Will Myrtle Woods ever be the same? Excellent work from the students at this year’s Maryland PDC.
Permaculture Design Study
September 23, 2011
Cathy & Tiff Hudson
Myrtle Woods Farm
About Myrtle Woods Farm “MWF”
The property was recently named for Myrtle Young and her husband who lived at MWF from 1949 (till 2010). They raised four children on the farm. In 2010 MWF was purchased by Cathy and Tiff Hudson with a vision to save the historic core of the Lawyers Hill Historic District, listed on the Howard County and on the National Registry Historic Places register.
Myrtle Woods Farm Mission
To nourish and flourish…
Myrtle Woods strives to become a community oasis using Permaculture principles such that agriculture, natural habitat, wildlife and people can coexist, heal, learn, nourish and flourish.
About the Authors:
This work has been prepared by a class of fourteen Permaculture Design Certificate students under the tutelage of Wayne Weisman. All our recommendations are made based on the Permaculture principles of Care of Earth, Care of People. The class was hosted by Stan Sersen, the director of The Enviro Center, Jessup, MD.
About the Enviro Center
The ENVIRO CENTER, located in Jessup, Maryland, is a hub of green building technologies and companies. The CENTER is an executive “beyond green” office building where like-minded companies work together to create a more sustainable future. All tenants enjoy sharing multiple conference rooms and exposure gained from events held at the building by the Green Building Institute, the Green Building Network, the ENVIRO CENTER management, or during specially organized tours of this unique location. Plus, it’s just a cool, and healthy, place to work. http://www.enviro-center.com/
Proposed Permaculture Plan
The following report incorporates both our site analysis and site design organized on the general order of permanence and ease of alteration by humans.
The average cold temperature for the site (21075) is 26.6 degrees F. Monthly rainfall ranges from 2.7 inches to 4.6 inches with a total annual rainfall of 43.3 inches. The average high temperature during the summer is 89.6 degrees F and the average low in the winter is 26.6 degrees F.
➢ Micro Climates
The area at, and immediately around water features will tend to be cooler and wetter in the summer and warmer and wetter in the winter. Areas with direct solar exposure will be warmer in all seasons during sunny conditions.
The property is located to the east of the Appalachian Mountains in a plateau region known as the ‘Piedmont’. In the past the region was part of several ancient mountain range. In present day the geology is composed of numerous rock formations intermingled together. The region is characterized by relatively low rolling hills (50m to 250m), originating from several major sediment deposition periods. This region runs from New Jersey to Alabama covering about 80,000 square miles. Piedmont soils are generally clay-like and MWF is located in the more fertile section of the Piedmont.
The property is approximately 8 acres in size and shaped like an equilateral triangle with one side running in a north-south direction along the west border and the other two sides coming to a point in the east. It is roughly one-half woods and one-half open fields. The crest of the property sits about midway along the west border, where the existing house and barn are situated. From there, the land slopes downward toward the north, east, and south. There are generous open fields northeast and south. Trees enclose the perimeter and there is a large central wood. The soil tends toward acidity in general, especially in the areas of pine trees; it is also largely clay, which contains many minerals and decreases water penetration.
The water resources on the farm lie in three distinct drainage zones: A south facing slope, a northeast facing slope, and ‘forested ridge’.
In order to capture water more effectively on the south and northeast facing slopes the use of swales is proposed. Swales act to catch runoff water because they are built perpendicular to the slope. They create an environment on any slope in which plants and trees have easier access to water and grow better. Swales should be dug on contour to 12” in depth, 2’ wide with a 1’ berm on the downhill side of the swale. Swales would be placed near the top of the slope. Elevated beds can be laid parallel to the swales so they are roughly along contour lines (do not need to be exactly on contour). A spacing of 20’ between swales will maximize water capture and allow sufficient room for rows of fruit trees or raised beds. It is recommended that 3 or 4 swales be installed on the south-facing slope. On the north-facing slope 2 to 3 swales are recommended: one swale at the top of field and one in the middle of field.
Key lining is a technique used to capture water and increase the fertility of the soil. Key lining may not be practical for this site based on a cost benefit ratio. Another approach that may yield sufficient benefit would be to use a broad fork to insert and loosen the soil in the area when laying down sheet mulch for elevated beds below the swales. Based on the size of the site this may be beneficial in the open fields.
