Taylor Maxson

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since May 23, 2012
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Recent posts by Taylor Maxson

Howdy Folks,

We're having our first go at bringing in our flock to till up 2000 sq ft. of a winter rye/vetch/clover mix. We have a flock of ten (8 hens, 2 roosters) and we will be rotating them in zones within the cover crop with electronetting. I'm curious if anyone out there has experience or anecdotal knowledge of effective timing, so that we get the birds onto the cover crop before any of it goes to seed in the spring (here in Western North Carolina) and early enough that it can rest before we plant (corn) in it. I also want to generate the maximum amount of biomass for the flock to incorporate before I send them in. I'm going to see how well they can scratch in biochar (mixed with manure) this year, too.

Thanks,

Taylor



7 years ago
My wife and I like the chemex coffee maker. Not quite as likely to break as a french press. Basically, it's a glass bowl with a cone shaped glass top. We keep a reusable stainless steel coffee filter inside the cone, though I think there is a good argument for using unbleached paper filters from a health perspective, because of cafestol, a molecule in coffee that increases cholesterol in some people.

8 years ago
Another point: tilling mindlessly for no reason other than to bomb the soil with fertilizer and compress your soil with a tractor is one (bad) thing. But I believe in some cases, the cost/benefit weighs in on the side of tilling. My soil was already relatively lifeless and inert from years of leaching and erosion. The humus content in some places is 1/2 of 1%. Not exactly a thriving cornucopia of soil life. So tilling a bit in the interest of establishing a top-down, cut and drop cover cropping and mulching system, and then animal rotations, seems well worth breaking up the top layer of soil initially (in our case, only about 3-6" depth of tilling). We'll never do it again, and everything will now build upwards, and we've got what we want growing there. As a permaculturist I wouldn't say "never do it." Just "pay mind to why and when you do it."

8 years ago
Janet,

We have a similar sized property here in Western North Carolina, with almost 3/4 of an acre of lawn in full sun. Our soil is similarly nutrient and organics poor, and heavy clay to boot. Others' suggestions about letting natural succession take place is good advice, provided you have the time and patience to spare.

I wanted to start getting rid of our grass sooner, so I tried clear plastic, starting in 1000 sq ft sections, which I used to solarize the grass in the spring and summer. I found that in our relatively hot summers, I could easily weaken the grass enough in about a month and then lightly till the soil with a walk-behind tiller. I also mixed in lime and soft rock phosphate, which are often badly needed in our mountain region. I over-seeded directly into the rotting grass and roots with winter rye and vetch/clover, then mulched the sections with straw and/or leaves, and got great germination. I wanted a less fossil-fuel intensive plan (lots of plastic and a small machine in this case), but sometimes a small initial investment of fossil fuels is worth the long-term returns in soil building and animal forage we'll get from these cover-cropped areas. Solarizing does knock back soil microbes, but mulch, aggregating organic matter, chicken poop, biochar (which I'll let our chicken scratch in when we start rotating them into the cover crops) and ultimately time will help the soil life rebound.

It may well be worth your while to use the initial investment from the tractor/tiller offer you've got to get a cover crop established. Or you could do smaller areas like I have. Or you could just start spreading cover crop seed in the winter, and letting it begin to out compete the grass over time. I'll say this much: the rye/vetch combo I laid down has almost totally outcompeted the extant lawn grass that was here.

Which ever way you go, good luck.

Taylor

8 years ago
My question is related to something that's been tugging at me for a while, really since I did the PDC in 2009. I have both an academic background (philosophy) and have also been a teacher for fifteen years. I've worked in experiential education, wilderness and adventure programming (Outward Bound et el.) and I've also taught college, high school, and middle school. I get why standards are important in curriculum, and that it is a human norm to put a "fence" around areas of thought and practice, i.e. Holmgren and Mollison's impetus to make permaculture a certification process, and to technically allow only those who've gone through it to call themselves permaculture designers. On the other hand, I think no one has intellectual (or other) rights to the natural patterns and principles underlying permaculture design. I am torn when permaculture-inclined folks press the need to do the certification. I know a number of intelligent, thoughtful, extremely capable people who are experimenting with permaculture who cannot afford to access the certification, and I believe they are legitimate carriers of the fire (so to speak) and that their involvement in permaculture (and the project of laying out a future where people's needs get met without violence and chaos) is vital. I watched Peter Bane recently, on video, talk about how the "professional class" of permaculture is rather hung up on this question of legitimacy. "The third graders should teach the second graders," he says. Those with more knowledge, who master a curriculum at one level, learn more and better when they teach what they've mastered to others.

