Archives For food forest

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…

TSP Earthworks Course Redux

November 26, 2013 — 3 Comments

Jack Spirko @ TSP Earthworks WorkshopLast week I attended the TSP Earthworks Course outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The event was hosted by one of the smartest people I know: Jack Spirko, the man behind The Survival Podcast. With something like 85,000 podcast downloads a week, Jack is THE man when it comes to a wide range of topics from preparedness to permaculture.

During the workshop we dug over 500ft. of swales using a mini-excavator and participated in numerous lectures on earthworks, food forestry and permaculture. Each day’s events were chock full of surprises including hands-on training on mini-excavator operation, a presentation by an expert falconer (with live hawk), a knife sharpening class, training on the use of laser levels for marking contour, brainstorming sessions, Q&A and even a hands-on class in beer brewing (not to mention beer drinking!).

Full Swale After Rain - TSP Earthworks Workshop

The project included the installation of 500ft. of swale to support a future food forest garden.

I signed up for the event thinking I would get an opportunity to pick the brains of Jack and his right-hand-man, Josiah Wallingford of Brink of Freedom. However, we were pleasantly surprised that Nick Ferguson of Permaculture Classroom and Nicholas Burtner of Working with Nature showed up and participated in the events. The time I spent one-on-one with these permaculture gurus reviewing the contour maps of my property and discussing design possibilities was absolutely invaluable and unexpected.

Jack Spirko, Nick Ferguson, Nicholas Burtner - TSP Earthworks Workshop

Classroom Lecture on Food Forestry
Left-to-right: Nick Ferguson, Permaculture Classroom; Jack Spirko, The Survival Podcast; Nicholas Burtner, Working With Nature

I’ve attended a lot of training events in my life, but this one was definitely one-of-a-kind. The food was incredible: slow-cooked beef brisket, smoked chicken, wild hog sausage, canned elk, home made salami, and a wide range of home-brewed adult beverages including honey mead and various ales and hard ciders.

TSP Earthworks Course - Teamwork

The team pulled together to complete 500ft. of swales in one day.

With all of the excitement and education, the best part of the experience by far was the personal connection with twenty-five other homesteaders dedicated to the same ideas of permaculture, freedom and common sense. I realized the day before I left that this event would mark the first time I would ever be in the same room with a group of truly self-reliant people. So much so that we were all willing to fork over $425 to dig ditches in the freezing rain on someone else’s property for the simple opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture. Those of us who attended are a very special breed of crazy with a new bond… We may be crazy, but now we know we are not alone!

Now I just need a mini-excavator and twenty-five strong backs, and I can get my project done in a day or two… Any volunteers?

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Buying Land in Alabama

In the last installment of Buying Rural Property in Alabama, I talked about several methods to create a pool of properties to consider. In this article we’ll explore the question that will determine your next step.

Is the property worth visiting?

In order to determine if a property is worth seeing, we need to know what our benchmarks for good land are. First, there are a number of criteria that should be considered for any rural property in Alabama:

Acreage – How much land do you need? Until you’ve walked some land, this one will be hard to nail down. When we started out, I thought I wanted 40 acres. The first time I walked a 20 acre plot, I realized just how big 40 acres is. Maintaining a large property requires a lot of time and hard work. With a little planning and the right piece of land, you can raise all the food your family eats on 3-5 acres.  It didn’t take long before I decided that 10-15 acres might be a better fit for our needs.

Anticipated Use –  What will you do on the land? You want to keep your options open with this one, however there are probably some things you can take off of the list with a little thought. While I was interested in some types of livestock, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to graze cattle or horses.  At the most I wanted a half-acre for a garden, 3-5 acres to cultivate into a food forest orchard, 2-4 acres to develop into paddocks for small numbers of  chickens, goats or pigs, and I really wanted a 1-2 acre pond if possible. Continue Reading…