Results for tag "permaculture"

Rain, rain, and more rain!

As far as we can tell from our own experience, the interwebs, and from fellow farmer’s comments, this has been one of the wettest springs ever. Apparently we have already gotten over 80% of the precipitation that we get all summer! It has given us lots of indoor time to consider the strategies we need to put into place on our farm if we are going to continue to grow and manage annual and perennial crops and keep our animals dry and happy – not to mention keeping ourselves dry and happy!

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Firstly we have to consider the flow of water on our property – topographical maps help our design process a lot, but living here for years and watching the flow is invaluable. This year we installed a berm and swale on our keyline and planted nut and fruit trees on the lower side to be irrigated by the swale. This keyline will provide a framework for a rotational grazing pattern that we will use for our poultry and cattle.

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Then we have to consider the flows of water in our Zone 1 & 2, around our hoophouse and buildings that we have created to shelter our animals, hay, and tools. This has proven to be a bit more complicated, because of the energetic flow patterns of our movements in and around Zone 1 & 2 change as we evolve our businesses and activities. In this case, we are beginning to use swales to divert water from roads and away from buildings in a complicated water tango. We use the French Drain concepts in diversion ditches that mirror our movement patterns – this will be a work in progress for some time.

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Now we come to managing our vegetable production systems. We have been growing in three main areas: the hoophouse, the main garden, and the field garden. The field garden was our first garden and it is in Zone 3, and it has better drainage and lower fertility. The main garden has average fertility and bad drainage. The hoophouse has average drainage and great fertility. Tillage with machines in this kind of wet spring is just a hassle at best, at worst it is impossible. Machines break down and compact the soil, and yet we rely on them because the keep our backs from breaking and speed up processes that we need to get done in a hurry as farmers.

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As much as we love to tinker and fix things, our priority is biological abundance here, and so we have come to a couple conclusions. The main garden will stay in operation and we will continue to use it and build fertility there, but instead of an endless tillage barrage we will use mainly paper weed barriers and hay mulch to continuously create soil without mechanical disturbance. This garden is small enough to allow this to be doable – even if we have to spend money on paper or hay products, we should still come out even with machine costs each year. There is a lot more labor involved in this strategy, but it is an activity we can do in almost any weather at any time, without waiting for the soil to dry up. We will be continuously adding organic matter to the soil which will help the overall tilth. We will also use annual smaller hoophouses that we take down in the winter on this garden to protect our tender annual crops from the ravages of insects and browsing animals. These hoophouses will also shelter our young poultry, who will fertilize our garden in situ. We will also continue to use the big hoophouse intensively to grow heat loving crops. The old field garden will be allowed to go fallow next year and we will continue to graze our poultry in that area until the fertility has been built up to a better level, and then we may plant annual crops there again – but not before then.

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These are some of the main insights that we’ve had with these past few incredibly wet springs. Evolving our strategies is part of being a permaculture farm – we are always observing and trying to create better systems that provide an abundance of ecological functions and beauty – and at the end of the day we want to connect with nature and eat good food.

Moving Pigs!

And it was Pig Moving day again! We didn’t know it yet, but it turned out fortuitous that we moved our pigs on that day, since the next few days were filled with inches and inches of snow! But in any case, here is the story…

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Our Permaculture Plan for the property included fencing in our southwest corner as a permanent paddock for our pigs and the cows we will eventually have (hopefully this year). This area consists of about 2 acres of older spruce and a lot of dead tree matter. The idea was that in the winter, this forested area would provide some protection from the elements for our animals. We also know that to overwinter animals in our climate, which has about 6 months of winter, you need a permanent paddock close to zone 0, the home, in order to minimize efforts to feed and water your animals , as well as moving bedding around. So this spot fit those requirements. It was also allowed us to continue our paddock construction in the northwest corner, about 6 or so acres of steeper sloped land, filled with wild apple trees and raspberry.

In any case, we had to get our main paddock done asap. We purchased a larger amount of cattle panels to enclose about an acre or so, which was what we could afford. It took two harrowing trips to transport the panels back from the store, with 7 feet of panel in the truck bed and 9 feet hanging off the back of the truck onto a snowmobile trailer. The panels didn’t move, but the trailer did, so that created some interested effects on driving. We took it slow and drove the backroads. Next time, we will rent a larger trailer…

We took a day to clear the fence path. Two sides of the paddock had some fencing, albeit at odd angles and in different states of usefulness. We had to buck a large tree that had fallen on the fence, which took most of one morning, and finally with some blood sweat and tears we got it all cleared out. Then came the very difficult task of hauling 16 foot long, 4 foot high panels through a tangled brushy woods. That was another 2 days or so of effort. Finally, we were able to pound in a T-post so we decided to get the whole thing enclosed.

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The next day it was time to just get those pigs moved. They had been housed comfortably in the hoophouse, and now we were charged with the task of making a chute of hog panels from the hoophouse to the new paddock and not letting them get free at any point. That wasn’t too difficult but it turns out that they weren’t all that interested in leaving the hoophouse!

