I am establishing a self sustained property/retreat/education center where people can feel at home with mother nature on the east coast. Using permaculture design and natural building methods. The ideal property I am looking for would be between 10-20 acres featuring a sloping topography for water harvesting systems. Initially, establishing a perennial system along with annual vegetables. Additionally, establishing a food forest using herbaceous and nitrogen fixing perennials. Pioneer and nitrogen fixing species including shrubs, small to medium and large sized trees, and food producing trees. I am trying to establish a network of friends who I can learn from and share our experience. I am looking for all the suggestions/pointers/advice and help that I can get. I am reading to put this into forward motion.
As for network of friends, welcome to permies I'm not sure where on the east coast you're at, but there's a fair amount going on. Check out the regional forum for others in your precise location. Also, check out MeetUp- see if there's any groups there and also check out Facebook. Someone just clued me in that the food-not-lawns people, who also tend to be Permies in disguise, hang out there in some regions.
As for land: I'm into the urban side of permaculture, but there is plenty of land out there. If it is old farmland, then you may be able to work with the Farm Service Agency for a low-interest farm loan. Sometimes there are grants from Rural Development, ATTRA/NCAT used to have a book on grants and other free assistance. Though, consider when working with the government, you have to follow their rules exactly. The Natural Resources Conservation Service might be able to help out in some things too- advice, finances.
Also, I'm not sure where you are on the east coast....but I would have to say that where I am water harvesting for plant watering is not a big deal because of the natural high soil organic matter content and the frequency of rain and general atmospheric moisture. I do manipulate water, but a lot of it is actually holding back the water for the MAYBE two dry months that can happen (you know, where it only rains once a month, versus every week). or saving it for fish raising or filtering for potential other personal uses - not for plants. I am on flat ground. When I was on sloped sandy ground, I would have liked a few rain barrels, but the truth is, that had a lot to do with the lower-that-desirable organic matter content and my comfort than the actual potential loss. But, perhaps you are in a drier area.
You should visit us at Heartwood. We are on the west coast, and the experience would be worth your while. We are a new-ish sustainable living center with permaculture, culinary and the arts as our focus. Also, we have the best of the best, Dave Jacke, coming in July to teach Forest Garden Design. The Course will give you knowledge on how to start your own Food Forest, and if you're learning at Heartwood you could get an idea of how we operate as an organization as well.
I'm very excited for you to start on this journey! I hope that you will be able to visit us, and let me know if you have any more questions!
If you haven't looked into it yet, I recommend conisidering hosting on wwoofing, workaway, and/or helpx. I have met several people from those help exchange programs. Everyone does it for various reasons.If you do decide to host, make sure to explain whether the helpers will have your guidance or if they are free to create. This is vital as I prefer the latter, where many people seem to want a professional who already knows how to do it.
Of course the level experience that your helper provides may or may not be what you are looking for. But then, you may want to look into becoming a helper yourself to learn from others and establishing a network that way. There are a lot of new people, but there are also people who are seasoned and would love to have their own farm, however do not want to be tied down or financially committed. It's worth investigating a bit for sure! Good luck
Hey guys, I wanted to write a bit about 'stage 2' (the second year) of the food forest establishment. I had a huge amount of lantana at around 3 metres high that had been undisturbed for decades. I cleared the lantana and build a path through the area (around half an acre) and then planted a few fruit trees.
Nature being the incredible healer that it is, sprouted many 'weeds' to protect the bare earth and I was at the time overwhelmed by all the weeds everywhere. Throughout the first year I kept planting fruit trees and now have perhaps 50 different varieties all growing well.
Now it is the second year and I realise that the weeds are there to help us, simply chop and drop every 6 months or so and when you are ready to plant, choose the size of ground you need (ie: 1 metre x 2 metres) and pull out weeds by the roots in that area and turn soil if needed. Then plant in that section and mulch. Work your way around the entire food forest like this.
I have done many different experiments to see what works best.
I have taken down a number of large camfer laurels and had a giant ice cream bean come down in the wind. I used the branches of the Camfer to build a trellis entrance tunnel which now supports beans and grape vines.
I used the ice cream bean leaves, seed pods and branches to fill in a large hole which I then covered in cow manure and then replaced the soil on top and planted 40 pepper seedlings on top. These seedlings are now doing great! I also have a little yacon garden, a rock melon garden, etc.. all these micro gardens within the food forest. By planting a few things together I have found it is easier to take care of that section until it gets established.
So if your soil is good enough that weeds pop up in your cleared food forest space - count yourself lucky! The weeds are there to continue repairing the soil and to protect it until you are ready to plant.
And... don't think a food forest is just about fruit trees! Plant pepper gardens, plant root veggie gardens (ie: yacon), have sweet potato and pumpkin and other runners going through the forest. Plant beans climbing up trellises, throw down edible green manure seeds before a big rain, anything that can go in the veggie garden can go in the food forest!
Another thing I wanted to mention is paths... putting paths through the food forest is a very worthwhile activity! Once we put in more than just the main path we felt the whole area opened up to us and we were able to reach more areas of the food forest and started planting a whole lot more.
How we built the paths:
1. Chopped down large camfer laurels that were blocking sun in the food forest and placed the logs where we wanted the paths to be.
2. We dug up the path slightly to try to level out the path a bit so it was more flat
3. We put down cardboard and then tea tree mulch (which breaks down super slowly).
Now we are finding that the tea tree mulch is attracting bandacoots and other animals who are digging for insects which is great as it keeps them from digging up the fruit trees!
Justin Snyder: Where did you happen to source some of your trees from? I've been thinking about using Martin Crawford's seed supply but I don't have much experience in stratification and propagating. I'd love to find some of the rarer plants as live roots for cheap.
Looking to convert 91 acres of farmland and timber in West Central Illinois to a sustainable farm and education center.
Hey Wilson, I get them from wherever I can... I order online, buy from shops, markets, side of the road, etc... I don't mind spending a big portion of my wages on trees as I figure they are a great investment. I have begun starting to propagate the existing trees but not having much luck.
And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 % guaranteed) - Seuss. tiny ad: