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Advice on getting started on 80 acre lot

 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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First off, I have a little experience with gardening/permaculture, but ultimately... yea I'm a newb.

So we have some land and won't be moving there for at least 3 years... I'm wondering what I can/should be doing to help prep us for our eventual move to the property. I have a rough idea, but would love the input of someone who has a little more expertise than I currently do. The property is currently 24 hrs away so we only get back once a year during summer leave (Julyish).

Currently on the property there is a small 1 bedroom home with no power/running water. We do plan on eventually building different living accommodations, but we will probably stay in the little home for the first year or two. Luckily the property is right next door to my spouse's parents and they are fully connected to the grid so that can always be a backup while we sort out solar.

The property itself is in NW Ontario near Fort Frances it is in zone 3a-4a (depending on what you check...) It is mostly wooded on the property with Poplar, Tamarack, Spruce, Pine, Diamond Willow, a few birch and some others (I'll be going back this summer to look closer). There are a few wild plums and hazelnuts as well as tons of raspberries growing on the property as well. My spouse's father will be planting 2 butternut trees and 3 different types of apples this spring to hopefully use down the raod as parent's for grafts(once I figure out how to graft ) I'm also going to move some of the plums and hazelnuts into more favorable conditions to see what kind of yield they produce and what they taste like.

Some other things we are looking at doing while we are there are:
-Bringing various perennials from our garden here to plant there
-Dig holes in various spots on the property to do the "Jar test" and check drainage
-get a water test for the wells
-try to seed wild rice in our small pond
-make a better catalog of what plants/trees are already growing
-build protection for the trees from critters
-Plant black locust seeds
-Make some raised log hugel beds
-Talk to the local lumber mill and see if we can get wood chips
-learn to drive a tractor

One thing I definitely need help with is getting a contour map... the best I have been able to find is contour lines every 10 meters, that gives me 1 contour over the property. Any ideas?

Are soil samples something I should be doing? If so how spread out should they be?

Is there anything else I am missing that would help me figure out a better plan of where I am going to put everything and what "everything" will consist of :: ?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've found geoff lawton's videos very helpful: http://geofflawton.com/

http://start.geofflawtononline.com/

And studying a map of his farm is useful to see how it all fits in with the contours: http://www.permaculturenews.org/images/zaytuna_farm_diagram_2012.jpg
 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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He needs more vids lol I've watched as many as I can find. Zaytuna is insanely genious in its design, I love the turnable elbows to control his water levels GENIUS.

For that part of the planning I'm still stuck on the fact that I don't have a good enough map to even begin to design. I guess my end goal is to "prep" my land to be designed. From everything I've looked at I need a contour map, winter/sun angles, try to identify microclimates, soil ph, soil composition/drainage, Zone, and rainfall. I'm hoping to take an online PDC from Geoff if he runs another one, I'm sure that will help me a lot. I'm just trying to gather the basic info right now so that when I get a PDC It'll all be there waiting for me to design.

Also since I only get back there once a year I don't want to miss some critical little thing that I could have taken care of while I was there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might have to plot contours by hand using a laser level or other device - it's hard to find maps with small enough increments to be useful. If you can post a satellite pic of the land, people might be able to help you discern some of the major contour features.



 
Elijah Kim
Posts: 28
Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Here's a pic of property. lol I made it in paint so sorry for the quality. The two purple blobs are existing wells. The blue lines are supposed to represent the slope of the ground, it drops maybe 6 ft between the two and then levels off with a very slight slope to the south (I think...). The property does go to the east a bit further, more wooded swamp back there. I haven't done a full blast plan yet, I'll post it when I do.

More info on the land. The property is already mainly wooded and in a fairly undisturbed state, the picture from google earth is maybe 3-4 years old and it has grown in a lot more since then. They did clear the big open field to the south of the house about 50-60 years ago and grazed sheep over it. The soil there has a lot of clay and is pretty wet. The little hill that the house is on is a big gravel deposit. The further east you go on the property the more it turns to marsh then full on swamp at the most eastern point. There is also a clearing to the SE of the house which is a big chunk of rock.

I have a feeling that you are right, I guess I need to figure out how to use the laser level to map it. Any advice on where some good info is on that subject? Or what the best low cost method is?
Farm.png
[Thumbnail for Farm.png]
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks very nice. You might be able to leave much of it intact, certainly at first, and concentrate your efforts closer to the house. Do you have in mind what all you want to grow and raise on the land? Do you plan to farm commercially or just for your household?



 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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I'm hoping to have it cover our house needs for the first bit and eventually have some income start coming in. Right now the only experience I have for animals is with chickens. Eventually I'd like to get goats, pigs, maybe a cow or two, rabbits, and aquaculture. I dream big though...

For the cashflow the ideas I have are:

Set up a green house for plant/seed sales
Fruit and nut orchard (Apples, Plum, Maybe Peach/nectarine if I can get it to grow..., Hazelnut, butternut, whatever else will grow)
Diamond willow for woodworkers
Haskap, Goji berry, Seabuckthorn(maybe...) Blueberry, Rasberry
selling perennial divisions
Minnows(maybe)/worms for fishing
Wild rice(again if I can get it to grow)
CSA baskets and/or farmers market
Dried Herbs, teablends(maybe)
Mushrooms(morels grow wild so should be easy to cultivate)

lol and of course everyone's dream of one day teaching PDC's on the property.

