How did we get to where we are?

In 2005, we bought 10 acres – 3 acres of which were grazing and 7 of which were grazing that had reverted to nature and was mostly dogwood and ash with a few elms, maples, and apple trees.

We had a very vague plan that we wanted to grow fruit and vegetables cheaply and as easily as possible, ie, we wanted to have fun doing it.

In 2007, we designed and built our house. Even while it was being built, we roto-tilled a 25′ x 40′ patch so that we could plant squash.

Previously, we had had flower and vegetable gardens so we weren’t novices. Nonetheless, we had a great deal to learn about what we could and couldn’t do on our particular 10 acres – the soil was quite heavy; we were growing on the side of a hill which became increasingly steep; old farmers’ fields want to remain as old farmers’ fields. Very quickly, we moved to raised beds where we could start with pure green-waste compost and not have to contend with quackgrass (Elytrigia repens).

Part of our vague plan was to share what we were doing with others by selling what we produced in the local village market each Saturday during the summer.

Things progressed quickly with very few setbacks and very little re-doing things a different way after less than desirable results.

As we progressed and got closer and closer to the land and Nature, a philosophical view of what we were doing began to emerge which is more or less captured by the quote from E.B. White.


8 Responses to How did we get to where we are?

  1. annisveggies says:

    I have just discovered your blog today and will be back to read more over the coming autumn / winter. I particularly agree with what you have written above – about developing a more philosophical view as you have become closer to the land. That has been my experience as well. I live in the UK and have been experimenting with perennial vegetables for some years now and am now branching out into other staples. I will be studying your experiments with grains with interest! My blog is at
    if you want to drop by and read a bit!

    • MikeH says:

      Hi Anni,

      Yes, I’ve seen your blog but thanks for the invite. I have had it on a RSS feed for a while. Lots of good stuff.

      There is a film that you might enjoy called Land Awakening.

      The director says

      “Land Awakening” is my personal journey to experience hands-on organic sustainable agriculture, turning into the discovering of alternative technologies and approaches to producing and gathering food. The experience resolves to a spiritual reflection into our deep and sacred relationship with the Land.

      The relationship to the land expressed in the film is very powerful.


  2. Jane says:

    Hello Mike: We’re neighbours! I’m in Gore’s Landing. Are you the fellow that had the tour a couple of years ago with people from the Native Plant Society (I think it was that group)? I’m particularly interested in how you’ve made out with the Goumi & other permaculture things. I’ve been searching for Goumi and came across your site.

    • MikeH says:

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, It was at John Oyston’s property. Goumi has been elusive for me. From a cutting that rooted and then died to a a seed that germinated and turned out to be Autumn Olive (I now know what the two seeds look like) to an order that was cancelled by the seller because the wholesaler was out of stock. Perhaps this year will be my lucky year. If it is, one of the first things I’ll do is try to propagate softwood cuttings. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Stay in touch.


  3. Jane says:

    Autumn Olive is really invasive up in “the meadows” where we all walk our dogs. I wish it wasn’t as it obviously grows well here.

    • MikeH says:

      Yep. As I understand it, it was planted there by the Ganaraska Conservation Authority after the sandy soil began to erode because it had been cleared, farmed and abandoned when productivity quickly declined. I’m not sure why they didn’t try to reforest as was done in the Northumberland Forest. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the nitrogen fixers that do well in poor soil – autumn olive, sea buckthorn, black locust – also spread. It’s interesting though that people get upset about autumn olive which has a very edible berry but mostly ignore European buckthorn which I think is a great deal worse. Some of the hedgerows on John’s properties were 100+ feet long and 20-40 feet wide of nothing but European buckthorn. Absolutely nothing grew on the ground under them. And its berries are not edible.


  4. Jane says:

    Yes, I remember John’s invasion of European Buckthorn. Sharon & David’s wonderful property had an invasion as well that they tried for years to get rid of; I’m not sure if they were successful overall or not. I had one which I killed & haven’t noticed any more so far. My property is only small so it’s easier to see things like that. Gore’s Landing has zillions of Locusts! I’m still looking for nitrogen fixers to plant near my poor, tiny cherry trees. Any ideas? I’m surrounded by Black Walnuts, so anything needs to be okay with juglone.

    • MikeH says:

      There aren’t many nitrogen fixers that also tolerate juglone. A couple of them would be problematic for you – autumn olive and sea buckthorn. Goumi would work. So would Siberian Pea Caragana arborescens and Meadowrue Thalictrum.

      But it may not be just a nitrogen problem. Given where you are, you may be dealing with sandy soil depleted by farming. There’s probably very little soil organic matter which is essential to soil biology. One of the best ways to improve soil around trees (and elsewhere) is to use a mulch of woodchips. We converted our orchard using this approach and the results have been very good. Here’s the conversion story here and here.

      This probably best illustrates the impact of the wood chips and the material underneath. Note the band of darker grass at the edge of the wood chips. This was two weeks after they were laid down.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s