Went to Golden Nectar Farm this past Wednesday (http://www.goldennectar.com/about.html). The experience was great. Trip started with a tour of the place, then progressed to doing some farmwork, and ended with a splendid lunch and meeting of the neighbors.
Was introduced to yomes* which are hybrids between yurts and dome-like structures. Would be nice to check out how these compare to yurts in terms of cost, space, etc. She showed an example of her henmobile which she uses to move her chicken flock around so that their droppings will be spread to where it is needed and so that they don’t irrevocably tear up any one part of the property. She had a strawbale building built over 2-2.5 years by volunteers from a local farming college. It had a living roof than was held in by pond liner… this material kept the moisture from the living roof from invading the strawbale ceiling. When choosing plants for a living roof stick to succulents and other plants that do not need a lot of nutrients or a lot of soil depth. Ana’s soil depth for her living roof is less than one inch. There was also an outdoor cob kitchen with a pizza oven. Principles of energy conservation with the oven was interesting. When starting it up you plan ahead what you will make all day, pizzas first, then breads, then roasts, etc. *Would be interesting to research cob vs. strawbale construction. Her house was ready built when she bought the property. She added solar panels to her roof which dials down her electricity costs to 300 dollars a year. When she reshingled her roof, she used shingles made from melted down vinyl which otherwise would stay in a junkyard for time indefinite. *Solar technology is also interesting as it has been applied to such things as cookers, dehydrators, and beeswax molders. Also had a playground with attached 2nd floor playhouse. Big shed made from poles and tarp is planned to be turned into a barn eventually.
She has a dozen or so hens and three ducks. While male poultry are useful for propagating the animals their aggression makes them more annoying to handle and worrisome to have around children. The necessary outdoor water for the ducks is supplied through a working fountain and a small pond no larger than a living room carpet. Chickens are of varying breeds and have no trouble cohabitating. They generally lay one egg each a day and stay enclosed by fence and coop. Their instinct to roost in trees is inhibited by clipping their flight feather on one of their wings. *I do not recall how often ducks lay eggs. They require no clipping and are allowed to roam the land as they see fit.
The backyard is split into several sections. Nestling right next to the house is the kitchen garden which supplies readily edible food that is easily accessed. Along the connected fenceline is the receiving/storage station (for such things as mulch, manure, straw), beehive area (seems to be homemade, standard type beehive), worm bin, and plant nursery. Nursery is used both to replenish annual plant crop and to create commodities. Interesting note: the nursery used to be a greenhouse but for whatever reason was taken down. In its place still-processing compost is placed in garden boxes and pots are placed above. The heat generated from the compost serves to heat the baby plants. Specifically in this case Ana used grape vines which prefer warmer temperatures below and cooler temperatures above.
The bulk of the backyard was split among the orchard, the protected veggies, the vine area and the secret garden. The secret garden is where the pond is located and has several rows that are more or less lying fallow as there is a mint infestation. Fava beans were planted as tiller crops. Side note- all of the fava plant can be consumed and doing so while working is highly enjoyable. “Tilling” is a several stage process. First the plants are cut using a weed whacker and left where they lay (assuming there is no weed infestation otherwise that must be addressed first). Next clippers are used to cut them into pieces about 4 inches in length. A layer of straw is placed on top. Manure crests the whole operation. Also in the secret garden is one example of Ana’s specialty compost pile that requires no turning. *Unfortunately I do not recall the details regarding this low maintenance concept.
The vine area is called so as it is inhabited by similar constructs as are prevalent on wine land. Kiwis grow here and possibly grapes.
The protected veggie area is named after the netting that surrounds both the vertical perimeter and the top. The veggies here are numerous. This is also where the berries grow. The netting serves as physical protection from birds and presumably wild mammals.
Another type of preventive aid is the use of shimmery pieces of foil-like material that is wrapped around orchard branches. In addition to being a deterrent to birds, it can be quite pleasing to the eye and a healthy addition to one’s artistic visions (made me think of those Tibetan and Native American prayer flags which I find neat). The orchard was also part of the property when it was purchased and was revitalized and morphed by Ana. Fruit trees that were not doing so well were taken out and replaced. Groups of same fruit trees were diversified into different breeds. Much use of grafting.
Grafting is freaking cool! You slice off a thin branch of the parasitic plant. You find a larger stump on the mother tree and make a deep cut down the diameter of the stump. Then the branch is placed within the cut, between the bark and the trunk. Try to graft several times in multiple areas as some grafts may not take. If you are lucky, all new growth from that stump will be the same variety as the branch graft! Doing this can turn old trunk stumps into new flowering trees, can produce trees that have multiple breeds of a fruit to help cross-pollinate, or you can make a monster franken-tree that has all kinds of fruit growing on it! Freaking neat! Also apparently, farmers hold grafting conferences where they give and trade away grafts from their trees. This makes pruning season a lot more fun and interesting! P.S. Ana also prunes the tops of all her trees every year so that the fruit produced is all easily reached by hand.
The day ended with a hand picked lunch which was absolutely delectable and a meet and greet with some neighbors and friends who stopped by with some food and stories to tell. Absolutely amazing. I will never forget it!