Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Permaculture and Land Choices

With the idea that we'll be living a long time on this land, and leaving it to our children to farm, the choice of a good piece of land is really important. Yes, we can amend soil if we need to and we can dig wells and plant trees. But some things are permanent. We can't make a stream or river appear out of nowhere. We can't drastically alter the shape of the land or the slope without doing real damage to the soil structure. In fact, even the direction it faces is an important consideration.

Our plans include:

barn, house, root cellar and greenhouse construction
raising livestock and vegetables
planting permanent fruit and orchard sites

Animals can live anywhere there's adequate food water and shelter but having good pasture for them and an easily accessible water source just makes life more pleasant. Before we get any animals we'll need some secure housing and fencing and establishing a good mix of grasses is easier to do before animals arrive, so we'll be looking to fertilize the soil and overseed if necessary. We'll know more once we test the soil and see how it grows in the late spring.

Any permanent crops like fruit trees and bushes need planning ahead of time too. Choosing a site that's got air flow and isn't in a frost pocket, with good soil depth and fertility, these and many more things need to be considered before you head for the nursery.

We'd like a thermally efficient home, facing south if possible and one that makes good use of solar gain. By that I mean it will allow sunlight into the home to aid in heating and we'd like a hot water heating system on the roof. That's Steve's baby! It doesn't take much to make your home more efficient, just a little forethought and planning. We turn our beehives to warm up with the low winter sun, why not our human house? We're still exploring the possibility of getting planning permission for an alternative building method like strawbale or cordwood for both out home and out buildings. Research continues and we'll first start by building a barn or workshop to test our skills. And I've got to talk to the powers that be to get an idea of the hoops involved before hand. Hey, forewarned is forearmed. And we've never dealt with Annapolis County so we'll ask some discreet and anonymous questions before making plans.

But the very first things we have to do are these:

Find land and make an offer.
Confirm our financing and complete the sale.
Drill a well.
Arrange for a temporary electrical service.

Yes, we're staying on grid for right now and for ease of construction (using electric tools) but in designing and building a house we want to allow for the possibility of being energy independent. Not even using propane. Wood cookstoves and woodstoves in general are a good option for almost all the properties we've looked at because they have woodlots that we can manage. The same goes for construction, using cordwood as a method of building is good because it makes use of available resources.

And yes, you drill a well before building any structures. Why? Because occasionally it'll turn out that the best location for a well is under your house or close to a septic field. So do the well first, then the septic where it won't pollute your water supply (has to be done by certified companies in NS but we're going to see if any of the work can be done by us to save money) and finally the house and out buildings. Even though we don't plan on using the septic tank much if at all, we still might need one in place. I'm not sure that you can put a new outhouse on property here, but I'll find out.

Anyways the sun is shining again and so I'm going out while I can. Then I've got to mop floors in preparation for Kate's party at 5pm.

Have a good day.

Elizabeth

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