This is the start of my blog connected with the Permaculture design course.
Link to other participants blog page: Permaculture design/Participant blogs
April 21, 2008
Well it's been a busy week. Spring is here and it's actually been really warm for this time of year. We went from cold and freezing to short and t-shirt weather within a week. Of course I'm happy with the warmth but the ominous words 'climate change' is always in the back of my mind. It's really difficult to say what is 'normal' yearly anomaly and what isn't. There's weird weather across the country right now. It's snowed in Vancouver last week! Also been reading some stuff about methane release in the Arctic which scared the bejeezus out of me. Sometimes I get pretty depressed and frustrated about it all and feel like I'm not doing enough, but I try to assure myself that I am working on it.
A woman dropped by last Wednesday to meet us and say hi. Ends up she lives on a farm a few km's away. Very friendly and told me about the local garden club that was meeting that night. She said she figured I might be interested because she saw all the 'garden stuff' in the yard. I did go and ended up volunteering for a the plant sale they hold in May. I met a few people, mostly older and I'm pretty sure they already think I'm a bit nuts. :) I was explaining how I was making my new garden beds this years, 'no dig' methods and on kept looking at me skeptically and saying, "Are you sure you just don't want my husband to come over and dig it all up with a tractor?" Ha ha. It's was pretty funny.
Anyways with spring coming on like it is the green stuff is exploding, which is good of course but also bad when one is trying get 'smothering' material down on numerous different patches before the grass and weeds grow up. I also funnily enough was having difficulties getting enough newspaper. I didn't have a vehicle for most of the week and when I did the the recycling depot where I could go and get a truckload or two wasn't open. I was getting a little paniced because I really wanted to at least get the main tomato and veggie bed done. It's the one that I'm making on the big area of partially composted straw and llama manure. It needs to be ready the soonest. It had clumps of grass and dried, waist height or higher, weedy material all over it. I discovered that the dried stuff came really easily and revealed some of the best soil I'm ever seen; black, loamy, lots of organic matter. I think it's close to what people call, "black earth". I was pretty excited. So because of that and the time constraints, the frustration I was having getting my materials, the fact that I discovered just how much sitting around this winter made me turn into a blob without a lot of physical stamina which the quick change in temperature made worse...I changed my plans.
I sent the hubby out to the home store to get a roll of black plastic, which I figured would be relatively cheap, while I pulled the dead weeds out of about 1000 sq foot area that ringed the main area of half composted straw. I had decided that I was going to put in a mandala garden in this area and will be adjusting it's original design. The hubby returned with 900sq ft roll of professional grade weed barrier because he couldn't find any plain old plastic. Yowza not cheap but good stuff. It blocks out the weeds, but lets water through. I really didn't like spending the money on it, but boy did it make the whole process quick and easy relative to the other methods. Once I got the tall weedy stuff out I mowed the whole area, so there is a thin layer of grass clippings. We then laid out the barrier and duct taped the 6ft strips together. The people before us had left a couple of stacks of cut up insulated doors which along with a couple of logs and an old iron farm gate, I laid around the edges to keep it from blowing away.
So fingers crossed in a month or so's time, the grass will be decomposed enough to deal with easier and of course none of the weeds that would have been there could grow. When the time comes to plant I'm going to remove the whole barrier and move it to another spot . On the mandala beds, if still needed I plan to use a type of barrier that eventually disintegrates as well as the straw mulch. I'll plant the tomatoes and everything else in holes in that barrier. It's not the perfect by the book 'no dig' method but I think it's going to work out alright. I did a similar thing last year when I dig my quick garden.
I also have got several hundred different seeds planted and there's still more to come. I've been trying to figure out what to put in my tomato guild as well as researching, planning and sourcing plants and trees for the overall planting plan. It looks like this year is going to be a bit of a hodge podge and an experimental season. I gotten and will be getting a number of different plants to 'try out' as well as develop a collection of stock plants that I can grow more plants from. I'm also going to focus on learning about and trying to get different native plants, especially edible ones. I've got a good list to start from that I got from the garden seminar. My goal is to try and get, either through buying or wild collection of seed every plant on that list. I realized after talking with the presenter that my property, though small, has micro systems that could grow pretty much all of them. We had fun going through all of the different areas needed - Open meadow, dry meadow, moist meadow, rocky, shady marsh, woodland marsh, open marsh, woodland, edge and interior, sand (sand dunes) etc etc. Which reminds me...my soil analysis....as you can probably gather from the above list I have ALOT of different types of soil! In some cases I walk 20 ft and it totally changes. I managed to get a broad survey done, but more indepth analysis is going to come slowly. I'd like to get a soil testing kit because I'm really curious about ph and nutrient levels in all of the different areas. Hopefully I'll get that next month . A kit with enough tests for all the different areas I have to test is a little pricey so it's on the wish list.
I've been trying to get at least a basic list of the seeds and plants I'm working with on the wiki. It can be found on the Seed List 2008 page. It's not in any real order yet. I'm just dumping the info in and have the organization part on the 'things to do on a rainy day list.' Yesterday we went to Herb Farm farm to pick up plants and more seed, mainly perennials. I've listed what I got and some notes about each on this page: /Richters Trip April, 21st 2008
Still Here: 8 April 2008
I'm still here, just been a little quiet online. I've been busy, busy with a couple of other things that have come up as well as trying to get things organized for the spring...which has finally arrived! Been feeling a little overwhelmed with it all but things are plodding along a-ok.
The snow has finally gone. We've gotten a few late storms so for a few weeks it seems that winter was never going to end this year.
I haven't actually been up at our place for a couple of months.. been house sitting at the parents, so yesterday was literally a breath of fresh air when we took a trip up to check it out. Since we weren't living there at this time last year I had never seen it just after the snow melt. Well it's very brown and wet! :) The birds are out though, as well as the bees and we even saw one frog. Little bits of green are poking there tips out of the soil though. My husband thinks I'm a nut now because I spent a good hour wandering around and squealing like a little kid and pointing "Oh look, look!"
A surprise though was when we saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes foraging through the marshy water in the back. We live in a major migration zone for the crane and after doing some 'googling' found out that it's common for it to breed in our area and that not all continue on north. I'm hoping maybe these two are planning to stay. If not it was still a treat to see. They are beautiful birds.
The good news is that the two apple trees we planted last fall have survived and have small buds on them. We also rescued a small wild cherry tree from the parents place last year that was in the way of bunkie my dad built. We just dug it up and planted it without much hope that it would live. In the fall I thought it was dead. Well nature has done it's thing and it has buds on it too. :)
Had a bit of setback with the tomato seeds. I planted an early batch, they sprouted fine but developed a very aggressive mold. Instead of fighting it I just scrapped the flats. It's not to late because this is the week we normally plant them anyways.
So the plans for the next week are to get the seeds planted. Mom is returning tomorrow which is good because we have several hundred to plant. Nice to have a partner.
I spent the time at the house looking at the land and planning out where all of the new garden beds are going. I'm going to be using the no dig method so basically will be covering the areas that are now all grass and weeds with various smothering material. For the beds that will be planted sooner rather then later I'll be using newspaper (it's free) and the composted straw which we have tons of. I also want to reclaim the areas around the fence lines from the grass and will be using plastic (free from the lumber yard) and some of the flat junk that's been lying around the yard that the previous owns left. There is a pile of corregated metal sheets and stack of old doors. Most of those areas will be planted later in the summer with perennials and shrubs so hopefully by that time it will be easier to deal with. It sure won't look that pretty though. :)
I also have to get it through the hubby's head that..'.no we don't need to bring in a small tractor or rototiller and dig up the whole field.' He's still very skeptical or trying to get his mind around 'not having to dig'. "Trust me dear it works I've done it before." ;) He's coming around though when I keep repeating. "Less physical labor and time...nature can do it for us, if we're patient."
It also looks like that we will be getting chickens this year. At first I decided that it may be two much work at this time to get it all set up for them. I discovered though, (not sure why I didn't notice last year) that the shed behind our house that used to be for the small dogs the previous owner bred is already set up perfectly for chickens. It has pens in that actually have doors that lead out to the fenced enclosures. I totally missed seeing the little doors last year and though we would have to do some renovating to the shed if we were going to use it for chickens. Not anymore! All we will have to do is redo the inside with some nesting boxes and the roosts and instant chicken coop. The plan is to get the flock going and then later on work at figuring out the whole 'chicken tractor' thing.
There is a rare/heritage breed show in a few weeks so I plan on making contact with people who breed heritage poultry and go from there. Many of these breeds are endangered and we'd like to do our part in fostering diversity in this area.
I've also been looking into getting bees and found the whole thought quite overwhelming. I however discovered the small field of organic beekeeping or 'natural' beekeeping, particularly something called warres based beekeeping. We've had a lot of issue with "Colony Collape Disorder" in Canada and the US as well as problems with mites and other diseases. However in the area of organic beekeeping they haven't been experiencing these problems. In a nutshell in my reading it can be distilled down to 'factory farm, industrialized ' type beekeeping vs more natural forms of beekeeping. It's really a no brainer when you get down to it.
Anyways the warres type techniques seem quite well suited to a small scale permaculture system. It's low cost and low maintenance. You basically set up the hives and leave them be to do what they naturally do. It disturbs them less and the only time you fiddle with the hives is twice a year, once in the spring and at harvest for the surplus honey, the rest is just left for them to live on through the winter. Some good info can be found here. http://www.biobees.com/warre/index.html
Anyways thats all for now. Must get to work!!
