Fun feature i have been playing with here lately at the lake to help get off us off the grid for water. Had to do some Kentucky style jerry rigging, but when in Rome do as the Romans do! Our latest EDU release, this one from the water chapter. http://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-7-water/roof-water-catchment-and-tanks/
With the event behind us now and the buzz of so many people so jazzed about the place and event still present, I offer a reflection of the journey that got us to the point of hosting such an event. Firstly as a child I can remember the events like pig roasts and 4th of July with fireworks that drew in what seemed like huge crowds for me in my pre-teen years at the lake. Furthermore, the old band that used to play was so popular that we even had to extend the bar to put in a dance floor to accommodate the weekly shows. In more recent times benefits drew in people to support communal efforts to relieve financial strain from such things as sickness within the community. So I knew it was possible now to attract crowds to Treasure Lake in our rural location but not so far from the city of Cincinnati and its sprawling suburbs in three states.
Back in 2003 while attending Hocking College in South East Ohio, I first launched the idea of having a festival seriously after taking a class on festival efforts there. Having talked extensively with my mates who knew the place well we decided that it could happen. In 2004 I began my 10-year odyssey across the globe spanning five continents. While the dream never died it was certainly put on hold for quite some time. When I decided to finish my degree in small business management online in 2010, the vision was reinvigorated, as it became a major tenant with the new business endeavor at the lake called Confluence Forest and Farm. Confluence, being where two energies converge to bring forth more, was the name given representing the business of the lake from my grandparents and TreeYo Permaculture merging together to start a regenerative center that included celebrations.
As the business was handed over to the next generation following my grandparents passing over the last couple of years, the idea was emerging as I began to integrate myself more into the business once more. At the end of last year, a collaborative effort ensued to bring a large, well-known band to the land but it became apparent over months of time that this event would be impossible for our first time. We began to think about some smaller events to compliment this big one as we were trying to still work it out. The idea of the smaller one quickly mushroomed and this cultivation led to Pollination. Thus a team emerged to lead it onward. Good friend Alex Ryberg and I launched the initial idea of having a mini fest to break in the grounds and test its capabilities to hold capacity without burdening the land. She pioneered the need for multidisciplinary workshops to be integrated as to create cross-cultural connectivity. As the planning progressed and our need to draw in musicians led to us reaching out to Adam Stone who had recorded his hit Sustainably Me out at the lake the year before. With this reunion it became evident how the universe was beginning to conspire. From there Adam reached out to another music local spearhead Adam Peterson to ensure that a quality lineup would ensue as well as the great sounds that came through. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtZCEVGuNik With the idea launched and marketing efforts being conceptualized and activated, we turned to the land which needed significant work to bring it up to level with holding the crowd we anticipated. With it already being a recreation area with rustic camping it was not a huge stretch to do so other than a few bigger projects. The main task was building the stage that would hold the musicians. After some debate on location my dream spot that I had been envisioning for quite some years, especially in the design phase of the business plan I wrote during my online degree, we began our process.
Back in my carbon farming course in 2009 in Summertown, TN I had shown Darren Doherty the exact stage location as we were examining keypoints in the landscape. He mentioned how the valley had a great amphitheater effect and with the valley being sandwiched in between the lake cabin and the bar, it seemed most ideal as to concentrate the energy with fluxes and flows between the differing hotspots of the festival. Thus we began with design of course as a team emerged with Adam Stone leading and amazing support began from Local Permie and former student Zach Tabor. We decided to procure posts for the stage from the land itself and went with the no-brainer choice of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) with its rot-resistant qualities and tremendous strength and durability. Thus we searched for an area that had the girth of posts we were looking for. Rather than randomly selecting from throughout the land we selected a particular valley to coppice these trees and make this action multifunctional. With the valley between campsite 3 and 4 being a spot where I had been concentrating efforts to remove honeysuckle and multiflora rose because of a high density of Paw paws (Asimina triloba), I decided to do the felling there to further open up the space. With the canopy breaks I was hoping that the Paw Paws would flourish more due to concentrated sun and also we plan to dot in other tree crops both for humans and wildlife like Serviceberry, Chinese chestnut, hazel and American Persimmon. I am hoping to recreate the forest as it once was or augmenting it to have an even more concentrated plethora of forage. While Chinese Chestnut is of course not native, it does replace our native chestnut that once thrived and composed up to 60%of all the trees in the area.
