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.
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?
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.