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Working orchards into an existing forest in western wa  RSS feed

 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Hey everyone!

Have long been a reader, not a poster, but finally getting started on a big project that has been in the planning phase for the last decade or so, now that home base projects are (more or less...) wrapping up.

First, some background - we have long owned a plot of land in northern Wa, West of the Cascades but solidly in the foothills rather than the lowlands. It's a secondary forest pretty typical of western Wa, that was probably logged in the early 1900's and never replanted. It is sparsely treed by Western Wa standards, consisting mostly of VERY big bigleaf maples, and moderately sized Western Redcedar, Western Hemlock, and Sitka Spruce. There are a few beautiful, large, mature Red Alders as well, but only a handful. My father bought the land decades ago and did a little selective logging, taking out some of the largest/straightest big leaf maples, but leaving the majority (mostly due to their low value due to multiple stems to be honest). He also put in roads that I will detail on a map soon, and he created several clearings between the large trees. After this, we let it sit for about a decade, and now basically everything in the clearings has reverted to brush and blackberries, with healthy alders growing in the wet areas and unhealthy alders growing in the drier areas.

It's beautiful, isolated, peaceful, has year-round water coming down in a main waterfall and multiple other smaller streams, has roads roughed in, very good access, electricity, a well, etc. We're really extremely lucky to have it and it's a prime location for permaculture except for a few factors:

1. The site is north facing. VERY North facing. In the winter it feels as though it gets essentially no sun at all, and summer some spots feel like they have +- 6 hours or so maximum.

2. It's on the side of a mountain. (the north side...) It's a 20 acre parcel, with 5 of that consisting of a 2-level shelf at the northernmost 1/4 of the rectangular property, and the remaining south 15 acres consisting of extremely steep slope that doesn't quit for at least a few miles. All the water runs down this until it hits the shelf, and then turns one direction or the other, going perpendicular to the slope, off of our property, without doing much to water the flat areas of the shelf that aren't close to the beginning of the slope. (Our property line ends just after the edge of the shelf, where it then drops again even more steeply down to a major river and floodplain.)

3. The soil is gravely, poor, thin, and generally not good. There are a few areas that have fine soil, IE the waterlogged swampy areas near the water sources, but other than that it's basically a big rock shelf with a little layer of soil on top of gravel, rocks, and clay.

So, that provides a starting picture of the property. I'll provide some drawings soon to make it even clearer.

Anyways, I have big dreams and plans for it. I have a lot of experience in Permaculture, know my plants relatively well, and just finished up most of my projects on our 1 acre home site down in the burbs.

Now, moving on to this larger site, I was hoping for some guidance. I have a few short term goals, but in general the long-term plan for the property will depend on the results of some of these initial projects.

I'll try to go in sequential order:

Primary Near-Term (Before End of Summer) Projects:

1. Thin the existing young saplings and trees to a healthy density to promote the increased survival and better growth of those that remain. This primarily applies to the alders everywhere (Alder is actually worth a little $$ nowadays if you give it time!) but also applies to the Redcedars that are popping up periodically as well as 3 small nursery blocks of Douglas Fir, Grand Fir, and Noble Fir that were planned to be dispersed but never got spread out and are now far too dense.

2. Clear out the secondary roadway. The roads consist of a main road traversing roughly the middle of the shelf from one end to the other, as well as a secondary loop that comes off of this one up to the north, going down to the smaller secondary shelf, traversing it, and then coming back upwards to connect to the main road again. The main road is still clear and in good shape, the secondary road needs some clearing of saplings and blackberries.

3. Clear out the current, still existing clearings/meadows. There are 3 sites that are still relatively clear, and will be the easiest to get mowed and back into open space. At the request of my father, these areas will, at least for the time being, stay open to preserve a view and allow for the restoration of a pond in the near future.

4. Find locations for new clearings that can be used for plantings. Here we get into the meat of the issue, and where I need the most advice.

