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Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey

 
Michelle Bisson
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This is the story of the development of our Go Permaculture Food Forest.  Maybe our story will inspire others to grow a food forest no matter how small their lot or at least plant a few fruit trees and fruiting shrubs and some other edible perennials.

My name is Michelle and my husband is Levi.  Being web developers and in front of a computer all day we wanted to develop a more healthy active lifestyle of being outdoors.

So we purchase a suburban lot 3/4 of an acre in August 2012 in hopes of one day self building a small house. Since we were not ready to build right away, we started our food forest.

Our lot is forested with red maples, hemlock and a few popular and birch trees except for a 30 foot strip along the front of the property. This strip was bulldozed sort of flat by the developing company before us. It was barren, like a desert without any topsoil and I did not think that anything would grow on it. 

So I started researching the web to learn what would grow on barren soil without top soil.  Then we watched  Greening the Desert with geoff lawton. I figured if he could green the desert I could find something to grow on this strip of desert like heavy clay pure dirt.  I started to learn that the "problem is the solution".

That was our introduction to permaculture.

Story to continue in next post....
 
Michelle Bisson
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After exhausting work, 91 Sea Buckthorn (seaberry) plants are planted.

We purchase 124 plants last fall.  Since we were not able to plant them then. we piled wood chips around the pots to buffer the cold winter.

Phase 1: The only location that is full sun on our property is the 30 feet strip along the front of the property.  This spring, we decided to plant them hedgerow style with 3 feet apart and 9 feet rows since we have a small area to work with.

Also, we decided to use them as a hedge as part of the southwest side and north west side of our property as well as have a small plantation in this corner of the land.  Over time, we will plant small herbaceous edible perrenial plants around our sea buckthorn since we do not have a lot of space to plant larger plants, ex. lots of strawberries and who knows what. We have not got that far....

Our north west section of the land was quite low.  Before we ever thought about sea buckthorns, we has built 2 hugelculture beds in this section.  So we had to dismantle these beds built with heavy logs and then rebuild them with these logs and tons more found in the forest and add layers of dirt and woodchips. So now hugelculture terraces follows the slope of the land. We effectuately raise the land 2 feet.  We know that this will sink with time as the logs decay underneath but we plan add more dirt and woodchips over time.. 

We not have any mechanical equipment only shovels & a wheel barrel and Levi to shovel, and to cut and haul the logs.  I had the task of planting and covering with wood chips and clover to protect from the hot drying sun.  This has taken us 3 months every weekend. 

We do not have truckloads of dirt, just a pile on the other side of the property.  There are weakness with our hugel culture terrace approach such as one side of exposed logs, but we we hope over time to find a solution to this. 


Phase 2: Planting the rest of the sea buckthorns hedgerow cannot be done until our driveway gets moved as it is not in the right location.  We will then continue our hedgerow following the road in front of our property.   One day we will have a beautiful sea buckthorn hedge and plantation on our suburban lot and lots of berries to eat, trade, propagate and sell.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've found where logs are exposed, they tend to become colonized with fruiting mushrooms.  So I don't know that log exposure is really a problem, especially not in a cooler, moister climate like yours.

 
Michelle Bisson
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@Tyler, so I was overly concerned about my soil drying out being exposed to the prevailing winds....
Thanks for your comments! It gives a new perspective.

But I am checking it every week and so far it is moist with minimal watering and the normal rains.  Once Sea Buckthorn (seaberry) are mature, they are drought tolerant.  Before raising the land, the with heavy clay was saturated till July.  Sea Buckthorn would not survive since they do not like wet feet.


Also I am concerned about the voles making nests & eating our roots from.  Plus, the exposed logs are not as attractive as I wish being viewable by all the neighbours.  So now to beautify this section.

I have started to plant some cold hardy coleus plants that are easy to propagate along the edge of the exposed logs with the hope that they will flow down the logs & cover them up over time.  Maybe one day I'll have access to a viny type edible plants to replace them.  But for now, the coleus are free & super easy for me to propagate and should provide nice "ground cover" sweeping down over the logs.


I am not sure yet about the dealing with the voles, maybe set some mouse traps to keep them under control.  I have no signs that they are attacking my plants. Unfortunately often it is to late when we do notice.


We choose to to use 8 feet logs perpendicular to the slope after the summer before we had made a 2 foot rock wall, but then the following spring the rock wall collapsed into the ditch with the saturated ground so there was no point rebuilding the rock wall.   Well, if we had some big equipment we could of done that to lay a strong foundation below the ground level but there was no budget for that. 

