Honestly, it has been so much change and evolution that I have not even had the time to write. While a shame in some ways, it is tied to deepening roots here at Treasure Lake. It has been about executing the 2020 plan, of course altered by covid, but the intention led to action. Major highlights of the year so far include the following:
- Maple syruping
- Community center upgrades
- Nursery expansion including massive paw paw seeding operation
- Gardens and edible landscaping at tiny house/ terraces
- Chicken Coop and laying hens
- Community development
- COOP interns
Overall it has been a lot of infrastructure builds, from more edge within the once bar and now community center to chicken coops, numerous goat houses, kidding stalls, fences and the like. What once was a wasteland of lawn and the resource area/ junk pile has now turned into goatlandia. It, like any other project, has been a massive learning curve, lots of hard work, and some very rewarding times and moments. We will start at the beginning of the year and work our way through. Of course beyond the headers there has been a constant, change and always leveraging new implementations while maintaining existing systems. Thus I will try to keep it short and sweet for each one and write/ video more on these given topics as the days shorten, temps cool, winter sets in, and time evolves.
Our year of 2020 was planned for lots of courses, tours, meetups, etc to take next steps of the Treasure Lake and Treeyo fusion of a bioregional educational center. We started off well with winter botany with Abby Artemisia and all the fun that comes from hosting Abby and co. From there we did the maple syrup making course in early February with mentor, elder, and young hearted Barry Schlime. Fun stuff there as I able to teach maple ecology and Barry taught the ins and outs of syruping. Before and after that weekend I was once again teaching at University of Cincinnati DAAP with the accelerated pdc, this time the second half. Following that the winter weekend pdc began here at Treasure Lake with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute. Amongst these weekend courses, the whisperings of covid began globally and the writing was on the wall. Even the 4th weekend of the pdc, second to last, we wondered if we should do it or not. It was a great group, with two europeans, which made the course feel more familiar. In the end we canceled the fifth and final weekend and that began the closing of the doors for education for the year in large class gatherings. And we pivoted towards more farming adventures and ventures. I currently am teaching the university of Cincinnati pdc again, this time all online. So different and odd yet an opportunity to finish filming the PDC for online trainings. Also we are augmenting platforms for our online paw paw masterclass.
Our next offering will be a hybrid online course, prerecorded lectures and live zoom meetings for the winter weekend PDC that I teach here at Treasure Lake.
We may even open it up to those beyond the region and have a crew to tape the tours and hands on.
One of the adventures and ventures was indeed the time old tradition of making maple syrup. Slogging through the cold, wet grounds and loving the warm and sunny days. It is a great winter activity and we are very much looking forward to next season!. Honestly we cheated a bit by doing it with electric rather than firewood. Indeed, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It did involve a descent sized investment for this cash strapped farm. Boiling pan, warming pan, hydrometer, finishing pot, bottles, jugs, taps, tubing and hoses. Most of that is one time costs and we will scale up next year as the syrup was great even though I barely eat it due to diet restrictions. If you are going to eat sweets, might as well be local.
Community Center Upgrades
It once was a bar, but now it no longer is. This 3000 sq foot building is a huge asset, also sometimes called the big house, since we live in the tiny house but only cook breakfast there. It is a space that continues to evolve to keep pace with dynamic community development and on farm needs. With all this maple equipment invested in we had some shelves put in to hold it all. Behind a panel wall we found the old ship lap diamond pattern and built around that for a cool feature. Lighting in the building was upgraded, more shelving here and there for books and animal feed. Zone 0 is an important part of the design and here at Treasure Lake we have multiple of them.