I have two conflicting courses of action, and am having difficulty deciding between the two. The clearings, for the most part, would be relatively small (perhaps 10,000-20,000 square feet at the largest) between the existing mature maples, cedars, and other trees. (I would be willing to take out a big tree or two if it meant a world of difference, but for the most part want to leave the large mature trees and just do high branch pruning on them to allow as much light in as possible while preserving them) Additionally, the way the site is, I can either go on the south side of the road, closer to the slope, where there is higher-quality soil and plenty (sometimes too much) water, but it gets significantly less light the closer to the slope you get. Alternatively, I can push towards the north side of the road, further from the slope, where there is very poor soil, little water (I could easily install irrigation systems in the future) and much, much more sun exposure. The current tree density on either side is basically the same.

My goal for the next 6-10 months is to get my three main nut groups in as much as I possibly can, namely being walnuts/butternuts/heartnuts/buartnuts/hickories/maybe northern seedling pecans (I know hickories and pecans are crazy for western WA but figured what the hell, seedlings of them are VERY cheap), chestnuts, and hazelnuts/filberts. My goal would be to plant 1 of each variety that I can get my hands on/afford. Grafted and clonally propagated for now to ensure good genetics. I love the idea of seedlings and selecting for local adaptations, but I can always do that with my own using the offspring of the cultivars that I put in (The genetic diversity is part of why I want at least one of each variety) The other part of why I want one of each variety is that it allows me to propagate my own of these well-studied and understood varieties.

Option A: Make small clearings as we go in opportune places and get the trees in wherever makes sense in the moment, not necessarily attempting to adhere to rows or being all that organized. I do plan to triple label the trees and create a detailed map with the variety and its location. This may be more conducive to planting in a permaculture/mixed fashion later on due to the varying gaps and micro-environments it will create, but messier and harder to evaluate a variety due to confounding factors.

Option B: Create larger, block clearings suitable for traditional nut-orchard style row-planting. This is fairly straightforward and well understood. These would be approximately 30 trees for the chestnuts (each a different variety), approximately 20 for the walnut+others group (each a different variety), and approximately 20-40 for the hazelnut/filbert group (possibly a few doubles in this one) Obviously this is more work in the beginning, but may potentially save headache later as it is more organized and will be easier to maintain. However, these blocks will not be suitable for significant planting later on with other species. Essentially I imagine that these would function as my propagation home bases, allowing me a neat and organized are to propagate varieties and seedlings to then plant in a more permaculture-type fashion elsewhere on the property and other places.

Option C: When clearing the roads, simply clear them out an extra 30 feet on either side and plant rows of the plants along the sides. This would look cool, but could also be accomplished later. It's also not great for pollination, but better organized than option A and less work potentially than option B.


So what do you folks think about
1. the side of the road to focus on first for each of these three groups? I can easily do them in different places on the property.
2. Option A vs B vs C vs any other ideas??
3. Any varieties of any of these groups that you folks think I absolutely MUST have or that are absolutely not worth the $$?
I've found that walnuts will run about 30-40 for grafted trees, 10 ish for seedlings, chestnuts run about 15-30 for grafts, and hazels I can find for anywhere from 10 - 30 on average.



Notes: Keep in mind that Walnuts must be planted relatively far away from the other species and cannot be co-planted with chestnuts or hazelnuts/filberts. I also thought about Co-planting with alternating hazelnuts/filberts and chestnuts, but since they are wind pollinated and the hazels will be much more productive with full sun, I think I would prefer to keep them separate.

I also plan to repeat this process in the future as I go with other varieties of edibles such as plums pears apples paw paws berries etc.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I'll post maps and lists of cultivars soon. Any and all advice is graciously accepted!
 
Kyle Neath
pollinator
Posts: 192
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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Anyways, I have big dreams and plans for it.


What are your goals for the property? Commercial orchard? Personal use? I think answering that question will help others give you better advice.

From what you've written, I think you've got plenty of time to observe. Your list of projects for the summer (which ends in a week!) is... aggressive, and I suspect a lot of it might bleed into the winter/spring. I'd take that time to do those projects and walk around with a notebook and a sun-measuring app on your phone (I use Sun Seeker). It allows you to stand in a place, point your phone around and see where the sun will be able to shine through at various time of the year.