Sepp once said, "If you do not have pigs, then you do the work of the pigs"  Since we do not have mechanical equipment, we have to do the work replacing the equipment if we want to achieve some of our goals.  With all the work we have done in this north west corner over the last few years, we sure did the work of the "pigs".    But with the hugel culture logs, and rocks lining the ditch on slope, that the major work is completed for many years, just maintenance.  So that is the plan.
 
Tyler Ludens
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It's an incredible amount of work done by hand, I really admire you because I've done similar on a smaller scale.  Regarding the voles, I expect they will diminish in a year or two.  Right after I made buried wood beds, I had a ton of mice in the garden, but as things settled and matured, the mice went away. 
 
Michelle Bisson
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Tyler,

Thank you for your encouraging words!  The physical strength of our youth is décades away.  We still hope to one day self build our house here.
 
Michelle Bisson
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This is what this section looked like after last summer's work (fall 2015) with 2 hugel culture beds.  This was before we bought 124 Sea Buckthorn plants.  Funny how new opportunities changes plans.

Michelle Bisson wrote:


We are using lots of rocks to line the slope of the ditch to prevent the slope from collapsing.  We also have started building a hugel culture bed.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Just be sure to give yourself permission to be slow!  We purchased a partially-finished house nearly 20 years ago and it still isn't finished. 
 
Michelle Bisson
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I am quoting myself from another forum thread as I want my story to continue here.


Michelle Bisson wrote:


I built 8 small gabion check dams in the ditch that divides the neighbour's property and ours.  I wanted to slow down the water before it hits the main ditch.  This is because with the spring melting snow the water was eroding the corner of our property.   I will have access to water or very moist soil along the ditch for water loving plants of my choice. (Right now it is just weeds)

Where we have the gabion check dams, the rocks are place in a curve higher on both sides than the flowing waters instead of a flat dam.  This will reduce the risk of erosion when there is high flow. 

We have not finished the process as we want to line the ditch with more rocks.  First we have to find and dig out the rocks from other locations on our property.  For normal rainfalls & spring melt water we should not have any real erosion.  This will give me time to find more rocks since we have stopped the erosion for now.

This video inspired me to build curved gabion dams plus a Geoff Lawton video about gabions (I could not find it again to link to)

Reversing Desertification With Sticks, Rocks, and Ancient Wisdom

Although my ditch is small, the same principals apply on a much larger scale for those who have erosion issues along a creek or run off.
 
Michelle Bisson
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This is a blueberry plant that I simple layered last fall. I took a low lying branch and scraped underneath the branch at the node and mounted some soil around the branch at the node with some leaves sticking out the other end.  I then put a rock on the branch to keep it touching the soil. 

It is now looking very healthy and in the fall I will sever it from the mother plant if the roots look healthy and transplant it to a new location.  This is one of the easiest ways to propagate woody plants.  As long as we have normal rainfall, there is nothing to do but come back a year later to transplant them elsewhere. 

I am aiming to have 100 blueberry plants so we have enough throughout the year and to share with family.  So far we have eight plants about 3 year old and maybe 20 babies still attached to the mother plants. 

I have been told you never have enough blueberries. We love blueberries



 
John Saltveit
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This is a great project Michelle,
La belle, sont les mots que vont tres bien ensembles, to paraphrase.

I like how you are showing the different aspects of permaculture in each photo.  Your pictorial will inspire many others. It has already inspired me.
John S
PDX OR
 
Michelle Bisson
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Our apple guilds..... We have 8 apple trees that were planted just over a year ago. This guild below has one apple tree and one cherry tree about 10 feet apart.  I will make sure that they are prune in the future so that they will not compete too much with each other for space. 

It is hard to see the apple tree in the middle since it is only a couple of years old with only a couple of branches.  That was because last year a deer ate off the branches.


Michelle Bisson wrote:


This spring I planted some rhubarb plants around our apple trees along with the many hosta and strawberry plants that I planted last fall.

As they grow they will inhibit other plants/weeds from growing and be a living mulch.  In the fall, I will use the large rhubarb & hosta leaves as cut mulch after the first frost.    Also, I will pick and choose which plants/weeds from what nature provides gets to live around my fruit trees.  For example, I will discourage the grass as I will pull it out or smother it, but if clover grows, I will allow it to grow.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Michelle Bisson wrote:



We love using wood chips in our Go Permaculture Food Forest 

Here is our most recent use of wood chips..

We are using the wood chips as a top layer in our hugel culture terrace. It is about 4 to 6 inches directly on the pathway.  There is also a thinner layer following our berms where our Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry) plants have been recently planted.  Along the berms, we added herbaceous chop & drop as the top layer to provide more nutrients and protection from the drying sun & wind.  Some of our plants that we planted a week ago are having transplant shock, but I am expecting a full recovery.

