Mary Lou McFarland

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since Nov 15, 2012
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Recent posts by Mary Lou McFarland

Tyler Ludens... what is your soil like. It is mind boggling that it would take fifty acres to feed one horse. I'm not doubting you but ...Holy Smokes!!! We figure two acres per horse here in southern Iowa. I have been looking at quite a few videos on hand baling hay. I am thinking of doing enough small manual bales for my own two that all of my large, baled on shares, bales could be sold. I can only hope.

I also use the Parelli method of training and I have to say that if it weren't for the horses, I probably would have never been brought to permaculture. And as far as their value.... they eat what others don't. They fill a niche with other grazers and through that they add to the health of any pasture. Last year I got suckered into buying nine hundred dollars worth of composted cow manure. Big mistake!!! for the nine hundred I could have just added a bit more and would have been able to buy a mini spreader. The cow manure introduced so much weed seed that it nearly ruined my hayfield. I am building a custom blend horse hay so needless to say there was a good amount of rage. Chicken and horse manure from now on!

On having minis... it is more important to choose by temperment. I have seen some that were rascals and some that thought they were Man O'War. But they were bred to be pit ponies so they provided a lot of labor on rather mean provisions. Hitch one to a cart and watch it go! they are more than capable. They don't eat much and then there is the poop! If you need a little more muscle, step up to a pony. I have a welsh mountain pony sec. A. They are very economical in the feed department. I also have a haflinger. she is on the big end of the breed... about 14.2 but still incredibly feed efficient.

Geoff Lawton sets up grazing in pastures and then has his permaculture plantings surrounding those pastures. ( I saw someone else also mentioned this) I have done the opposite. Plantings are to the interior and horses graze in perimeter alleys, like Jaime Jackson's track system.

I question why people question a horse. They don't question a tractor. A tractor provides only one thing.... power. then we take that power and hook tools to it. We consider it necessary so it is justified. Like the tractor the equine family comes in every imaginable size and ability. You can get one to match your needs regardless of the size of property and unlike the tractor, the horse has value added properties
Absolutely, without a doubt the best privy design I have EVER seen was in the book "Three Thousand Mile Garden" It was a two seater but only one was in use at a time. Built into a hill so when it was time to remove the side that had been composting for a year, you simply went around to the downhill side, opened the door and shoved a dolly under the barrel that was halfway to good dirt. Placed a new 55 gal barrel in the privy 'basement' then retired the second hole for a year and the side with the new barrel was open for business. Personally portable privys ... privies? make me uncomfortable. For certain moments in life one wants a bit of stability.

However if you are getting ready for company and need something quickly then I would suggest that you make your wee house with 2x2's for the corners and roof framing. Make a solid deck. As your garbage can will be too large I would suggest you cut it down. If it is to be portable why bother with repeatedly digging holes to accommodate the thing? For the siding I would use a very, very old Mother Earth trick and cover it in canvas and then paint it. The door likewise a framework like a screen door structure and covered in painted canvas. You can still put a light weight metal roof on for catching rain water.... and hopefully have part of it go to a hand washing station. Lower part of the canvas in back can be framed to be a little access door. As the garbage can would be cut down you will want to put rope handles on it so you can pull it out and from there use the two wheeler dolly to get it places. Of course this would be the company's coming get out the extra euphemism type out house. But it would be cheap and for the cost of the lumber savings you could build a spare or two. For every day use, you should take a look at that book. Amazing lou!!!
5 years ago
On site design.... the hill where I will be starting is a long north south ridge type hill. I am still in the planning /acquisition phase. The plan is to have a backhoe come in and give me a trench running down the west side of the hill and hooking around the south end, then moving up the hill about 25-30 feet and repeating and so on. Each trench will be loaded with dead elm, straw, compost, some char, etc til I get my hugel stuff happening. The plan is something along the lines of Amazonian black earth meets hugel kultur. Terracing a safe dry place for a few bee boxes down hill. Chickens uphill. I want the majority of the plants to be marketable edibles. ( I need the income!) Ground covers can be whatever they need to be. I'm also looking at hazelnuts. Over all I think I had better cross my fingers that I win your book. I've got a feeling that I'm going to need a reference bible close by!
5 years ago
Here is a quandary for you... let's say I do have a black locust planted and it is getting up there in size. I've been told that the root system will be approximately the same size as the upper spread of the canopy, so let's say the locust is to a thirty foot across canopy. the roots would also be thirty foot across. Would the nitrogen fixing range also be thirty foot across? Would it be greater? Would all nitrogen fixing plants have a greater nitrogen fixing range then their own personal space? when I know that then I can start doing some real planning on what can be placed where. Then it becomes a basic math problem.
5 years ago
Peter, boy what a list! But it is also a perfect example of why I have hit a wall. I know I am going to need some helper plants that provide nitrogen etc, but I still have to keep the majority of the plants as food production plants. I do have black locust trees in our woods and I have thought about putting a few into my food forest BUT they get HUGE!! I have to balance how much space gets dedicated to them. I also have no idea just how much area of the food forest will be serviced by their nitrogen fixing. Will I have to place a few to service the areas needs, or a bunch? Would it be a wise investment of my space?

