Such interesting land! If you've been reading about permaculture, you know that one of your first tasks is to live there and observe. California flora/landscapes are so foreign to me, and despite the excellent photos I can't observe much so far (!). Are some of the standing trees dead, or is this a seasonal issue? Dead trees can make great hugelkultur.
I also notice a lot of aged wood chips near the top of the stairs. Great! And a terraced section next to the stairs - but are those treated railroad ties? That might not be the place for edibles. (And why do the stairs look so much like an escalator?)
Wherever the chicken bedding/litter was dumped is likely a great spot for a garden, if the chickens have been gone for 6 months or more. Awesome fertility! Are you a gardener already? If not, definitely read up on it. There is so much to learn, and fortunately, mistakes are usually cheap! Think about what you and your family like to eat, and learn about what is easy to grow. Don't try too many things that are hard to grow. Easy: brassicas started from seedlings, cucumbers, summer squash, carrots, radishes (the easiest!), potatoes. Tomatoes can be fussy - they get diseases, need fertility but not excess nitrogen (otherwise the crop is tomato leaves!). But don't be afraid to try!
I always put in perennials when I first arrive, observation be damned. I like to get them started from tiny plants or seed, so that my garden starts to fill out the next year. I wonder how this works in your USDA zone. Is there winter? Is there a rainy season and a dry season? So much to learn. But I would figure out where a couple of fruit and nut trees could go sooner rather than later, and plant them very carefully. That way, you're one more year closer to having fruit! You can plant more later.
Congratulations! So exciting. It looks like a beautiful spot.
Roberta, I waited a year for chipdrop and then started calling arborists. Fortunately, a local tree company is headed by a guy who lives a mile or two away, and is generally eager to dump chips. He is so happy to have a place to donate chips that he came over with his tractor to push the pile to where my husband wanted it!
I know chipdrop was operating in my area, but I was never the lucky recipient. This works better!
I had no luck with chipdrop, either, but I called local tree services and found an eager donor! I love wood chips in the vegetable garden. Sure, some of them are too big, but I just take them out or move them aside. Great mulch.
Daron, I left a comment on the [wonderful] blog post!
I’m not sure, but I think it’s too soon. In the videos the plants are more mature and then the leaves have curled. The roots would have to take up the manure and then the herbicide would have to affect the plants. Your sunflowers are still growing their first leaves, likely fueled by the nutrients in the seed.
It seems unlikely that a farmer would use other herbicides on a hay field, but I don’t truly know. And aminopyralid is a persistent herbicide, one that is destined to stay in the plants (and in the horses’ manure) for a long period of time. However much we hate other pesticides, they don’t all have this kind of staying power.
I'm Anne, retired, living on 10 acres in Reading (just north of Springfield on Rt. 106), about an hour from your new place. Congratulations on (almost) moving to Vermont! I'm pretty new to Permies myself, and don't know any other way of connecting with permaculture people locally. (Wait - there was that FaceBook link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/permaculturevermont/about ). Although, we are surrounded by people raising organic produce and livestock, despite being in close proximity to Okemo and Killington and plenty of second homes.
Bummer about the lockdown, although it seems likely that out-of-state travelers may soon be welcome again. The governor has done a remarkable job of closing things down based on science and data - what a concept! - and beginning to open up using the same cautious approach. This approach has led to amazing stats on the virus and a lot of healthy Vermonters.
I recall now I did overseed my hill and the sodden clay area with clover our first year here. Where it grew, it's doing well. It didn't solve the problem of barren scrub near the top of the hill; it mostly grew elsewhere.
So irritating about your neighbor! I never heard of anyone feeding the deer except hunters, and that's illegal in many places. It's a bad idea anyway, it brings them into proximity with humans and creates highway hazards, not to mention the damage to your food production or even just landscaping.
There is deer repellent on the market - it smells of garlic and (to deer) dead meat. To me it smells vaguely of garlic, and not unpleasant. Maybe it needs to be applied to the deer food under cover of darkness. Also sprinklers and other sorts of alarms that go off with motion detectors, but those usually scare them at first and then they grow accustomed to it. Poor fat deer.
I have some new (small) trees. I made circular fences around each one with 2" x 4", 48" tall welded wire fencing. Each protective circle is anchored by a steel T-post. No deer so far, but it's early. The deer never came close to my garden last year. My husband thinks it's because it's so close to the house. Of course, nobody is feeding the deer here in Vermont. We can look at them often; no need to bring them in close to decimate the garden!
As the beleaguered owner of a steep hill, I vote for whatever will hold the soil in place. I’m unwilling to try to dig swales on my hill - too steep for heavy equipment anyway. I have used debris windrows to trap the leaves and whatnot in an attempt to begin to hold what’s left of the soil on the hill.
Currently it grows alpine strawberries, scrub bushes and tree seedlings. (Lovely grass and wildflowers grow below, where all the soil now resides!) I’ve added compost and hay to my piles of old Christmas trees and rotten wood, and have successfully grown some comfrey and a couple of perennials behind one of the windrows.
It took me two years to rid our hill of honey locust. I was astonished at the thorns - I didn't know such things existed. Of varying lengths, they seem to be where you don't expect them. The leaves and flowers are pretty. They spread like blackberries. If you hack one down, underground the roots spring into action, creating 5 new ones. Here, there, and everywhere.
I don't know where ours came from. We don't have a grown tree, and I haven't seen any near here. The leach field for our septic system was built up in that area, and my husband suggests that soil with seeds was imported.
I went to church on Good Friday and discovered another use for honey locust. The crown of thorns that encircled the cross was made of those fierce thorns. A good indication of suffering.
