Rene Nijstad

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since Oct 04, 2015
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Born in The Netherlands, now living on our permaculture farm in Colombia. College degree in town planning, worked in research for some time, started my own company in graphical design after that. The economic crisis of 2009 wrecked my company, which made me severely think what to do next. After much research and some feelings of despair I stumbled on Permaculture as the obvious solution for both my own future as well as the future for our planet. Bought a 10 hectare farm together with my partner in 2014 and we're working on setting it up as a demonstration site for PC.
La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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Recent posts by Rene Nijstad

Thanks for sharing! I just finished reading the whole article and it indeed was a good one!
2 months ago
Did you think about having a small meat chicken house inside the greenhouse? They don't need a lot of space and they will add some heat to maybe keep things above freezing. After 4 months of doing heating they can go into the freezer as a good measure for irony
3 months ago
It depends on what is causing the diarrhea. I've had problems with parasites (amoeba). That's not your average bacterial infection that goes away relatively fast. The only thing that worked for me was raw garlic. About 6 medium sized cloves, once a day every other day. Relieve started after a week or two,  but since parasites are notorious for hanging around I needed to repeat this every second week for months to get them out and not show activity again.
3 months ago
First thing, the smaller the space the more productive you can make it! Why? Because you can invest more time per square meter to weed, water, fertilize, guide, layer, etc. Don't underestimate how much food you can grow in just 30m2! Or even on a balcony or a window still...

For plastic packaging vs distance, I would think it's best to go for local first. Plastic or not. Complain about the plastic to someone closer to you and the chances are bigger that they pick up on it. Anyone far away will probably just ignore your complaint. Plus if supply lines will ever fail you have at least encouraged a local supplier. That's good for redundancy.

It's not really ideal answers I have but I hope it helps you move forward a little. Let's focus on small steps forward instead of being paralyzed or slowed down because of the need for perfect answers.
4 months ago
We have similar slopes as you have, also heavy clay, very sticky when wet and very hard when dry. We have noticed that rainwater barely infiltrates in our soils if we do not break up the dense layers in the topsoil. Since we have to do that anyway in the areas we plant in, and we do not want to loose any rainwater, we terrace everything.

We're making small terraces, so that if maybe we'll have an accidental washout the damage is limited. All terraces we make have a slight angle, where the downslope side is higher than the upslope side. In heavy rains that means excess water won't flow over the edge, but it will flow to the backside of the terraces. Like this you can easily prevent erosion. We built stairways of rocks, which are also the spillways for excess water. When you try to retain rainwater it is very important to always have a way for excess water to escape.

The picture below shows how it looks after it's done. It works great, we also regularly have 100mm per 24 hrs rain (actually it falls in just a few hours) with one big event where we had 90mm in just 90 minutes, and we had NO runoff from the terraces. It all went into the soil. Very happy with that.
4 months ago
I'm wondering how many bears you have to deal with. One or just a few or a lot? I'm also wondering how many hornets nests you have to deal with. A few or a lot? Mostly if we leave nature to do her thing, it all stays within some balance that prevents us to have to deal with problematic excess. Are these problems a real excess or are they bearable (haha, pardon the pun)...  The main thing is if we are dealing with a problem or just with our natural surroundings?
5 months ago
I saw 2 pumas crossing the road right in front of me when driving home. It was about 500 meters before reaching our land. They ran and jumped and I realized they were pumas because they looked exactly like the logo of the puma shoes when they jumped over the road. I would say about 2.5 or 3 times the size of a cat. I was amazed... I never knew they lived around here.
5 months ago
When we started a little over 6 years ago, we got advise from a seasoned permaculture designer telling us to "do nothing irreversible yet!!"... We thought that wasn't helpful because we needed to at least do something. So we did, we started all kinds of projects on several places. We got some results and a bunch of failures.

For the big things: water, access and buildings we started with water: a test swale here and there and some ponds on the keypoint where the mountain slope changes from steep to flatter (which is obvious stuff according to the theory). We dug a road almost on contour to improve our access across the land and we refrained from building anything else than pig pens. Most of all we learned to observe a lot and to do little things and then observe what effect they had.

From the obvious stuff we slowly went to improve water retention and access more and more. Until we finally figured out where we wanted which structure for what reason. That whole process took 5 years, but we do have a very solid plan now. It just took a lot of trials to improve understanding. So my advice would be to try and observe and try and observe; always on a small scale until something becomes obvious to you. What becomes obvious can then be planned to make it happen.

Never rush things, but never stop interacting either. Be patient, look at what happens. Try to understand the patterns. Water is always paramount. Access always leads to options. And structures are simply needed to solidify a site design. In the mean time whatever you do or try, always try to gain a yield...
6 months ago
We have some relatively steep slopes and we've terraced the areas we want to use, with an excavator. We dig a small road first that goes up or down the slope, and from that road we go sideways. When making terraces make sure that the downslope side is made higher than the upslope side, so that excess rainwater does not flow over the edge but towards the mountain side. Also make sure that there is an overflow somewhere so that excess water can drain of. Without that overflow you risk landslides in heavy rains (unless you're willing to build retaining walls to hold everything in place).
6 months ago
Hi Brian,

I'm writing this reply only because this is a permaculture forum. If this was solely a homesteading forum, or a prepper place I would have passed.

An important thing central to permaculture is that it can be a good method to restore abused land, or at minimum to prevent more functional ecosystems from being destroyed for human activity. A forest is a functional ecosystem. Clearing forests is therefore not really a permaculture idea. What is a good idea according to permaculture, is to take on a wasteland and bring it back to life and productivity. If you can do that, you're adding to the growing amount of people who prove permaculture works. Somehow and somewhere we have to stop the destruction of the natural world.

I know the hurdles in that. We ourselves bought a totally ruined and abused piece of land in a harsh wet-dry tropical climate. It took us years to figure out how to create a better habitat and to see what works here and what doesn't. Or just to help repare the destruction brought to this place in the past. People now at least say that our land looks way greener than theirs in the dry season...

If costs are an issue then buying a piece of wasteland is also a good idea because nobody really wants it (huge amount of permies in deserts or dry climates for example). But time might be an issue... Or convenience...

In my experience going the permaculture way is at first the hard way... But after some years as your understanding grows, it turns into the more relaxed way. You don't panic anymore when a drought hits, because you made your place resilient in so many ways. You don't even waste half of what you did before anymore...
6 months ago