Wednesday, February 29, 2012

blowing this popsicle stand

Wow, what a slacker.

True, I've been ignoring my mountainstead ramblings, but I certainly haven't been ignoring the mountainstead itself. This is probably partly because there are so many ideas and future projects and potential plans related to the the land swimming through my head right now that I feel a bit at a loss as to what to blab about next.

Whatever, I'm just going to spew forth a bunch of brain activity and y'all can sort it out to your liking.

First off, we've decided to move to the holler in 2012 (we originally were planning on 5 to 10 years down the road, then it was 3 to 5, and then it was 2) . We're of the mindset to not force anything if it doesn't work out that way for whatever reason, but that is our goal. We will be putting our house on the market in late Spring or early Summer to hopefully tap the peak buying season. We briefly considered renting it out and had some options there, but none panned out. Obviously, this is probably the worst time in history to sell a house, but we hope to at least break even, and that is a price we're willing to pay to get out this year. While it might make more sense to continue saving and wait the market out, you only live once dammit, and we're okay with sacrificing some extra dollars for freedom at our mountainstead paradise. Talk to me again in nine months when I still haven't figured out how to make any money, and I may be singing a different tune, but Jay and I are on the same page with this issue, so at least we've got that going for us.

Getting a house ready for sale is a big, fat pain in the ass. All those little things that need to be fixed that you ignore on a daily basis are suddenly not so little any more. Case in point, we have a gutted bathroom (not so little now that I think about it) that's been sitting that way for far too long. But when you have two other bathrooms to utilize, electronics, gardening adventures, traveling, entertainment, and toys in general seem so much more appealing to spend money on. I'm not complaining - we've been putting things off that now need to get done, but sheesh, it's a real bucket list. Let's just say I'm going to be doing a lot of painting in the next month or so (and it's not like I haven't already painted a thousand fucking walls already).

Anyway, to keep our spirits high, we booked another trip out in April and are super excited to see the holler in all its Springtime glory. We're looking forward to flying into the Tri-Cities airport instead of Knoxville since it's 30 minutes closer, and you can bet your permaculture ass that I finagled our miles into first-class seats in that cramped steel tube again. I would honestly rather drive than sit in coach ever again - what a snob! Unfortunately for us, we won't be accruing miles at anywhere near the rate we do now once we move, but that's okay because I don't think we're going to be doing much flying anyway because we will already be in paradise.

We don't really have a list of things to do (yet) like last time (something to sit and sleep on, for example), so it is more of a vacation than a setting-up-shop trip. I did, however, learn that I might want to try planting some jerusalem artichokes and possibly other delicious fodder in the pasture area I've chosen for our future swine, so I will be fervently researching that before our trip.

I think I might also buy a can of biodegradable inverted spray paint so that I can outline my future garden according to this piece of OCD planning psycho-ness:

I just can't help myself.

This is what happens when you buy land and have to wait a bit before moving to it. You enter Mitsy McPlanner overload mode.

Funnily enough, I had another version before this one but ended up scrapping the whole thing because it was based on Google aerial imagery, and then I discovered that Bing recently updated their maps with imagery from FALL 2011. I texted Jay immediately about this newfound fortune, and he responded with a simple smiley face because he knows his wife is totally batshit crazy. Good man, he is.

To summarize the above diagram (since it's hard to fit text in there, even with Bing's incredible satellite resolution):
  • The left side is comprised of livestock paddocks and paths leading from the barn (I had to reconsider my sunburst paddock design because someone much smarter than me advised that long, skinny paddocks can be troublesome)
  • The big green polka dot grid is fruit trees (and potential forest garden) on a north-south axis for maximum sun (I'm not totally sure if I have this right - hell, I don't know if I have any of this right!)
  • The yellow outline is the pig pasture, which I intend to segment further into paddocks (with the giant chestnut tree's day-long shade pattern colored in dark gray so I can make sure the piggies get adequate shade in each paddock)
  • The teal blob is a pond, although I really don't think a pond would be very practical (I just want some water to sit in so maybe we'll make a hillbilly hot tub instead)
  • All the pretty colors are raised beds with specific vegetables and fruits, the legend to which ONLY I KNOW and you're better off not knowing anyway so you can't make fun of me, but suffice to say, they are grouped according to height (so crops are not shaded unless intended so) and mutually beneficial characteristics (aka, companion planting), among other things
  • Jay requested that some of the existing turf be kept, so I've devoted a few nice lawn spaces for purely aesthetic purposes and naked sunbathing (you can now understand the benefit of living in a private holler)
  • The dark gray shaded area above the big cabin is for automobile parking
  • The white outline at the bottom is fencing for the dogs because I still don't fully trust the big red dog. The white grid within is for my pet chickens that I probably can't put in with the future meat birds (with perimeter that the big red dog can patrol because nothing is going to mess with 180 lbs. of monster dog)
  • The meat chicken flock will likely reside in a portable coop within the paddocks alongside whatever other livestock we graze there
This will likely be revised once again because I've been learning about swales, which require long, unbroken garden beds, and how they can help cut down on irrigation needs (I worry about draining our springs). Oh, don't worry, any future revisions will get posted here pronto - I wouldn't want to keep you up at night wondering what other possible incarnations of this I think up.


Peace out,


  1. Pretty map -- I love maps. I noticed that the orchard/food forest is in a paddock -- would it maybe make sense to have it in the main chicken area instead? It would probably give them more to eat than just grass (including insects from rotten fruit, etc.), but I don't know if your paddocked animals (sheep?) would really make use of it. I'm just guessing, I don't have first hand experience here... I'd be interested about what your thoughts are.

