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I was struggling on where to put this in the forums since it will cover a wide variety of topics.

We just moved in to our new house on 2.5 acres in central Oklahoma. The lawn is a mess. Most of it is dead and some is just gravel rocks. The fenced off garden has weeds growing six feet high in some spots. We have a horrible carpenter ant problem with them coming through the house and windows. We also have a bad tick problem. By the way, it has been vacant for a year.

Fast forward one month: I caulked the windows that the ants were coming through and put down chemical killer (hadn't read about DE yet and was desperate because we were being bombarded). No more ants coming through the windows. I threw away the chemical killers and ordered 100 pounds of DE. I used 50 pounds putting it down in the carpet and in the back yard (.5 acre). We are still finding some ticks, but the numbers are dwindling.

I also rototilled about 10 feet by 6 feet of the garden and built some raised beds to plant some veggies.

So, here is what I want to do:

Get rid of these ticks! We we still finding around 2 per day and we keep our dog in the fenced off and treated back yard (we put the DE down around 1 week ago). We
also have spiders in the house regularly and have killed a couple of scorpions.

I also want to have a healthy lawn. Some spots have soft, red dirt 6 inches down until you hit clay and some spots are just filled with rocks and dirt all the way to the clay.

I want to get the weeds out of the garden. The spot I cleared out two weeks ago is already getting overrun.

I want to create a sustainable food forest with the acre that is covered with trees.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated! I mostly just want to know where to start with these things!

Thanks so much!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Guinea hens are supposed to be the best predators of ticks.  They will also help keep down the ants, spiders, and scorpions if you let them forage right around the house.  Unfortunately they can be noisy.  I think they are cute but my husband calls them "evil clown pods." 
 
                      
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Hmmm... I will have to look into it. I am hesitant though because coyotes are really bad where I live and I also have a boxer/pit mix and I am unsure how she would interact with them. Don't want to step outside and see Guneai Hen remains everywhere one day
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Yes, guineas are noisy, homely, and pretty dumb to boot. They will get rid of your ticks, and lots of other insects too. You can let them run in your garden, and they will not tear it up, as chickens do. They are very hard to confine, and I have never seen any that were as tame as chix or dux. Chickens and ducks also eat any bugs they can find, but they are much harder on your garden, and you would have to control them for their own protection. People with a bad tick problem usually get used to guinea noise. If you have a neighbor close in, the neighbors may not get used to them.

As always, I recommend the designer recliner - living in and observing your place for a year before you draw up your permaculture plan. Of course, you won't want to do that. So there a few things that you can do that are unlikely to lead to major issues later.

Read permaculture books, especially Gaia's Garden, by toby hemenway. Get it from the library if you are wary about spending money on books, but my guess is that this is one you will eventually want to buy. Read John Jeavons' book on gardening, and pay special attention to what he says about soil building.

Map your land. Gaia's Garden will tell you how and what to map, and why you need to know. Have you identified the plants already growing on your land? What about the non-domestic animals who are sharing their space with you? How are they using the land?

For now, confine any livestock purchases to poultry and rabbits. You can make their housing portable. You don't necessarily know yet where the best place for housing them will ultimately be. And one of the wisest comments ever made to me was by a permie land owner who had no chickens, let alone other livestock. He said he wouldn't have anything that wasn't well-integrated into the energy flow of his place, by which he meant, among other things, that outside feed purchases should be non-existent. One you really start thinking in terms of energy flows, the light bulbs will go on, and many questions will resolve themselves.

Do you have deciduous shade trees to the southwest of your house? These could be standard-sized fruit trees. Make sure you don't plant them too close to the house.

Start planting "fedges" along your property lines. These could include nut and timber trees. Just pick a section and start, don't do the whole boundary at once. Get a small section or two well-started.

For now, stay open to the idea of moving your veggie plot. As you learn more about your land, you may realize that another spot would be better. So make any fencing movable, and box in those beds, to make it easier to move the soil that you have been building up.

Do you have a rainwater harvesting system?

Compost everything you can get your hands on, and actively scrounge compost materials from your neighbors. It's a good way to get to know them!

Rethink the lawn idea. For now, maybe just sow a pasture mix and watch how the different plants grow in different spots. You can mow it a couple times in the summer and get lots of green stuff for animal feed and/or compost. The people who sell you the pasture mix should be able to tell you how often and when it's best to mow it. (You probably won't be able to use a lawn mower for mowing the pasture mix.) Consider carefully the reasons why you want a lawn - there are probably other ways to get the same functions that won't be so input-intensive.

Spiders in the house are your friends, and very interesting to watch. You may have venomous spiders, but the vast majority of them are harmless. Learn what's venomous in your area. Kill those, leave the others alone. Remove unoccupied webs.

Hope this helps.
 
                      
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I actually just got Gaias Garden! I am reading it right now. It is taking some time though. The urgency with the bugs is because we have a two year old and seven month old and I have a worrisome wife. I was wanting a nice, soft lawn with minimal pests for the kids to run and play on. I am sure a lot of things will be answered in the book. I guess I am just growing impatient with the bugs and was looking for some quick answers.

Like I heard on one of Pauls podcasts that he had to put down a lot of DE to begin with. I was wondering how much he actually put down?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Have you read Paul's lawn care article?  It has many helpful tips.

http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp
 
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