We have raised the land with this hugel culture terrace almost 2 feet at the bottom of the slope.  In a couple of years, the wood chips will be mostly composted and if we need compost elsewhere we can find it here and plan to add new wood chips as needed.



Our source of wood chips is a local maple syrup camp where the owners cuts firewood for sale.  The wood chips created by the machinery is quite fine.  Unfortunately they would charge us too much money to deliver it, but it is free if we want to come and get it. 

Like compost, once you start using wood chips, you always want more....  Fortunately they are only a few miles away and this could be a reliable source of wood chips year after year.  Not super large quantities, but a steady source.



 
Michelle Bisson
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This image was taken last year in July 2015.  This was before we decided to purchase our Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry) plants. 

At the time we had one hugel culture bed built that we started the year before.  On top of the logs was a mixture of our heavy clay dirt and wood chips plus any herbaceous plants I could chop & drop on the pile.

This spring we dismantled the our hugel culture bed to transform it into hugel culture terraces for our sea buckthorn plantation. We moved all of our mixture of clay soil & wood chips into a pile further back for future use. This mixture had transformed into rich growing material high in compost.  It is amazing since all I had was clay dirt before.  It took 2 years to make useful enriched soil.  It gives me hope that we can do something incredible on our property knowing that we can make our own growing medium.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Phase 2 of our Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry) will have to wait this this fall.  We first have to put in a new entrance for our driveway as the current location is not in the right location.

So I potted up my Sea Buckthorn (Seaberry) plants into larger containers. These plants had started to get top heavy as the pots were too close together this year, so I decided to take some cuttings and pot them up.  I then put plastic bags around these cuttings to create a greenhouse effect. This is the first time I am attempting to propagate sea buckthorn plants by softwood cuttings. 

 
Michelle Bisson
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Here we used wood chips to level the pathway to our apple and cherry food forest.  At the same time, we had 2 "swale" type channels (that were once an old logging trail) that we filled with branches on the pathway like a bridge and covered it with wood chips.

We are not needing our "swales" to be continuous as it is more important to have a stable pathway so the "swales" are devided by our filled in pathway.

We had already used wood chips to create our pathway 2 years ago, but this spring/summer I needed some naturally inoculated fungal compost for planting our sea buckthorn (seaberry) plants so I dug it up and last weekend relayed more wood chips to replace the composted wood chips.

This serves 2 functions: a nice level pathway and also as an easy way to make compost.
 
Aaron Martz
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Beautiful work Michelle, I commend you and your husband on the amount of hard, hard hand labor that went into this project, especially with all of the difficulties of probably being a post-development dumping ground.

I had a question, what made you choose Sea Buckthorns? That is a lot of plants! I also think it is great that you two are diving into cuttings and such.

Do you guys have thoughts on how you want to build your house and of what materials?
 
Michelle Bisson
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John Saltveit wrote:This is a great project Michelle,
La belle, sont les mots que vont tres bien ensembles, to paraphrase.

I like how you are showing the different aspects of permaculture in each photo.  Your pictorial will inspire many others. It has already inspired me.
John S
PDX OR


Thank you John for your encouraging words!  We have learnt from other people's photos and videos, so I am trying to share what we have learnt and applied to our own situation.  Every one's project is different! Even on the same property different techniques are used for similar type projects.

 
Michelle Bisson
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Aaron Martz wrote:Beautiful work Michelle, I commend you and your husband on the amount of hard, hard hand labor that went into this project, especially with all of the difficulties of probably being a post-development dumping ground.


Thank you Aaron for your kind words.  Our 1.5 property is a regrowth forest firewood timber.  We have a trail from the old logging vehicles that have 2 "swales" where the old tire tracks were. So other than finding spme  logs "dumped", we consider our land healthy in a natural state.  The developer of this subdivision had bull dozed the front part of our land so that is why there are no trees on the front section.

Aaron Martz wrote:

I had a question, what made you choose Sea Buckthorns? That is a lot of plants! I also think it is great that you two are diving into cuttings and such.


We had listened & watched to too many podcasts & videos about "backyard" growers and nurseries and are planning for the day we "retire" and thought that if we could earn a little bit of income / year to supplement our future small government pensions this would be good.  We spent last summer researching about sea buckthorn (seaberry) plants and decided to buy 124 plants.   Since sea buckthorn plants need full sun, we were very limited of the number of plants we could plant as only about 1/8 of our land is full sun.  We decided to plant most of them like a hedge and the others in hedgerows on contour.

