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Ian Taylor

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since Jan 17, 2014
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Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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Recent posts by Ian Taylor

The past 2 months I think I have done more work than I have in the previous year. My work ethic is getting like a feedback loop, I see stuff really starting to come together which really drives me to stay out dawn to dusk, even after all day at my day job.

My wife and I planted hundreds of trees, we started with our grazing field barrier hedges, we planted a few hundred feet of black locust, enough to section off the 1800s cemetery and make a hard border between our fields and zone 5 forest. We will have to plant about 2000 more next year to finish, then a year or two after that we will start laying them.

Seeing as how black locust is so hardy and tough I didn't bother mulching them. There is no way I have time to mulch hundreds of feet of row like that anyways. I'm sure they can out compete a little grass.

We also planted dozens of Norway Spruce to block out sight and noise from the road.

But the best part is I made tons of progress on the garden wall. This wall will wrap around the bottom of the garden on contour, and act as a partial retaining wall, holding back 2.5 feet of soil. There will be 3, 2 foot walls above it giving us a total of 4 terraces, 3 to plant and one to cover crop every year. The terraces are being filled in with woody material left over from clearing various fields and on top of that will be topsoil that we will buy. I will need about 100 cubic yards to fill them all in.

There will also be a wall along the east side to divide the garden from the pasture, and also along the top. It will end up being quarter circle shaped. I have the first course mostly laid around the perimeter, but I went ahead and totally finished this section just to see how it looks.

The lower face of the wall is just under 6 feet high total, the capstone is 5 feet high and the base is 5 feet thick. And considering I carry all these rocks from a derelict old wall at the bottom of the hill by hand I think I'm going pretty fast. At this rate the most of the perimeter will be done by winter.

This garden will be about a tenth of an acre, which is plenty for us. I think we are just going to do a dozen or so crops and the really water intensive stuff like kale and herbs we will grow in our smaller garden near the house.

The plans for the future after that are to dig swales in the grazing fields where it makes sense to do so, we really only need a few hundred feet of them. I also want to dam the valley again that our stream runs through to make a second pond, we lose tons of water off site by not having more capacity to store water. And then we need to build a smokehouse and a barn, then finally a house, we still live in a 30 year old house trailer after all haha.
7 years ago
Well the new project has been digging holes and trenches for trees. We bought 644 trees, 500 black locust 3' tall and 144 1' Norway Spruce. I'm planting the black locust as a hedge around our fields to contain livestock. 500 trees isn't anywhere near enough to fully enclose any of them if we plant on 1 foot centers, but it will give us a big stock to take seeds or cuttings from to finish over the next few years.

The plan is to plant 1 foot on center and then after a few years coppice them at about 7 feet regularly, thus keeping out deer and coyotes. Plus they offer a massive nectar source for bees and they are grazable by sheep.

The spruce are going to be a privacy hedge/ windbreak/ snow fence/ bird habitat, there are a few spots on the property near the road and one neighbors house that I want to have a little more privacy and noise reduction.

Then after that comes the fun projects, since I've finished clearing most of the pastures, about 6 acres worth, we are going to start on building a smokehouse and root cellar this summer. Then hopefully next year onto a new house and barn.
7 years ago
I'm having trouble deciding what method I'd like to use in building my smokehouse. I'd like a structure where I can both smoke and store estate size quantities of meat like would have been done in my area in the 19th century and earlier. I want at least enough space for smoking a few butchered lambs and some fish all in one go.

Both designs have a detached firebox attached by a short chimney to the locker/structure.

Method 1: Round with fieldstone stone structure and walls, timber octagon roof, D=8ft C=25ft A=50ft H= Stone 6ft + roof.

Advantages of this is cost and uses a skill set i'm semi familiar with, I'm not an expert mason but I'm confident I could do this. Also the durability is basically as high as a structure can be and it's completely fireproof.

I would stack the stone and "mortar" it with clay, kind of like an Irish peasants house. The walls would taper from about 18inches thick at the bottom, the dimensions are ID. As for the roof I think I'd use wood shingles or maybe slate if I can buy that small a quantity. I would need someone to cut and join the timbers for the roof, but after that's done I would only need to lay it on top  of the building with a loader.

