[This piece was put together in two major chunks. My 12 year old dog and most loyal friend Maggie, who had helped me through my divorce over ten years ago as a puppy had been ill but seemed to be on the rebound as I mentioned a bit further down. She relapsed severely and I helped her along myself, just over a week ago as of this publishing. I’ve been pretty depressed and haven’t worked on this much since then, partly because she was in quite a few of the pictures I took for this that weren’t published, which made finishing this very difficult. But I’m quite sure she’d want me to get it up and out, especially since a tree or bush is going to be going-in over her in the near future, so here it is! Thank you Maggie for motivating this to completion! I’ll always love you<3]
I am bad at planning. It’s not that I’m not good at coming up with plans, it’s that if I make them very specific then I have a tendency to rebel against them and go my own way. Sometimes that works well and sometimes it falls flat. However I’ve figured out over my life so far that if I define my plans in a loose, sketchy way, I’m less likely to self-sabotage but it also is much more likely to work out than no plan at all. It wouldn’t work best for most people, but it seems to usually for me. And as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke said “No plan survives contact with the enemy”; in this case the most pernicious enemy is me.
So currently, I’m working on probably the most elaborate single project I’ve ever started: turning our 3 acres of land in rural central Missouri into a small farm using horticulture and permaculture approaches. My spouse is in it with me thankfully or frankly I’d flounder about with ideas without ever quite gaining the motivation to *do* anything! They and our kiddos are the motivation my life once lacked. I can always use more, but so far we’re making it.
Currently we’ve got a few dozen trees and shrubs coming in the next month or two[as of publishing this, some have been planted and a lot are sitting in dirt in the garage waiting for good weather] and I’ve promised a few folks on my Twitter that I’d write up a blog post detailing plans and then keep this up to date with what we’re up to. The last couple of weeks have really been emotionally rough, due to my old dog getting progressively more and more sick and my worry over the likelihood of having to help her pass along. The last few weeks I had steeled myself for doing that today, but she’s perked up quite a bit yesterday and today so I’m going to let myself bow to my perennial hope and procrastination and see if that holds. So now… this blog.
I went out and took some pictures a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to be referring to this little piece of handiwork.
Yes, that’s right, I screen-grabbed satellite imagery of my property and then did it several injustices in MSPaint. Sorry not sorry; it was actually kind of fun being a completely inexpert person doing something like this! But clearly I’ll have to explain the color-coding and since I took a bunch of planning-pictures of the homestead the other week I’ll share those with marks on the map where the various photos were taken for perspective. I guess a virtual homestead-planning tour? Boring to most probably but then again most people don’t read my blog! (Hi to whoever you are, reading this! I love you!)
So before the tour I just want to say a bit about our overall goals and reasons for this. My spouse and I are kinda hippy-go-with-the-flow-ish but realized when we’d been married for a few minutes that we needed some kind of shared dream to follow. We each had many hopes and dreams but weren’t good at making concrete goals(sense a theme?) so we spent a couple years exploring our options via pipe-dreams and theory-planning; like-ya’-do. Our original plan was to run a craft business, touring the country in a tiny-home on a trailer, selling stuff at Ren-faires, pagan events, anime conventions and the like. We still occasionally sell nerdy-stuff like this either at the rare ‘con(My spouse has a booth at Springfield G.A.M.E this year for anyone in the area who wants to say hi!) or to friends, but having a child put that plan on indefinite hold. We’ve always loved gardening as well tho, so we’ve settled-down for a bit and plan on working with the land we managed to acquire. I’m particularly into the idea of using it as part of an interactive relationship with the spirits of the land and wild areas around us.
My spouse is a bit less into the spirit-oriented side of things(more of an energy-model of magic person), not out of disbelief, but out of a sort of respectful-fear of anything spirit-world related. Thankfully they’ve agreed to let us “haunt” a corner of it, and I’m also fairly convinced that we have some rather Good Neighbors, whom I regularly put out whiskey and water for and who leave us some rather odd presents sometimes(worms in a bowl we’d left by our backdoor ~30 feet from the edge of the concrete pad..).
So the goal of this is not to drastically change the land, but rather to help wake it back up and to help it achieve various possible potentials. So with that in mind, and the fact that our plans will almost certainly change as we go along, let the tour begin!
So this first batch is of the “front yard” in a clockwise rotation.
There are several flower-beds up here that the previous owners put in. We plan on replanting these with perennials and possibly a few pretty perennial herbs and such, as the main “decorative garden” area. I missed it but just to the left of this and kind of hanging in over the far left side of the drive, in front of the carport is a hickory-tree that we’re going to harvest the nuts from this year!