I'm on a big Mark Shepherd kick right now I like his tree growing style with the alley cropping. The cattle path system on Zaytuna is pretty slick as well. That's pretty far down the road from now though. Right now I want to get some more experience. A side project dream I have is to try out a buried greenhouse system with aquaculture, rabbits, and a RMH. If I can do that I'd like to try and get a grant to bring that up to some of our northern reserves to show some of the very isolated communities how to do it(this one is a long way in the future). I agree in not touching the woods yet, I was thinking of focusing more on the field to the south of the house and the areas right by the house as I'm thinking they will be my zone 1 and 2.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's a document about finding contours using two simple devices: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/Bunyip-Water-Levels-and-A-Frame-Levels-Appendix-2.pdf
 
Jim Lewis
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Related question-- I'm HOPING to get an abandoned farm very soon from a national park (CVNP, NE OH). It has not been farmed in at least five years, parts overgrown with grasses, parts with brambles/multifloral roses, parts with hardwood saplings. What advice can I (a farming/permie newbie) get for how to transition from abandoned farm to productive permie growies and chickens?

Thanks so much- Jim, wannabe farmer, with resilience and relationship resources at JCSpiritCrafters.x10.bz
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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One thought would be to start near the house with your zone 1 and zone planning. At your latitude, you'll want raised beds to warm the soil sooner so you can get your plants into the into the ground ASAP. You may want to think about some sort of greenhouse or hoop house to extend your growing season by a couple of weeks on either end. If water isn't a problem for you (two wells and swamp land), I wouldn't mess with hugel beds, unless you are trying to simply get stuff raised off the ground where it's too wet.

I love how Joel Salatin goes about his poultry farming operation, with his egg mobiles and chicken tractors. For a minimal investment, you can build mobile equipment to take advantage of your land.

For clearing bush and scrub that's overgrown, are you thinking about goats? Pigs? Electric fence netting will keep chickens, goats, pigs . . . in place doing their job, clearing the land and rooting up the soil. Run the goats in first, followed by the pigs, followed by the chickens. Everyone is happy.
 
Elijah Kim
Posts: 28
Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Welcome to permies Jim! It's a bit overwhelming eh? Maybe you could start by raising chickens where you are now to get experience doing it. You'll probably need to answer the questions that tyler has been asking me so they can get a better idea of what you want to do. Good luck on getting the farm!

Marco " At your latitude, you'll want raised beds" " If water isn't a problem for you (two wells and swamp land), I wouldn't mess with hugel beds" So my idea is to grab windfall trees and make a "log cabin style" frame with the trees about 4-5 ft high. In there I'll put a few logs/sticks/straw/black earth. Those were going to act as my hugel/raised bed garden areas. The height is for when I'm an old crippled man and cant bend over, as well as the heating/well draining characteristics that I think this type of be would have. Plus the beds would cost me fuel for the tractor and some time, so right in my price range . Why wouldn't you recommend hugel beds though? I want to make sure I'm not missing something here...

I just made a hoop house here at my current house and yea... all I could think is why didn't I do this sooner. I had kale come back from the plant stems that were left in the garden from last year! It was - 15 C the other day! Pretty pumped about that

I actually just watched a talk by Joel Salatin on Permaculture Voices Youtube (great channel!) I added him to my list of people to study. Right now I was thinking of modifying Geoff's succession plan he does with the chickens by doing exactly what you said running the goats, maybe pigs, to chickens, to *BAM* forest.


On a side note has anyone ever stumbled across a getting started guide? Like a "rough" step by step on things you should think about before you start. Geoff talks about how there are constants in everything and the more constants you know the easier things get(lol at least thats how I interpreted it)... So I guess that's my main objective with this question, What are the constants for things you need to know when planning out a property? I can think of a few like:
-Zone
-Prevailing winds
-where is the sun
-what do you want to do with the land
-get a good contour map
-what grows in you area
-Water?

Should I just make this question a separate post all together?
 
Tyler Ludens
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1. Water
2. Access
3. Structures

http://geofflawton.com/videos/property-purchase-checklist/
 
Elijah Kim
Posts: 28
Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Thanks! I forgot about that vid. So I watched that a couple of times and spent several more hours reading/watching related initial design processes etc and put "pen to paper". Here is my rough concept outline for the farm.
Filename: Farm Design 1 zoomed.pdf
Description:
File size: 1068 Kbytes
[Download Farm Design 1 zoomed.pdf] Download Attachment
 
Elijah Kim
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Didn't realize it was PDF... here's the image put into Paint so you don't need to DL.
Farm Design 1 zoomed.png
[Thumbnail for Farm Design 1 zoomed.png]
Farm Design 1.png
[Thumbnail for Farm Design 1.png]
 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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I forgot to thank you for the water level link up above, so... Thanks! I was just watching Geoff's lecture from a PDC on dam case studies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20YUvD9s1a4&index=32&list=PL6S83Kg2Lr9SjIMs16NW5PaZ62aV3gw_M ) and he mentioned the laser level with a pick up staff. So I googled that and got this vid: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20811754,00.html I'm still a little unsure on it's actual use though... So you set up leveling unit, set the receiver to the exact height of the unit (?) Walk around with the receiver and peg your line when the receiver beeps? I'm guessing this will save tons of time.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Looks like you're on the right track - my "experience" in doing this kind of thing is severely limited (only just getting my setup started still) but can offer the advice of the giants. Geoff Lawton is #1 - glad that his vids were offered immediately and glad you were already familiar with it all. Ditto on Mark Sheppard - would consider him #2 on my list as he's gone about things in exactly the right way with STUN and alley cropping / savanna systems. That is a bit more specific to Mark's area, of course, and there are other biomes we should be looking at with regards to our system designs. #0, of course, the origin point for all this stuff, is sort of spread between the two greatest giants - Mollison and Holzer. I'm sure you're familiar with both and have done the requisite reading/viewing Daren Doherty, also, is an excellent resource when it comes to the earthworks. I posted a link somewhere on here to a course he did that's on youtube...will have to try to find that for you. Was excellent material overall.

