In The Beginning…There Was Permaculture – Part 2
If you read In The Beginning…There Was Permaculture – Part 1, you’re all caught up on the basics of the permaculture gardening method. If not, please read part 1 before finishing this post. Otherwise, you may feel a little lost and a lot overwhelmed! For the rest of you, let’s dive in to part 2!
In this installment, I’d like to share a little a bit about where I’m at in the homesteading design process. Not only will we talk permaculture (and we WILL talk permaculture), but homesteading is about so much more than just the garden.
I understand everyone learns in a different way. For some of you, you may be better visual learners. For others, you may need to get your hands dirty and experience the lesson before the info clicks. I’m a little bit of a freak, so I tend to float between all of them. Fortunately for you, that means my design plans should be multi-learner friendly. Let’s get started!
This is the biggest obstacle standing in between me and living the dream at the Back Acres Homestead. With building materials and interest rates at an all time high, it seems the only way to live on our land will be via a tiny home. Less than 1,000 square feet for a family of four with four pets…sounds marvelous. NOT!
Granted, not much progress has occurred in this department yet…probably because I’m scared to see the totals. But, the ultimate goal is to live in an 1,800-2,500 square foot barndominium. You see, my children are part Tasmanian devil, so a metal structure with concrete floors sounds superb!
A barndominium also allows me to fully customize the floor plan as well as add more square footage later. Though I’ve found floor plans I like (like the one pictured), there’s always tweaks that need to be made. Mainly, because I don’t care about large bedrooms or whether there is a separate tub and shower. My main priority is the kitchen (SHOCKER) and a large living room for entertaining.
As more information trickles in, more posts will be written on the topic of building a barndominium. Until then, check out this awesome article Top 7 Benefits of Living in a Barndominium to learn a few reasons why were are interested in this unconventional home.
Anyone who has been married for any amount of time knows that home projects can be a point of tension. Between differing styles, things going wrong, unplanned costs, ten trips to the home improvement store, the inevitable owie, and the physical exhaustion….loving spouses can turn into “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” fairly quickly.
Though making my husband’s head pop is tempting some days, I’d really prefer to avoid the martial massacre as often as possible. So, one day I had the idea to draft up a homestead building contract that the two of us would sign.
This contract details the responsibilities of each party during the process as well as any consequences that may ensue should someone break the terms. For example, in the contract, my husband releases all design and décor options to me. MINE! At the same time, he gets most reign over the more functional aspects, like whether or not to go geo-thermal. HIS…ish. LOL!
This may sound ridiculous, but that’s exactly the point! While drafting and signing the terms, we were joking around and laughing. The amount of time and the consideration my husband took before scribbling his signature was hysterical. Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of that moment during a future time of hostility?
Be forewarned, this may not work for everyone. However, in my husband and I’s case, sometimes breaking the fight cycle is enough to reset us. By pulling out the contract (the literal white flag) we both can step back and realize how ridiculous we are being. It also serves as a reminder that this process is about making our dreams come true, and as such, should be a time of enjoyment.
We’ll revisit this later during the actual building process to see if this theory still applies…LOL!
Now that we’ve explored the structural side, let’s get to the green side. Before we had ever signed the closing paperwork on the land, I had already made a list of all the fruits and vegetables I want to grow. My goal is to get my family as close to self reliant (produce wise) as possible. After all, paleo eating can be expensive…and costs are climbing!
This is a huge undertaking! I knew a lot of planning was needed in order to create a homestead of this size that’s realistically maintainable. So, I got busy turning my list into an action plan. Are you ready learners? Buckle up, because here we go!
First, I Drafted
This is where the visual learner in me made her debut. I completed my written list of trees, garden babies, and land features and then moved on to graphing it all out.
I wanted to graph everything according to scale so I can visualize it better. By doing this, I can better picture what it would be like to walk through the land I’m dreaming up in my mind.
First, I made myself a key. Each graph square represented 10 feet. The house, the shed, the trees, and the pond all sketched according to estimated scale. I only focused on trees and a general garden plot since large part of permaculture takes place under the tree canopy. I’ll make a more specific guild map later. Now, it was my tactile learners turn.
