Category: Transition

As we plan for moving to Tennessee, we are planning ahead for the the things we need, things that would be useful, and the things we desire. Here you’ll find posts where Dawn is planning, dreaming, and packing for our new farm.

Water

The lifeblood of a farm is water. Without water, everything will die. Luckily, Tennessee gets a lot of rain (50 to 60 inches). If water is not available on-grid (and maybe even if it is) we will want ways to capture and store rainwater.

Humans
We will need potable water for drinking, cooking, bathing, dishes, and laundry. Water catchment entering the domiciles will go through a filtration system and then into a holding tank. For water heating, we may install a propane or electric system. A solar water heater could be installed to preheat water. There will likely be experiments with thermo-siphoning heated water to a tank on an upper level for showers.

Gardens/Greenhouse
This captured water will not require the amount of filtration that the potable water will get. Rainwater is much healthier for plants and soil life. By using a combination of hydroponics and wicking beds, water use will be minimized in the greenhouse system and nutrients can be added directly to the water supply.

Barn
We will need water for servicing livestock in or near the barn. The Drinking Post waterers from Timeless Posts are interesting and might service some of our livestock. If we’re on grid, we’ll also get a frost-free hydrant for work that requires a hose or bucket.

Acreage
For getting water out onto acreage, you’ll want multiple water sources. A stream on the property would be ideal. Ponds that catch rainwater runoff will probably be needed as well. To get that water to the pastures and livestock, Joel Salatin recommends an irrigation system called K-Line Irrigation. It’s modular, expandable, and cost effective. You can put it where you want it with no digging and no affecting your fencing or trees. In freezing weather, you just drain it, roll it up, and store it in the barn until the spring thaw.

Water Storage
Tanks and water lines will need to be protected from freezing. The frost depth for Tennessee is 12 inches according to this website which is a great improvement to our current depth of 32 inches. For water pressure, we will need to either raise the holding tank or install a pump or water pressure tank, or some combination of the two.

Pigs (Zone 2, 4)

Pigs need access to fresh water, minerals and lots of feed. Our Tamworths ate six pounds of feed daily per head. They also appreciate a shelter to get out of the rain and will build wallows to cool off in. They are strong intelligent beasts that will test the strength of your builds at every opportunity. Do not skimp on infrastructure with full-size pigs.

I am of two minds with pigs as far as zoning goes. I want my breeders close so they appreciate human interaction, are easy to care for through the winter, and can be put to work converting food waste into bacon seeds. Feeder pigs would be ideal to manage through a woodlot as they’d excel at keeping briars and other understory growth under control. Perhaps paired with goats, the woodlot would stay a pleasant place to walk. They can also forage a lot of their feed needs there, depending on the size of the woodlot and any mast drop.

We are currently considering downsizing to a smaller breed of pig. We are not raising them commercially, a smaller breed would reduce feed costs, would stretch pasture further, and would be easier to handle and fence. I would also recommend having milk and egg overproduction to help with feed costs.

Sector Analysis

Permaculture Design uses sector analysis to identify incoming energies and plan solutions to mitigate, channel, or allow those energies in easier. As we do not yet have a property to analyze, I am writing this as a placeholder and I will fill in the information later.

Energies to Consider

  • Sun
    • Summer sun angle
    • Winter sun angle
      • Shade trees
      • Awnings, roof overhang, and shade structures
      • Solar panels
      • Solar ovens and dehydrators
      • Solar water heater
  • Wind
    • Hot summer wind
    • Cold winter wind
      • Windbreaks
      • Wind turbines
  • Water
    • Springs
    • Streams
    • Flood prone areas
      • Swales and keyline to redirect water
      • water turbines
      • ram pump
      • ponds
  • Unwanted views or noise pollution
    • Can be blocked with mounds, plantings, or structures
  • Fire danger zone
    • Mitigate with firebreaks

Slope

Slope can be a battery of potential energy when used correctly or a daily fight if not considered.