But it seems to always come back to the same issues, regardless of who's design methodology you're looking at and who's methodology it was based upon. You have scales of permanence and you have needs, desires and wishes. You have stuff you can't change, you have stuff you can influence and you have stuff you can do whatever the heck you want with. I'm not an expert, like I said, and I'm probably talking/writing out my behind here, but will share my thoughts and methodology on the whole "methodology" thing

The big ones to look at from my own "fusion" of several systems, in order of priority/permanence:
1) Climate - Obvious one and always #1 on anybody's list. I think you know you're in a zone "Holy F-ing Hell it's F-ing Cold"

2) Land Shape or Geography - Also obvious and your concerns with finding your contours means you're on the right track here. One thing I like to keep in mind is things don't have to be perfect, though like anything, the closer to perfect you get, the more reliable your system will be. I noticed you didn't post even a topography map from google maps - that can be a fairly decent resource when getting a general idea of land shape. The contour lines are not going to be exact, nor will they be to the scale you want, but it helps with the overal, broad-brush-strokes planning for a large property. I know there are also companies that do high resolution topography mapping out there and they're not cheap, but not as expensive as you'd think. If you have the $$, that would be a huge help in getting a very valuable resource for your planning. Another very important resource (as you mentioned) is subsoil types on the property - a general idea of where the better draining subsoils are compared to the boggier subsoils, the clayey/sandy/silty/rocky subsoils, etc, gives you a good idea of the various lines of delineation. Pair those up with the existing vegetation types (read the weeds) so you can get a rough idea of pH and nutrient levels as the site currently sits.

3) Water - This ties into both #1 and #2 - what is the average yearly and monthly rainfall for your site? The closer you are to it, the better. Any running water on the property? You're further into the frozen than we are here, but even here we have some springs on the property that are warm enough to stay flowing right through January the last 3 years - you can hear the water trickling through under the ice and snow when the temps are -8*F, which always brings a smile to my face Map out your current water catchments and flow patterns (much of this can be gleaned from those rough topographical maps) - this gives you a better idea of what's already hydrated and what's lacking. It will also help queue you in to various microclimates (later on this list) since wet soils take longer to warm but hold heat later into the fall, while dry soil will warm early and frost early. With this information, you can design what will work to hydrate and store as much water on the property as is possible while ensuring you aren't over-hydrating one area, turning it to a swamp, or under-hydrating another, creating a cold-temperate desert. Of course, maybe you want some hydrological diversity...nothing wrong with that. This is where you can build a system that inevitably fuels life of the property. Water = life, right?

4) Roads and Access - These *need* to be based around your water management planning, which itself needs to be based around your land shape/geography. Funny thing is each step from here really precipitates from those two. Thing is, once a road is built, it's a bugger to un-build it. Access can be as little as a footpath and as large as a two lane road - these need to be planned in before you even look at forest, planting and cropping systems, where buildings will go, how you'll divide up your landscape for any grazing systems, or even where topsoil improvements need to be taking place. Granted, all these things are likely to keep coming up while you're looking at #2-#4, but try to put them aside the best you can because your roads and access needs to take priority.

5) Trees/Forestry/Plant Systems - Obviously, this becomes an extension of the #2 and #3 points again - things need to go where they'll do well and, looked at another way, what will do well in a given area is what you should be doing. The landscape, once examined, will sort of guide you toward the conclusion of what to plant and where. This is speaking on a broader sense, though - we're not looking at species yet. We're looking at overall systems. Forest systems, wetland systems, pond systems, savanna systems, grassland systems, etc - certain landscape topographies with certain underlying soil types and hydration levels will *dictate* what sort of system will do well in that area. You can nudge these areas in various directions, such as pushing savanna systems into a grassland-friendly area or ponds into wetland-friendly areas, but you can only nudge an area so far. These "areas" later become the foundation for your "cropping map".

6) Microclimates - I touched on this with #3, but it also heavily depends on #s 2, 4 and 5. Certain areas may be protected from north/west winds by forests, have a south-facing slopes and have sandier subsoils - they'll warm up fast, drain frost and stay drier than other areas with north facing slopes and clay subsoil, for example. Take your microclimates very seriously because survival depends on it. Survival of your apricot blooms in the spring, or your zone 3b apple, or your marginal black walnut stand. Those hardy grape cultivars you spent a small fortune on so you could hopefully vint some wines for the local community, augmenting your income stream, will die if you plant them in the wrong place. Mark Sheppard's STUN isn't about throwing a zone 6 plant into a zone 3 and expecting some to survive You want to give your stock the best chance at thriving you can without having to baby it - pick the right microclimate for it

7) Buildings - At this point, you have general subsoil types, slopes and elevation, water flow and storage patterns, planting systems, etc etc. You'll be able to account for all your various sectors by now (wind/fire/water/view/etc) and you'll know where your main access and roads will be. You can just look over the work done so far and KNOW where the "center" of it all is. The siting part happens almost on its own, just by the work done on the rest up to this point. Then you get to look at the usable "features" of the given areas - logs and earth-berming and stone masonry and passive solar gain and wind power ... and and and ... Buildings, from utility, tool and firewood drying sheds through homes, apartments and office buildings, each have their "location" and "appropriate technologies" based upon what's come out of your research and planning, #1 through #6.