The Sweetgum that is closest and leftmost here is just a beautiful climbing-tree, which once they get big enough to follow me up, I’ll teach them to climb! The cedar and two pines are quite nice for shade and smell. The gnarly red-bud in between them is weirdly adorable and probably about to be very pretty here in the next few weeks when it flowers!
So these pictures of the front, southern bit of land among these broadly-spaced trees is what we plan on keeping as a proper “yard” for the kiddos to play in. Except for the second one in(American Elm in a bit of rough-shape I think?) they are almost all ornamentals in some sense, so they are mostly there for shade and to look nice. I plan on building a field-stone wall along the front fenceline, probably next year, because I’ve been fascinated with the idea of dry-stone walls from old Viking-lands, particularly in Ireland and the western coastal areas of Britain. This and the general need for putting up fences and hedges for our homestead in the next year or two seems to fit rather well(and indeed in a surprisingly positive way) with some of the overall space-weather that will have influence on the next couple of years. There are also a couple of persimmon trees obscured behind the others here that fruited pretty heavily last year on the ditch-side of the fenceline, and I hope that when I build my wall there may be a few good opportunities to spread a few of the fruits right along it so from the road it will be fruit-trees in front of a wall! This year we’re going to try making jams, or pies, or something from them if they produce well!
You can’t make-out very well in this picture but inside the fence to the left of where my spouse is wrangling our 2yo is a maple-sapling and an elder that are our first two tree/shrub plantings here at the homestead!
Also for next year: once we’ve got some strongly performing Elder plants growing in our hedgerow(see below) I plan on laying a hedge down the east(center of the picture) side of the driveway. Then wood or some other kind of nice looking fencing down the woods-side so the border under the eves of the “Good Neighbor’s” wood can be used for a magical/legal-psychoactives herb-garden.
Here at the end of the drive we’re going to put a pair of gates and possibly a little stone wall or post for when we develop our magical-herb garden along the edge of the Neighbor’s woods.
For clarity, here’s a blow-up of this part of the property. I was standing by the leftmost pink dot(flowerbed) when I took these pictures. Brown is existing trees. The tree lone brown dot and purple circle in the front-corner are the sapling and elder-baby that were planted last fall and super early this spring. Hoping they do well this year.
So next up is the side-yard area which will primarily be garden-plot space. We don’t have worked out yet how the bulk of the land will be used, and that may very well vary from year to year depending on what we decide to plant to make sure we are treating the soil well overall.
This is going to be our main gardening area, this year at least. To the front-right of the apple/pear trees[which I just added a few new saplings in a grid to form a mini-orchard this morning], you can make-out the raised beds which was most of what we managed for gardening last year.
Depending on how some things go in the next month or two, we’re hopefully going to have a mobile chicken-coop with attached-run built, and a few chickens to drag around and fertilize a lot of this soil that we won’t necessarily be planting this year, so that next year it’ll have some nicely amended soil. I think we’ll probably try to do this with a “fallow field” area that will be the chicken-area in a new part of this every year, tho that’ll be up in the air until we figure out how many chickens and how mobile our coop-plans actually are once they are built!
You can also barely see that we are putting in a couple of long raised beds next to the house on the east side here. Those ones we’re going to make more permanent, as you can see in the next picture one I have managed to get surrounded with cinder-blocks that are painted a nice red-brick colour and have some lettuces already planted. We may have to replant it, as we’ve had one late freeze already and are about to probably have another (hopefully final!) one this week[update: there was another late-frost and we may get yet another which is just how this sort of thing often goes.] Given the space-weather late/early-frosts and difficult winters could become pretty common the next couple of years? Note to self: make sure to get a yearly copy of the Farmer’s Almanac, take notes, and compare in a couple of years!
Also next to the house, we’re set to build a rather unusual trellis immediately behind, and over-the-tops of the raised-beds, which will hopefully come together in the next couple of weeks for growing various climbing veggies and also to shade the windows on that side of the house during high-summer hopefully! Consider this a teaser for an upcoming blog-post on the implementation of this idea that my spouse came up with!
As becomes clear, the only interference with planting in this part of the yard(besides damnable lawn) is a single tree. It didn’t do well last year, shedding most of it’s leaves during the mild end-of-summer we had, before we even got to our surprisingly long and clement autumn last year. If it continues failing, I’m plotting it’s removal and use as either firewood, or run-off management. If it makes it we’ll have a mildly shady part of our main growing area from the previous picture, and can just use it with that intent.
