Planning to cross the line

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Spidermonkey, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    Good point Eco, I hadn't thought of that. I must remember the Permaculture principle "the problem is the solution".
     
  2. ramdai

    ramdai Junior Member

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    songbirds observation about needing clay in the soil is spot on, pa yeoman talks about the clay as if that were the most important part of the soil--he figured he could build topsoil in a year or two, but needed the millions of years that it takes to make clay as a foundation, a starting point .
     
  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    some of the years in the recent past we've had periods of high heat and little rainfall. surrounding people with sandy soil often gave up on their gardens as they could not keep them watered enough. we'd hear of people who had no tomatoes at all. we'd be harvesting 20-30lbs of fruit per plant. that kind of difference can make or break a site.
     
  4. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    Cob/ mud probably trumps straw bale in NNengland!
    My friends in Deepwater built a Mud house for less than 26000$ they were givenfor the firsthome thingey!
    I know a bit about NNengland if you need a hand im in the phonebook!
     
  5. bazman

    bazman Junior Member

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    I would spend an hour each morning and as much time on the weekend as possible in my gardens and food forest. I would suggest you visit a few permaculture properties to get their point of view in person and see how they have developed. I'm always happy to show people around my systems. =) I would love to start from scratch again, but with a blank canvas. Build the house/gardens/water system and soils my way. Few bits of advice, if you are getting a larger block get a tractor with a front end loader. Early on I moved 7 truck and dog loads of mulch by hand with a wheel borrow over 2 years, wouldn't do that again by hand. Farms are hard on gear (and you) so buy the best quality you can afford and those which you can service yourself. Give yourself time to learn your block and get out in the rain and watch where the water goes, where the winds blow and where it's hot and cold. Dig a deep hole where you are going to do your focused food forest so you know what's under your top soil and get a soil test. I have an understanding of what is under my topsoil to 2m deep. Drive around the new area and look for other successful gardens and go talk to them. Take your time and enjoy the process.
     
  6. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    Or pay a contracter!
     
  7. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    View attachment 2704 View attachment 2705 View attachment 2706 Hi Guys,

    We have finally found the ideal place and bought it! It's a two bedroom off the grid house on 50 acres of land. The land is cleared in two main areas, one with the house, shed, and large dam. The other is an Olive grove plus a few Citrus trees. If I needed to I could clear a few trees and make some extra paddocks but I doubt I will need to and can just leave the forest to nature and sustainably collect some fuel and mulch. I will keep the trees away from the fences and this will aid maintenance and serve as a fire break. My family and I are so excited about this but we are going to approach our transition with care. I will not quit my job in Brisbane straight away but rather spend a year earning money to improve the property and get the additional systems in place. To start with most of the work will be on zones 0 and 1 done at weekends.
    Later when we are ready to make the switch we will employ the animal systems. So the tasks will be:

    - Clean the house.
    - Finish the bathroom and install a shower.
    - Boost the off grid solar power system.
    - Veg planting + fruits and nuts.
    - Consult experienced Permaculture designer / contractor regarding earthworks, additional dams and structure placement.
    - Construct equipment / storage shed, garage, workshop, potting shed, greenhouse, poultry housing, with medium and large animal housing to be decided later.
     

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  8. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Tthose are really great questions, and I think the people who can give you real answers are 65-year-old farmers, whether they did it organically, conventionally or with Permaculture. The ones who have really lived it, get them to tell you stories, and don't assume what they say won't happen to you.

    In the 20 years of farming I've done, my main lessons are -

    1. My place is not the exception to the rule,

    2. Every year the rodents/animals/insects make it clear I don't know nearly as much as I thought I did.

    3. That being self-employed (which is what we are if we are going to disconnect from the culture), be self-employed in the business of life, it is 24/7 for the first 5 years, as every start-up is. It is a dirty, sweaty, freezing, baking hot, rainy, muddy, windy, sunburned endeavor that will test your energy, your patience, your pocketbook, your family (my mother never forgave me for working every weekend) and every expectation you ever had. My husband says to me at least once a month in the busy season, in the middle of a project struggle, "I don't know how you have the perseverance to keep at this."

