A hybrid farm idea combining radically traditional methods and innovative ideas to strategically grow our soil and plant health. Welcome to Permaculture.
Permaculture was a word that we began hearing in 2015. The more we learned about it, the more amazing it sounded. Because it is simply permanent agriculture, permaculture lends to the use of perennial plants. So in theory you plant once and you’re done! Annuals still have a place as well though. Permaculture has the ability to go a step further than just being sustainable. Done well, it can be regenerative. It does this by sequestering carbon, building organic matter in the soil, increasing soil life, and also improving the water cycle.
Developing a food forest was our first permaculture project in 2016. I’ve heard it said the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best time is today. We used the remains of our little family orchard as the setting for our food forest. The soil in this area has much opportunity for improvement, which lends well to the regenerative abilities of permaculture.
A food forest contains seven layers. Layering is a wonderful method of gathering maximum amounts of free solar energy. Much more solar energy can be harvested in this manner verses the single layer of a monoculture system such as corn or soybeans.
The first layer is the canopy layer. Below that is the shade tolerant trees. Then there is the shrub layer and next comes the herbaceous layer. The layers that follow are the vine layer, then the ground cover layer, and lastly, the root layer.
Our second project is just getting well underway. This large scale project is on the patch of land that we call the Miller Place. These one hundred and fifty-five acres belonged to my great-aunt when I was a little. We bought the land back from a logging company in 2008 and have finally begun to turn it into pasture land. But after learning more about permaculture, along with other systems of agricultural design, we knew we wanted this to be more than a normal pasture. The Miller Place will be a silvopasture system with a forage base of native grasses, legumes, and forbes. Fruit and nut trees and berry bushes will line the berms and swales that we are installing to aid in water management.
We are excited to lean more about tree fodder and how it will be used to compliment the multi-species grazing that we plan incorporate on our property.
When we are planting, we consider all pollinators, not just the bees in our apiary, and try to provide not only food, but habitat as well.
This system of agriculture lends itself to more initial planning, research, and implementation due to its relatively new appearance on the agriculture scene. But we are excited about what the next decade holds!
What we’ve done
The first order of business, as normal on a farm, was to build a fence. We put up an electric wire fence around the field. After having the land mulched, we decided we needed something a little… more. We needed something to come in and take care of the stumps that the mulcher had left. So we had a dozer come in to do just that. This turned up so many rocks I’m pretty sure they outnumbered the stars. Several months of work in the middle of the summer led to a pasture not as overrun with rocks, and numerous rock piles. We then roughly leveled the ground using a drag, and the bush-hogged the area.
What we are doing
Because these one hundred and fifty-five acres are split in two sections by a county road, the work on the sections is not even yet. While we are ready for drilling grasses on the larger side, the smaller side is still in the process of being dozed. Piles of stumps and brushed are also being pushed up for burning.
What we plan to do
Once dozing is completely done, we will repeat the process of picking up rocks and leveling on the smaller section. By spring of 2019, the two sides will both be ready for the establishment of native grasses. We will start drilling these grasses as soon as things start to get green. In the next two years we will begin implementing a silvopasture system by planting trees that can be used for lumber, mast, fodder, and shade. We also plan to fence the smaller side of land and add cross fencing to both sides.