8 ) Fencing/Subdivision - Again, here, everything done from #1-#7 will sort of guide what this ends up looking like. There should be very few "decisions" involved as the correct way just simply "fits" what's already there. There's some cross-over regarding this and #10, I have to admit, since your subdivisions will need to be larger if dealing with beef and dairy cattle than if you're dealing with ducks and geese, but it still certainly stands on its own. Animals live a certain amount of time and then die - that's life. Plant and tree crops do the same thing - at a certain point, they go away to the "other". The fencing and subdivisions, though, will usually outlast them. In 500 years, the hedgerows, berms and shadows of your fencing will still be there. Stone walls running through dense forests here in New England harken back to the sheep-grazing days of 200 years ago - they last.

9) (Top)Soils and 10) Crops/Animals - #9 includes amendments like liming, phosphate, organic matter, tillage (if any), then nutrient accumulators and cover cropping, and even importing soils if necessary. This and #10 are sort of interchangeable, though, in that certain cropping or animal systems will necessitate certain topsoil "treatments", but the reverse is also true (certain topsoils will require certain animal or cropping treatments). I suppose you could just call these two a combined #9, but no list is complete without being at least 10 items long As far as siting - well, again, everything is dependent on everything else up to this point. Chickens don't like the cold, ducks like water, beef and dairy cattle need savanna and/or grassland systems, goats prefer forested systems...same ideas apply to your cropping - you don't plant a black walnut in a wetland and you don't plant american ginseng in a grassland

11) Economy and Energy - This I throw in there because Darren Doherty considers it an integral part of design. I sort of view it as a very impermanent thing (on both accounts) and very changeable. Your surrounding economy, the economy of your nation and the world economy are in constant states of flux, but in any given month, or year, or decade, much of what you do (plant/grow/raise/harvest) is ultimately going to depend greatly on what's in demand. Bill Mollison said that the only thing that should be leaving your property is that which can walk off on its own legs - he was referring to meat production being the most beneficial monetarily to the permaculture farmer as well as being the most efficient use of the resources. All those benefits you get from an animal, such as the classic "permaculture chicken", if put into monetary terms, means selling "better than organic" chickens is far more profitable than selling 25lb boxes of tomatoes to local restaurants. Hazelnut finished ham rather than hazelnuts, is Mark Sheppard's line. This ties into energy in its own way as well - you're harvesting energy on a permaculture-based farmstead. You're taking in the light of the sun, plus carbon/nitrogen and other nutrients, turning it all into more and more complex molecules such as sugars and starches, cellulose and humus, proteins and fats...and the most complex forms of energy storage are also the least "wasteful" and pack the most "value", both in ecological and in monetary terms. Hope that makes sense.

And I hope that's helpful. I know I'm still spinning my wheels somewhere around #3, but the plans have been created and have evolved over time as little discoveries and realizations come up. In fact, I think that's the most important take-home - you can come up with the most beautiful, exquisite and detailed plan, full of balance and redundancy, and it could look, at first, like the be-all-end-all plan. Two years later, that plan will certainly resemble what you started with, but it's going to be different. It's going to change. That's what happens and you need to expect it. Money will be tight or water will pop up out of the ground where you didn't expect it, or a new baby is suddenly on its way, or something. Something will change and your plans need to adapt. Does that mean you shouldn't bother planning? Hell no - just means you shouldn't be rigid in your adherence to that plan. Life has a way of happening.

Like the saying goes: You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans

And congratulations on an epic adventure I can't wait to follow along as things get rolling.
 
Deb Rebel
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If you are Canadian look up University of Saskatchewan. They have done a LOT of work on producing and cultivating hearty healthy plants that grow well in Canada. If you are 3a, you want to look at what fruit trees they have done work with. http://www.fruit.usask.ca/ will lead you into their fruit program.

I now live in 6b and I have found some of their varieties of Apples will 'break' later in the spring and bloom later (we are known for 3 months of a teaser spring with a few really good hard snaps and snow possible to prevent it being a full growing season unless you work at it). Even with seeking out the microclimes in your land, you want stuff that will grow in your zone and under your conditions. Also look for Siberian strains, they will do well in 3a.

The only outside chance you have for peaches is Reliance and it is at least a zone 4. With careful placement in a protected area, and perhaps espaliering it to a building that will share heat gain and thermal mass, you might be able to protect it during bloom and fruitset (the amount of cold peach blooms will tolerate rises from about 23f when you see the buds to no frost once petals are dropping and fruit sets) with protection on cold nights, and get a crop. That would take work to pull off. Everyone loves fresh peaches, I'm one, but had to move to zones where it was possible. Most peaches like at least zone 5a.

I understand you wanting to get your land sorted, your orchard planted, your water sorted and a master-use-plan for your property roughed out. The first two to three years for getting trees established is crucial and being there to water and tend them is important. Most peaches will come into their own about fifth or sixth year, and produce well for fifteen to twenty years, after that it will taper off. (My Contender is well into that zone now and if the spring favors us, it needs thinning to overwhelm us with a crop). If you have someone to tend them for you while you're gone, then you will have the battle won. Lay any sort of irrigation or water system if you plan on using one at the time of planting so as not to disturb the root system later. IF you can't do that then go with a surface system you can disconnect and store after the warm/ growing season.

I have seen some good micro-homesteading for having a cow, a few goats or pigs, and some chickens, with rotating things and one acre. You may start there and work up. Good luck.
 
Lorenzo Costa
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You could even check this out I don't know what your income streams will be but thorough planning is the base.
This book could come in handy
all the best for your adventure!
 