    4. Mother Nature is a very tough co-worker. And I'm in California on the coast, stuff doesn't freeze, we don't get snow, we don't have bears or wolves or very many snakes. I don't really even have it that hard compared to places with serious weather and dangerous critters, and if something takes 5 straight days to do because a storm is coming, then that's what it takes. You have no choice when Mother Nature sets deadlines.
     
  9. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    And let me just toss this out here because this is something that the real estate agents have told me, they stay on really good terms with people who buy rural land because people often sell after a few years because they just can't do what it takes, they don't like all the driving back and forth, and their friends won't go that far to visit with them, so they have to make all new friends, which have to be their neighbors, and if you don't like your neighbors you are kind of out of luck. We are only an hour over a winding mountain road, and our friends don't want to drive this kind of road, nor drive it in the dark. But we have good neighbors, and they are our new friends.
     
  10. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Oh, those questions were 2 years ago! I assume you are on the same page about it now. Looks like a lovely place, with a lot of exciting work ahead. :)
     
  11. permacultureapprentice

    permacultureapprentice Junior Member

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    Sweetpea, you explained the very nature of being self employed at the farm. It's a struggle and many people are not up to it. There is a limit on how long you can struggle before you quit.

    You probably would not be doing it if it not rewarding. I'm assuming you do this so you don't have to work 9-5 job or am I wrong?

    What kind of things you have going there on your farm?
     
  12. permacultureapprentice

    permacultureapprentice Junior Member

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    Spidermonkey, I'm so happy for you. You have what it takes to take the plunge and do it.

    Do you have a transition plan on quitting your job and making a living from the farm or it is too early to think about it?

    Seems like you are on the right track with what you do, would love to hear your experiences.
     
  13. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    It's been a while but here is the latest from my little patch. We have taken a green loan and had a 48v solar system installed and picked up a 15wva generator to back it up. I have taken another contract in the city so we can pay the loan off quickly but we now have all the power we will ever need on site. I have also met a local guy who is teaching me to use a chainsaw safely. We are starting with cutting only fallen trees but in later lessons he will teach me how to take down standing trees safely.

    The house has a composting toilet and I have set up an area for the human waste and I have set up a site for the organic kitchen waste. I have discovered a large unused (almost new) water tank that is higher on the hill than the current water tanks in use and is larger.
    The house is currently connected to the lower smaller tanks with one inch hose. I plan to connect to the higher tank with one and a half inch hose which will provide better head pressure. I will then set up hose, stand pipes and irrigation to the currently overgrown garden beds and restore them to productivity.

    I have also finished the bathroom wall and got a bathroom door in place, and replaced the damaged insect screens. Next will be a decent bath and shower.

    There is an Olive grove here that is currently unproductive. I have a rotor tiller and have ordered some sacks of inoculated woody vetch and red and white clover. The trees are in rows so I will till around the trees and in rows on contour. I will then green manure them and put in some potato and turnips to start soil improvement and to reduce runoff until I can afford to get the earthworks done. I think a couple of swayles should help a lot. I also need to prune the trees but I will need to read up on the best way to go about it.

    The council limits the number of dams you are allowed before they re-assess your rates (or so I'm told). There are 4 dams in total and 2 of them could have been positioned better. I may at a later time fill them in and build them elsewhere but I will also need to investigate the local council directives further before making any hard and fast decisions.

    Until a month ago there were 4 abandoned horses on the property that kept the grass short and they were in really bad shape as they were underfed. The property was over grazed and the soil badly compacted. We fed them up and found them a good home. We now have grass and 'weeds' (I know that is a dirty word in Permaculture) that are getting quire long. We plan to add a couple of Alpacas to keep the grass short and distribute manure. They are lighter and don't eat as much as horses. They are also able to fend for themselves while my wife and I are at work in the city. They will have access to dams, paddocks and forest shelter as well as a dry shed if they wish. So that is the update so far. The enemies of progress are funds and the fact that we only (currently) have the weekends to work on the place. But the end game is to have the more expensive work done and paid for before we quit our jobs. Then as we develop our rural and permaculture skills, take courses and identify our strengths we can look into teaching and passing on what we have learned.
     