Of course, this might not be possible. But if it is, I would return those cages. I'm a chicken owner, and virtually all the available coops at chain stores are pathetic. They use unsafe gauge wire, thin wood that falls apart in the rain, claim to house 12 chickens when 4 would be crowded, and so forth. If you have the least of carpentry skills, making cages will result in a far better product.
Chicken owners repeatedly advise that 1/2 inch is the biggest size hardware cloth that is safe, particularly from raccoons and weasels, as you note.
I wish you luck! Electric fencing would certainly be a big improvement. But they shouldn't sell cages that are clearly not up to the task.
After a bear attack on our coop, we strengthened all of the connections (bolts instead of screws) and put up motion/heat sensor alarms.
The University of Vermont Agriculture Department has done some studies on whether this could be a profitable crop in Vermont. It's too cold here to grow in the field, but they devised a method. You can read about it here:
We worked for two summers to eradicate honey locust! (This was before I knew anything about permaculture.) The thorns alone were terrifying, and they multiplied with startling ferocity. I think they might be all gone, although I thought I saw one small one last year. If it surfaces I wonder what I'll do with it.
I'm an amateur, so don't take my ideas too seriously! But my initial thought was, cover it with a tarp while there's still a downpour! This would be fraught with potential trouble (e.g., the sun comes out while you are not home and the seedlings that haven't yet drowned are steamed to death) and is probably a bad idea. Maybe cover at night only? Just wondering if less rain might speed the drying.
I'm a little new to permaculture, but I think that many practitioners would recommend starting small, observing for a year, looking at the slope, water, sun, and so forth. And who am I to disagree?
But I am somewhat impatient and sometimes impulsive. I would certainly want to do something this spring! Cover cropping seems ideal. I couldn't possibly advise about equipment, except to say that this is an area to do a lot of research on beforehand, since it's so expensive.
Right below where I'm writing is a section named "similar threads," and one is called "How to plant cover crops without tilling." Seems like a good resource!
Unless you're planting tropical plants, you should be fine. It's too soon here to put out plants that can't tolerate frost (we are not supposed to plant until Memorial Day!) but my brassicas and lettuces (both from seed and starter plants) are happy out there. It was 38* F. last night. But all your regular garden vegetables should be fine unless there's going to be a frost. They might grow a little more slowly for a few days and then take off when the weather warms up.
I was re-reading some of the thread, and thought to add this. One of the first questions to be answered is how your property is zoned. Agricultural, residential - something else? The first hurdle might be the town's zoning board. You can find out about your zoning, if you don't know, by looking at the zoning map of the town. Likely it's online somewhere (and pretty tiny to interpret) but also down at the town hall, a little larger. If the town hall is even open!
UMass Amherst has a Permaculture Design program that seems to be run out of the Dining Department and the Library. When I lived in Northampton they planted a whole lot of fruiting shrubs on the county courthouse lawn! I glanced at the website and the last courses that were listed were in 2019, so a good chance it's still there, if at a standstill like everything else.
I don't know if this group is still active, but they listed funding for projects:
If I were trying to decide whether or not to till, I'd have a good look at the soil (dirt). If it's incredibly compacted, it might be necessary to till to get any cover crops to grow. But I'd hesitate to till before I could spread any compost - might as well make that tilling worthwhile and not want to repeat it.
Where are you located/climate/growing zone?
I know there are plenty of people here with more experience than I - likely they'll be posting. Best of luck!
It helps to know your location and, if you don't want to tell that, your growing zone. It makes a big difference. Here in Vermont, my vegetables and flowers know that 50* F. means it's summer (almost)! And if you've planted tropical plants, who might actually object to temps in the 50s.
I have had bad luck with rosemary, too. I learned I was giving it too much water, and that it shouldn't be fertilized. I looked at this website: https://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Rosemary although it starts with cuttings. Mine grew just fine outside in the garden, but I've never been able to grow it inside. Probably inadequate drainage in the pot, or too much watering!
I really like living in the country when there is big winter weather. In Vermont, the state and towns take clearing the roads seriously, which is helpful. The roads are uncrowded, which is handy when driving home in a blizzard. And one can stay home, heating with wood, cozy and warm, even when the power is out. There is so much less of that filthy snow that is so demoralizing. And the quiet!
I love being in the country during this pandemic. I am outside every day, unless it's pouring. I go hiking with my neighbor - there's plenty of room! She is pregnant and medically trained, so she takes no chances. We are becoming good friends.
We aren't stuck inside. We don't get delivered groceries, but our local small stores offer curbside pickup and online ordering.
When we built our barn two years ago, we invited family, friends, and neighbors to help with the roof. The lumberyard folks delivered the trusses and had equipment to swing them up over the building, and our friends directed and maneuvered them into place. We provided an enormous pot of chili and plenty of beer.
And I have chickens! They are hilarious, roaming around eating bugs and demanding treats from me. They are better company than my old neighbors in a small city! My ancient Chihuahua, nearly blind and deaf, gets to go outside and RUNnnn! Inside he has to be so careful. If I take him anywhere I have to hunt up the leash - but now I keep it in the car.
So many reasons to say, “It depends.” The thickness of the cardboard, the prolonged wetness of the cardboard, the thickness of the organic matter above the cardboard, and the length of time the cardboard had to decompose before the roots try to grow.
I would poke at the cardboard at the time of planting. If there was a lot of resistance, I’d cut or poke a hole in the cardboard at the time of planting.
They can stick their heads through it. But they don’t. The raised beds were one big invitation before I put the fencing on. Now they bypass them in favor of the unfenced, unprotected flower beds. (Which are next in line for protection!). They can’t walk on it, and can’t scratch. They don’t bother the garlic, which lines the outside of several of my beds, and I’m hopeful that the brassicas planted now will just get a nip or two. We shall see!