When we decided to buy the farm, we vowed that we’d jointly blog about the adventure and the property’s transformation. We’ve now been here for 2 weeks, and it’s been a flurry of nonstop action. When we moved in, the grass hadn’t been mowed in weeks, and the formerly loved landscaping surrounding the house and barns had been overwhelmed by tall 3 ft. grass that has gone to seed. Every waking hour has been spent mowing, sheet mulching, weeding, pruning, and generally trying to reclaim some space from rapidly encroaching wilderness. Not to mention unpacking boxes and working our full-time jobs.
We’ve struggled to make time to eat, let alone blog. Our friend Bob reminds us, “It’s a marathon.” As a long-distance runner, this resonates with me, because while I know the importance of pacing in a race, in the rest of my life I tend to sprint, and I burn out fast.
The property is laid out on a north-facing slope, with the house and barns at the top of a slight hill. The whole property gently descends over acres of green pasture, ending at a wooded creek at the back property line. It’s lovely, but at this point it’s little more than a landscape, because we’re not doing anything with it and have no immediate plans. We’ve vowed to observe the landscape for a year before moving any earth or planting an orchard, to find out where the frost pockets settle and which places have the most light.
We have a vision of building a permaculture system on this farm–it seems the only reasonable way for two part-time homesteaders to manage such a large piece of land. We don’t have the time to manage it ourselves, so we need to design systems that will manage themselves to some degree. Adding animals will go a long way to helping us manage the large pasture (which is currently 3 ft. tall grass). Digging ponds will improve the biodiversity and help us manage the wet spots. But it’s hard to make firm plans about the long-term property design when everything needs so much attention.
So we’re starting at the house and barns. While I unpack and arrange furniture and settle the things of our life into new corners and shelves, Josh cleans the barns and organizes his tools. We mow the grass immediately surrounding the buildings, and have begun sheet mulching the abandoned landscaping around the house. We’ve called a roofer, and ordered appliances.
Although it feels like we’re neglecting everything but the front acre (because we are), it’s still permaculture. Permaculture principles emphasize the importance of zones, which move from 0 to 5, starting with the home as 0, moving out through the most managed areas that we interact with numerous times a day (veggie patch, barns), moving out to the areas that we visit once a day (dog yard, chicken house), to areas that are visited once a week, to lightly managed land (nut trees) all the way back to zone 5, which is basically wilderness.
We are focusing on Zones 0 and 1, and then our homestead skips straight to zone 5. But we’re pacing ourselves.