Monthly Archives: December 2014

Bruce Lee would be a Permaculturist

Bruce Lee was a genius. Unfortunately, many people only know him from his martial arts movies, which can be a bit cheesy by modern standards, and most people have never even seen his movies and only know him by his reputation as a martial arts actor. In reality, he was probably one of the most influential martial artists of all time. Personally, while I am not a martial artist by any means, although I have dabbled with karate and taekwondo a bit, I have always been a fan of Bruce Lee for his creation of Jeet Kune Do.

Jeet Kune Do, sometimes known as “the way of the intercepting fist”, is a martial art and philosophy that Bruce Lee created in 1967, just  years before his death. In very basic summary, Lee was frustrated with how martial arts, and fighting forms in general, had become more about form than function. Starting a fight is never the goal, but if a fight comes to you, winning is what matters. Knowing fancy moves that can be applied in very few settings are impractical. Bruce Lee looked across the world and through history to see what fighting techniques actually worked and really made sense. He borrowed the best from multiple Asian martial arts, boxing, and even fencing. He unchained himself from tradition, and he stepped out on a new path that made practical sense.

To me, this is exactly what Permaculture does. We study as widely as we can, and we incorporate the practical. Ingrained techniques and methods need to be questioned. We need to take what works and discard the rest.

This first quote is from Bruce Lee sharing his thoughts on Jeet Kune Do in 1971. If we substitute “Jeet Kune Do” with “Permaculture”, I think you will see why I feel Bruce Lee would be a proponent of Permaculture.

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.

There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.
– Bruce Lee (September 1971)

Here are some additional quotes from Bruce Lee. His philosophy aligns perfectly with Permaculture.

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.

The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.

Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.

Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.

Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.

Obey the principles without being bound by them.

All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.

Real living is living for others.

It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.


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Permaculture Plants: Ginseng

Common Name: Ginseng, American Ginseng, Asian Ginseng
Scientific Name: Panax species
Family: Araliaceae (the Ivy family)

Ginseng is prized for its slow-growing root.

Ginseng is prized for its slow-growing root.

There are 11 species of ginseng found in eastern Asia and eastern North America. While all the species contain medicinal compounds (specifically ginsenosides), only Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are grown in significant quantity. The majority of this article will cover these two species. For completeness sake, here are all the species of Ginseng:

  • Notoginseng or “Three-Seven Root” (Panax notoginseng) – grows naturally in China and Japan
  • Feather-Leaf Bamboo Ginseng or Pearl Ginseng (Panax bipinnatifidus) – China, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Myanmar
  • Ginseng or Asian Ginseng or Chinese Ginseng or Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) – China, Korea, Russia; Primary medicinal Ginseng
  • Japanese Ginseng (Panax japonicus) – Japan
  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) – eastern North America; Primary medicinal Ginseng
  • Vietnamese Ginseng (Panax vietnamensis) – Vietnam
  • Wang’s Sanqi (Panax wangianus) – China
  • No English common name (Panax zingiberensis) – China
  • Pseudoginseng or Nepal Ginseng or Himalayan Ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng) – eastern Asia, China, Burma
  • No English common name (Panax stipuleanatus) – North Vietnam
  • Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) – Northeastern and Appalachian North America
Wild Ginseng is highly prized.

Wild Ginseng is highly prized.

This low-growing, woodland plant is one of the most expensive herbs in the world with prices of more than $50 USD per ounce… sometimes quite a bit more! Ginseng is a great medicinal crop for moist, shady areas, but it is not as simple as planting a few seeds and planning an early retirement. It can be a little picky and takes a number of years before it reaches harvest size. Ginseng has an almost mystical reputation around the world, and much about it has been overblown, but there is pretty good evidence that this root is an effective medicinal plant. I’ll try to present the history and facts, as best I can, about this small plant with a big reputation.


Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) (Left) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) (Right)

History & Trivia:

  • Asian Ginseng was likely discovered in the Manchurian Mountains (Northern China) over 5,000 years ago.
  • Most researchers believe that Ginseng was first used as a food.
  • Many ancient health systems developed the belief that the shape of the plant identifies which bodily ailment it can heal. The Ginseng root resembles a miniature human body, so Ginseng was revered as a whole-body cure-all.
  • Ginseng has traditionally been used for general well-being, improving understanding, as an aphrodisiac, and as a medicine to prolong life.
  • The scientific name of the genus, Panax, comes from the Greek meaning “all-heal” (the word panacea has the same origination).
  • The name “ginseng” is derived from the Chinese word “rénshēn” (rén = person; shēn = plant root) due to the root resembling human legs, the torso, and sometimes even a full body.
  • The first mention of Asian Ginseng as a medicine was in a book from the Chien Han Era (33-48 B.C.) in China, although the oral tradition probably originated thousands of years earlier.
  • The most commonly cited first reference is to the Shennong Ben Cao Jinge (The Herbal Classic of Shennong). This compilation of Chinese medicinals dates between 100-200 AD.
  • After the publication of Shennong Ben Cao Jinge, the popularity of (and desire for) Ginseng soared. It is reported that locals, regional leaders, and the government all fought for control of the native Ginseng territory.
  • Sometime between 500-600 AD, the wild population of Ginseng became increasingly scarce due to overharvesting. Since that time, wild Asian Ginseng has remained very rare and very expensive.
  • Similarly, and maybe due to common ancenstry, Native American Indians called Ginseng “little man” and used it for similar reasons as the Chinese, and it was considered a “sacred” herb, although it was not nearly as revered as Asian Ginseng in China.
  • A Jesuit priest, Father Jartoux, was living in China in the early 1700’s. He sent a sample of dried Asian Ginseng root to his colleague, Father Lafitau, in Canada. Father Jaroux explained the medicinal qualities and uses to Father Lafitau, and he asked the Canadian priest if this plant was growing in North America. After three months of searching, Father Lafitau found wild American Ginseng growing outside of Montreal. In 1716, a few pounds of American Ginseng was sent to China, and it sold for $5 a pound. This started an American Ginseng exportation boom. (here is a letter from Father Jartoux discussing Ginseng).
  • There are reports of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett digging and selling large amounts of American Ginseng.
  • Wild Ginseng roots can sell from $300-$600 (USD) per pound (o.45 kg), sometimes over $1000 (USD) per pound (o.45 kg).
  • The older the root, the slower growing the root, the more gnarled the root, the more twisted the root, the darker the root… all these make the root more desirable, and therefore, more valued.
  • When Ginseng is cultivated on a commercial scale, modern growers usually want to maximize yields. This Ginseng is grown in fields under shade cloth with irrigation systems. The growers use fungicides and fertilizers, and this speeds the root growth which results in larger and smoother roots (they look more like a carrot). These roots sell for as little as $10 (USD) a pound (0.45 kg).
  • “Forest Cultivated” Ginseng is grown in prepared beds under a forest canopy. This results in faster growth, and less valuable roots, but these roots are more desireable than commercial Ginseng.
  • “Wild Simulated” Ginseng is grown in the forest soil itself. Basically, seeds are planted in the ground and are left to grow at their own pace. These roots can be identical and indistinguishable from “Wild Ginseng”. There is less yield and more risk of crop failure with this method, but it requires the least cost and work.
  • Wild Ginseng can be legally harvested in 19 U.S. States, typically from 1 Septemer to 1 December. The season overlaps the time the Ginseng berries are ripe, and the law requires the harvesters only harvest mature plants with ripe berries, and the harvesters need to replant the seeds in the “approximate location where the harvester obtained the root”.
  • Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is related, but not closely, to true ginseng. There are many other plants called Ginseng, but only the above listed plants are true Ginseng.
  • Ginseng Poachers, aka thieves, will harvest roots before the legal season or will trespass onto land to steal wild or cultivated roots. Poachers are fined hundreds of dollars and are charged with misdemeanors. Repeat poachers can spend many months in prison. Many of these poachers trade the roots for drugs. Deales can face federal felony charges.
  • Ginseng Catch-22: Ginseng can reproduce both from seed or from the rhizome (underground stem). If a Ginseng plant is propagated from the rhizome, all the subsequent daughter plants are technically clones. By propagating Ginseng with this method, we are assured of a plant that already proved it can grow well in our forest’s unique conditions. Of course, being smart Permaculturists, we don’t want all of our plants to be clones of just a single mother plant due to our desire for genetic diversity; however, there is a huge benefit in propagating successful genetics adapted to our local conditions. Unfortunately, mainly due to overharvesting, there is a requirement that all Ginseng roots are at least 5 years of age. The only way to verify age is to count the scars on the rhizome… the exact rhizome that we would use to propagate clones. Older harvesters would replant the rhizome at the time of harvest, but if we want to sell our roots, this is not possible anymore. If we want to be be very forward thinking, we would grow our Ginseng for at least 5 years, and then replant the rhizome from the most healthy plants.
  • Cultivators will plant from 0ne-half pound to 25 pounds of seed per acre of land. Yes, this is a huge range!
  • Drying will reduce the weight of the harvest by about two-thirds.
  • It will take roughly 250-350 mature Ginseng plants to produce one pound of dried roots for sale.
A high-value, human-shaped root.