A 1/8th of an acre pond is proposed for the southeast corner of the lower field. This is currently the wettest area onsite with a soil high in clay. Due to these soil conditions it is possible that the pond could be constructed without a plastic liner. The pond could have several uses: a source for irrigation, a fish habitat, and a natural catchment for rainwater storage. Depending on the proximity, the water from the roof of the educational building could be drained into the pond.
Two smaller ponds could be considered below the large pond. The ponds will flow into each other and help create additional sources for water storage and aquatic habitat. Opening up the forest may be necessary for these ponds and to reduce leaf litter.
➢ Access and Circulation
Existing street crossings off of Lawyers Hill road will remain. The main driveway will remain largely for private use. The existing gravel turn-in at the eastern corner of the property will be utilized for the public and CSA members, main education entrance in the future. A trail will be connected through neighboring properties to the local school.
The CSA garden access to multi-use pavilion and then to farm-stand will be via one connected path. This will improve and reduce the amount of labor and energy needed at MWF. The CSA produce will be pulled from the garden, taken to the multi-use pavilion for processing, boxed, then carted to stand, all of which is downhill, requiring no need for petroleum based power.
Automobile access will be in/out of the home and rental property via the existing driveway. Depending upon where the new house will be, the driveway will be extended a little (or a lot).
Educational trails/paths/community garden. Path from schools and paths through food forest; will emanate from pavilion and will be in direct access to garden, food forest.
➢ Wildlife & Animals
Deer – are coming in from south corner and might start coming across Lawyer’s Hill Rd. This might change when the new development is built, but deer will travel the same paths as long as they feel comfortable and not threatened. At some point the use of a deer fence may be desired, if other means prove unsuccessful.
Rent a goat – Rather than attempting to rid the entire wooded area of (e.g.) Vinca, short-term hiring rent-a-goat(s) is suggested [a small herd enclosed with movable fencing and managed by the goat owners/rent-a-goat company]. This can be done early in the project, shortly prior to planting of plant guild/food forest vegetation. In later years, purchase and incorporation of mammal livestock (such as goats) into the farm and educational communities can be evaluated and decided.
➢ Existing & Proposed Vegetation (including food crops)
Food-forest plant-guilds should consist of nut trees, fruit trees, berry bushes and other small edible plants, planted in patterns at varying vertical and horizontal levels.
One suggestion is to plant a fruit orchard in the upper section of the north field. If this is chosen, recommend planting widely varying species and types. An alternative (or addition) is to utilize the edges of the fields and create plant guild based on fruit trees in these areas. This can also be done along the Lawyer’s Hill Rd property line boundary.
A kitchen garden can be planted around the home. It is recommended to plant on raised beds, on the berms below swales, directly in sheet mulching.
➢ Zones of Use
We have delineated various regions of the property, which incorporate the primary community building functions desired by the client, home areas, and vegetation and water distribution. These areas include
CSA Garden area – in the south field of the property. See vegetation section for recommendations.
Rental/sale property – An area around the existing house must be separated from the remainder of the property/project for tenants or sale property.
Farm-stand – consisting of a small stand and parking, preferably for no more than 3 cars and needing a small cellar and/or refrigerator. A power source would need for the refrigerator.
Educational pavilion – can be a variety of green structures for multi-purpose use, e.g. education and animal and produce processing. Potable water and power would be required here; grey-water could be collected and utilized for some purposes.
Community garden/orchard – located in north field, in conjunction with food forest and orchard, and have access from northeast and northwest corners of property. Community will have direct access. Vegetation should be mainly provided and discussed by community.
Aquaponics – will be a gravity assisted, pump fed system incorporating a fish pond, and anywhere from 4-20 aquaponic growing stands with water from fish pond pumped to top of hill, and fed down through stands, filled with stones, recirculation filtered water back to fish. Would suggest growing fish-edible plants.
➢ Buildings & Infrastructure
Proposed additional building infrastructure on Myrtle Woods consists of three structures. In order of priority these consist of a pavilion, farm stand, and new home.
The Pavilion is to accommodate community gatherings of 20 people estimated to be approximately 18’ x 24’. The structure may be open sided and built with existing timber harvested on site. It will also incorporate a cob stove. The client has expressed a preference for the pavilion on the site currently used for gatherings close to the barn.