I then turned everything into puzzle pieces by cutting out multiple appropriately sized shapes. I carefully placed each one on the scaled plot of land, then rearranged as necessary. This helped me create multiple land plans without wasting endless sheets of graph paper. Plus, it was just plain fun!
Then, I Read
When I was finished playing with my paper garden, I moved on to more technical information. Cue my inner reading and writing learner.
As you already know from my reference in Part 1, I learned a lot from reading The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide To Permaculture. I learned the basics of “do nothing” gardening as well as how to group plants.
By stepping back from drafting to learn more about efficient gardening, I can create better plant placements according to my land’s natural tendencies.
For example, the eastern side of my lot is where most of the water run off is. Now that I’ve observed that area will likely be damp more than other areas, I know to move any moisture sensitive trees to the drier side of the yard. In the same way, our land also slopes down towards the north. This means that the frost will settle on the northern part more than the southern edge. Ergo, the southern side is better suited for the orchard than where I originally placed it on the north.
Taking this knowledge into consideration as design plans continue to change will help ensure better homesteading success down the road.
Later, I Charted
After making my plant list, drafting out the land to scale, and researching more about the importance of plant placement it was time to go one step further.
I really want to embrace the permaculture method by grouping plants with their companion plants. This method means less work, less pests and disease, and heavier produce yields. But what plants go together?
Precisely! I opened up Word and made a garden table. On the table, I listed all my plant babies in alphabetical order down the left side. Across the top, I listed plants needed per person (to sustain us for a year), total plants, square footage per plant, total square footage, the harvest season, and a list of companion and enemy plants.
WHEW! This chart took me about a week to complete from start to finish, but it will be something I can use forever. There is no such thing as too much knowledge when it comes to gardening. It’s my hope that by taking time now to thoroughly understand which plants to choose, the best locations, and the best pairings my homestead will be easier to maintain and produce an abundance of healthy food.
Now that I have my garden chart made, my next goal is to make a “permaculture category” chart. This document will be divided into the 5 categories of plants required for a successful permaculture garden. Each category will contain a list of as many species of plants as I can find.
This would make it possible to assemble guild groupings in two easy steps. Simply choose at least one plant from each category. Then, cross check the species of choice to make sure they are companion plants, not enemies. Viola! Nearly instant permaculture guilds.
In addition to making a plant category chart, I plan to finish reading the book “Teaming With Microbes”. This book dives in to the science of dirt and how to best preserve, and improve, soil quality. This will not only set the stage for success before each plant is planted, but it will also ensure that any future produce yields will be more nutrient dense. Talk about the A Team!
My family and plants are not the only living things I want on our property. I have been doing bunches of research on the benefits of raising quail, ducks, and chickens. Though I could never bring myself to slaughter one, the thought of free eggs for all of my cooking, baking, and eating needs sounds rather enticing. Especially after learning that quail eggs are egg allergy safe! Win, win!
I also would love to see a pond stocked with fish. Unlike the bird group, I would have little problem butchering and cooking a fish. This means that I would have two great sources of protein available on the homestead between the bird eggs and the fish. Survival success!
There’s always other dreams I can add if I let my imagination wander. I can picture a manmade crick flowing across our property into the pond. I can also see a greenhouse, she shed/guest house, and a beautiful outdoor kitchen. But alas, it’s probably best to stick to the basics for now.
Homesteading is not going to be an easy adventure. Fortunately, I have some time before committing to the hands-on phase of this project. This cushion allows me to research, plan, design, and dream to my hearts content. Each time I learn new information, I can start the process all over again until I’m completely satisfied with the final draft.
I can see the future. It’s a house full of love and laughter with a yard full of God’s masterpiece. I can see graduations, weddings, retirement and grandbabies running around the back yard. It’s soaking up the sun on the beach of my pond and evening strolls around the property line. I want this more than anything. I’m ready! My future lay on the piece of ground called Back Acres Homestead.
Do you still have questions about permaculture? Or, have you experimented with this gardening technique? I’d love to hear about it!
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