Barbara Greene
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Having access to land is exciting! Making plans and even planting or building is hard to resist. It feels like there is a mountain of stuff to do and little or no time to do it in.
Remember Mollison's words, "protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor"...
Get out on your land in every season first.
Watch and observe what goes on there.
It really is best to spend a whole year living on your place making all those observations, taking notes and posing questions about what's going on there, maybe drawing some conclusions.
You will be amazed how much you learn and by contrast how little you knew in the beginning!!
You may avoid some expensive (in time and/or money) mistakes, by taking your time.
If your in laws have lived near by for a long time, engage them in telling you what they've learned about the land and what they've noticed.
You must get to know your land.
In the meantime, read everything you can not only about permaculture but other related areas like Holistic Management, ReGen Ag Etc.
Take multiple PDCs especially if there is one in the same type of bioregion or climate zone. Talk to long time farmers and neighbors from the area your land is in, listen to what stories they tell about historic events ( floods, fires, freezes, etc) make notes.
This will help you make better decisions when the time comes.
 
Earl Mardle
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Elijah Kim wrote:First off, I have a little experience with gardening/permaculture, but ultimately... yea I'm a newb.

So we have some land and won't be moving there for at least 3 years... I'm wondering what I can/should be doing to help prep us for our eventual move to the property. I have a rough idea, but would love the input of someone who has a little more expertise than I currently do. The property is currently 24 hrs away so we only get back once a year during summer leave (Julyish).
I would start by asking why you are doing this, and why you chose this particular property.

I don't want to seem mercenary but what is your budget and your time frame?

Until those things are clear you can't start planning for what you are supposed to achieve.
 
Dave Smythe
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If you haven't already seen it Bealtaine Cottage is a hugely inspiring example of what's possible starting with a marshy, boggy plot of land over a decade or so.
The west of Ireland is quite a bit milder climate, but that will just let you rest a bit more during the winter in between the growth spurts
 
Les Dell
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Have you gone here yet? http://www.mytopo.com/search.cfm

You can also overlay any topo map in the US/Canada on Google Earth.

It's possible that if you don't see many contour lines that your property is almost flat. A typical topo map shows lines every ten feet of elevation change.
 
Mick Fisch
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Congratulations!! I wish I had 80 acres.

I have a suggestion that may help you capture data since you visit the site so infrequently right now. I used to do a lot of site surveys for equipment installations (way less complicated than what your doing) and work with others who did them also. During the survey there was often something overlooked, but it was a chartered flight back out to revisit. Start at one point, marked on the map. Take pictures, overlapping so you can rebuild a 360 degree view of the point you were standing. With 80 acres, you will have to do this at many points to get a real digital record of what you saw. Take pictures on the horizontal plane so you can get an idea of elevation differences. If you need to go up or down, make sure this is captured with another overlapping ring of pictures that capture any salient points. For any closeups, make sure you have something to provide a reference for size like your significant other, a yardstick, dog, tool (that you will have with you later to measure if need be).

Taking the pictures isn't perfect, but a surprising amount of data can be gathered from the pictures. Since you will have walked the entire area, gathered soil samples etc. it will be a good memory jogger and help you to keep from getting different observations you've made of the site mixed up in your head.

While you are doing this, I would recommend a large map of the area (maybe just a big sheet of paper that you turn into a map on site). You may need to put some kind of plastic backing to help it survive being packed around and marked up outside, especially if its windy. Have a spare map to, one may get ripped/wet and force you to switch to the other map while the first is drying/getting taped back up, etc. Mark the areas you take photos on the map. Make notes about specific sites, marking them on the map. Label everything, because memory is fallable but a sharpy is permanent. Take a long measuring tape and a compass so that your map is as accurate as possible. (Some people have a pretty accurate pace, and that can be used, but it tends to get messed up in brush).

I realize you probably have thought of all of these suggestions. They are pretty obvious. Over the years I've seen a fair number of site surveys hosed because someone overlooked one of these items while they were onsite.
 
Jared Kanter
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Location: Austin, United States
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First, I want to give a shout out to Tristan for taking the time to write such a detailed and organized reply!

I'm in a similar situation, but with 40 acres that is 9 hours drive from our house in Texas. The subject property is in Arkansas. The acreage that we purchased has an off-grid one bedroom cabin. We also have a 3-5 year plan to move onto the AR property.

Our biggest challenge currently is access. I mention this because all the permaculture knowledge in the world is going to be useless if you can't get on the property (or move around on it) easily. Tristan described this well in #4 of his reply. This should be your first priority since you already own the property. Your second priority should be creating a budget: How are you gonna pay for all the cool plans you have?

Another biggie: How are you planning on handling the human excrement generated by you and yours? Septic? Humanure composting? I recommend reading the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. You can read the book for free here: http://humanurehandbook.com

You mentioned doing soil tests and I think that's a great idea. You can get a soil test for $20-$30. Go down about 6 inches per soil slice. You will take multiple slices for a planting area, mix them up, and pick out large debris. The quantity of your final sample will depend upon the testing facility - generally about 2 cups. The sample will also need to be dried out a bit if it's wet. Be sure to send the sample in a strong plastic Ziploc bag - you may even want to double bag it to prevent it from "exploding" in the shipping box. http://www.soilminerals.com is a great link about soil testing and includes info about where to send your samples.

You talked about moving/planting trees. Just remember that wildlife will eat and kill young trees. You may want to save that investment for when you can really monitor things - just in case that sepp holzer bone sauce doesn't work . . .

