Pierre de Lacolline

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since Mar 12, 2010
New Hampshire; USDA Z5
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Recent posts by Pierre de Lacolline

Aurora Cook wrote:I am actually looking for quite large pieces of land for animals, herb gardens, fruits, veggies and trees.



What qualifies as "Quite large" depends on who you're talking to. I'm in rural New Hampshire, I've got about 20ac and most of my urban/suburban friends think that's quite large. A neighboring parcel is 300ac of mature forest, and up the road there's 80ac of hay fields -- I think those are quite large. I've never lived west of the Mississippi, but I've talked to people out there and they talk about what seems to me like vast stretches of land as a "normal" sized ranch.

In someplace like the Ozarks (as Judith mentions) or New England, you could have small animals and enough gardens and orchards for your family and surplus to sell on 10 or even 5 acres if the soils are good and depending on what you've got for animals.

Also consider how much you'll be able to manage: I have an off-farm f/t job so keeping up with less than 1ac of gardens, a woodlot, homestead projects, family, and animals is at the edge of what I can manage effectively.

In northern New England, we've got at least 4 distinct seasons: Winter, Mud Season, Black Fly Season, Summer, and Leaf Peeper (tourist). There are still rural areas with relatively (for the Northeast) low prices -- probably more per acre than Ozarks. NH has no income or sales tax, which is generally offset by high property taxes but in practice on land over 10 acres you can get a big tax break by not building structures on your farm/forest land. It's like a conservation easement that you can opt out of (for a fee) in the future. Vermont has something similar but I don't know the details there. I don't know about Ozarks, but if you want to sell farm produce in NH/VT you can be in a rural area and still have access to some decent high-income markets.
5 years ago
If you don't mind annuals, I like peas & beans -- stacking functions -- fixing nitrogen, generating biomass (chop & drop), edible (pick what you want), and reseeding (about the easiest seed you can save). I like to scatter some oats so they have a little support. Oats don't stack quite so many functions though.

I'll second comfrey and burdock, just chop before they make seed. Horseradish always comes up in these contexts and it's on my list of things to try.

A short-rotation annual is buckwheat. Attracts beneficials, suppresses weeds, makes decent biomass. Reseeds if you let it go that far, but doesn't make itself a nuisance if you chop it before seeds form.

Lastly, look around you: what do you see growing vigorously at forest edges? Are there plants that you could dig up (or gather seeds from) and add to your garden that are suitable for chopping?
5 years ago

Renate Haeckler wrote:I noticed the same thing - we had a pile of cattle panels laying on the ground and the grass coming up through them was taller and thicker than anywhere else. I've read grass near any sort of barrier - fence, log on the ground, etc. will grow taller. Something about protection from the wind and drafts, I think.



Probably also keeps it from getting trampled and over the longer term, the soil from getting compacted.

Cj Verde wrote:Chickens are the bane of my existence right now. I'd kill 'em all except that I love those eggs! Half of them are contained but the other half are free ranging all over despite having clipped the wings on one-side. It's impossible to plant in the garden - or anywhere for that matter!



I know what you mean. I planted a hugelbeet with my son this weekend, and had to scurry to throw together some fencing to keep the chickens out before they were released for free-ranging that afternoon. The deer will at least wait until stuff has come up, but the chickens will go nuclear on anything within walking distance.

Have fun with the PDC!
5 years ago

nustada adatsun wrote:The issue with insulation, is that it works in both directions resisting heating and cooling.



This is exactly what is happening. After the snow had melted this spring, I was scraping back wood-chip mulch around some trees to dress with some compost, and the mulch was still frozen solid starting at about 1" deep.

My pile of horse manure freezes at least a couple of feet thick in the winter (low temps around -10°F), but I don't think the very center/bottom of the pile gets frozen solid. If you wanted horse manure to keep the ground from freezing, I think you'd want it to be at least 4' deep.

My strategy for getting the ground to warm up faster in the spring is: (1) don't leave a thick organic mulch after the snow has melted and (2) raised beds. My "raised beds" are just mounded up soil, doesn't have to be a built structure of any kind. Removing mulch helps the sun hit the soil and warm it up, prevents the mulch from being an insulator. I also find that areas near where I have low stone walls seem to warm up faster -- the rocks absorb heat from the sun and release it at night, so on warm sunny spring days they keep the immediately surrounding area from cooling off so much when it gets cold at night. I've also been known to go into the garden and scrape away the last bits of snow off the beds so that the sun starts hitting the soil sooner than it would otherwise...
5 years ago
Patrick - Lashing down anything won't work well here, we frequently get pretty strong winds.

Jay - I'd be interested in seeing plans. PM me or post a link?
5 years ago
cob
I'm in NH, USA; about 40" of rain yearly, much in the form of snow which is on the ground November - April. Fall and spring tend to be wet periods -- we'll get a week or two of rain/dampness at a time with no real chance for anything to dry.

I'm planning on building a small family-size cob oven. I have no experience with cob. Should I plan on building a roof over it or otherwise protecting it from moisture?

I'd suppose that using it regularly will bake away dampness...
5 years ago
cob
I've seen wood stacked 8' high between a couple of sturdy trees to work as a privacy fence.

Last couple of years I've used all the rakings from under the pile after the firewood is gone as the base for a hugel bed. In years prior I've sent it through a chipper/shredder and used it as mulch.

Wood pile makes a nice home for mice, which keeps the cats entertained. (Though I still don't think this is actually a net positive unless I delude myself into thinking that they have a home outside and won't come in my house...)

It's an effective snow fence -- as long as you don't need to immediately use the wood on the side of the stack that's all full of snow.

As you tear down the pile, remove the center so that you have 3 sides. This makes a little temporary "room" that can provide a bit of shelter from the wind. I sometimes store things in here that I don't want to blow around.

A wood pile catches sunshine and warms up faster in spring. Lots of thermal mass here. Seems like it could make a useful backstop for a greenhouse, or even behind some shrubbery that you want to get a head start on spring thaw. Or as protection if you're trying to grow something that's a little out of your hardiness zone. Or alternatively grow something on the north side of a pile that you want to warm a little more slowly in the spring.

Wood piles can mark the edge of a driveway/parking area in the winter so that you know where to stop plowing.
5 years ago
The kids want to help me with tending "chicken gardens", so I had some help yesterday moving debris from the log yard to a new hugel bed. We'll end up with a couple of C-shaped beds with the opening facing both southwest and uphill to catch runoff from heading down slope. It's below the manure pile so they'll trap nutrient runoff too. And it's within hose-reach (but still downhill enough to have pressure) from the water barrel under the barn roof gutter so I can irrigate easily when needed.

Now the dilemma: I have a spot where I could drag out some decent sized logs for piling up in a big hugel bed. They've been sitting for a few years so they've got a good start on getting nice and spongy. But I have a hunch that there's a skunk hiding in that pile! The cable on the winch is 150' so I can be a good distance away when the logs move, but someone's got to climb around on the pile and hitch a chain around each log to begin with...
5 years ago
I can't imagine what it would be like to have more manure and compost than I needed...

Pumpkins and squash LOVE growing in manure. I have never had such beautiful plants and fruit as the volunteers that grow out of the manure/compost pile.
5 years ago