Tag Archives: food forest

Make Your Property a Paradise!

At Good Life Ranch we farm using ecological principles rather than chemicals.  We utilize nature’s time-tested methods to maintain healthy animals, create and maintain a healthy environment, generate energy, produce food, and recycle waste productively into other systems.  Every component on our farm has multiple outputs, provides inputs into other systems, and serves an ecological purpose.  A few years later I ran across the term permaculture, and that concept fits our farm pretty well.  Permaculture is shorthand for permanent agriculture and is based on the utilization of perennial plants and renewable energy sources.  You can read more about it below.  It’s way more involved than that brief definition I provided.

House-Exterior-From-Circle-Garden-1

Our house and a portion of our gardens.  Perennial plants generate food and beauty year after year.

My training is in science.  I earned my B.S. in Biology and a minor Environmental Studies from Trinity University, studying as much as I could under David Ribble in ecology and conservation biology.  I have taught biology for almost 15 years in public schools in Texas and Kentucky.  Although we run our farm in a permaculture manner, I decided that I’d also like to use my knowledge of ecology and my skills as a teacher to help other people transform their properties as well.  To that end in 2015 I earned my Permaculture Design Certificate from Geoff Lawton in Australia.  More information about him and his farm can be found at the links below.

Geoff Lawton
Permaculture Research Institute
Zaytuna Farm

I would love to put my training and expertise to work for you!

Your property, no matter how large or how small, can produce food.  It can generate renewable energy, it can harvest water, it can recycle wastes, and it can create habitat for wildlife.  At larger sizes your property can produce timber, use livestock and plants to rehabilitate a landscape, clean the environment, and generate income for your family.

Here are some of the things I can do for you with a site design, no matter the size of your property:

  • generate renewable energy on your property
  • increase the energy efficiency of your house
  • lower your household’s output of waste
  • increase your property’s fertility
  • produce quality food on your property at almost any scale
  • create wildlife sanctuaries

Site designs I have created in the past include:

  • 1/4 acre suburban lots that produce enough food for families of 4-6 to achieve self-sufficiency
  • 2-10 acre sites that produce enough food for families plus generate all the energy needs of the owners as well as provide water retention and supply, hiking trails, wildlife corridors, food forests, and more.
  • 15 -200 acre properties that accomplish all of the things the above sizes do as well as provide commercial opportunities to live on your land and work there too.
  • “Bug out” locations that can be set up, left with minimal maintenance, and used as needed in emergency situations to support a family.  This is a surprisingly popular option.

I have not yet designed a small urban space, like a rooftop garden or balcony garden design, but I would love to do that.  Small spaces can be incredibly productive if well-designed and well-tended.

Here’s our brochure: Good Life Ranch Permaculture Site Design  All of the photos in that brochure are of our property, so you can see that functional designs are not just utilitarian; they can be beautiful as well.

Here’s a sample of a design I created for a 2-acre property: South Carolina property

Of course, all property designs are unique because they reflect the goals and desires of the property owners.  All designs I create are individual and made especially for you!

Please give me a call at (606) 787-4217 or shoot me an  and let us design your property to reliably and sustainably produce food, reduce your ecological footprint, generate energy, and create a better environment for your family.

It’s an investment in your property.  It’s one of the best decisions we have ever made.

 

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Beginning our Forage Forest

So I don’t know how many readers have actually been able to visit GLR yet, but for those who haven’t gotten the chance…

… It’s a bit hilly, hillbilly.

We have 3 fields/pastures totaling around 40 acres that are relatively flat, but the aren’t all connected.  Plus, we’d like to be able to utilized more of the property for food production.  So here’s the plan, which is now underway.  Barely.

The green highlighted area above the pasture and below the old-growth forest is the area that will become the forage forest.

In the Google Earth snapshot above, the green area represents what will become the forage forest.  It’s an area that was once clear-cut and turned into pasture but over the last 15 years or so has grown up with all manner of brush – young cedars, oaks, poplars, hickories, and some brambles and berries.  When we first moved here I thought we would clear out all of that secondary growth and turn that portion of the hillside below the old-growth forest at the top of the ridge back into pasture for our ruminants.

The problem with that idea is the slope of the land:

Here’s a view of the typical slope we are talking about. It seems much steeper when you’re on site.

I understand that the previous farmers on this property had turned this portion of the farm into pasture, but I also have eyes and can see that all of the topsoil on this slope is not there anymore.  It’s probably been washed down into the creek and off to the Green River.  That slope is just not conducive to short grass.  It needs things with deep roots to hold the topsoil in place.

Those of you who know me know that I like to think about things for long periods of time before taking action.  I’ve been pondering that steep hillside for 3 years now.  I’ve thought… pasture, orchard, grapes(!), water slide into the creek, leave it alone, etc.  Then I came across a book that I think all landowners should read – J Russell Smith’s Tree Crops.  It was written in 1929 and it’s still revolutionary and ahead of its time today.  It has inspired what our hillside will become – a forage forest using native trees to hold the topsoil, provide forage and shelter for our livestock, and provide a microclimate under the canopy into which we can sow annual and perennial ground-level crops.

Here’s the idea:

  1. We utilize the pigs and goats this fall to eat down some of the brush (especially the briars and brambles) and root up the thin soil a bit to help loosen the grip the bunchgrass has on the hillside.  This part is starting to happen as we speak.
  2. This winter, when there’s more room to move around after the leaves are off and the goats and pigs have thinned things out a bit, I will go in there and selectively remove trees.  Most of the cedars will go away to be used as fence posts or be turned into other useful things.  Lindsey likes them to keep moths out of her sweaters.  The best oaks, hickories, and berry patches will stay and the rest of them thinned to give the best trees room and light to grow even better.
  3. After the thinning, we will plant some native forage-producing trees in the gaps created by the thinning process and (for the shade-loving trees) under the canopies of the existing nut trees.  These forage trees will include things like honey locusts, mayhaws, pawpaws, persimmons, crabapples, and mulberries to complement the oaks and hickories.
  4. Underneath the canopy (after the pigs have tilled the soil a little for us) we’ll plant a mix of perennials and annuals that we hope will become a permanent feature of the forest.  We’ll have to manage it carefully for the first five years, but we hope to establish clovers, orchardgrass, alfalfa, Jerusalem artichokes, squashes, berry bushes, turnips, rape, peas, sunflowers, and other little treats in the understory of the forest.
  5. Over time, these planted trees and the existing trees will begin to produce forage that the goats and pigs can self-harvest.  Our plan is to combine the understory plants and the fruit- and nut-fall from the trees and actually not have to feed anything other than what the livestock can gather in the forage forest.

The hard work will come in when we plant the trees.  Kentucky’s Dept of Forestry at least makes it easy to acquire them.  You can order bundles of 100 bare root trees for around $40 from them.  Anybody wanna come help dig this winter?  The hardest part (for me anyway) will be the patience needed to wait for the trees to grow.

So when this forage forest kicks into full production (in like 10 years, *sigh*) our pigs’ year will look like this:

January-February: piglets born, everybody’s in the warm barn, adult pigs eating walnuts saved from October harvest and our extra corn
March:  pigs go into the cattle/goat hayfeeding area to churn compost for us, pigs feeding on the compost and our extra corn
April-May: pigs go onto pasture and start heading towards the forage forest, feeding on grasses & clovers on spring pasture
May-June: pigs go into the forage forest where mayhaws and mulberries are ripe and falling to the ground for them
July-August: mulberries continue to fall, blackberries ripen, ground cover crops plentiful
September: ground cover crops are still going, nut fall is starting, crabapples and pawpaws are dropping off the trees
October: nut fall is in full swing, pigs feast and fatten on hickories, acorns, and hazelnuts
November-December: persimmons and honey locusts drop their bounties, pigs are finished.  Pork is harvested, breeders return to barn.

So that’s the plan – to create a forage forest that produces our pork without any off-farm feed inputs.  With good management, I believe we can also harvest extra fruits and nuts from the forest and run our goats and poultry through the forage forest occasionally as well.  The best part of all of this is that, in addition to producing all of those wonderful products, this plan will actually stabilize that hillside, prevent erosion, shelter our animals, create a corridor to move the cattle through to the back pasture, and provide valuable timber towards retirement time for Lindsey and I.

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