If you are planning on selling your crops, talk with your county extension office (or the equivalent in Canada, ey), as well as check out local markets to determine what grows/sells well in your area. Not everyone can grow oranges in the Alps like Sepp - start first with the stuff that you know should work. Don't forget to ask all the old-timers in the area about crops/flood events, etc per Barbara's suggestion.

Livestock: Speaking from personal experience - animals tie you down - even pets like dogs and cats. Keep in mind that the more livestock you get, the harder it will be to leave the property for more than a day. Somebody will have to stay back with the farm or you'll have to hire someone to take care of things. My advice is to acquire animals slowly, in small numbers, and only when you are permanently residing on the farm. This will allow you to gauge your ability and desire to work with the animals without overextending yourself and the family. You'll also want to find out the "real" cost of caring for a particular animal. Frequently, the initial purchase of a pet/livestock animal is nothing compared to how much that booger costs afterwards. That said, chickens are a safe bet and you already have experience with them - so start there.

It sounds like you already have a lot of infrastructure in place, which is great. That will save you a lot of time and money

Good Luck!

- Jared

 
Brian Murphy
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Location: Dublin, Ireland
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Earl Mardle wrote:
Elijah Kim wrote:First off, I have a little experience with gardening/permaculture, but ultimately... yea I'm a newb.

So we have some land and won't be moving there for at least 3 years... I'm wondering what I can/should be doing to help prep us for our eventual move to the property. I have a rough idea, but would love the input of someone who has a little more expertise than I currently do. The property is currently 24 hrs away so we only get back once a year during summer leave (Julyish).
I would start by asking why you are doing this, and why you chose this particular property.

I don't want to seem mercenary but what is your budget and your time frame?

Until those things are clear you can't start planning for what you are supposed to achieve.


Also dont want to seem a mercenary but i think you firstly need to decide how much you need to earn to cover your basic living costs over the next 5 years as any permaculture 'system' is going to take years before getting anywhere.
80 ac seems like a big area, and it is but i think you need to decide how to cover your costs most efficiently. Jean martin fortier is (yet) another youtubeable resource who's (and wife's) farm interestingly makes >100k on <10 ac and if i remember correctly requires 3 fulltime staff. However his BIGGEST advantage is that hes < 1 hour to a major population centre in montreal thus market gardening is a viable and profitable venture. I note that your nearest town has a population of 7k as per wikipedia and the county in general has 20k. I dont know the area at all so you will have to decide for yourself what YOUR advantage is. However if your population (potential market) is small all i would say is be realistic about possible sales of produce locally.
I was in your thought mode a couple of years ago in terms of maybe establishing a permaculture system which turns a profit however i realised what i most loved about being outside was just being in nature, wildlife and physically active unlike my dayjob. I also realised that there would be nothing as terrifying or daunting than looking at a piece of land and thinking to myself 'this HAS to pay its way' AND trying to do it trying something i dont have experience with. I would hate to fall out of love with the land due to pressure of earning a living from it.
Perhaps the most realistic thing to do would be consider whether a 'dayjob' would be wisest and of course doing homesteading and establishing permaculture systems with spare time etc. If they prove successful then great.

In my own situation i have a reasonable farm size (40 ac) within 15 miles of dublin city centre as the crow flies. I have most of it leased out to someone grazing cattle. I have a stream with trout , pheasants (i dont allow random hunters from shooting so they can hide here) rabbits and hares eating my newly planted trees (sigh), and buzzards living nearby who swoop by my kitchen window on a daily basis and will probably eat my chickens one day. I do work the dayjob. Im going to trial cobnuts on a reasonable area. I will plant trees and berries and veg. But in my own time. Do i regret this choice? Not a bit.

Btw id knock the idea of setting up a permaculture course centre on the head as a 'goal'. Joel salatin appears to earn sizeable revenue from courses books and possible public speaking, but its driven by being very successful at his day job. Everything else followed suit.
Best of luck with everything you do!
 
Hans Quistorff
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Jim Lewis wrote:Related question-- I'm HOPING to get an abandoned farm very soon from a national park (CVNP, NE OH). It has not been farmed in at least five years, parts overgrown with grasses, parts with brambles/multifloral roses, parts with hardwood saplings. What advice can I (a farming/permie newbie) get for how to transition from abandoned farm to productive permie growies and chickens?

Thanks so much- Jim, wannabe farmer, with resilience and relationship resources at JCSpiritCrafters.x10.bz

In Restoring my farm the multifloral roses were cut back to a straight line to make a natural fence. The Hymalayan Blackberries that the birds planted along the other field fences I trellised to the fence and have become one of the crops that I sell through the coop as well as being part of my staples. The old fields benefit by regular mowing and using the grass to deep mulch the vegetable gardens and around the berry canes.

You can find it under Qberry Farm in the project forum.
 
John Morrison
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Great topic is the 80 acre plot

Re contours I did a pdc with Geoff lawton online and consider to fantastic and value for money.
Geoff uses and now so do I a Johnson hand held eye level (available ON EBAY) which is most useful and easy. I've used this on a 300 acres farm and over a long distance will give contours accurate to about a foot. You can then use a laser level with your earth works machinery.

As for other things to do I'd start getting the top most Swale started and pond if you can or at least plan it.

Then start adding pioneer species of legumes and support species. Also add slow growing productive trees like nuts and fruit trees that you will enjoy when you eventually move to your property.some of these trees take many years to get to maturity. Remember your working toward permanence so consider this as a 500 year plan.
I've found from personal experience mistake #1 is doing too much to start and this leads to chaos
mistake #2 not enough support species

Trust this helps
Regards
John
 
Peter Ellis
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My first thought, and I apologize for posting before I've read the entire thread, is that you might benefit more from working on your knowledge and skill set rather than on what you can do on the land right now.

