2022 was a year marked by a return to normalcy, but a renewed sense of urgency for becoming regionally self-sufficient without fossil fuels.
Fruit Tree Planting Day 2022 was a great success and continues to grow
Chantal lives on land some hundreds of feet from the northumberland strait facing north, at the feet of the Cobequid mountains. The bedrock is Cambrian sandstone and the land is near the estuary of the Pictou river where it joins the strait of Northumberland. The land is 4 acres. She would like to expand her chicken flock, vegetable gardens, and have a food forest. They would like to begin semi-retirement as soon as possible and use permaculture to achieve more flow and harmony in life between work, leisure and home-based economic security.
- I recommended that Chantal and her partner begin transitioning large areas away from being mowed as soon as possible, by fencing paddocks for rotational grazing, and introducing livestock to start trimming most of the grass. Look at the feasibility of purchasing a scythe and inexpensive electric fences. The paddocks could incorporate sylvopasture tree belt elements on contour, to provide tree crops (nuts seeds berries and lumber), coppice firewood, and slash forage from coppiced Hawthorn, Linden, and mulberry as well as pasture mix in between.
- Purchase an electric chipper so that they can begin to accommodate brush that was left on site from hurricane Fiona without having to resort to burning it and it could be used for paths, compost, sheet mulching or chicken litter.
- Purchase a chainsaw and watch the Stihl chainsaw safety video which is available to watch free online on youtube.
- I noticed erosion and fertility problems in the annuals patch and I recommended tighter synergy between their existing and expanded chicken Coop litter, compost system, and annuals bed. I recommended defining the annual beds more clearly to avoid stepping on the growing surface. 3D plants are often a function of poor soil and as the soil quality improves with the application of manure bedding and compost I expect the kinds of weed plants to at least change if not go away.
- Leave quite a bit of deadfall on the ground in the windbreak wood lot, and look for hardwood seedling trees from parks or other people’s lands that they can acquire for to begin to plant in the woodlot for future fire wood (birch, maple, oak, etc).
- Remove and chip a Rosa multiflora. I recommend that the seeds be clipped off and anaerobic digestion begin immediately by soaking the seeds and a barrel of water and not letting them surface at least well until next summer. The roots die if they’re exposed to air for prolonged periods. I recommend if they remove the goutweed patch to also treat the roots in the bottom of a barrel of water for as many months as they can.
- Get seaweed and put it on the annuals garden
- I think spirea in the front flower bed should be removed, and the seed heads burned. Definition between parking space, walking space and garden soil should be better defined. The front garden can be improved with munching, and perennial flowers for bees.
- Hurricane Fiona had revealed a large erosion washout that seeks to go under the road which they’ve made. They have a culvert in their basement and I recommended researching how to properly install it as the landforms suggest that a water feature will develop in their fields at some point in the future
- I recommended they connect with another consultee I met down the road from them who wants to start a market Garden to sell produce to his mobile home campsite.
Chantal and I decided to be convened in the spring with another assessment after she can spend some time reflecting on and researching what permaculture techniques can bring and on her goals
I had the opportunity to design my first salt garden. This property is by the ocean in Prospect Bay. They are aware they may have a century left of occupation of this property. The sea is encroaching onto a patch of grass by the causeway to the Marrs islands. The clients want edible plants, and pollinator support; but storm surges had killed their planting of white clover with salt.
I recommended the clients cease mowing down to the high tide line, maintain the Rosa rugosa, Bar harbour juniper, and Myrica shrubs, building up the soil around them with boulders and then more topsoil, and to increase planting of salt-tolerant shrubs to prevent erosion of the yard into the sea. In front of the house will be a sun-trap garden for edible polycultures that is fenced for deer. Also fenced is an area across the walkway for raised beds for the growing of annuals. Beyond this is the salt garden, making use of Andromeda, Ergynium, Monarda, sea lavender, Daylilies, more sea kale, sea thrift, beach pea, Atriplex, Russian sage, sea plantain, Samphire, Mertensia. labrador tea, cranberry, and bakeapple.
Meghan and her partner purchased raw land with woodlot in Hatchet lake with the intention of installing a house, road, root cellar, greenhouse, and garden beds.
