We have a lot of beech. The leaves look similar, but the bark on all of ours, large and small, is quite smooth, like the smaller tree in your photo. Quite unlike the larger tree. Were you referring to the larger tree with bumpy bark?
Yes! If the land is open and the soil decent, it would be a good place to plant fruit and nut trees, blueberry bushes from seed, and other things that take many years. If the soil is poor, it would make a good place to dump wood chips and plant N-fixers so that over time, there would be better soil.
But then again, you have 16 acres. Do you need to make the additional parcel productive? Maybe go ahead and hay it just to keep it open (if it is open) for future endeavors. And add N-fixer seeds to the fields, I suppose, and a few other things to diversify?
Apologies for musing aloud on your thread. I'm working with 10 acres, most of it wooded, some of it swampy, and all of it steep, so I enjoy fantasizing about this!
Thank you, KC Simmons! My plants are still to small to consider this method (they have leaves, but not yet much in the way of stems. Plus big snow today). But if I try the above method to find if the roots are long and available, I will try some stem cuttings when the plants are bigger.
The pandemic has prompted buy-in from my DH, who treated my gardening and chickens as annoyances last year (until he tasted the food). Suddenly he is Mr. Self-Sufficiency and happily built new raised beds and welcomed the wood chips instead of protesting mightily. I am not one to buy a lot of soil for raised beds, so mine are filled with rotten wood, chicken bedding, leaf mold, and compost.
In addition to the new beds, I’ve added two mulberry trees, an apple and a plum tree, elderberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. And ground cherries! Mustn’t forget them!
I’ve mulched a much larger area around the raised beds for more flowers and herbs. I’m going to plant a moringa in a container; it will have to come in the house for the winter in Vermont, but it’s worth an experiment.
DH is helping me build an arched trellis to maximize the garden space. This is all so exciting that I almost forget there’s a horrible, frightening pandemic going on. I moved to Vermont to live like this, and having his support is a big help. He has gone from calling my wood chip pile an “eyesore” to asking when we can get a new delivery. <fist pump>!
I would probably plant those cane fruits and other good spreaders on my property line. They would infiltrate the edge of your neighbor’s Douglas fir farm, without you trespassing. And keep some diversity where the fir farm abuts your land.
Do you know about the farmer/forester’s plans for spraying? I’d certainly be reluctant to speed that process up.
I added chicken bedding and compost at the end of the year last year, moving the chips aside, but some of them got mixed in. So I know I’ll have to be sure to feed nitrogen this year. That will include urine, spent coffee grounds, and compost laid on top.
The dirt I built my raised beds on was completely dead - we built a garage and the yard was completely torn up for the drainage pipe to be laid. The beds were filled with rotten wood on the bottom, with compost, imported soil, and leaf mold on top.
I push the wood chips aside and plant into the soil, not covering the seeds but waiting for seedlings to emerge. I do this even with tiny seeds. Beans shouldn’t have any trouble but I wouldn’t cover them with chips. Seeds need to be planted in soil, not chips. The chips are wonderful mulch.
Thanks, Sonja. We are investigating other options.
A LGD isn’t an option at the moment. We are nurturing my ancient Chihuahua who is nearly blind and nearly deaf, and don’t plan on another dog for awhile. Then I would have to convince DH to get a good guardian breed, rather than the collie he desperately wants. He always had collies.
The baby monitor plus shotgun warning shot seems like the easiest approach right now.
In other news, there’s two inches of snow on the ground, and still falling. Happy May, New England!
I really wish I had never become a landlord. The stories about That Tenant who withheld rent because something didn’t work, then wouldn’t let anyone in to fix it? My story. Then dragged out the eviction process and got to stay in the end, only to do it all again? My tenant. Finally got rid of her, and the next ones weren’t any better. I sold that property (2-family) 3 months ago at a big loss just to be rid of it.
I had a somewhat similar experience with a single family home. Rented to a friend. Nightmare.
I’m still part owner of a six-family in another state. Why? I moved away to pursue my dream in Vermont. So you pay a property manager, and suddenly there’s no margin for repairs, the water heaters break, someone’s heat quits in winter, and there’s a pandemic so the rents dwindle. I’m retired and I have to pay 50% of these expenses.
It worked well when I lived nearby, managed the property myself, and screened tenants face to face. Now the tax consequences of selling are terrible. So now it doesn’t work well, and it’s very hard to get out of it.