This broad open area we’re still kinda working on what to do with it. It’s open and south-facing, with very minimal early/late shade during peak growing season. The far half by the front fence retains water pretty intensely, and I’m wanting to find out if it’s possible to put in a pond in the far left corner somehow, but that’s mostly just an idea at this point(although I included it roughly in my theory-draw on the map).
This is the open fence line(posts without wire for some reason?) that we share with the neighbors, and this picture is a bit out of date. We have the beginnings of a hedgerow [now mostly planted] that will border the open property-line and provide more privacy from them. They’re decent folk, but I’d really like to be able to lay naked in the sun on the back patio occasionally, or go out and work in practical, femme clothes without having to worry literally about “what will the neighbors think”. It should also give quite a bit of food if all goes according to plan! We’re putting it between the row of previously existing maple trees and the property-line and I planted several pairs of elder-plants to get it started(represented by the maroon dots inside the purple outline that will be the hedgerow itself. I think given everything I hear about “edge effect” and all the other cool things about hedgerows, that this is maybe the project I’m most currently excited about! I’m looking forward to putting it together like a puzzle and finding the right places for everything so it grows together in a healthy way!
I’ve left-out the bit of continuous picture here for the hedgerow that was directly between me and the neighbors house cause it was basically just a fifteen feet to the property line and a pretty boring picture. This one tho shows where we’re going to end the hedgerow)between the stump that was left to us but is apparently trying to make a comeback, and the young tree further on which I think is another black walnut, although I’m not for sure. I don’t like black walnuts much but it’s possible to sell or trade them around here by the bushel so that might be worthwhile.
Here’s the final view of the edge of the grassland that we plan on eventually using as pasturage for a couple of alpaca and goats Next Year™. That will need fenced sturdily, and we may need to get a guard-dog who can defend them against coyotes and dogs various neighbors let run-loose. Also my dear, and recently departed Maggie-dog making her first appearance here, just before the map of the area we just covered. As you can see from the map, we plan on probably dividing the main growing area with fences at some point, because rabbits rather adore our property, and while we don’t entirely mind sharing, we don’t want to be exclusively feeding them and the deer that also come by overnight sometimes! These pictures were taken from the eastern side of the central yellow field-zone.
So this next bit is where things get much wilder and more interesting; the back almost 2/3’s of the land I’ve let-go(everything behind the barn), completely untouched for a year, with the exception of a ritual-circle area that I kept mowed. The bits that I didn’t were basically reclaimed into a regionally-normal grassland area for the most part. It’s an interesting mix of tall grasses and “weeds” like Queen Anne’s Lace(a type of wild-carrot that looks like Water Hemlock), certain species of which have remained standing over winter and others have matted-down.
This part through here we plan on simply knocking-down with a brush-hog ever year and eventually fencing and making our main “pasture” for goats and a couple of Alpaca probably the season after this one. It has pretty direct side-access to the barn which we plan on doing one end up to serve as rough-weather housing for them.
This is the bottom part of the “pasture” section and while it’s not visible in this picture, a stream-bed runs left to right through the middle of this, separating one side of the land from the other. The bits near it are pretty soggy most of the year except in the driest parts of summer. I plan on planting wetland plants and trees along through here, especially as I plan a water-management system for the barn-runoff as a major project for this year which will direct more flow down this in hopefully a more consistent way, as well as making some of the area behind the barn more useable(see below).
Down the eastern fenceline from the midway point of the yard where we actually have fencing going back the rest of the way. There’s a strange ruined concrete foundation of a long-gone building here that is overgrown with brambles and honesuckle that I think of as our “devil’s acre/fairy-fort”. It’s a bit of a wade through tall grass and muddy ground that has been only awkwardly accessible for the past few months so I haven’t had much chance to try to find out more about it’s nature. It definitely has a strange feeling to it that I find quite reassuring in the sense that it’s definitely a place of some kind of strangeness and mystery. I like that but it remains to be seen how we’ll learn to interact with it over time. The stream-bed divides the property in the very middle of the fence way back behind it where those cedars and we’ll deal with that a bit later. Those three pics I took from the middle of the right hand side of the map.
As you can see from the map, the land continues to have a sort of divided-in-half topology. The big open areas in the brown are probably where we’ll run a couple of goats(maybe with access to the back areas behind the ruin/fairy-fort, since it’s the most distant part of our land that is open ground.
