Emmons week 4 - site design - final
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Final DesignHilary EmmonsAllston, MA
Goals for the SiteDESIGN CONCEPTAn urban oasis that feeds us, restores us, and provides bounty to share.GOALS ARTICULATION (from Week 1)The Ridgemont Street Homestead is a living experiment in intensive urban homesteading. We produce sustainable food and resources for ourselves and high-value commodities for income or barter to supplement what we cant make. We provide a natural refuge for meditation and reflection in the middle of the city, and reuse and recycle as much as possible back into the system.
Site AnalysisThe food needs and yields analysis showed that I dont have space to grow all the crops we consume. This helped me prioritize the 5 types of crops that provide the biggest nutritional and economic bang for the buck (Bane, 243).I was inspired to revisit what resources were already available on the site and how they can benefit us. Among the trees that shade our site are oaks and maples, providing opportunities to harvest acorns and sap. I focused more on overproduction of high-value products for barter, including honey, eggs, mushrooms, seeds, and cuttings.The microclimate analysis showed where the best placements were for crops, which in my small space take priority, helping to illuminate a pattern of placement for other site elements.
Schematic 1Given the size and light restrictions in my space, certain priorities and patterns emerged immediately, such as the creation of a forest garden in the wooded area and kitchen garden beds close to the house. In this design I experimented with the idea of putting the chicken coop in the back of the property so the chickens could access the forest garden, and cultivating mushrooms in a narrow, awkward space next to the garage. The beehives are placed beneath two holly trees which are great pollinator attractors, and opposite berries planted across the drive. I also began to think here about the best places for fruit trees and vines. Click on the image for a larger version.
Schematic 2In this sketch I placed the coop inside the open garage, giving the chickens access to an area that can be planted with appealing ground cover and which is easier to access from the house and to fence off. I explored the idea of putting a single hive next to the garage, facing pollinator plantings. The pattern for larger plantings began to firm up, with berries along the side of the house and more achievable positions for fruit/nut tree guilds. Click on the image for a larger version.
Final Design Drawing
Click on the image for a larger version.
Two Permaculture PrinciplesIntegrate, dont segregate: this concept, at the heart of permaculture (Bane, 35), is an incredibly useful framework for my site. Rather than relying on the space-hungry, artificial patterns of conventional agriculture, I integrate elements in my small space so that they form mutually beneficial systems, and provide multiple functions: ground cover attracts pollinators and feeds larger trees; fruiting vines provide food and cuttings for sale or barter; etc.Get a yield or harvest: my site was not originally designed or intended to produce food for a family, but provides many opportunities to do so. As I considered my site and some of its limitations, I realized that while I may not be able to achieve full self-sufficiency on the site, I can greatly increase productivity by restoring the site and putting it to work. This is in itself a benefit, to my family, to the site and the ecosystem inhabitants there, and to the community. Over time, as I harvest knowledge from working the site, I will increase yields and creative options for making use of everything the site can produce.
Conclusions: design influencesDuring the site analysis process, I became overwhelmed by what I saw as limitations: small space, heavy shade, and proximity to pollution. Two concepts helped push through this problem:The permaculture principle harvesting natures bounty. I looked at what the site provides: proximity/ease of access, oaks and maples from which I can harvest sap and acorns steps from my door, and incredible amounts of leaf fall waiting to be turned into nutrient-rich compost and mulch to protect plants and restore the soil.The concept that the problem is the solution. Rather than fight my site to try to get it to fit a preconceived ideal homestead, I let the site drive the design and to suggest its own patterns, solutions and outcomes. For example, there is a fire pit in the back, where it is most shady. This provides the opportunity for a meditative gathering space (outdoor room) with additional privacy plantings, and a moss and fern garden in the cooler, moister soil there provides rest and contemplation in the heart of the city.
Conclusions: design over timeRestoring the self-fertilizing abilities of a soil may take three to five years of deliberate work (Bane, p. 207)One thing I didnt capture in my static site drawing is the factor of time and how it plays out over a long-term, successive arc and also cyclically within the design.The concept of regenerative design from our final lecture resonated with me. The soil on site is contaminated and compacted; existing plants have not always been well-tended. The design will evolve over years as I build soil organic matter, and rehabilitate the site with phytoremediation and nutrient accumulators/soil aerators.In order to make the best use of a small space, I will take advantage of seasonal time by growing cool-season crops, using my large unheated cellar for food storage, and generating fuel and soil amendments with seasonal prunings.
Conclusions: planting specificsUncovered soil is a missed opportunity (Bane, 234). Diverse ground covers will include nitrogen fixers and nutrient accumulators under trees; flowering pollinator attractors; chicken favorites such as comfrey near the coop and free range area; and traffic-hardy grass substitutes where appropriate. In the food forest, Ill take advantage of the shade by cultivating mushrooms and fiddleheads, along with diverse other plantings. To the east of the drive, Ill create a shade-loving perennial border of herbs such as mint, and diverse pollinator attractors.The mid layer will focus on high-value berries and nuts, providing food for us, forage for bees and birds, beneficial insect habitat, and light/noise pollution blockers (in the hedge to the north).
Conclusions: planting specifics (cont.)The third story will consist of fruit and nut trees that can be maintained at a shorter height, such as hazelnuts (a small nut for all growers - Bane, 312) and peach. Ill create a guild with a pecan tree in the front of the house - my husband loves pecan pie! I will go vertical with high trellises of hardy kiwi and grape vines, from which I can harvest fruit to eat, and cuttings for sale or trade.At the top story are existing trees. I will thin the canopy in the back to better suit my temperate climate (Bane, 312), but will leave as many existing trees in place as possible, given their huge environmental benefits. I can harvest acorns and sap from my oak and maple trees, as well as leaves for compost and mulch.I will build up the annual beds using the hugelkultur method (Bane, 336) with branches harvested from the canopy, and produce intensively in these areas. Ill use season extension to expand the harvest, and fertility crops between seasons to consistently recycle nutrients back into the system.
ResourcesThe Permaculture Handbook, Peter Bane and David Holmgren. New Society Publishers, 2012A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency, by Cindy Connerhttp://tcpermaculture.com/site/plant-index/ http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/garage-city-coophttp://permaculturenews.org/2013/04/26/urban-permaculture-the-micro-space-trailer/http://www.offthegridnews.com/off-grid-foods/how-to-cook-eat-and-even-make-coffee-with-acorns/ http://homeguides.sfgate.com/grow-grapes-mostly-shade-33175.html https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource002012_Rep2976.pdfhttp://gardentherapy.ca/growing-specialty-mushrooms/