Mori no Niwa

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since Aug 10, 2009
Land-steward and organic matterer at a young 3-acre forest garden in a small town in zone 5b.
Van Buren Co., MI
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Recent posts by Mori no Niwa

I've underplanted various things under existing apple trees (after first sheet mulching with cardboard and a good layer of woodchips to smother the existing grass/weeds). Plants that seem to have worked best and stayed around longest:
1 ) Groundcover strawberries (which flower but don't really fruit) from Oikos, variety "Kelly's Blanket"
2 ) Ostrich Ferns
3 ) Lower-growing Mints
4 ) Clovers (tend to only persist in the sunnier spots)
5 ) Comfrey (seems pretty shade tolerant, though it won't grow as well in full shade)
6 ) Lunaria aka "Honesty / Money Plant", Dame's Rocket and other Spring ephemerals like Daffodils, Dandelions and Ramps
7 ) Sweet Woodruff (aggressive spreader for shade, though not all that useful)
8 ) Wood Poppy (aka Celandine Poppy), early flowering plant, aggressive re-seeder
9 ) Solomon's Seal (good "asparagus" crop for shade, though may grow taller than you'd like, and deer nearly killed my patch this year)
10 ) Groundnut (I'd intended these to grow up into the trees, but they have a mind of their own and sprawl wherever they want to)

I usually end up throwing some inexpensive seeds of various clovers, daikon radishes, turnips, brassicas and other "forage" crops around, and a few will take root and grow, but since it's fairly shady, they usually don't persist or thrive.
One hot tip: Nettles are a wonderful plant to grow on the edge of a property, but best NOT to plant them under fruit trees, turns into a scratchy maintenance/harvest problem.

PJ
Van-Kal Permaculture

1 year ago
I've planted a few blackcurrants in recent years, mostly 'Riverview' and 'Consort.' This is the first year any have fruited (Consort, I think), and the flavor of the ones I have tried so far is really bizarreā€”I would liken it to pine tar mixed with an essence of a raw green bell pepper. Will wait and see if any of the other bushes have better-tasting fruit, but so far not something I'm really excited about. I have had a couple of Red Currants growing and fruiting for a year or two, and those are small, very tart fruits, but beautiful to look at and not too bad to eat fresh off the bush. Likewise with my Clove Currant (Ribes odoratum), it has lovely yellow clove-scented flowers in spring and bears prolifically, with larger dark purple fruit that has a sweet/tart/musky flavor that most people seem to like. The fruits on those are larger, maybe 5/8" (15mm) in diameter.
PJ
2 years ago
Hello. I'm in SW MI, west of Kalamazoo. I was looking at land and houses a lot in 2009-10, and am still somewhat following the market around here. At that time there were a lot of foreclosures that went pretty cheaply, and there are still some around. I got a foreclosed 900sf house in a small town (1/5 acre lot) for $25k...the house is nothing special, but was liveable. I also got a good deal on land from a family member, I got 3 acres for $10k, though it was pretty poor land (dry, sandy soil and flat terrain with no improvements, i.e. water, electricity, sewer, etc.), that's about a mile away from my house in the same town. I plan to eventually build at the 3-acre site. I occasionally see land offered on sites like Realtor.com or Zwillow, but it's also good to check the local Craigslist (I usually searched for the term "acres" in the Housing section) and classifieds. Are you already around GR or trying to shop remotely? Driving around the country is also a good method to find stuff that's not advertised elsewhere.

The fracking trend is very disconcerting, there seems to be more of it farther north in the state, but recently the Allegan State Game Area (the county north of me) has been considered for fracking, and that's pretty close for comfort. I know the closer you get to a bigger city the fewer options there are (thanks to sprawl), and more cost; so it's kind of a catch-22 where you'll probably have to live a good distance outside GR if you want to find a great deal, though if you're willing to live in a marginal/sketchy neighborhood in the city (sometimes on large lots; some friends of mine got a nice old Victorian in a so-so part of Kzoo with an acre of partially-wooded land for around 80k), I'm sure there are good older houses at decent prices.

One other option is tax-sale auctions; they only have these once or twice a year but you can get land cheaply if others aren't bidding it up. https://www.tax-sale.info/ A parcel near me of 15+ acres went for about $25k, though it's mostly forested land within the village limits of my town, so you can't hunt there, and the land is also a bit swampy (as much cheap land around here tends to be), so its usefulness is limited for many applications.

Best of luck!
PJ
5 years ago
Nice to meet you all, I'm PJ, located in Van Buren Co., SW Mich. Adam and Daniel especially, please get in touch with me or sign up for our regional e-mail group "Van-Kal Permaculture" (see link on my profile page). We also have a Facebook page and a new website, vankalpermaculture.org. There are some awesome people in this area doing great things. The MI Permaculture Convergence last fall was a first-class event, and I believe I met one or two of you there. I have a 3-acre forest garden project that's going into its fourth year now, but it's a challenging site: flat, dry, and sandy, with lots of pests (moles, deer and rabbits). Anyone in SW Mich. is welcome to join our discussions and events, we try to meet about once a month for site tours, movie screenings, workshops, permablitzes, potlucks or whatever.
-PJ
5 years ago
Hey Amanda, glad to hear of more permaculturally-minded folks in west Michigan, sounds like you're doing some great things!

