Sunday, April 29, 2012

Highlights of April Permaculture Work

As I look back at What's Happening at Adventure Farm I realize just how much we've gotten done from that list and more. It's nice to take a few minutes as we near the end of the month to take the time to reflect on how far we have come in just the last month. Not only are we getting a lot done around here, but we are meeting and working with many wonderful like-minded people.  This little space we call Adventure Farm is truly enriching our lives in many ways.  

Here's a little April photographic summary of the permie part of Adventure Farm. There is a lot going on with the experiential education side too. Guy has promised to post the same sort of report later this week. 

The month began in the front yard. We finished not one swale project, but two.  Phase 1 of the "Tackling the Front Yard" project was to include replacing the grassy front hill with native grasses and lavendar plus installing some steps up the side lawn.  That project was finished as planned and withstood quite the rain storm like a champ.  We were so proud of how well that worked and motivated to do more. As so often happens, opportunity presented itself in the form of a deal Deanna couldn't pass up for 50 strawberry plants.  Since the second phase of the front project was to replace the south facing hill with strawberry plants we suddenly found ourselves with an unexpected project.  Deanna started digging while Guy ran off to a tree climbing event. When he returned, together they finished the project. We were a little short on mulch, but the next weekend one of our great volunteer helpers, Ryan, helped haul several loads of leaf mulch and wood mulch to finish the strawberry project and begin  the spring mulching of the back yard paths. The same day Ryan and I worked to haul organic material for his garden. It was very satisfying to help Ryan and his partner, Becky, get set up to grow some food at their apartment. It's wonderful to be building a community of support, a big part of permaculture. 

A picture of the two hill projects.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wow, check out the amazing swales at work

In the last 24 hours we’ve had a number of thunderstorms move through the area, dumping around 2 inches of rain on us over night. This precipitation was on top of a previous day of around 1.5 inches of rain. Needless to say, I was a little hesitant to peek out the window this morning. After lying in bed hearing the rain pouring down outside off and on all night I expected to see leaf mulch running down the sidewalk. Instead I saw a clean sidewalk. Check it out. 
I promise I did no cleaning up. This is what it really looked like!  Notice all the dogwood flowers are knocked off. It was quite the storm.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bye-Bye Lawn!!

Phase One of the "Tackling the Front Yard" project is almost complete. We only have the lower path to mulch and some more plants to install. Thanks to Guy, Rachel and Ryan I was able to get an amazing amount accomplished this past weekend.  After all these years of avoiding that silly hill, I’m so glad it’s started. It sure is looking good. 

 Here’s a little photo journey through the last few weekend work days.  

April 1st 

Guy and I worked to install some steps up the side of the hill using repurposed grates that we picked up last year at a salvage sale.  The plan is to plant them with creeping Thyme and other herbs along the side.

I'm finding out Guy has a good eye for design.
Guy was able to figure out a nice spacing for the grates. I like the angle a lot.

Guy also used his engineering ability to make a very professional looking a-frame for laying out the contours on the hill the next weekend. 

By the end of the day I felt ready to tackle the biggest job the following weekend when I wouldn't have Guy's help. 

April 7th 

The big day. I started alone, but I soon got a lot of help from Ryan and Rachel.  Guy had a tree climbing event all day. 

First I finished the a-frame by adding the string and weight to determine when the frame was level as I worked my way across the slope. That's my experimental strawberry patch in the background. I planted it last year to see how strawberries do in the front yard.  They are doing well. I think I might plant the whole side yard in strawberries...yum.

Any old weight will do.

Each step of the a-frame required a flag to mark the spot. I decided to do two swales across the hill. I was alone at this point, so I couldn't get a picture of me working the frame. However, I will say it was a lot of fun. I sure would have never guessed that these lines are level. Thank goodness for simple tools like this a-frame.  

Next I dug the swales and placed the soil in front of each swale to make a berm. This made a surprising difference in the slope of the hill, it doesn't look nearly as steep any more. The swales will help to keep water on my property, which will reduce the runoff into the sewers and our urban streams. Of course it will also reduce the amount of watering I will have to do. The plants I selected for the hill should be able to survive just fine without any watering from me after they are established. This year I'll have to water regularly. 

We then filled the swales full of straw. I didn't want to be able to see the swales quite so clearly. I was looking for a more terraced look and I hope this will help that. You can also see that we have placed the plants on the hill.  Initially I had thought I would lay the paper down first and then plant the plants by cutting holes in the paper. After thinking about this and discussing it with Ryan, who had arrived by now, we decided it would be easier to plant first and then lay the paper. 

So that's what we did!

 After the plants were in, we placed the newspaper around them and stood back to take a break.  Rachel and Ryan made the job go fast.  After a short break we started hauling mulch.  We didn't have enough mulch to finish the job this day...

but an early Easter morning run to get more mulch and some time spent adding cardboard to the upper part of the hill that wasn't part of this planting and this is what we have!!!! Now I just need to get more herbs for the steps and figure out what to plant under the dogwood.

I put flags by the plants for now so I make sure I see everyone when I'm watering. The plants on the hill include prairie dropseed, a native Missouri grass, and lavender.  Both plants tolerate hot, dry places and crappy soil. I think they will enjoy living on this hill.

THANKS GUY, RYAN and RACHEL for all your help!!!! Permie community is great!