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Mary Leonard

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since Jan 04, 2016
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Recently purchased acreage with my husband and kids and now we're finally able to put our permaculture knowledge into practice to become more self-sufficient.
Jackson, United States
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Recent posts by Mary Leonard

I'll look into the slip clay.  Thanks for the info.

As for the insulation there's still plenty of ventilaion and I'm not doing it as much for the temperature regulation as for the added wall thickness.  I'm just adding extra layers in case the bears decide to attempt entry again next summer.  More layers gives me more time to get out there.  Plus I'm hoping between the better roof and thicker walls hubby can tolerate a rooster 😂.  Once they start crowing before the alarm clock they go 😢.

We've got black bears and between July 2019 and August 2020 we've had 4 attacks on our goat sheds (three in one night between two sheds) and two dead goats - one last summer, one this summer.  There were also 3 attempts on the coop over the last year with no successful entries only because the coop is closer to the house and the dog hears that more easily and we can see most of it from the house.  

For the coop I've got a climbing rose trellised on fencing on the back wall and I'm planting an extra prickly juniper or three on the hillside that was used to climb onto the roof a few months ago.  I'm rebuilding the roof to repair the damage and make it stronger too.  Then rebuilding the run because it was a crappy build anyway and the bear partially collapsed a section is wall as he got on or off the roof.

I know nothing will truly stop a determined bear but every little bit helps!
5 months ago
I'm in the process of modifying my coop to be warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and more predator proof.  It's currently 2x4 construction with beadboard siding that's about 5/16-inch thick.  Reading an article in Mother Earth News about plastering a straw bale house made me wonder the feasibility of using straw as my insulator with slats or lattice to hold it in place then coating it wth plaster and whitewashing it all.  There's also a concrete floor to consider.  

Should this work as far as breathability year-round?  We're in the mountains and average 60 inches of rain a year from October to May.

What type of plaster material should I use?  I've got soil wth a decently high level of clay if that would work.

I saw another article where pallets were used to construct a variation of a cob house and I think I'll use that for my new goat shed.  I'm rebuilding totally after predators broke into the old one twice.  Can't do a full cob or straw bale for the chickens though since we aren't doing a full tear-down.
5 months ago
Thank you. The soil testing is on my list of to dos, it just hasn't gotten done yet! Guess I've got to break down and get it done. For the time being, we've periodically tossed some of the whole grain we already buy for feed into the sunnier spots and we've been taking the spent hay from the goat's shed and spreading it on areas we want grass. It frequently has lots of seeds in the mix since I pull all the tiny stuff from the bottom of the hay crib and spread it around as well. Since the last time I did this, there's a nice covering of mulch in their paddock area but we're just waiting on some rain. The pastures will not be irrigated so whatever grows has to be tough. Several grains seem to do fairly well but that's in the sunnier areas where there's already a larger open space between the trees.
3 years ago
I'm looking for ideas on what to seed my pasture areas with and when to plant it. I'm in zone 8/9 in the middle of woods on a mountain dominated by pine, cedar, redwood and some evergreen that looks like a holly leaf but I've somewhat identified as a type of oak. There's also some fir, manzanita and madrone for more evergreen and some deciduous oak. Way towards the far reaches of the property are a few buckeye trees. The soil is on the acidic side, dry from July to October, covered by a thick canopy that allows on average 2-4 hours of sun in most spots and has about a 6-12-inch layer of mostly pine leaf litter to plant in.

For animals we've got two goats and will be rotating a portion of the chicken flock through regularly. I'd like to add sheep and a cow or two in the future but have yet to talk hubby into that... And we need more fencing completed first. The areas I'm wanting to seed are not fenced yet so can be protected from the livestock. Some areas do have good honeysuckle growth but I'd like to get more variety growing in all areas.

I'll be working on cleaning up, thinning, planting and fencing between 3 and 4 acres over the next couple years.
3 years ago
The slope is just like on my property, about 45 degrees. Too steep for the riding mower.

Rain is done for the year. We average 40 inches between October and May. This year was over 50.

There's plenty of brush that needs cleared so I think I can start using that to pile on contour upslope. Thank you!