    1. Brilliant, Couves! That thought had not even crossed my mind -- to allow the chickens in the orchard, that is. Stay tuned for a mobile chicken coop design (not a tractor) I've been working on that I think would serve this purpose well. And I should be able to turn the sheep in there, too, as Anna mentioned below, since it's adjacent to the barn. Another potential spot for a food forest is that grownup area north of the pig pasture (which might be shadier in winter, as Anna suggests might be better for protecting spring buds -- maybe I'll split the fruit trees up between the two areas to experiment).

  2. Here are a few things you probably thought of, but I wish I had when I was at that planning stage, so I'll share anyway. :-)

    I second Couves on putting the chickens in the orchard. I've had bug problems on my peaches that I think could have been avoided by mixing chickens in. Granted, you want to be able to move the chickens out of the orchard too, but it can be handy to have it accessible by chickens (and even larger livestock if you're going to be managing carefully.)

    Also, assuming north is up, you're in good shape on sun. But if north isn't up --- be sure to consider how your fruit trees will shade your vegetable garden! The veggies need the sunniest spots, and in our hollers, those can be hard to come by. When I prune peaches to the open center system, they don't shade much, but a standard apple or pear can take over the world.

    Speaking of which, it might be worth figuring out what the sun/shade patterns will be like in summer and winter, if you haven't already. I haven't figured out how to do it, but another blogger I read used Google sketchup to get an idea of shade patterns at the winter and summer solstices.

    While you're at it, you might consider early spring fruit tree blooms, which often get nipped in our neck of the woods. Sometimes, it's better to put your fruit trees in a spot that's shadier in the winter to set them back so they don't bloom so early they lose their flowers to later frosts. I'm still figuring out the sweet spot on this, but it's worth looking into.

    Next, I started out with roughly five foot long beds, and have been busy joining them ever since. Working on a long, wide row (aka, raised beds joined together into a line) is much easier than a patchwork of beds. Sounds like you're already thinking that way for water management reasons.

    Finally, don't forget the deer! They'll want to come into your vegetable garden, and it might be worth moating it with some of those long skinny pastures I advised you against. :-)

    1. Might you be able to put a portable coop and a few chickens along with some temp fencing in with your peaches to help alleviate the bug problem?

      Yep, north is up. I'm still not sure if the pig pasture is sunnier than where I have the current garden, but I figure having it closer to the house will make me take better care of it. Lazy, I am!

      I had not even considered using Sketchup for this. I feel like I've finally figured Sketchup out (they make it sound so simple, but the learning curve is actually pretty steep), so I'll definitely be trying it!

      I thought that paths breaking up the beds would make them easier to access, but now that just sounds lazy to me. I agree that long, unbroken beds seem more efficient regardless of whether or not I dig swales.

      Still undecided about deer management. I'd rather not have to use gates to access the garden, but I don't know if moats would really work with our topography. I read somewhere that caution tape works surprisingly well. And the 30.06 should help, too. ;)

  3. I'm actually putting the brooder under the biggest peach this year for that exact reason. We'll see if chicken pest management works!

    I thought cross paths would make access easier too, but the truth is they didn't. I do have two wider cross paths in the front garden, and I walk up them often, but all of the littler cross paths just make mowing the aisles much harder. So, the only cross paths I'd recommend are in places where your dogs think paths should go, ones that connect nodes.

    I don't like gates to get to the garden either. But if you put your house within the garden fence, all's well there. I think your gut reaction to put the garden as close to the house as possible is spot on.

    Anyhow, thanks for letting me throw far more ideas at you than you probably wanted! :-)

    1. Despite his size, Clyde Dog is pretty respectful of barriers, so even 30" tall welded wire held in place with sticks will keep him out as long as something (or someone) is not actively taunting him. So I might just fence each growing "island" in with that so that he can keep me company in the garden but not be a nuisance. Barker is very old and has zero interest in anywhere but the living room rug.

      No, no, never too many ideas/suggestions! I'm always open ears and am thrilled to get feedback from anyone that cares to give me input, especially considering I have no idea what I'm doing. Ha!

  4. Details, details, details, Sarser! Your cuz, Nancy, just got an offer on her house and the sooner you get yours up for sale the better! Sure are glad we sold Bonny Doon when we did. Homes for prime property there are now mostly going for between $350,000 to $500,000. Whew, talk about a crash in real estate in CA! Nancy is as excited about her move to San Antonio as you are about your move to "The Holler!" And Gerry and Nancy, as we speak, are getting settled in Sierra Vista, AZ! No offer on their house yet. Has spring sprung in CA yet! I think houses always sell better in spring and summer. Words of wisdom from Mother. We'll get out to Tennessee with the barn quilt sometime after you get settled and hopefully before we tentatively head off to Australia for a walkabout! Your Ma

    1. It's supposed to be in the 70s this weekend, woo hoo! I'm jealous of your Australia plans. Love you, Mama!

  5. I just love your blog! Your research combined with humor, point of view and excitement always bring a smile to my face. I can't wait to see what your up to next.
    My family (hubbs, 2 kids, 2 dogs) are moving to the plateau's of MT onto some property we hope to build on and then make a homestead on. We are a few years away from all of this, but your idea's and plans get me excited to start. We have a small family blog too,
    Good luck on all your adventures, and cant wait to hear what you do next.

    1. Thanks, and good luck to you, too! Looking forward to reading more about your plans as well.