A high-value, human-shaped root.

Lower quality Ginseng roots.

Lower quality Ginseng roots.


Primary Uses:

  • Medicinal Herb (see below).

Medicinal Uses:

  • The root of ginseng is the primary medicinal portion of the plant.
  • The leaf of ginseng can be used as well, but is not considered a primary medicinal.
  • Dried ginseng root is the most commonly available form used as a medicinal.
  • Ginseng is considered an adaptogen. This is a term used to describe a substance that “adapts” to the specific needs of the body. They are used to promote homeostasis – stabelizing or settling the holistic functions of the body. This is a common concept in herbal medicine, and it is often over-used to make over-blown health claims.
  • Asian Ginseng is considered more potent. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is considered “yang” or “warming”.
  • American Ginseng is considered “yin” in TCM or more “cooling”.
  • The active ingredient, at least the one modern science understands to be the primary active ingredient, are a variety of compounds known as ginsenosides or panaxosides.
  • Most of the modern, scientific research has focused on these ginsenosides. This has positives and negatives as to the information we have on the medicinal value of Ginseng.
  • There have been a large number of in vitro (in glass – i.e. in a petri dish) studies on Ginseng that shows all kinds of things. This is NOT the same as in vivo (in life – i.e. with real people) studies.
  • In vivo studies have shown the following (note that most of these studies were done using ginsenosides, the compound found in both Asian and American Ginseng):
    • Ginseng increased reaction time, abstract thinking, attention, memory, social function, mental health
    • Ginseng enhanced the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
    • Ginseng appears to boost the immune system (enhanced chemotaxis, phagocytosis, increased total lymphocyte count, increased numbers of T helper cells).
    • American Ginseng with antibiotics works faster than antibiotics alone to clear bacterial bronchitis.
    • American Ginseng improves fasting blood glucose levels in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
    • Asian Ginseng improves erectile dysfunction, sexual desire, and sexual satisfaction in patients with erectile dysfunction.
    • Ginseng appears to lower cancer risk in people 40 years old or older.
    • Ginseng has been shown to be both effective and ineffective for many different medical issues depending on the study that was performed. There are a lot of reasons for this lack of clarity, but researchers are continuing to perform research on Ginseng.
  • Ginseng Considerations:
    • Ginseng is considered to be well-tolerated with very little risk for side effect.
    • Ginseng may interact with warfarin (Coumadin).
    • Ginseng should be avoided in people with high blood pressure, asthma, or bleeding problems.
    • Ginseng should be used with caution in people with diabetes taking hypoglycemic medicine or in people prone to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), because it can cause the blood sugar to drop too low.
    • Ginseng may cause insomnia in some people.
    • Most sources recommend avoiding Ginseng in children, pregnant women, and lactating women, although there are few good studies looking at Ginseng in these groups.
    • Most sources recommend avoiding Ginseng in people with hormone-sensitive cancers because the ginsenosides may act like estrogen and make the cancer more active.
    • Most sources recommend avoiding Ginseng in people with auto-immune disease (like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosos, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.)
  • Dosing Ginseng:
    • Ginseng is often taken in bursts… it is taken daily for a few weeks to a few months and then not taken for a few weeks or months. This “holiday” seems to allow Ginseng to work more effectively. It’s almost as if the body stops responding to Ginseng if it is taken for too long.
    • The most common recommendation is to take Ginseng daily for 2-3 weeks, then take a break of 1-2 weeks, then repeat.
    • The oral dose of prepared Ginseng pills is 200 mg daily to 900 mg three times a day. There is no standardized dosing established.
    • The “typical” dose of dried, raw Ginseng ranges from 1-8 grams daily for prevention and 15-20 grams daily for acute medical problems.
    • If using for premature ejaculation, the Ginseng cream is applied to the glans penis one hour before intercouse and then washed off before intercourse.
  • Using Ginseng:
    • Dried, whole Ginseng root is very hard (but it is also brittle, so handle with care), so it is usually simmered in water to extract the beneficial compounds.
    • There are many recipes online for using dried Ginseng, but here is a common method: Take 2-3 grams of chopped, dried Ginseng root or 1 teaspoon of Ginseng powder. Put the Ginseng into a heat-tolerant cup. Add any additional ingredients as desired (i.e. any other tea or tea-like ingredients). Pour almost (but not quite) boiling water to the cup and let it steep for at least 5 minutes. The longer you let it steep, the stronger the flavor (and possibly more ginsenosides are extracted). Add sweeteners if desired. Enjoy!
    • Ginseng root that has been steeped is edible, and some people will eat it after the tea.
Washing freshly harvested Ginseng roots.

