Thursday, April 2, 2015

Report from Permaculture Design Charrette by Jenna Messier

Group assembles in AM
 The Permaculture Design Charrette focused upon my small urban yard in West Haven, CT which has lots of pending issues; crumbling walkways, precious yard space being used for parking, and where to put all the plants and animals to yield the most food, compost and fiber. However, the day and process took some interesting twists.

The workshop was led by Sven Pihl from CT Edible Ecosystems who provided all of the base mapping, learning materials and instruction during the day. Sadly, Sam Billings could not join us due to a family emergency. It was raining in the morning and I realized that we had to truly "go with the flow." We started by looking at the Base Map and Sven explained how it was created. Then I presented my Client Summary to express the clients goals and our intentions for the property which they would be designing later that day. 
Grape arbor looking SW
My biggest surprise was when I received the soil test results stating that my soil had 909 ppm of lead. So as I discussed the property history with the group, I felt the need to announce the test results immediately.  This situation really brought out the best in the talented group of 8 participants, as each person realized that something was going to have to change in the current garden configuration where the vegetables are being grown closest to the house.  We do not want people eating greens or root vegetables from the soil with over 400 ppm of lead, and as we seek to integrate 4 chickens onto the property, we want to avoid them rooting through the same soil as well.

Next, we covered the Permaculture Design Principles. Here is one document which I found online at the Pickards Mountain Eco Institute website to easily describe these principles.
I noted that 2 of the core principles (Care for Earth, Fair Share, and Care for People) are the same as the NOFA OLC principles of Care and Fairness and OLC adds Health and Ecology to describe caring for all of our collective health and respecting our relevance and interconnectedness.  The remaining design principles form a guide by which you would look at a space and see how you can best utilize its strengths while producing the outcome which is sought by the land owner or borrower.

We broke for lunch and enjoyed a communal experience of walking to the restaurant and partaking in Colombian food and music together, allowing us to socialize and learn more about each other's current jobs and experiences.

We returned and broke up into two groups where folks were eager to put their ideas onto paper.  Two unique designs came to fruition from which I have gained a lot of inspiration.

Group 1 Alexis, Josh, Sally and Stesha
Sven Pihl looking at design

 - Landscape Design 1 - click here to download or view
  1. North side along street, meadow in front eastern sidewalk space to be duplicated on left.
  2. In front planting boxes, use vinca groundcover and select from dogwoods, Japanese Maple, Oxydendron or Shad.
  3. Move canoe next to house.
  4. Southeast, former parking space, to become raised garden beds. Use low tunnel tents. Compost bins moved to corner.
  5. Former vegetable garden close to house, to become space for chickens and rabbit hutch. Take another soil test, if lead is highest, cover with thick mulch.
  6. Fireplace in pink to remain, needs some rebuilding.
  7. Re-plant grass under existing pear trees to create fun play space for kids.
  8. Move black raspberries to sunny space along southern fence.
  9. Keep grape vine arbor and existing strawberry bed.
Group 2 Theresa, Leslie, Jay and Shelley

-Landscape Design 2 - click here to download or view
working on design
  1. North side along street, continue prairie-style meadows, add annuals for more color
  2. Along front of house, add a trellis and an Hydrangea Petiolaris
  3. In driveway along house, group suggested using more raised bed boxes and window boxes to capitalize on the full sun. Also using low tunnel structures to extend season.
  4. Add another rain barrel at corner of house next to back door.
  5. Remove concrete on back walkway and install 3/4" gravel to deal with sink hole issues
  6. Move compost bins to old vegetable garden space
  7. Add cold frames low to ground for seed-starting, keep tomatoes in this area
  8. Move rabbit hutch under pear tree and create a rectangular run
  9. Put chicken coop along southern fence and create a run for them along fence line
  10. In old parking space, add decorative raised bed boxes for leafy veggies and root crops
  11. Next to center grape arbor, add a chiminea for more charm, put barbecue along side of arbor

Thanks to all the students for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm. A big thank you to Sven Pihl for leading the workshop and sharing his knowledge and materials, as well!

I think we will do this again. I have already had 3 people ask me to have a charrette on their properties!