Andrew McCarthy

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since Jan 27, 2016
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Lookin for fraaaands to do permaculture and other cool things with in Upstate New York, and in and around New York City where my family (parents, not children) is based.
Stone Ridge, New York
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Recent posts by Andrew McCarthy

Lots of questions! I tried to keep it organized so I could get to them all. I'm going to post another reply or two by the end of the day with some more pictures to make some of this clearer...

Glenn Herbert wrote:
First, I would like to know what interval the big contour lines on your map represent. It doesn't seem very slopey... 10'?

20ft intervals, from USGS Topo Maps. (The northeast and thickest line is 700', and the stream bed around 620' at the southern tip of the plot. I'm in the process of having a surveyor come soon to get a more precise picture. It also turns out that we have a subdivided plot of land up the western edge of the runoff stream, which could be a good pond site, and could also offer access from the north road.

How big is the creek next to the field, does it run year round, and how rocky and deep is its bed? Can you tell how big the worst floods in it have been?

The creek almost totally dries up in the peak of summer, at least from what I remember as a kid and from what my father tells me. It is somewhat boggy most of the year, as there isnt a super-dominant stream path when it isn't in full force like it was a month or more ago. The entire strip is bounded on both sides by rock walls. (I'm going to make another post with some pics highlighting some more features)

Is the red line a path or trail from the house to the field, or a proposed road?

It's currently a footpath through the woods, almost big enough to drive through, but it isn't connected to the main driveway- there's a rock wall in the way (that could be changed). I think for road access to a site near the field, coming from the northern edge road and coming down from the higher point of the property may be a more readily available way to get to the field. I like the idea of a road in about the same position as the footpath, but that may have to be a longer term project after I clear a lot of the dead wood and thin out some of the infected trees.

Do the neighbors, at least one of whom look to be landlocked, have a legal right of way along their common edge with your upper tongue of woods, or is it all informal?

As of yet I don't exactly know. Until now noone has spent much time in the field and adjacent area to their property- the land is boggy as I said above and when the forest isn't totally barren you kind of forget they're there.

Is the road near the big creek at the bottom of your land good for access? Is that creek too big to easily bridge, or too regulated to do it without hassle?

There is a small bridge at the southern boundary of our plot, and small stretch where building a bridge to gain access to the field from the south could work- but I think that's a longer-term project (at least a couple years from now).
As for regulations, I'm looking in to it a little more. There is some bad erosion along the road, and I want to explore some more of the grants that seem to be available for stream bed restoration and maintenance. Anyone who has experience with this, let me know! There is a sizable pond a few hundred yards north of the plot on the other side of the road, which feeds the western creek (Peters Kill) year-round.

Do your far future plans include using the existing house for something, or might you want to separate it and concentrate on fresh development?

Yes, although how and for what is still pretty up in the air. The family's use of the property going forward is an ongoing conversation we're having. I want to try to turn the garage into an office/workshop of sorts, as we may be able to put a greenhouse adjacent to it in the future.

I want to focus on an independent site so that I can have my own space to settle in to, but also want to inoculate the original site with as much permaculture as I can as to take advantage of the fencing, access, and height of the developed area. I will be starting on hugel beds this next week by the pool, east and uphill from the main house. I just picked up some seeds to try and get a few vegetables and herbs going for when i finish the beds.

You have a nice looking field, and it would be somewhat of a waste to use it for house building when you have a lot of scrub woodland next to it.

Thanks! I'm not really planning on anything too permanent for now- I don't see myself building anything all that big for at least a year or two, once I've planted some more and and gotten a better feel for everything. I think where you're thinking (just west of the southwest corner of the field, across the creek, is where I'll end up putting my semi-permanent 'campsite'. It's pretty secluded (being on the other side of the ridgeline from the house) and is pretty centrally located to the rest of the site. I may have to apply some drainage fixes to make the path across the creek to keep it field-accessible though.
4 years ago
Hey everyone! Thanks for your support- there's a lot of land area to take in and think about, it can get quite overwhelming!

I've been going for walks around the property several times a day for the past week or so, and a few things have come to my attention:

-The field, while open and prime for some really cool earthworks (and lots and lots of planting!), is *relatively* inaccessible at this point, except by foot. I'm beginning a dialogue with the neighbors about road access, as they have a roadway that comes pretty close to the edge of the field. I think the more ambitious elements of the homestead will have to be later this year or even next spring.

-Said neighbors have a clear line of sight to where I originally wanted to put my campsite. I'm going to camp closer to the high point in the photos later in the post, starting this weekend.

-There is SO. MUCH. DEBRIS. in the forest. There have to be at least a hundred or two dead Cedar trees that have been shaded out by the much taller deciduous trees that dominate the forest.

-I need more precise topographical surveying done, to really get the details of the ridge(s). There may be some surveys that were done when my family purchased the land, although I've contacted the firm that did the work and they are skeptical of having records from ~25yrs ago.

My current plan of action:

-Cut down dead trees and cut up miscellaneous debris into sizes I can move by hand.
-Orient said debris into huglekultur in the forest. (There will be plenty of debris from the southern side of the field to do hugelkultur in the field eventually for the *food forest*)
-Additionally, thin out some trees for use in building, as well as to clear out the understory a little bit more for other kinds of plant life.

In tandem with the forest project(s):

-Put in a series of raised-bed/hugelkultur along the pool area-fence line that borders the road- this will be my more intensive food production focused area. (open sloping lawn along north edge of property, lots of sun)
-Clear out and then plant along the northern edge of the field. I want to create a boundary high enough to screen out the neighbors looking into my field, but low enough to preserve their view of the surrounding ridges (this is part of my *negotiation* to get them to OK a roadway into the field).
-Use any good cedar and other wood post-sized wood to begin to fence in the field, so I can introduce chickens and protect future hugel and swale plantings.

My main questions or areas for seeking advice are...

-What do I plant for a visual screen with the neighbors that I can manage to suit both of our needs? I like the idea of bamboo, but i know that it can be considered invasive/a nuisance (although I would love to use it for building things!)

-I've seen Hugels in and amongst trees- is my skepticism about lack of sunlight unfounded? Additionally, what kind of under-story plants do people normally plant on these?

-I'm having trouble finding info on rules and regulations for waterways in my specific area- I would love to put some dams/ponds along the creek that runs through the property (the thinner blue line). I'm not in a rush, as I don't have the resources to do much about it yet, but want to make sure I don't set myself up for a lawsuit or a government inquiry. If done well, I think I could supply the field with all of the irrigation it could ever need (swales both retaining water but also helping feed the waterway).

-What information about the site can I provide to make it easier for y'all to give me advice?

Here are a few pics... (More to come- I'm making a set of Flickr albums and also will upload pictures as they are relevant and I have time!
4 years ago
I have been in *brief* touch with Andrew Faust- looking to take one of his advanced courses this Spring/Summer and get a chance to visit his place- it is eerily close! (And I used to live right by his spot in Brooklyn as well!) Definitely someone I would like to emulate in some capacity going forward.

Claire- that's rad! I have now followed them on Facebook and look forward to seeing what you get into- sounds like a good time! Gonna have to stop by there soon.
4 years ago
Hey Dennis,

I've just settled back into the NYC area, visiting family and such after a long trip to Australia.

I have my PDC now! Very excited to begin this next stage of intentional living.

That being said, I DID have some issues with the course- It was advertised as an intensive, theory-based course with David Holmgren + others, and it ended up being mostly remedial info, with a minimal (<10% of the course) with David. I'm still glad I went, and I met some really great Permies, both from Australia and various parts of the world (including Irene Kightley who seems to be quite prolific on these forums...), but I'd be lying if I said I got everything I wanted. I sort of knew that this was a possibility going into it, so I'm not too beat up about it, but wanted to share anyway. It's all about continuous education anyway, right? This is/was just a first step!

Thanks for all of your book recommendations, I have quite the list between yours and the list I took from the PDC.

If you're in the NYC area I'd love to meet over coffee or something, I need all of the Permie friends I can get!


4 years ago
Hi Dennis!

What are your goals for your project?

My initial goals for this summer are to focus primarily on forestry work, clearing dead trees and getting a better feel for the land- I don't want to start planning structures and larger-scale food producing systems until I get a sense of what the forest will actually look like. The wofati and such will probably be a longer-term project, so I'm going to camp outside quite a bit to familiarize myself more directly with the desired build-site. Don't want to build something only to have to tear it down due to poor planning.

So I guess I'm going to need some help figuring out what needs to be cut down and what I should leave as is- there are also a lot of 'infected' trees with fungus and such (from what I'm told- I'm really a total amateur here), so I need to get a better idea of what the local issues and concerns are in that department. The ultimate goal is to have chickens/pigs/goats or other smaller animals to graze/rotate and help build some soil fertility- it's called Stone Ridge for a reason!

