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Good Neighbor Farms

Published on Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good Neighbor Farms

Patrick and Andrea Johns plan for a permaculture life

We are very fortunate in that we are already rich in our ability to grow food on our place.  But we want to make this place more abundant and sustainable for our extended family.  To that end, In 2013,  we planted huckleberry, gooseberry, hardy kiwi vines, goumi, many Siberian pea shrubs, 6 varieties of willow. mulberries, English walnuts, American chestnuts and hazelnuts, and a variety of semi-dwarf fruit  trees.  The white dutch clover seeded into the pasture in 2013 came up beautifully and will be a good forage for the chickens..  This year we hope to plant elderberry, service berry, crab apples and more heirloom fruit trees. In the spring of 2014 we are also adding bee hives and chickens.  The birds will be housed in a stationary coup with 4 separate outdoor runs.  We will get them to work for us by tossing all compostables into their yard.  We will rotate them frequently onto the pasture in a chicken tractor using holistic management practices of mob grazing for short amounts of time.

One of our goals is to provide all the feed/ forage for chickens on site.  To that end this year we will plant 5 or 6 Linden trees, 5 hybrid poplars and 3 black locusts around the outer edges of our pasture.  We plan to coppice all these trees at staggered times. This will produce more branches to grow out for feeding our animals.  Black Locusts will be nitrogen fixers and provide pea like pods for the chickens.  The Linden is an exquisite  pollinator tree.  This tree has leaves that are edible by man and animal.  I'm told they actually taste good!  The flowers are used as a calming tea and the seeds can be processed like chocolate.  The inner bark is used as fiber for ropes and baskets.  It is also a dynamic accumulator and we will use the fall leaves liberally throughout the farm.  The poplars grow quickly.  They have several functions.  The leaves make excellent animal feed and will also enrich our ground.  We'll chip some of the smaller branches and use the chips in the orchard.  They will be used as a screen from neighbors across the back of the property.  At maturity these trees will get 80+ feet tall and will provide homes for various birds.  There is quite a bit of research available on using poplars to produce bio-fuel.  We will also grow corn and peas, dry them, coarse grind the corn for the chickens and fine grind it for cornmeal for us. When the mulberries are bigger we'll feed their leaves to the chickens also.  They are very high in protein.  We're  going to experiment with sorghum and amaranth this year.  I'm not sure they can produce any where near the quantity of grain we'll need but we'll find out.

Another goal is to completely cover the orchard area with wood chips to feed the fungi in the soil.  We have made connections with local arborists who will provide us with small size tree trimmings to chip.  Once the initial 4 inch layer of wood chips is on the ground our hope is to produce any additional ramial wood chips right on our place.  

As much as we like fruit  we will need additional crops to cover protein, fat and carbohydrate needs.  We have about 3200 square feet of garden space.  Some of that will be converted to perennial vegetables and an herb garden.  The remainder will grow pretty standard garden fare.

To supplement our retirement income we plan to use our shop to produce pottery and woodworking.  We will add a small nursery business.  I plan to grow out all the plants on our place, take cuttings from them all and sell the resulting plants.  At some point we may also add dairy animals.  If so we will sell raw milk.  I plan to sell eggs locally once the hens start laying.

We may install a rocket mass heater in the shop.  That is still under discussion.

Update: January 30th, 2015 - The past year has been a challenge.  Bad knees and major hospitalizations have prompted a rethink of priorities.  We don't like thinking that someday we'll be unable to work in the garden and produce our own food but the illnesses have been a wake up call.  We need to get new species of perennial plants established so, when the time comes, (not too soon we hope) our food needs can be met without so much hard physical labor.  

2015 will primarily be a soil, body and skill building year.  We'll interplant cover crops species and flowers throughout the garden for added fertility and to provide nectar for our bees.  When 50% of the cover species are in bloom we'll cut them down and allow them to regrow.  We hope to do this at least 3 times this summer.  In the fall we'll just allow them to winter kill and provide cover for the soil over winter.  Fall of 2014 we seeded several grass and legume species in the field.  We'll also cut these plants and allow them to dry in the field in windrows then gather and use for browns in the compost.  Winter of 2014/2015 we decided to use deep bedding for the chicken coop.  It really has worked to keep the ammonia smell under control.  Come spring we'll do a thorough clean up and add the supercharged straw to the compost.  Our intention is to grow all carbon needed for the compost process on farm.  We are very concerned about straw harvested from sprayed fields.  Consensus on the permies site seems to be that, in general, the compost process, when done correctly, will render Round Up inert.  I did not find any reliable 3rd party scientific articles that showed chemical residue to be inert after composting.  To be safe we"ll strive to produce what we need onsite. We have large deciduous tress and we'll use leaves as our primary "browns".  We have several sources for maple leaves. They'll be shredded and bagged when dry (hopefully) and we'll also use them as bedding for the deep chicken litter next winter. 