I will say when I first got my property, I went around to find the best piece of land for starting my garden. But it was about 1/2 mile from the main cabin / spring. At the time it seemed no big deal — I was optimizing for soil, sun, and wind. After spending a year working on infrastructure, I ended up moving my garden area much closer to existing infrastructure as I realized how big of a project it was going to be having my garden so far away from irrigation, tools, and a place to walk inside and have a cold glass of water. My point being that spending a year working on non-gardening activities helped inform how my garden could be successful. Which was painful when i know it's going to take 5+ years for my fruit trees to bear fruit, if they survive at that.
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Sun Seeker Example
 
Nicole Alderman
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Posts: 1836
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I also have a north facing sloped property in the foothills of Washington (you can see some old pictures here: https://permies.com/t/33637/Steep-North-Facing-Slope), so I totally feel your pain. I'm not as far into the hills as you (there's no mountains shading me), but as it is, in the winter I only get 2-4 hours of direct sunlight, and I don't think any part of my garden gets the total amount. The sun gets over the trees at about 10 or 11 am, and sets at about 1:30 or 3:00pm, depending on how close to the winter solstice we are. During the summer, however, the sun rises over the trees at 7:30 am and doesn't set until around 6:00pm, so many areas of my garden get a good 6-10 hours of sun during the growing season. I honestly haven't tried growing annuals much during the fall/winter, as there just isn't that much light, but my fruit trees do seem healthy. Not all have started producing yet, but I don't know if that's due to them still being young, my soil, or the light. I've only been here 5 years, and most didn't get planted until later years.

I can tell you that berries do FANTASTIC here. Blackberries, raspberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, blueberries all seem to do great--especially if the deer don't eat them all. And, because of the slope, our trees and berries bloom later, which protects them from late frosts (and late bees due to the cold/rain). This year we had pretty much continual rain all spring. People's apple trees bloomed because it had warmed up, but none of the bees were out pollinating because it was always raining. But, since our trees were later-booming, we didn't have that problem.

Our property, when we bought it, was cleared pretty much to the top of the hill--and our property line. Because of this, we actually have some winter sun. Without it, we'd probably only have maybe an hour, when the sun is directly over head. The sun gets blocked by all those trees up the hill. With them cleared away, we get our 2-4 hours of sun. We don't currently garden on the steep hill, mostly because there's less light and because it's farther from our house.

Here's an topographical map of our property from before we started gardening. The areas that are "sunny and levelish" are where our apples, plums, peach, and cherry trees are, with our gardens in the southern areas of those squares.



I honestly can't tell you if this is the best arrangement for a clearing--but it's the one we had and so we've worked with it.

Are you planning on living on your property? Do you already have a house put in, or a place where you're thinking of having one (and where the government will let you put one because of wetland and septic, etc rules)?  Like Kyle said, I would put the orchard, etc, nearer to your house, that way you can monitor it better, and enjoy the increased light from the clearing. It gets kind of dreary ALWAYS being in the shade during the winter!
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Totally rough depiction of our yearly sunlight. Kyle's ap is much better!
 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Hello and thank you both for the replies!

Kyle - hello! First I'll respond and say that my goals are mixed, but all boil down to desiring enjoyment from the place without having to spend too much money on it. I personally love pruning, orchard care and the like, and am happy to put that kind of maintenance in myself without the time it takes being an issue - i really don't mind spending long hours with the trees at all :)
I don't view it as anything commercial - though i do intend to propagate for personal expansion, gifts to family/friends, etc. I also enjoy propagation quite a bit!

I think, to summarize, my goal is to have a diverse, organized, healthy set of orchards and berry plantings that i can pick fruit and nuts from, but also leave much to the wildlife. I would like it to fit into the existing landscape as much as possible without having to take down too much - at least for now, and have room to expand in the future.

I will definitely try the sunlight app, that's a fantastic idea!

I also think keeping it near infastructure is smart, good point. I will definitely take proximity to the main road into account.

Now to Nicole - hello! I have read threads about your lot before, when researching my own! Cool to have someone with such a similar situation!