I'm going to be doing more research on forestry and woodland management in general, but anything you can point me towards that would be directly relevant to my region would be very useful/appreciated.

Additionally, I'm looking for some community- here (on the interwebs) but also in person- a lot of my social circles aren't really a healthy place for me to be anymore, so I'm trying to make a conscious decision to find more supportive/ like-minded people. I'm leaving the country for a month or so to go to Melbourne- I have always wanted to go, really need a goddamn vacation after an exhausting amount of personal-life drama, it's the world-capital of specialty coffee/espresso, and adjacent to many Permaculture sites (I will be taking a PDC with David Holmgren for part of the trip!)

Upon my return (March), I'd love to meet you for coffee or something and learn more about your experience(s)!

Stay warm and I'm glad to meet you,

4 years ago
Its a good question- why not just start on the already developed/occupied land?!

My parents are part-time residents of the main house, and have spent pretty much my entire lifetime constructing (read: contracting workers to build/maintain) their own gardens (primarily ornamental) and other features that in all honesty, do NOTHING most of the time. I'd like to be mostly outside instead of in an oil-heated house with air conditioners, excessive electrical use, and, well, you get the picture.

While I would love to change that and focus on adapting their/our space to a more Permaculture mindset, they're quite happy at the moment with how things are organized, and do not feel the same fervor as I when it comes to alternative living, while they do respect my interest/passion for the topic/practice. (Both are entrepreneurs living primarily in NYC)

Part of the vision is to demonstrate some of the concepts and designs that I would eventually love to implement across the entire property, but for the immediate future my "experiments" will need to be relegated further from the main house. (And hopefully they will slowly "pollinate" their way over to my parents' immediate living space as I am hopefully incredibly successful!) In order to have a proper polyculture garden, some fowl, and other integral and relatively *standardized* permaculture systems, I need to mostly start fresh. There is also a moderate amount of visual/sound pollution from the road that runs right past the house, and I would like a little more seclusion. Starting from a blank canvas instead of trying to undo a lot of established (if unsustainable) systems seems like the course of action that will allow me the freedom I seek while still having a place to come back to for creature comforts.

Also, I know it sounds kind of crazy, but the house is too small! And I don't mean square footage (the wofati will be significantly "smaller")- there is plenty of space, but the counters are too low, doorways too short (I'm 6'4") and too much *stuff* for me to create my own dedicated personal space without the interruption of their festivities/guests/remodeling, etc... I've dreamed of my own wofati since I read Lord of The Rings as a young child, although I don't think the term was coined yet!

tldr; its my journey and my family is still skeptical so in the interest of not pissing them off I'm gonna go live with the trees near the creek!
4 years ago
Hello hello!

I am a lurker turned contributor as of this post- and it feels wonderful! You all seem super-duper-rad and the main intent of this post is to announce myself and look for people to connect with in the interest of further developing my knowledge base and beginning to network myself a community of like-minded people.

I am what some would call a 'hipster asshole' leaving Brooklyn because being a 'hipster asshole' in Brooklyn makes me sad, and the *sterile* suburbs I grew up in in New Jersey make me sadder. I first learned about the Permaculture Concept while attending school in Heron, Montana (and I'm really mad I didn't know Paul was just a few hours away!) and have felt connected to the philosophy ever since, with varying degrees practical application (mostly in abstract, mostly in systems of cafes/student organizations). I want to start on a fresh new path, and I think Permaculture is my *compass* to do it with.

I am going to be living on my family's land in Stone Ridge, NY, and am looking for help and advice on getting started. There is a traditional home and guest house/garage (that my parents live in part-time), but most of the development on the property is contained to a couple acres, and the rest (~25-30 acres) is poorly maintained forest- save a couple acres of unused, open field. My goal is to spend pretty much the entire summer outside, clearing the dead trees/thinning weak/diseased ones, and living in a temporary shelter until I have properly designed and accumulated the resources for my dream wofati/hobbit hole. My eyes may be bigger than my capacity for manual labor, but I would like to give it a shot.

My lofty goal of stealing all of Paul's ideas (and getting the one-up by learning from his meticulously documented trials/errors) and building a *Permaculture Lab* of my own in the Hudson Valley (because Montana is really, really, far away) may be a misguided dream, but I'm gonna start trying to live sustainably and tinkering and see where I end up!

I'd love y'alls help if and when you can provide it, and look forward to browsing and contributing in my own right on these forums over the next rest of my lifetime.

Thanks and I look forward to meeting any and all who come across this post!

4 years ago