The disadvantages is that it would take a lot of time gathering the stone and laying it, more than wood anyways, and I would have to build it on a pretty thick slab, not just on pylons like a wood post. I dont see how i could build a frost wall that small in diameter so id probably just do a concrete slab on grade, I'm not sure how thick yet. The structure would weigh about 11 tons but we are on heavy clay soil, stuff doesn't settle much here, especially on the subsoil which is hard packed gravelly clay.

Method 2: Square timber frame with cob walls, 8ft each side P=32ft A=64ft.

Advantages are that I don't need to pour a thick slab, read not renting an excavator, I can just drill 4 post holes with my post hole digger on my tractor and pour a thin floor on top. Also it would go up much faster.

The disadvantages are that I know nothing about timber framing or using cob to fill walls so I'll be paying someone to frame and assemble it as well as working with cob which I've never tried. Also... it's made mostly of wood and clay, stone is an inherently better material in most respects. I'd be worried all the time about stuff rotting, I'd like for this building to outlast me without much maintenance.

So if anyone with some experience, either having a smokehouse or building something like this, could chime in I'd love any input.
7 years ago
Thanks for the encouragement everyone. Haven't gotten as much done recently as I hoped, just got back from visiting my wife's family again in Indonesia, at least we got to spend some time working on her families fish and rice farm.

But since I've been back I've been busy, I've started making my garden terraces, I decided instead of excavating them I will build stone retaining walls and backfill behind them. The problem with excavating is I will be left basically with a hardpan subsoil surface. I'll backfill them with logs and woody debris and I'll buy 40 or 50 yards of premixed topsoil and fill it with my tractor. Hopefully I'll be done before next spring so I can start gardening.

I've still been busy clearing too, Im almost done with the grazing field though. And wow, the difference fire makes on soil is amazing, I spread cover crop (timothy grass and a few kinds of clover and flowers) and the places where I spread it over burned places it's rocketing right out of the ground. The places that never were burned it's growing pretty slowly. I think it has a lot to do with the soil being very acidic and the ash raising the ph. Plus the charcoal cover holds moisture.

The charred stumps and charcoal from last year is already colonized by mycelium too.

7 years ago
Not quite VT here but right over the border in Grafton NY. Southern VT has some pretty good land, I looked there a lot before I moved to grafton, but the land values there seem to be higher than right over the border in NY or MA.
7 years ago
Not really strictly "permaculture", but a lot of the farming there is pretty sustainable and most of it is organic-ish, especially once you get into more subsistence farming communities and away from real cities. I ended up getting a pretty thorugh representation of the agriculture there since I have spent two months there over the past year and my fiancee still lives there until we get married and translates some stuff. My grasp on Bahasa is pretty loose. We ended up seeing Bali, and much of Sulawesi. Bali is interesting with its rice irrigation network and there is a little bit of strictly permaculture stuff there actually but mostly its for eco-tourists. You wont get a really thorough look at Indonesia by going to Bali, its really geared toward tourists, pretty much the whole island is that way. I recommend going other places if your intent is to learn. We stayed with her parents in Malili which is in Central Sulawesi and they are mostly fish and rice farmers there, but whats cool is the ones farming freshwater fish will lower the water levels in the paddies and grow a crop of rice in the same earthworks if the soil gets really rich. Toraja has probably the most picturesque rice farming if you want to see more of that, and they do some cool stuff with rotating water buffalo amongst the terraces too. Everyplace throughout the country is pretty different so its difficult to generalize Indonesian agriculture.

Polycultures are pretty common too, mostly simple ones though like companion planting, onions with cabbage type stuff etc...