To answer your questions - in the forseeable future, we don't intend on living up there full time. There are no permanent structures currently (which helps make the tax rate IMMENSELY more affordable) though we do have a shipping container and a derelict mobile home that we used to use and at this point is 90% of it's way to being too far gone to salvage. (there's also another one that's already been crunched up and has become one with the blackberries, haha.

However! There is plenty of buildable, non- wetland, and if we wanted to, someday we could build in a house and all the comforts of home. For now though, we plan to keep it the current situation and get the land itself up to snuff. It's probably smart to consider the best spot for an eventual home site and leave that open, as well as putting the orchard(s) near where a home would probably eventually go! Thank you for that, i wasn't considering that before!

Thank you also for the photos, i plan to head up to the property tomorrow and will take some pictures to post, as well as drawing some maps once i can include a very general location of the largest trees and stands. It looks like your hill is about a 20 - 35 or 40 degree slope ish from the pictures, is that about right?

Man - what i would give for that! Hahaha! Our slope runs about 45 - 50 degrees plus basically the whole way up the mountain - and it is very densely populated with maples that do indeed block what seems like ALL of the winter sun - like you mentioned you can get a little of without the trees on your hill. I'll take a picture showing the steepness tomorrow :)

I wouldn't consider cutting down the trees - though i do plan to, slowly over time, prune the maples and where convenient gaps form put in a variety of useful timber and food trees and shrubs as I create propagules to use. That is secondary to getting the flat 5 acres cleaned up and planted, though. I do have a few hundred black walnut seedlings that i sprouted and need to find homes for, and intend to shotgun spread them up on the hillside this fall and spring where ever i find a reasonable gap (or can easily create one) and just let them go wild.

As an aside - must say - i don't intend to test the germination rate of black walnuts ever, ever again. I started with a couple of thousand or so that i bought off of craigslist (about 6 five gallon buckets full with no husks) and expected perhaps a 10 or 15 percent germination rate (the nuts had at this point been dried for consumption already and i had low hopes) but after about a month or two of soaking them had at least half of them sprout over the course of a month or two! I at that point gave up potting them and gave the remaining 3 buckets full to the local douglas fir squirrels, who planted at least a dozen in my own yard and i imagine planted many more in the local blackberry fields/woods across the street!

Anyways, i plan to post maps and pictures within the next 48 hours, hopefully that will help with giving a better idea of the situation!

Thank you again, everyone! :)

 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1507
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Whew, dude.  that is a very long initial post....   but I got through it. 

I would suggest breaking that up next time, as you will get a lot more people willing to wade through it, and it will be worth getting more eyes on your project, which sounds really cool to me. 

Start a project page based on what you wrote and do you pics there.  Here's the Permies project forum

At any rate, my personal thoughts are that you should get water to the North side, as far on the North as possible, and hydrate the alders there, and concentrate most of your efforts there.  Plant your fruit and nut trees in experimental guilds beside alders.  Make a grove of Black Walnuts separate from everything else, in an area of sacrificial alders, or make a clearing and plant (or transplant) alders and then plant your walnuts.  Make a cart path or a road from the South wetter part of your bench area, and haul soil, logs, and chopped down debris, to your hydrated alder guilds, and mulch and build hugulkultur in the area, or if you don't have the time and energy to put in hugulkultur yet, then just pile the logs up near the planting areas and these will begin to rot and will trap moisture beneath them.  Plant native berries in your guilds as a natural understory plant, and try to create your designs with sun scoop shaped clearings and plantings, to get the most out of what little sun you get.  Shade and extremes in moisture/dryness and shallow existing soils will be your enemy, and sun and heat, and gentle long term moisture, as well as rapid soil building potential of your region... these are your friends. Get to know all of them intimately and understand this quote from the book Dune:  "Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount.  And naturally, the least favorable condition controls growth rate."  In this case, as you have deduced, it is your shade and working to maximize sun that will be your primary problem and solution after you sort out your water situation and get access built in so that your can move your nutrient accumulating richer material to your sunny(er) location.      That's my advice.  Looking forward to seeing what you come up with or if anybody else comes up with something better.  

oh yeah.  I do like all of your ideas.  I especially do like the idea of planting alongside the edges of your roads.  It is very efficient.  I would concentrate doing this on the North side of roads with your taller tree systems (or at least not planting the taller trees on the South side) and make the road avenue wider on the South side; plant groves of smaller shrubs on the south side, thus making the roads act as a clearing that maximizes sun, and minimizes shade.  On the North side, make bow shaped sun scoops of larger trees with smaller trees on the insides of the scoops, and shrubs inside the smaller trees, and then your road to the South.  That way you are catching as much sun as possible, and the sun is absorbed by a series of leaf softened three dimensional concavites (if that makes sense).    

Good luck. 
 
Jane Reed
Posts: 70
Location: Fair Play, Northern California
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I realize this is painfully obvious but I can't help but say it--you can't do anything about the amount of sun you get, but you can do something about building the amount of soil in your soil-poor areas.

My little (and very  immature) garden is plagued by a fair amount of shade and I am still moving things around to get them into sunnier areas.  I don't have the rockiness you do and the quality of my native soil is good, thank heaven.

You might want to check out some older videos by jack spirko, who runs the survival podcast and blog.  He moved to his Texas property about 3 years ago. He has about 3 inches of soil on top of rock.  But he has successfully grown trees and shrubs, partly by placing them on the downslope side of his swales.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Whew, dude.  that is a very long initial post....   but I got through it. 

I would suggest breaking that up next time, as you will get a lot more people willing to wade through it, and it will be worth getting more eyes on your project, which sounds really cool to me. 


I don't know, I tend to like more information, rather than too little. I can always skim if I don't have time. But, it's really hard to answer a question of, for instance, "What fruit tree should I plant" when there's no info on climate, lighting, soil, etc. But, we all do have different reading and writing styles, which is one thing I love about permies!

I look forward to learning more about Robert Swan's property
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1507
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
104
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I don't know, I tend to like more information, rather than too little. I can always skim if I don't have time. But, it's really hard to answer a question of, for instance, "What fruit tree should I plant" when there's no info on climate, lighting, soil, etc. But, we all do have different reading and writing styles, which is one thing I love about permies!

I look forward to learning more about Robert Swan's property 
  I agree.  I'm looking very much forward to his plan/property developing, and lots of info is invaluable.  I know that I can skim, and I do skim, but then If I really think that I should give my ideas or opinion then I owe it to the person to read the entire thing with a discerning eye for details, and that takes time and energy.  Now it is personal, my reading style, for sure, I've seen it noted by a few people on this site by reading their comments on other long posts that my reading style is not completely uncommon; meaning that if paragraphs after paragraphs are not broken up, then the post can be a bit daunting to plunge fully into, unless perhaps the subject is irresistible.  I'm not saying that it's everyone's response to seeing a long initial post, and I'm not saying that I'm not occasionally guilty of making such long initial posts myself  [    ], but... I guess what I am saying is that, considering that Robert is planning to put out more information, and post pictures, that it might be better to break up the initial post with pictures, or at least into a couple smaller posts, which makes it much more readable in the end (in my opinion), or the beginning, even.        It's not 100% necessary, even for me who posted about it being long... I did read it after all, because I find the ideas intriguing and irresistible.   : D  
 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Howdy Folks!

So we got up there last Monday, and spent that time starting to clear brush and small alders with chainsaws, as well as weed-whacking the main road open. We're planning to get up there again tomorrow, for about 3 days this time, and will be bringing our tractor and brush-hog which will certainly make things go more quickly on the blackberry clearing side of things...

I also spent time walking the property doing some surveying with the help of a great aerial map from 2009 I found on the county website. This one is gold because it appears to have been taken at or around noon in the summer, so shadows are minimal and it's MUCH easier to see the individual canopies, clearings, and other features.

