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Permaculture Weekend Warrior, needs help!  RSS feed

 
Ella Irati
Posts: 6
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Hello permies!

What can I do as a weekend warrior?  How do I start planning? Books and classes are expensive and time consuming and so general that I honestly don´t have the enormous time or even the money resources to start designing a permaculture system in my plot of land.

the thing is that I just bought 2´7 acres of agricultural land in the north of Spain, 70 miles or so from where I live and which I can visit some weekends. And I need mega help!  How do I start the design?

The property has bush areas and pasture areas, and has a slight inclination, north to south and sun all day. This is a piece of land that is crossed by a scenic walking path that was made 50 years and probably carries water down. I do not think I have the right to mess with it except to divert water from the path to my fields. The north and highest side of the property borders with a road.

The more detailed stats are: Annual rainfall is about 1100mm, 600m altitude, acidic land because of rock substrate and abundant rainfall that washes out nutrients, its quite cold in winter because it is in the pyrenees, about 70 miles from the Atlantic so it is an Atlantic climate with influences  alternating hot and dry (mediterranean) influences. The traditional local trees are oaks and chestnuts, roses and blackberries do well, lots of mushrooms in the surrounding areas due to decaying oaks and humidity. I am told that kiwis will do well in this climate.

I really hope you guys can help me! All ideas and suggestions are welcome
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Caroline Rodgers
Posts: 24
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I am NOT an expert,but if I were you........
The first thing I would think about is if your land gets enough water to grow perennial plants without earthworks and if erosion is a current issue. 
A close second is: what kind of trees do you want?   Also- do you want a very dense food forest or do you want something more like a "savannah" spacing?  How many people do you want to feed and how much upkeep can you realistically deal with? 
Regardless, I would make a list of all the trees you would want in your perfect world, then start analyzing growth conditions.  I would also take soil samples from different regions of your land for analysis. A bit of time and money spent right away can save you a ton of time and money later
Also, I know there was a post about making cheap topographical maps- I would try to check this out. 
ETA- super jealous but very excited for you.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello!

I'm in a similar place as you are - just bought 2.86 acres last September and I work a full time job during the weeks so really only the weekends are open for me but even then family responsibilities mean that I can't use all the time to do work. What I tend to do is split my projects into those that need a big chunk of time (1 or more full days) and those that I can do in less than a day. I also try to see if these projects can be broken down into small stand alone tasks that can be done fairly quickly. So for example while my herb garden has taken a ton of time to get setup it was done as a mix of short 1 or 2 hour tasks combined with some long full day work mixed in. The result has been a project that could have been done in a week if I could have focused on it instead took me several months but it got done which is the point. Things that seem daunting if broken down into manageable chunks can be done even with limited time. So far working this way has let me build my herb garden, plant around 800 trees and shrubs, put in a 136ft long hugel bed, remove 0.3ish acres of blackberry thicket, and many other tasks. My point is not to show off but as an example of what can be done while having a tight schedule.

In regards to the budget side of things that can be hard. I have spent a fair bit of money (at least for my income level) but we do have a tight budget so I'm always looking for free things. I have gotten a large amount of plants donated from a great local nursery that has really good practices. They have orders fall through or have more survive than they could sell so they have had plants that they want to get rid of to make room for new stock that they are more likely to sell. Since they know me and know that I have space for these rejects I have been able to get them for free. I also have been using social media to find people with woody debris that they want to get rid of. Got a couple people lined up now that I can just go and get debris from for hugel projects - my property is mostly pasture so not much available for me in regards to wood for hugels. I have also been working with tree service companies to get wood chips delivered for free which has been a huge benefit and recently I found a rancher with composted cow and chicken manure for free if I haul it out. All this has really helped to jump start my projects and also keep my costs down. Eventually, I want to stop using offsite inputs but at this time if I did not use offsite inputs I would be very limited and it would take much longer to get to the same point. This goes back to the first paragraph about time - offsite inputs can reduce your overall time by jump starting your projects. I also spent money to save me time - renting an excavator and doing the work in a day instead of potentially weeks or even months of doing the same work by hand. But going back to the budget side of things - if you really spend sometime looking for things there is a lot you can get for free out there.

