Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a homestead

I visited this lovely homestead in New Paltz for the Hudson Valley Growers potluck last night.

The living roof on their front porch was supposed to be planted with "hens & chicks", but weeds & grasses got established... it still looks great though. Ducks wander through the front yard, digging their bills into the mulch and grass to find bugs. They lay about the same amount of eggs as the chickens, and they taste similar. The only thing he feeds the ducks & chickens is a handful of cracked corn every day, then they forage for the rest of their diet, since they are truly "free-range". The garden supplies this couple with all the vegetables they need the entire year. They haven't tilled the soil in 26 years. A compost mulch of several inches is applied annually. Cover crops are selected to be "winter-kill" like these oats, so they don't need to be tilled. A simple drip irrigation system is used, with 1/4" tubing down the short rows. Row cover is on some of the beds for frost protection. The kale is huge!
There are also plenty of fruit trees & shrubs around the property (which is only about 2 or 3 acres)... 12 blueberry bushes in a "cage" of bird netting, apples, pears, currants, grapes, and these hardy kiwis (trellised):
And pawpaws! They are this amazing fruit, the largest fruit actually native to North America. The trees get pretty large with large tropical-looking leaves, but you can prune them down to managable size. The fruits are about the size of a small mango, and taste like a combination of banana, mango, pineapple, and avocado. Incredible. I will definitely be growing some of these on my farm.
Because compost is so central to this "farmden", there are about a dozen bins of composting material in different stages. He throws all the kitchen waste, garden waste, weeds, grass clippings from a nearby field, and some horse manure from the neighbors in there, and keeps a close eye on the moisture level. Thick black plastic coverings prevent unwanted evaporation or excess rainwater penetration. The slats used to construct the bins are really interesting.
They have interlocking edges that can easily be removed and reassembled.
A very inspiring place. He also grows his own popcorn, an heirloom variety of polenta corn (I got some seeds to try next year!), and makes delicious sourdough bread. We feasted on a huge salad of a thousand different colors, entirely from the backyard.

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