As the CSA develops our client would like to incorporate a farm stand to distribute farm products approximately 8’x 12’. This may be a simple, minimal structure however there will be a power requirement to provide for refrigeration for perishables. This may be satisfied preferentially through a small PV installation or if necessary via connection to existing power access. This is to be located at the lower east corner of the lot.
Finally, our client has interests in developing a passive solar two-bedroom home with walkout basement, which may also contain a third bedroom and root cellars. The main floor will include the great room, kitchen, office, bedrooms, and an attached greenhouse off of the kitchen. The house complex will also include a detached workshop/garage connected to the house via a covered breezeway. Insulated concrete forms were expressed as a possible building material that will also feature heavy timber.
➢ Soil (Fertility and Management)
Prior to this report the owner did test the soil and the general report was that it was a mildly acidic. The soil appears to be mostly silt and clay composition. Our group took several soil samples from the two main permanent fields. Main concern is the low organic matter content of the samples; suggesting that soil building strategies such as installing swales and sheet mulching will greatly benefit the quality of the land.
Myrtle Woods is already a beautiful natural oasis. With a phased approach, it is important to keep your overall vision in mind for a cohesive design. Local artists could be invited to both showcase and create art for the farm. Children can paint, decorate and contribute artwork to enhance both the beauty and the sense of community involvement. All structures and plantings can be designed with aesthetics in mind. Walls and fences can be covered with flowering and edible vines, painted with murals, etc. Birdhouses can be built in workshops, painted and used on the property. All structures, furniture and fencing should be naturally and sustainably sourced to enhance the landscape.
The entire property can potentially be used for educational programming. Myrtle Woods can serve as a center for collaboration, skill sharing, cooperative education, and community building. Education could be geared toward both children and adults.
Some potential projects/programs could include:
• Seed saving garden
• Grafting area
• Snack Trail
• Mushroom Walk
• Wildlife gardening
• Animal Tracking
• Natural building
• Natural Crafts
• Permaculture Design
• Alternative Energy workshops
• The Science of Soil
• Rainwater Harvesting/Raingarden Installation
• Native Plants/Invasives
• Raising Chickens
• Cooking and Preserving
• Medicinal and Aromatic Herbs
• Local history, culture, folklore.
• Waste Management
➢ Education Pavilion
The educational pavilion would serve as a centerpiece of the educational program and a welcoming area for visitors. It could be used for processing chickens, as well as produce from the CSA. The structure of the educational pavilion could range from a simple lean-to style shelter to a semi-enclosed outdoor kitchen area with an attached pavilion and an outdoor fireplace.
• Demo mirror
o Rocket elbow
• Handicapped accessibility
• Risk Management and Liability
• Restroom facilities
• Utilizing educational programs to help farm development
• Signage and trails throughout public space
o Plant identification
o Directional signs
o General information
o Ways to get involved
• Website and outreach
➢ CSA: (Community Supported Agriculture)
A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. (http://www.localharvest.org/csa/)
Location: The CSA production area will be located at the South end of the property in the location of the existing gardens. The preparation for distribution will be located in the education pavilion. The distribution of shares can occur either at the farm stand near the parking area or shares can be delivered to a central location off-site.
Timeline: The CSA can be implemented during the second phase of development of Myrtle Woods, likely by Spring of 2012 to allow for land and soil preparation. However, planning, recruitment, marketing and some production can begin earlier.
Management: The CSA can be managed by the property owner, however due to the time commitment required, we recommend hiring a garden manager to oversee operations or working out a lease agreement or share/barter arrangement.
Additional Comments: The CSA could potentially support 20 members in the first 3 years, with potential for an additional 10-15 members in the future. Shares could include items from the South Field garden, Hoop House, eggs, and could eventually include items from the orchard and adjacent food forests.
Budget: Some budget considerations would include:
• Hiring a garden manager
• Rehabilitation of the historic cold frame
• Equipment/Labor costs for key-lining and other soil preparation
• Infrastructure costs for farm stand and outdoor kitchen (education pavilion)
• Cost for running farm stand
• Other tools and equipment
• Plants and Seeds
• Cost can be offset by community engagement
Community Garden: What is a Community Garden?
• A piece of land gardened by a group of people.
• Publicly functioning in terms of ownership, access and management, as well as typically owned in trust by local governments or nonprofits, but is not required to be.
• Community gardens can be as diverse as its communities of gardeners.
• Some choose to solely grow flowers, others are nurtured communally and their bounty shared, some have individual plots for personal use, while others are equipped with raised beds for disabled gardeners.