I then used this map and the measuring tool on the county's Imap to start piecing together a map that should be PRETTY accurate with relative locations of trees, canopies, the roads, etc. I would say most stuff is within 20 or so feet of actual location, and 5 or 10 feet of actual size. I also took a variety of pictures to give an idea of the state of the site. I'll be posting those and the map below. So far the map is about +-65 percent complete. I still have a lot of work to do on the lower shelf, once the secondary road goes in, as well as in the north-westernmost corner of the property, which is currently pretty much a mystery. It LOOKS like it's mostly brushy trees, and could be a good candidate for clearing. We'd always left it alone as a buffer with the neighbor's property, but I plan to plant a proper, thick hedgerow along the western property line which will allow for clearing up much closer to the line.

I also did a little soil sampling - see the next post for pictures and description!

On the Map:

The dots surrounded by dashed lines are large trees that I could distinguish from the satellite photo. The dot is the stem, the dashed line is the extent of the canopy. There are a lot more of these to add, but this shows the majority of the large and important ones.

Slanted lines are slope, the top and bottom slopes are too steep to do anything with, the middle slope between the two shelves is potentially usable. The drop between the shelves is approximately 20-40 feet, it varies.

This map shows only the northernmost flat 5 acres. The lot also extends to the south another 15 acres of steep, north-facing slope.

"Dense" means dense with trees and brush, IE Large Alders and dotted with large maples, and filled in with blackberries. "Brush" means mostly clear of trees except a few scrubby alders, and mostly consisting of blackberries and/or salmonberries.

The two blocks about halfway horizontally through the property with the fir tree symbols on them, on either side of the road, are nursery beds that never got planted. They are densely packed with dead douglas firs, noble firs, and grand firs. The ones along the edges grew fine, but the ones in the center that are dead or nearly dead will probably be cleared out. The southern block also has an old growth redcedar that will be kept, and a very large alder as well. The X to the west of that block represents our well access.

The scalloped rectangles to the southeast are two trailers, and there is a shipping container under three large trees over there slightly further east as well.

The filled-in blobs are ponds.

The thick black line at the south-east corner is the waterfall. Picture posted! (this is the end of our drought, as well, so it can run MUCH higher than that.

There is an old logging road that runs along the south edge of the map, which could potentially be cleared.



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Looking up at the waterfall from the flat area.
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Map of the Site
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Blackberries - taken from the road Looking south
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A newly cleared area - north of the road
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Fairly representative of the alder around the property
 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Soil!

The soil north of the road isn't quite as bad as I thought! At least not in one clearing where I dug a foot deep pit. Surprisingly enough, I believe it's a sandy, gravely, clay-loam, as opposed to the pretty much pure clay and/or gravel I expected. I'll post a picture and people can give me their diagnosis as well! It drains much better than I expected which is important for chestnuts especially, and I think I will be OK over time as I add organic matter in prodigal amounts in the form of leaves, alder wood, branches, and soil dug from the more fertile (but shady) parts of the property.

I will take more soil samples around the area, as well as a sample of the beautiful soil south by the slope, and post more pictures after our next trip

I have also decided to plan to plant next fall (2018) at the earliest, perhaps even spring 2019, as this will give me more time to get the areas REALLY up to snuff with all the soil moving I need to do, as well as pot up the bare-root trees I will be getting and give them a nice cushy year of life in some potting soil and compost to give them the very best shot once they actually go up to the site - I would be devastated to lose many of these trees after spending so much on them.
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The location of the sample - looking west along the road - sample was taken to the right
 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Here are some additional pictures on the property:
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John Hutter
Posts: 20
Location: Central Oregon Coast and Cascade Range, valley side.
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If not terribly concerned about 'maximum yield' on a given acreage, I would work orchard into a given forest by leaving a strip of the present big trees running north/south right through the center of the property as well as on north and south edges, and remove the rest of the tees except for some N fixing perennials if you happen to find them here or there.   In other words, clear it, save lanes 10-20 yards wide of wild old trees that will provide complete canopy cover or full shade come high and dry summer.

If the property is much less than a quarter mile or so wide, I would skip the wild forest center lane for lack of sunlight and just allow them along the north and south property boundaries. 

Along the edges of the wild forest lanes, I'd plant a few rows of berries, or some bunch of plants that will usefully put out on a shorter burst of summer sun.