I found the website MrLandlord.com to be very useful. And I read every book I could find on the subject before I bought. My first property, the two-family, was a foreclosure that I fixed up. It was all rosy for many years. Learn everything you can before you start. Your state laws governing landlord-tenant interactions, tax laws, requirements for subsidized rental property. And try to buy in that neighborhood with the seminary! Don’t fool yourself into thinking the neighborhood will be up-and-coming.
I’m sorry to be such a pessimist. I’m trapped with this property and we are headed into a recession. I’m probably going to end up going back to work to support it.
A bear broke the door off my coop and killed one of my chickens. We're pretty sure it was a bear - there were big claw-holes in the drip cap on the roofing, a huge muddy paw print on the roof, and what else can tear the door off?
We rebuilt the door and attached all the hardware with bolts, not screws (which were there before). We installed motion- and heat-detector alarms with flashing lights and sirenish sounds. I remove the feed every night.
Last night we had a second attack. The alarms were not set properly and DH didn't bring in the food. The bear (who left more muddy paw prints) ripped a piece of hardware cloth from a narrow window but was unable to break in. All the windows are narrow; it wouldn't be able to get in without taking the door off again.
I had success in the past (pre-chickens) with shouting at a bear who was after garbage. It dropped the garbage can and ran away. I was shouting from an upstairs window.
With the second incursion, we are planning more motion-activated light and sound, including perhaps a burst of water. (We are also planning to correctly arm the alarms!) DH has a shotgun and can fire a warning shot, but we need to hear the bear if we are to shout or shoot. In Vermont, our bears are black bears. They prefer to avoid people.
Any additional suggestions? The position of the coop makes an electric fence quite difficult.
We are on a hillside. A plateau has been constructed where our house stands, built maybe in 1949, 1950. The hill continues up behind us, to another plateau. It looks like a pasture, with an elderly apple tree to one side. We learned from a woman who grew up here that the house used to be up there. Let me tell you, that is a serious climb in the summer, never mind the winter! Quite steep! Seven kids in a two-room house without indoor plumbing.
The house burned down when she was young, and our current house was built to replace it.
We drive the tractor (carefully) to the upper pasture, and walk up the hill, but everyone who walks is out of breath at the top. I can't imagine after a 4-foot blizzard.
Anyhow, back to the topic. We find little artifacts here and there - a bottle, a broken mower blade, a piece of thick broken glass (from another bottle). I was digging today, planting another apple tree, and I found charred wood, immediately under the grass. Another bit of the history.
Mine is on a slope, and we have a small ditch at the bottom. The soil is clay until you get near the bottom. We have begun to spread wood chips on it in the hope that they will eventually add organic matter we can combine with the clay. Right now when you walk on it, there's a spring to your step! Very spongy.
I just filled two new raised beds, so I don't have any soil to add if I tried your system. But I'm thinking about it. I don't need for that spot to produce right now, and it's shaded on the east by our garage and on the west by a tree-covered hill. I do fantasize about finding clay-loving, shade-loving, bog plants to put in there! Our first year here there was a drought, and it was pretty dry by the end of September, although much more moist than the rest of the yard and gardens.
I expressed a temptation to buy more comfrey yesterday. I have about 10 plants started from root cuttings last year, and they are coming up now (about 4" high). Expanding my raised beds, berry bushes, and fruit tree plantings considerably this year, I long for more comfrey! I'm not sure if I should dig one of my plants for root cuttings or not. They grew well last year, but not big, and didn't flower. I'm in USDA zone 5, in Vermont.
I hope I have some bigger leaves before I plant the potatoes!
All of my comfrey is up and growing except a few plants that over-wintered in pots. They appeared to have drowned and frozen in the Vermont winter, but after reading Eric’s story I planted them anyway and will wait impatiently.
I now realize where I want this plant (in addition to on the funky terraces on the steep hill), and I’m tempted to buy more. It seems a little silly given that I will have plenty to propagate from in good time, but the temptation is real.
I have one of these! The hill behind us has multiple rivulets and a couple of streams. And just behind the house is a large area of soggy (until early summer) clay, that will only grow plants that like water and, of course, daylilies.
I haven’t dug it but we wonder what can be done with it - a source of water if the well fails, or if power fails for a long period of time, we hope. Or a source of irrigation if we can direct it somehow around the house and garage.