You can learn a lot by talking to people, so if that's why you are going its best to either know Bahasa Indonesia or have someone who can translate for you.
8 years ago
I know I havent posted on here in over 18 months but that doesnt mean ive been idle. Quite the opposite in fact, i'm moving along with the plans faster than I could have imagined. Ill be done with land clearing completely by midsummer I think and I have already planted a few dozen trees and shrubs. Garden terraces are scheduled to be dug around July and ill at least start digging swales around that time also. There have been a few changes to the master plan, which came from having spent dozens of hours per week working and observing here.

Most noteworthy is the reduction in the number of swales, yeah digging 8 in a 2 acre field makes zero sense. I also moved the spot I will put our rice paddies since the logistics of irrigating them when placed at the top of a hill aren't practical, especially after having spent 2 months in Indonesia with my fiancee and observing rice cultivation in one of the most rice dependent places on earth.

As for what i've gotten done; The entire field for the vegetable garden is cleared, it just needs to be terraced and i'm digging up (Yes, with a shovel) the 200 year old stone wall. Which has been buried under centuries of debris and leaves and soil and rebuilding it, so that it will encircle the garden terraces like a fence. I have been doing a combination of chipping and burning the slash piles from clearing the land. Whatever, call it slash and burn but you try chipping hundreds of cubic yards of tangled branches in my tiny chipper, i'd be dead before I finished.

Also along the top of the stone fence I planted a row of alternating fruit trees and seaberries in a 2 seaberry, 1 apple, 2 seaberry, 1 peach pattern, totaling 3 peaches and apples each and 10 seaberries. At the top of a southern facing hill, with a stone wall and forest right behind it is about as warm as possible of a microclimate so i'm optimistic the peaches and longer season apples I bought should all ripen well. I went with semi common/commercial cultivars for here but they are right in the garden so they can be a little fussy, ill actually tend to these trees.

This is the garden field as of last week, the before picture is in the first post, just a scrubby maple sapling patch with a path through it then.

The seaberries are doing awesome, I planted them about 3 weeks ago and they already are nearly fully leafed out and are actually growing despite still getting frosts a few times per week.

I planted these peaches last August, not exactly peak time for tree planting. Nothing special besides a few handfuls of manure and a thick layer of mulch and they did awesome. This pic is a couple weeks old but they already leafed out great and everything, I just trimmed them very slightly this year.

Once the garden is walled in we will have 2 gates, one on the southwest corner, and one in the northeast. On one of the corners next to the gate I will inscribe a soapstone plaque saying something to the effect of;

To whoever finds this patch of earth, welcome. The wall and terraces you see before you were re-constructed in the 16th year of the 2nd millennium AD by Ria Angelita and Ian Taylor. This space served as our garden and fed our family, as did the Peach, Apple, Hazelnut and Chestnut trees we planted, and whose descendants we hope still grace this land today. If this space is in disrepair, please return it to its former glory and we hope it serves your needs as it has served ours. Thank you to the Jones and Tilley families who made this their home out of wilderness in around the year 1820 and whose hard work in fieldstone removal has saved us countless hours, and thanks to you, dear reader, for finding this place. Please respect it so that every future generation may make use of it as we have.

I always get a sense of awe when working with stone walls, just because of their permanence. I always wonder about who built the ones here the first time, and what neglect happened to them over the past 200 years to make them largely tumble down and get buried. I figured I will save the future generations the pain of wondering and just tell them. I only just started digging the old wall up, and I have a ways to go before its really a good quality "stone fence" but i'm expecting it to be a multi year project.

But anyways, along the path to the garden gate from the house I planted a hedge of Hazelnuts on either side backed up by a couple hybrid chestnuts along the tree line. Its a mix of hazelnuts varieties I got from Oikos, there is like 5 kinds and 12 bushes total. Im going to put seaberries in between these too once the ones I just planted are big enough to take and root cuttings from.

Already leafed out and doing great.