As we felled the trees, we also chopped up the material left behind in a multifunctional way as well. We first made a big brush pile to give habitat to smaller mammals, which supports the food chain of predators. It’s a simple technique that I learned in my original degree program. We also chopped and dropped material around the Paw Paws thus mulching in our broad acre food forest. We also immediately stripped the bark off the black locust posts, which was easily done with a knife and hatchet when green. With the post logs moved out and peeled we began to also envision the roof structure and felled more black locusts to get the taller skinny posts we would need for this. This meant more cleanup and more carbon being cycled back to the Paw Paws to help increase the fungal resources in the soil for them to thrive on. In this process we came across a turkeys nest full of eggs and it became apparent that despite the fact that we want to eradicate all of the invasives, this native bird that holds significant value to the forest, was very happy to nest in the thicket of multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle. It reaffirmed my belief to have a bit of this around for habitat as its original planting had this intent. Who knew it would grow to plague like conditions but it is a problem turned into a solution when cycled appropriately.
After digging the three-foot deep holes to set the posts another team member who came through clutch through the setup and festival itself, Michael Beck arrived. After being a student in Portugal last summer and becoming a good friend, Michael worked hard on everything and was a joy to have around. From the pizza mission at the festival as well as manning the cob building workshop station to helping finalize the design of the stage as well as vast amounts of work to implement it, he held up strong in the marathon of the buildup.
Once the poles were set we used donated recycled 2 x 4’s to create a frame and strength for the stage to be created. This was a big work that involved notching the post, which Michael and Tabor executed beautifully. We added some to the frame another day but we made a huge push that day to get the mainframe created. From there Adam Stone came in clutch with setting the plywood. While not my first choice it was the material that made the most sense so the musicians could have a clean floor to jam on. As the festival approached, we then added in the posts to be the awning and searched for the best temporary roof structure. Here Ben Pitz, an old friend who helped plant the apple orchard last year and first introduced me to Adam Stone, joined in for the last final push. After searching exhaustively for a canvas option we settled with a poly tarp and strung it the day of the festival. As that was happening Jade McConnell, Ben’s significant other, created a master piece of art to serve as the backdrop for the stage. Having been recommended by good friend Maya Mor back in Portugal, Jade came through with her rendition of a psychedelic hibiscus with pollinators to compliment.
Along the way of the stage we worked the campsites, harvested firewood from downed logs, got the food situation secured and got beer and other refreshments stocked. We also finalized campsites and designed parking and camping. We drew in artists and set the lineup of workshops and musicians. We did what we needed here for creating the foundation for the cob experience by harvesting our beautiful limestone locally and digging. Moreover, we worked collaboratively for marketing on the web and in person, with posters and networking with friends, musicians and workshop hosts. It was a great experience as it was my first music festival to attend and throw at the same time so it was quite a unique experience. More on how the festival actually went will be on the next blog. Thanks to all who contributed to the organization of the festival, the buildup and of course all the people who came and shared!
Will be switching back and forth from water and soil on EDU releases these coming weeks. This one is on Curb cuts, a way to increase your infiltration and irrigation efforts from diverting impervious surface runoff into your landscape sponges. http://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-7-water/curb-cuts/
A healthy food web ensures that nutrient cycling speeds along giving the plants exactly what they need and through symbiosis the plant is providing the soil food web the food resources and overall niche for their proliferation.
In lieu of the upcoming soil food web workshop i thought i would move into the soil chapter for the EDU online book. More to come soon.http://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-8-soils/soil-food-web-intro/
Follow up article on swales to give a case study look at the design process behind a specific implementation. She, swaltastic, turns 5 this year which is quite an achievement as the rains have supported a diverse array of plants to support the edible landscaping project in the burbs of the states. http://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-9-earth-working-and-earth-resources/swale-design-process-case-study-1/
In a pattern sense, swales deal with pulses of energy also seen as a wave, just as sound frequency moves in waves. Their shape is a ditch and a mound and one summer in Portugal we built a swale at the beach to demostrate the technique and take advantage of the easily moved substrate for teaching purpose. This reflection, seen in a picture below, became so evident after the onlookers stopped staring intently and we sat back and enjoyed our earth scultping in the soft material. In nature now, there are pulses of energy, wave in form and disturbance in function, flowing down landscapes often causing spirals of erosion. Water runoff in rain events lifts soil particulates which has a cascading affect of negativity in watersheds below and farm fields above. Hence the Permaculturists attitude that swales are so great as they can help to reinforce the pattern of the overbeck jet- growth and return, true regeneration. They infiltrate water that normally would runoff thus supporting perennial vegetation and a flourishing soil food web which helps to rebound bio-diveristy in general.
