Berry Mountain – 2015!

Hi everyone! This blog has languished for the past little while, but our Berry Mountain Center for Sustainability has not!

Tim and I have been busy over the past year and a half making improvements to the cabin and land and we are constantly revising plans for our future teaching homestead.

Last summer (2014) we spent ten consecutive weekends at the cabin doing all sorts of capital improvements. We raised the cabin itself to stabilize the foundation. We installed rain gutters and rain barrels. We ripped out the old nonfunctional bathroom to convert it into a large pantry and extended the garden area. We installed a new (to us) window in the bunkhouse and finally finished the decorating to make it warm and cozy.

We made at least a few big purchases:

  • a DR bush-hog to clear the eventual main garden/pasture area on the new house site.
  • A 5 barrel rain capture system.
  • A Berkey water filtration system
  • 30+ flowering trees (redbuds and dogwoods) and the tree tubes to keep them safe from the deer
  • three additional trail cams to capture images from around the property

We have big plans for the upcoming year! We will be installing a test solar array at the cabin. We will be bringing in a contactor to remove the trees from the future pasture. We will be repairing our bridge. We will be applying for grants to subsidize some of our infrastructure and we will be hosting work parties and music festivals.

It’s an exciting time to be alive and to have this clear vision of what we want to accomplish and share.

I’ll be posting more details on the past projects and the ones for the upcoming year in short order.

Thank you for hanging with us and for joining us on the journey.
Buen Camino!

Game Feeder Results Reveal, Turkey Hunting and Scoping a Zipline

This weekend up on Berry Mountain we were eager to see how our game feeder fared in its first week of use. Our nephew Sean accompanied us this weekend, and during the three hour drive to the mountain we took bets as to what we would find. I supposed the feeder would be completely destroyed by bears. Tim and Sean both thought it would have been used somewhat, but unharmed. No one took the other option: untouched.

Once we arrived, the boys jumped out of the car and demanded we go check the feeder immediately.  Here is the filmed evidence of what we found:

Hee! obviously, we are excited!

We took down the feeder before Sean set up his turkey blind and decoys. Alas, he spent Sunday morning without seeing turkey or deer, but was entertained by an industrious chipmunk for about an hour.

In other Mountain adventures, Tim and Sean scoped out the path for our first zipline from the cabin pad to the Knoll, about 400 feet away. It will transverse the deepest chasm on the property – Bear Hollow – and once it is established will be quite a ride. We hope to lure would-be helpers to the property with the promise of a spine-tingling zipline canopy tour during their visit. Tim insists there will be a series of them eventually, zig-zagging the beautiful mountain terrain.

Last, but hardly least, Tim rehung the former bathroom door so that it opens into the cabin. This completes the architectural reconstruction of the unused space in the unplumbed bathroom into my new storage room. I can’t wait to install shelves and begin to lay in more supplies to make the Homestead more sustainable for longer visits and company.

Cheers to you all – have a great week!

Low-cost/No-Cost Food Production

This weekend up on Berry Mountain had Tim and I focused on two different methods to increasing the amount of food we can produce within our property: 1) Building and situating a game feeder (Him) and 2) Expanding and improving our test garden plot.(Me)

Tim researched building a low-cost game feeder to attract deer and wild turkey to an area on the property that we have identified as best for hunting. He used a construction tutorial he found on YouTube and the whole process only took about ten minutes with a handsaw and an appropriate drill bit. He spent about $30 dollars on the PVC supplies from Home Depot and $11 for a 50 pound bag of cracked corn bait from Southern States.

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I spent part of the morning adding another 24 square feet to the garden plot using free items on hand. First I put down a kill mulch layer of cardboard (graciously donated my parents who recently had their kitchen remodeled), then a layer of punky (rotten) firewood that did not make the grade to become woodstove fuel, then a thick layer of the plentiful oak leaves from around the cabin. These things will break down over the winter to become the basis of rich organic matter for spring planting.

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As a warning to the deer who nibbled their way through my summer crops, I posted some of our found skulls on spikes in the garden plot. Ghoulish? Perhaps – but it’s close enough to Halloween to feel it appropriate to do so.

 

 

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Speaking of deer – this week I had the opportunity to help some friends do some venison butchering. Our amazing bow-hunter friend Rick bagged two and his lovely wife Susan allowed me to come over and help with the final cutting process. I have a yummy backstrap venison tenderloin aging in the refrigerator as payment. It will become a tasty dinner later this week.

