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Laura Poland

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since Jun 11, 2020
A former software engineer actively converting 10 acres of mostly former industrial corn fields and a small existing woods into an organic permaculture farm. Began the project in 2016. Topography includes some wetland, some not-so-wet land, and a riparian buffer. Battling herbicide drift, flood waters, wind storms, and of course mosquitoes. Loving life.
Indiana, USA
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Recent posts by Laura Poland

My husband and I are considering installing a wood stove in our house to make use of all the free wood we received when the Emerald Ash Borer moved to our town.  We already have our electric bills covered thanks to a 100% solar system, but we pay for gas heat in the winter, and we think a wood stove would greatly reduce that last utility bill.  We have a perfect spot for one in our living room, with an existing chimney.  My only real concern about doing this is for the safety of my cats.  They are very active and love to chase each other around the house, slide long distances on the wood floors, play fight, toss toys all over the place, etc.  I am concerned they could slide into the stove and burn themselves, or maybe throw a toy on top and create a fire hazard.  Has anyone else dealt with cat-proofing a wood stove?
9 months ago
Congratulations James, you and your partner must be so excited!  I inherited some woods when I bought my property too.  When I first moved in, I was kind of gung-ho to start clearing things out.  But luckily I didn't, and now I am so glad!  I encourage you to invite someone out to walk your property with you- perhaps your friendly local NRCS (natural resources conservation service) representative, or an arborist, or a master naturalist, or just a friend who can identify trees really well.  Make notes about all the trees and plants that you currently have.  Google each one of them thoroughly, making sure to check out their PFAF profiles ( and their USDA plant profiles (  You might be surprised and delighted, as I was, about the fantastic useful trees and plants that you already have.  In addition, the species already present on your land can tell you a lot about your soil and your microclimates, which will be really useful to you when choosing which new species to add to the forest.  My woods came pre-loaded with wonderful beech nuts, hickory nuts, walnuts, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, and many other species.  If you're itching to begin cleaning it out, start with the invasives that are likely present and hogging a large amount of space.  Learn how to identify bush honeysuckle, and clear cut all those bad boys.  If you have Autumn Olive and White Mulberry, those are both problematic invasive plants too, but they do provide food, so I would probably wait to remove those until I was ready to replace them with something better.  You'll probably want to start ridding your place of irritating plants like poison ivy and virginia creeper.  If you don't know what kind of briers you have, make sure to get an ID before removing them.  They might be great edible plants like raspberry, blackberry, greenbrier, etc.  Walk your woods regularly to see what kind of mushrooms grow there and where they grow, and learn how to identify the useful ones.  That'll keep you plenty busy the first year or two, especially if you have day jobs.  If you're itching to start growing something right away, perhaps consider inoculating some mushroom logs!  By the time you're done with those tasks, you'll be so much wiser and you'll have a clear understanding of your land and you'll be able to make a much better plan than anyone could help you make right now.  

After you identify the parts of your woods that you plant to keep permanently shady, you could look into planting things like ginseng, ramps, and ostrich ferns for a start.  And maybe growing a lot of mushroom logs, after you've practiced growing a small number of them.  They're a little harder than you might expect them to be, because you have to remember to water them regularly for a really long time before they fruit.  But if you learn to do it well, it can be a great crop.

9 months ago
One thing that isn't often discussed is the pre-Gert phase.  I worked really really hard writing software code for 14 years in order to set up my finances in a way that allows me to live a permaculture life now.  It was pretty rough in fact, especially the last few years when I was juggling managing my land, commuting long distances to the city, coding all day, and doing all those money-saving tasks like cooking meals and fixing my own stuff.  It was not very idyllic at all.  My health suffered at times, my attitude suffered at times.  But it was worth it, because earlier this year when I got laid off due to Covid shutdown economic repercussions, I was able to say "close enough!" and dive right into a "Gerty" lifestyle.  I'm living on a shoe-string budget, but thanks to those 14 years I put in, I'm able to cover the essential bills even though my land isn't producing much yet.

It's really important to talk about this stuff for the benefit of those who are just beginning their journey, and not pretend that everything is easy.  I remember when I was a kid studying music, I read some article about how Mozart played piano very intuitively even before taking any lessons and it sounded like it all came so easily to him.  Meanwhile, I was practicing very hard.  I felt inadequate because I was struggling while someone else didn't have to struggle.  Of course I'm not the musical equal of Mozart, but that doesn't mean I can't make beautiful music.  And if Mozart didn't work really hard, whatever talent he came by naturally would never have amounted to anything.  Really good things in life rarely come without a struggle.  So if you're at the beginning and you're wondering how you could ever achieve Gert-hood because you have student loans and no land yet and not much money, that's okay.  Take it one step at a time, do what you have to do to overcome each obstacle, work hard, and be patient.  It might not be easy, but it is possible.

