Our approach to permaculture design

The way we like to approach permaculture design is to do well by doing good. If we can help create as diverse and resilient and bountiful an ecosystem as possible, the more that ecosystem will provide benefits for us.

This spring, the ponds in front of our house are filled with toads and tree frogs singing their little hearts out. We built the ponds mostly to provide habitat for these amphibians, but as a result, we have very few problems with bug or mosquitoes in the homestead. We also have ducks visiting the homestead and the water source is used by song birds, bats, and pollinating insects. The ponds also help control flooding, and the frogs and toads provide food for garter snakes and black rat snakes that help control garden pests and mice that eat our stored feed.

Our ecosystem almost never lets a good deed go unrewarded.

Farmers' Market season begins!

This Saturday we will be back in our usual stomping ground, selling our wares along with all the other growers in the summer sunshine. On the farm things are as busy as ever. We are almost done planting potatoes, we nearly have the farm’s first beehives put together, and Molly and Polly are almost moved into their new horse pasture.

Meanwhile, we continue working on the big projects. Chelsea is getting everything set up for the first Farmer’s Table meal on May 25th and we are prepping for the permaculture design course in August. We are still working on the website for Farmer’s Table but if you are interested in the Permaculture course you can check out Midwest Permaculture Design Certification at Fox Hollow Farm or our Permaculture at Fox Hollow Farm Facebook page.

Rocket stove heat for winter plant growth

In preparation for next winter, we are trying to put heat into one of our greens hoophouses. This would allow us to grow tomatoes and cucumbers out of season, as well as give our fig trees a fighting chance!

To accomplish this, we are trying to build a rocket stove, a super-efficient wood-burning stove that uses the ground below the hoophouse as a heat battery. We are also going to use the thermal mass of water to store heat and either act as part of a hot tub system or a winter aquaponics setup.

Living fence progress

Recently, we tried a new experiment; a living fence. Okay, that sounds a little creepy.
It's actually a cross between a fence and a hedge row made out of willow stakes cut from trees in the homestead. The test fence will form a perimeter around the orchard. I try to get more mileage out of the larger diameter stems by splitting them. We'll see if they can survive this process.

The hope is to create a livestock barrier that requires less maintenance, produces livestock browse, and looks cool!

In the photo, you can see the untreated stakes have buds on them that have started to open!

Prairie nursery

We have just added a new permaculture endeavor, a prairie nursery! We just planted 2 varieties of Eastern Gamma Grass, a native tall-grass prairie plant with high drought resistance and livestock feed value. Tall-prairie plants are often highly productive, resilient perennials which makes them well-suited for permaculture applications.

The idea is to take root cuttings and plant them out in the drier portions of the fields. This will not only restore some native diversity, but will also give the cows and sheep something more to eat during droughts.