There is a sea buckthorn grower who has 800 plants near where we live.  Sea buckthorn can thrive in our very cold climate.   They will look attractive as a hedge along the road out front and give us privacy.

Aaron Martz wrote:

Do you guys have thoughts on how you want to build your house and of what materials?


Yes, we want to do a simple story and a half timberframe house with hemp/lime insulation and lime plaster as the outside material. We plan to build it ourselves as we cannot afford to contract it out.  We do not yet have the finances in place to start construction so that is why we are starting with building our food forest.

 
Aaron Martz
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Oh so not as degraded as I thought it would be. I've seen some empty yard areas around developments that are filled with rubble and other construction debris only a few inches down.

Great forward thinking on an income stream, especially now while you are in a position of not being able to move to your property yet. Have you found that there is a large commercial demand for seaberry? I guess if there is not you still have plenty of berries for your self and as you stated a beautiful hedge/windbreak.

Interesting ideas for insulation in your home, I haven't done much research on hemp/lime yet. How thick would your walls be? I always suggest to start scrounging for the expensive materials like windows and doors now while you have the time.

Thanks again for posting your great project.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Aaron Martz wrote:

Great forward thinking on an income stream, especially now while you are in a position of not being able to move to your property yet. Have you found that there is a large commercial demand for seaberry? I guess if there is not you still have plenty of berries for your self and as you stated a beautiful hedge/windbreak.


To be honest, we do not know how difficult it will be to sell any of our sea buckthorn (seaberry) plants or fruit.  That is why our backup plan of simply having a beautiful hedge/wind break is important. We still have a few years before we have a surplus from our production.  In Québec there are maybe 10 growers that have 800 trees or more each, but to tap into their network with their annual fees to be part of their association are too costly for us.  Our first step is to grow a quality product and since our plants are still small, we will only get a less than a handful of berries this year.  I have already propagated 25 plants by root division, so we now have about 148 plants.

We have a few ideas about value adding to our berries, example making a blend of sea buckthorn (seaberry) and maple syrup and jams.  We have family members who have maple syrup camps. 



Aaron Martz wrote:
Interesting ideas for insulation in your home, I haven't done much research on hemp/lime yet. How thick would your walls be? I always suggest to start scrounging for the expensive materials like windows and doors now while you have the time.


Thanks again for posting your great project.


Our walls will be either 16 in or 18 in. 

Thank you for your encouraging words!
 
Michelle Bisson
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We are at the middle of our blueberry season. We have 8 cultivated plants and lots of wild blueberry plants in our blueberry patch.




We had to put netting over our Blueberry patch because the Robin birds were eating our berries.  They would just peck each berry once and then move to the next berry. Last weekend somehow 3 Robins found a way inside the netting from the bottom and were flying around in a panic so we let them free and we tried to better  secure the netting close to the ground.  We do not want to find when we go back next weekend any dead birds inside our netting.




 
Aaron Martz
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In case you can't find a market for the berries as direct food, Eric Toenameier writes in The Carbon Farming Solution that Seaberry has a use as an edible oil crop from the seeds (so could possibly be a multi yield with jam made from the berry flesh and oil pressed from the seed), it is fodder, windbreak/hedge as you have designed it, and it is nitrogen fixing. Also a strong firewood coppicing plant. A lot of strong attributes and potential uses!
 
Michelle Bisson
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Thank you for your suggestions Aaron!

Also, we will also be open for trading for other organic food or fruiting plants.  I am hoping to trade some with family members who produces maple syrup commercially. Plus, I will dry them and add them to whatever I am cooking or eat them raw such as mixing them with nuts etc...  We are still a few years way before we likely have a surplus.  But we do have a lot of plants so one day we will have a surplus. The two main varieties that we have are Sunny and Gold Rain which are better for consumption than as oïl.  Probably because the seed is smaller or has less oïl content.
 
Aaron Martz
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Ok gotcha. And of course one way of "making" money is by trading for things you need. Thanks for your post again, you have got me thinking of the ways I can use Seaberry in my own future mid-Michigan farm
 
Michelle Bisson
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Last week I saw that the Bunchberries were growing all over as ground cover in the understory of our native maple and hemlock trees, all over our apple food forest and in our wild blueberry patch.  After a search on the Internet I discovered that they were edible.

The bright red berries looked riped so I sampled a few to make sure that they agreed with me.


The next day, I collected a medium size bowlful to take back home.  These small berries are easy to pick in large quantities.  They have a mild sweet taste almost nothing with a small seed inside. After cleaning them, I put some of them in the freezer and some of them I dehydrated.  I figure that they must have a high nutritional value like other berries, but I am unable to confirm this as I did not find any détails on the web.
 
