Greeting, permies! I have been lurking here for many months in anticipation of my family's big leap. In a few days we will close on 15 acres of fenced pasture, 6 acres of woods, a 4 acrepond, and a nice long, tree lined creek. It is flat and was used for a few years to grow organic grass-fed cattle. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt and I will definitely post some pictures and more specific questions once we are down there, but for now, does anyone want to tell me where you would start if you were me??
On the south side of the property there is a large barn/shed, a 4-story corn crib that we plan to convert to a house nex year, and a smaller crib whose purpose is TBD. For now we will be moving our camper down there (we are recovering nomads, so sleeping in the camper and doing most of our living outside is just great for us!) We will also finish out a 1400sf room in the barn for an office and an area to do home schooling if the kids want to spread out. We have 4 daughters, ages 1-11 years.) We are vegetarian but want to incorporate 2 pigs and some chickens because we love them and they will help manage the gardens. In fact, I would love to have all kinds of animals and am looking for any way to justify having more animals to my husband in the future! The woods and pond are on the north side and there is a slight downward slope (we're talking like 2'--it's central IL!) The creek borders the east side and there's a winding, 6' deep spillway that cuts through the back of the property from pond to creek.
My husband grew up farming conventionally. He is poly culture-supportive but his mind automatically wants to organize it all into neat monoculture rows. We are slowly rehabbing his thought processes! Now we own a brewery and we will grow and malt our own barley and also plan to add lots of fruits for the guys to brew with.
Where would you start with all of this?? I think the possibilities are endless and I literally haven't thought about anything but permaculture for like 6 months.
Personally I would start with a small kitchen garden near the house (or whatever you're using as a house initially). Try not to "animal-up" right away, because it's easy to get overwhelmed by too many mouths to feed and bodies to care for. Especially be aware of predator problems with chickens (everyone wants to eat chicken) and fencing problems with pigs (can be escape artists). In my opinion it's best to make small, moveable animal shelters at least at first, in case you change your mind about placement in the future. Start with just this small garden and a very small number of animals for the first year, and spend that year observing how the land changes over the seasons, where things want to try to grow, where it gets extra warm or extra cold, etc. You can keep dreaming and scheming and drawing plans the whole time, but don't leap into too many permanent features right away.
If you own a brewery, you should look into hops production for your own use, and to sell the extra's. I'm told it's fairly profitable.
Start planning which fruits and berries you'd like to try and produce with, also what you can source for your area. I'd recommend gage trees, their a plum that's exceptionally juicy and high in vita-c.
You should also start looking into if there are any springs on your property with quality water to use for your brew-house, the 'all from this land' approach is a big thing.
But with that much water, creek and slope that you might be describing, looking into getting a hydro-electric generator to help you go off-grid, or grid-tie to reduce your operation costs should be something to consider.
Not growing or raising anything at the moment, but I'm here doing research for the future.
Location: Central IL, zone 6b
posted 3 years ago
Thanks for the replies!
Tyler, I am definitely planning to take this first year to observe and take lots of notes. We still have make sure the crib-house conversion will work. If it won't, then we can put our house (yurt? Cob? Tipi??) anywhere and that will really affect how we use the land. I tend to jump first, look later, so this approach might be hard to stick to. I appreciate reading this advice!
A few chickens are on the list and I am really considering getting pigs quickly for their tilling and fertilizing super powers. There is electric and barbed wire fencing that will stay on the property and I plan to do rotating paddocks for all creatures, so there won't be any permanent houses to move if plans change. I hope my little American bulldog/pit bull will mature into a natural LGD. I had the world's best pit bull for 16 years who was a watcher and protector of everything I introduced her to and I hope this gal will follow in her footsteps. In the meantime, I have a lot of fencing and secure housing to worry about!
How big is your idea of a "small" kitchen garden? I have come up with so many lists and diagrams of poly cultures and guilds and successions that I want to try out. Culling the list is going to be a challenge. Im converting pasture, which I know can be a challenge and is a big part of why I thought the pigs were a good idea. I'm excited to get some HK going. There's quite a bit of fallen wood and many small dead trees in one pasture, as well as a ton of shredded corn cobs (I think??) that washed into the creek in a flood this winter. The corn is probably conventionally farmed GMO feed corn. Should I still use it in HK beds??
Alice, great ideas! My husband is trying some hop varieties but really what we want/need grows best in the Yakima valley and we are nowhere near that climate. Eventually we hope to buy land out there and contract someone to grow for us because some hops varieties are getting hard to secure.
Farm-to-glass is our ultimate goal! We have had the idea for many years and only this winter have heard of other breweries doing it too.
I have never heard of gage plums! My kids are like a locust plague on the fruit bowl so I'm excited to try as many fruits and possible!
Rebecca Butler wrote:
How big is your idea of a "small" kitchen garden?
No bigger than 1/4 acre to start with, smaller if you have to irrigate. You can always make it bigger, or transform it into a larger system such as a food forest. Look into small-scale intensive techniques like Biointensive. Your place isn't in as challenging a climate as mine, but I've been much more successful with a smaller garden closer to the house, actually producing more food, than when I had a larger garden further away from the house. I always want to try to save people from the mistakes I've made, which have been many!