In a few weeks some friends will be getting married at the farm so I’m trying to spiff up the place for the occasion. The old tractor that I use for mowing is being a bit temperamental so I’ve used it and the trail mower and a regular four-cycle lawn mower to get the ‘lawn’ under control.

For heaven’s sake! Not only do I have to invest a silly amount of time in cutting all this grass, but I’m using loads of fossil fuel. How resilient is that?!

Resilient Farm HomesteadWhile I’m mowing, I’m pondering Ben Falk’s book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead. Falk writes about 10 years of developing a permaculture-based, low carbon, resilient farm in the hills of Vermont. In contrast to his densely productive land – developed over many years, to be sure – so much of the space in our farmyard is, at present, just a maintenance issue. Sure there are a few apple trees and a fern or two that could provide fiddleheads, but mostly it’s just, well, there – soaking up my time and energy and wasting precious ‘ancient sunlight‘.

This is a permaculture problem, isn’t it? I want to make this part of our farm not just lovely to view and pleasant to visit, but both productive and (relatively) low-maintenance. I wonder, could I establish ‘guilds’ under the apple trees so they are happier and healthier and I don’t have to mow under their low hanging branches? Are there other areas of the farmyard that could be, say, planted to herbs, berries or nut bushes or made into a useful outdoor social space? What might thrive under the black walnut trees? besides growing things, what other activities or ecosystem services could or should take place in this area?

The more I think about this the more it seems both that I need a deeper knowledge of permaculture myself and to find some knowledgeable permaculture collaborator(s). Who’s interested?


  1. matthew on July 8, 2013 at 8:15 am

    just read what you were saying about sustainability, maintenance and i agree with you totally. i find that in our altruistic pursuit of a low impact, organic lifestyle we sometimes forget to reflect on the impact our maintenance regimes have on not only the environment but our time and sense of peace of mind as well. we are a young a couple dedicated to permaculture, deep ecological growing practices with a main emphasis on creating and stewarding beautiful, sacred spaces in the landscape. we are currently living in north central florida but are originally from the mississippi river valley, illinois and iowa, respectively. we are just now starting to look into other avenues of opportunity and are focusing a large part of our search back in the midwest. we would love to talk to you a little more in depth of what you are looking for, offering, collaborators. you can see a little bit of what just nine months of little work can do for a struggling, bare landscape on our website. keep up the good work there.

  2. Bob on July 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for the good words, Matthew, and fire an e-mail this way if you find yourself heading up to snow country. Good luck with your search.

  3. adam on July 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    This goes without saying, but I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiments above. I think there is an incredible opportunity to implement berries, nuts, fruiting trees, herbs, and all sorts of beneficial plant life, while also incorporating native plant communities to afford high quality eco-system services. You’re on the path, keep pushing! As for Black Walnut…well, it’s aleleopathic properties can hinder some plants, but there has to be solution…I know more Black walnuts can grow in the understory of a Black walnut tree…if you’ve got straight, 8 ft sections of the trunk, that’s high value lumber. Just a thought 🙂


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