I'm located in southwest MI, Van Buren county, a bit west of Kalamazoo. We have a permaculture group for the SW region called Van-Kal Permaculture (find us on Facebook or join our e-mail listserve via the link in my profile). If you're farther north, there are lot of PC types around Traverse City; if you're somewhere in between, I'm not as familiar with what's going on in that area. A woman named Brenda Groth lives in the northern lower peninsula and has contributed all kinds of wonderful posts to this site, I'm sure you'll hear from her if you haven't already. Last fall there was a MI Permaculture Convergence that brought people together from around the state, that was a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to this year's event in the fall.

I've got a 3-acre forest garden in the works, going into the fourth year of the project, though it's been a slow start on account of poor, dry, sandy soils and pest pressure from moles, rabbits and deer. The link to your blog didn't work for me, but I'd love to see what you're up to and invite you to join in our e-mail group discussions if you're so inclined.
-PJ
5 years ago
Andy, we have a permaculture group in SW Michigan called Van-Kal Permaculture, and we'd love to meet you and talk about your property sometime. We have a "Google group" e-mail listserve (just search for the name), a Facebook page and a website (vankalpermaculture.org). I'm in Lawton, which is a bit south and east of prime blueberry country, but there are a lot of grapes grown around here. There's a guy in our group growing some organic blueberries in Bangor, he's got about 100 large bushes that were already on the farm he purchased.

I too would recommend trying various clovers and mints. Depending on where you are, you can get some clover varieties (and other cover crop or pasture seeds) in bulk at local seed outlets like SMS in Decatur. What are your soils like, how wet and how peat-y? Of the species Andrew listed, many are larger shrubs or even trees, which you'd have to account for in terms of shade and canopy spacing. The herbaceous perennials like yarrow, bergamot, wild ginger, and wintergreen would probably work well and not shade out your main crop, while providing other ecosystem services. Pine needle mulch is nice if you can get it in quantity. Yarrow and bergamot have both done well on my site, which is dry and sandy.

I've had a lot of problems with rabbits browsing my blueberry plants, but it sounds like yours are off to a running start, which is good.
-PJ
5 years ago
Hi Daniel,
Not sure where in SW Michigan you are located, but there's a growing number of us in the Van Buren/Kalamazoo County area and we've recently started a localized e-mail discussion group. Please join if you feel so inclined, we may be having a get-together of some sort soon, and will certainly be meeting every month or two during the warmer seasons.

https://groups.google.com/d/forum/vankal-permaculture

And hi Brenda, still hoping to make it up your way someday and see your place, sorry to hear that the Pawpaw seeds I sent a few years ago didn't make it!
Thanks and best wishes,
PJ

6 years ago
Hello all,
There are some PC-minded folks with an e-mail list and semi-monthly meetings (during the non-frozen months), we're calling it Van-Kal Permaculture. Glad to see more people in the region! I'm in Lawton and there are a few here, some in Bangor, several in Fenville, people in Kalamazoo, and others spread out here and there. I've made some good contacts through the local Conservation District's programs, the local Transition Towns movement, the Kzoo Wild Ones chapter, a local nature studies group called ACORN, and more. Would love to visit more people's sites and talk about what we're all doing. The PC mailing list is here:

https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!forum/vankal-permaculture

PJ
6 years ago
Hello all,
I haven't visited these forums in a while, they've really broken them into specialized topics, which is handy for finding likeminded/nearby people or specific information. I'm in a small town in Southwest Michigan (cold end of zone 6) and have a 3-acre forest garden in the works, along with a 1/5 acre yard around my house (a mile distant from the forest garden). I've been veg for 20 years and vegan for 15, into Permaculture for 5-6 years now. I'm hoping to replace more of my staple foods with nuts and other perennial carbohydrates in years to come as the "mast" trees I've planted start bearing. Also looking forward to eating more fresh and dried fruit, growing some grains/beans on a smallish scale, and doing more foraging for wild foods as my site develops.

I've had some permie friends get pretty defensive/dismissive around topics of animals / veganism. We can all agree that factory farms and industrial agriculture are bad, so that's a good starting point. While I don't agree with killing animals for food, I have much more respect for people who keep and kill their own animals, or hunt, than the average person who buys fast-food/supermarket meat. Glad to see that there are more of us out there!
PJ
6 years ago
Whatever you do, DO NOT order seeds from "White River Source" nursery in Richmond, Indiana. I ordered and paid for Alder, pine nut and Peashrub seeds, then when they didn't send them or return e-mails, I learned the hard way that they have a history of ripping people off. ops:

I found this after I got cheated by them:
http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/c/5893/

Best of luck,
PJ
7 years ago