So these pictures are taken near the corner of the barn right by the path that leads back to our ritual-circle. This first one that currently has a brush-pile of last fall’s yard-waste is the area we’re probably going to build a few tiny-houses next year so that we can have visitors over(the house is a bit small and can only host maybe 2-3 people between a futon-foldout and the couch. Also like I said early, we’ve been fascinated with the idea of tiny-home design and using it for “guest-house” type places is perfect. Plus once we get a few places built we can always use them for kids’ “campout” spaces to help them learn independence, or places where we ourselves can spend a night or two if we just need some time alone.
This is the turn-around between the back-patio and the barn. You can see the grilling-area of the patio, unfortunately I didn’t get a direct picture of the patio, but in the next few months we’re going to dig-out around the concrete pad of the patio and square it off with a gap for soil and then cinderblocks. Then we’re going to work on a permanent herb-garden growing as a border to the patio most of the way round! Also going to put in a couple of steps off of the concrete in the middle where it’s a bit steep but is the most direct walking-route to the barn and also to the compost-heap and path down to the ritual-circle.
Here’s the current compost heap(which we want to upgrade soonish). I’ve come up with the creative use of fireplace-ash as weed-control around it. It needs stirred and to have more dry-material to it, which we are bad about, but it’s been incredibly rainy so far this spring so there hasn’t been a lot of “dry” to make happen.
Everything on the left hand side of the yard and around the barn and then down into the middle is the main water-runoff areas. The barn clearly generates a lot of runoff, and as is visible in the next few pictures the area right around it is pretty sodden due to being on a bit of a slope that descends pretty steeply behind it, and needs some channeling work.
Especially since right in the middle of everything in this central acre is our sewage-lagoon. It’s like a cesspool but in the form-factor of a pond. In this picture it’s right behind the split cedar tree. It’s an interesting and mildly difficult challenge to design around because it requires light and wind accessibility for the bacteria to function effectively, unless we want it to get really stinky. Theoretically the overrun from it in heavy rain is supposed to be relatively clean, but with things like soap and hair-dye going into it, I’m not sure how well I trust the area right bellow it as far as planting food-bearing trees or shrubs. Surprisingly it doesn’t stink for exactly the reason you’d normally think it would: Bacterial activity.
Anyway I’m wanting to design water-collection troughs and runs that will collect and divert runoff around this on both sides so it will stay more of a contained system and won’t always overflow with it’s overflow-pipe unless we have a really incredible rain.
This is the overgrown slope right behind the barn that helps funnel the runoff down into a really sodden piece of ground between it and the lagoon, which also happens to be right across a part of the path that leads back to the ritual space. I miss you Maggie-dog!<3
You can kind of vaguely make out where the grass is lower across the middle here where it gets really wet. Also the narrow muddy rut that goes down the middle of the path where it’s wet, which I think is a deer-track that will likely only get worse. My idea here is to put in a bit of a channel with mini-levies/burms fronting the path. This will make everything to the left of the path quite the mini-wetland, and then to put one gap to make the start of a stream-bed across the path and to put in a little bridge over the top. I also want to grow some kind of ground-cover along this whole path(not a paid endorsement, just a commercial site I’ve been using to get some ideas) that will be pleasant to walk down barefoot, maybe some kind of a mint or a dwarf chamomile or something that will stand-up to foot-traffic but also have a lovely fragrance. Or maybe just moss because I absolutely love moss!
Back of the barn. These trees are dead and need taken down. I’ll probably use them in my berm-construction. Which coincidentally will make a good place for growing a small batch of trees or shrubs with a Hügelkultur approach, although it would probably require a bit of reinforcing to function as an effective water-control berm.
You can see from these pictures how some of the water already flows around the western side of the lagoon and with water coming from the other side and from the overflow of the lagoon it actually starts to form a channel, which stays green year-round, probably thanks to “pollutants” acting as nutrients for some atypical-for-the-land waterplants. Effectively this is similar to a leachfield for a septic-system, which I’m remembering now is another, perhaps better comparison for how the lagoon is meant to work, bacterially, if you’re interested in such things.
In the center-left of that picture is where I want to put a small hexagonal building with windows all around and a desk with a typewriter. Possibly an easel for painting or other artistic supplies. I’ll want to run the barest bit of electrical hookup for a space-heater/freestanding AC unit. A writer’s space to get away from everything comfortably. I also plan on banning all cellular devices from this point back. The rest of the property is meant to help reconnect with the Wilds.