Having had the good fortune of being contracted out to create a Permaculture landscape at Herdade de Lage, a 130 HA (325 acre) ranch in Alentejo near Odmeria, Portugal, a small group of permies banded together to meet the clients needs and the landscapes wishes. Our first task there at the ranch was to establish zone 1 gardens out in front of the taipa ruin that is being renovated. Work started in the late winter that seemed to drag on this year in Portugal with cold temperatures and near constant rains.
Upon arrival and examination of the space we saw a previously terraced space that was near level but still gently sloping to the south-south east. The space is an irregular shape being nearly triangular but more of a rhombus shape. The eastern border has an old square water tank while the northern edge contains a ruin “shed” that has several rooms including the regions largest bread oven. This space became known a “the pizza hut” and quite multifunctional and huge asset as most zone 1 gardens dictate some building infrastructure. On the southern edge on the western half, a dense thicket of canas ( a local bamboo like grass) is mixed with fig to form a nice hedgerow and with lower sun angles a shadier and more moist region in the garden. . Two smallish plum trees on the southern half of the western edge also give some shade and wind break but only after leaf out. Access was served on several sides after some clearing of blackberry, which was starting to creep along fence lines and edges including the Plum tree space which was mangling their growth. Water to the area was non existent for ag purposes other than a barrel filled for house construction purposes on the northern side of the pizza hut. The soils felt compacted as previous land use had been a space for cows to rest in summer months along their rotations. The vegetation indicated levels of compaction with tussock grasses, rhizominous grasses and other short growing, flattened herbaceous plants. Meanwhile understanding the space within the whole of the farm was examined as we saw how a zone 2 spill over garden would take place as well as the broad acre approach to the whole farm including water management.
With three of us adding input to the design it flowed pretty quickly and well. My main role was to listen to each persons observations and design ideas while collating that into a design. I broadened my thinking beyond just agriculture seeing it as a truly multifunctional space. A tool that helped that process was making a list of all the functions and matching elements into that so that the principle of multiple elements and multiple functions could be reinforced. We also used mind mapping and designs were utilized on paper and computer. The main elements that were decided upon were keyhole garden beds, “fish” shaped beds emulating the wave pattern, pit gardens, and edible hedgerows.
Working with local Portuguese people on the building crew allowed us to tap into the greater community of resources in the area. Needing to create disturbance in the field to turn it from grasses to open ground dictates using a plough to do so quite often especially in the modern-day time constructs. While detrimental to soil life, it is somewhat inevitable
when dealing with compacted soils and grasses and does open things up for improvement. Fossil fuel driven implements are wonderful tools of disturbance when used once to set up permanent systems rather than their constant treadmill, which is even the norm in most organic farms. Thus we dug out the tussock grasses, which are a perennial clumping grass, before the tractor ever arrived for later reuse. The driver used a moldboard plough to open the soil initially. We had to wait till the soils dried out so we got started on other projects including better setting up a zone 0 space. Meanwhile we created a seed mix and began sowing cool season crops in trays such as lettuce, brassica’s of all sorts, and chard. To aid in the germination process I also created a cold frame mostly of material lying around and purchased greenhouse plastic. It is a simple structure made of five pallets that were recycled from the building project that was progressing right along side of us. With another few pieces of wood lying around, some nails and screws, I put the mini greenhouse together up against an exterior wall of the pizza hut. I was hoping this would serve as a thermal mass source since the wall was earthen as well. Another project we took on from the beginning was making hot compost.
After noting where carbon and green material could be sourced from, we assembled the classic slightly bigger than one cubic meter or yard hot compost pile. We of course did the monitoring it dictates and turning. These initial piles are always difficult on a new site and we learned not to add too much finely cut green material that we got from strimming the space of the herb layer with a machine. It just gives too much green edge and causes too much green material to be added thus too much nitrogen. To further aid in our soil building process we also began a worm bin and started slowly adding material to it to keep the worms happy, full and multiplying as we started with a small starter kit. Attention should always be paid to soil building efforts in first steps as it takes months to yield compost, hot or cold. Watch the banter below with fellow project mate Karsten Hinrichs on us turning compost.
After some time off from the project to work up at Terra Alta in Sintra, our host site for summer PDC’s in Portugal, we came together again as a group for the next phase of implementation. After debate on leveling the whole terrace with a bull dozer we decided that it would be better for reducing compaction to just use a tractor again for disking to create the next level of disturbance needed for creating growing space. We did hand leveling of the space afterwards creating several small terraces within the space to create a stair stepped effect in the landscape but on a more minuet scale. This allowed us to begin to implement the design with access and water being the main framework. This created central pathways and a central watering hole for a spot to dip watering cans in for hand watering. The main pathways divided the garden in different spaces. From there we planted the hedgerows which were meant to give the garden more protection especially from the dryings winds of Alentejo. On the northern rim of the garden we densely planted feijoa (10 feet or 3 m) spacing as the main anchor plant. This hardy, evegreen subtropical gives delectable winter fruits and is drought hardy and wind resistant making it a perfect multifunctional plant for our needs. Although common in New Zealand where I first encountered and this plant being a climate analog to this project, they are only now emerging as a tree crop in Portugal. On the southern rim, to compliment the plums, we planted Asian persimmon ( Diospyrus kaki) which is deciduous but holds its leaves for much of the year. We planted guilds with each one of these trees as well with the feijoas, which also included other bigger windbreak support species, Casuarina and Elaeagnus. Both fix nitrogen, use of biological resources, and give other yields but their main aim besides wind protection is chop and drop rough mulch for the fiejoa’s thus accelerating succession and evolution. Herbs like comfrey, pineapple sage, wormwood, and rosemary were added to the guilds and to help stack in space and time. While these perennials are filling out, we planted excess Brassica’s, which were more than happy to come out of their trays and into this space. Planting annuals in is a great way to get early yields and with their more needy water thirst it is a way to ensure your perennials get their water needs met adequately in the first few weeks of their lives.
We also began to create the shapes of the keyholes and fish beds as we leveled and terraced thus creating edge. As we did this, we removed perennial weeds by their roots and embarked on the unenviable task of pulling rhizominous grasses. The soil revealed that it wasn’t so bad after all with its loamy texture and rich in organic mater in numerous places. This was a
blessing and the farms fame for growing vegetables well was being pronounced a lot at the local café where we ate lunch daily. These lunch time meals also allowed us to integrate further into the local community as suspicion always runs high when foreigners ( a Dutch couple owns the place) by large tracts of land in Portugal. As we leveled and shaped we also began planting with brassicas going mainly in the shady areas as we know the intense heat and dry air that the Alentejo summer affords. Other vegetable starts created by ourselves and some purchased at markets were also dropped in along with seeds again stacking in space and time. Lettuce in between kale, radish in between tomatoes and even some perennials were established in the shadiest and wettest zone of the southern border next to the tank with raspberries and strawberries. The pit gardens were also planted with one becoming a blueberry circle, one a tamarillo circle, and one a banana circle. Deep mulch was thrown in these 2 plus meter wide pits and the plants responded well to getting out of their pots from the nursery.
As our daily digging and planting kept on, we also turned to the task of irrigation as the prolonged periods of dry were coming on as we got into spring. Having discussed many options, the farm owners, Ferry and Francine, decided that supplemental hand watering would occur but mainly this space would be fully irrigated. Thus we designed this system of course along with the help of the irrigation shopkeepers recommendations. Most of the space was set up with micro emitter irrigation and some with drip irrigation. We have a plentiful spring with a tank to draw water by gravity from higher in the property. We didn’t install the whole system at once just the main lines and the spaces that had been planted already. They responded well to this abundant water source as we needed to turn our attention back to planting, digging, mulching and weeding. With a rotating crew we were all working hard to keep the place going with new seeds and the watering task. We also tried again at the hot compost in an area of the garden in the middle designated for composting. This time we added less green material which seemed to create a more balanced pile but it did kick off and require every other day turning for the majority of its hot phase. Addition of water was also needed as the drying winds had really started to pick up.
This is where I ended as my attention turned to a large-scale zone 2 planting amongst small garden tasks to keep everything thriving including going deeper with seeds, transplants, and watering. Next blog will be on the zone 2 terraces that radically altered the landscape. I look forward to working with this project further this summer. Thanks to all who contributed!
Latest EDU release on Infiltration Earthworks in the water chapter making it more of a pattern based level of discussion. Details coming soon on elements like swales. These earthworks are pivotal in our regenerative efforts and often are on of the first steps we implement in setting up our cultivated ecology systems known as permacultures.
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Exciting advanced soils course on the soil food web and how to improve soils the permaculture way will be held just across the river in N. KY. Great lineup of teachers as well as a fun and scenic host site. http://treeyopermaculture.com/permaculture-design-courses-pdc/soil-food-web-workshop-cincinnati-2014/