“Come on, ” We said, ” You will have the best time in your new paddock! Look at all the dirt to root up!”P1100129

We manhandled them up the slight slope out of the hoophouse, sinking into the super sloppy swamp which they had created in the hoophouse, losing boots and our sanity. We shuffled them into the hog panel shoot and farther into the paddock and finally, after about an hour or so of chaos, had them where we wanted them! Breathing a sigh of relief, we watched as they all took off into the forest, galloping and rooting like madmen.

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They were happy and we were happy. They spent the rest of the day rooting up the forest and making glad pig noises as we tightened up the fence and rigged up a temporary shelter. They were so excited they were not very interested in eating the soaked grains for the day. Finally they collapsed in a pig pile and fell asleep.

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And then it snowed all night…

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To learn more on how to raise pigs like we do on LTD Farm, check out Andrew’s article in the new May edition of Acres Magazine , Practical Permaculture Pigs! http://www.acresusa.com/magazine

The first keyline

We are putting in our first keyline berm and swale system in order to harvest water strategically across the contours of our property, for tree and shrub irrigation as well as to water our pastured animals. In the past we have dabbled in berms and swales, but now we have taken the concepts to heart and incorporated them into our overall permaculture design.

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We think spending time, even years, on a property definitely helps to conceptualize the ramifications of major surgery such as berms and swales on the landscape. We have made mistakes in the past with this and so we knew we needed to take our time and really come to an understanding of what are intentions were and what we were trying to accomplish.

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The first swale was marked out in the last few days using a transit level and flags/sticks/ribbons. As we walked the first contour and envisioned the future landscape, we saw the placement of the catchment ponds to come and how they would interact with the livestock as well as their usefulness in irrigation. Today we started to plow out the swale line in order to get this project underway before the next few days of rain. With the rain will come more observation and interaction, and we will adjust the swales as needed.  We plotted the line with 1% slopes that direct water to flow very slowly toward three pocket ponds, about equidistant across the line. We don’t want totally on-contour swales as we have a very clay rich soil that will become waterlogged and overflow. The point is to catch the water on this line and feed the roots of the trees and shrubs, and when the swale  is saturated to capacity, then the water flows to a pond where we use that water in other applications.

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Turns out the soil was a bit more soaked then we thought, so after the first plowing we decided to call it quits on earth manipulation today. We have a heavy silt clay loam and when it is saturated with water, it is slicker then a hog in oil, and it sticks together making it harder to break apart and create that well mounded berm. The overall line is good, and as mentioned before we will adjust as needed and fine tune within the next few days.

At that point our order of bareroot trees and shrubs should be here and we will then plant them out, with a shovel full of goose/goat manure on top of a paper weed control barrier, as well as soiled/rotten hay.

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You can see here how much moisture was already seeping into the swale as we finished up the plowing for the day.

Roads and Observation

Over the course of the few years that we have been blessed to be caretakers of our piece of land, we have learned the main design lesson in permaculture over and over and over again. Observe, and then observe some more! Observation is the key step toward any cohesive design, and the more we observe the wiser any of our actions will then be.

P1080427Of course without action any amount of observation can just end up being sight-seeing. Action begins the processes that will allow us to continue to observe the next phases, and learn more, and take all that knowledge and make even better decisions or designs.

We’ve learned that making roads and putting up permanent fencing is a very landscape altering and energy intensive activity. We think it is such a key part to any livestock oriented farm endeavor that it pays to take all the time you need to figure out the best possible design for all your particular animals, plants, machines, vehicles, and water management needs. Roads are such a key part of a design as they delineate the landscape around them, creating segments and access ports that otherwise may not exist.  They direct water from higher up to lower down, very fast. They become animal routes and the default way from point A to point B.

our garden, freshly tilled and backbreakingly howed into raised bed to enable drainage in our clay soil

Arriving here as greenhorns with many great ideas but not much practical experience with landownership, we didn’t put as much priority on the thoughtful construction and placement of roads and pathways as other more exciting things. After a lot of trial and error, we have come to respect the road and all it does to the landscape.

 

LTD Design

LTD Farm Permaculture Design

It has been 3+ years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears to build up what we have today here on the farm on a shoestring budget. There have been many wonderful moments and some very stressful events, and through it all we have kept our eyes on the future. Ideally, what do we want to be doing in 5 or 10 years? We feel that when we understand our deep-seated goals, it is much easier to work toward them. To make well-considered choices every day, week, month, or year, it is important for us to have our end goal in mind. We also know that our goals change, so we revisit these on a pretty regular basis.

Over the past few months we have put efforts into drafting our first basic whole-farm permaculture design. This design is the result of 3+ years of talking, sketching, working, fencing, building, and of course, dreaming. To some this design may look complicated, to others it may seem simplistic, but to us it is just right.

One of the goals of our current permaculture dream is to provide our core CSA members with the majority of their food, using resilient perennial systems as our primary agricultural methods. We love the one-on-one interaction and feedback we get from our customers, and find it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being a farmer. We also know that the food we grow is the best food that there is to eat, and want to be able to share our own eating experience with the most appreciative of partners, our CSA members.

We have other goals, and there is much to discuss about our LTD Permaculture Design. We will keep you updated  in future blog posts as we build our systems and implement the design! Thank you for being part of LTD!

2014 CSA Shares Now Available!

LTD Farm CSA Shares – 2014

Our drop sites include Seward Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, MAGNA Health & Fitness in Minneapolis, & River Market Co-op in Stillwater!

The LTD Farm CSA program is unique:

Diversity & QualityOur CSA boxes are full of fresh organic vegetables, rich duck eggs, silky handmade goatmilk soaps, wildflower bouquets, wildcrafted foods, and other fruits of our farm!

Monthly– Our Original Share is a perfect compliment to your monthly cooking plans if you enjoy shopping at the farmers market, love gardening in your backyard plot, or have an active lifestyle.

Can’t get enough LTD goodness? We also offer a Deluxe Share which is Twice a Month, and NEW for 2014 is the Full Share Option- a bushel box every week for 26 weeks!

Sustainability– On our small farm we focus on bio-intensive and permaculture methods for building soil fertility with the helpful assistance of our animals in many mutually beneficial ways. We also preserve patches of  savannah and woodlands in order to secure habitat and food sources for our wild helpers, including the all-important bees that pollinate our gardens and fruit trees, wild birds that snack on pests, and toads and frogs that enjoy slugs and cutworms.

Small-Scale Farming- As a husband and wife farming team  using mostly manual labor on a small-scale farm we offer a limited amount of CSA Shares every year in order to be able to put our full effort into each and every one of P1080607the boxes we produce.  By becoming a member of our CSA you’ll be happy to know that you are supporting the small-scale pasture-based sustainable and organic food revolution.

Half a Year – Our CSA Shares span 6 months of the year, May- October, giving you a seasonal taste of what we produce on our farm from the beginning of the growing season to the end!

Connection– We love to share our always-engaging farming experiences! We post regular updates on our website, Facebook & Twitter.

Pastured Meats– We specialize in raising delicious and nutritious pastured meats, which come from our lovingly raised & humanely harvested animals. See our CSA Meat Offerings.

Convenient Drop Sites– As a member, you will be able to choose from 4 locations to pick up your 2014 CSA shares: the Seward Co-op Grocery in Minneapolis, Linden Hills Co-op near Edina, MAGNA Health & Fitness in Minneapolis, or River Market in Stillwater, MN.

VIP Harvest Party– As a member of our CSA, you’ll be invited to come on out to our special CSA Member Appreciation Day in the fall, with food, fun and farm tours!

Email us to sign up-  farmers (at) ltdfarm.com

We prefer full payment to purchase your CSA Membership,  but you can hold a CSA Membership by sending us a 50% deposit, with the balance due by March 1st, 2014.

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Our CSA Share is a Bushel box full of fresh seasonal vegetables, 2 dozen duck eggs, 2 bars of handmade goatmilk soaps, a wildflower bouquet, wildcrafted foods, and other fruits of our farm!

  • The Original Share is $350. Once a month delivery, for six months! May-October
  • The Deluxe Share is $650. Twice a month delivery, for six months! May-October
  • The Full Share is $1250. Once a week delivery, for twenty six weeks! May-October

-Meat CSA Shares require a deposit to reserve, with the balance due based on actual weight. Poultry requires On-Farm Pickup, Pork will be delivered in the Metro Area.-

  • The Pastured Chicken Share – Receive 5 pastured jumbo broiler chickens 100% organically fed, $4.50/lb with a $100 deposit required and balance due on pickup day in October based on dressed weight.  Average weight 6-8 pounds each
  • The Thanksgiving Turkey Share – Join the loyal group who returns to LTD every fall for their AMAZING Thanksgiving turkey! They average 15 pounds each, but we will have some that are 10 pounds and some that are 20 pounds. We charge $3.50/lb, with a $20 deposit to hold your bird. We process our own turkeys, and on farm pick-up is required the weekend before Thanksgiving.
  • The Free-Range Goose Share – 100% organically fed free-range goose! They average around 10 pounds and are $8/lb. Your deposit of $40 will reserve your goose, and on farm pick-up is required in Late Fall (we intend to harvest our Geese at the end of October and/or Thanksgiving time)P1080331
  • The Pastured Pig Share – We also love raising our happy pigs! You will never taste better pastured pork in your life! We only raise a small number of pigs, and they live outdoors on pasture, rooting in the soil, with fresh water, organic grains and all kinds of other special morsels. Our pigs are great farm workers- they clear areas of weeds and brush that we turn into gardens or plantings later on. These pigs get the best life- lots of playtime, love and scratches. When you reserve your Pig Share, you are purchasing ½ of a pig, which will become about 80-100 pounds of amazing pork. Our butcher processes them into a variety of Chops, Ribs, Roasts, Bacon, and Ham. Our pigs are $8/lb, and your deposit of $200 will reserve your ½ pig for harvest in Nov/December. The remaining balance will be due after harvest, and based on the actual hanging weight. We will deliver to you in the Metro Area. Any questions, please let us know. P1000353

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