Nursery expansion including massive paw paw seeding operation
For the last couple of years we have been working with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute and their Growing Value nursery of edible perennials. The whole range of food forest layers are carried by the nursery and this year we really scaled up the size of it. At the very least it tripled in size/ quantity of stock and was a huge operation this spring with multiple people involved. It is really fun to see all these plants and dream of planting all the different cultivars as well. One day….. The work of potting them up is indeed enormous. Once they are potted then there is the the arranging, the tagging, the pricing, the marketing, the sales, the watering, the mulching, the weeding, the fertilizing, the pruning, and the transfers to our other retail location in Pricehill in Cincinnati. And it is so much work that its hard to find time to even seed the paw paw seeds saved from last year. But we did, we seeded with heat mat trays underneath inside until they sprouted. Then we transfered those long tube pots this time. Again another descent sized investment but now that I am in the nursery game for the longterm, well it made sense to get to another scale. After doing a few hundred last year we were able to get to more like 700 paw paw seedlings successfully alive after several months. The swallow tail caterpillar has been rough on the seedlings this year but they always bounce back.
Gardens and edible landscaping at tiny house/ terraces
Having established a new zone 0 last year with the tiny house at what once was campsite 1, it made sense to develop zones of growing around it. Last year was zone 2/3 plantings of hazelnuts, paw paws and terraces of fruit trees along the banks of the lake. This year it was zone 1 garden beds, slightly sunken as we have sandier soils that can dry quicker. For a first year garden we did have some nice harvest this year but a major fertility push is happening this fall/winter. Furthermore, last year we began a rim planting of the ridge that the tiny house sits on with Paw Paw and strawberries with a good sheet mulch during implementation. This year we augmented this edge further with currants, mainly white imperial, gooseberry, mainly amish red, bush cherry, more strawberry, honeyberry, and temperate passion fruit. Around 25 plants flanked these Paw Paws making for a nice little beginnings to a fedge. From there we turned the zone 3 terrace of peaches and nectarines below the tiny house more into zone 2 by adding in lots of perennial herbs such as rosemary, oregano, sage, tarragon and lavender. We had good harvests of berry fruits this year and look forward to much more next year. The hard frosts of May made it a rough year on many plants but the young fruits trees needed to grow bigger before fruiting anyway.
That was in the spring and summer and this fall we were back at banks development through a Permablitz. On our walk from the tiny house to goatlandia and the big house, another banks opportunity has been accomplished. After years of looking at this space and slowly getting the regenerating forest augmented, we made the great leap of increasing our food forest. It is caddy corner from the swale we dug with our PDC this late winter. From the banks of the lake to the edge of the road, we dug, terraced, planted, mulched, caged, and threw microbe laden vermicompost out. The turnout was great and I suppose with all the shut downs and this outdoor gathering, people took advantage with looming shutdowns once more in early November. A good group of around 40 showed up and gave back to this land as we do day in and day out. We are very thankful for this pulsation as we got in apples and crabapples, elderberry and paw paw, and hazelnuts and buttonbush. We continue to thicken the mulch through our animal bed cleanings and huge woodchip pile. In fact we have been doing it for all the trees mentioned above, weekly cleanings and weekly mulchings! While I may go a week without seeing the peach terrace down below the tiny house, well this banks development I see numerous times a day!
Beyond this area we have added in more trees like two Northern Hardy Pecans to compliment the other seedling that has grown well on the northern hedgerow we are developing. Also in the northwest hedgerow we have replaced/ planted right next to some blueberries with other tree crops that are doing well. To compliment the two Asian Pear that have done well we added a couple more Asian Pear, this time Olympic or Korean Giant, as its a cultivar we didn’t have yet. I believe that puts us at six different cultivars within the two plantings of Asian Pears. We are getting ready to plant two more in new nuclei as our six foot diameter beds are doing well to form the hedgerow. Also some blueberry replacement included another Korean Dogwood to compliment another that has done very well. We also added two Cornelian Cherry, the English edible dogwood, adjacent to the Korean ones. We keep adding where it makes sense creating pockets of tree crops/ food forests.
Well creating goatlandia and the subsequent systems of meeting their basic needs and rotational grazing has been a grand leap forward for us. The buildup was alongside the buildup for the chickens and will need more explanation with further blogs and video. So here is a synopsis of bullet points:
- Approval from my family, who owns the land, to do so and the subsequent design based on lots of obesrvation and research
- Hand harvested black locust posts from the land
- Hand dug post holes and posts set
- Fence hung
- Goats purchases and transport
- Electric fence rotations
- Goat care especially towards parasites
- Plenty of cut and carry
- Goats becoming obviously pregnant
- Kidding stalls built
- Kids delivered
- Kids care
- More goat housing and subsequent rotations with electric fence.
