Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Xeriscaping, Permaculture, and sustainable water use, a proposal for Earthsong's 70 acre tract

EVOKE Agent Michelle Angela Kim ( http://http://www.urgentevoke.com/profile/MichelleAngelaKim ) is working down in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to realize a resilient community gardening project (http://http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/vote-for-real-peps...) at the Center for Community Development (CCDI) Earthsong division ( http:// http://www.ccdi-va.net/index2.htm ). Michelle asked me to see if I could apply some of my (avocational) xeriscaping and permaculture gardening experience to outline a plan of action for her community gardening campaign, as she works towards competing for a Pepsi Refresh grant.

This is the remote a****sment, with some pertinent links on water security, in keeping with this weeks EVOKE challenge.

To best apply permaculture techniques to CCDI’s Earthsong Division, it is necessary to look at the wh*** system. It is difficult to tell from the photos and map what amenities are already in the area—and which are indigenous, which were successfully integrated, and which do not successfully “fit” into the overall ecosystem.

According to http://http://www.ccdi-va.net/esd/earthsong.htm,

Earthsong Organic Farm & Retreat Center includes 70 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills, includes cabins, a bathhouse, greenhouse, and fenced organic garden.

So any projects would have to fit the topography/water profile, be able to withstand being eaten by deer (or be repellant), not require extra chemical augmentation/care which would nullify the organic certification of the garden (it is certified?), and be productive and of high nutritional value.

Since it looks like the cabins are built into fairly young forest, you might consider adding fruit-bearing pollinator-attracting trees along walkways, garden boundaries, set out some distance from the tree-line. Since deer are present, you might get hardier stock—apples, pears, rather than the stone fruit trees which often have thinner bark and tender branches which deer might consume during the winter—ruining the next year’s harvest of fruit (on the low branches, anyway). Berry bushes may be considered.

You need more information about rainfall, rainwater-collection and/or irrigation volumes before selecting garden crops. Squash, especially “winter” squash, take longer to grow, require more space, and do not thrive if their vines get wet. Bush varieties of cuc**bers, summer squash/zucchini, pole and bush beans, tomatoes, and quick-grow root crops (beets, radishes…) are good choices for many soil types, and can be planted successively to some extent, to prolong the season/yield.

In order to ensure high rates of vegetable production, you should include flower gardens which attract pollinators (bees, butterflies…) as well. Vegetable flowers do not propagate over a long enough season to ensure that you will have bees, and unless ambient bee hives are in a reasonable radius, you might want to consider establishing an apiary as well.

Hydroponics may be included, depending upon availability of arable land, and desire to augment plant production, but, in accordance with xeriscaping and permaculture practices, it would be best to link these to an existing water-system of some sort: brook, bog, lake, etc., and try to maintain a design which enhances the existing features of the site.

Water drainage, re-usage and purification systems might be worthwhile investments; bog/fish ponds can be enhanced depending on features existing on the property and the amount of water available for re-processing. Wastewater bogs/wetlands can percolate into Clearwater fish ponds, enhanced with sustainable populations of macro-algae, gra****, cresses and reeds to further enhance water quality (http://http://bogs-marshes.suite101.com/article.cfm/marsh_plants_th...; http://http://greywateraction.org/greywater-recycling for sustainable water recycling ideas; http://http://www.mcgillcompost.com/PDFs/EPA%20compost-bioremediati...; http://http://www.harvesth2o.com/davinci.shtml for a good re-use of collected rainwater, constructing a watergarden on an unused tennis court--you could re-purpose an un-needed parking lot).

Also, there are many watershed areas in the Blue Ridge mountains and foothills; a good site for integrating educational features with water-system maintenance is http://http://www.adopt-a-watershed.org/.

Fish used to be plentiful in Virginia’s waterways; depending upon quantities of water on the property, consider reinforcing or introducing locally-sustainable fish stock(s) to the property. Fish populations will also help control mosquito and other water-bred insect pests, and can attract desirable birds back into the area, as well.