  14. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Hey, spidermonkey! Sounds exciting and wonderful. Thanks so much for saving the horses!! My heart goes out to animals, and I just love it when they have guardian angels :)

    Couple of questions - Does that newly discovered tank leak? What was in that tank? Sometimes it's shocking what people put in tanks, or what has crawled into tanks, etc. Has it been cleaned and chlorinated lately?

    And why do you want to till around shallowly rooted olive trees? I only ask because I have several, and I've found it better to build compost/manure lasagna layers between them and plant in those.

    :)
     
  15. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    Hi Sweetpea,

    I was only looking at improving the soil and slowing the water runoff by providing some dense water retaining vegetation that fixes nitrogen but if Olive trees are shallow rooted I better re-think and adopt your lasagne layers idea. Thanks for the post, I could have done a lot of damage.

    View attachment 3026 View attachment 3027

    I will take some photos of the olive grove and post them.
     

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  16. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    spidermonkey, that looks good. It will also leave room for harvesting the olives, assuming you might try that. You'll get a warning when the white blossoms drop, just how big the crop will be. One year I gathered up two very large buckets full of just flowers from one tree that had a brick patio on one side, and redistributed them into the compost. It helps to hang tarps underneath, and shake the limbs with a hoe or a rake and get them to drop where you can gather them easily. But in years when I didn't harvest, their dropping and rotting among the other plants didn't seem to cause any issues. There's just a ton of pits left over, which is a source of carbon....eventually! Brings the squirrels running, they love them!

    Also, while I'm thinking of it, did you ask if there were any buried tanks? A lot of times gas tanks and water tanks were buried next to sheds, barns, buildings.
     
  17. Spidermonkey

    Spidermonkey Junior Member

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    Hi Sweetpea,

    I don't think so. The guy I bought the farm from left junk everywhere but I don't think he ever had a gas tank or a septic tank. He was there 16 years had a messy divorce and let the place go to seed and never even finished the bathroom. The gas is from camping gas bottles and is connected to the house from lines on the porch. The toilet is a composting toilet and seems to have been there since the house was built. I didnt get to take those photos of the olive grove yet but I will get to it this weekend. I had a load of steel sheets to deliver to the property that will be the roof on the chook pen and a couple of other small structures.
    The large water tank further up the hill in the forest looks new and there is some hose connected to it but it looks like an unfinished project.

    I do have some photos of the new solar system though. We deliberately over estimated our usage to ensure that the system will continue to provide all the power we need well into our old age. View attachment 3028 View attachment 3029 View attachment 3030
     

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  18. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Wow, very snazzy solar setup! Looks wonderful! Yeah, overestimating is a good idea. When we added a couple extra panels it got easier on marginal days. Lucky you and a new tank!

    What kind of composting toilet is it? Are the containers in the basement or outside of the house?
     
  19. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Great looking solar array Spidermonkey! Ah for a set of new batteries like yours.
     
  20. grantvdm

    grantvdm Junior Member

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    This has been a great read Spidermonkey!! Congrats on all you've achieved so far! This post gave me a lot of motivation for the long stretch of work ahead!

    I'm currently faced with a similar situation you are in! We found our place (10Ha in the desert!), a blank canvas though, and we are currently busy with house designs, unfortunately a second bond is needed and as such we need to conform to local building standards :-( I will have to continue working my day job for a while (plan is to be out of it in the next 5 years), but at least I'll have early mornings, evenings and weekends to do "work" as we will be living on the place once the house is built. My wife calls it playing around in the garden currently! LOL! She thinks I'm mad! And two young kids don't make it easier...

    How much energy did you budget for? Your solar system looks massive!!


    Thanks again, looking forward to further updates!
     

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