- Goat healthiness always
- Winter housing built for our very pregnant dairy goat, Zelda
Yeah the story is way too long to tell but its been a wild ride full of action due to implementation and feedback loops based on observation. You make choices and then there are repercussions as we still dial the system in.
While less complex, the chickens element addition has been fun, hard, and immediate beginnings of return on investment. The hardest part for sure was the building of the coop which is within our main goat area. It was a difficult as we built off the existing shed. And actually extends into the shed. The coop, built by Tom Garoutte, features the following:
- 8 ft x 10 ft in size
- 3 roost bars, hand harvested poles from the land
- Poop deck under the bars to facilitate cleaning and more, now filled with PDZ and sand to be like a giant cat litter box
- Retractable side window on west side to let out heat and gain heat
- Pulley door that opens on backside of coop but latch is in entrance.
- South facing window and dutch door.
- 4 nest boxes that are external yet internal as they extend into the shed. Added two internal nest boxes.
- Rainwater Harvesting
And with all that and the addition of 20 something birds of mix breeds, the eggs are rolling in. We have had a couple of birds die to different ailments, yet overall its been a great development. We also raised an additional 5 pullets from store bought hatchlings and bought another 12 mature laying hens. We have lost some to predators, to disease or injury, tough but always a learning process. Currently we sit at about 30 birds with 18 to 24 eggs coming in a day. And yes our Rhode Island Red roosters live up to their reputation of being nasty.
The amount and quality of compost produced this year has been such a blessings with new gardens and tree plantings abounding. To be able to throw out handfuls in these spaces rater than just make extract is fantastic. And I mean very high quality worm casting compost. Worm bins and compost piles really are a perennial system and they do indeed get better and better by the year. I have found that taking fall leaf collections, chipped by a mower, and putting that into a compost pile makes the best brown material addition for the worm bin the next year here. Leaf mold compost is started elsewhere and then transfered to the bins where the worms and all the other critters, micro and macro, do an amazing humus conversion. Also right now we are building more windrow composts with our huge woodchip pile and animal bedding incorporated. We started with beet kvass in a trough of the woodchip piles and slowly have built this to be about three feet high and 80 feet long. I may use more of this in my worm bins next year but look forward to seeing the results come spring. The wood chips are already fairly broken done after 18 months and the addition of the manures should make it even better. Can’t wait to scale up again next year, slowly but surely.
Well….. yeah its been an odd year with covid, a lot of personal life changes have happened, and we do our best to stay rooted in community. We might not get together as much, might not be planning so much, but we always have each others back. We have each other for barters and swaps, work parties and meals. It is still a small web here in Petersburg, Ky, but I am sure it will grow even bigger within this locale. Of course I am connected to my greater bio-region but there is something special about being able to know you have permie friends within just a few minutes drive when you live in the countryside. We have had a few constant volunteers and there is the constant of Tom Garoutte, the carpenter, who is responsible for a lot of the physical change seen on the building side of things.
Since mid August we have been hosting two interns, Jay and Andrew from University of Cincinnati’s Urban Planning DAAP program. It has been a fun journey of working through the seasons from the blazing hot to the fantastic fall to the edges of winter. While ending short with COVID and other holistic reasons, they have helped immensely and gotten some great hands-on training as well as plenty of stories and indoor classes. We have shoveled a lot of poop, moved a lot of goat fences, picked a lot of spiceberry, filmed a lot of classes, cut and carried heaps and learned a lot. It has been different than last fall with Griffin, but nothing ever stays the same.
Overall its been a bizarre but progression year. We will remember 2020 as an anomaly I hope or the beginning of a new time. Nothing indeed stays the same and hopefully this shock to the system will lead our society to a more holistic and sustainable pathway. We do our part of taking next steps, encouraging roots development, and helping others with our enterprises such as education, plants, produce, and consulting/ design/ and edible landscaping service. Be the change I suppose. Hopefully more blogging and articles soon as we slow down and shift focus! Thanks for tuning in!