Oops - rereading, I see you have already been researching coops. New recommendation: chickens need shade, probably even more in NC than in Vermont! Make sure they always have access to some as you move them around.
A farm near here got a big chicken coop and about two dozen chickens. Although they could get out, all the chickens remained under the coop most of the summer, where it was cool. They also need shade to hide from hawks.
I had never seen borage before I planted it last summer. The flowers are the loveliest shade of blue, and hang from the plant in a teardrop sort of way, facing down. So pretty.
Yarrow is nice in groups; like Queen Anne's lace, the flowers are in a bit of a flat circle, facing upwards. Mine are all white (native wildflowers here) and have recently invaded the garden. In my last home, I grew different-colored ones, but they grew very tall in a place where I didn't expect it, and many of them leaned over. I actually like the shorter (maybe 12") wild ones better.
Since you like my flowers, I'll mention that bee balm is really cool, too, if you like plants that spread prolifically. Beautiful shades of pink and red.
The only thing I know about other than gardening is chickens. My advice: do lots of research before building a coop. Lots. Backyardchickens.com has a wonderful section on coops, with many examples. Don't buy a cheap coop - it will definitely cost more in the long run. Heck, it'll start costing more after the first few rainstorms, not to mention how easily predators can get in. There is probably a lot of good advice about chickens here, too, but I have been reading the gardening and permaculture material more, since it's newer to me. Speaking of chickens and gardening, it's wonderful if the eventual food forest can be a place for the chickens to free range. They need cover (both shade and hiding places) and dense plants to forage through. If they're to be confined all the time, there are higher feeding costs and to be humane, the cost of building a really large run.
I'm excited by your project on that beautiful land! I admire your careful planning; I'm much more haphazard, much to the chagrin of my partner. Tonight he said, "You need to learn to do one thing at a time, not 16." Not a chance.
I'm far too new around here to offer any advice on Big Picture issues. But I had a couple of comments I thought I could add.
- What beautiful land! Creek, sunshine, woods, shade! So appealing.
- How long since the trees were felled? I am a sucker for rotting wood. As soon as I see a log on the ground, I want to add more logs and cover them with sod, compost, soil, and mulch. And seeds.
- Don't leave out the borage and yarrow. They will be so pretty in your field, and offer other benefits! (Completely self-centered advice from me, who knows nothing about you. Maybe you don't even like pretty flowers! Just kidding.)
Best of luck! I hope you get the assistance you need here. There's certainly plenty of knowledge on these forums!
How lovely to see this thread die back periodically, only to emerge once again, sprouting new leaves and growing rapidly!
I bought root cuttings (Bocking 14) last year because I have a steep hillside that was almost clearcut years ago, and all the soil flowed down to the bottom. Down at the bottom we have lush grass, wildflowers, and milkweed. On the steep slope there are dozens of beech seedlings and nearly bare soil that supports lichen, some wild strawberries, and sheep sorrel.
I gathered many Christmas trees after the ‘18 holiday, and laid them across the hillside, a crude terracing. I started this project before I read any permaculture material. Adding rotting logs and branches, sticks, chicken bedding, and hay, last summer I began planting with some soil and compost here and there. There are 5 or 6 comfrey on the hill, as well as some native phlox, centaurea montana, and daylilies, and a lupine that grew from seed! The chickens have been tearing up the hill with their scratching and dust bathing, but providing nitrogen in return.
I can’t wait to see how the comfrey and the others look this year! I planted some of the others here and there, at the edges of gardens, unsure where to put them. I left a few over the winter in pots; looks like a couple of those may have drowned. After reading Eric’s flood adventures, it seems maybe they aren’t goners!
It’s great to have this thread to find fellow sufferers of this compelling disorder! Maybe I will have to tell you about my wood chips!
I expect you have some damp woods in the PNW, too. I'm very excited by rotten wood (I'm a little weird). We were stunned at how productive the garden was last year, with little time to prep and no time for the hugel-ish wood amendments to decompose. It was wonderful to start with rotting wood. I hope it's decomposed enough for the turnips and carrots I'm going to plant.
I love that curly little lamb! And I'm a sucker for the natural colors of the wool. It's just beautiful.
I visited and favorited some pretty wool; I don't have any use for it (arthritis has ended my knitting career, as well as other crafts) but it is so beautiful! Do people use it for knitting? What else?
