Friday, January 23, 2009

Evolution of Design

Several weeks ago, I sketched out my first ideas for the part of our land that we call the Pond Pasture. It doesn't actually have a pond yet, just a low area that is a seep. We're working on directing most of the drainage from that half of the farm into it, and plan to dig out a pond to catch it. Here is a rough map of the area. The pond and the hedge (the hatched part near the top) don't exist yet, the drainage stream and the fence and gate do. Click for a larger, easier to read version.

We want to put the pond, hedge, and fruit trees in this area. It would also be the recreational part of the farm, with picnic tables, a fishing spot, and other enjoyable activities available. In that same vein, I wanted to put in a labyrinth for meditation. I made one out of large rocks in Arizona and really enjoyed using it.

However, even using a small design, I figure that I need a 30' diameter circle for a labyrinth, and the Pond Pasture just isn't large enough to justify using that much space for something mostly decorative. My first design did include a labyrinth, though. Even with a cherry tree in the middle and the outer edge surrounded by blueberries, it was an inefficient use of space.

After creating this first design, I read the book Forest Gardening, by Robert Hart. I realized that I could fit many more plants into the space by using the principles in the book. I also thought deeply about my desire for a labyrinth, and I began to see that a winding path through a forest would offer a similar meditative setting. So I decided that in my next design I would attempt to incorporate the elements of the labyrinth in the entire area, rather than concentrating them into a small part.

To help me organize my thoughts and what I had learned, I made lists of the crops and uses I wanted for each environment on the farm.

  • fish (food and recreation, duck feed)
  • aquatic plants (food, fish and duck feed)
  • water storage
  • ice production?
Pond Edge/Marsh
  • willow coppice (baskets and other crafts)
  • rushes/reeds (thatching)
  • cattails (edible parts and basket-making)
  • blueberries, cranberries, etc (food)
Open Land (in Pond Pasture)
  • fruit trees (apple, pear, plum, peach, cherry, etc)
  • nut trees
  • bramble bushes (raspberry, blackberry, etc)
  • other fruit shrubs (gooseberry, currant, etc)
  • herbs
  • roots
  • vines (grapes, beans, squash and gourds?)
Current Forest
  • fine timber (black walnut and maple, already established, intermediate crops of nuts and syrup)
  • fruit and nut trees in more open areas
  • shade-loving plants and fungus under maples
  • construction coppice (osage orange, black locust, cedar?)
  • Bouché-Thomas* pippins** (apple tree hedge, apples for cider and livestock feed)
  • willows? (allowed to grow larger than in marsh)
Taking all of that into consideration, here is my most recent sketch. About the only thing it has in common with the first one is that the foot-bridge over the drainage ditch is in the same place. That's because we normally cross in that spot when walking across the field.

The double line of willows at the south end of the pond are to collect winter snow drifts so that they can melt into the pond in spring. The Rs and Cs in the pond are reeds and cattails, and the boundary between pasture and orchard is made with bricks. There is a whole pile of yellow bricks in the forest that I could salvage for that. I think everything else is labeled. I don't expect this to be the final design, as things will change as we actually start to implement them, but I think it is much closer than my first one.

*Bouché-Thomas is a method of growing apples where the trees are planted slanted so that the branches interlace and form a hedge. It was mentioned and briefly described in Forest Gardening, but I can find very little additional information on the web.

**This is probably just a British usage, but Hart defined a pippin as an apple grown from seed (or pips). I'll need to differentiate between the seedling-apples and grafted apples, and pippin is not a commonly used word in American English, so I have adopted his definition.

No comments: