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user 11905843
Saint Johnsbury, VT
Post #: 5
I'm considering purchasing a small cabin that faces east (looks at the white mountains from the top of the hill out back). The property is 18 acres and is near Littleton, NH. (I hope you'll still share advice :-)
It is surrounded by many huge pine trees which don't permit much, if any sunlight.
There is some cleared land about 300 yards out back heading up the hill (mini mountain) - tho not near man-made or any obvious natural water sources, except the fairly steep hill itself. Perhaps water run off from mountain could be harvested for watering, tho this may not be a constant reliable source. Then there is always HugelKultur, eventually. And terracing, tho without a tractor, I'm looking for other basic methods to make terraces (or pay someone w a tractor I suppose).

Out front, there is appx 250'-300' frontage and driveway with an acre of mostly pine trees on either side and then a fairly quiet main road.
I've been exploring permaculture for a couple of years now - mostly by devouring every email you all send, you tubes, reading Mollison, etc.
I'm hoping this would be a good start to learn about the pros/cons of this land. Any suggestions, advice and thoughts are very much appreciated. I'm hiking around this weekend to hopefully luck out finding a natural spring nearby - of even better, up behind on this hill!!

Some other questions are, would I have to clear cut trees to at least get some sun required to garden and to warm the cottage? And what uses for pine .... as its not really good for the wood stove. I am trying to get off-grid with the place and hoping to make use of this challenging piece of property and know this will be a fun lifetime projects and huge learning experience. Since Im inexperienced in permaculture and don't want to purchase and then realize I can't grow much for several years (I also work full-time, tho would be devoting all of my free time toward this).

I'm also looking toward keeping bees, goats, chickens (I have one dog already that also needs room to run and will have to fence everything in, but I'd also like to do that in a way that really keeps the animals close to me with room to free pasture as much as possible (with access somehow for my dog as he is wonderful with chickens and goats). I'd have to purchase 6' high fencing possibly for bees as we have black bears tho I'm open to advice. Have been taking bee classes....

I know this is a lot and there will need to be many projects and lots of planning, so I'm starting with this group. If any of you can share advice for making this into a beautiful off-grip, 'of the land' place. I'm lacking some important skills (ie cutting trees, building) and my only experience growing is in a sunny spot in zone 6 on Cape Cod (with access to a water hose!). Thank you very much, Kim
Brooks, ME
Post #: 5
Hi Kim
While I don't really have enough experience to give you much advice, it sounds like you're about to embark on an amazing project and journey. Best of luck and keep us posted, it sounds like a really beautiful piece of land!
My only thoughts on your water concerns are to build bunds and swales to trap water as it heads down the mountain, and a rain barrel since it sounds like your house is close to your growing area. If the primary growing area is uphill don't forget to put the barrel on a platform to help with water pressure.
David S.
Washington, ME
Post #: 918
I did very much what you are doing. You will need to remove enough trees to be able to see direct sun in Dec. and January if passive solar and good sun for gardening are what you want. That's more trees than you think. I learned this the hard way and required a second cutting so I would not freeze my ass off in mid winter and get good garden light. If you cut selectively remaining trees will move fast. Sometimes very fast and you will be in a jam in a few years. I put up a small growing structure that was shaded by a maple in 2 years. Truth: This will likely involve cutting more trees than will make you happy. I went the conservative route and it became trouble very quickly.

Pine makes good sawlogs and can generate significant money. Be smart and make money on this rather than paying someone major dough to cut. They laugh all the way to the bank. They will make money on products from your woods you would normally get paid for. "Don't you want that brush uh, removed?"

The caveat would be if you have to facility to process your own logs into a structure. You could buy a bandsaw and amortize it rapidly. You would need some heavy equipment.

With a good for-profit wood products guy you should be able to control exactly what is cut right down to naming and identifying the exact trees to cut or save. Get some marking paint. Ask around about who is a good woodcutter. I learned the hard way about getting the wrong guy. My father really did. There are excellent people to find. The best can be hard to get. They are in demand. You may find a new guy that is hungry for work but you have to set specific goals. Be sure to evaluate in sections and note any significant mini ecology like rare plants and bushes, mushroom patches etc. Mark them with orange tape and don't cut or let heavy equipment go there. You can get good work done with minimal damge to the ground if you can get them to cut in winter when the ground is frozen. Otherwise expect ruts. The good guys do make repairs to ruts, etc. I have noticed that ruts that collect water in spring can be good breeding places for amphibians.

I made hugelkultur patches with pine. I don't recommend it that highly. It did work but took a long time (more than 5 years and still not that great after 10). Conifers degrade very slowly and create very low nutrition soil.

Your soil will be very acid in the pines and low nutrition. Good and bad. There are plenty of indigenous plants, trees, and bushes that do very well in low nutrition acid soil that have high food value such as wild highbush (or lowbush) blueberries (avoid cultivars) cranberries, some drupes, viburnums, hazelnuts etc. Inventory your woods and be sure to look across and down. Stop looking up. Some of your most interesting resources are in the understory. There is probably plenty out there and it may need a rescue anyway.

You can make gardens and attempt to change the soil through soil inputs. Any you use, organic or not, will change the environment and can potentially cause runoff problems. Esp. true on sloping property. We all want and need good food. Changes made to the ecological web can have both positive and negative effects that can be difficult to predict. People with good intentions have oops moments as well. No one (including permaculturists or me) is above suspicion

Learn about NE forage plants. Do an inventory. You may have blueberries, drupe berries, viburnums, elderberries, hazelnuts, oaks, other nuts and many other excellent edibles that would thrive with relocation.

You can come and visit sometime and see what I have done. I have everything mentioned here happening. Summer is best because you can identify more resources.

Good luck.

David Spahr
user 11905843
Saint Johnsbury, VT
Post #: 6
Courtney and Jackson, Thank you so much for your replies! Water swales and hugelkulturs are great advice. I've seen them in vodeos - even tried to make my own hugelkultur before tho it seems pretty barren so far. And the water swales I learned about after I set up my garden beds the wrong direction - and then learned we don't really even need beds to begin with lol.

David, your place sounds great! I'd love to come check it out, tho I'm in the other side of New Hampshire, near Littleton. Perhaps I'll PM you this summer to organize a road trip to check things out. The advice is super helpful - thank you. I have decided however to let go of the place I was going to purchase. There were just too many huge pine trees - David's advice would be useful - to do something with them, which is exactly what I was thinking... but its completely over run with trees - probably too much for me to get into just now. I don't want to have to wait another year or before I can even begin a garden.

So I'm staying put. I rent of a huge property with some open pasture and lots of forest - mostly pine, birch, etc.. a few maples maybe. Since I'm staying put for now, are there many of you in the same boat at me - not own your property, tho still doing permaculture projects on it? As much as I love this land and steward it and don;t mind leaving some of my work behind as a thanks, I'd like ideas if people have any of projects where I can eventually take with me perhaps. I have no idea of my timeframe living here. I'm balancing that with time and expense of projects and having to leave that eventually behind. Tongue in cheek, but is there some kind of book.. perhaps "Permaculture for Renters? :-)
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