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Matthew Hugo

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since Mar 25, 2014
North Carolina Piedmont
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Recent posts by Matthew Hugo

Hi all,

I'm obsessed with nuts. I'm from the Southeast and I dream of harvesting nuts from abundant chestnuts, hickories, oaks, hazelnuts, and native fruit trees (pawpaws and persimmons). However everytime I try and think about the specifics of implementing/managing such a system (especially on the site I have in mind) my head starts spinning. I thought maybe someone here has some ideas or would like to dream with me I don't own or manage any land, but for a project I'm designing this sytem on a site that I've spent some time on. It's in mountainous western NC at about 2000 ft. and gets about 40-45" of rain. The slopes are intense (15-30 deg.), the soil is thin (past clearcutting left just a couple feet of soil over shale and conglomerate), however what is there is of a nice texture. This is all theoretical so I'm not concerned with getting it perfect. Here's a topo map of the site and some of my goals (The yellow lines are the property boundary (property is shaped like a boot). It's about 30 acres, and that creek at the bottom runs all year, and it gets quite shady down there due to a ridge to the south.)



Goals:
1. Harvest enough chestnuts, acorns, hazelnuts, hickory nuts to eat myself, share, sell some and earn some cash. Not necessarily cash crop scale, but a nice chunk of change.
2. Graze animals below the trees. Not sure what animals work best, but I would love to get benefits of understory control for ease of nut harvest. Stocking density doesn't have to be production scale, more like ecological-benefits scale.
3. Use fire as a management system in the fall or early spring, much like native cultures often have in oak/hickory/chestnut forests to clear understory and reduce pest pressure like acorn weevils.

Now I'm not totally crazy. Even though I harvest and enjoy acorns and hickories every year, I realize the market potential is lacking to say the least. Part of a good design would include plans to develop those markets locally or look into shipping to cities that have large populations of people whose ethnic cuisine includes acorns (looking at you Korea). Nut crops are also heavy N-feeders. My idea is growing productive N-fixers and using chop-and-drop, or something like that. Autumn olive comes to mind. I'm very open to other ideas. The biggest problem I'm having is thinking up a way to develop the degraded topsoil, and stop more from eroding. What are the pros and cons of creating berms and swales on such a steep site with little topsoil to begin with? I'm worried about the logistics of getting heavy machinery up to this spot, and the compaction of the soil from the machines themselves. And if there's only a little soil to start with the berms or terraces would have to be tiny unless we brought in soil. And then the trees themselves. There's been a little work on breeding annual-bearing oaks (to avoid the mast cycle, which would make production hard) but I'd love to hear if anyone else has thought about this. Pecan-hickory hybrids are also super interesting to me (tastier nuts like shagbark hickory, but easier cracking and more annual-bearing like pecans).

There's a lot here to chew on and I'd love to hear if this makes anyone else excited! Or if there's some super big problem I'm missing feel free to tell me.
2 years ago

Dennis Lanigan wrote:The Wild Roots land project is outside of Asheville, NC if you're interested. I would definitely visit them to step out of the academic talk and meet real folks living a permaculture/hunter/gatherer/scrounger lifestyle. The Firefly Gathering is worth checking out along with the folks at Wild Abundance. Natalie Bogwalker, who's an old friend of mine, is an old resident of Wild Roots, started Firefly Gathering, and teaches with Wild Abundance. I recommend taking classes with her.



Dennis, would love to here more about your time at Wild Roots. I actually emailed them a few days ago asking when a good time to visit would be (btw, do you know if there is a better way to get in touch?) hoping that Wild Roots would be just what you described- a way to live more primal and make this stuff my reality. I still feel like a community rooted in one, relatively small, plot of land, is off the mark from a where I'd like to be one day, but that's not to say what's going on there isn't valuable in and of itself.

Definitely going to try and attend Firefly! I'll say hi to Natalie for you if I can
5 years ago
WOW awesome discussion going on and so many points I wanted to jump in at! This sort of thing really excites me and I'm very interested in following what's being done to facilitate this community. Don't know how much more I have to add to the discussion in the "why" of it all, as I think most people here are rather convinced that a HG lifestyle is something worth striving for. I'm very much in agreement that we enter into cahoots with nature when we have a non-sedentary existence, and we fight something inside ourselves every minute we deny it. I tend to believe that the more you attach yourself to (your personal property, such as land) the more you strengthen a false notion of yourself as an entity which has dominion over aspects of its environment. Hunter-gatherer modes of life made immediate sense to me when I learned about them because there is minimal separation between person and environment, animal and habitat.

I had kind of put HG-living in the back of my mind until recently, considering it unattainable, but I like the sort of system you've drawn up with multiple "nodes" or camps all next to wilderness areas to ensure plenty of wildlife exchange. It really excites me to see all this going on. I'm not so much interested in finding the perfect non-sedentary/traditional HG-mimicking model, and all the academic research that inspires, but rather making it happen in whatever capacity it can, and doing whatever that requires. I have lived in NC my whole life, and would love to do it here where I have laid down so many connections to the landscape/local
flora and fauna, but to me it's a larger priority to make this way of life happen than to be in any specific area.

Excited about this thread, hope I didn't catch it too late!
5 years ago