Michelle Bisson
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This image is at the maple syrup camp about 5 kilometres from our property.  They chop firewood with a machine for sale and in the process wood chip piles are formed.  The owner has given us permission to come and get all the wood chips. 



It is slow going and hard work since we have to shovel the wood chips into heavy duty plastic bags.  We can carry about 25 - 30 bags at a time in our cargo trailer.

So far we have done 10 trips. We have at least 15 more trips.
 
Michelle Bisson
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This is our small pocket garden pond.  Levi dug it out last summer in an area that had some surface water accumulation in early spring and after it rains.  It is now about 6 feet by 3 feet.  He put some moss from the forest on the side of the pond last year and it took hold.  I thought that it would of just fallen into the water, so this surprised me that the moss is still holding.  Levi placed a couple of large stones as steps so we can easily have access to the water.

We use the water to irrigate our newly planted plants when we go through dry spells.  It has filled up after each rain event so we have been fortunate, but now we see that the water table is dropping and the pond is having a harder time to keep sufficient water level.  We have two frogs living in the pond and it is a resource for the birds, wild animals and insects.  We have to use the water sparingly.

When the pond dries up we will enlarge it and dig it deeper.
 
Michelle Bisson
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We have some sea buckthorn berries (seaberries).  Not many as we only planted our plants this spring and summer so we did not get lots of pollination.  To ensure fruiting, we need one male to 5 to 10 females depending on how close we plant.  Since our plants are very close, we have about 1 male to 7 females.  If need be in the future if we do not get good pollination,  we will graft some male scions onto the female plants.  We probably could of purchased more males, but we will work with what we have.

Having never eaten sea bucktorn berries, we sampled a few of them since we do not know if they were ripe enough. With a distinctive sour citrus like delicious taste, I found quite agreeable.  I ate them one at a time to enjoy the flavour. I can see why they call them the citrus of the north.   Next week we'll sample some more to see if they "sweeten" up.  They are not known to be "sweet". 

 
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Not having a well on our property and only a small pocket garden pond, I decided to create a couple of small dams in the ditch dividing our property with the neighbour's.  Then I dug out a basins behind the dams so that more water would collect in the ditch and I could harvest this water with a pail.  I am researching ways to pump the water either manually or with a 12v pump. Unfortunately the pumps that interest me are much more expensive in Canada than the US.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Unless you plan to have a future much larger volume of water, I'd avoid spending money on a pump.  We bought a 12V pump years ago to pump water from our seasonal creek and we never ended up using it, it was just never convenient to set it up and the water isn't available during the time of year we really need it.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Thanks Tyler!

I moved the discussion about pumps to this thread.

Manual Water Pump Ideas

 
Michelle Bisson
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A couple of weeks ago I discovered these beautiful rose coloured berries that turned black when ripened.  I was not sure at first what they were, even wondering if they were the dogwood berries since I know that I have dogwood trees on our property from the seeing the white flowers in early spring.

You'll find the discussion to find out what they are here

It turns out they are Nannyberries (Wild Raisons) (Blackhaw).  They are very beautiful looking berries, bright in a rose colour at the unripened stage before turning black and wrinkled when ripe.  Nannyberries are edible and have a mild sweet spicy taste - very unique.  But it has a large lentil shaped stone so there is not much fruit to each berry. They have to be starting to wrinkle like a raison to be at the ripe stage. It would take a lot of berries to make a jar of jam, so I will just nibble on them when I pass by the small trees.  Still, they are a great to have in our food forest amongst our cultivated fruit trees and berry scrubs. 

I enjoy learning about the wild edible plants on our land.  So far I have discovered five wild edible berries on our property: blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, bunch berry and nannyberry.






 
Michelle Bisson
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A long term friend who lives in another province asked me about my food forest. "Was this an existing food forest when you purchased your land or have you planted it yourselves ?"  I thought that it deserved more than a quick answer because the answer is both.

Five years ago, when we first purchased our first lot (now 1.5 acres - 2 lots - 5 years & 2 years ago) it was covered with native trees: maple, hemlock, popular and birch. 90% of our land was covered with this native forest.

The question asked me "was this an existing food forest?"


We have been finding these past few years that we have a natural food forest as we learn about all the wild edibles from maple trees for syrup to wild berries to edible weeds.

Our 40 maple trees can provide maples syrup and our hemlock trees provide new growth needles in the springtime for making tea.

Wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, nannyberries and bunchberries are all found natively on our land.  Then, there are edible weeds such a dandelion and plantain. I have not yet learnt to identify all the wild edibles yet. The wild strawberries are so few in number, that it is hardly worth mentioning, but they are there.


Our native berries, in reality, do not produce in sufficient quantities except the bunchberries, so we have started to plant a permaculture designed food forest with an overstory of our native maple trees.  We do have a challenge since most of our land does not have full sun.

We are planting fruiting trees & scrubs, and perennial vegetables.  Annual vegetables will still play a part, but we do not have a well on our land yet.
 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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It seemed more appropriate to publish my responses of Levente Andras questions in my forum thread since they are part of my story.

[quote=Levente Andra

(1) What is the bigger vision that guides this design? What guided your choice to plant this number of bushes of this species [sea buckthorn] ? E.g., was it because little else grew in your environment? Or because you deemed it a valuable species among others? Or you wish to grow for commercial purposes, i.e., selling the fruit?  

There are many factors that guided us to choose seabuckthorn (seaberry) plants for one section of our food forest.

1. We wanted a hedge along the front of our property as the front of our property is exposed to the prevailing westerly winds.  Also this is the only place on our property that has almost full sun.  Sea buckthorn thrives in full sun but will die out if in mostly shade.
2. We wanted a plant that we could possibly obtain a small economical yield in the future, whether we sell or trade our abundance
3. We wanted a plant that was extremely well suited for cold climates and prevailing winds (we are 3b/4a in Quebec Canada)
4. We wanted a plant that was a superfood, extremely highly nutritious
5. We wanted a plant that we could store the fruit for the winter: frozen and easily dried
6. There are several sea buckthorn growers in Quebec
7. We wanted a fruit that could easily blend with other fruits and food.
8. We wanted fruit that could be transformed into a variety of food items ie, jams, juice, syrups, wine etc...
9. We wanted a plant that could produce a variety of yield types from one plant.


We had to purchase a minimum of 100 plants to get a better price/tree. We wanted to plant them as a hedge. We ended up buying 124 plants.


Although we have a lot of plants for a residential suburban lot that may give us a bit of additional economical benefit when we "retire", we do not have enough plants to really make it a "real" commercial venture unless we get into propagation.  Nor is our lot zoned agriculture.  So if I commercialize anything, we may have to do the commercial aspects else where.  We are not there yet.  We have to build our house first.

Levente Andras wrote:What role will the species play in the bigger picture?


In the area of our lot where the sea buckthorn plants are growing, they will be the "overstory" tree at maybe 7 or 8 feet.  Underneath, I have started planting strawberry plants and with time, other small herbaceous plants will be planted to give other kinds yields.  I am encouraging the clover to grow as a ground layer between rows.   

Our sea buckthorn plants in reality only take a small part of our land.  Mostly, they are planted as a hedge on the front and part side.  We also have 5 rows with 14 plants.  The hedge rows are 9 feet apart.  We made sure that the rows were on contour on small berms.  All rain water will be harvested at the base of each contour berm.   Being so close, we will keep them well pruned at about 7 or 8 feet in height.  Our sea buckthorn plantation is on the edge of our forest of red maples and hemlock.   In other areas where we have sunny spots in our forest, we are planting lots of blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currents, haskaps, grapes, apples trees & cherry trees, and kiwi vines.  So if you take the totality of our lot, we will have very diverse plant species, from native plants to the edible plants / trees.  I hope one day to have 100 blueberry plants.  I now have 11 plants plus some wild blueberry bushes.


We do have lots of limitations of our property since we do not have as much sun as we would like to have. But we also want to keep our 40 red maples to tap for syrup one day as it is part of our culture here in Quebec.  We have 1.5 acres.  Our sea buckthorn plantation probably takes a very small portion of our lot.


Levente Andras wrote:
(2) What yields do you expect to / could you obtain, other than the fruit?  


The leaves make a great "green" tea, and the berries and seeds after juicing then dried, makes a fruity tea. We can harvest the young leaves to dry & grind to add to soups etc..  We will also be able to make wine which might prove to be a great commodity for trading.  Like in the old days they added apples to everything, we'll likely do the same with sea buckthorn since we'll have it in so much abundance.

Other yields will be from the new shoots and young branches that will be used to propagate.  I hope to have plants and seeds to sell or trade.  So in reality, every part of the plant will provide some type of yield.  Even the branches and leaves will provide mulch. I do not plan to harvest the seeds for oil as I did not choose the varieties for that purpose.  The seeds are edible.

