The Importance of Good Neighbors in a Permaculture Ecosystem

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About two weeks ago we had around 10 people to our homestead to help with a very important task – the task of turning trees into woodchips!

Wood chipping Party at Mountain Jewel!

There never seem to be enough wood chips around the homestead. We use them for so many things- chief among them being mulch. With all of the trees we’re planting (and putting cardboard and mulch down around to suppress weeds, retain moisture and encouraging microbes and mycelium), we need a lot of it!

ONE group with our huge woodchip pile made that day!

Permaculture has 3 guiding principles: earth care, people care, fair share, which means spreading the surplus of our abundant earth.

We talk a lot about practical ways to implement permaculture, but the people care aspect and how we come together is equally as important.

That’s why I was so happy to have the ONE – Ozark Neighborly Exchange – group come to our homestead with the wood chipper they procured through a local grant!

Tough Old Birds

One of the things that most impressed me about this gathering is that everyone was older than us – most by 25-40 years! We worked for 5 solid hours and this team didn’t miss a beat! A lot of these “tough old birds” have been at this lifestyle for a long time and are very hard and strong workers. We were impressed! It’s in drastic contrast with our aging culture that has the notion that once you’ve retired you’re made for a life of relaxation or that once you grow old, you can’t do anything anymore.

The importance of good neighbors cannot be overstressed.

Through it all, we need each other.

10 humans with 20 hands can get a lot more done than just Ini and I on the homestead. In fact, it was amazing to see what many hands making light work could do that day!

And it is about reciprocity. This group is a type of assurance that we’ll be there for one another. Not only when times are rough, but for all the times. That we show up for one another, lend a hand and later sit down for a good bowl of soup. It’s fun to work with others on a beautiful day!

Transforming Biomass

The field you see above is a very special place. When we first moved to our land, the soil here seemed lusher and more fertile than others. Early on we dubbed it “The Orchard” and it has always held a notable position in our visions. As many of you know, we procured a grant to plant fruit and nut trees and we are in year 3 of that planting.

We’ve planted 2.5 acres in the past 2 years and this year we are planting out The Orchard! We are also building a Straw Bale house this year within this space!

Needless to say, there is a hum in the air when we are over here. It slopes toward the creek and faces South / Soutwest so we get the best sunsets over here and it’s generally a gorgeous lay of the land. Ini and I have been steadily clearing the land of scrub & brush and he cut down some large red oaks, cedars and 1 walnut (a tough decision to be sure!) as they were shading out too much of the area. The land is filled with persimmon and we’ll be coppicing these and grafting asian and improved american varieties on them.

We’ll also be planting Paw Paws, Gingko, Wild Plum, Chestnut, Lavender, Basketry Willow, Apples, Pears, Thornless Honey Locust, to name a few!

And to implement our vision, we need lots of wood chips! This machine was awesome in expediting the process! At Mountain Jewel, we don’t have many machines and while we aren’t opposed to them (they do have their place), we usually choose the slow and hand-held approach. In instances like this, however, a machine makes perfect sense.

The Day

The crew arrived around 10.30 AM and we watched a safety video for the chipper. We then positioned the chipper and got to work! Ini had already bucked up a lot of the large pieces and we dragged the tree tops and smaller branches to the loading site. 2 people stood to the side of the machine while Lisa, the badass farmer who procured this machine for the ONE group, womaned the machine and kept an eye out for anyone not following the safety rules!

Soon enough we were humming. Tom, the owner of the cool old truck, went off and brought truckloads of tops and branches from the farther reaching parts and kept us in a steady supply of wood. That machine chewed up wood for hours without fail! And it was beyond amazing to see all that biomass pile up on our homestead! We transformed the biomass and sped up the process of decomposition so it will be more readily available for our purposes.

Ini and I intermittently giggled with joy as we saw the pile grow! And I was sooooo impressed with how the group got along so well together. Age wasn’t a thing and it was so nice to be humming as a part of a hive. By the end of the day, we had 1 ginormous pile (perhaps 3 tons worth of wood chips) and 2 smaller piles that stretched down the road.

The next day Ini and I started moving it around and putting it on some apple trees in The Orchard! We made quite a dent and it was such a celebration and testament to the power of good neighbors! We’ll be sure to be at the next ONE work party.

To us, homesteading isn’t about making our space in this big wide world and reaping the benefits by ourselves.

It is about creating a fruitful haven, a place many people can benefit from the abundance of the earth that we’ve set in motion and remember what is possible.

So often we humans live by a scarcity model where there isn’t enough or we have to work most of our lives away paying for our survival. We want to live out a different model, one in which there is more than enough and it tastes really good & is full of beauty! We are 3.5 years into such a model and we’re starting to reap fruits! What would all this abundance be good for if there weren’t other people to share it with – the good and the bad, the hard work and relaxing days of fruition? We hope to teach, learn from and share life with many over the years!

In lieu of this, we’re hosting an internship this summer, so come build and grow with us!

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