And the next field over to the east is nearly cleared also, not bad considering this was 100 percent trees when I started working here this past September, and all I use is a chainsaw and my hands. I did most of this work over our exceedingly mild winter, and I just have a little bit to clean up at the bottom and the east side. But now that most of the trees are gone (I keep a couple of the nicest ones) the soil is wide open with no trees and leaf litter to cover it so I just seeded it a few days ago. My self made mix of Timothy grass, Rye Grass, White Clover, a few kinds of annual clover, hairy vetch, daikon radish and a couple sweet lupines. The plan is for the top half of this field to be used for grazing, then towards the bottom dig a swale and have it funnel water into a small resevoir to use to water the rice paddies below it which are toward the bottom of the field. Then below that I can toss some fill to flatten the terrain and use it eventually as more garden space for crops that don't benefit from being in a fenced area, like buckwheat or potatoes.

The bottom and easternmost field is relatively flat, but also kind of swampy sometimes. Ill probably use it for grazing but cut one or two swales to catch water and nutrients flowing out of the forest above it. Then possibly at some point my dream is to build a pond down at the bottom next to the stream, giving me a true, top of the property pond (aready exists), and bottom pond. Its a long way off though, I only just started fighting back against the hawthornes and field roses that are taking the field over. I went and mowed it and ill start cutting and burning the hawthornes once the NYS burn ban is over. The probably go over and just seed it with soil building pasture seed until I can do anything more extensive with it in a few years.

But the biggest news of all:

We are going to be building a taproom for my parents brewery on this property in a couple years, at same time we build our house. The plan is to sell pints to drink there and growler fills. Also have some light prepared food options (My fiancee is going to culinary school right now in Indonesia) and also have a small fresh grocery. We are going to be producing this abundance of food anyways, much of which would just go to waste otherwise, 1 family cant eat it all. So we can offer our surplus for sale at the taproom. My parents brewery is actually in a much more remote and rural location than where we live and does fantastic, while we are only 20 minutes away from a major city. I think people will love the idea of a quick hop out to the country for some beer, not to mention the local people that will appreciate not needing to drive 15 minutes to the big box store just to buy apples, greens or eggs. And all in a beautiful picturesque setting... Everything just fits together like a puzzle with this business in this community so I think we will do great.

Also if anyone in the area wants a to take a trip trip to a great NYS farm brewery, give us a try (Shameless Plug)

8 years ago
Ok, firstly don't even think of burning the laminates. PTFE is Teflon and it gives off small amounts of octafluoroisobutylene when burned, which is an extremely toxic gas, actually banned by the U.N. chemical weapons treaty. It also, more importantly will contaminate your soil with dioxins which is currently one of the biggest pollution problems in world agriculture right now. Particularly in countries where they were dumped indiscriminately all over the countryside (like we did in vietnam). Basically don't ever burn chlorinated or fluorinated plastic... the amounts will be small with what you are doing, but still, don't do it.

As far as regular printer paper, the paper itself is mostly tree fiber and clay and isn't particularly toxic... but it burns like total shit in large quantities so good luck making it do anything besides burn the outside of the stack.

As far as the ink, ink jet printer ink is alcohol based and not particularly toxic, whether it becomes that way when burned, I'm not sure, it doesn't really matter though because this is kind of stupid for other reasons. Namely that wood, what everyone else uses to make biochar is totally free. If you want charcoal then it is much easier to gather some fallen logs from a nearby forest. It is easier than your plan, and will yield infinitely more usable charcoal.
9 years ago
Wow, thanks for the information. I didn't just visit Bali, probably about 2/3rd of the information I got came from farmers on Sulawesi, and all but 2 or 3 of the pictures here are from Sulawesi also. We spent a few days driving around in Sulawesi Selatan near Makassar. The pepole on Bali didn't seem to share as much in depth info, my guess is because the tourists they are used to aren't really that interested. Most of what i have from there is just from observation, the pictures and landscapes were beautiful though.

When I go back in October I will be in Makassar again, and will also be traveling to the Village of Malili, in Sulawesi Tenggara. Do you know of any further resources in those 2 areas?
9 years ago
Almost all their rice is eaten milled. Brown rice exists as a thing there but isn't very popular. There is some extra step that they often do with rice here, knocking the germ off or something, they don't bother to do that there. All the rice has a little brown stripe on it.

It isn't milled until right before it is sold though, supposedly tastes fresher that way.
9 years ago