Levente Andras wrote:
(3) And above all: How do you envision the ecosystem at maturity - especially knowing that quite soon your bushes (their root shoots) may start to take over the surrounding space? With what other species do you combine sea buckthorn? How are they likely to interact?  Will they mutually benefit from the cohabitation?  Are you okay if sea buckthorn will squeeze out all other tree species?


At maturity, our sea buckthorn hedgerows will be pruned to control height and width.  I am already preparing the new shoots to be used for propagation.  I now have 28 new plants this way, with many more that will be dug out in the early spring.  If I get way more shoots that I can use for propagation, I will simply prune the new shoots as they pop up like I do with raspberry canes that pop up where I do not want them to grow.  I will not allow my sea buckthorn to take the shape of a wild hedgerow but prune each plant to have one central trunk.  When my plants want to get out of control in height & width, I will prune out whole branches while harvesting. This is a great way to keep them manageable.  They will be also pruned early summer to use the cuttings for propagation and leaves stripped from the cuttings to dry for tea and powders.

Since we live in a suburban residential neighbourhood, our hedgerows need to look taken care of, not out of control.  They will be showcase.  I will not be surprised if people drive or walk by our property when the berries are ripe as the plant is very striking and ornamental with thousands of orange berries.

The other species we will plant will have to be short herbaceous plants like strawberries. Any other herbaceous plants planted amoungst the sea buckthorn will have to be up to 12 inches in height.  Our sea buckthorn will not compete with other woody species since I am not interplanting other woody species with them. The other wood species would probably have a hard time competing with sea buckthorn, plus there is no room for them on my very intensive spacing sea buckthorn plantation.

There is no way  that they will squeeze out any other trees as I am not planting other trees amoungst them.  They definitely will not encroach our natural forest as they will not tolerate being in the shade of the hemlock & maple trees, and on the other side they cannot go anywhere as we have deep ditches and a road.  Knowing the nature of these plants to spread by rhizomes aggressively, they will be pruned like controlling raspberry plants.  I envision controlled hedgerows.  Between rows, if it is too much to hand prune the new shoots, we'll take the lawnmower if need be, but I really hope to propagate these new shoots into new plants to sell or trade.  At least I hope to sell enough to pay for my initial investment.

Levente Andras wrote:
In my case, the number of sea buckthorn plants is much lower - about 20.  The main intent was to fill out a 300 metre hedge of mixed species, some thorny some not.  Interestingly, while sea buckthorn has been thriving, some of the other shrubs and trees in the hedge have performed poorly or have died (to the extent that I'll need to replant some sections of the hedge).


It looks like in your hedge, the sea buckthorn will want to be the dominate species because of their agressive nature.  They do not thrive in shade nor do they like wet feet.  Other than that, they will likely thrive.  They are extremely hardly. Heavy pruning the branches and their suckers will keep them under control.


----
We still have not finished planting our hedgerows.  We have another 30 plants to plant this fall.

So while our neighours will be taking an hour or two to mow their grass, we will take the same time to take care of our sea buckthorn, and the difference is that we will get a harvest and they will only have work.

Please follow my story here on permies.com:
Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey
 
Michelle Bisson
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Location: Quebec, Canada
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Michelle Bisson wrote:


Our latest rock project was this solid staircase to the bottom of our ditch in front of property. The staircase is about 6 feet down.



Without water, our plants will die, so harvesting water where ever it collects is a priority.

This is the ditch that collects the most amount of water.  Our lot is at the top of the hill so the run off to the ditch is from our neighbour property.  The ditch usually holds about 4 or 5 inches of water.  I estimate that it holds between 30 and 50 gallons.  There is usually water in this ditch so much that we have 3 frogs that rely on this water.  The staircase is a bit convenient, because this week the neighbourhood young boy caught one frog to take home with him.


Right now we have no pump so I have to use 5 gallon buckets to harvest the water. The most valuable time to harvest the water is the 24 hour period after the rain because as soon as I empty the ditch, the runoff after the rain continues to fill the ditch.  Even ground water seeps into the ditch.  I can come back every hour and the ditch is filled with water again.  Now, I just need a pump to pump the water where I need it.

---
This weekend without much rain in the last few weeks, the ditch finally ran dry.  I guess the frogs moved on too.  I will have to wait for some rain to fill up again this ditch as we have more plantings to do this fall.
 
Michelle Bisson
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BEFORE:


In August, we decided that it was time to get our new entry way done. You will see above our deep ditch before we started the project. We wanted to install seven culverts.  Installing three of the culverts was part of the contract of purchasing our lot. Since we already had an entryway which was located in the wrong location, we decided to enclose the ditch between the old entryway and the new entry way with four extra culverts.  Having two entryways gives us the option of making a "U" driveway.



