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Charles Laferriere
Posts: 110
Location: Quebec, Canada - 4b/5a
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Hello folks,

Spring time is slowly creeping in. The smell has changed in the air. Love it.
So. Last fall I became the happy owner of a 4 acres piece of land with an old house.

It's roughly 1 and 1/3 acre of forest, 2 and 2/3 of cultivable land and a running river with a good flow at the back. It has a house and a rather large shed. Paid 82k. Anyhow. The land itself was trashed for the last 3 generations living there. There's all the imaginable industrial toys and trinckets invented in the 20th century half burried in the forest. It's a slow cleanup, but fun for those who see value in disposed stuff.

So I'm currently working on a 7 years plan to bring the land up to productive speed while regenerating it. I need it, my family need it, my future needs it too.

Here's the rough outline of the implementations:

2015: garlic field, 20 biointensive beds.

Soil history: Was cultivated with corn and soy up until 2013. 2016 will be the third year without any chemical.

Soil amendments:
1 ton of dolomitic chalk
Home made fish emulsion
Home made Lactobacillus serum
Local compost
Wood chips from fresh twigs from the forest
Composted sheep manure
Two ponds with duckweed growing as a source of biomass/fertilizer
(Large heap of humanure composting, not ready for garden)

---All are locally sourced or made on site
For 2016, I want to build a biochar retort using Ed Revill Design and slowly build soil fertility with it

FOREST
I've planted 5 beds of "wild simulated" ginseng, as well as innoculated a large dead tree with reishi mushroom plugs.
I'd like to slowly incorporate fruit trees in the less dense forest areas, and more mushrooms as root. And maybe more medicinals, like goldenseal.

LAND:
I've split it in 3 sections
One will be dedicated to a food forest (clueless on the topic, havn't done the reading yet)

The other two sections will be dedicated to vegetables and medicinal herbs growing. Been doing a lot of reading on the topic, seems like there is quite a bit of potential on the market. Especially where I live, the largest herb producer was shut down two years ago by the govt officials (they were forcing them to register and pay single fees for every tincture they were making... which killed their business).

No animals so far, beyond a lost cat I rescued. Not that I don't like the idea, but I still have to work outside for a couple of months at a time in order to pay my due protection to the global terrorists.

I never tilled, and last year I did all the digging and ripping lawn with a shovel. It was quite exhausting, and probably not the best use of my time.

So. Now I'm wondering.

I've got a bit over 2 acres to rip apart and bring as much fertility to the land as possible.

I don't need to get crops out right away (beyond my garlic and a small personnal garden, and maybe a few patches of compost tea plants). So I was thinking on tilling and then just sowing white clover for this year, and listen/look at the land.

Tips are welcome!
Cheers
Charles L.

 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1564
Location: Pacific Northwest
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Thank you for coming back and working toward restoration on the property. Is this the same property you wrote about here: http://www.permies.com/t/28696/soil/buy-poisoned-GMO-corn-field#445371?

Look forward to watching your restoration. If you update your profile to have a general location &/or growing location, people may have more detailed help for your food forest, etc.

Thanks again for posting! (I'd give you more apples, but I only have one to give out a day. So, I gave you PIE!)
 
Charles Laferriere
Posts: 110
Location: Quebec, Canada - 4b/5a
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Ah! Thanks but I can't work on PIE I'll stick with flirting with PI

No it's not the same property. Same background story though, which seems to be... overly the same story here in countryside Quebec.

I'm also going to start practicing the Agnihotra morning and evening ritual and see how that goes. Winter time is great when you have free time and Internet...
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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I'll second that idea of planting out white clover and giving it a year before you do much more. I'd add more to that mix, though, like a second species of clover, perhaps peas and/or broad beans, and definitely some sort of brassica (daikon, turnip, etc) - more cover crop diversity will go a long way toward getting that soil biology healthy. The most important thing you need is to get a clear picture of all the "flows" through the property (sun, wind, water) and the varying microclimates before you'll know what's going to work well and where. Much of this can be gleaned in a generalized way with a topographic map, a soil type map, a basic once-over "boots on the ground" survey and a little noodling, but the details will be near impossible to discern.

For example, a frost sink could have put a damper on our spirits here if we planted tomatoes in what appears a "warm sunny spot", only to have them frost-killed a month earlier than in the not-quite-as-sunny area 20 feet away we chose by luck Also, one of the sections of our property that thaws last in the spring actually stays frost-free the longest into the fall due to the thermal inertia effect of our raised driveway and excellent cold air drainage...not something I would have thought about our first year here but that's now being picked as a site for 1) apricots to help prevent blossom damage from flowering too early and 2) the cayenne peppers that NEVER would ripen anywhere else due to the cold air drainage.

With the ginseng, I'm wondering if you have sugar maple as a dominant understory (or maybe overstory since we're talking about the modern era of logging). From what I've read and some video courses I've done, ginseng LOVES sugar maples due to the high level of calcium in their leaf litter. Ramps, too, are another maple lover. We were originally planning to do some wild-crafted ginseng and ramps in our "Oak Forest" guilds but then I read that the oak leaf litter is too high in tannins which retards the growth of the ginseng and ramps. Since your beds are already in, if you don't already have a decent number of sugar maple, I'd be willing to bet money that would be an excellent addition to your forest gardens - they'll take some time to get up to tappable size but each tree produces quite a bit of sap per season and even if you're not interested in doing syrup commercially, a small amount will be invaluable for your own use.

If you haven't, definitely look into utilizing stropharia, elm oyster and other "garden friendly" mushrooms you can innoculate "wood core beds" with - as our heavy, clay soil is being improved, the beds we've done as wood core innoculated with stropharia have outperformed the others vegetable-wise *and* produced very respectable crops of tasty mushrooms. We dry our surpluses or make marinated mushrooms over the summer to carry us over through the winter. Anywhere you can get fungus working will rehabilitate faster as a matter of course - they're nature's clean-up crew, in essence, breaking down the "wastes" into "inputs", and if it produces edible or medicinal caps, all the better!

Biochar is a "topic" and I wont go off on a rampage against it, nor will I endorse it, but it's a lot of work and energy for very little "bulk", so to speak. The same can be said for a majority of the various soil amendments talked about out there (greensand, azomite, etc). Based on the "bulk" factor alone, I'd tend to recommend focusing on ways to increase the fertility by using cover cropping, smart management and, of course, animals. These require you to do much less work for the "bulk" gain you get. We all love Elaine Ingram and, according to her, all we need in our soils is a healthy and diverse biological community...all the micro and macro nutrients your plants need are already there in practically infinite quantities, while it's water and soil life that act as the biggest limiting factors. The best remedy for both is always more "organic matter"

So glad to see more people taking damaged land under their care. With time (and wisdom) we can change this mess...we can make the world great again! (sorry, too much Trump lately) Definitely keep us up to date as you go - will be looking forward to watching your progress over the next few years

Note to those with the power: this thread might be a good cross-forum post opportunity with "projects".
 
Charles Laferriere
Posts: 110
Location: Quebec, Canada - 4b/5a
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Oh you are getting a piece of pie.

Thanks a lot for the input, that was very, very helpful.

Yes the forest is about 75-80% mature sugar maple (roughly 25-30 trees). I read the same thing regarding that they love maple under cover. Looking forward to see them pop next year!

Ah yes definitely got to add the "garden mushrooms" to the list. The only machine I've purchased last year was a wood chipper. Quite tedious as it's not very big, but.. hey.

Yeah for the biochar I like the Ed Revill design as I have quite a bit of scrap wood to process and the multi-use of the stove : cook/heat/char/be healthy&happy. I built a retort last year, but it needs improvement. The output (40gal worth??) can be pretty good. And I thought it would be good to absorb smell in my humanure pile and possibly future chicken coop.

Once again, thanks for your input!
 
Charles Laferriere
Posts: 110
Location: Quebec, Canada - 4b/5a
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Tristan,

Do I absolutely need to till the land before planting the cover crop? Or I can just broadcast it on top, in order to avoid the tilling damage? I'm afraid the seeds won't sprout if I don't till... which is likely a mental cultural virus... lol
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
38
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Charles Laferriere wrote:Tristan,

Do I absolutely need to till the land before planting the cover crop? Or I can just broadcast it on top, in order to avoid the tilling damage? I'm afraid the seeds won't sprout if I don't till... which is likely a mental cultural virus... lol


Glad I could be of help - still quite new to all this myself but as we go, we're learning TONS. The transformation in just the way we think compared to 5 years ago, before actually coming out here to start the "great work", has been tremendous, and I can't say enough about how much healthier we are for all the hard work that goes into these types of projects. It's rewarding on every level - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Cheesy as it sounds, every time I see someone else getting out there to start, I am filled with a sense of hope about this disgusting, backwards-ass world we live in today.

For the cover cropping, it definitely works best with soil disturbance. We fight with this on our property because any disturbance turns our heavy, wet clay to pudding (and by the august "dry season", something akin to cement), so we try to avoid soil disturbance the best we can. This means 50% or more of the seed sown just never sprouts. If you can get away with tilling, and can (affordably) access the machinery to do it, I'd say to do a shallow run. You'll only need to disturb the top 1 or 2 inches to see a huge improvement in the germination while any deeper than that will not only kill a lot of the grasses and wilds/weeds already there but destroy any myccorhizal structure. If tilling is going to be troublesome/expensive, even combing over the area with a grading rake will help quite a bit, though that's A LOT of work on even 1/4 acre (leather work gloves help).

