Tag Archives: permaculture

Changing the Land

I can hear the buzzing of the chainsaw as we speak. Then it stops when the tree begins to crack, crashing down my hillside the end of a life.

I was brought up to love and respect trees. I couldn’t imagine ever willing logging a forest.  A forest! full of life and trees that breath oxygen: life to us humans. Loggers in my mind were villains.

Yet here I am. Watching trees, tall firs and cedars, dropping. Not only watching, but I hired the guy to come and do this (okay,actually, the landlord did it when I asked her to). I feel like a terrible hippy, guilt consumes me with every crash I hear.DSCN0692

I wince, and want to cry as I see a mighty cedar tumble.

However, I am also the steward of my land and my animals. That means culling the old, sick and unproductive. These are trees that are ending their period of fast growth. There are a few stands of dead trees. Some are even starting to develop conchs: fungus that eat the weak trees. The cedar are at the age that they begin to rot through the center. Below these trees is an understory of young trees waiting for their elders to fall. Many of the cedar are shoots from the old trees. Where there is life slowing down and dying, there is life waiting to explode. If these are left waiting too long they too will die.

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Not only that, but some of these firs are so tall they are blocking sun to the pasture. By removing some of these I am hoping to improve pasture in the cooler seasons when the sun is low and skirts behind these trees. I can also increase the pasture by possibly a whole acre…though half an acre is more likely. I have concerns about some of the undergrowth allowing predators a place to hide, so away it goes!

For the sake of the pigs I am hoping clearing the forest some will also allow me to fence the woods in and plant trees they can forage around. The logger accidentally took out all my wild filberts thinking I wanted more pasture there, whoops! didn’t realize I was planning on using that for the pigs. Oh well. I can plant new ones that should bear in, oh, sever years.

On a longer time frame is what I need to think. This land was purchased for the sake of creating a permaculture paradise. My ex was into permaculture, I simply tried to provide a place for him to live out his dreams. For me a more conventional farm where I could run a sheep dairy with enough pasture to run an actual business would have been good. But, hey. I’ve got what I’ve got and I’ve got to commit to what the land is and needs.

So here I am. Watching the land get cleared. I was hoping that this would allow me to do some terracing, too. We will see what the land wants and needs when the job is done. There are a few things I am still planning on:

+Digging a holding pond in the middle pasture with a bioswale to the stream. Hopefully this will hold water for a large part of the summer season and give the winter rains a place to flow without loosing nutrients, topsoil and prevent fecal contamination in the stream.

+Digging a swale that leads from the barn to a grassy catchment near the stream that will become an orchard.

+Creating fruiting hedgerows between paddocks.

The rest I am waiting for the land to tell me what to do. In the meantime, I watch the elderly fall giving room to the young

Pigs in the Garden

I know permaculture theory suggests using pigs to rototill, and as we know my pigs are quite good at the job. However, setting up a  space around my garden and herding the pigs into it seemed like a sizable undertaking so I went with a more conventional method to breaking ground for the new garden: a rototiller. The soil had the right amount of water, but being clay it was still hard as heck and after an hour of hard labor my wrists that are prone to tendonitis hurt, I was breathing fumes and the grass roots had hardly been cut into. i had a 20×40 square of ugly:large clods of dirt and grass with only 1 inch “fluffed” and holdouts from the former lawn waving their grassy blades like green standards in a war against my invasion into their property. Three weeks later those bunches of grass are looking fine and healthy with the added root space.

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Thanks for nothing, rototiller

 

I then attempted to spade the space as Steve Solomon suggests….for all of two minutes. With as much weight as it took me to spade a single foot of ground no way could i do the whole garden.

So I gave in. I don’t feel comfortable using polyrope outside of the big permanent fence because the pigs still bust through it sometimes, but the garden needed tilling if it was going to do it this year i needed to do it NOW. First time I tried there was a heat wave and I didn’t want a wallow in my garden space (compacted dirt!) so i put them back with the other pigs. That movable pen i ended up giving to Cap the goat, so once the weather cooled down…nada. I finally made a electric fence around the garden this weekend and the pigs happily followed me in  (?!!)

 

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The kids got to work right away now that the weather has cooled off. But what really surprised me was after a day of “hard work” in the garden I treated them to an extra scoop of grain and they didn’t eat it! Infact, they weren’t even excited at feeding time. Whatever they are finding in the ground is filling them up, the grain is just supplementary. While I wasted a few pound of feed at least its in the garden where it will add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. Yes, this whole process works well to fertilize the soil for the coming plants.

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Okay, so maybe you can’t see it but that is a hole. A huge, fluffy hole. Its fluffy clay. PIGS! YOU ARE AMAZING!

 

I should have done this much earlier in the year. The whole space should have been managed totally differently, but life got in the way. Anyway, its May and I’m finally working on my garden space. Luckily it is going to heat lovers like eggplants and peppers that don’t have to go in for a few more weeks.