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just closed on our land, open to suggestions  RSS feed

 
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My wife and I just closed on 12 acres in TN. The northern half of it is cleared, and is being cut for hay. It has a half acre, spring fed stocked pond and the spring water seems to have a lot of iron in it. We will probably have it tested soon. There is a small cabin of little value at the road, but the cabin has a well inside of it that gives drinkable water. There is public water and natural gas at the road and electricity on the property. In 5 years, I will retire, and my wife and I plan to build on it and start putting together a homestead that will include a food forest, goats, chickens, bees, at least one dairy cow, and maybe feeding out a couple of pigs/year.

I am new to the world of permaculture, I am open to any suggestions on how we should lay things out. I know that I need to watch the property for at least a year, but I thought some of you might be able to point out some of the more obvious things that I am likely to miss as a newbie. Here is an aerial view of the property with topo contour lines, power lines, well, pond, stream, etc. labeled. I will also attach a picture of the pond
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Posts: 1219
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Congrats on the land purchase! It's beautiful. I don't know much about permaculture design and want to learn about it, but others here do and I'm sure will chime in with advice. I love gardening and growing my own food, and I'm totally into soil biology, chemistry, and how plants and trees interact with the soil and the soil micro biome. I'm making an assumption you'll be planting food crops of various sorts, be it annual vegetables to berry bushes and fruit trees. What I can recommend for you are soil tests, and making the adjustments needed to improve the soil and bring elements into desired ranges while you have time and aren't residing there yet. There's no such thing as adjusting a soil with amendments and making it ideal all in one fail swoop. It requires adding amendments, then giving it time to take effect, and re-testing to see what gains were made, and then adding amendments again to get closer to the requirements that are sought. This can take a few years, and you have a great opportunity ahead of you to do this since time is on your side. For instance, if you desire blueberries, you may need to nudge the soil pH in an acidic direction. If you desire fruit and/or nut trees, they perform better with a fungal dominated soil, and applying ramial wood chips (wood chips of deciduous hardwood trees) in thick layers to the ground where the trees are to be will start that process, and you don't have to wait to plant the trees. If you can get them planted this fall and be adding wood chips to the surface over the years, all the better. Some trees need a good 5-7 years in their new home to really become of a good fruiting size and bear bountiful harvests. Hope this is helpful!!
 
Posts: 47
Location: thunder bay ontario canada
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Hi Jim. Nice spread. I'm in ontario canada on 73 acres totally off the grid for about 6 years now and loving the freedom that comes with it. One thing I found important was to establish right relationship with what the land and forest is already doing before I mess with it. Every year I discover more opportunities in the established plants soils etc. Have numerous wild edibles ,medicines and soil types I find very valuable. Testing the clay for a suspected  fire clay presently as well as a mouth gum medicine and clay paint and plaster. Trees that I thought were duds, I latter came to find to be a most valuable commodity as in the balsum sap. The Alders I once tried to eradicate, I now find to be nitrogen fixers. And now work with them rather then against them. Much easier!
 
Posts: 16
Location: Humboldt, California
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Looks like a nice spot! Yes congrats. Looks like pretty clear quartered zoning set up with the woods off on the east side of the pond there opposite the home site (if I am seeing it correctly). I'd be curious about what the sun is doing at the lowest points of the year there of course. Also thinking about how much of a buffer, if any, between a food forest and the forest forest. If the source of the water going into that pond is traveling through your property to any great extent, you might think about introducing some aquatics for filtering and look into remediation first so that your impact in and out of the forest is less disruptive once you start establishing those other zones for food crops and animals. Since you aren't under pressure to feed yourself from the land immediately or anything like that, I would be thinking long term stuff as first priority and getting the samples all analyzed so you know which way to improve them over the next 5 years and by what methods. You also have some time for experimentation...you also have those utilities to work with right away as a resource so that later you can put the mixture of more appropriate/sustainable sources in or not.

Maybe these things are all obvious already. Someone hopefully will weigh in with more experience than I. Have you considered budgeting for a design consultant? Since it seems well established relative to other land sites, I would lean towards analyzing the woods and zone 5 elements so you know what native action you will be engaging with. Enhancing that action will be a great slow gain that improves itself over time while other design aspects are coming together. Just a quick stab...

Edit: Sorry if it looks like I didn't read the other responses, looks like some of us were replying close to the same time! So far seems like there is nothing out of alignment...get out and spend time and analyze/get a feel that natural system and journal it.
 
Jim Aldridge
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Thanks for the responses. I want to go on and plant some trees and begin working on building soil (after I get it analyzed), but I wonder if I need to figure out where the house, shop, barn, and fencing will go before doing some of that. The cleared land generally slopes in a gentle fashion from the highest point on the west to the lowest on the east. There is a fairly level spot just south of the cabin that we were thinking about using for the house. The soil in all the cleared area is supposed to be pretty good, though I am sure it can be improved. The people who sold us the land said that the old man who lived in the little cabin had a really productive garden just to the east of the cabin, which would be to the north of where we are thinking about putting the house.

Per the advice I have received, I will continue to watch the property through the seasons and try to get a better bead on what I am dealing with. The problem is that I am not terribly knowledgeable, so I might miss things that most of you would pick up on. I would love to be able to hire someone who does permaculture design to help, but I am in nursing school and just getting this land is maxing out the budget for now. Maybe I can do more when I get out and start working as a nurse.
 
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