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Kyle Chamberlain 's Profile
Kyle Chamberlain
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Kettle Falls, Washington, United States
Climate Zone:
Cold Temperate

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The Human Habitat Project

The Human Habitat Project

Kettle Falls, US


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2701 North 29th Street Kamiah Permaculture Institute
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Planting Fever

Posted by Kyle Chamberlain over 13 years ago

The latest news from the compound. From the project's blog: https://sites.google.com/site/humanhabitatproject/news

Spring projects have been keeping us very busy, and there's been little time to write. Also, my laptop is just back from the shop. 

As soon as the snow began to thaw in March, we were out slashing brush and small trees in the main food forest area. I also felled some tall spindly trees which were making things crowded . The result is an open area of two or three acres for our plantings. The few serviceberry, hazel, and rose bushes that have survived the heavy browsing over the years were spared. These will become part of the food forest.


Next I marked out places for trees. I wanted the trees to be evenly spaced. I also wanted them to be in rows, on contour, so that I can later build a water storing berm along each row. (Idealy, one would construct the earthworks first, then plant the trees. I'm doing it backwards for the sake of getting the trees in before planting  season passes.) Once established, the trees won't be irrigated. Each tree will need plenty of room for its thirsty roots to spread. Accordingly, decided to space the trees at 60 feet, in a checkerboard pattern  (this leaves one whole tree space between trees which are theoreticaly 30 feet in diameter at maturity). Between the trees are nitrogen fixing interplants and smaller bushes. I expect that the gaps will fill in with other plantings and wild seedlings as time goes on. I used a crude but effective A-frame level to lay out the rows. The feet of the level are exactly 10 feet apart, and at every span of the level, a flag was placed. This way it was very easy ensure accurate spacing. The layout is actualy a little more organic than you'd think, as I often had to tweak the spacing to avoid existing bushes and trees.


With tree places marked, the space around each tree had to be cleared of competing brush. This involves yanking and prying out dense snowberry and oregon grape bushes by hand. These plants form tangles of tenacious roots in the sod. This was by far the toughest part of planting. Most of the trees should be able to out-compete the brush eventualy, but bubbles free of root competition will give them better odds. When we have more time, we will supress any regrowth with cardboard mulch around each tree. The trees came in batches, since we ordered from several different nurseries. I also dug up a few sapplings from nearby places. All said, there should be about a hundred of them- I must be crazy! My design for thier arrangement was impromptu. On this scale, I felt there were too many variables to try to arrange them on paper beforehand. By tramping back and forth across the place, I was able to notice subtle differences in soil type, moisture, and microclimate. This way, I was able to pick a 'perfect' spot for each tree. I was also carefully to alternate shallow rooted plants with deep rooted plants, avoid clumping plants of the same family, and yet maintain some proximity between pollinators. I also tried to create a xeric/mesic gradient. Pines, oaks, chestnuts at the top give way to ginkos, filberts, pawpaws, and cherries at the bottom. I have a lot of theories about which plants make good 'buddies' but this is more voodoo than science. 


The largest trees, like the hickories and burr oaks, get thier own clearings away from the primary one. By my math, they require 120 foot spacing, and I'm not about to clear that much brush! Almost every tree gets an expensive wire cage, because the deer are relentless here. Some of the homemade protectors I tried last year just weren't good enough. So I finaly caved and put my young trees in cages like everyone else around here does. When the trees are tall enough I'll remove the cages. I've protected some of the less valuable trees by heaping brush around them, wire being limited. Nobody ever responded to our 'want' add in the paper for old wire, and we've already spent a couple hundred dollars on new stuff. Gophers are also a problem, but there's not much I can do about them but cross my fingers. 


Every tree gets five or so crumbled cow-pies collected from nearby. We can't afford bonemeal or kelp for fertilzer. Each tree is surrounded with a layer of cardboard to supress weeds, and then leaves/needles/bark to cover the cardboard. This is wieghted down with stones or logs. We haul five gallons of water to each tree to 'water it in'. On top of all of this, we've also put up most of our 30x40' garden fence, lashed together with hundreds of sticks and poles. It was important for me to do this project with all natural materials. The result is very story book. We've planted some things in there and in the old garden. We've been doing some seed swapping with our permaculture friends, which has been a lot of fun.


Amanda started thatching the pithouse to cut down on leakage. This was before we decided to ditch the hole and live in the tent for the summer. We got an old iron tub for bathing and water storage.  

There's still so much to do! By the way, WE"RE GETTING MARRIED NEXT MONTH! 


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