Edible Forest – The beginnings (Part 1 of 2)

For years, I’ve dreamed of having an orchard made up of many different fruits. I’ve wanted to spend my days, pruning trees, picking fruit and giving the spoils to family and friends. I’ve explored all the ways to do this from commercial rows and methods to wild planting. I decided somewhere in the middle was the place for me. A number of years back, I began to read a number of books on permaculture. The thought of things like and edible forest, a sustainable ecosystem needing little input, balanced pests and blight, and good for the land was appealing. I studied, took pen to paper and each time, found some of the principles weren’t for me.

So, I decided to hire an expert. I told myself, my designs and schematics aren’t fitting because I’m not informed enough and aren’t able to apply the principles properly; I’m looking at it incorrectly or there’s just something I’m completely ignorant of. While the latter could totally be the case, the first two it turned out were completely wrong. While the person I hired had all of the certifications and was about as well meaning as they come, they just did not know my land, didn’t have the same priorities I have and just didn’t see the world as I did. Fair enough, despite the investment, that plan went in the round file along with the investment.

This is the first of a series of how I got to a place where I could, in earnest, say that I was on the path to a sustainable family farm, using some amount of permaculture ideals, upgraded infrastructure, all optimized for the things I cared about most. These are:

1.) A fun place for family and friends to gather, eat, play and enjoy each other
2.) Robust self-sufficiency – For me, this is little to no touch. Automation at a light industrial standard where I’m still capable of servicing myself, if required.
3.) A diversity of edible goods that satisfy my family’s palette – Currently, I’m growing, apples, peaches, pears, plums, plouts, kiwi, cherry, grapes, jujube, avocado, olives and some nuts. I also have capability for chickens, pigs and a rather large vegetable garden.
4.) Meet my intellectual and physical needs as a hobby farm (I love to tinker) – I can admit it, I love tractors and the equipment a farm requires. Plus there’re never ending projects.

While I have not completely achieved these aspirational goals, I am a good long way on that journey and will keep you updated on what I learn, how I fail, and how the final product ends up looking and behaving.

I started with Infrastructure. Namely, power and water. I’m a big believer you can’t have too much of either of these. I now have 400 amps, 15,000 gallons of storage a new well pump as well as a pressure pump that will push 85 lbs of pressure out of 2, 2″ lines simultaneously (effectively pumping 15,000 gal in 45 min).

I’m going to detail the process I’ve taken to build a number of swails and corresponding mounds used to plant a diverse orchard (currently, apple, peaches, pears, plums, pluots, kiwi, jujube, olives, cherry, walnut and avocado. I’ll walk through the water system from tanks, pipe, control systems, filters and delivery. I’ll make sure I give enough time talking about failures, costs, and setbacks. Ultimately, I’ll outline how we achieved success and what the results are.

I’m still in the beginning of this journey. It takes years to have an edible forrest, with a healthy eco-system complete with a diverse set of fruit trees, vegetables, ground fruit and other edible varitales to compliment; not to mention livestock. Feel free to reach out, ask questions, learn from my mistakes….. they’ve been time consuming and occasionally, expensive…. Still so worth it.

Here’s part 2

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