I know I havent posted on here in over 18 months but that doesnt mean ive been idle. Quite the opposite in fact, i'm moving along with the plans faster than I could have imagined. Ill be done with land clearing completely by midsummer I think and I have already planted a few dozen trees and shrubs. Garden terraces are scheduled to be dug around July and ill at least start digging swales around that time also. There have been a few changes to the master plan, which came from having spent dozens of hours per week working and observing here.
Most noteworthy is the reduction in the number of swales, yeah digging 8 in a 2 acre field makes zero sense. I also moved the spot I will put our rice paddies since the logistics of irrigating them when placed at the top of a hill aren't practical, especially after having spent 2 months in Indonesia with my fiancee and observing rice cultivation in one of the most rice dependent places on earth.
As for what i've gotten done; The entire field for the vegetable garden is cleared, it just needs to be terraced and i'm digging up (Yes, with a shovel) the 200 year old stone wall. Which has been buried under centuries of debris and leaves and soil and rebuilding it, so that it will encircle the garden terraces like a fence. I have been doing a combination of chipping and burning the slash piles from clearing the land. Whatever, call it slash and burn but you try chipping hundreds of cubic yards of tangled branches in my tiny chipper, i'd be dead before I finished.
Also along the top of the stone fence I planted a row of alternating fruit trees and seaberries in a 2 seaberry, 1 apple, 2 seaberry, 1 peach pattern, totaling 3 peaches and apples each and 10 seaberries. At the top of a southern facing hill, with a stone wall and forest right behind it is about as warm as possible of a microclimate so i'm optimistic the peaches and longer season apples I bought should all ripen well. I went with semi common/commercial cultivars for here but they are right in the garden so they can be a little fussy, ill actually tend to these trees.
This is the garden field as of last week, the before picture is in the first post, just a scrubby maple sapling patch with a path through it then.
The seaberries are doing awesome, I planted them about 3 weeks ago and they already are nearly fully leafed out and are actually growing despite still getting frosts a few times per week.
I planted these peaches last August, not exactly peak time for tree planting. Nothing special besides a few handfuls of manure and a thick layer of mulch and they did awesome. This pic is a couple weeks old but they already leafed out great and everything, I just trimmed them very slightly this year.
Once the garden is walled in we will have 2 gates, one on the southwest corner, and one in the northeast. On one of the corners next to the gate I will inscribe a soapstone plaque saying something to the effect of;
To whoever finds this patch of earth, welcome. The wall and terraces you see before you were re-constructed in the 16th year of the 2nd millennium AD by Ria Angelita and Ian Taylor. This space served as our garden and fed our family, as did the Peach, Apple, Hazelnut and Chestnut trees we planted, and whose descendants we hope still grace this land today. If this space is in disrepair, please return it to its former glory and we hope it serves your needs as it has served ours. Thank you to the Jones and Tilley families who made this their home out of wilderness in around the year 1820 and whose hard work in fieldstone removal has saved us countless hours, and thanks to you, dear reader, for finding this place. Please respect it so that every future generation may make use of it as we have.
I always get a sense of awe when working with stone walls, just because of their permanence. I always wonder about who built the ones here the first time, and what neglect happened to them over the past 200 years to make them largely tumble down and get buried. I figured I will save the future generations the pain of wondering and just tell them. I only just started digging the old wall up, and I have a ways to go before its really a good quality "stone fence" but i'm expecting it to be a multi year project.
But anyways, along the path to the garden gate from the house I planted a hedge of Hazelnuts on either side backed up by a couple hybrid chestnuts along the tree line. Its a mix of hazelnuts varieties I got from Oikos, there is like 5 kinds and 12 bushes total. Im going to put seaberries in between these too once the ones I just planted are big enough to take and root cuttings from.
Already leafed out and doing great.
And the next field over to the east is nearly cleared also, not bad considering this was 100 percent trees when I started working here this past September, and
all I use is a chainsaw and my hands. I did most of this work over our exceedingly mild winter, and I just have a little bit to clean up at the bottom and the east side. But now that most of the trees are gone (I keep a couple of the nicest ones) the soil is wide open with no trees and leaf litter to cover it so I just seeded it a few days ago. My self made mix of Timothy grass, Rye Grass, White Clover, a few kinds of annual clover, hairy vetch, daikon radish and a couple sweet lupines. The plan is for the top half of this field to be used for grazing, then towards the bottom dig a swale and have it funnel water into a small resevoir to use to water the rice paddies below it which are toward the bottom of the field. Then below that I can toss some fill to flatten the terrain and use it eventually as more garden space for crops that don't benefit from being in a fenced area, like buckwheat or potatoes.
The bottom and easternmost field is relatively flat, but also kind of swampy sometimes. Ill probably use it for grazing but cut one or two swales to catch water and nutrients flowing out of the forest above it. Then possibly at some point my dream is to build a pond down at the bottom next to the stream, giving me a true, top of the property pond (aready exists), and bottom pond. Its a long way off though, I only just started fighting back against the hawthornes and field roses that are taking the field over. I went and mowed it and ill start cutting and burning the hawthornes once the NYS burn ban is over. The probably go over and just seed it with soil building pasture seed until I can do anything more extensive with it in a few years.
But the biggest news of all:
We are going to be building a taproom for my parents brewery on this property in a couple years, at same time we build our house. The plan is to sell pints to drink there and growler fills. Also have some light prepared food options (My fiancee is going to culinary school right now in Indonesia) and also have a small fresh grocery. We are going to be producing this abundance of food anyways, much of which would just go to waste otherwise, 1 family cant eat it all. So we can offer our surplus for sale at the taproom. My parents brewery is actually in a much more remote and rural location than where we live and does fantastic, while we are only 20 minutes away from a major city. I think people will love the idea of a quick hop out to the country for some beer, not to mention the local people that will appreciate not needing to drive 15 minutes to the big box store just to buy apples, greens or eggs. And all in a beautiful picturesque setting... Everything just fits together like a puzzle with this business in this community so I think we will do great.
Also if anyone in the area wants a to take a trip trip to a great NYS farm brewery, give us a try (Shameless Plug) http://www.rstaylorbrewing.com/