Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Asberry Acres Forest Garden Update

I've been busily gathering information about plants/seeds that I have on-hand and on order. The post on the mini-guilds should be finished on Wednesday or Thursday.

In the meantime, I'd be happy to field any questions anyone has!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leave It Better Than You Found It

Question everything - especially cherished beliefs

Friday, February 18, 2011

Asberry Acres Forest Garden - The Permaculture Plan

Here's the homestead...
The Grand Plan
Trees and bushes in the plan:
This diagram shows the overstory at full growth and other large features:
  • Small pond - water 'battery' for the soil, different habitat, water for bugs, birds, etc.
  • Beehives (dark blue squares) - want to try Warre hives to encourage hive health over honey production.
  • Trees are in semi-regular pattern to maximize sunlight to the understory and fruit/nut production but not so regular as to look like a typical orchard, plus, I don't have a feel for more 'natural' placement yet.
  • Pears, plums, and apples - seriously considering using dwarf varieties. Would also like peaches, but need more room!
Currently, the land is overgrown with weeds, has an unburnt burn pile (wood), and another two old burn piles with metal and glass pieces in them.This means my first priority will be to clean them up. My second priority will be to either burn or mow the weeds. Burning will do a better job killing the ungerminated weed seeds, but I'm not sure if there's enough dead growth to burn the whole area, however, if there is, I don't want an out of control fire either.

All of the trees and shrubs have been ordered and it'll be my luck for them to all come in at once. I'll create mini-guilds in a 2' radius around each tree. Considering the bad shape that the soil is in, I'll need to bring in a large amount of carbon for amendment. I've had a lot of success with lasagna mulching so I'm going to need to find good sources of cardboard/paper/newspaper, wood chips, and manure. I'm thinking about plowing the entire area and seeding it with clover and alfalfa. Those cover crop plants will start repairing the soil so that I won't need to rely on external inputs as much as the mini-guilds start to expand outward. The bulk clover and alfalfa seeds will be my next big purchase. After that, but before the trees arrive, I need to get mycelial and bacterial inoculant.

With needing to dig the small pond, I'm also considering putting in some tiling as a way to increase the pond's water storage and distribution. Since it's such a big job, I'm going to seek out expert opinion to find out what possible consequences this may have.

The house and shed (not shown) need to have gutters added which I'll then collect into an IBC tote. That water will be for the intensive, raised bed gardens on the south side of the house. So that I don't have too many projects this year, I'll probably run pipes to the beds for a drip irrigation system next year.

Would love to have an outdoor kitchen. Recently saw plans in Mother Earth News for building an oven that I liked. There is no reason to coop up all that heat indoors during the summer.

Next year, or maybe even this fall, would be a good time to put hoops over the raised beds. Longer term I want to build a passive solar greenhouse. Stacking functions, I'm wanting to put a wood-gas generator in there as a Combined-Heat-and-Power (CHP) system. Since wood gas burns cleanly, the exhaust can then be taken in by the plants (with appropriate cautions for humans entering.)

My biggest project is going to be putting in a Gobar gas system. A humanure system might be simpler, but the Gobar gas system creates two useful outputs: methane gas and high quality manure. I've read that the solids output might still contain disease since it's an anaerobic process, however, any issues with that would be quickly solved by composting them.

One glaring issue with this plan is that there is no mention of animals. I know that I definitely want goats and ducks, but since I've spent the last two years focusing on learning about forest gardening I simply haven't had the time to learn what I need to learn. I'm also thinking this is an area for the kids to become expert in.

Well, this is the plan. Now to see how well I execute it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Asberry Acres Homestead

What I Have to Work with
Last summer, I purchased a property with an acre and a half of land with a house built in the late 1800s. The house was the original homestead for the family that owns the several hundred acres surrounding me and was moved from the original location to a corner plot that had been industrially farmed. A big bonus of the house being moved is that it sits on a brand new, well constructed foundation with a big crawl space! Unfortunately, with the house being so old and the previous owner (not from the family that built the home) having treated it so poorly, I've had to spend significant amounts of money for repairs and remodeling.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Number 1 Go-To Permaculture Forest Gardening Resource: Plants for a Future

What is it?

"Plants for a Future (PFAF) is a charitable company, originally set up to support the work of Ken and Addy Fern on their experimental site in Cornwall, where they carried out research and provided information on edible and otherwise useful plants suitable for growing outdoors in a temperate climate." The charity's web site contains a database of 7000+ rarely utilized plants categorized by edible, medicinal and other uses, 200+ articles, and community discussion forum.

Leave It Better Than You Found It
The Plants for a Future site and database was compiled/grown/given freely by Ken Fern so that others may spend their time enjoying, rather than working in, their own gardens. "It is our belief that plants can provide people with the majority of their needs, in a way that cares for the planet's health."

Why is PFAF the first site I visit?
Because it helps me answer my initial questions...
How tasty is it? What part(s) are edible? Is it a good medicinal, and why? What part(s) are medicinal? What zones will it grow in? What is it's growth habit? How much shade will it tolerate? What pollination needs does it have? Does it have any close relatives that might be a better fit for what I'm looking for? What are the basic cultivation needs? What does it look like?

I've also noticed that most plants have conflicting information from various sources, but Ken's observations tend to be much more accurate.