Mission statement: To create a design for the client that will give them a clear vision of the possibilities for increased yields and ecosystem services from their farm.
Goals- 1) Design elements that are inexpensive and will create better yields along with more income production. 2) Utilize biological processes to increase soil fertility, water quality, and wood lot productivity. 3) Include long rang improvements that can be implemented as the farm becomes more profitable that will further increase the biological activity and productivity of the farm.
The clients want to increase soil fertility. To facilitate this I feel it is important to increase biotic activity within the soil. There are products that will aid in increasing microbial and fungal life. PTM Myco Organic can be applied to pasture at 1lb/acre. I recommend applying it to the paddocks right after the cattle are moved as the grass will be shorter then as well as be well manured. It seems to me that the endomycorrhizal fungi should proliferate of their own accord once established.
In addition to increasing the biotic activity, the paddocks should also be scaled down in size to create a mob grazing system. This will encourage a more even grazing level for the grass as well as concentrate the manure and urine much more thereby increasing fertility. Their rotation is 6 weeks. Making the paddocks smaller can be done initially with small diameter fiberglass fence posts and portable electric fence twine. Once appropriate size is figured out then living fences could be established with hedgerows if desired or a silvopasture system that combines the portable electric fencing with tree and shrub plantings on contour to provide shade and create more edge. As cattle are moved from each paddock, myceliated substrate with Coprinus camatus (shaggy mane mushroom) can be added to the paddock. This mushroom grows well in meadows and breaks down manure. This will create a mycelial mat throughout the paddocks.
The shaggy mane mushrooms can be grown in a substrate of manure and straw or hardwood sawdust. A DIY greenhouse could be installed on the south side of the dairy barn near the source of manure and straw where my colleagues and I could inoculate the substrate materials to grow the mushrooms. We would then inoculate the pasture paddocks periodically as a means of experimenting with improving soil health through incorporating mushrooms. Shaggy manes are also edible if harvested quickly enough before they begin to decompose.
Comfrey can be added to the pastures as a dynamic accumulator. Cattle do not readily eat it but other livestock will. It can be slashed as green manure, browsed by goats, or harvested as a medicinal. It has been shown to be effective as a nurse plant for fruit trees and I have read about it being incorporated in pasture systems as well for increasing nutrient in the soil as it is slashed.
The far western property line needs a windbreak/privacy screen to mitigate potential pollution from the neighbor burning trash. That border line is approximately 505′ long. Because pollution entering is such a concern and that neighbor has been problematic in the past, I feel that this should be a priority, especially as it will take some time for the trees to establish themselves. Species to consider are: Eastern hemlock (very slow growing but long lived), Atlantic white cedar, and American Juniper (also known as Red cedar). Inter-planted between with comfrey as a nurse species. Additionally, nitrogen fixing shrubs could be planted to both nurse the trees along and to establish some windbreak/privacy quicker as the trees mature. Preference given to shrubs which also provide habitat or food to wildlife and that can tolerate moist conditions.
Further privacy plantings can be seen on the base map. Conifers preferred for year round privacy and windbreak potential.
A wind generator requires municipal approval to be installed. In order for a wind generator to be cost effective an average constant wind speed of 10-15 m.p.h. must be present. Clients would need to tabulate wind data for a year to see if their site is suitable and then seek township approval if wind conditions permit.
Using Google Earth, I was able to get measurements of all south facing rooftops. There is also a 75’X15′ area on a south facing slope where an array could be put in. Potential energy generation is 43,000 KwH/year based upon approximately 2500 square feet of space available for solar panels.
Woodlot productivity: The “steep field” east of the house is far too steep for anything but a woodlot. It us underutilized at the moment. Coppice trees and shrubs planted on contour would provide the clients with ample wood for their home heating needs and potentially for other uses as well. Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust) both fixes nitrogen and readily coppices. It is also a valuable nectary tree and grows readily in this area. I would include coppicing shrubs as well as the woodlot gets established (species to be determined). Near the stream at the bottom of the field, I would include willow varieties that are known to coppice as well. This will create some protection for the riparian area as well as provide another source of wood for multiple uses including fodder.
In the eastern 3-4 acres of woodlot, debris swales on contour will slow water down and mitigate fire potential. The lower 10 acre woodlot is flatter and more moist with seasonal streams flowing, so debris swales here may be redundant. Introducing medicinal and edible fungi to this woodlot (and to the lower 10 acres of woods) will increase potential yields. Additionally planting Asimina triloba (Paw Paw) will establish a native woodland fruit tree. Improved varieties are locally available. Additional beneficial understory plants could be introduced such as Apios americana, ramps, and woodland flowers could be added to increase biodiversity and yields. Apios and various flowering plants are available locally from a permaculture nursery about 1 hour east of Lancaster.
Barn: A rocket stove installed in the barn could provide heat for the colder months. The barn is constructed of cinder blocks therefore thermal mass potential is already available. Cob construction around the stove would add to the mass and create additional heat throughout the barn. The stove could be loaded prior to milking as Tim cleans the pipelines for the milking system. Coupled with a low-cost green house on the south side would probably make the barn a lot more comfortable in the winter time.
Water issues: The lower east part of the pasture gets soggy in heavy rains and sometimes inhibits the growth of grass as a result. Putting in a pond in this area would take advantage of this topographical feature and create a place for both recreation and increased biodiversity. Planted around the pond would be willow species and potentially river birch to aid in soaking up additional moisture. The pond would provide a place for the clients to swim in the summer time. My vision for the pond is to have multiple aquatic species planted around the edges that could be harvested for food or medicine such as cattails. The pond would have multiple depths to fill different species niches. More research is needed for types of plants to include.
Water patterning and potential earth works need more research. I am still unclear whether swales on contour would benefit this sight. One thought I had was to put in swales slightly off of contour so that they would drain towards the stream in heavy rainfall events. This would perhaps slow the flow of water in “normal” rains enough to keep most of it onsight providing some passive irrigation that could be of benefit in the late summer dry period. Roof run off is also a problem that needs more research. There is so much square footage that enormous amounts of water could be stored but this would be very expensive and perhaps even unnecessary. I am still waiting to hear from the clients about their need (or lack of) for irrigation.
Increasing the plantings along the stream banks would be helpful in slowing down the water and in mitigating any erosion. It would also increase wildlife habitat.
Increased yields and Income: Permaculture education is a potential income source that could be developed. There is plenty of space that could be used for workshops, introductory permaculture classes, full PDCs, and hands on learning opportunities. A symbiotic relationship between myself (and other permaculture colleagues) could be developed with the clients to generate income as well as get labor from workshop participants to do some of the installation of various design elements. Additionally, there is potentially space for mycological research and mushroom cultivation for edible and medicinal fungi that could also generate income. I am currently working on some mushroom growing projects and our space is at a premium where we currently grow our oysters and expermeint with Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken of the woods).
There is ample space for beehives to produce raw honey.
Chestnuts and hazels could be planted for a nut crop, potentially as part of a multi-species silvopasture system.