I love the stories about Cotswold sheep and your individual sheep, in particular!
My pullets just became hens - they were tiny chicklets a year ago. They were kept confined while they were young, and didn't free range until it was time to clean up the garden. Getting ready to plant, now, and clearly they have to be kept out of the garden. And they seem to have just discovered the road and, while it gets scarcely any traffic, we would prefer they not be down there (and farther as they get bolder). We recently lost one due to a bear breaking into the coop, and having them in the road makes us nervous.
Having read through this thread, it occurs to me that I'm going to have trouble keeping them in. They are now very happy free-ranging. They don't seem to fly much at all - they are heavy breeds. But they've surprised me before!
I started trying to shop around after looking at Premier 1 and discovering what I wanted was back-ordered. Given my preference for minimal interaction with store personnel during the pandemic, I'd rather go with Premier 1 than have lengthy discussions with the folks at the feed store, masks or no masks. But I am really at a loss as to what to buy.
Has anyone had success confining former free-ranging hens?
I’m really excited about this! Raising cuttings of comfrey was my first project after I bought this place, and after reading about the controversies around ingesting it, I began to wonder about the claims of dynamic accumulation. Heading over to read more.
I second your mention of milkweed! Our common milkweed is abuzz with many pollinators beyond the beloved Monarchs.
I've been startled to see a lot of interest in zinnias, as I assumed (wrongly?) that they were hybridized beyond recognition. One of my favorites, liatris (gayfeather, blazing star), is also a favorite. Verbena bonariensis (tall, skinny stems with beautiful clusters of purple waving above the garden) is great, old-fashioned hydrangea, lupine, asters, monarda (bee balm), and spirea all seem to promote enthusiasm as well.
I've noticed the herbs are very popular, particularly basil, borage, yarrow, and mullein. Peas, beans, and squash among the vegetables.
I didn’t get any results from Chipdrop but finally called a couple of local tree services. Now there’s a tree guy who lives less than a mile from me and will give me all the wood chips I can accept. Now I use them for mulch, the chicken run, the paths in the garden, occasionally for carbon in the compost heap, an amendment to some intensely clay soil we have, and fill for a ditch that doesn’t belong here.
I love my wood chips. The garden path chips filled half of one of my raised beds this year.
Local farmers often have excess manure. I love manure too! Coffee shops will give you nitrogen, I mean spent coffee grounds, which can give the soil a boost. And an old bale or two of hay can mulch the garden and break down faster than wood chips. Straw is even better (supposedly no seeds).
Hi Nancy - I live in Vermont, USA. Our neighborhood is up on a hill, and I have very steep hills on my 10 acres. The flat areas were created years ago to build the houses on - first one way up above us and, when that one burned, our present house that sits above the road. Across the street, one continues steeply downhill to the river.
I live in a very small town (pop. 666 in 2010 census) on the edge of the Green Mountains, but close to the Connecticut River Valley.
I built raised beds on “dirt” that followed a construction project, which was so poor that the grass couldn’t compete with the weeds. I couldn’t afford enough good compost to fill them (this was our first year here and the chickens were very tiny - no help from them!), so I hunted up lots of rotten wood from our forest land. Beautiful stuff, much of it crumbling as I carried it out of the woods!
I didn’t plant root crops, as the wood was only a couple inches under the surface. But we had success with tomatoes, brassicas, summer squash, asparagus, lettuce, and herbs. Poor yield on bush beans, for some reason.
We added more beds in the fall and this spring, and with the help of the chickens’ wood chippy aged poop+garden waste, have been able to fill them without any purchased material. I also made good use of last year’s wood chips from the paths, which were breaking down beautifully. I collected so much rotten wood (we have a very wet forested hill with a spring and vernal streams running all over it) that I have much left over.
I have mulberry trees, berry bushes, and a plum tree coming, to be planted in other areas of construction dirt. I was planning to dig big holes, fortify with rotten wood and the lovely mess from the chicken run, and fill with the dirt when I plant them. Other than checking the ph for the blueberries, any other suggestions?
My chickens jump for Japanese beetles. Last year, when they were still confined, I would pull beetles off of all their favorite plants and drop them into the chicken run. The competition was fierce! his year, they are free ranging. I hope they'll find the JBs, but if they don't, I'll stash the bugs for them and offer as a treat for coming back to the coop in the evening.