There is just so much information missing from lists. I have also found that on some plants the zoning recommendation is pretty optimistic. I watched some of Martin Crawford's youtube videos and he makes a good case for planting comfrey. so that is a suggestion that I am filing away to make use of. Food crops, especially multi purpose food crops will be trumps when there is a general consensus on when we have hit peak oil. Local food will be in demand in pretty short order. I want to have my farm in production when that happens.
5 years ago
Dave, I will soon be starting my food forest. My little farm is all hills so I am starting it in one strip that will more or less be terraced with hugel kultur type mounds, wrapping around the hills. So far the orchard will be made up of mostly heirloom apples and cherry trees. But I get really stumped on the underplantings. Especially when figuring what the best plant is for nitrogen and for fixing other nutrients as well. I want to have one area dedicated to morel mushrooms.

I am in Iowa/ zone five and I'm on what is referred to locally as a clay knob. the soil is coming back from standard agriculture followed by several stints in crp where nothing was done with it. We have spent the last few years getting ahead of the weeds. A lot of mowing to keep it organic. Last fall started making manure tea and applying. I'm also concerned about planting when I don't have the soil totally up to par, but time is of the essence. I will soon have blueberry plants and aronia berries arriving. After that... I kind of hit a wall. Suggestions please?!
5 years ago
Man I would be the happiest person in the world if I could get by on $300. per mo.! Unfortunately, just my taxes and my farm insurance will run around $216 per mo. That does not include any health insurance, nor does it include any food items that I cannot produce myself, improvements to the little farm, fencing supplies, vehicle payments. So, back to reality. I really need to be able to produce $1200 per mo for mortgage payment and if permaculture is going to be viable and if other people are going to find this method of farming attractive then it needs to eventually be able to make the monthly mortgage payment.

How does that happen?
6 years ago
At this point it would be self destructive to not talk about earning a living.... that's money..... that's a mortgage payment..... truck payment.... Dr. bills....taxes and insurance. If I lose the land then it's going to be pretty hard to prove whether or not I can make permaculture a sustainable system, wouldn't you say? If it is attempted to make permaculture live in an idealistic vacuum then it will serve no real purpose. If it can be reproduced into a SUSTAINABLE, ENVIRONMENTAL AND PROFITABLE model then it can be moved into mainstream. Once permaculture is a mainstream alternative, then it has the opportunity to do it's part to save the world. If a method can pay it's own mortgage then it will prove itself over the existing agricultural systems that limp along with the help of government programs.

To clarify, I'm not living to get rich. I do have to show that I can pay my mortgage. that is the biggest hurdle. It will also be the biggest hurdle for anyone who wants to acquire land and go into small scale farming, even low input farming.
6 years ago
A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) my girls would watch a show called Reading Rainbow. anybody remember that? Anyway, they featured one book that always stuck with me. It was called "Oxcart Man" Basically, it was about a farmer. During the year he grew his crops, Any male calf his cow had became a teamster ox and the farmer also built an oxcart. In the fall when the crops were harvested, the farmer loaded up his harvest into the oxcart he built. Hooked up the team of oxen and went into town. He sold the team of oxen. he sold the harvest. He sold the oxcart. Then he took his years earnings and walked home.

For me that is what farming is about. It isn't just the product produced from the plants, or the animals. It's the value added product not just from the land but from the farmer. so that's something I try to think about. I drew up plans for a small barrel evaporator for my black walnut syrup and if it looks like it's going to work, I'll build more for sale. Trying to have a "whole enchilada" mindset.

My goal is to do about five things and to make about three or four thousand from each project, for starters. Like I said then there is the Ellen Degeneres plan. And not to forget, there is the winning the lotto plan. always good to have a plan.
6 years ago
thanks Tyler. I will start going through the podcasts when I get to my daughters. she has streaming capability but out here in the country watching video is a real exercise in patience..... which I'm not.
6 years ago