So why the name Odonata Fen? When I got married a year and half ago my husband and I set about starting our dream of getting a piece of property of our own. He is a dog trainer mainly of highly trained working shepards and wants to set up a kennel and breed german shepards. I want to grow and garden. We visioned big...maybe 100 acres...then 50... Well of course reality set in and we discovered just how much the mortgage world had changed in terms of getting rural acreage and coupled with being both self employed how difficult is actually was. It was quite a struggle and after trying everything to finance what we thought was a perfect 50 acre plot we had to refine our goals. From the beginning though we came up with a name. Odonata...latin for Dragonfly. Don't know why. It just stuck. I've always liked dragonflies, their symbolism as well as their place in ecological terms... I had the goal of whereever we found that I would nuture a habitat that would support them.
Well we had almost given up when I came across a small piece of property being sold as is...and within the description it said it used to be used as a kennel. Worth a look I suppose. I didn't know the area at all but as soon as Mom and I drove up to the place I knew this was the one, as soon as we stepped out of the car we were surrounded by dragonflies!! A few landed right on the flagstones in front of us as we were walking up to the door. The house itself was solid but the inside a mess, the previous owners had more of a puppy mill then a kennel and apparently about 30 dogs lived inside...it stank. I didn't care, nothing that some blood, sweat and yes tears would solve. We moved in 2 months later...well actually we moved into a tent in the yard and lived in it for about 3 weeks while we got the inside habitable.
The property itself is 1.5 acres though it feels like more. It's situated on strip of land between two lakes. On one side is a 300 acre outdoor education center that's densely treed. On the other is a piece of private property thats also treed. The back is somewhat treed and blends into a huge marsh and then the lake. Needless to say it's wet...which has it's own challenge but not something I'm going complain about with water and wetlands being such precious resources. In doing some research on wetland ecology I came across the term Fen..which basically means a bog or marshland area, I liked the sound of it, so Odonata became Odonata Fen.
- Hi Jade apple, hope its OK I comment right there on your blog? Just wanted to say what a beautiful looking place you have, and how perfect it must have felt when dragonflies welcomed you. That is one of the things that Dave said when we visited his place last week, that the land welcomed him and from there is has been a process of building a relationship with everything on it. That confronts me actually. I realise that I have not been consciously building a relationship with my place. I have been very busy with it, doing lots of things that inevitably build a relationship, but its been very much my to it, and not a dialog. So I'm going to really try and improve my observation skills. I'm going to create space and time to observe a lot more. --Leighblackall 04:15, 2 March 2008 (UTC)
Fri. 22nd Feb .30~9.30 - Introductions, Permaculture Ethics and Principles
permaculture ethics, principles, methods and outcomes need to tease these out some
- observe and interact - - Look at the larger scope of a project or of the world and then work your way to the smallest details. This will give us a complete perspective of every detail and their interconnection. It will help us see the patterns in those details as well. "Think globally act locally."
- catch and store energy
- obtain a yield
- apply self-regulation and accept feedback
- use and value renewable resources and services
- produce no waste
- design from patterns to details
- integrate rather than segregate - Everything in this world provides multi function. Observe and integrate in order not to waste precious resources.
- use small and slow solutions
- use and value diversity - reflect the diversity in our world by living diversely and putting diversity into every thought and micro-system.
- use edges and value the marginal - the edges or the places where two micro-systems meet seem to be the most fertile and fruitful areas, value them.
- creatively use and respond to change
I think I'm going to work through these principles here in relation to my own situation. I think it will help get my head around them. I'll just brainstorm and see if I come up with anything coherent that I can transfer over to the main course page.
Resources and Links of Interest
I have a big interest in local foods and the problems with our industrial food production system overall. This book and concept is making it's way through public consciousness where I am. I've been aware of it for a number of years and followed this couple's year long experiment when they first did on their blog about it. I haven't read the book itself yet but I keep hearing it being talked about in different places. I knew it must be getting somewhere when in conversation this am with my Mom she started talking about it and even bought the book. Go Mum! She and others have been talking about it and other food issues in her local church study group. It seems that people are quite interested and thinking more about these issues, more then they used to be. Go people!
My mum, I'm going to call her a brandnewly minted food activist (Go mum again!), told me about this package offered by this seed company. Saltspring as you can see by checking out there site is a company based on the ethos that I think fit perfectly within a permaculture context. They've come out with a seed package called the '0 Mile Diet' based of course on the 100 Mile Diet concept that I talked about above. I think it's great idea and something that could easily be emulated in different regions. I also like how they talk about the possibilities of working within an urban community for people that don't have enough land to grow everything themselves. I'm thinking of maybe trying it out where I am as I'm already trying out several of the not so common food plants this year.