For a consultation fee I offered an informational interview where I recommended books and offered contacts for resources: finished compost organic materials like woodchips, sawdust and straw, manure, lumber, stone and more. I looked at surveys and topographical maps of the area to determine the likely flow of water and location of wet ecologies. We decided to do a second, on-site consultation.
During the site visit I do an inventory of current species and what they mean, I see if water resources match where I thought they might be from the topographical map. I note broader geographical points of interest as well as those features that the neighbours have.
The land by the road had been repeatedly cleared and grown in with an even age stand of young saplings: balsam fir and some black spruce and red maple with occasional yellow birch. Further in, the forest was a lot more normal with some bog ecologies. and larger diameter trees such as white birch, tamarack, red oak, yellow birch, white pine, spruces, with native understory plants.
Before drawing up a 5 and 20 year plan I asked that the clients install the road and house, as well as remove all balsam fir below 2″ diameter, so that the land will have easier access and visibility for final planning. The forest canopy should remain closed and uncleared up until the very point of thinning existing trees to make room for desired plantings. This maintains soil quality, and the shade prevents early successional plants such as wild cherry and raspberry or invasive plants from taking hold. The road should have a culvert or bridge to preserve the movement of the stream through the land for reasons of property value and ecological use.
Design part installation
Abby wanted lawn removed and a retaining wall installed to accomodate slope that was too steep to mow safely. She wanted native plants installed. My crew removed a lilac, sheet-mulched over grass and cut the contour for a wall. We removed goutweed and planted blueberry, Gaultheria wintergreen, Canada holly, Virgin’s bower, Meadowsweet, and mayapple.
I had to terminate the project and another crew put in a patio, and removed till to create a more manageable slope instead of a wall.
Design and installation, permablitz
Like many people, Pablo and Veronica did a lot of research into Permaculture during the shutdowns of 2020, and decided to take the plunge, purchase land, and install whole systems. They own 3/4 acre in Eastern Passage with lawn, house, and woodlot in the watershed of the Cow Bay river.They would like to balance self-sufficiency in food with an attractive curb appeal.
I created a design and planting regime for the property. We initiated a compost system to generate and use food waste and guinea pig litter onsite. We installed raised beds for annual vegetables in the back, and in front a pollinator and herb garden for curb appeal. On the sides the woodlot will be succeeded in time with useful species like sugar maple, nut trees, coppice firewood and edible understory like ostrich fern, mayapple, troutlily, violets and more. The clients thinned much balsam fir and some sapling yellow birch which were chipped to make paths. Soil and mulch were brought in and hugul-style raised beds were installed in the woodlot, anchored by plantings of blueberry, viburnums, Myrica, apple, serviceberry, hazelnut, black elder, Aronia, Comptonia sweet fern, and Baptesia. The soil was moved in a work party I co-organized with friends of the family who volunteered.
The shape of the hugul beds was inspired by the chinampas system of Mexico, where water is allowed to raise and fall between beds that are placed according to contour lines, and sediment scooped up from low areas back onto high ones for further nutrient cycling.
A canopy of walnut and chestnut, as well as understory of pawpaw will be added in 2023.
The site began hosting monarch butterflies soon after planting swamp milkweed. In future they may get chickens and bees.
I continued this year on this property to clear Rosa muliflora, which made space to plant more hazelnut, pear, cherry, pawpaw, plum and existing Carpathian walnut. Remaining serviceberries were encouraged with mulch and compost. We felled a windbreak of spruce and planted hickory and hardy pecan. A trench was dug to place aluminum siding vertically into the ground to prevent the advance of goutweed into the raised bed areas. We continue to sheet mulch lawn and cover it with woodchips, only keeping lawn in the paths, the front, and over the septic.
An established permaculturist in Halifax, Pete asked me to do a fall cleanup and weeding. We removed spirea to make room for pawpaws, removed Rosa multiflora, Sapphic violets, and excess oregano, and then mulched.
The Halifax Permaculture Circle began touring food forests in HRM.
Design/ implementation began
Brittany wanted to remove grass and plant more native and pollinator support plants. The front yard was sheet mulched, and privet as well as existing shrubs removed and paths reestablished. Raised beds set as terraced retaining walls for annuals, hens, and a pollinator bed were designed for the sloped backyard.