Permaculture often inter-mingles plants with animal husbandry. While some wild geese may visit the area, others will only pass through—going further north in the warm months, further south in the winter. “Non-flying” Poultry (hens, domesticated ducks, domesticated geese, domesticated turkeys) may be considered if adequate space, housing, and provision for locating/harvesting eggs, maintaining flocks exist. Quails and other poultry may fit in as well.

Hooved cattle might require special variances, as might pigs, and other livestock (llamas, alpacas, etc). Regulations on herd animals (milk, cheese, wool/fiber, meat?) must be reviewed and costs of providing adequate food/shelter researched before making the sizeable investment required to establish livestock on site.

If you do establish herd-stock, you must also include herbaceous or grassed land-area for grazing. You need to consider their interactions with native deer populations, susceptibility to any disease, competition for grassland… Herd animals (and flocks of birds) will affect your water-usage, as well, as livestock require water to drink. But they do provide “fertilizer” in quantity, in addition to their other fine qualities. Herd animals and domesticated bird flocks provide human interest-appeal, as well, and more visitors and publicitity for CCDI-Earthsong initiatives might be a serendipitous outcome of herd establishment.

ADDITION : Fertilizer and Compost--solar and bio-char (http://http://www.biochar.org/joomla/; http://http://www.garyjones.org/mt/archives/000273.html; http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar )

resource reclamation, energy sourcing, composting and soil-rebuilding can be crafted to fit into the interdependent bioecology of the Earthsong property. Solar ovens or kilns can be built into hillsides, or constructed in appropriate areas on the property.

Rocks can also be retained, and used to enhance topographical features, as boundaries, soil stabilizers, etc. Existing shale and small rocks can be used for pathways around and between gardens/plantings to facilitate access/visitor viewing, as needed, to decrease foot-fall erosion of grass/dirt areas, water loss, etc.

Driving and parking/paved surfaces should be kept to a minimum, to maintain temperatures, drainage flows, and arable land balances. (Another reason for surface-placed rock paths…). Necessary vehicular access (fire, emergency, tractor, etc) should be efficiently planned and maintained, perhaps with shade trees, etc., to mitigate any deleterious effects on the land tracts.

Depending on the health of the existing forest, develop a plan for sustainable forest management (culling trees to encourage larger growth, using culled trees for lumber, mulching or other-purposing diseased trees, as appropriate; maintaining deer/animal/bird habitats, small bush/forest floor plant balances must be maintained to uphold the principles of earthcare/permaculture.

Hope this helps as a start-point. Remote research and projections are not the most efficient, and an on-site plan must be undertaken before decisions are made.

Views: 507

Comment by Michele Baron on March 25, 2010 at 2:01pm
Hope all your ecovisions can become a reality. Apologies, I just included the composting/biochar paragraph (it was late!!!)--with a note about the solar ovens and kilns--they can produce bio char, but you can shunt off heat for a working oven and roast some of those yummy sweet potatoes in a great harvest feast. I think this would meld nicely with Nick's Gratitude Garden http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/first-steps-to-create-a
(also see his sketch at http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/global-gratitude-gardens ) so if I can help further, please let me know!
Namaste, happy EVOKE-ing...
Comment by Mita Williams on March 29, 2010 at 7:01pm
Thank you Michelle for lending your talents to the good work of another! +25 collaboration!
Comment by Theodore Burt on April 3, 2010 at 1:49am
Great project. You are doing exactly what I want to do and am working toward gathering the resources. I am starting with basically nothing but my own knowledge and strong work ethic. I am excited to see this project and hope to see more everywhere.
Comment by Michele Baron on April 3, 2010 at 5:51am
@ mita, thanks for your thoughts.
@ MAK--hope your garden grows well. Took almost 50 hours, but I am here so far!!! You should take a spring walk at Earthsong and identify endangered or fragile varietals that might not be visible in later seasons, to make sure you protect them, if you can..
@koshy--I don't see them. I hope the garden grows anyway!
@.Theodore, thank you. I just did the research/analysis; MAK lives near Earthsong, and she will bring the vision to reality. You should also check her post at
http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/vote-for-real-peps...) as well. Thank you all again. I very much appreciate your thoughts and support.

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