Tuesday, February 4, 2014

By Design Part 2

Permaculture design is a whole system approach to design. In order to understand the whole system one must observe what occurs within that system. If I were to look at the  homestead only as its individual corners I would miss connections that could be made between each corner. For example, lets look at four key areas to the homestead, the chicken coop, the compost pile, the garden and the house.

Currently the chickens are living in a chicken coop on the sorta southwest corner of the property. They require a fenced in yard for the spring so they don't eat the garden, they need to be mucked out, they require some feed to be purchased on a regular basis, they give eggs, they love to eat slugs, they like to eat food and garden scraps. They have not laid many eggs this winter because they are not getting enough day light with their current arrangement.  Next to the chicken coop is a small shed that was used for the ewes. The old paddock has been well fertilized. It is fenced in with welded wire and would be easily accessible to the chickens.

The compost bins are located at the northwest corner, along the tree line. They are used to collect any food scraps that the chickens do not eat; egg shells, coffee grounds, orange peels. I collect fallen leaves, grass clippings and garden waste to construct the compost piles.  There are two bins constructed from old pallets. I turn the piles but not as regularly as would be required to harvest finished compost regularly; however I do harvest compost sufficient to side dress perennials. 

If the house is at 6 o'clock then the vegetable garden is at 12 o'clock. In between the house and the garden is a perennial herb garden that I created by sheet mulching. This garden has mostly medicinal and culinary herbs and flowers. It is at a point where things are getting crowded and some of the perennials need to be divided. In this garden bee balm, mint and evening primrose have have firmly established in one key hole bed and maintain themselves fairly well. Elecampane, astragalus, feverfew, motherwort, arnica ,horehound, oregano need more room. 

Also in between the house and veggie garden is a fire pit constructed on one side with a large boulder, two other sides are built with large flat stones buried half way up. Around this is a former owner's former garden. In the spot is a variety of mint I have been unable to identify, there are paper whites and irises that come up. I have a big patch of comfrey here and some rosa rugosa. Among all this is black raspberry which does not really produce berries but does over take everything every year.

And then there is the veggie garden itself. The veggie garden has nettles, rhubarb, asparagus, good king henry, bunching onions and walking onions. and hops. It also has corners of the garden that are more acidic than others. At some point in the history of the ground it had a fire pit. This spot has the right balance between alkalinity and acidity. There is a tall field pine tree that shades the far southern corner. I have let some lettuce and chard go to seed for the last couple of years and now they reseed every year. Borage is firmly established as a volunteer every year as well.  Currently there are parsnips in the ground waiting for spring harvest. There are old trellising structures standing sentinel above the snow. There are some tools still out there because the snow fell before I managed to get them put away. There is no source of water close to the garden. The paths are mulched with mulch hay given to us by a local alpaca farm at the end of last winter. Garlic is planted. I planted some garlic from seed purchased last fall and bubils saved from the season before. Most of the beds were covered in composted sheep manure, lime and chopped leaves. Common pests are slugs, cucumber beetles, tomato hornworm, japanese beetles and mice.

To the left of the garden is a black berry patch, a small patch of everbearing raspberries, an elderberry bush that produced berries for the first time last year, a hazelnut bush that needs a mate and the orchard; with one tree with a small guild under it. This is on land that slopes gently down to the bottom of the orchard. The ground of the orchard has lots of red clover, yarrow, johhny jump ups and dandelions. Poison Ivy has taken hold on the north side of the orchard but so has burdock. The orchard consists of a dozen fruit trees 3 pears, 9 apples of mixed varieties. They are semi- dwarf  and over twenty years old.

Finally there is the house. If the flow of the land to all the productive corners of the property were to be considered petals on a flower, the house is the stamin producing the pollen for fertilization. From the house I cook and preserve the food that the garden and chickens produce. From the house the food waste feeds the chickens and the compost bin. From the land comes the food and firewood. The flow between these different areas is ongoing during the most productive times of the year.

In the next post I'll look at that flow as it exists now and ways to improve the flow to improve their integration.

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