That said, you should definitely do a test hole to check for hardpan (I think that's what they call it) where plowing at the same depth over and over, in previous years, has created a sort of horizon layer of hard-packed soil with less compacted stuff above. This can be killer to water infiltration/drainage and deep root penetration from what I've read, making the land more prone to both flood and drought, and pretty much demands you go through with a deep ripping to break it up. Earthworm activity will even be inhibited by it as it acts almost like a layer of bedrock. I'm on a different situation here with the land not having been used for conventional cropping probably ever, so don't know as much about that - I'm sure someone else around here has had to deal with it firsthand, though, and can offer good advice based on personal experience.

As I think about it, to be honest, with conventionally abused ag land like you're dealing with, and access to a "mole plow" (again, think that's what they call it), I'd probably immediately do a deep keyline ripping before doing anything else with the land. Depending on your water situation (annual rainfall and distribution) and the soil type, it might be very worth the time and investment to do swales as well, but the keyline ripping would more than likely be necessary on any conventional ag land.

With you wanting to do vegetable and herbs, the next step that comes to mind is along the keyline rips you could place nitrogen fixing trees (black locust?) and shrubs (siberian pea shrub?) along with smaller fruit and nut trees and shrubs every now and then (even if those would be only for personal consumption). Raised (wood core?), polycultured vegetable and herb beds would go beautifully between these keylines acting as "berms on contour". That's just a thought experiment on a general skeleton though and so much really does depends on your property's details, what you personally are hoping to achieve and what you can afford/have access to.

A few years back, I watched these youtubes of a class Daren Doherty did in Mexico (in english with a translator) that focused a lot on the topic of keyline in permaculture...many, many hours of video if you're looking for something to keep you busy for the rest of the winter!
https://www.youtube.com/user/LineaclaveORG/videos (sort oldest to newest and look for the Broadacre Permaculture Keyline Day videos).
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Oh, I should mention, too, that the mushroom beds I've put in have been a mix of larger wood chunks (pieces that wouldn't split right for the RMH or refuse from making log benches & tables), as well as various sized saplings from clearing brush and sawdust from chainsaw use. Using a more evenly sized woody substrate like you'll get from your chipper will give a more definite lifetime to the bed as far as mushroom production, since the wood will be more evenly colonized and "eaten down" at a fairly steady rate, which is why I decided to use the mix of sizes. This, to us, wasn't as desirable as a sort of "trailing off" of production over a few years. If you'll continue to mulch the beds with chips every year or two, the fungus will be more than happy to just move up through the layers, turning that chip mulch into humus faster than you can keep up, and will keep the bed in production indefinitely We're using this approach with our asparagus bed (first of hopefully many), put in last spring, where each fall we'll be mulching with more of the evenly sized woody materials (chip and twig) and again each spring with the "enriched" winter bedding from the duck house.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when you're using edible fungus for these sorts of tasks (at least if you're planning to eat the mushrooms) is to use wood that's not already dead and/or rotting - you need to be 100% sure of the fungus you're growing to reduce the chance of potentially deadly mistakes. That means cutting and chipping live, healthy trees that have not already been innoculated with "something else" by mother nature. Depending on your site specifics, that can be a major drawback, potentially damaging or counterproductive to your project. On our site, I don't foresee ever running into a shortage of this material...one thing even an idiot could grow in Maine, it's copious numbers of birch saplings and blackberry canes
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1346
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Do I absolutely need to till the land before planting the cover crop? Or I can just broadcast it on top, in order to avoid the tilling damage? I'm afraid the seeds won't sprout if I don't till... which is likely a mental cultural virus... lol
If I may pipe in here, I would suggest that the problem is not necessarily that the seeds wont sprout, or that they wont necessarily grow, but that they will have difficulty both with rooting through sod, and with competing with meadow grasses, and so visibly they will appear to not be doing anything. The fact is they will struggle.

What a person could do was to broadcast seed and then rake the sod aggressively (or rake the sod vigorously and remove the thatch-to be returned as mulch later), giving the seed a chance to get going with direct soil contact, and then selectively rake again as the plants mature. This might work; however, the vigor of these perennial meadow plants tends to be very difficult to reduce sufficiently or long enough to generate the space in time that is necessary to transition the meadow to garden space.

Turning sod into soil with no till practices is generally done by covering the grasses (with newspaper, cardboard, plastic, deep mulch, etc) and waiting until this kills the grasses. Some people further discourage the grasses by planting a sacrificial crop of annual rye grass, and using this as a living mulch for vegetable crops, but this is generally done in tilled areas.

As much as I do not like the idea of tilling, I personally did so in order to generate my initial garden (about 1/4 acre) on my land. I then build beds which I have no intention of tilling again. This also allowed me to build the beds high using the path material and to shape the beds so that they caught water (swales). I am going to experiment with planting an area in potatoes and in squashes that I do not till, but I do dig a bit for the individual plants. I am also thinking that I might try dense plantings of annual grasses (planted on the thatched perennial sod without raking or anything) to transition an area to annual production without tilling.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1346
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Somehow I missed Tristan's answer to your question, before I posted Charles. I completely agree with his statements.
 
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:

The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers:
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