If I understand correctly, you have three years to work on your knowledge and skills before moving to the land full time and only three weeks on the land until you move there.

You have probably seen lots of discussion about a year of observation before really Doing things. You kind of need to be there for that observation.

Things I would suggest: hone your plant and tree identification skills; get soil maps of the property and learn the characteristics of those soils. While on the property I would suggest test holes all over the place- check drainage, watertable, soil horizons and track all that data closely; spend some off property time researching plants that can handle the soil and climate conditions on your property and perhaps start building your seed bank for when you move;do you have green woodworking skills? Might want to work on building them, as you will find lots of things you will need to build and your land has trees; you can build your tool kit while waiting to move, think about things you will need but may not have and try to gather some of them in advance.

You mentioned relocating existing hazel and other trees I would sugges r not trying to transplant them, it is hard on the plants and you will not be there to nurse them. Maybe try propagating some cuttings from the interesting trees.

If you wanted something a little ezoteric, there are solar powered raspberry pi based weather stations for around 200 US. Maybe you could place one of those where it could upload through your in-law's WiFi and you could get three years of weather data to work with when you started designing.

In terms of things I might do in your place: dig test holes all over; walk every inch just looking to see what is there in existing plants, wildlife, water; walk it all again but looking at solar aspect, amount of light getting to the understory, wind, frost flow - the environmental factors; get samples of soil and water for testing for toxins (residues from biocides are my first concern, but your area that may be lower priority); I might sow perennial and or self-seeding cover/dynamic acumulator/forage crops in open areas to help start shifting the existing pasture to something more purpose oriented for livestock.

But the biggest thing I recommend is working on your skills before you get on the land
 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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First off thanks to everyone for the input! It's always good to get input from so many people. Long Live Permies!

Tristan Vitali.
I noticed you didn't post even a topography map from google maps

Good point, I'll put one up,

Tristan Vitali.
I know there are also companies that do high resolution topography mapping out there and they're not cheap, but not as expensive as you'd think. If you have the $$, that would be a huge help in getting a very valuable resource for your planning.

I may end up doing this, if I can find the file I can print them out at work. Right now I have the Sat imagery printed off on about a 2' x 3' map that I am using along with my memory to do the rough plan.

Tristan Vitali. subsoil types on the property - a general idea of where the better draining subsoils are compared to the boggier subsoils, the clayey/sandy/silty/rocky subsoils, etc, gives you a good idea of the various lines of delineation.

Added to my list of things to do this summer.

Tristan Vitali. Any running water on the property?

Unfortunately none that I am aware of.

Tristan Vitali. Mark Sheppard's STUN isn't about throwing a zone 6 plant into a zone 3 and expecting some to survive

I still keep hoping that one day one of the avacodoes I grow outside in the summer will survive lol

Tristan Vitali. And I hope that's helpful.

It is. Thanks!

Deb Rebel. If you are Canadian look up University of Saskatchewan.

I actually just ordered from http://www.saskgojipower.ca I didn't realize they had others, thanks. The apple trees I ordered are from http://hardyfruittrees.ca/ the types I ordered are supposed to be hardy to zones 1 (September Ruby) and 2 (Fall Red)

Deb Rebel. The only outside chance you have for peaches is Reliance and it is at least a zone 4

This is on my wishlist I won't try it until I live there to protect it if we get a cold snap. Peaches are by far my favourite.

Barbara Greene. Remember Mollison's words, "protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor"...
Get out on your land in every season first. Watch and observe what goes on there. It really is best to spend a whole year living on your place

It's killing me, but Bill knows best. For now I'm going to plant a few trees/plants that I can move/cut down later. Earthworks projects have to wait until we move there, not having the cash to pay for earthmovers right now helps me wait too lol.

Earl Mardle. I would start by asking why you are doing this, and why you chose this particular property.

Life has chosen to force me into a career move. The property was purchased from my spouse's parents. So the price was right, and it keeps the property in the family. We have a lot of resources in that area. Her dad has 160 more acres across the road and has a couple of tractors and a portable sawmill and the knowledge of how to operate them. Her uncle is a cattle farmer so more knowledge there. Her sister's inlaws own a local construction supply store and do construction so good discount with that. My family is mostly within a couple hour drive as well.

Earl Mardle. I don't want to seem mercenary but what is your budget and your time frame?

Budget is kind of on call... it's complicated. Right now we are budgeting to be debt free in 3 years (excluding our house). When we move we should walk away with at least 30k(minimum) from the house. Most of that will most likely be used investing in solar/wind power and renovating the little house that is on the property. I'll still get paid approx 30k for four years after I move there in approximately 3 years. I should also get a lump sum payment or a life long pension, again unsure of amount. lol Life teaching me to be flexible. At minimum I'd get $9,600 a year after taxes as a pension which is separate from the previous possible pension/lump sum. Time frame is until I turn into worm food

Mick Fisch. I would recommend a large map of the area... take pictures

I like this idea a lot. I think I'll just number spots on the map take photos, do a soil sample, check soil drainage and use the map numbering to track where each is from. For the map we usually just laminate them or use "map tack", which folds a lot nicer, to waterproof the maps we use. You can than use permanent marker right on the map, hand sanitzer or a pencil eraser will clean it off.

Jared Kanter. You talked about moving/planting trees. Just remember that wildlife will eat and kill young trees.

