Hard to believe we are heading into our second spring at the Campbell Family Farm. Last year at this time we were observing the property for the first time during the spring season and busy raising animals, particularly chickens and pigs. I do think it was important for us to take a step back and ‘observe’ the land last year, but our garden certainly was very lacking and many wanna-be projects went uncompleted. Our goal this year is to take a step back from the livestock and focus on our garden and overall permaculture plan for the property. The pigs are in the freezer and the chickens and ducks are temporarily fenced until we are able to let them completely free-range again. Don’t worry, they still have PLENTY of space, probably half an acre, we just can’t have them going and destroying everything we try to establish, so for now they don’t seem to mind. The goat is also keeping the birds company, but he is living on borrowed time.
During the fall, we implemented many aspects of our zone 1 garden. This included an herb spiral, hugel beds, swales, raised beds, a key-hole bed and a pond as some of the main elements. The spring has been all about building on what we started and finally getting some production out of all our hard work.
Last year my seed starting was an epic fail, I tried to do some tomato and pepper plants but inevitably they became neglected and never got transplanted, so of course they died. This year I have committed to my seed babies in our kitchen window and I’m hoping to do much better than last year. The previous spring we also didn’t have the grow space ready like we do this year, we had tried to start a garden out in the back field but the soil was hard and dry and nothing wanted to grow. This year I have more than enough places to grow what I want and most of them are a few steps out my front door. I also started some transplants in case my seed starting black thumb strikes again, currently I am growing brussel sprouts, baby broccoli, 2 types of lettuce, strawberries (some actually survived from my container plants last year) and cauliflower. Outside, I have also started some turnips, snow peas, and radishes from seed (I was super excited today because the radish sprouts have started to pop up). Still far from perfect, but currently the soil in the raised beds and swales is lovely, fluffy, and moist, we top dressed what we could with horse manure, rabbit manure and chick manure. We have also added wood ash from our stove.
At the moment we are currently keeping things hydrated with soaker hoses which has been pretty easy. One of the benefits of Shaun accidentally digging up the water line last year was we gained some valuable access points that we planned out during the repair and now we are enjoying their usefulness.
Another goal is to establish our perennial plant base. I planted some asparagus crowns, which will be hard to resist over the next couple years while we let them establish. Rosemary and oregano is growing in our herb spiral. And trees…lots and lots of trees. Last year, injury and illness got in the way of our tree plans and many of them were lost or potted because we weren’t ready to put them in the ground. Already this year our tree plans are going better, Shaun has put in the swales we were contemplating all year and our food forest has begun! In the ground we are establishing many fruit trees, including apples, plums, mulberries, and paw paws. On the way are persimmons, more mulberries, and blueberries. In the swales are also many support species including bayberry, red alder and speckled alder. On the way for support species are false indigo, austrian pea shrub, and thornless honey locust. We have also started to establish some raspberries, blackberries, and a couple grape vines. We also have plans to put in more chestnut and hazelnut trees.
I think Shaun is pond obsessed, but I might be too. We just keep adding more ponds, it seems like you can’t have enough. First, we put a little one at the bottom of the herb spiral. Then in October a large 5 foot deep, fully-lined 35 x 20 oval pond in our zone 1 garden/front yard, I initially resisted but now I’m glad Shaun talked me into it because we love the pond and the beauty it brings to the garden. It is now one of our favorite features. It has already started bringing in wildlife (we have a bullfrog that moved in and tadpole babies growing), we hope it will be a habitat for beneficial insects and create microclimate niches in our garden. In the last 2 weeks or so we decided to build another “bigger and better” pond in the front field. This one is more like 100 x 100, unlined and 9 feet deep. Our plan for this pond is to use it for the ducks and to hold water on the property. Ponds also improve the hydrology of the land and buffer water during rain surges. Did I mention Shaun has done all this pond building himself, just him and our 46 horsepower tractor! Please checkout our Facebook page to see videos and more details on this project. So what did we build today? Another pond of course! A while ago Shaun’s mom had purchased a clover shaped pre-fab, 100 gallon, hard plastic pond liner off craigslist and knew we would find a use for it somewhere, well we did. It has now found a home, surrounded by repurposed concrete within a terrace we are building in our zone 1. I love ponds.
I’m so proud of everything we accomplished in the past year. I tell Shaun I like our property more and more everyday. Our overall permaculture plan is constantly evolving and I look forward to seeing everything develop over the next several years.