Kurt W

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since Jun 21, 2009
Northport, Wash.
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Recent posts by Kurt W

I am jealous, I wish we had that much water.  Looks like a fun project.
7 years ago

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
This is from research done by Ecology Action over the course of about 40 years, and it is using the Biointensive growing method, not permaculture.  More info: http://growbiointensive.org/

That could be, I really don't remember where I saw it, and I can't find the links in my bookmarks, the link provided isn't familiar but it could be.  I wonder if the two systems would be compatible, I would think they would be.

I suppose the better answer to the OP would have been: No, you probably can not do what you intend on .75 acre if you intend to raise feed for your own animals.  I just thought that maybe some examples would be of benefit.
7 years ago
I agree with John and Ludi, kind of a small area for much in the way of animals.  Rabbits and chickens, maybe, and you would probably have to buy almost all their feed. 

Some food for thought: Not long ago I read an article about some testing done to determine how much area it took to feed one person for one year, the results was that it took 4,000 square feet to provide food for one person.  This was an all vegetarian diet, with grains grown for bread, etc.  I have not verified this myself, but this number seems to come up when I research that subject.

Our garden, located in a logged off forested area, is reaching a half acre in size, our well only puts out 1 gallon per minute, so we use a cistern to store water.  We use hugelkulture beds extensively, along with some swales to direct runoff, and work hard to maintain the organic material in the soil so that the soil retains water from the rain and what little we add from the well.  Time will tell how well this will work.

We have 20 acres and are raising right now, 36 chickens, 3 guinea hogs, and have 15 turkeys on the way, and are considering adding rabbits eventually.  We are buying feed while our own animal feed plots are growing.  We will eventually have about 4 or 5 goats for milk, along with whatever babies all the critters generate.  Those will become food for us, with any extra being sold.  We figure it will take a fair piece of the acreage we have to support us and the animals we want, along with a market garden area.  We went with smaller animals since we don't have much acreage.

7 years ago
It almost sounds like you had a freeze at some point.  For some reason, we had a similar episode here.  We planted tomatoes, and put straw around them, almost over them but not quite, and they all shriveled after it got down to 31 degrees F one night, the funny thing is, one that was totally uncovered was fine.
Tomatoes when frozen shrivel up and blacken.

Not that I am saying there was no possibility of some sort of contamination, but it sure sounds like they got hit with a freeze.
7 years ago
Water will run over a flat surface if it has somewhere to go, so a swale that is fairly flat will move water, however it could get deeper in some places as it builds up to move over a flatter area.  Swales are typically used to divert water to where you want it to go.  If they are fairly flat, then water has time to perk down in the areas where they run.  A steeper swale will run water fast, and eventually erode over time due to the water action.  Ponds are used to hold water, of course, but you can create swales that spread water out like a pond, but still keep it moving, depending on what you are trying to do with the water.

If you have ground that drains pretty fast, you could try tilling in some manure, light clay, or similar to help seal up the ground a bit.  Bentonite (a clay) used to be used to line ponds to hold water in, but it can be fairly pricey, any clay will work pretty good, but you have to get it to the site, and get it worked into the ground, so there will be some expense there.  You could also try a soil cement, which is tilling a small amount of cement into the ground, which will help move the water, but it may not soak in where you have treated the ground.  This can be done with a normal rototiller.  You only need about a 1/4 inch thick layer of cement for this type of thing, and then you have to water it enough to get good and damp, then spread it in the shape you want it, and then compact the shape, bearing in mind that the cement will want to start to harden once it is wet, but that small amount would take some time to harden.  You would only really need to till it in about 4 inches or so.

Other options are lining the swale with some sort of impermeable material, such as plastic or concrete.  Old farms I know of in central and eastern Washington state sometimes used this approach.  They would dig the swale, called a "ditch" in irrigation terms, and line it with the impermeable material if the ground soaked up too much water, and then used draft tubes to divert the water out of the ditch into smaller ditches (usually only an inch or so deep) which carried the water down the hay fields, or other crop fields.
The newer system they use is a gated pipe, which is a pipe with a bunch of little openings that have a sliding gate that can be closed or open depending on how the farmer wants the water to move.  The reason for the pipe is to cut down on evaporation.

Of course, those things all cost a lot of money, especially now with oil prices as they are.  If you have animals, or access to manure, Sepp Holzer uses that to seal up his ponds, if I remember correctly, and the same thing can be done with a swale.  You could also try some sort of device to compact the swale, like a hand roller, vibratory plate compactor, or similar to help seal up the soil by compacting it.

We know that soils with a healthy amount of organic material in it will soak up water like a sponge and hold it for some time, so by building up your soils you increase the capacity for it to hold water.  Depending on what you have under your veggy areas where you are diverting the water to, it may be laying there where you can't see it, but is available to the plants.  You could try digging a small test hole to see what is happening down there.

