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Documenting my transformation of uncultivated land into a beyond-organic permaculture garden without tilling, irrigating or fertilizing
24 backers pledged $1,061 to help bring this project to life.

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$1,061

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New Stretch Goals!

I'm overwhelmed by the fact that the project has already reached its main funding goal. Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement. But lets not stop here! There are many more projects I would like to do, so here is a list of funding targets and the new projects I will be able to do at each.

$1,100 - Simple, Organic Bee Keeping

I would like to do a project demonstrating how to build bee hives and maintain a colony without the use of toxic chemicals. 

Many people in the West are familiar with the unnecessary complicated and difficult to build Langstrom beehives, but there are numerous advantages to the far more simple and easy to maintain Top Bar beehive, as I would like to demonstrate.

When I get my colonies to swarm, I will also do a video demonstrating the technique of capturing swarms.

All that would be required to carry out this project would be some basic woodworking equipment and starter queen bees.

$1,500 - DIY Aquaponics with Recycled Materials

Aquaponics is the art of combining aquaculture and hydroponics into a close-loop self-contained ecosystem suitable to growing crops even in urban conditions. An aquaponics system contains an aquatic ecosystem in the reservoir, and circulates the water through a hydroponic grow bed to filter the water while fertilizing the plants.

Plants grow extremely rapidly in this kind of system. Like in hydroponics, the plant has access to as much water was it can utilize, but never is at risk of rot due to the constant motion of the water. Unlike hydroponics, the plants are still growing with in rich and diverse ecosystem, so they grow far faster, taste better, and are more nutritious.

I will need to purchase 3 food grade IBC totes ($100 a piece on Craigslist), basic plumbing, and simple power tools to carry out this project. I will also need to purchase fish, crustaceans, and mollusks to stock the reservoir.

$2,000 - Perennial and Self-Seeding Food Forest

Food forests are one of the truest expressions of permaculture design as they are, quite literally, permanent. Once established, a food forest will accumulate fertility without input of either materials or labor.

Properly designed, they can produce extraordinary amounts of food and biomass relative to the space they occupy. This is due to the vertically layered layout of a forest ecosystem.

The system would be started with a combination of transplanted trees and seeds. The transplants will present the greatest expense. However, the seeds of less common species that I would like to include in my planting present a significant expense.

It may also be necessary to rent a track hoe to install a swale. A neighbor has one, so I will likely be able to work out a deal.

$3,000 - Paddock Shift Rotational Grazing

Installing a paddock shift system will be one of the more expensive designs, but the amount of food and soil produced by them is unparalleled.

A paddock shift system is a method of doing rotational grazing with a symbiotic arrangement of animals in a way that immitates the patterns of natural praries. Like a natural prarie, these systems sequester enormous amounts of carbon.

This system would yield enormous amounts of milk, eggs, and animals for sale or consumption. As a secondary yield, it will produce enormous amounts of compost.

As the goal will be to have a no-input design, there will be a diverse array of edible plants growing in the system. What is not eaten by the livestock can go to humans.

Livestock will be the greatest expense of the project. Fortunately, in such a rural area there are a wide variety of breeds available. The infrastructure of the guinea project will also allow for the hatching of chicken and turkey eggs.

I will also need to purchase portable electric fencing, and build portable shade and roosting structures.

What do I plan to do?

As a first big step towards becoming a career permaculture designer, teacher, and filmmaker, I would like to document my project to converting an uncultivated plot of land into a lush and abundant beyond-organic garden. I will be doing this without tilling, irrigating, or using any kind of fertilizer or pesticide, organic approved or otherwise.

I will be documenting this project in a media rich blog format, including lots of videos and image heavy articles. To see an example of the format, please visit www.CultivateAbundance.com

How will I manage this?

By using the permaculture design strategy of emulating the patterns of nature to create a dynamically stable agricultural ecosystem. I will be orchestrating a complex polyculture of plants, animals, and fungi to create a highly resilient garden capable of yielding bountifully with minimal maintenance.

How have I settled on the funding goal for this project?

I have numerous projects that I would like to implement, and the cost of supplies has quickly overwhelmed my meager college student budget. I have based my funding goal on the minimum cost of the four projects I think would be most rewarding:

-Kitchen Garden: I would like to see how much herbs and vegetables I can produce in one season starting with an uncultivated field-- without tilling. The goal will to be to establish a synergistic planting that will have a high yield per square meter while requiring minimal upkeep. This project will synthesize many elements of permaculture design. It will explain how to reclaim overgrown land without herbicide, fire, or tilling. It will demonstrate methods of creating weed resistant garden beds and explain why you may not always want to resist the weeds. It will explain the process of designing a polyculture planting arrangement that will increase yields, reduce water needs, eliminate pest problems, and provide a variety of delicious food consistently over time. To accomplish this task, I will require seeds and tubers from a large variety of plants to create a sufficiently diverse ecosystem.

-Mushroom Cultivation: I would like to explore a variety of techniques for mushroom cultivation both indoors and outdoors, and demonstrate different uses for edible and medicinal mushrooms in garden design. I will use this project to discuss what I think is one of the most interesting and under explored areas of permaculture research. It will also give me an opportunity to discuss many fascinating aspects of the biology of fungi, and their many uses as food and medicine. To accomplish this project I will need, at minimum, a high capacity pressure cooker, basic sterile procedure supplies, jars and terrariums, substrate, and spores for several species.

-Guineas From Eggs: I would like to try raising guinea hens from eggs to adult free range birds. This project will result in tutorials on how to create a proper setup for starting poultry from eggs. I will discuss the uses of guinea and other animals in agricultural design as food,  tick and snake control, predator detection, garden preparation, and much more. I will also include a portion on techniques for training livestock using gentle positive-reward marker techniques. This project will require supplies to create the incubator, equipment to keep the keets safe and warm, and the eggs themselves.


-Aquaculture and Riparian Gardens: There is a dam and pond on the site. This provides the opportunity to experiment with maintaining an aquatic agroecosystem as well as exploring the unique potential of planting along the riparian border of the pond. The dam has become unsealed due to negligent previous owners allowing trees to grow in the dam wall, but this means that there is a marsh like microclimate down slope from the dam mound. This opens up an entirely new ecosystem to experiment with. If the leakage ultimately leads to the pond being seasonal, I will explore the unique ecological properties of vernal pools. This will require the purchase of a different assortment of species than my kitchen garden project. Many of the more interesting species I would like to incorporate are relatively rare and specialized, and thus cost more than the average seed variety.

What if the funding goal is reached ahead of time?

These four projects could easily exceed $1,000 by themselves, and I have already invested several hundred dollars into the project. Naturally, I will be overjoyed if this gets over funded. Every penny I raise here will be spent on executing these projects to the highest possible standard of quality.

If this project is over funded significantly enough, I have a long list of stretch goals in mind. Among the highlights are:

-Perennial and self-seeding food forests designed to produce for decades.
-High efficiency aquaponics for protein and plant yields out of small spaces.
-Rotational paddock shift system for raising livestock and growing topsoil.
-Microclimate design strategies for growing heat loving plants in cool weather.
-Water catchment techniques for extremely drought tolerant gardens.
-Agroforestry in both healthy and degraded forest ecosystems.

When will this project be completed?

The project will result in series of videos, articles, and tutorials produced during the course of the 2013 growing season. This will follow the course of going from uncultivated land to harvest and preservation. However, this is just one step in a life long career in permaculture design. Expect much more from me in the future.

Risks and challenges

Whenever nature is involved, there are always surprises. Ecosystems are extremely complex and climate patterns can often be irregular. I do not think that such difficulties will negatively impact the quality of the documentary, even if the yield suffers. I expect one of the more interesting features of my project to be documenting the troubleshooting process and sharing creative solutions.

I'm a relative novice when it comes to the skill sets demanded by this project. I have access to a decent quality camera and basic After Effects skill, but do not expect professional quality video with flashy special effects. If you look at CultivateAbundance.com and follow the links to my video art, you will get a general sense of what I am capable of doing with After Effects.

Similarly, CultivateAbundance.com now contains a demonstration video. It explains the process behind making homemade wine. It provides a general sense of the production quality of forthcoming videos. Naturally, the quality will improve in proportion to my accumulation of skill as the project progresses.

When it comes to permaculture, I have had success on smaller scale experimentation. I have spent far too many hours to count reading about permaculture design and daydreaming schematics for various types of systems. Thus, my foundation is largely theoretical, but I remain confident that the results of my preliminary implementations will be successful and productive.

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    My deep and sincere gratitude

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    I will list your name or the name of a loved one under Special Thanks in the credits. I will also send you your choice of a hand written thank you letter or personalized video email.

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    You will receive an generous assortment of heirloom and unusual seeds as the harvest comes in. I should be sending out some very interesting seeds. I will also list your name or the name of a loved one under Special Thanks in the credits, and send you your choice of a hand written thank you letter or personalized video email.

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    I will engage in open conversation with you on any topic that suits your interest-- agricultural, cultural, philosophical, or otherwise. How long we talk is up to your interest and scheduling availability. I will also send you an assortment of heirloom and unusual seeds from my garden as the harvest comes in, and you will get priority on varieties with low seed yields.

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    I will personally thank you in the videos and list your name in the opening credits under the title of your choosing. I will give you my full attention over the course of a series of Skype calls, wherein we can discuss anything from the profound to the mundane. I will send you an assortment of heirloom and unusual seeds from my garden as the harvest comes in, and you will get priority on varieties with low seed yields.

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Funding period

- (15 days)