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…
Last 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!).
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.
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.
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?
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…
The Ant Farm began as 16 acres of forest in unincorporated St. Clair County, Alabama. My wife and I bought the property in 2013 with the vision of raising our two kids here. As we're learning, we're also teaching our children about sustainable agriculture, the land, self-reliance and freedom. Society has a tendency to produce grasshoppers. We're raising ants.
Go to the ant, O sluggard;consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.