Then I'd line up the orchards along the berry lanes,  starting about 30 yards away from the big wild trees.  Also, I can't forget to scatter perennial nitrogen fixers here and there, throughout all the lanes except the wild ones.

The sunniest strips down the middle of each set of wild forest lanes, are reserved for the soil you dote on to make fancy tomatoes and eggplants and corn and squash and whatnot.

As per Sepp, the idea is that what was 'lost yield' in the sense of uncultivated land dominated by the likes of fir or oak or alder or maple or whatnot, you gain in the sense of a wildlife corridor that greatly increases the rate at which forest critters that may not live on your land will hunt and eat pests on your land (However, this means any poultry you keep will be at additional risk, a hungry raccoon will go day hunting if must...) Also, leaf fall for mulch and storm fall for hugels (minus the cedar.) Also, significant thermal regulation (cooler days, warmer nights) if your wild forest lanes are made up 2+feet diameter trees, and a generally higher water table come PNW bone dry time.

I'm into year 3 managing a single lane 2 acre strip in this way, but given the initial success with the peaches and raspberries I've had here in heavy clay soil, it's going to remain what I do in this neighborhood.   Just a suggestion. 

Super jelly of your waterfall. 
 
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
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Hello again permies!

A quick update on the current status of the property:

The clearing went swimmingly! Using machinery got us through what felt like a few seasons worth of work in no time at all!

We've re-opened all of the roads, mowed down the blackberries out of what were the past clearings, and cleared the property line to a point that it can be planted out, and perhaps a (symbolic) fence or at least a line of trees put in. Nothing that would prevent animal passage, like a deer, from going over, but perhaps something to simply demarcate what's ours and provide a nice(ish) looking border as we enter the property. We also plan to put up a nice old beat up gate on our road that could be knocked down by a sneeze, but is again symbolic.

Almost all of the downed alders and blackberries are piled up to start their  decomposition process, and will hopefully be thoroughly on their way to soil by the time i plant.

A quick question along those lines - how would you folks go about putting out alder logs to decompose in an orchard? We have a chipper and will be chipping the smaller trees and branches entirely, but the logs can be up to 6 inches or so in diameter and are too much for the chipper. I was thinking of lining the rows out with the logs, but don't want them to get in the way of mowing for the few years they may take to decompose. So i was thinking of possibly piling them up, firewood style-ish, halfway between each tree and letting them go there, and spreading the rotted wood once it's far gone enough to be a non- issue for the mower or brush hog. Any other ideas?

Additionally, as you can see in the attached photos, i have now been presented with something i wasn't expecting to reach quite yet in the process- bare soil!! My father got a little excited with the machinery, and decided to scrape the topmost layer off of everything and add it to the log/branch pile, which is alright, but i now need to cover crop it since we're entering the rainy season and i don't want the soil to all wash down the mountain. SO i went ahead and ordered a big 50lb sack of dutch white clover from outsidepride (they had the best price AND got it to me the very next day for the cheapest shipping option $15!)

For my current purposes, 50lbs is WAY over-kill, as we have probably only cleared about an acre or so, but it should store well, and we plan on continuing to clear, so it can be used as we continue next season as well.

I chose clover because of the nitrogen fixation, mowability, bee forage, beauty, and ability to basically care for itself. It also is apparently less of an issue for trees in an orchard setting when compared to grass. It should even help attract the deer over, which is good, at least until i plant! Haha!

I think after running up there to do some last minute poking around and seed the clover in, we will be basically done for the season as far as larger projects go. Which means more thinking and planning for me!

My biggest thought right now is this: if you look at the map from my previous post, there is a clearing just north of the main road about halfway through the property, with a slope just a little further north of that. We expanded that clearing by cleaning out the dead and dying doug firs from the planting just east of that, and it is now one of the biggest, sunniest clearings on the property! :)

However, now that i have it, i am unsure how to use it, As i think that even as we clear more it will remain the sunniest spot!

I do not intend to grow veggies or annuals up there, so don't feel a need to save it for that kind of purpose.

