Design in Progress

Here is my design, generated over the winter of 2012/13. This gives a good feeling for the layout and size of our yard (our house is about 30 x 35 feet). About half of these elements are already in place, including all the trees. See below for a description of existing elements and planned projects, as well as the system details which make it ‘permaculture.’

For a thorough description of our climate, site and project, see my complete Site Assessment, Evaluation and Design.

Feral Edge Site Design

Detail for Design Elements

Poultry

Existing Infrastructure:

  • 5 x 5 ft coop with attached 3 x 5 ft porch
  • no birds

Plan:

  • retrofit and expand existing chicken coop
  • build duck shed (concurrently with and attached to woodshed)
  • fence in southern edge of sideyard as forage area
  • raise 10+ egg layers and 24+ meat birds

System Details:

  • although the bulk of feed will be imported, forage will be maximized throughout property, particularly comfrey, duckweed, nettles and salmonberries
  • a redworm bin will be set up in the chicken coop, underneath the roosting pole; the bin will be covered with chicken wire so that the poop falls through, and have a long, wide door providing access from the outside for inputing food scraps; it will be delineated from the coop’s bedding by 1/2 inch hardware cloth allowing migration of excess populations into bedding to become self-harvest chicken feed
  • duck run and main forage yard will interrupt primary slug migration route to gardens
  • ducks will be used for direct slug control in annual gardens daily via herding and close supervision (no fencing)
  • composted manure from the deep bedding system will be harvested in spring and applied directly to the annual garden as an amendment or mixed with sand, silt and clay trimmings (from pottery studio) to create soil for new beds
  • after the meat birds are butchered in July (ending the intensive period of greatest stocking rate) the remaining birds will be penned into a small section of the forage yard, and cereal rye will be planted as a cover crop over the denuded ground to soak up the high nitrogen input, as well as provide fall forage
  • fish waste and game offal from home processing will be fed as available to meat bird flock, or frozen for later use

Firewood Storage

Existing:

  • 5 x 16 ft attached shed in backyard, roof in need of repair

Plan:

  • construct new 10 x 10 ft shed in SW corner of sideyard, attached to duck shed

System Details:

  • dead-end street on west side of woodshed will provide large staging area
  • large sized roof provides water catchment for attached duck shack
  • bark and wood chip accumulation used as bedding in duck shack

Porch

Existing:

  • very small entrance porch on west side of house

Plans:

  • build 6 x 12 ft porch on south wall of house
  • install exterior door from living room

System Detail:

  • use clear fiberglass roofing to allow maximum light to porch area
  • seating will face view to southeast, and be of quick drying and easily wipeable material, since this area is often hit with blowing rain
  • take advantage of relatively dry, warm microclimate under porch for Mediterranean herbs in pots
  • hang a long growing box just under the eave of the porch roof for beans and vining nasturtiums, which will then grow up diagonally under clear roofing, supported beneath by net, creating a trellised pergola effect

Berries

Existing:

  • 20 ft raspberry hedge, with permanent trellis framing
  • 2 patches of straggling rhubarb

Plan:

  • move southern 5 ft of raspberries to the north end of the bed, to make room for woodshed
  • install 2 foot wide clear plastic roofing over raspberries to shield from excess rain
  • fortify and divide rhubarb for maximum growth
  • construct tiered strawberry growing boxes along southern edge of house
  • plant domestic varieties of blueberry bushes along southern edge of lawn
  • plant currant bushes in areas of marginal sun

System details:

  • blueberry bushes shield fencing of duck run from view of lawn and porch areas, as well as gaining fertility and slug control from duck traffic; mulch will be hemlock boughs to keep soil acidity at appropriate levels
  • raspberries provide seasonal visual barrier between side yard and street; spent canes are thrown into duck run as carbon source; abbreviated roofing keeps some of the extreme August rain off of the ripening fruit– a major inhibiter of harvest in our climate
  • strawberry tiers are up against house, benefiting from reflected and absorbed heat, placement behind the eave drip line shelters them from excess rain, and being up off the ground protects them from slugs; boxes will need to be laid down on the ground and mulched for winter to prevent freeze-kill therefore construction and soil mix will need to be lightweight

