When we purchased our “raw” land, there were no buildings, no home, nothing but trees and grasses. After the purchase we received a letter from the former owner who used the land for camping with family. She explained that when they owned the land there had been an old Finnish homestead (very typical in this area), including one remaining building, the home. It was in such poor condition that they tore it down for safety reasons. We now know exactly where that home was, the stone foundation remains (and we intend to leave it), along with some of the wood from the floor. We love to think about the history of this homestead and it became obvious to us that it is here because there is an established orchard, rock wall and posts with barbed wire, a patch of rhubarb, two old wells (now filled in for safety) and various other clues that I could go on and on about.
The snow is melted and the grasses have just started growing, as this is our first spring here, we are begining to notice stuff that is around that has been here long before us. One specific area near our yurt has several heaps of old rotting wood. In the summer, the wood piles are hiding from sight in tall grasses and heirloom roses (also a sign of an old homestead). But now that I can see the old piles of rotting wood, I feel the need for clean up. But, what to do with it? Well, we have the perfect solution: build a hugelkultur! A what?!
Midwest Permaculture defines that “Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth.” If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of hugelkultur, read on what Permaculture Magazine has to say about it.
A quick snapshot of what we did:
1.) Uncover all the rotting wood, various spots within and next to the orchard.
2.) Move the wood to our two spots we determined would be good for hugelkultur. The wood ranged from 10 foot hand sawn 8×8 inch logs to decayed crumbled pieces. Moving it all by hand was a tiring but felt so productive.
3.) Once completed, we moved dirt (with a tractor thankfully) from a pile we had excavated from the yurt site prior to the yurt build and dumped it on top of the hugelkultur.
4.) We completed 2 hugelkulturs. 1 is approximately 5 feet high and 20 feet long. The other is smaller, at approximately 3 feet high and 10 feet long.
A dream of mine is to create a food forest amongst the current original homestead orchard. The hugelkultur are integrated into that space and will be home to plants that provide food.
5.) The last step was to plant some trees and bushes to get our food forest started. We planted 5 Hazelnut bushes, 3 Highbush Cranberry, bushes and 2 Patriot Blueberry bushes.
Another benefit to the hugelkultur is that as our nut and berry bushes grow, it will create a visual barrier from the road toward the yurt. We very rarely have any traffic, however, I still love to guarantee my privacy.
We strive to practice permaculture methods here at White Sky Woods Homestead, so building the hugelkultur, which a method promoted by permaculture guru Sepp Holzer, seemed a natural fit. If we didn’t have the materials, perhaps this wouldn’t have made a lot of sense, but the hugelkultur allowed us to clean up the homestead and unload a huge pile of dirt we’ve had sitting around. Plus, it got us moving on the food forest dream I have. Hopefully more on this in a future blog.
While we uncovered wood, we also uncovered other things…..glass bottles, tin cans, beer bottles, Michigan Licsence plate from 1954, intact door with porclein handle….and more! Check out this Facebook post and weigh in on our findings!
The next week is fully focused in the garden, my happy place!
Peace, Love and Nature,