Winter Learning (permaculture and garden dreaming)

perm 4

We live very seasonally.  Everything we do has its time of year to be done.  During January, there is little farm work to do.  The bees are busy in their apartment building, the goats and chickens are cared for a couple times a day, and we fill a few orders.  We have one market this entire month.  This is the time of year that we read and learn new things.  We don’t have time to learn anything in the summer and fall.  We are so exceptionally busy from pre-dawn to falling into bed exhausted at nine that we scarcely have time to read a magazine and a shower is considered a break!  So this time of year, books that we wanted to read get consumed.  Movies we wanted to see get rented.  And things we want to learn get to take precedence this month.  This year we are obsessed with Permaculture.

This will serve as a before picture of our fenced garden.
This will serve as a before picture of our fenced garden.

We have a blank slate here, really.  We have a 26×30 square foot fenced garden and ten acres.  We have established trees and areas of un-irrigated prairie and areas around the house that are near the wells.  We have rain water to capture and swales (little ditches that curve around capturing water and watering nearby plants) to create.  We have trees to plant and a food forest to create.  Visions of apple, plum, and pear trees to join the present peach trees.  We have hazelnuts and pecans to try.  Walnuts and berry bushes.  We have herbs to go crazy and work in many functions, tap roots, ground cover, attract beneficial insects, beautify the area, food, and medicine.  We have water features to add, fountains and perhaps a pond.  We have gardens to plant.

Idea garden
Idea garden

Permaculture is like learning a new language for us.  We are very much schooled in organic farming techniques and that is what we have been practicing.  But we are attracted to this Permaculture way.  It is so beautiful out here, and the landscape is so breathtaking that I would be saddened to plow it up to grow rows of corn.  Indeed, I am excited to work with nature, rather than against.  I believe this way will create more food for market as well as for our own larder and every year it will increase.  It will support wildlife and allow an oasis to remain here.

View of fenced garden and bee hive.
View of fenced garden and bee hive.

I have been listening to lectures on http://openpermaculture.com which is a free online permaculture course.  I have checked out a ton of books from the library.  I am listening, and reading, and looking at pictures, and trying to make this stick in my brain. I am trying to rewire.

Outside the back door, site of trees and food forest perhaps?
Outside the back door, site of trees and food forest perhaps?

I was so busy trying to figure out how to create this food forest in the fenced garden.  But, if I plant trees in there, won’t it all be shaded out in a few years?  One of the lectures said to start outside the back door.  The back door?  Goodness, I didn’t even think of that.  Off the deck, near the elms, across the grassy area by the clothes line, near the fence lines, by the bees, I could plant trees.  Trees with fruit bushes around them, and bulbs, and herbs, and perennial vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb, and ground covers and I could create a swirly swale around them all to catch the rain.  The farmer’s almanac predicts that this year will be hot and rainy.  Odd for this area but nothing surprises me anymore after farming the past few years.

Another view outside the back door.  Lots of space for trees and food producing perennials.
Another view outside the back door. Lots of space for trees and food producing perennials.

In the fenced garden we will create keyhole gardens and arbors with climbing food plants, squash, beans, peas, that lead to a water feature and a circular tea garden.  Maybe there will be ducks running through (I do miss my ducks) to keep the grasshoppers in check.

Another idea garden.
Another idea garden.

We have started letting the chickens out to free range.  They were so used to it at our old house that they simply seemed desperate to get out of their enclosure.  With Christopher Robin indeed being a rooster, he has already started sounding alarms when the hawks and owls fly over, keeping the girls rounded up and protected.  They love to be out foraging and will help keep the insects at bay this coming growing season.

Food forest idea garden.
Food forest idea garden.
Shade garden site.
Shade garden site.
Site of outdoor kitchen, completely off grid.
Site of outdoor kitchen, completely off grid.

I have swimming with ideas to beautify this already spectacular place and create more habitats for my beloved wildlife and create permanent food sources for all.  Mushrooms, fruit, vegetables, wild foods, this year is going to be an exciting journey as a farmer.

Possible pond location.
Possible pond location.
Will grow pots of cold crops on the porches.
Will grow pots of cold crops on the porches.

Now, time to peruse the seed catalogues!

9 thoughts on “Winter Learning (permaculture and garden dreaming)

Add yours

  1. Wish I had a porch/wrap around verandah, it’s not really the done thing in building here in the UK. I think you have been truly blessed to find this property it’s quite lovely! It’s going to be hard work but I can tell you and Doug aren’t afraid of that, it’s soooo exciting!

    1. Can’t wait for you to come out! And all the classes I offer can be done with homeschoolers. Wednesdays are homeschooling days. Choose a class and come out for a farm tour.

  2. Love this time of year. I call it hibernating with a book and a cup of good tea! Great ideas and I look forward to seeing it all.

    1. I can’t get enough of it! Today is seed catalogue day with a glass of wine! I can’t afford to get the seeds yet but next week hopefully we can get our orders in.

  3. I love this post. You’ve captured the farm reality of January very well. I cut some wood. I’ve pruned some tree. I’ve tended to the animals. But I’ve been reading and dreaming a lot too. No time for that once the weather warms up. 🙂

    When we started getting this farm into shape I’d never even heard the word permaculture. We’ve done a reasonably good job of establishing a functioning organic farm based on principles of sustainable agriculture, but if I had it all to do over again I’d definitely take permaculture principles into account and we’d do some things differently.

    We’ve placed our seed orders already! Spring is coming. 🙂

    1. I had never heard of it either until more recently. It is both daunting and inspiring to have a new farm to build!

      As soon as we get a little cash the seed orders will be done! Can’t wait!

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