  • Water
    • Storing water uphill builds water pressure and makes delivering water easier.
  • Materials
    • Siting your production area uphill from your delivery area makes delivering easier.
  • Heat
    • Trees will warm cold air moving down a hill and a pond below will release heat to areas above it.
  • Erosion control
    • Water travelling straight down will erode your land fast. Build roads, paths, and fences along contour when possible
  • Fire control
    • Keep structures off of ridges, or the lee of a hill. Instead, site the building on a plateau to break the wind channel
  • Aspect (sun facing)
    • Site your elements that need sunlight on the south-facing side of any slope. (South-east is my preferred side)

Permaculture Zoning

Permaculture design uses the tool of zoning to reduce labor and increase efficiency of our time, effort, and money inputs. At this moment, I am planning in which zones I believe our infrastructure will need to live to be convenient and save money. Once we have a property, we can start drawing out zone maps and make sure that outputs and inputs compliment each other. This will be a living document and updated as things progress. (Last update: 01/10/22)

Zone #Basic Parameters: Time (T) = frequency (f) x duration (d)
0Nexus of human activity, typically a dwelling
1As close to 0 as possible, T is characterized by high f and d
2The next distance out, T is characterized by moderate f and d
3Distance from 0 is a major factor, though T input can vary. E.g.: high f but low d
4 Distance from 0 may be a major factor. E.g.: very low f but high d
5A wild zone where human intervention is ideally zero. T input varies widely.
Reference for table: https://www.permaculturenews.org/2015/12/11/permaculture-zones-of-use-a-primer/
  • Zone 0: The family dwelling/s.
    • Input
      • Water
      • Food
      • Electricity
      • Stuff
      • Climate control
    • Output
      • Rain catchment
      • Grey water
      • Manure
      • Food scraps
      • Shredded Paper
      • Cardboard
      • Garbage
  • Zone 1: Deck, porch, kitchen garden, pathways to other areas, barn, greenhouse, cold frames, potting shed, root cellar, worm farm, rain barrels, firewood storage, workshops and sheds, in-ground garden
    • Input
      • Water
      • Electricity
      • Sunshine
      • Rain
      • Planting
      • Maintenance
      • Fertility
    • Output
      • Herbs
      • Rain catchment
      • Grill space
      • Leisure
      • Storage
      • Fertility
  • Zone 2: Perennials, long term annuals, compost bins, beehives, ponds, poultry housing, farrowing area, ram base alpha, goat milking area
    • Input
      • Water
      • Feed
      • Minerals
      • Bedding
    • Output
      • Rain catchment
      • Eggs
      • Milk
      • Meat
      • Manure
  • Zone 3: Orchard, management intensive grazing, animal tractors, dams for irrigation and animal water
    • Input
      • Fertility
      • Maintenance on fence and structures
      • Planting
      • Pruning
      • Daily Rotation
      • Water
      • Occasional Mowing
    • Output
      • Fruit
      • Nuts
      • Meat
      • Milk
      • Pasture
  • Zone 4: Managed woodlot
    • Input
      • Planting
      • Pruning
    • Output
      • Wood
      • Fuel
      • Forage
      • Bedding
  • Zone 5: Wild zones we simply enjoy.
    • Input
      • Watch for diseases
    • Output
      • Beauty

Sheep (Zone 2 – 3)

Hair sheep require no shearing

We have learned much about sheep and ruminants in general these last few years. They need fresh water, minerals, and careful pasture management. They appreciate shade and shelter from rain and wind but if you have trees they can get under, it will suffice.

Unless your sheep are very tame, you will want a handling system to be able to get your hands on them. This can be as simple as some cattle panels and quick links and luring them inside with alfalfa pellets. We’ve used this on our sheep and had eight inside at one time for the vet to do a blood draw. For the next farm, I want a proper handling system for sorting skittish sheep and being able to hold them and goats for general care and maintenance tasks.

Our current favorite breed of sheep are the St. Croix. They are a hair sheep rather than a wool sheep and require no shearing. They simply shed their winter coat in the spring. They have been bred over generations without worming medications and have no need of such if their pasture is rotated properly. As they are not a wool breed, they do not need grain to maintain their health and feeding them grain only makes them grow hooves faster. Without grain, we don’t need to worry about trimming hooves as much.

We have learned much about fencing and the next farm will benefit from that knowledge. We will have high-tensile electric fence around the perimeter, poly wire and temporary posts for paddock divisions. We will also have a solid woven fence area for the rams to keep them separate from the ewes in the off-season.