I also wanted to touch on your question about learning the skills needed to implement a permaculture project. I have never taken a permaculture design course or other formal permaculture program. I do have a masters in environmental studies and my thesis focused on swales and I have a degree in water resources so all that helped but none of my classes touched on permaculture. I did grow up gardening and while it was all organic it was all very traditional so despite 20+ years of gardening experience I had a ton to learn about permaculture. What I know about permaculture came from reading a few books but mostly by reading a ton of articles on websites, watching a ton of Youtube videos and reading posts on this site and other permaculture sites. I got to see what other people were doing, learn the words - swales, hugelkultur, berms, rocket mass heater, etc. - which let me Google these new things and learn more. So overtime I have gained a fairly good level of knowledge about permaculture but of course learning is not doing and now that I'm implementing these ideas on my own place I'm learning a lot through trial and error. But there are a ton of free sources out there and I have also found all the "top" permaculture books through local libraries. In this area there is something call the interlibrary loan program that allows libraries to share books across districts which makes it much easier to find specific books that a small local library may not have. Talk to your local library because they often times have programs and services you might not expect - ones in my area also have free courses and classes on a ton of different subjects. But I really have found most of my sources through the web -podcasts, videos, blogs, articles, etc. There are a ton of resources out there.

I would also recommend that for your place that you start with the standard permaculture design practice of determining your zones and sectors. Check out this site on zones and sectors for more information. In general zones in permaculture are setup to define the type of activities that will take place within them with zone 1 being close to the center of human activity (around the house) and zone 2 being a further out, zone 3 more so, zone 4 beyond that, until eventually you hit zone 5 which is wilderness. Not every place will have all 5 zones and the the zones are "further out" not necessarily based on physical distance but instead based on how often you visit that area. A steep slope could be close to your house but if you rarely go there then it might be zone 4 or even 5. The key is to place your various elements (garden, chickens, etc.) in the zone based on how much attention they require from you. Fruit trees need a lot less attention than a kitchen garden so the trees are often zone 3 while the garden will be zone 1 - though there are exceptions to all of this based on your personal choices. Sectors on the other hand are based on the things (energies) coming into your land - fire, wind, water, etc. This can also include things like a view (good or bad). For example my place has a great view of Mt. Rainier but the same area also looks at my neighbors ugly buildings (mountain is above the buildings, with some trees below) so I'm planting a hedgerow with plants that will grow just tall and thick enough to block the ugly view while leaving the nice view unblocked. This hedgerow will also block part of the prevailing winds and also act to stop garbage from my neighbors from blowing onto my place. In addition, this hedgerow also functions to intercept water runoff from a dirt road and keep people from being able to come onto my property (past owner let people park where the hedgerow now is). Finally, this hedgerow will also be large enough to prevent deer from coming onto my property from that direction and will instead herd them through my neighbors field until they can re-enter my property where another hedgerow will continue to direct them away from vulnerable production plants and instead keep them in my zone 4 and 5 areas. Where I needed to put in a gate I used this as a location for a water runoff catchment feature to direct water not taken up by the hedgerow to a catchment basin. By doing a sector analysis on my property I was able to determine that a hedgerow would deal with all the energies coming into my property that I mentioned above. A fence would have helped (I did put up a temp fence while I worked on the hedgerow) with some but not all of these energies so based on this analysis I went with the hedgerow instead of investing in a fence. The first step to building this hedgerow was putting in the hugel bed I mentioned earlier to serve as its foundation - the area was used as a parking lot for years and was so compacted that I need to do a lot of work to improve it and a hugel bed seemed to me to be the best option but a berm could have also worked. The point of going through this example is to show that by doing this sort of design analysis you can make better decisions about what work to do and where to do it. By getting this right you will save time and money by not having to redo the work later when it becomes obvious that a specific element was in the wrong place.

I hope that helps you - I know it is a bit long but hopefully it will prove useful and I'm sure other people will have a lot of other advice. There is a ton of information on this site and I have learned a lot over the years I have been on this site. I only recently started posting on here but I have been reading posts and learning from this community for the past several years before I got up the courage to start posting so I would say you are making a great first step just by posting here and being apart of this community. Good luck with your projects!
 
