What’s to See and Learn?
What makes up a permaculture farm is a wide diversity of design elements that work harmoniously to create a beautiful, efficient and productive whole. Here are 15 features you will find when you come to visit, tour or attend a workshop at Bending Oak.
We took a mosquito-infested low spot on the land and transformed it into a beautiful ½-acre pond that provides water for the entire project as well as inviting a greater abundance of wildlife. Learn how we used permaculture principles to design and build it.
We love this barn! Come and learn of the many benefits we discovered from building with 20-foot recycled shipping containers, and how our design maximizes space, efficiency, and versatility of function.
Our 4 concrete cisterns hold 4,000 gallons of fresh rainwater. We use this water for cooking, showering, and irrigation. The cisterns are buried to maintain even temperatures despite fluctuations of the season. Our thorough filtration system ensures that this water is some of the cleanest and healthiest you can drink!
Come and see how we take excess solar energy from our PV system in the summer and use it to pump pond water to a holding tank at the top of our hill. From there we can use gravity to drip-irrigate the fruit and nut orchards as needed.
Here we have demonstrated one of those simply amazing quirks that just works. Deer can easily jump over a 5-foot fence. However, when two are run parallel with a 4-foot gap between them, they refuse to jump over. We have two versions of this to see when you visit.
When the excavation was completed, we deliberately sought out a seed mix that encouraged a wide range of plants to populate the edge of the pond. With careful observation, over two dozen different species and varieties can now be found at the pond’s edge and in the shallow waters.
There is often a lot of open space on the floor of an orchard, especially when the fruit trees are small. We assign purpose to this open space by growing vegetables in it, which helps build fertility and increases the organic matter content of the soil.
Not only does the double-deer fence protect our orchard garden; by inserting 16’ cattle panels and bending them into an arch inside the fence, it creates a perfect place to grow grapes. This lane surrounding the orchard garden can now serve as a chicken run as well!
Not all plants compete with each other. Many actually grow better in small communities or “guilds” (Just like people!). When companion species are chosen carefully, we can ensure they are occupying different layers with their foliage and roots both above and below the ground so as not to interfere with their neighbors. We are experimenting with multiple guilds around our fruit trees.
One of the best ways to get protein, carbohydrates and healthy oils into one’s diet is through nuts. Nut trees require very little annual maintenance, and once fully grown they can provide nuts for generations.
Deer love berry plants as much as we do, so we put up another double-deer fence around our berry patch. Besides the more common raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, we are also growing elderberries, Goumi, Aronia and honeyberry. You’ll be able to see all these growing in our berry patch.
Because we designed the farm to need little electricity, an off-the-grid, photovoltaic system does a great job at meeting our needs. When the sun is really shining in the summer, we use the surplus electricity we capture to aerate our pond and pump water up to our hill to the gravity-fed drip-irrigation system.
When you use the bathroom here, there are no flush toilets. The running water we do use is for washing hands and showering, and it comes from the rainfall collected off of the barn’s roof. Our composting toilets are some of the cleanest found anywhere. No waste. No pollution. No water.
When we excavated the pond we were careful to leave a moist area just uphill from it. Through simple design, we encouraged this area to become a wetland. It acts as a large water purification system to help keep our pond clean and clear and encourages greater wildlife diversity.
We doubled the organic matter content of our soil in the orchard garden over a three-year period using multiple techniques. This both increases the amount of soil life and increases the water holding capacity of the soil.
“Soil turns to gold in the hands of the wise.” Rumi
To see all this and learn more, come for a self-guided tour, workshop or event and discover what has inspired us to incorporate permaculture thinking and design into this wonderful farm.