Permaculture is a design system inspired by nature which is based on ethics and design principles that can be used to guide us, our household and our community ‘beyond sustainability’.  We use permaculture principles and design to help integrate the home, barn, animals, plants and water on our landscape.  We will continue to document projects (or experiments) as we work on them and share observations here at this site.

Stuart and Genevieve took the Permaculture course offered by Lost Valley Educational Center in Oregon.  There they studied, lived and breathed permaculture for 3 years with Permaculture teacher and land steward Rick Valley.  We are excited to be applying our own permaculture work here on the farm in Michigan.

Interns Nate and Ellen listen in as Stuart and Rick Valley exchange ideas.
Interns Nate and Ellen listen in as Stuart and Rick Valley exchange ideas.

Rick Valley, our favorite permaculture teacher, paid us a visit on April 20th, 2013.  He had many suggestions for working in our sandy soil.  Among them, using Siberian Pea Shrub for nitrogen fixing. He was also excited to have us try using the pigs for pond creation (we were recently told by the USDA that our soil is too sandy to build a pond).  From what we’ve observed, the pigs may be the trick to creating the right conditions for pond building.

Permaculture Projects:

Hugelkultur creation
Hugelkultur creation

Garden Hugelkultur – A Hugelkultur’s purpose is to add carbon to the soil.  They are built by digging a ditch (similar to double digging) but instead of just adding soil right back into the hole, woody mass such as logs and branches are added to actually give the soil something to work on.  Rick Valley suggested even adding a thin layer of clay to catch the water and hold it longer.  In this picture Nate and Ellen dug the soil to the depth of two shovels between two existing garden beds.  The then covered the bottom of the hole with old pine and spruce logs and topped it off with a thick layer of goat bedding.  Dirt from the hole (seen piled up on either side) was added next and whole thing was topped with a thin layer of compost.  As the woody material breaks down, it acts like a sponge holding water and nutrients where the plants can reach down with their roots and utilize them.

A Hugelkultur is a great thing to set up where you plan to plant trees to reduce  the water needed.  It can also be used for plants the very first year you establish them and it has a tremendous impact on yield and lushness of ground cover, herbaceous plants and shrubs.  Annuals and perennials are both benefited by the digging of a Hugelkultur.

A forest of possibilities
A forest of possibilities

Mushroom Logs – as we harvest our winter supply of firewood, we’re always careful to set aside branches of the right thickness and length to be inoculated with shiitake mushrooms.  Shiitake like oaks and other hardwoods, and will start fruiting about 1 year after inoculation.  We try to cut the trees in early spring (Feb/March) which encourages the stumps to coppice.

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