More trees will be planted on the north end of the field.  The willows we propagated in spring 2014 were planted and tripled in size. This spring we'll propagate again and I expect to grow enough to line the west side fence. We'll more than double the raspberry patch by taking cuttings.  Our intention is to get as many perennial food forest plants going this year as possible.  We will propagate these and sell them at our nursery.  

We'll add at least one more beehive.  In 2014 we harvested 50 lb of honey from our 1 hive. That was enough to meet our needs and the needs of our extended family.  In 2015 any excess honey will be sold.  

I'm also going to add practical art pieces to the gardens.  I'm a potter and am very interested in creating housing/nesting for alternative pollinators.  I'm also going to add birdhouses, birdbaths, and murals.  At least that's the vision.  I'll perfect production of these items then produce them for sale.



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Annie M

Annie M

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6 comments on article "Good Neighbor Farms"


Mike Hagar (website host)

2/20/2014 6:47 AM

Very cool Andrea. We can't wait to see it on Saturday.


Ed Bryant

2/20/2014 6:56 AM

You two are doing great things! I'm looking forward to the apple grafting workshop.



2/20/2014 11:18 AM

It's really motivating to hear your long term plans. Thanks for posting all of this!


Torie Foote

2/20/2014 4:23 PM

Nice overview-you both have been busy. Would love to see more photos! :-)



6/4/2014 11:16 PM

The farm is really great. I can say that the fruits and vegetables will grow abundantly. Make comprehending the advantages of knowing your neighbor important in your life. By doing so, you will reap the benefits of a happier, healthier life that is just a little less lonely. With a short term loan, you can pay for a neighborhood party to get to know everyone.


Annie M

6/23/2014 1:10 AM

Update on our place...we planted 2 Lindens this year instead of 5. We decided to purchase large trees so we can obtain a yield sooner ( we are not getting any younger, unfortunately). We purchased 4 small poplars from Plants of the Wild. I am moving them into larger pots to develop more roots and will plant them this fall at the back of the property. We also planted 2 larger maples. These trees will grow fast once established and will provide leaves for chicken bedding and garden mulch. All the fruit trees are pretty loaded with fruit, even my beloved cherry tree we thought might be nearing the end of its life. We will have fruit to share for sure. The bees are doing great. Nectar flow is just starting and we already have 10 full frames of honey. We added another box this week because the hive has grown so much that they need more room to brood baby bees and store honey for the winter. There are reports from other experienced bee keepers in the area that this is a VERY good year for honey production. I sure hope so...my grandkids really like honey. So far, my amaranth is not growing as well as hoped. It hasn't been very hot here so I hope once warmer weather hits they will take off. I grew some Green Arrow peas this year. I'll save seed from the best producing pods for next year and freeze some peas for us. The rest of the peas, and the plants will be used to feed the chickens. I'm going to use Honey Locust as well as Black Locust as a nitrogen fixers, forage, and as pollinator trees. Both produce edible pods suitable for forage but Honey Locust pods are easily 3 times the size of Black Locust pods and will provide much more feed. They also coppice well. I hope to add either goats or a Jersey cow to our little farm but the pasture will have to be much improved before that happens. I want to graze pasture year round and have been researching different varieties of plants that provide good winter feed. I plan to cut down the corn plants at the end of this summer and use them as feed throughout the winter for the chickens. If/when we get a dairy animal I'll leave the corn standing in the field and turn the cow/goat into the stand to harvest the plants on their own. Ah, so many plans it's hard to not jump in to all the projects at once. We have decided that would not be wise. We want this to be sustainable as we age and if we move a little more slowly and adapt plans as needed we'll be better off in the end.

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