We just acquired our place in the country. I have posted a couple of pictures of it and a "lay of the land" diagram at: www.charishomestead.blogspot.com
Please..... Take a look at what I've got and make some suggestions. I am in zone 7. I really want to avoid making mistakes now that will make my life more difficult later.
What would be the first thing you would do with this property? the second? We want a pretty extensive vegetable garden, some chickens, and maybe some goats. I am so thoroughly impressed with permaculture and the way that many of you think. I too want to develop such skills, but it will take more time than I have since we closed on the property today.
From your line of work you must have powerful skills of observation. Turn them to the land and creatures around you. Collect mulch, make soil, plant trees. Plan the whole property but start small with easy ways to expand. I wish I had done more of all those things when I started.
Does the place have any fruit or nut trees? do you like such things? if so, should be figuring out best location for them as one of first things to do since they take so many years to start producing good yields.
i see a little more information here..that you want an "extensive garden", chicken and goats..
i didn't read pigs..so forget about the pig info and think chicken and goats.
Leah has a lot of goat info in her head..so talk to Leah about goats..and there are a lot of people that know about chickens..
i do know that chicken manure and goat manure are great for the gardens..so that is a bonus..goats require a very good fencing system..so that has to be planned ahead..but they can be tied out..doubt if i'd want to be tied out though.
your extensive gardens should be to the east of your house as our property slopes down toward the stream, your fruit trees shoud be on the north and east of this section with the sunnier plants on the south of this section..i would put it directly east of the house..with the fruit trees running in a line on the north of the plot..and any berry hedges on the east property line. I would put grapes up the side of the carport if you want them..and plant our perennial vegetables up close to the fruit trees, keeping grasses out from under them..
beg borrow, but don't steal, unless it is leaves along side the road..any free mulching materials you can get, find a horse stable and get some manure..oldest stuff they have...and see if you can find some spent hay as well..or straw ..see if there is a saw mill or forest products co around where you can come by some wood chips or sawdust..don't use a LOT of sawdust alone though..mix it with the other stuff..and put it on the garden..
you don't have to till it in or weed it all ..just pile it really deep and the stuff will kill everything under it..do not pile it deep around any new plants though..as the fresh stuff will kill the plants too..
with the trees..dig the holes large and put in some good quality compost in the holes..if you have to..buy it..but try to find a reputable place to buy it..
do your veggie garden small the first year..and fertilize the big area for next year and mulch mulch mulch mulch mulch.
get your pens in for the goat and chickens..and talk to a goat and chicken farmer in the area..for info and getting started..but first ..get your siding on your house..before getting the animals in..rain will ruin that bare wood..caulk..flashing..check for the things i said in the email..
and slow down and breathe..prioritize..
as a family..what do we really need first of all to live here..
then move out to the yard and remember..do what needs to be done first..first..
lay your cardboard packing boxes down as you empty them..under some mulch where you will plant later on..by the time you have the siding done and get the family moved in..and settled..it will already be rotting and you'll have a garden started..
Bloom where you are planted.
just focus on a few things. i think I would start with long term things. plant asparagus and fruit trees. think about where to plant them. maybe on the way to the shop? I think your garden should be near your future shop. a place to keep tools and a place that you will venture to daily.
plan your chickens around your fruit trees (you can let them out too but its nice to have a containment area) they will eat any fallen fruit and decrease disease and parasite problems. fencing for goats. ideally there should be several different fenced areas that all meet in one corner in the middle that has shelter and facilities for milking and feed storage (possibly your shop). that way you can rotate turnout areas and keep the same shelter and easy access for milking and care. when you buy goats get the best you can and make sure the breeder tests for a number of diseases. its easy to get swindled.
remember that we are all making reccomendations base on things that are important to us. something may be more important to you. since you have children it might be nice to develop a kid freindly area and a place to enjoy your family and unwind from a stressful job. don't discount the pleasures and recreation in life. plan these areas near the gardens and fruit trees so you can enjoy your family while you toodle around and munch on the fruits of your labors!
One thing you might want to do is just watch the land for a year. See what you've already got growing.
Know Your Enemy. If you've got noxious weeds, one of your first priorities is not to let them reseed. Find out what they are, and what you need to do. Your local Cooperative Extension Service can help you to identify them (although they tend to be kind of heavy on poisons as solutions). Find yours at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/
Make your plans on paper. Maybe make a mockup on your land: take a posthole digger and stick some sturdy sticks or limbs in the ground (or just pound in some rebar), then run some surveyor's tape or colored baling twine between them to mark off your orchard area. Or outline your garden area with the same things, or rocks that are large enough to stumble over. As you move around your land and do things, are any of your marked areas getting in the way?
I put some of my garden beds in the stupidest arrangement possible for using a garden hose on, and the hose kept climbing the raised beds and mashing down the plants. Dumb!
If you have dogs, find out where their 'runways' are. Don't plant there.
Design for hardscape first. Mark it out right on the land and see if you've miscalculated. Removing sticks and rocks is far easier than moving trees and boulders and concrete.
As for "noxious weeds": keep in mind that most of those "weeds" are defined by somebody that grows monocrops and sprays roundup at anything that isn't their monocrop. Some of those "weeds" are actually really helpful permaculture plants - let em be!
I second paul's comment about the weeds. Actually some of the most hated invasive weeds would be all gone if people realized how valuable they are as food. But the research is definitely good to do in any case since one needs to do their homework and be very certain before eating wild foods (test and start slowly to make sure no allergy or bad reactions happen.)
It is true about eating weeds i have only to decide to eat a weed and it disappears even before i start eating it almost. my grandmother lived in the Cheshire vale full of clay and my mothers passed on this bit of advice . If you dig a big hole for a tree in clay and then fill it up with manure compost etc the hole will turn into a swimming pool when it rains: cCay gets impermeable when its wet through and water sits in it, roots will rot if they are water logged when they are waterlogeed there begins to be very little air in the water. Also the roots won't be held by anything as firm as the clay and will have difficulty pushing their way into the clay from the hole you have dug for them. I sadly pile the cold heavy clay back round them so there will be no difference in the earth in the hole and the surrounding earth. Of course this is only advice for clay soils. For other soils ifll the hole with goodies and leah i think it was describes. Here the trees you buy are often sold with their roots going round and round just inside the wall of the pot they are sold in, forming a thick wall of roots. The trees I planted started to do well when I undid this tight mesh of roots. At first i ripped and broke them, later I learnt to undo them, whichever way you do it, it is time consuming, nail bending, dirtying, work and both breaking th eroots and undoing them works. The gardeningbooks say that plants that are root bound like this will survive a year or so but end up dying.
Save the pips and stones of fruit you eat, i put them in damp soil in my fridge for two months and then plant them into pots and later into the earth and you will soon have lots of trees to plant. I also planted all the seeds i could find on the streets of Madrid into pots to see which ones would grow. You often get trees you don't want because they are foreign but you also get lots of experience.
At first trees are small and so i think you can plant lots of them and later on thin them out. There are places where you have to ask for permision before cutting down trees and so if you have planted lots, meaning to thin them out when they grow, you may later find you aren't allowed to cut them down. Of course where the climate is very hot you want lots of trees where you sit and where it is cold you don't want any shade. I had a really nice book about bettering the world because you looked after your own corner of it and such morally beautiful ideas, they talked a lot of gaie things i don't know how to spell that, and one of its suggestions was for planting a small wood as a future source of fuel. Here that would be oak.
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