Hey all, I'm looking for some if-you-were-me advice:
I've been teaching in Japan for 2 years. Originally from Northern Virginia but wish to move west. Will return home August 2017.
I have saved around 10k and I have more in investments back home, although I'd rather leave those alone if possible.
I am 24 years old and have been doing a lot of self-study on permaculture and wish to pursue farming opportunities back home to garner some experience.
My ultimate goal is to have a homestead and profitablepermaculture farm or food forest, like many of you, but I'm starting from 0.
I am considering doing Paul's PDC next year ( 2018 ).
My best friend is currently living in Colorado and also wishes to pursue a sustainable lifestyle, while she studies to be a vet technician.
If possible we want to live in Oregon or Colorado, but I don't know what the best course of action is from here.
Work and get experience?
Invest in a venture?
Take a PDC and learn?
Take courses at my community college in Northern Virginia, like business 101 and horticulture?
I'm overwhelmed but I have very few strings and lots of opportunity so...
if you were me, what would you do?
If i were you? Not hindered by any practical knowledge.....
- I would start looking for a smallish, immediately usable property in the region(s) i like but keep looking for a better place. The first property (or rented land) is just your starter lab.
- Study the region, study the maps (soil, geology, seismicity, groundwaterquality, usable natural resources (clay, sand, natural stone, wood, ....).
- Learn to use a hand drill and interpret soils, soilstructure, groundwater variations.
- Find likeminded people, find out what they are doing, find out what you could do that meshes up economically with what they do.
- Get experience. Study.
- Collect information - collect interesting plant/mushroom varieties - grow them at your smallish property.
- Learn grafting technique.
- Learn value added techniques. Beekeeping, making liquors, cider, flavored vinegars, cosmetics, jams, syrups, medicinals, dried flowers, drying herbs/veg/fruit, making spice mixes, smoked meats/cheeses, .....
- Learn building techniques if you have the aptitude? Learn to us a dozer/tractor/.....
- Textile working technique ? ....
- Get to know local restaurants or establish connections with outside restaurants if there are no posh ones nearby.
- Talk to Japanese permies and get their advice, recipees,.... Find Japanese sources for seed varieties which are rare/non existant stateside.
You might consider the value added to your produce if sold in a tourist area as a local product. In Italy i met a beekeeper moving his bees all over the country side in Tuscany and neigbouring provinces but he sold his honey in a mountain tourist hot spot. I know of similar ventures in Belgium and Eire.
I have a friend who has several veg and fruit gardens on different soil types with different microclimate, etc..... I would love to have his expertisse and variety of produce.
I personnaly would prefer a sunny hillside with different geological layers (different rock types!!) and one or more reliable source levels and rocks useable as building material. Perhaps with an old orchard (if not diseased) or fruit farm. Or perhaps with an old quarry.
A layer usable to make an underground cellar/cave is interesting. Think of all the French, Italian, Spanish,Belgian food specialties (cheeses, cured meats, mushrooms, wines, .....) that are grown/fermented/cured/ripening in caves.....
It's encouraging to hear from young peeps. Start young. From my hindsight and fairly extensive experience outdoors, gardening, and permaculture (PC) I'd say buy your own land and plant trees then go to work at a decent paying career to save to build while the trees grow. Then you have a place to go on your working vacations and invest your money in mprovments. Something to dream about and practice design ideas on. You may have enough for a down payment.
Here is one approach I've considered: Don't worry too much about the perfect land. Instead I look for abused, neglected, apparently useless parcel of land. The regenerative power is one of the greatest attributes of the PC approach. It's potentially very regenerative and one can demonstrate this through bump starting the ecological processes. In the PNW, Oregon, plant hundreds of nitrogen fixing pioneer species such as Red Alders, Cottonwoods, scotch broom (if it's not already there), Sitka alder, etc. and have free wood chips dumped there. Spread them out. Or straw. Leaves are one of my favorite. One can get payed to collect leaves and use them to heal abused land. Now that's win-win. I would think twice about free garden refuse after dealing with invasive plants such as field bindweed. I've been told several times garden refuse was weed free when it wasn't. One spring I had a garden thick with poison hemlock from a truckload of "clean" compost. Then one might need animals to help control them. I used a flame grower to avoid chemicals. It was a lot of work I labeled Rake Water Burn (chop down the weeds, rake, water, burn the new young weed sprouts. Do this all over and over until no hemlock sprouts). Trees can take care of themselves very well after 1 year. Idea is to plant or sow thickly the trees then thin later. Cocreate a healing cover on the land while one sows wild oats in the city.
I've been looking for a rock quarry. Several examples are out there. Id love to design a amphitheater permaculture garden. With constructed wetlands.
The easiest is to spread the organicmulch then scatter seeds. If you want to start growing food it's easy: mounds and hugelkultur gardens. There will be lots of space and light between the young trees for a few seasons. I like to grow squash mounds because they spread fast and produce a lot of yummy food that keeps. One could survive a winter on squash lol. I suggest waiting and observing a while before planting perennial gardens everywhere willy nilly. I found the "relative placement" is not as simple as it seems and a lot of things got moved or were permanently in the way.
Oh, and in the mounds introduce earthworms and healthy soil from various places. For me this was the funnest kind of permaculture but may not be for everyone.
If you have no experience farming/gardening, but you believe you would love that life, then you need experience to see if your beliefs are true. If I were in your situation, and I could afford it, I would come back to the States, and take a vacation. Then visit as many different farms and intentional communities as you can. We have had many "dreamers" come here over the years. Quite often they will say something along the lines of "I didn't know it was so much work". or "I didn't know it would be so quiet, I miss the city", or "It smells", or, .... Go try it out before you commit. See what others are doing before you decide on what you will do. See if you prefer market gardening, or intentional community, or wholesale gardening, or cattle/sheep/pig/etc. raising, or whatever. It is a huge commitment to buy land, care for it properly, raise a crop or herd. Make sure you will like it for the long haul. Go there. Do it.
Being in college, watching videos, reading books is all good. But its all head stuff. Try digging manure or baling hay on a hot, dry day to see if that's what you really love. Join wwoof'ing, check out ic.org and get real world experience.
Creating sustainable life, beauty & food (with lots of kids and fun)
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