Right now my main objective is to get the nut trees in, as they take so long to bear, so i think either chestnuts or hazelnuts will go in this clearing.

My decision is to:

1. Put the chestnuts there on the flat, and find somewhere else on the property (maybe just across the road to the south?) for the hazels.
(the issue i have with this is the slope to the north may then become too shady to use for much) but i do love the idea of a nice, flat, organized, easy to maintain chestnut orchard.

Or

2. Put the chestnuts on the slope to the north of this clearing, in either a single line or a staggered double line, and perhaps build them a retaining wall in the future, and hope that they are able to survive to grow the 30+ feet up above the edge of the bank to get better sun over time, and put the hazels on the flat.

Or

3. Put chestnuts on slope, AND hazels somewhere else, and leave this best area open for now as a future site.

I don't know! But i also don't have to decide for at least another year - i do like the idea of mixing and doing a "sun scoop" style planting, but i think i want more traditional orchards for the chestnut and hazelnut trees, at least.

P.S. the walnuts will definitely survive part shade until getting larger, so they are going north of the secondary road in bits and pieces wherever i find or can make a good gap for them! That way they also never shade anyone out.

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The soil from the clearing
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An impressive brush pile, of which we now have many!
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The newly cleared secondary road
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Plenty of alder to add to the soil!
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1507
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
104
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I was thinking of lining the rows out with the logs, but don't want them to get in the way of mowing for the few years they may take to decompose. So i was thinking of possibly piling them up, firewood style-ish, halfway between each tree and letting them go there, and spreading the rotted wood once it's far gone enough to be a non- issue for the mower or brush hog. Any other ideas?
  Sounds like a good opportunity for hugulkultur.  You could put them between the trees, stacked like firewood, water it and put a bit of your bare soil on top;  seed with clover, and cover loosely with smaller branchier type alder material to prevent erosion, and evaporation.  You could stack them, kind of like log cabins around your young trees or trees you want to keep, and these will slowly decompose creating a nice nutrient mat in the main feeding/drinking area for the tree.  About mowing the blackberries: while a pain in the ass, they are actually quite beneficial for establishing orchards.  The dense thorny bushes will create an impenetrable patch (as you know), and these will exclude predation on your young orchard trees.  Later, when your orchard trees are beginning to gain height and girth and are able to take a bit of predation, then bring in some goats and tether them so that they eat your blackberries (and not your fruit/nut trees).  I remember reading of people doing this successfully somewhere, with apples and such, and cattle.  The cattle were turned loose and they went for the wind thrown fruit, but only after the trees were large enough that they were not effected by the presence of cattle.   
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1836
Location: Pacific Northwest
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I've got native hazels growing in part shade here. They haven't started producing yet (or the squirrels ate them all...), but I know the native hazels produced for my mother in part shade. Hazels might, therefore, be good candidates for the less sunny places.

I recall when I watched The Permaculture Orchard, he made a point of alternating his food trees so that no two trees of the same species were next to each other, so as to reduce chances of diseases spreading. Perhaps that might be a good option for you, and might also increase your chances of the nut varieties happening upon the right microclimate/soil, and at least some of each type producing nuts for you.

I think clover is an excellent choice for a cover crop. If you want to mix it up, daikon radish (or Tillage Radish) seeds sprout and self-seed like crazy at my place, and they have nice taproots to break up the soil, and then die and add their biomass to the ground. And, the bees seem to like them, and they bloom early and for a long time, which is probably great for the bees. I got my radish seeds from High Mowing (https://www.highmowingseeds.com/organic-non-gmo-tillage-radish.html). I can attest to the seeds lasting many years, and having a high germination rate. I believe High Mowing has free shipping, too
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1507
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
104
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
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The native hazel shrubs even grow and fruit in partial shade way up here.  I've seen them in poplar birch, (with occasional large douglas fir from the original pre fire forest), canopied forests near my place.
 
Tina Miner
Posts: 9
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This is exactly what I want to do with my land.  Down to the walnuts and hazels.  I am in SW WA by Rochester.  It is exciting to learn about everyone's experiences.
 
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