As determined as we are to get on our land, we are just as determined to treat the resources of the land with respect. This has been a big topic lately as we have 18 or more rather large piles of trees on the property. These trees are a result of having 2 acres of the property cleared last month. Beau and I were all set to have these piles burned, as it is a much quicker and cheaper process than many of the alternatives. We have 18 more acres of trees so we didn’t think it would be a big deal. This plan has since changed as I have spent the past few weeks going to the library and borrowing books on permaculture. This has changed everything!!!
What is permaculture, you may ask? Well, permaculture has several basic principles; a few of those being “work with nature, not against it,” “every element fulfills multiple functions,” and “use all natural resources.” If Beau and I are going to start living life in this permaculture manner it needs to start now. While burning the piles would definitely be a quicker method, in no way does it help our cause of creating a fertile food forest. So we have decided to do quite a few things with these valuable tree-pile resources.
Firstly, we are in the process of buying a wood chipper to help break down the smaller parts of the trees for mulching our orchard. Secondly, we will use a few of the cedars (they don’t rot easily) for creating a sand pit for the kiddo to play in while we are working hard on the land. Thirdly, we will save some of the wood for building fires and to sell to anyone in need of some fuel for their fireplace or fire pit. Finally, we will use some of the trees in a gardening technique coined hügelkultur, meaning “hill culture” in German. This last method is the one I’m most excited about.
I learned about hügelkultur a few months ago while visiting my friend Ron Ferrell as he graciously helped me save my garlic by allowing me to use one of his brilliantly rich raised beds for a month or so. Hügelkultur is a technique of creating a mound as high as three to four foot high (or sometimes higher!) to serve as a raised bed by burying trees, limbs, leaves, grass clippings, cardboard, etc. under a layer of soil and compost. The wood and other materials in the hügel bed decays slowly over time and as the fungus breaks down the wood the nutrients are made available to the plants. This creates a constant supply of nutrients via mycorrhiza for a decade or more (depending on the size of the hügel bed). Now how cool is that! Not only does the wood provide nutrients, but the wood holds moisture in the bed, which keeps watering to a minimum. The height of the hügel beds keeps weeds low and when weeding is necessary the weeds are at arms length. No crouching necessary.
As I continue to educate myself about this incredibly promising method of farming, and we dive further into the development of “The Twenty,” we’ll continue to keep updating you with our progress. Hopefully we can learn some things together!