What we are doing with our place, since we have so much debris left over from logging operations, is building swales with hugelkulture on the edges of them , where the wood will soak up some water and hold it for the plants.  Of course this will not happen over night.  We have a mix of clay and sandy loam soils, but the loam has enough organic material in it that it holds a fair amount of water on it's own.

Hopefully you can find something of use in all that.
Good luck to you both.
7 years ago
Just commenting on what the "small flock specialist" claims, Jami, not trying to contradict you.
7 years ago
We have associates who raise and milk cows, they feed their chickens, turkeys, and emus whole raw milk mixed with barley.  This is all they feed and have no troubles whatsoever from the milk, which is fed fresh.
7 years ago
Here are some more links to try:


I believe the link above has a program where they hook you up with a retiring farmer who has no one to take over their farm, and would work a deal with someone who would like to take it over.

Try searching "beginning farmer" or something similar, I found a lot of info when I did.

You might also consider an intentional community with a farm base.  Not all of them are communes, but you should also be careful to make sure you get something for your efforts if that does interest you, a lot of them are just looking for what amounts to slave labor, but not all.  Some of them offer a legitimate deal for the right people.

Grants are typically offered for research type projects, and not just to buy land for a farm.  But there are a lot of programs for very low interest or no interest loans to buy farm land, some with zero down, the beginning farmer link above has lots of great info for anyone wanting to get into farming.
7 years ago

wmthake wrote:
As for buying:
The price of land where I live is extraordinarily high. The whole region is set to become 60% urbanized. Most pieces of land are being sat on, waiting for zoning regulations to change so they can sell for building houses.
We talking like 15 euros for 1 square meter.

That's why moving and getting other people involved was part of my plan. Need to find a place with lower prices for land.

That's why renting at this point doesn't scare me. It's kinda like something is better than nothing.


Isn't that silly about people sitting on land hoping for some event to happen that will make them money?  Over here, people still think there is lots of money to be made speculating in the housing market, even though so many people have gone broke recently doing just that. 

Of course, this could be an opportunity in the making for an enterprising person such as yourself.  While all those other people are building houses, you can be growing food for all those new people to eat.

You are probably right, renting would be a good way to get started, at least, then work towards buying.  Even 1 acre (not sure what that converts to over there) of land can grow a considerable amount.  Not long before we acquired our current land, we rented 3/4 of an acre, and grew a large garden, a dozen chickens, 9 turkeys, and 7 Nigerian Dwarf goats on it.  The land was gravely, poor ground, and by the time we left, all the manure and compost we left behind had made fertile ground out of what was basically a gravel pit.
We had to buy most of our feed, but we found sources for cheap organic feed, we just had to look around.  We found one guy that raised organic grains, and he sold us pretty cheap grain so long as he didn't have to clean it real well, leaving the chaff on, and some weed seeds in it.  Our animals didn't care one bit that the grains weren't super clean, and the chaff is good for them anyway.  All in all, even with buying feed, the products we raised were still considerably cheaper than buying from a store,  and were better all around.

Your networking idea is just what a small farmer needs.  People working with each other, trading materials, labor, etc., can sure simplify things.  For instance, we know of a gal who raises some goats, and while talking to her about possibly buying some does, she mentioned that if we didn't have a buck, she farms hers out to people who don't have one.  What she does is loan it to people to cover their does, and all she asks is that they feed it.  This way, at least part of its upkeep is done by others, and they get a stud service just for the price of a few days feed.  Of course, the risk of disease is an issue, but it illustrates the point that what you say is a good idea.  Bartering services and goods makes good economic sense.

One thing to maybe consider so far as land goes, around here a lot of the larger farmers only plant the areas reached easily with their large tractors, sometimes leaving large parcels in corners untended.  Perhaps you could find parcels of this sort in your area, and possible use an existing irrigation system they may have for your crops.  You may even be able to work out a sharecropping sort of thing with them, trading some produce for use of land they are not using anyway.  It might work out and the cost could be minimal, or nil.  Lots that others are sitting on waiting for the zoning change might be another option, maybe the people who own them would be willing to rent them for a time until the change happens.  Another might be some sloped ground that someone else views as unusable.  Our land here was considered unusable for farming, being mostly sloped ground, and the guy we bought it from thought we were weird when we said we were going to farm it, but he was probably thinking conventional farming using tractors and such.  Fruit trees will grow on this sort of ground just as well as conifers, along with anything else, so long as the farmer doesn't mind doing a lot of hand work, then any ground you can walk on will grow something.

One permaculture principle is "Use edges and value the marginal", so taking advantage of others unused land might be a possibility.

I am sure you will find something that will work for you, it took years for us to find an affordable situation, we just kept looking.
7 years ago
Thought I would throw a little info on hybrids out here.
It appears that some hybrids actually are fertile, please see:




quote from the above article:
"Morus classification is even further complicated by widespread hybridisation, wherein the hybrids are fertile."
(These are mulberries, by the way)

I seem to remember there were more I had found, if I find the info I used to have on them I will post them here.
7 years ago