My question, then, is do you think the PDC (or a PDC teacher certification) should be necessary conditions for the possibility of permaculture practice and/or teaching?








8 years ago
I agree with the chorus about WWOOF-ing. My wife and I are in our upper 30's, and WWOOF-ed as a way to locate us in a new state just a couple of years ago. We found a situation with a great couple who are homesteaders in a beautiful area in the mountains of Western North Carolina and moved our dog and cat with us to their place. I had completed the Permacutlure Design Certificate in 2009 and came out with a fire for practicing permaculture...but with no land and no degree to support making an income from anything close to what I wanted to do. So we just started getting into the things we love. We've taken workshops, and classes, and brought permaculture into our jobs (I'm a teacher) and I'm now at a place where I've started my first professional permaculture design and own a couple of acres where we're building (slowly, over time) a model permaculture farm and homestead. You are very fortunate to be asking questions about permaculture at your age, though anytime is better than never.

It can be very difficult in a society structured like ours to navigate your way into a seemingly nebulous arena like permaculture. The entire set of "self-branding" tools, (resumes and cover letters and traditional job histories) while they have their purpose, aren't easily traded for a professional vocation in permaculture. You've got to study with highly knowledgeable and skilled people, meet lots of kindred spirits, and ultimately create your own entry point. Permaculture is NOT just a land-based art, science, or practice. It is a way of thinking in whole systems that can be applied at many scales and orders, i.e. to institutions, schools, businesses, marriages, architecture, and on and on. It is a way of relating to--and designing for--the world that is more like how nature actually functions than how advanced, highly specialized capitalist societies tend to do things. It is based sound, time-tested guidelines, soundly rooted in physics, ecology, and biology, and can be understood differently at many different scales of resolution. It can be approached conceptually, but to really get it "in the body" you've got to implement the principles and ethics in some really concrete way, whether it's growing things or starting a business. I think a permaculture design certificate is a great way to start. But also, just read a ton. Pick up Gaia's Garden for sure. And Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language." Also, read deeply into this site, because there are a lot of useful threads.

There are endless useful things you can do this year if you want to become a professional permaculture designer. Start taking landscape architecture classes. Learn horticulture. Become a master gardener. Take an AUTOCAD class. Mess around with Google Sketchup. Intern on a permaculture-bases farm (NOT just an organic one...not the same, though some are BOTH). Get fired up. It's a wonderful journey, this.





8 years ago
Howdy Robin,

I hear you about the photo resolution issue, but my point is that with Sketchup (I only have the free version) you can generate your own 3D map from a Google Earth photo, and the resolution of the photo doesn't matter (unless you want the images it contains). In other words, a Google Earth photo contains the contour information you need to generate your own base map. You "grab" this information and make your own contour map. It takes time to construct the elements that you want on that map, but what you end up with is a fully 3-dimensional map of your property.
8 years ago
I use Sketchup a lot for my permaculture design work. You can take maps from Google Earth, generate a contour map from them in Sketchup, fill in the contours with landforms, and then lay out your own structures and objects on top of them. It is relatively easy to learn, especially with youtube videos abounding. I used the survey for our 2 acre property to lay out the boundary lines in Sketchup for our base map. I think it's a great tool.
8 years ago
I expressed my love for--and need for--connection with nature via seeking wild places for the longest time. I grew up going to most of the Canadian provinces, camping, hiking, and canoeing, and generally removing myself from civilization for numerous jaunts. I traveled extensively and was very much a peripatetic throughout my twenties and into my early thirties. When I finally started to settle in a little, I realized that I'd missed out on--and sorely missed--some of the simple graces like gardening, and wanted to connect with and get to know the home soil (as opposed to wilderness). Around the time this process was happening, I was living in Albuquerque, and by its very nature, living in the high desert (lacking resources and a true carrying capacity far below its population level) made me itchy about the future. I started seeking out people who were experimenting with renewable energy, and this lead me ultimately to making biodiesel. At first, my response to a growing sense of threat from the direction we are heading in as a civilization was to soothsay our impending demise. But like many, I've followed the curve toward the realization that worry and stress and paranoia are unproductive. So I looked for something that would be "world-building," and permaculture just showed up. Like so many, it has re-organized the way I see things, or perhaps it's brought longstanding patterns of thought and feeling that were already there into greater resolution. Whatever way you look at it, it is a chunk of goodness.

8 years ago