much longer , but it will also support a massive fungal micro ecosystem, AND its an easier solution than chipping all that brush and slash. There's no rules for what size or shape, other than the laws of physics. You could go as small as calf height, or as big as whatever machines you might have acess to at the time will allow. In my opinion, the bigger and the wackier the shapes (in general) the better, because that's when you can really start experimenting with microclimates.

As for whether or not you are doing Permaculture, I guess if you aren't, you're going in the right direction. Even the best of us on here are always improving, innovating and trying new things.

Learn a whole lot more about hugelkulture here:http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/
 
master steward
Posts: 5218
Location: Pacific Northwest
1503
cat duck fiber arts forest garden homestead hugelkultur kids cooking wood heat
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I don't know what your orchard looks like, and maybe you're already doing this, but you could plants edible and other beneficial plants around your fruit trees to support those trees and get more food out of the area. For example, nasturtiums and strawberries are both edible and I like to grow under fruit trees. Garlic, dandelions, borage, and many others bring beneficial insects, and are also edible. You could even grow green beans/peas up your trees to help fix nitrogen. I like to put bamboo stakes in the ground a few feet from the base of the fruit tree, tie the stakes together at the top, and grow pole beans up them. It works quite well! Since winter comes so soon and hard at your elevation, you'll want to pick legumes that grow well for you.

Another option to "permie-fie" your orchard is to let chickens or ducks eat under them. They'll help control bugs, slugs and snails, and provide you will eggs and meat! Ducks also keep the weeds and grass shorter, and provide some nice, on-sport fertilizer. We don't have chickens, but our ducks do quite well in keeping down the slugs and pests. Just make sure you get them some good (perhaps portable, solar) electric fencing to keep them safe from the predators I'm sure you've got up there! Ducks are also more cold-hardy than chickens, which is an added benefit in your colder climate!
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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Thanks for the great info. I love reading all of this.

Cody and I have spoken about doing some hugelkulture in our pasture, in combination with swales to collect water, and planting in them. I LOVE the idea. We really should try it on a small scale just to get going and see some results. We don't have any equipment and our distances are pretty far from forest to pasture but we could get going with a few to test. I'd love to get more food trees planted by our lower pond - for us and animals. As you know, the to-do list can be long so we have to choose what to do.

Re: the orchard - yes, we have an old homesteader barn in the orchard and think it would make a great home for ducks, chickens, and turkeys. Problematic is that none of us want to take on one more chore! We also worry that we ask too much of our neighbors for help when we leave and aren't ready to have someone else live on our property with us. We do have strawberries, dandelions, and borage in the orchard but not any legumes - and we should.
 
Mark Roeder
Posts: 13
Location: Helena, Montana, Zone 4A, semi-arid, cold, mountainous
bee forest garden trees
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The orchard and garden are looking great. How did you ever get rid of the wasp problem in your greenhouse? I know you guys stay very busy and are right in the middle of a full scale remodel...LOL, but the point of permaculture is to help ease the workload. Did the wood chips in the garden help reduce the weeding?
Just do what you can do and enjoy it.
As far as your forest, I've heard that if you return at least 10% of the nutrients/carbon that you take out, you will not lose any fertility. When you burn, you return nothing. It does help control wildfires, but all the accumulated material goes up in smoke and removes the nutrients from the carbon cycle. That is the reason for the wood chips. You can harvest any salvageable wood for lumber or burning, but try to chip the small branches and needles to return to the soil. They have the most nutrients anyhow.
I always try to remember that the number one thing is to build your Soil Organic Matter, whether it be garden, pastures or forest. It will feed the web of life beneath the forest floor and make your land not only more fertile, it also makes your land more resilient and less affected by climatic and catastrophic events such as drought, flood and fire. Think of it as a buffer or sponge. SOM is good. The organic material not only stores water, but it feeds the biota of the soil that can act in a symbiotic relationship with your trees and plants. Feed the fungi.
I hear you on having animals, I'm in the same boat. How do you get away when you are tied down to their care? It's a problem many of us have. Ducks, seem like a good fit for your pond. Maybe you could build a floating raft to keep them out of reach of the coyotes or other roving predator. Geese are another option and they act just like little cows on the landscape. I could just see Heartracer trying to round them up.
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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"How did you ever get rid of the wasp problem in your greenhouse?" We had hard freeze Sept. 3 - killed most off....then some raccoons came and finished off the ones in the ground - yellow jackets?


" Did the wood chips in the garden help reduce the weeding? " - tremendously - plus they are nice to walk on!

"Maybe you could build a floating raft to keep them out of reach of the coyotes or other roving predator. Geese are another option and they act just like little cows on the landscape." - We do have non-domesticated ducks and geese. Hadn't thought of building a raft. Lucy is the herder!
 
Posts: 121
Location: zone 6a, NY
9
chicken duck forest garden
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Quick note on that - Only nitrogen and sulfur are lost by burning. All other nutrients are kept, and actually reduced to their most purified form. That's why wood ash is probably the second best thing to put on your garden. Wood chips would of course be optimal, for retaining moisture, reducing weeds, keeping up a haven for mycological/bacterial life, etc. but it's not at all that destructive to soil fertility.
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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Thanks Guerric. Sometimes moving or chipping brush is difficult at best....and near impossible so burning is a feasible option. What you wrote makes sense. mrsW
 
Mark Roeder
Posts: 13
Location: Helena, Montana, Zone 4A, semi-arid, cold, mountainous
bee forest garden trees
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Wow, thanks for that. Almost forgot about the short term benefits of slash and burn agriculture! I figured that I'd better check things out in more detail, so I wouldn't shove my foot into my mouth. This may get rather dry.

http://forest.moscowfsl.wsu.edu/smp/solo/documents/GTRs/INT_280/DeBano_INT-280.php "Fire acts as a rapid mineralizing agent (St. John and Rundel 1976) that releases nutrients instantaneously as contrasted to natural decomposition processes, which may require years or, in some cases, decades." So the organic matter on the forest floor acts as a slow release fertilizer and a fire releases the remaining nutrients for plant use.

"Fire does volatize the most needed nutrients such as 98 to 100% loss of nitrogen (N), 70 to 90% loss of sulfur (S), and 20 to 40% loss of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in field bio-mass."

According to the Forest Service, "Because N is such an important nutrient in these ecosystems, the replenishment of N lost by volatilization during a fire must receive special consideration."
In the Pacific Northwest, "Nitrogen is an extremely important nutrient because it is the one that is most likely to limit tree growth in forests and other wild land ecosystems (Maars and others 1983). Because of this inherent limitation, significant losses of N during a fire could adversely affect long-term site productivity in many wild land ecosystems, particularly if N replenishment mechanisms are not provided for during post fire management.

Nitrogen contained in unburned forest litter and soil is released solely by biological processes and is referred to as being regulated by "biochemical cycling" (McGill and Cole 1981). Because of the close relationship between carbon (C) and N, C:N ratios play an important role in regulating the decomposition rate of OM and, as a result, control the rate at which N and other nutrients are released and cycled (Turner 1977).

The role of S in ecosystem productivity is not well understood, although its fluctuations in the soil appear to parallel that of inorganic N. Sulfur is considered the second most limiting nutrient in some coastal forest soils of the Pacific Northwest, particularly when forest stands are fertilized with N (Barnett 1989)."

In 'Red flags of warning in land clearing' by L. S. Hamilton, "Critchley and Bruijnzeel (1996) succinctly sum up the impacts of burning "Not only do the more volatile constituents like nitrogen and carbon go up in smoke by burning slash, depending on the intensity of the fire, 25-80% of all the calcium, potassium, and phosphorous present in the slash may be lost this way as well...to make matters worse, nutrients which remain in the ash are vulnerable to removal in runoff and leaching."

So yep, the ash does contain many valuable nutrients, but the majority are "up in smoke" or lost by leaching and surface erosion. The funny part is that this could be considered a natural cycle of the forests. Over time the forest will recover and rebuild the carbon and nitrogen needed for the cation exchange sites. That's the kicker. We as individuals don't have that extra hundred years to wait and see.

WranglerStar uses small, low intensity fires, so he retains a lot more of the nutrients than if the fires were hotter. It's my guess that his forest might be even more productive and healthy if he chipped what slash he could. I like the hugelkultur idea, but it comes back to the availability of heavy equipment. Do they really need hugelkultur if they get in excess of 24 inches of precipitation each year? I believe Cody and family have done wonders with the forest preserve and he is reintroducing the native pines and repairing the damage done by the "loggers from hell". Truly they are Stewards of the Land, high praise in my book.

So a thumbs up for all the regenerative forestry and permaculture techniques that you have been able to use. You channel is one of my favorites.
 
W. Star
aka Wranglerstar
Posts: 28
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Thanks. We learn as we go and do the best we can with limited time, finances, equipment. We'd love to just chip evertgubg but it isn't realistic for us and do have to do something with SO MUCH brush and trees. Much healthier forest now. We could literally pull out trees that were up to 4 inches in diameter because the roots were all dead they were so closely packed together! Plus the slash left!

Warm regards,
MrsW

 
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