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Nemenhah Perma-Village Model
Nemenhah Perma-Village Model
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6915 S. 1875 Rd., Humansville, MO, US
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Cool Temperate

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Storing Energy - Berms in Natural Succession

Project: Nemenhah Perma-Village Model

Posted by Chief Phillip 'Cloudpiler' Landis over 13 years ago

Using berms as leaf traps to store energy.

Before we even began the project, the property was already producing huge amounts of biomass each year in the form of leaves.  Many species of Oaks are renowned for the fact that they have two and sometimes three flushes of leaf per growing season.  In a mature forest, this is the stuff of duff - soil building par exellence!  the leaves are trapped and pile up, forming natural berms.  In our forest, however, because of the destruction of the soil over the course of the Tie Hacker period (1885 - 1915), when the forest was literally denuded to make railroad ties, most of this mulch is still wased down into the streams because of our heavy rainfall.  The forest is producing soil, but very slowly.  Under our trees, you find about two inches of duff, two inches of top soil, and then the rest is compacted leached sand.

But a mature Oak has the leaf surface area equivalent of as much as ten acres of roof.  The trees direct the rain downward in great gushes.  This is what is washing away the soil before it even gets much of a chance to form.  The task before us is two-fold, then.  First, we need to slow the flow of rainwater and turn it downward into the soil, and Second, we need to trap the leaves and hold them in place. 

We do this with berms.  In a circle around the tree, we first pile the branches we have trimmed.  If we want anything to grow there, we have to let in some sunlight.  The limbs are piled up to create the foundation for the berm.  The leaves fall as usual, but the limb berm stops them from being blown or washed away.  The downhill progress of both water and nutrients is halted right around the tree.  By the end of the first season, we have harvested all the leaves from the subject tree and placed them all in the berm.  Then we build sheet compost over it. 

I did this last year with our first two "Farmer" trees.  Out at the dripline I planted Apple and Cherry trees, Goumi, Mulberry, and Comfrey.  The berm is now about a foot of fine potting soil with a layer of spongy limbs and twigs at the bottom.  This spongy layer captures and stores water which the trees, shurbs and annuals reach through their roots systems.  The soil is so fecund now that even in almost full shade, I was able to grow sweet potatoes, squash, broad beans, tomatoes, lettuce, comfrey, radishes, beets, and basil.  Even plants that the package says require 'full sun' did well in partial to full shade.  I have to assume it is because they did not have to obtain all their energy from the sun, but were benefitted by stored energy in the system.  Too great an assumption?  Well see.

Least ways, any energy is too precious to waste. 

Comments (2)

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jordan lowery
jordan lowery : I do something similar with just random forest garden debris. Its definitely a great soil building methods for around trees.
Posted over 13 years ago

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Pete Peterson
Pete Peterson : This method is really a great idea, such projects should be implemented for energy efficiency, sometimes if you feel bored, you can try playing football legends, playing games makes you feel good.
Posted 4 months ago

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