We are going to fence the hell outa them this summer, it's only four trees so we should be able to protect them easily. lol I do want to cook up the bone sauce though Deer are all over the place out there, not to many moose though I think. We accepted that these first trees may/may not make it. We only have $150 invested in them so not to much of a setback if we lose them... I'll still do everything I can though cause it's still 150 bucks!

Brian Murphy. Jean martin fortier is (yet) another youtubeable resource who's (and wife's) farm interestingly makes >100k on <10 ac and if i remember correctly requires 3 fulltime staff.

I hadn't heard of him definitely checking him out. The property back home isn't very close to any big cities closest is 3 hours to Winnipeg, MB,

Peter Ellis. But the biggest thing I recommend is working on your skills before you get on the land

Every year that goes by we learn a bit more, and realize we know so little

Thanks again for all the info/recommendations time to hit the books and refine the plan some more.




 
Elijah Kim
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Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
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Here's the Topo map
Filename: Farm Topo.pdf
Description:
File size: 1002 Kbytes
[Download Farm Topo.pdf] Download Attachment
 
Ron Duft
Posts: 16
Location: Alberta,Canada US Hardy:3b Annual Precipitation: 15" Wind: 62mph Temperature:-45F to 86F
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Hi Elijah, Looks like you have your work cut out for you and a lot of fantastic advice. Throwing in my 2 cents worth, get your trees started now!!! even in starter beds/pots/buckets and move them later to their permanent locations. The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago so you have some catching up to do, most of us are trying to play catch up on our land and we are not getting any younger.
Second read all of this https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com before you spend any of your hard earned $$$, Bob knows what he is talking about and it will cut through all the advertising hype and false information on solar products, it will save you thousands.
Third start planning to harvest every drop of rain water, cabin roof, and slope harvesting into a dam or pond or swale. Wells are not cheap to drill.
Last you have came to the right place, any questions you have but to ask. Best of luck.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Elijah Kim wrote:
Tristan Vitali. subsoil types on the property - a general idea of where the better draining subsoils are compared to the boggier subsoils, the clayey/sandy/silty/rocky subsoils, etc, gives you a good idea of the various lines of delineation.

Added to my list of things to do this summer.


You may be able to find some resources online that can give you a general idea as well. Here in the states we have the NRCS soil survey data available in map form and I was able to use that to do some preliminary mapping and planning for this property from several states away while I waited for money to become available and the seller to become more amenable In fact, between my initial viewing of the property (a cold, wet april morning of 2012 when we happened upon the place while driving out to see another property) and actually moving up here from "down south" with the purchase agreement worked out, I had done over 80% of the planning based on memory, knowledge of the general New England climate and biome, google maps (satellite and topographical), and the NRCS soil survey data!

I also incorporated aerial survey and topography maps the gov't had online going back to the 50s to get a better idea of what changes might have taken place over the decades One discovery there was that the topography of the 50s was much more rugged and steep, with erosion, from logging activities most likely, having erased two streams running through the property and some 20 feet of elevation change, smoothing everything into a gentle south-southeast exposure. Another discovery was that the forest types in the area had changed dramatically, from a mostly deciduous type of canopy to predominantly evergreen (again, presumably due to logging activities)

Most of the big stuff is just logical flow where one condition necessarily leads to another, which leads to another, and sort of guides the broad-strokes of the master plans. Southern exposures, water flow (and lack of flow) patterns, existing forest/plant community types. A lot of that can be gleaned from your satellite imagery and topo maps. It actually helps to keep things "in perspective" when you're doing the roughing in part of planning since you can only see the general patterns and there's no "detail" to distract you

Elijah Kim wrote:
Deb Rebel. The only outside chance you have for peaches is Reliance and it is at least a zone 4

This is on my wishlist I won't try it until I live there to protect it if we get a cold snap. Peaches are by far my favourite.


Perfect example of utilizing microclimates to push for things that might be marginal in your zone. Mollison talked about using dark evergreens north of a planting to act as "solar heaters" in winter and some of the "shimmery" pioneer trees, like quaking aspen / poplar as "sun screen" in the summer, helping to mitigate the extremes and give a more mild microclimate for some of the more tender/picky things we grow. When it comes to losing blooms in the spring frosts, the longer you can keep a tree dormant, the better, so early season shade can actually be your friend - shade over the majority of the tree (at least the main trunk) from March through early May, for at least the second half of the day, can delay the sap run and subsequent bloom by upwards of two weeks, giving you a better shot. Also, shade first thing in the morning during this time can help to ensure blooms that do get frost/freeze are not as badly damaged. We're hoping to use these tricks to ensure our apricots don't get nailed so badly here - even one decent crop every two or three years would be a success to us since they do dry and store so well.

Someday, I'd like to have my own sepp holzer style citrus grove on the property, or at least some pomegranates and pistachios If you haven't already, do review the TEFA concept. Lots of be gained for us northern peeps in that line of thought.

On the topo map you attached, I take it the property is outlined as block 348? If so, looks like the property slopes gradually west to east with some swamp/bog to the east. Would love to see a satellite shot of the land in winter, with the leaves down, to get an idea of evergreen vs deciduous too Looking like the northeast quarter of the property (assuming a north/south top/bottom orientation) has some southward sloping which can be a boon to any fruit trees, especially with a dense evergreen windbreak wrapping the west-north-east exposures to protect from winter winds. Guessing, too, that you've got some gentle ridge-line along the south half which could be useful. Like you said, the contours aren't showing much here though - definitely would be worth checking around the freebie sites to see if you can get something with more resolution
 
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