This is a picture from a mini-circle where the path bends towards the main ritual circle. I didn’t get a picture of this proper, but it is where I helped Maggie along to her next place, and buried her. I think of it as a staging-area for ritual purposes before you get to the main circle, and I just yesterday planted a weeping-willow there next to Maggie’s grave, so my ritual space will be guarded by a tree of the dead and a friend who is dead. She was my very own deeply cherished and missed “Black Dog” who helped me through the end of my abusive first-marriage and subsequent years of ups and downs.
I am sure some representation of her, at very least symbolically, will stay behind and helps those using this space in preparation and liminal transition into a magical-working space. She seemed to have chose the space herself, as the last several times we’d gone down this direction she’d paused here sniffing extensively around the location where later(April 2nd) I would baptize in her blood and make various offerings to her, both immediately before and after her death.
It’s probably clear that I’m hung up on this and I should probably make another post about it all at some point and how it seems vaguely connected to a possibly-self-inflicted curse due to my feelings of guilt at having not managed to help her to heal, and killing one of the closest friends I ever had in life. Such it may be.
Anyway on with the tour.
This is the Circle proper. As you can see it forms something of a circle naturally with the trees surrounding it on all sides. I mowed it down a few times last year and it seems to have changed the ground-cover a bit, but another project will be to even the ground out just a bit(there’s a few ruts from long-gone downed trees) and get probably the same groundcover we use on the path to cover this over and make it barefoot-ready. We’re also going to plant more trees to fill-out the circle, probably with a few concentric rings. We may plant an interior-ring so it’s perhaps just a bit less space. There’s a huge old oak that overhands the entire thing on the forrest-side, so it requires semi-regular care just to clear it out of fallen branches. The way the whole thing abuts the forest is a rather nice feature I think, with all kinds of rather intense noises coming out of them in the dark!
A look back up the hill from the Circle. Shows how much down-slope the land has on the whole.
This is my “haunted wood” viewed from the circle. The fenceline runs down from the left and goes all the way back to a corner back there, dimly visible as roughly where the leaf-cover meets the dark lines of the side and back fence. I’ve collected a few fresh corpses of animals that died on the rural road that we prefer to take to/from town even though there’s a highway that’s faster. It’s a lovely drive and so far I’ve collected a young grey cat and a red squirrel(which are uncommon around here). I bring them here and encourage their spirits to wake-up and interact with each other and with visitors. At night it’s very eerily… I don’t know how to describe it… blanketing with attention? It just feels incredibly aware of you, standing in it in the dark. Not in an unfriendly way, but in a curious way. I do it so that they can be given a more decent resting place than the blacktop, and I like to think it helps them adjust more quickly to their new situation in a more calm and comforting environment.
These are some pictures of the back section I’m not quite sure what to do with. Once we complete and fill-out the trees that form the ritual-space, this whole area will still be pretty open. We may use it as a back-pasture for our livestock when we get them, or possibly for something else entirely that I haven’t thought of.
The main course of the stream-bed flows down from a fork: one branch coming from the left/east side where the fairy-ruin lies and funnels it’s own stream beneath broken foundations and tangled brambles, and one from the right/west side originating at the barn where I showed originally.
Here at the bottom of the property it forms a bit of a marshy-area in a depression here that I may try to turn into a pond at some point when it’s dry. I really enjoy digging and this depression would be a pretty handy place to do something like that, but I don’t have a good plan for it. You can see it flows to the left around a little rise and out of the property.
And here is the little rise with yet another, much smaller ruined foundation of some sort, roughly marking the center of our back-fence.
Also this part of the land could I suppose be left as a natural prairie, which is one of the standard types of habitat around here historically and that things will obviously default to if left-alone entirely. You can see the fairy-ruin just behind the tree in this picture.
So there you have it! That’s almost the entire tour! Here’s the map for the back bit of property and a few bonus pictures of the “fairy fort” as well(mapped in pink-circle and red dots)! Note that the red-circles on the map are where I plan on planting a few experimental plantings of a fast-growing Chinese Redwood that we’ve obtained. One of them doesn’t seem to have made it, but the other two hopefully will. They are in buckets presently and I’m secretly hoping that since they are quite large wetland plants, that maybe in twenty years time, if we are still here, that we can perhaps build liveable treehouses or meeting-spaces in them: my very own touch of Lothlórien!
Now that I’ve got this huge post out of the way, I’m hoping it will be easier for me to knock out a few further posts in the next week or two about the planting we’ve gotten finished since I started writing this last month, further projects as they happen, and perhaps one about Maggie and her death and grave site.
Also any suggestions for further content along these lines, let me know!
And without further-ado: the Fairy-Ruin!