Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to go along with a couple friends on a weekend caming trip. They took me to a semi local destination that I heard alot about. It was close to Cheaha State Park in Alabama. The name was High Falls / Odum trailhead. We left early that Saturday morning heading out for adventure. It took less than two hours for us to arrive at the parking lot located at the bottom of the trail. With our gear on our backs we set out up the hilly terrain to my friends favorite camp site.
Once we located the campsite we began to unpack our things and prep for the cold night ahead. The forecast was calling for 28°F that night and it might have even been colder. The wind direction was hard to pin point due to the terrain around us. We eventually settled on the primary wind pattern and placed their tent and my hammock close to a natural wind break.
After we had our sleeping arrangements made we grabbed our water bottles, filter pumps, and Lifestraw and headed down to the water. The water was crystal clear with a soft blue green hue that took my breathe away. The constant flow of water cascading down the large waterfalls was hypnotic. Large rocks and boulders dominated the landscape adding to its beauty. I noticed several budding brushes in the sunny areas where the rock and water meet. The edge where the beneficial components came together was allowing life to thrive. We spent the rest of the day climbing rocks, exploring, and meditating.
It was good to disconnect from the world and connect with nature. I noticed several wild berry bushes along certain areas. In other areas I saw how indigenous trees had continued to grow ontop of boulders. They didn’t give up fighting to live even in these harsh conditions. The wood of those trees was very dense, near impossible to break, and loaded with btu’s. I’m still reseaching to determine the actual name of the tree but for now we will call it Chuck Norris tree. The monoculture pines that were meant to replace them however did ok until they got to the edge where the ‘Chuck Norris’ trees thrived. The top layer of soil was visibly superior where the planted pines had not taken over. The mentals notes of all I had observed will help me in the on going design of the Path To Permaculture farmstead.
After the drought we experienced in the summer of 2016 you will not hear me complain about rain. The storms that have provided the recent precipitation have sadly caused alot of damage in some areas. High winds and tornados are not something I can be thankful for. The rain however is something I am thankful for.
Along with some of the normal unseasonably warm days I’ve began to see life emerging from the soil. It was a few weeks ago I broadcasted rapeseed as fodder and root knot nematode control on my farmstead. After all those recent nights and days of straight downpours they have begun to grow. New wild strains of fungi have been spotted on my farmstead. Mushroom fruits such as wild oyster have emerged from hickory stumps felled 2 years ago.
It’s been constant testing and retesting of my water harvesting systems by the rain events. Places that had previously washed out are now soaking up every drop I get of the vital resource. This has given me a feeling that what I am doing is working. I am not talking about major earthworks either. What I have done is very small scale moving of dirt along with laying logs on contour in keyline areas. Creating natural dams in gullys up hill has also proven effective in recent rain storms.
Keeping in mind where I’ve been and where I want to go, I’ve decide to be thankful for the rain no matter what…
Over six years ago I decided I was going to do some landscaping at my new home. I had never heard of permaculture design nor did I know just how awful my soil was at the time. It turns out a sandy hill void of topsoil comes with challenges. Adding to those challenges was the high acidity from all the surrounding pine trees that are a staple in southern monoculture forestry land. So without much observation I dug six holes and filled them using four encore azaleas and two peach trees.
The peach trees I planted almost immediately died regardless of the care I gave. By the next year all but two of the azaleas followed suit and decided not to live. With such a low return on investment I stopped planting. I stopped trying to grow. It did not make sense to buy more plants just to watch them die. Looking back I can see how this was a true failure. My dream of a nice yard was done. It would take to much time, energy, and money to keep going without guarantee of success. Going fishing and having a good time became the path. Counting the cost made me quit something that I truly felt connected to.
As time went on my health went with it. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and lack of energy had taken hold. It was at that point I knew things had to change. I began to diet and exercise regularly with a focus on organic fruits and vegetables. This helped tremendously but I was not satisfied. The more I researched the more I realized that the whole system was rigid. So with this new revelation I began to garden. Working on that garden made gave me the sense of accomplishment I had been longing for. Growing my food became my passion.
As I went deeper into growing the best food I kept coming across one word. There had to be something to this for so many to want to share it. I had found the word permaculture. The idea of making the problem the solution just made sense to me and captured my focus. Applying this new way of thinking to my life and plantings began to close the loop of my well being. Now I spend a lot of time, energy, and money creating great soil. I no longer see it as a liability but rather as a priceless asset.
While riding home the other day I noticed something unusual off to the side of the road. It was a huge pile, no more like a mountain of leaves! They had been bagged and appeared to be headed for the landfill. I pulled in and knocked on the door of the property owner. The door cracked barely open and a small lady with a soft voice said hello. After exchanging greetings I pointed to the mountain in her yard and asked about it. She informed me that I was welcome to take as many of the bags I wished. I thanked her and began to work. I was going to move that mountain!
Equipped nothing but leather gloves, a truck & trailer, and will power I went after my goal. Loading the wet bags on a frozen day was a challenge. As I unloaded the bags of biomass, I staged them in locations that would make it easy to spread. Three large piles sit waiting to be applied. Over 50 bags total is a fair estimate. I plan to use some of them as brown material in compost, sheet mulching, and biotowers. The soil I started with here is sandy and will benefit greatly from the added biomass. Worms, fungi, and bacteria will move in and break them down into beautiful soil very quickly. That beautiful soil will be the foundation of my permaculture food forest. That food forest is going to be a reality!