Now that the new entry way has been completed and deep ditch enclosed between the entryways, we could now start phase two of our sea buckthorn (seaberry) hedgerows plantation.  First of all, like in phase 1, we decided to haul out some logs from the forested area of our lot and make a hugelculture terrace.  Here is Levi shoveling dirt on top of our logs.

AFTER:


With winter approaching, we knew that we did not have enough time to prepare our hugelculture terrace and plant our plants by ourselves, so we asked our neighbour if he could help us with his tractor.   We offered to help work on his garage that he was building in exchange. Fortunately, he was willing.

In this last photo, this hugelculture terrace between the two entryways is mostly completed.  We still have another hugelculture terrace that we are building on the other side of the new entryway that we hope to finish this weekend.

This will give us the foundation to finish planting our sea buckthorn hedgerow.  We still have around 30 sea buckthorn to plant here at three feet apart like phase one.
 
Michelle Bisson
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This weekend we finish planting our phase 2 of sea buckthorn (seaberry) hedgerow plantation.

This first image shows our middle section of our hedgerow plantation.  It is between our "U" shape entry way.  We first build a hugel culture terrace with 2 berms on contour. We planted 20 plants in this section.  We laid some cedar mulch to protect the plants and berm from erosion.




This second image is our third section on the other side of the entry way.  It too is on a hugel culture terrace. We have 10 plants in this section in one hedgerow. 

Our hedge is now complete across the front of our property, with a plantation as well.  All in all, we now have 122 sea buckthorn in the ground.  There is room for another 6 plants, in this plantation.  I have propagated 28 sea buckthorn plants that are 1 year old.  They are still in pots mulched in the ground for the winter. 

Since our plants are closely planted, we will keep the plants pruned into a "natural" shaped hedge about six or seven feet high.

In two sections of our main hedgerow we have exposed logs facing the prevailing winds of winter, so we will protect our plants this winter by creating a "wall" of leaves about 1 foot thick covered with landscape fabric to contain the leaves in front of the exposed logs.

When we started the plantation early spring, we could of never dreamed of the result.  We created three large hugel culture terraces: moved and laid tons of logs and moved lots of dirt almost all by hand.  We never dreamed that it would be a 6 month long project during all of our weekends.  When I say "we", it was Levi who did most of the log hauling and dirt digging. lol.  He is now several pounds lighter.

All in all, we are very happy with the result.

 
Michelle Bisson
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When we built our hugel culture terrace, our logs were exposed with a small 2 foot cliff along our fairly deep ditch.  Since they were facing the prevailing winds, and it often gets - 30 degrees Celsius in the winter, this edge would not be able to hold snow which insulates our plants from the extreme cold. 

We did not want our newly planted sea buckthorn (seaberry) plants to die from exposure or break dormancy too early if we had a warm spell in March and lack of snow cover.






So what we did to protect them was first put as much leaves around them as mulch.  On the third section since the logs were even more exposed we put some landscape fabric in front of the exposed logs and filled in about a foot layer blanket of leaves.   Then we layered lots of balsam fir branches to cover this and the other exposed logs.

This will create a wind break, but I am also hoping is that these branches will trap the snow as snow has such a good insulating facture for our extreme cold.  As much as we love warm spells in March, it is better for our plants to be still covered in snow as long as possible as exposure to the elements & extreme cold can cause some plants to die or break dormancy too early.

For our other sea buckthorn plants we simply heavy mulched them with leaves as they were not near the exposed edge.  Also, since we have planted on berms, this will help trap the snow and take a bit longer to melt in the spring.




 
Michelle Bisson
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Just over a month ago we prepared our eight apple trees for winter.  Since we have tons of voles, we put galvanized fabric cages around our young trees.  We extended the cage at the base like wings to discourage the voles from girdling at the root ball.  Our cages are between three and four feet high as we get lots of snow and the voles will follow the top of the snow to girdle as high as the snow level.

In our forest, the land has many pits and mounts formation.  These were formed way in the past from falling trees that uprooted and created pits and mounts.  We planted our apple trees on these mounts.  Because we do not have a lot of space and do not need large apple trees, we planted them in clusters quite close with different cultivars for variety.

The first year, some deer ate some of our branches, so we created temporary fence using poly rope that we wrapped around our other trees like a fence seven feet high to enclosed our apple food forest.  We also put lots of branches along the outside of our fence to make it harder for the deer to come close to discourage them from trying to jump our fence. So far, the deer has not breached our "fence in 2 seasons. 

 
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