Annual Vegetable Beds

Existing:

  • 4 beds in front yard, 3 completely overgrown and some boards rotting out
  • 2 beds in sideyard, poorly placed
  • low tunnels (heavy cable hoops and greenhouse plastic) to fit existing beds

Plan:

  • maintain and plant front beds, rebuild frames as time allows
  • dismantle beds in sideyard– move some soil to new raspberry bed, spread the rest in future lawn area and plant with green manure
  • build new beds in western half of sideyard slowly, over a period of years
  • fit new beds with low tunnels

System Details:

  • ducks will be used heavily in and around annual beds to control slugs, particularly in spring when young plants are vulnerable
  • chicks and ducklings will be penned onto beds intensively in late April to prepare soil prior for planting
  • soil will be enriched annually with composted poultry bedding, seaweed, and ash from the woodstove
  • bones from all home butchering (meat birds, fish and game) will be processed into meal for the garden
  • soil testing will be done once every few years to ensure poultry manure is not over-used
  • vegetable crops will be over-sown with cover crops in July for protection against fall rains and capture of soluble nutrients for winter storage
  • low tunnels– permanent hoops fitted with removable plastic covers– will be used to warm soil and temper frosts in the spring for extra early planting, as well as extend the harvest season in fall (until snow requires their removal)
  • a cold frame will be built to fit bed adjacent to front porch, with a roof steep enough to shed snow, for deep winter harvest; the rock wall surrounding the porch will act as the back wall of the cold frame, providing a heat sink and micro-climate moderator
  • a small nursery will be built at the southwest corner of the house (along the south side) for starting seedlings– a simple shelving unit covered in greenhouse plastic; this is the site of our best late winter sun

Wild Plants and Dynamic Companions

Existing:

  • spruce and hemlock trees on north, east and south sides of property
  • natural forest in SE corner and adjoining entire eastern edge, continuing on into a nearly infinite wilderness area
  • salmonberry thicket on south of sideyard, and on south side of back shed
  • wild blueberry bushes and alder along northern edge of property
  • nettle patch in back yard
  • willow and mountain ash trees in backyard
  • large area of ferns and other native plants on north and east side of chicken coop

Plan:

  • maintain all existing native plants except–
  1. cut a few key spruce trees to open up view and sunlight
  2. use poultry to clear salmonberry thicket where it encroaches on the side yard (leaving the majority of thicket intact to stabilize the steep hillside)
  • plant comfrey and other poultry feed in a hedge along the north side of the duck run, as well as in the main forage area in the backyard
  • transplant more wild plants and seed dynamic companions as time and space allows

System Details:

  • surrounding trees shield property greatly from wind, secure the steep hillside, siphon excess water, and connect us to the wild environment; they also keep the majority of the property in part to full shade and block incredible mountain views
  • native berries and plants provide appropriate habitat for local fauna and a continuity with the adjacent forest
  • dynamic accumulators build soils and attract insects– thus proximity to annual beds will be particularly beneficial
  • forage plants in main poultry yard will be surrounded with chicken wire as needed, to protect young growth and prevent overgrazing
  • forage plants in side yard will be planted outside of but adjacent to duck run and will shield it from view as well as suck up excess nitrogen; they will be used as a throw-over-the-fence feed supplement

MUSHROOMS

Existing:

  • none

Plan:

  • determine if any species of cultivated mushrooms can thrive outdoors in our cold climate
  • experiment with “transplanting” wild mushroom species System Details:
  • use copious rotting wood resources as growing medium

HONEY BEES

Existing:

  • none

Plan:

  • determine whether keeping bees is economical in our extended cold winter climate and sparse forage area

System Details:

  • bees would increase yield of all berry crops
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