Friday, June 27, 2008

Our Missouri Permaculture Project

CabinI wrote in early May that we had started a permaculture project with an outhouse for composting humanure. At the time my plan was to start living on site in the fall of 08 but plans changed and after a whirlwind of activity I moved into my cabin on May 24th, just three weeks after completing the outhouse. We (and by we I mean my lunatic brother-in-law Greg who easily does the work of 3 men) fast-tracked the building of my cabin and in two very long weekends of work completed the outer shell and flooring to cover up the treated plywood. By the third weekend of work all the seams and soffits were finished so no more mice or birds visiting at night and in the morning!!

During the second weekend of work on the cabin I also got going on the garden of annual crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, chard, lettuce, carrots, and beets) as well as the forest garden. In the following weeks I've added to the annual garden (pumpkins) and also planted seven fruit trees in the forest garden as well as ground cover of mint and nasturtiums. Just today I added four potato plants in the forest garden. This fall or the spring of next year we'll add several fruit bushes such as blueberry. For those unfamiliar with permaculture and forest garden the idea is that a forest garden is designed as a forest ecosystem of seven or so layers of plant life starting with the large trees and moving on down to plants that grow along very low to the ground. When designing the forest garden as an ecosystem we think vertically as well as horizontally and are able to increase the beneficial connections between plants and other elements such as...

Cluck, cluck, cluck!! Chickens! I'm also planning on using the forest garden as a forage area for the chickens which will be gotten as soon as a coop can be built. They'll keep the grass (not good around fruit trees) to a minimum as the forage for plants, insects, fallen/rotted fruit all the while fertilizing as they go. This should make for happier, healthier chickens as well as a healthier forest garden.

This is really just the beginning and it happened much more quickly than I'd planned. Next spring we'll be putting in an orchard of 20 or more fruit trees as well as grapes and berry bushes. Before that I still have work to do on my cabin. In the coming weeks we'll be finishing off the inside walls as well as adding shelving, a sink (draining to gray water outside), and a wood burning stove. Just today I added the gutter to the backside of the house which will collect rainwater off the metal roof into a series of rain barrels which will be raised off the ground for a gravity feed and connected to a single faucet. My hope is to connect 10 barrels, 55 gallons each for a total of 550 gallons of garden water. That's not much but with the thick mulching of manure/compost, cardboard, and straw used in no-till gardening a little goes a very long way!




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4 comments:

Chief Cloudpiler said...

I have twenty acres of second and third growth Oak and Hickory and have begun to build my first swales and berms. I intend to use the dripline of several "Farmer Tree" to provide the moist, dappled shade for guilds of fruit, nuts and perenials.

I don't know of many people in MO who are thinking in this direction and it is nice to know we have like-minded neighbors.

Cloudpiler

Eitan said...

Hey Denny!
My name is Eitan and I am an 18-year-old from St. Louis. I am currently in Israel studying Permaculture Design on a kibbutz. One of the problems I am experiencing in the program is that the hands-on experience I am getting here does not deal with many of the gardening methods I will be using in Missouri because the climate is so different here. I was wondering if you have any advice on particular difficulties you have come across. Also, have you had problems with squirrels eating your crops? Will the chickens be allowed to roam free in the forest garden or will they be in a chicken tractor to protect them from predators? Its great to see that permaculture exists in Missouri!

denny said...

Hey Eitan. Main difficulties are springs that can be too wet and summers that are too hot and dry!! Basically the weather is often not cooperative or predictable. We do have lots and lots of squash bugs and tomato hornworms which can really devastate those plants. Japanese beetles can also be quite a problem. No problems with squirrels though I've avoided planting nut trees because they WOULD be a problem if I did. The chickens are free range most of the year but are restricted to a pasture for maybe 2-4 months of the year. That said, it is a pretty large pasture and does contain one part of our forest garden. I'm here almost every single day to watch over them and on the very few days that I'm not here I keep them in the safe zone which is a 8x8 area (covered) of chain link fence behind their coop.

When you're back in Missouri get in touch, perhaps you could come down for a visit sometime!

Anonymous said...

Hi Denny,
My name's Jen and I live in Central Missouri. After getting certified in Perm. Design this last summer, I'm starting some projects around the town where I reside. I could really use a fellow MO permie to bounce ideas off of, etc. Was so glad to find your blog and I would love to talk to you if it's not too much trouble. I know nothing about AIM but am proficient in email:-) If you'd like, please shoot me a message at jenniferdavis119@yahoo.com Thanks and good luck with your project!