Wednesday, May 4, 2011

contour .... it's a catching thing!

i bet some of you are wonderin' where we are at with regard to our backyard "permie" transformation, huh?  well ... i said that we expected some morphing to happen .... and that perhaps initial thoughts and designs would change?  well,  that is an understatement!

a view of the milkwood veg patch
after our day out at Milkwood Farm, i was really struck by what they had done with the veggie patch  out  behind the wool shed.   it is a bit hard to see from the pic at the right, they have built this thing to capture the rain run off by building their beds on contour with the land and thus capturing the water when it rains.  the flow of the hill that this is on comes from the top right of the pic and thus any rain run off is caught and held in the beds .... veggies lovin' that!

the other thing i was really struck with was their ability to use local or recycled materials.  it is pretty obvious from the pic that they have used local timber for both their bed walls as well as the wood chip path between the beds.  it has also enabled a much more fluid line and less structure in the garden beds .... which makes them flexible long term and easy to modify and change if needed.

just seeing this has been a real boost to scott and i.  we've been stuck in wondering how and where we were going to get the materials for the raised beds to get the back garden done.  it's been a bit daunting to think of having to build this huge structure that seemed so permanent and inflexible.  seeing their veggie patch .... and how low cost and easy it was to do, really encouraged us.

the other thing was learning that no land is ever flat .... there is always some contour to work with.  which made us have to rethink the lay of the backyard and if we could take what we had thought was a pretty flat piece of land and find any contour on it to exploit the rainfall.  in my belly i knew we could .... so we came home invigorated to figure out how to best utilise the natural resources we had.

the first thing was ditching the structured bed.  yes, we knew that with a raised bed you had the opportunity for further reach and bigger beds .... but if we committed to beds no wider than 1m .... then we could easily make them without borders and build them up that way.  reducing the need for buying or sourcing additional materials! 

so with that came the need to put the chickens to even more work.  we have expanded their backyard grazing area even more, to collect more of their glorious poo and benefit from the scratching.  from the picture on the left you can see where we have moved the fencing and the old line from where they were.  a pretty dramatic shift!  and needless to say, the chickens are loving it!  this means that within a week or two we will be able to throw down the cardboard, hay, compost and manure to make our first serious winter beds.  and i have seedlings that i'm growing now that i can't wait to put in these beds!

the next issue was contour.  have a look at this picture and you'll probably see that yes, indeed, we do have some land fall on the property.  the water runs from the top left down towards the middle of the yard.  we had to figure out a configuration on that contour that would allow us to capture the bulk of the run off through the yard.
so ... here is the first try of what we thinking we'll do.  the blue lines represent the flow of water on the property.  i have noticed over the past few years that after a major down pour or a few days rain, that the middle of the yard seems to turn into a bit of a bog ... or at the very least is where we have the greenest grass!  so this is where the rain is traveling.   the green area's represent the potential beds.  the large one in the modified "C" shape needs to be more of semi-circle shape, but you get the idea.  if those ends are just a bit more open then we'll be able to capture more of the rain water and it will get fed through the beds in the middle as well.  it's the hope anyway!

and .... as we are learning, everything is about trying something and seeing if it works.  if this doesn't completely do the job .... then we'll try something else for the next spring.  one thing that we are going to try is to build up our soil via the food forest.  you can't really see it very well .... but on the left hand side of the picture .... running almost the entire length of our backyard, along the fence line, is where we would like to have a food forest.  challenge is that that about 3 cm under the grass it is a rock .... so we are going to  move the chickens over there, pile in old mulch clippings, food scraps and hay for the chooks to scratch and poo in and are hoping that this will go along way to building up and improving the soil.  we have cut down about 6 trees from the side ... so more sun is getting in ... but we'll have to see how it all works .... i am still a bit skeptical, yet willing to give it a go <g>.

in the meantime .... our chickens are very happy.  they are loving their new grass and we are loving the scratching and fertilizing ..... thank you very much girls for all the hard work!


  1. wow, you guys are putting a lot of thought into this. It's been interesting to read about your journey.

    Keith and I went through a phase 17 years ago when we lived in a small 2 bedroom basement in Colorado. Reading a book called "Five Acres and Independence" inspired us to work at becoming self-sufficient. We bought an 8 acre acreage in Northwest Iowa, and did the whole garden, fruit trees, canning, and chicken thing. We loved having chickens - lots of fun memories there, but ran out of steam after 5 years of gardening. Now we live on a postage stamp lot in Northern Wisconsin, grow peppers in pots on the front porch and enjoy the veggies our garden growing friends send our way. I miss fresh garden veggies but we don't have the space or time to devote to it. All that to say, I appreciate and applaud your efforts and hope that you achieve your desired outcome.

  2. Hey angie -- thanks! I think we are approaching it from a way that minimizes our efforts. the permaculture methodology may take a bit to set up .... but once it's going it takes care of itself for the most part. hey ... it works for us! as long as we are doing our part for stewardship of the environment and reusing,reducing and recycling when we can then it's great! reducing our carbon footprint ... believe it or not ... it's a God honouring thing!

  3. I stumbled across your blog while searching Globe of Blogs, and love it! Our family recently started a blog about simplifying, conserving, and the like. We're just getting started, but seeing what your family is up to is such an encouragement! God Bless y'all.

  4. american dream! enjoy the journey! and one of the best parts is that there are never any mistakes! only opportunities to learn! what is your blog address?

  5. you can find us at

    thank you for the support!