For further reading on money-accumulation, I recommend checking out Jacob Fisker's work and Peter Adeney's work
I've greatly improved my asthma by identifying my triggers, and doing as much as possible to eliminate them from my life.  Mine is largely triggered by allergies.  I was already taking a daily allergy pill, but I got my allergies under much better control by avoiding the allergens as much as possible, rinsing my sinuses with a neti pot once or twice a day, drinking lots of nettle tea, and eating healthier foods.  I still take zyrtec.  Though I'd like to eliminate that single pharmaceutical, I have not yet been able to achieve control without it.  I have been able to eliminate two asthma meds, though.  I carry a little vial of eucalyptus and ravintsara essential oils (blended) in case I feel an attack starting, and that usually works well enough to avoid using the rescue inhaler.  I still carry a rescue inhaler just in case, but I haven't used it in over a decade.
9 months ago
It's a long game, but I've planted a number of nut trees as staple crops in my native riparian buffer food forest.  Different species can begin bearing nuts over a wide variety of ages.  The earliest is American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) at 4 years old.  American Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) will follow at 10 years old.  Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) could be next at 20 years old.  Lastly, Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa) may not bear for 40 years.  

In non-riparian areas, I'm fortunate to have inherited some established nut trees including Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata).  These all provide bountiful and delicious staple crops (though the Beech trees don't crop every year).  All native to my region and require no maintenance.

Acorn is an easy staple crop to forage, for the simple fact that most people don't know it's food, so there's little competition.

In the garden, I grow Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) and Sunflowers (Helianthus annus).  Both are native to my region, prolific, and easy to grow.  There are many different kinds of harvests from the sunflower, not just the seeds.  

Right now I have to focus on growing plants that require very low care, because the bulk of my time and energy is devoted to planting and nurturing a young food forest.  As that becomes more established and low care, I will definitely return to growing many other kinds of staple crops in the garden.  I'm not listing any of the fruits that I grow in this thread, because "staple crops" are typically crops that provide a high amount of energy AND can be stored long-term.  But I propose that most fruits would qualify as staples if dehydrated.

11 months ago
The pawpaw is my favorite by far!!  It's native in my area and it grows wild in the woods, and on my property where I have planted about 50 trees.  When I used to work in the city, I'd take long walks on my lunch hour and forage from the city plantings.  I used to find juneberries, hawthorn, crab apples, and acorns that way.  Nearer my home, there's a huge old persimmon tree along one of the walking trails.  It drops very high quality fruit all over the trail and most people just step on it, but I show up with a basket every year to gather some.  We have white mulberries growing everywhere as weeds, and I eat my fill of those throughout the summer.  We also have black raspberry and blackberry growing along the edges of our woods, and they're delicious if I can beat the birds to them.
1 year ago
It could be over-mating, if you have roosters with your hens.  But it also could be mites or lice.
1 year ago
I have one suggestion that requires very little startup costs and no land.  Have you considered growing microgreens?  You can really harvest a lot of very healthy food, and it only takes about two weeks to begin harvesting.  There's a really excellent book on the topic called "Year Round Indoor Salad Gardening" by Peter Burke.  If I was in OP's situation, I would certainly not invest thousands of dollars towards building garden beds on a property I did not control and was not happy living in.  Something like a microgreens setup would be portable if/when you move on to a better living situation.
1 year ago
Hello new friends!  I'm new here and glad to meet you all.  I'm located in Indiana, USA, and I'm four years into a huge project of converting 10 acres of previous industrial corn farm into a permaculture farm.  

One of the most interesting parts of my project is the riparian buffer forest garden I've been building on two acres of natural wetland.  I have really enjoyed learning about all the wonderful plants that are adapted to wetland / flood plain areas, and the beautiful animals that thrive there as well.  I've been focusing mostly on species that are native to my area.  It's a big job, and our young plants face many challenges including being knocked around by litter during the floods (we've had big items wash in- even a picnic table!), harsh weather, deer damage, rodent damage, submersion, shade from tall weeds, etc.  Every year we have some losses, and we continuously replant.  But I'm four years into this project, and every year the survivors increase!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas about wetland/riparian forest gardens!  Do you have favorite flood tolerant forest garden plants?  Do you have favorite techniques in managing this type of land?  Maybe you have a favorite wetland animal species!  Let's chat :)

Here are some of the species I've already planted in my wetland forest garden:

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa)
Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

American Plum (Prunus americana)
Allegheny Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
American Hazel (Corylus americana)
Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia)
Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Late Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)
Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)
Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia)
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
1 year ago