Ella Irati
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Hi Caroline,

Thanks so much for answering! And I love your questions.

"The first thing I would think about is if your land gets enough water to grow perennial plants without earthworks and if erosion is a current issue. "

I think there is enough water for perennials. Annual rainfall is about 1151 mm, for Spain that is its a lot! (For the Bronx where I currently live and where I own a cactus in a pot, its nothing). As for erosion: typically here water runs down the valleys and there is continuous washing out of nutrients on the pasture land.  Original oak forested areas get to be lush but most land is somewhat degraded (in my eyes). So I should start thinking about keeping water in the soil right? And planting or encouraging nitrogen fixing plants perhaps. How do I encourage nitrogen fixing cover crops without introducing foreign species? There is wild clover that grows in some lawns here. How do I get it to spread? The pasture lawns get basked and toasted under the sun over the summer.

"A close second is: what kind of trees do you want?"

Figs! But they won't do well on their own, so I am playing with microclimate ideas to see if it could ever be possible. Otherwise, evergreens, oaks, chestnuts, beech, apples and prunes are either native or have been acclimated for centuries. I would like to get some citrus if they tolerate the cold, kiwi vines should do well, I have not found so many other trees that would do well but I open to suggestions.

  "Also- do you want a very dense food forest or do you want something more like a "savannah" spacing?"

What a great question! I would like a great design to get super-excited about, what can I do with this land? I love forests so a food forest is a great idea. I did some research and I asked around and it turns out that d bread was traditionally made of acorn flour. But people who did it were embarrassed for being "poor" and not being able to afford the more modern and elegant wheat bread. I would like to substitute some of the cereal in my diet with chestnuts and acorns, but that is very long term. I will be living 70 miles away from the field.

What do you think about planting the trees on the north side so they don't shade the rest? So I could plan for evergreens north, then going south oaks and chestnuts, then nuts and fruits, including apples, then bushes (berries?) and in the southerner fringe annals and herbs?

"How many people do you want to feed and how much upkeep can you realistically deal with? "

Wow, when I saw the piece of land on the market I jumped and grasped it within the day it was published! It is hard to get charge chunks of land like this in this area of the world, most land here has been divided and subdivided within farming families as a result even to come up with an acre is hard and expensive, plus this lot is about 1/3 of a mile from the nearest village. If I go there, I need to live in the village 1/3 of mile away. I am adding the village´s photo. So the local structure is a house concentration surrounded by gardens first then forest land. The laws are strict, and I wouldn´t break them since they allow for so much forest and wildlife to remain... so I never considered how many people to feed from it (3 now, 6 in 10 years? sell the crop?)

Thanks!




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Ella Irati
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Hi Daron,

What a great deal of work you have done! Will the hedgerow really keep deer from entering? Thats a fantastic analysis you have done.

What I see in America, Canada and Australia, the english speaking countries that post most about permaculture, is that people get to get a bunch of acres with the ability to build a house there! This is not the case in Spain. I have been looking for years and for the most part, a couple of acres that are good for farming will not allow you to build, and if you can build, its so small and expensive that you won´t use large land grow cros.

This is a very traditional area of Europe where the house is in the village and often has a little garden for vegetables across the street, if you are lucky, but many houses don´t have one close by. I happen to have a terrain that is buildable in the village, so zone 1 is 1/3 mile away from zones 2 and beyond.

Zone 1: 1/10 of an acre¡to build a house of about 1300sq feet on, the rest will be path and garden. Walk 1/3 of a mile, find zone 2, 3, 4 and 5. Most locals have to travel much much farther to get to their vegetable gardens and pasture lands.

What do you think? The problem must be the solution, thanks!
 