The next farm will have a great deal more acreage and the sheep will need more protection than what they have here. We will be getting livestock guardian dogs to live with the ewes 24/7. The Ram base will likely be close to the barn.

Ducks (Zone 2)

Rubber-free Duckie

Much like the chickens, they’ll need fresh water, food, and shelter from the climate but they are much more tolerant of wet weather than chickens. They absolutely need access to water deep enough to dunk their heads in to keep their nostrils clear. Ducks can be trained to a house but may need motivated to head to bed in the evening, unlike chickens who will put themselves to bed if not impeded. Muscovies like to roost, but they don’t need one in their house.

You will need water access for your ducks and planning to water plants in the area when you have to dump a dirty pool or water container will help capture the rich nitrogen that your ducks leave behind. Try to locate your pools near trees, gardens, or shrubbery that need water. Whatever containers you use, if you have chickens, make sure that it’s not so deep that a chicken can’t hop out. Chickens can drown themselves in a five gallon bucket.

You don’t really need to tractor ducks to get them where you want them. Just plop a kiddie pool in the area and toss a few treats in the water and they will hunt in the area.

The duck hens have created duck nests in various inconvenient places, but were easy to find. One in the bottom of the chicken coop, one under a bush, and the last in a tote stored under our rabbit cages. We shall see who manages to hatch anything out. Our ducks are seasonal layers so winter will be less of an issue.

Chickens (Zone 2 – 3)

Hunt and Peck

When thinking about chickens in a permaculture setting, you’re thinking about all the ins and outs in their life cycle. As a livestock animal, their care needs are fairly simple. They need fresh water, food, security from predators, and shelter from the climate. If they are allowed to eat anything but crumble, they’ll need grit for their crops to grind up their food.

They appreciate a dust bath but if you don’t provide that, they’ll construct one of their own. They may construct dust baths in addition, regardless of what you provide. Toss in some diatomaceous earth in to reduce parasite problems.

If you are raising chickens for eggs, and you don’t appreciate a daily egg hunt, you’ll want to provide some nest boxes with bedding that is convenient for you to check. If you want said eggs to hatch, you’ll want a rooster and the nests with a pathway to the ground for the chicks to exit without injury.

If your climate is hot, they’ll like shade and access to food and water without having to cross into the sun. If your climate is cold, they’ll need a draft-free place to sleep to protect them from wind, yet ventilated to reduce respiratory infections and frostbite.

You’ll want to locate an egg-layer coop close to your home (zone 1) as you will be visiting them often to check for eggs in the winter to prevent frozen eggs. Having electricity available to warm a water pan will save you from needing to haul water as often.

You will also want a method to deal with soiled bedding and manure. A moving coop is one solution to keep their droppings from building up in one area and is good for fertilizing pasture and gardens that are currently dormant. Deep bedding is another, but you will have to clean it out and move it to a place to compost. Chicken manure is considered “hot” and needs time and carbon to become good fertilizer. That said, as a single collection point, it is an easy way to add nitrogen to your compost pile. Make sure they are located close together.

A note about meat chickens: Meat chicken care is very similar to egg layers, however there are aspects you can skip if you don’t hatch your own, and only raise them seasonally.

We plan to raise some meat chickens in a chicken tractor (probably zone 2) and rotate them in the pasture with a electronet fence to let them forage for bugs and grass. We’ll buy enough chicks in the spring to cover our needs for the year and harvest them before winter to save on labor.

Site-planning Unseen

Site-planning Unseen

As my itch to move grows more intense, I’ll be writing out my thoughts and ideas on how the farm will be designed. Obviously, these plans will change to fit the property once we know what we’re dealing with, but in the meantime it will serve to organize our priorities and maybe help someone else out there following the same path. Click the title to read more.

Things to Build When We Get There

Road access: This is number one for the fact that if we can’t move materials onto the property, we’ll never be able to inhabit it.

Barn: I make this number two because it will be needed to house any building materials, feed, and equipment for the farm. It may also provide temporary shelter to the humans and livestock.

Fence: I’d like the livestock to stay in, and the wild critters to stay out.