Timeline: The community garden can be implemented at any phase of development of Myrtle Woods farm.
Location: The garden will be located in the front field adjacent to the new parking area, with easy access to Lawyers Hill road, and would likely service members of the new developments in the area.
Management: Ideally, a volunteer coordinator will be selected to run the community garden. This should be a community run program
Budget: When possible try to source materials locally and use recycled materials from onsite to reduce cost and waste.
American Community Gardening Association
University of California Cooperative extension
Community Garden Start up Guide
Community Resources for Myrtle Woods Farm
#1 Take inventory of current available connections & resources, then…
Howard County Agricultural Zoning & Business
1x a month community meeting
Utilize community hub & 501c3 as possible
Howard County Community College – Possible joint projects with local schools
Root Cellar model on Liz Walker’s Ithica model (pictured right – community & college effort)
Howard County School Partnership Mary Schiller
Partnerships Office, 410-313-6655
Elkridge Middle School curric.
HC Small Business Administration – FREE Pro Consults Mary Redmond
Business & grant resources, free business consulting focus [email protected]
Greater Elkridge Community Association
Larriland Farms – Bring them out to discuss farm development
Shaw Farm CSA – Invite Brian over for a CSA chat Brian Hughes
Department of Natural Resources – Forestry Services HC Dan Ryder
Gain a great ability to organize community online… leverage relationship with the local 501c3
www.salesforce.com 10 seats of a pro level database / shared projects online ($15k value for free now to non profits)
Annual Yield Calendar
National “Green” Certifications & Training for FREE Howard County One Stop – Sheila Little
Audubon Society Diane Cameron – Watershed Skills too!
Green Building Institute Heather Szymanski
Instructor, project & volunteer source – 443-733-1234 [email protected]
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts
Columbia Teen Center
PATH – Youth Jobs and other good stuff Cynthia
Earth Forum Howard County Nancy Fayer
Maryland Department of Environment Laura Armstrong
Green Registry – Specific examples of what works
Culinary School Day
Peabody Institute – Music infusion
Elkridge local info?
➢ Energy & Renewable Energy
The topography and physical features of the site will facilitate patterns of energy flow including heat, air flow and moisture flow. In addition to the natural flow of energy we suggest the incorporation of specific renewable energy features to provide heat and electricity at certain locations.
· It is recommended that both houses utilize solar domestic water heating if there is sufficient sun exposure.
· A stand-alone photovoltaic power system could be utilized at the location of the farm-stand/spring/parking area. Possible loads would include LED lights for night use, a water pump and a refrigerator.
· A possible stand-alone photovoltaic power system could be used at the site of the water feature if pumping is required or desired.
· As indicated by Cathy the main house that will be built in the future will incorporate passive solar design. It could also include a utility interactive PV power system. With Federal and MD incentives this would be a worthwhile investment. However the 30% federal tax credit is set to expire in 2016.
· Given the number of trees on the site a wood stove or masonry stove might be worth considering as a supplemental heating source for the house when it is built.
· Wind energy would not be feasible at this site due to an insufficient wind resource.
The MWF implementation timeline recommendations are as follows:
Fall 2011: Swale, berm and sheet mulch of both pastures. Finalize master plan and develop legal, business and social frameworks such as CSA structure, etc.
Future: Implementation of the other design recommendation may proceed according to MWF budget and resources.
Exhibit #A Plant List – Keyed to Vegetation Plan
• Dwarf Persimmon
• Cornelian Cherry
• Hybrid Chestnut
• Sweet Crabapple
• False Blue Indigo
Lower Field Property Line
• Walnut ( English or Black)|
• Paw Paw
• Highbush Cranberry
• Solomon’s Seal
• Stinging Nettle
• Lemon Balm
Kitchen Garden Herbs
• Sweet Cicely
• Sweet Bay Magnolia
• Chocolate Mint
Perennial Veggies/ Flowers
• Garlic Chives
• Good King Henry
• Perennial Sunflower
• Sea Kale
• Clumping (Non-Invasive) Bamboo
• Rosa Rugosa
• Knockout Roses
• Berry Patch
• Thornless ( upstanding) blackberries and raspberries
• Wild Ginger
• Virginia Bluebells
• Lilly of the Valley
• False blue Indigo
• Hardy Kiwi
• Sweet Pea
• Climbing Hydrangea
• