Archives For earthworks

The Ant Farm’s food forest is finally up and rolling, and it’s been a long time coming.

Beginnings of a Food Forest

Walking the Property

Initial clearing work for the driveway and home site Summer 2013.

Last summer we rented an excavator and installed the framework for cultivation of an area north of the house. The area was cleared during the initial phase of our development back in the Fall of 2013, but with all of the chaos related to selling our old house, building roads, installing a septic system and the move, the food forest was way down the list at the time.

The future edible food forest garden.

View of the North field as seen from the home site after clearing Fall 2013.

By the summer of 2014, we were finally situated on the property. We rented an excavator and installed the basic framework for our food forest. We buried the bulk of the remaining brush piles in 200ft of raised hugelkultur beds on contour and dug an additional 75ft of swale. These earthworks were designed to store a tremendous amount of water in the landscape and serve as a reservoir for the fruit trees and support species that would one day inhabit the forest garden.

The earthworks were quickly planted with iron clay peas to protect the soil and begin preparation for the eventual addition of the fruit trees and support plantings. Continue Reading…

Brush piles have pretty much been a fact of life for us over the last year. It didn’t matter where you looked on the property, chances were that a brush pile was the back drop to your view. If you were looking for us on the weekend, all you had to do was follow the smoke. All of that changed last week with the installation of our first bit of permaculture framework at the Ant Farm.

While a photo can’t do the insanity of our brush piles justice, this picture gives you some idea of what one of our piles looked like. There were approximately 30 giant stumps in this pile alone, and we were becoming convinced that they would be with us forever… We even thought about renaming the place, but “The Stump Farm” just didn’t have the same ring to it. The above image shows one of the five remaining brush piles. We had already burned three of them over the course of the year, and something had to give.

Continue Reading…

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series My Big Fat Permaculture Design Revelation

In My Big Fat Obvious Permaculture Revelation – Part 1 I talked about how our lack of a specific vision was wreaking havoc with our decision making and emotional well-being. In Part 2 we’ll examine what we’ve got to work with at The Ant Farm and layout our plan for the next few years.

The Canvas

So what is our canvas like? After much deliberation with the other permaculture-minded folks at the earthworks course, I think I can safely say that The Ant Farm rocks. While twenty of my contemporaries described their particular challenges, it became apparent to me that we have it pretty good in Ashville, Alabama.

Sunrise-on-the-Ant-Farm

Many of the guys at the event were working with four to twelve inches of annual rainfall. We get around sixty with literally hundreds of acres of water catchment on the south side of the property.

As we chiseled into rock twelve inches down in Jack Spirko’s field, I couldn’t help but think that our soil is seven feet deep before we hit the bedrock.

Most of the guys were dealing with exhausted flat farmland or steep cliffs that present major problems for cultivation, and here we sit on gentle rolling slopes of old-growth pine and hardwood forest rated as prime farmland by the US Geological Survey.

To top it all off, I’m surrounded by the best neighbors I could hope for. Good men who look out for my family because it’s just the right thing to do.

If our goal is to create a masterpiece, our canvas is a pretty good start. Continue Reading…

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series My Big Fat Permaculture Design Revelation

I’m usually a pretty decisive person. In our business I make snap decisions, one after another, often without as much knowledge or experience as I would like. Thirteen years of business ownership has taught me how to quickly research a problem, plot out a path and stay the course, but I also trust my gut.

Whether it’s the location of swales, a root cellar, roads, fencing or ponds, my decisions for The Ant Farm have been racked with uncertainty, and in some cases good old-fashioned fear. But why?

The answer hit me like a ton of bricks during the TSP earthworks course, and it’s much more obvious than I’d like to admit.

Continue Reading…