Washing freshly harvested Ginseng roots.

Yield: Variable. This is really based on the growing conditions.
Harvesting: In the U.S., wild roots are harvested from plants that are 5 years old or older (Illinois requires the plants to be at least 10 years of age!). They are harvested when the berries are ripe; this is so the berries can be picked and planted “in the general area” where the root was harvested. Try to time harvest after a rain when the soil is loose. Dig carefully – don’t damage the root! Use a pitchfork, narrow spade, or even a long screwdrive to dig under the plant. Gently loosen the plant from the soil. The roots can be briefly soaked or swished around in a bucket of water or briefly rinsed with low-pressure water, but do not wash well or scrub the roots. The dirt on roots is used to age the plant; clean it all off, and you lose your proof of age (well, it makes it a lot harder).
Storage: Ginseng is typically dried before use or sale. This is accomplised by placing the roots in the shade to drain after washing. Then the roots are placed on a screen or drying tray in a location out of direct sun with a temperature of at least 70 degrees F (21 C) and less than 100 degrees F (37 C). Do not let the roots touch during the drying time which can take up to 6 weeks if the roots are large. Drying will reduce the weight of the harvest by about two-thirds. Store dried roots in a paper bag.

Commercial Ginseng operation.

Commercial Ginseng operation.

Wild-simulated Ginseng operation in Pennsylvania.

Wild-simulated Ginseng operation in Pennsylvania.


USDA Hardiness Zone:

  • Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng): Zone 5-9
  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): Zone 3-7 (in some conditions to Zone 8)

AHS Heat Zone: American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): Zone 7-3 (also, in some conditions to Zone 8)
Chill Requirement: Cold exposure is required to stilumate the root to stimulate dormancy. There is no definitive

Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Underground Layer, Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: As noted above, there are 11 species of true Ginseng. There does not appear to be any improved varieties; however, the Ginseng that has been cultivated for many generations seem to be less hardy than the plants propagated from truly wild Ginseng. It appears that seed from Ginseng grown in northern climates produce larger roots, but I can find no specific, reliable evidence for this claim.

Pollination: Self-fertile, but also reproduces through outcrossing (with pollen from another plant) via syrphid flies and halictid bees (both are general pollinators).
Flowering: Midsummer (June-July)

Life Span: There are few references on the life span of Ginseng. Plants are not considered mature until they are at least 5 years old (some places 10+ years). There are reports of roots being over 90 years old, although most plants are harvested at a fraction of this age.


Ginseng Plant Diagram (McGraw n.d.)


Structure: Ginseng is a small plant. The fleshy root produces an underground stem called a rhizome. From this stem, a single stalk emerges; think of this stalk like a trunk. First year seedlings will have a single “prong”. This prong, technically a leaf, will have  3-5 leaflets. Second year plants will produce two prongs from the single stalk, and in the third year, and every year after, the Ginseng plant will have between three to five prongs. Each Winter, the stalk and leaves die back to the ground as the plant goes into senescence (think of this like hibernation). The rhizome (stem) forms a scar when this happens, so there is one less scar on the rhizome for each year of the plant’s life.


Growth stages in American ginseng (Burkhart and Jacobson 2007) Note: Illustrated here are two pathways of ginseng development. In the first, top, ginseng develops from a seedling to the one-prong stage. In the second, bottom, ginseng “skips” the one-prong stage and moves directly to the two-prong stage. Both pathways may be observed, although the later is more common where better growing conditions exist. Plants may also develop more than four prongs, but this is uncommon.

Determining the age of a Ginseng root.

Estimating ginseng root age based on bud scars (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources n.d.)


  • Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng): 6-30 inches (15-76 cm) tall and 8-28 inches (20-71 cm) wide
  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): 4-24 inches (10-60 cm) tall and 8-20 inches (20-50 cm) wide

Roots: Small Fleshy Root, although very old plants have been reported to have roots longer than a person’s arm
Growth Rate: Slow

Ginseng Shoot

Ginseng Shoot  (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Very young plant - leaves unfurling.(Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer's site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Very young plant – leaves unfurling.   (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Flowers and unripe fruit(Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer's site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Flowers and unripe fruit   (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Another photo of Ginseng in summer. This is a mature plant.(Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer's site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Another photo of Ginseng in summer. This is a mature plant.   (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Mature fruit on mature Ginseng in late summer.(Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer's site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Mature fruit on mature Ginseng in late summer.   (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Ginseng in Autumn(Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer's site with great photos and information on plant identification)

Ginseng in Autumn   (Click on the photo for Angelyn Whitmeyer’s site with great photos and information on plant identification)


Light: Prefers moderate to deep shade (75-80)
Shade: Avoid shade of more than 90% as the Ginseng will grow much, much slower.
Moisture: Moist soils. Cannot tolerate very wet soils (rot will set in) or soils that dry out.
pH: Spots where wild American Ginseng grows can range from 4.5-5.5

Special Considerations for Growing:
Good locations for wild simulated Ginseng has the following characteristics:
– Dappled shade or shady edge of forested area.
– High organic matter and calcium levels
– North or east facing slope
– Choose an area with low deer presence as deer like to browse 1-year-old plants
– Overstory trees  of Sugar Maple, Tulip Poplar, Black Walnut, Beech, Birch, and Sassafras are good indicators that the conditions are good for Ginseng.
– Already has existing plants that share similar requirements, such as:

  • Trillium (Trillium spp.)
  • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
  • Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum )
  • Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
  • Ferns
  • Pea Vines
  • Wild Ginger (Asarum spp.)
  • Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
  • Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedioideae spp.)
  • Mayapple (Podophyllum spp.)
  • Baneberry (Actaea spp.)
  • Spicebush (Lindera spp.)
  • Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
  • Wandplant (Galax urceolata)

Propagation by seed is the most common method by far. The seed requires cold stratification to germinate. Germination rates in the wild can be very low. Germination rates when planted intentionally can still be low. The plant can also be divided in the Spring, but this is rarely done as it destroys “proof of age”.

Maintenance: Minimal, especially if growing wild-simulated Ginseng. Please see downloads section below for specific details. Planting and harvesting are the two main time-consuming activities.


  • There are only a few diseases and wild pests that affect Ginseng. Diseases can largely be avoided (not entirely) with good site selection and avoiding too high planting densities. Rodents can steal planted seeds in the Winter if not buried. Deer can browse young plants and kill them.
  • Poaching (aka Theft) can be a legitimate problem with Ginseng growers, but it is often overblown. There are a number of methods to deal with this. One school of thought is to be very open about the fact you are growing Ginseng. Have lots of signs and fences and dogs and cameras – thieves won’t risk being caught in a place that is so public. The other school of thought is to be very secretive – thieves can’t steal what they don’t know exists.
  • This is a slow-growing, “non-invasive” plant, so there are really no concerns about this plant. The bigger problem is overharvesting wild populations and the impact of monocropping Ginseng in commercial agricultural endeavors.
A good harvest dried Ginseng.

A good harvest dried Ginseng.


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December 2014 Farm Update (and photos from an iPhone!)

We have a few months before we move to our new farm, but we were able to take a trip there this past weekend. We are still trying to settle on names for all the structures and landforms on the property, so there will be some changes in what we call things as time moves on. The big house/main house is really ready to move in although we do want to paint some walls and do a little bit of repair work before we actually settle in there.

Just off from the big house is a large, three door garage that has never housed a vehicle. The main floor is very clean, and this will be a great storage location and possibly a spot for a classroom (we will see). There is a full bathroom on the ground floor of this building, and there is a very large, unfinished room upstairs with a kitchen. This upstairs room is not in great shape – very rough and pretty dirty. We will be fixing up this place for my parents to temporarily live. Well, as much as I would love to be working on it, the reality is that my dad will be the one doing most of the work. He is an (almost) retired carpenter, and very highly skilled. Our plan is to fix up this apartment and then put our focus on really renovating the 2 bedroom farm house/small house/cottage that was built many years ago – I want to say 1920, but I am not sure that is correct. No matter, it is in very poor condition. It will require quite a bit of work. It will be fun to see how this project develops, but I have some initial ideas involving straw bales!