 

 

 

As a final note of the weekend, we added to our growing woodpile with the last batch from a downed oak. We now have at least a cord of gorgeous aging firewood that will easily see us through the winter as we are only visiting during the weekends, and with our woodstove having all new gaskets, it is burning far more efficiently than it has ever done.

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Next weekend we welcome our turkey hunting nephew back up on the mountain to test his luck on the hunting ground.

Until then, be well my friends!

A long time coming: Berry Mountain Year 1 Updates

Hello friends and countrymen(people)!

The summer went by in a blur as I was occupied taking care of Tim’s mom who had a prolonged illness, but thankfully (!!!) she has recovered fully and I now count her as one of my closest friends due to the quality and quantity of time I was able to spend with her over the past few months.

Our efforts in making improvements to our land was downplayed somewhat due to our reduced resources this year, but we have still made tremendous strides towards creating our dream weekend homestead. Take a look to see what we have accomplished thus far in Year One!

I’m looking forward to getting back into the routine of posting about what we have planned for the Mountain. Future updates will include the titles of our ever-growing homestead library, planting ginseng, building a wild turkey feeder, installing a sugar maple grove and clearing land! All of these are on the docket for Year Two of our Great Adventure! Stay tuned!

Father’s Day: A Gift of Sustainability

Shh. Don’t tell my Da – but he’s getting a perennial herb container garden for Father’s Day this Sunday.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…

(Except in this case, Parsley has been replaced by Lovage, since that will come back year after year, unlike Parsley.)

So: if you were wondering what to give your Dad for Fathers’ Day, perhaps you have enough time to build one these! Give the gift of Sustainability by giving him with the ability to Grow His Own!

Comme ca!

Father's Day Herb Garden

Homestead First Aid

My new baby chainsaw arrived at our suburban condo yesterday. It is an adorable 10″ Ryobi battery-operated model. I am going to name her Miss Mabel.

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He already had an 18″ Poulan – but it’s been giving us fits all year.

I wanted a chainsaw of my own so I could contribute to epic task of clearing small trees and bushes out of the area that will one day be the home of my permaculture, hugelkultur, key-hole, duck-patrolled, rainwater-irrigated, chicken-moated, edible, medicinal, perennial, pollinator-friendly 2-acre garden.

Whew.

Right now? My future Eden is a thorny tangle of brush and small pines.

Along with the addition of a new chainsaw and a heretofore untested chainsaw operator (me) to the Homestead, I decided it to be an excellent time to upgrade our first aid kit. This one (we have several) hangs just inside the cabin front door and is focused on big gushing, gaping wounds. Cheery, non?

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(and yes, there are a few things related to bug bites too.)

As our Homestead currently does not have a landline phone, we get no cell-phone signal nor Internet and the nearest neighbor is about half a mile away down our steeply banked driveway, we need to be able to render emergency medical attention on our own if the need arises.

The first aid kit is one small step to that, but I do think it is time to sign up for my Wilderness First Aid course through the Center for Wilderness Safety.

It now occurs to me that we probably need a new mop at the Cabin too. For clean-up.

Making Money on the Homestead

We aren’t living there full-time yet, but the question of how to generate an income once we do is one that features prominently in our planning. Notice I did not say “worrying.”

Seems like a diversified income stream is the most resilient and flexible way to approach it:

There’s the idea of ongoing fee-based classes, of course. Plenty of great examples of how that can be done well.
There’s the idea of renting the tiny homes and community hall as a retreat/gathering space for various groups and/or an AirBnB concept.
There’s the sale of farm products – fresh, preserved and value-added.
There’s the lecture/book circuit – maybe. eventually.
and then there is the part-time home based businesses that tap into our competencies. (marketing, proposal and grant writing.)

Fortunately, we are at a place in our finances where we have no non-mortgage debt, and we have become exceedingly good at living frugally-even in our current expensive suburb. We have some reserves saved up that will be used to seed the initial capital outlays, but even so: we are taking a risk in this adventure. Crops can fail. Weather is unpredictable. The Mountain, and its people may turn against us.

There is no sure-fire guarantees in this. Nor in anything.
But this is the life we want.
We’ll never have a chance at it if we don’t try.