Now to figure out why 4 of my 6 fruit trees didn't leaf out. Mine are all new trees.
3 years ago
These trees are at my neighbor's house. We have free access to them. I pruned them early this spring and all but one have now leafed out better than last year. That one hasn't shown any signs of leaving dormancy. My neighbor irrigates them periodically in the warmest weather but we're both on wells so I've offered to do the labor for passive water collection beginning next fall. What's best bet: cup swales, terracing carefully around the trees, other options? He knows nothing of permaculture and I'm a beginner at putting things into practice. I will probably be taking a load of used goat bedding and straw or wood chips up for mulching and fertilizing. Anything else?
3 years ago
I've got the same problem. The only sunny and cleared hillside within a reasonable distance from the house is what we call septic hill...because that's where the septic field is located. The cleared slope area measures about 75 feet by 50 feet with the septic area taking up about 1/3-1/2 of that space. I haven't measured it accurately yet.

We've flattened the very top of the area where the tree line is and are building our coop and run there. There is room for a couple terraces between the coop and the top of the septic area. One will be pathway, one will be growing space. The terraces will be roughly on contour going around the septic with the septic area getting a 2-foot tall fence and planted with shallow rooted flowers and grasses that will self-seed.

The bottom terrace follows the line of the existing access road and consists of a lot of dirt that has been dug out and moved back up the hill in order to widen the road for easier vehicle access to animal buildings. Once we get this in place, we'll be backfilling it with the existing soil and working the uphill terraces from there. Laying the block wall then backfilling with excess soil from elsewhere on the property - cutting into the hillside as little as possible.

For the terrace walls I'm using the retaining wall blocks with the built-in set-back...all made by hand to cut down on costs. I would love to have used existing rocks but I wanted the more secure stability of the pre-formed blocks and while there are plenty of rocks in my soil, it's mostly clay. As I get the terraces built, I'll be adding partially composted bedding from the coop and barn which consists of a mix of manure, hay, straw, pine shavings and leaf litter. I'm hoping the soil will greatly improve over the next few years.

We tried digging swales our first year here and after a LOT of work and watching the swales fill with water during the rains, our crops still didn't do well so I got the idea that the terraces would do better overall. Plus, we'll be able to hook up a water harvesting/irrigation system to the house roof that we can use to water if necessary.
3 years ago
I agree with you Marco. I would only till if I were going to immediately plant, cover and not walk on it. I've only read that some think it's okay to do it once then not again.

For us with our clay soil, we're not intentionally tilling but we are moving literally tons of soil by shovel, in order to widen a road that goes towards the back of our property and lay the first row of terracing for our garden hill. The terraces after the first run will all be dirt added to the hillside instead of cut into. The other area where we're disturbing the soil is where we're leveling off to build a larger coop and run. This soil will be moved down the hill to the terracing.

Unfortunately, our only real option for building is cutting into hillsides so we're making use of that dirt in the MANY terraces we need. Not doing buildings on piers. It's building back where erosion has worn down the hill in some spots then holding it in place with proper structure and management.

For in the woods, the only way we're really disturbing anything will be to move that dead wood into the berms. The covering is only disturbed by the goats and chickens as they go over it. Once we get fencing we'll be able to rotate the animals so less overall disturbance.
3 years ago
From what I've read and watched, an initial till can be beneficial to kick start the revitalization of the soil but tilling should, ultimately, be done rarely and shallowly.
3 years ago
Sorry, I just had to smile when you said fairly sloped land...your picture shows something akin to what the closest to level parts of our property look like. Our hill is about a 45 degree slope.

For our clay soil here in California, we keep it covered with either the leaf litter from both deciduous and coniferous/evergreen trees and used animal bedding. We've built berms across the slopes with all the dead wood we've cleared from the woods...heavily wooded property here. These are collecting what's washed down the hills and creating a haven for the bugs which brings in the birds. LOTS of mushrooms growing in the berms now as well. Too bad my family doesn't eat mushrooms or I'd be into identifying and harvesting them.

Cover it with wood chips or straw, used bedding from a neighboring farm or something that you can easily find in abundance. If it's straw, then you can probably seed something like the clovers and other stuff mentioned above immediately. For wood chips or used bedding, wait a few months before spreading the seeds. Make sure those seeds are hidden and have firm contact with the ground though or your money is wasted. If you've got any hay eating livestock and don't mind the pasture grasses in that area, spread the waste hay over it. You'll mulch and seed at the same time. That's what we do with the waste hay from our goats in order to get grasses to grow underneath our trees. We still have lots of thinning to do for the canopy but the grass is starting to take hold.

Good luck!
3 years ago