I have written about it before, so it should come as no surprise that I am a huge proponent of multi-generational households. I am so excited to have my parents move with us permanently to the farm. In truth, they have been with us off and on (mostly on) for the past year. It has been a wonderful experience not just for me, but for my wife and children as well. This is due in large part to the personality of my parents and my amazing wife. But I know I am not the only one. My friend Cliff Davis, over at Spiral Ridge Permaculture, just posted a comment on Facebook about grandma coming to live at their homestead, “Intergenerational households are a major part of the agrarian lifestyle.” I couldn’t agree more!

I finally had the opportunity to go take a walk on the property. I didn’t have a landowner or real estate agent walking with me. It was just me. Me and the rain that is. Of course, our first unencumbered trip to the farm also coincided with a cold snap and three days of steady rain. But I didn’t care. I put on my rain boots and jacket and went for a stroll. I headed out to the highest ridge that meets our tree line.

Facing east

View from the tree line on the highest minor ridge. Roughly facing east. The blue roofed structure is the garage/apartment. Just right is the white, triangular gable of the big house.

Facing southeast

Same spot, turned 90 degrees, facing south. The building on the left is the hunting lodge/shack/cabin. It was used by the hunters who used to hunt coyotes on the property. Just to the right, and partially hidden by trees is the the little 2 bedroom farm house/cottage.  In the center is the large pond.

Facing southwest

Same spot, turned another 40 degrees or so, facing southwest.

If you are an astute Permaculturist/Keyliner, then you would have noticed the run off. Honestly, it was hard to miss when you were walking around out there. It sounded like there were tiny streams everywhere. In reality, that’s just about the truth. The main pastures have been pretty poorly managed, and the former owner let cattle graze wherever they chose over 45+ acres. This resulted in a lot of cattle trails that filled with water and caused erosion. Also, every valley soon filled with all the run off and became small, temporary streams.


Walking on the low spot in the small valley between ridges was like walking on a super saturated sponge – it was squishing with each step! Fortunately, the water was crystal clear.


Another view of the temporary streams in the valleys. The water was moving fast – sounded like a bubbling brook. I can’t imagine how much water was lost from the farm in these few days… well, actually, I could probably calculate it, but I don’t feel like it right now!


This shot is taken just uphill from the upper/small pond. The large pond is in the distance, in the center, just above (downhill from) the small pond. There are two major problems with this pond. On the left corner, you can see all the yellow silt streaming into the pond. On the right corner, the pond wall has been eroded from cattle. The pond is overflowing into the valley, and is bypassing (the water level is lower than) the overflow pipe. This will need to be addressed quickly!

Lower Pond

The large/lower pond. Cattails line most edges. I saw fish swimming. It is in pretty good condition.


The upper pond has two main feeds. One is full of silt. The other is full of clear water and black walnuts!


Overflow out of the pond. The overflow (drain) pipe is just off to the left, mid photo. The cattle have created this erosive spillway that was flowing pretty fast.

Middle Pond

The third pond/middle pond/east pond is in fair condition. The cattle have almost eroded one corner of the wall, but not quite. The overflow/drain pipe is working well. There is some silt being deposited, but not a lot. With a little maintenance, this pond should do very well.

After perusing the fields and ponds, I took a few walks in the woods. Walking through the woods alone in the cold drizzle was quite relaxing. I am always amazed at the life you can see when you take the time to be still and quiet in the forest. I was very encouraged at the proliferation of fungal life in these woods. There were many species besides the numerous “little brown mushrooms” that I couldn’t identify. But I did see some familiar faces (er… fungi). And while I didn’t see any edibles (yet!), there were dozens of logs covered in Turkey Tail, a highly valued medicinal.

Turkey Tail

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Turkey Tail

A beautiful colony of Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Unknown fungus

Unknown fungus. These were covering many downed branches.

Unknown shelf mushroom

A few shots of a shelf mushroom. I saw a large number of this species. I’m pretty sure it is the Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum).

Unknown Jelly Fungus

A pretty jelly fungus, likely Amber Jelly Roll/Willow Brain (Exidia recisa)

In addition to the fungal life, there was plenty of evidence that the nut-producing trees were doing well. There were many Oak Trees (both in the Red Oak Group and White Oak Group), Black Walnut, and Shagbark Hickory trees. There were some Maple. There were a number of other trees that I just couldn’t identify without leaves.


Oak – not sure of the species. Possibly Northern Red Oak?

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory (possibly a Shellbark Hickory… I need to investigate a bit more first)

Through most of the walks was our Dalmation.

Accompanying most of the walks was our Dalmation… he was like a puppy running rough the woods and fields!


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Photo References: All photos are mine (taken from an iPhone!). If you would like to use any of them, please let me know!