Underground PVC Lines/Cisterns: All underground work needs to be done before building unless we can find a cheap line boring machine to rent.

Community Building: Main leisure and living structure. May provide temporary shelter while residence structures are built.

Resident structures: Where everyone calls home and sleeps.

Water Catchment: As roofing is put up, we build water catchment to help with watering animals, gardens, and ourselves.

Greywater Systems: Water can have more than one life.

Humanure System: Disposing of waste in a non-polluting way.

Landscape Design: Decisions on any terraforming to make the best use of the land.

Greenhouse: Let’s grow food without bugs.

Hydro/Aquaponics: Maybe even without dirt.

Kitchen: James and I want a proper kitchen with room for canning, dehydrating, and freeze drying, and some business options. May or may not be on-site depending on legalities.

Root Cellar: Place to store food and take shelter during tornadoes.

Power Generation: Reduce our dependency on the grid and reduce our costs as well.

Order of Operations

This post is a living document and will be altered as new information comes to light.

Buying a place to build a homestead is a mentally monumental task. As a student of permaculture, I am using my training to avoid Type I errors and, hopefully, design a homestead that is fun and efficient to live in. Here I attempt to prioritize our property needs.

  • Internet Access
  • Acreage
  • Gentle slopes
  • Road Access
  • Shelter (materials, animals, people)
  • Water
  • Sewage
  • Electricity
  • Heating/Cooling
  • Fence
  • Pond/s
  • Streams
  • Pasture
  • Forest
  • South-east facing

Internet

Internet access is an absolute must. My husband works in the IT field and in order to do his job, he must be able to dial in at a moment’s notice. The children and I also enjoy connectivity for socializing, learning, and leisure.

Acreage

We have outgrown our five acres in Ohio and wish to expand our operation to include more and different kinds of ruminants. We would like to have twenty-ish acres to work with. More AU/Acre=good.

Gentle Slopes

My design ideas all work better with some gentle inclines/declines in the landscape. Flat land would work, but I’m a bit leery of flooding. Steep land could work but it would have to be limited. I don’t want to need a 4×4 to get onto the land. There are designs in mind that would need public access to at least part of the land.

Road Access

We would like to get onto our land without crossing someone else’s land. Being able to build a two-lane driveway at the road would be a major plus. Having space to put a small parking lot would be ideal.

Shelter

We will be needing shelter of some sort quickly but we can add it ourselves if necessary. A barn for building supplies and livestock shelter would be a good start. We have an RV we can stay in until living quarters are available.

Water

I can haul water if we need to. I intend to place water catchment up as soon as is practical. From what I have read, Tennessee tends to have a high water table so a well might be an option depending on the mineral content. Municipal water, if available, will help us get on the land faster but will be relegated to a luxury at this point.

Sewage

If there’s a septic on the land, awesome. If not, the RV black tanks will be useful in the short term until we can build our composting and grey water systems.

Electricity

Again, if it exists and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to hook up, great for the short term. We have intention to install alternative power systems as soon as practical. We already have a generator to use while we set it up.

Heating/Cooling

Tennessee has less of the cold and more of the warm than Ohio. My preference is to build a geothermal system for both needs and augment heating with a rocket stove/mass in occupancy zones. Augmented cooling may be fans and portable or window AC units. Super-insulation will be key to maintaining comfort.

Fence

Fencing is a no-brainer. If it exists already, that’d be amazing. If not, I’ve got some experience putting it up and can probably knock that out quickly once the property lines have been cleared.

Pond/s

One or more ponds would be ideal for watering livestock and irrigation of the pastures. This is a giant plus if they already exist but they will be built if not.

Streams

If water runs through the property and the deed comes with water rights, this would be pretty darn cool and useful for building a ram pump to push water uphill and maybe a hydro-electric turbine. Cool, but not a deal-breaker.

Pasture

Pasture is something we really need but are willing to develop over time. We already own sheep and they will need a place to graze when we move but a stash of hay will help.

Forest

We want trees on the property. Not ALL trees, but enough to make some silvo-pasture and a place to raise some happy pigs. Being able to produce some of our own building lumber and heat our home with our own firewood would be darned useful.

South-east Facing

This would be the ideal facing for plant-growing sunshine without getting cooked by the western sun in the summer.