Caroline Rodgers
Posts: 24
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When I think of the tree planning phase, I think of a large tree, surrounded by dwarf trees, then surrounded by other plants, etcetc.  There's a good picture of this here.
https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-2-3-or-the-11-design-principles-from-the-intro-book/small-scale-intensive/
It's super important though to think of how big the center trees will be at maturity though!  It's better to have your footrest look a bit sparse in the beginning to enable it to be fully functioning at maturity. 
You should also test your soil for pH and nutrients.  that can help you decide what you should plant to start enriching the soil.  With pastures, I think people do "chop and drop"- where you now everything down then lay a bunch of seed down on top of it and repeat as necessary.  Another way is to put a liner on top of sections until the grass dies and then to seed\mulch tghis. In the states, we can easily look up plant growth zones like 7b or whatever to help you figure out what can grow in your area.  Can you find something like that for Spain?  Also, does the government have local agriculture offices that can provide information and support?

ETA- you should check out sepp holzer.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Ella Irati wrote:Hi Daron,

What a great deal of work you have done! Will the hedgerow really keep deer from entering? Thats a fantastic analysis you have done.

What I see in America, Canada and Australia, the english speaking countries that post most about permaculture, is that people get to get a bunch of acres with the ability to build a house there! This is not the case in Spain. I have been looking for years and for the most part, a couple of acres that are good for farming will not allow you to build, and if you can build, its so small and expensive that you won´t use large land grow cros.

This is a very traditional area of Europe where the house is in the village and often has a little garden for vegetables across the street, if you are lucky, but many houses don´t have one close by. I happen to have a terrain that is buildable in the village, so zone 1 is 1/3 mile away from zones 2 and beyond.

Zone 1: 1/10 of an acre¡to build a house of about 1300sq feet on, the rest will be path and garden. Walk 1/3 of a mile, find zone 2, 3, 4 and 5. Most locals have to travel much much farther to get to their vegetable gardens and pasture lands.

What do you think? The problem must be the solution, thanks!


Hello!

A hedgerow can keep deer out if it is big and thick enough or if it is a double hedgerow with a small amount (~3ft) in between the two hedgerows (the hedgerows run parallel to each other). For a double hedgerow aimed at keeping deer out each hedgerow only needs to be tall/thick enough to force the deer to jump but since they don't like to jump into a small confined space they will just stay on the outside of the hedgerow. This double hedgerow is being promoted by conservation districts in my area for farmers as a way to stop deer without building big fences. The deer could get through both versions but generally the deer will take the path of least resistance as long as they have a food source available to them and don't feel the need to force their way in. My plan is to plant native plants on the hedgerow that deer will have access to and then plant production plants on the inside hedgerow - essentially one hedgerow for the wildlife and one for my family and I. I also want to give the deer easy access to a lot of native plants for them to browse all year. My hope is they just won't feel any need to try to push their way in to my garden areas.

That does make it a bit of a different setup. Are you able to setup a barn, or shed, or something like that to store tools and other equipment on the land? Could you setup some sort of tiny house to serve essentially as a "basecamp"? Place with a restroom of some sort, running water, some way to cook, etc.? I guess I'm wondering if this could be a sort of micro zone 1 for the land with a fairly small zone 2 around it but most of your land would be zone 3 since you would not be out on it that often due to time constraints and distance. If you set it up this way I would focus on trees and shrubs and less on annuals unless the annuals would self seed. The land could still be very productive for you but it would not require day to day management. Seems like working with your time constraints by designing a system that needs to lowest amount of regular maintenance would be best. I don't know what species would do best in your area but I would build some sort of permaculture based orchard.

If you start developing a formal plan please post it here if you want and I'm sure people would be happy to give specific feedback if you wanted it.
 
Chris Barrows
Posts: 37
Location: Western Side Of The Great Oak Savanna
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Here's my process:


Step 1: study the land

Step 2: compost

Step 3: repeat steps 1 and 2 for 3 months or until you come up with a development plan.

This will give you time to determine the most and least fertile locations, while providing resources to remedy the latter.

You'll also figure out the most efficient pathways around the property (aiding you in determining your zone layouts),

Other things you can figure out by doing this:

Where the best shady places to take breaks/have lunch.

Which areas have the best sun exposure.

Wind/breeze patterns.

Wildlife patterns and populations.

Insect populations and species.

Indigenous plants (gives you hints for compatable/complimentary domestic plants)

Infrastructure needs.


 
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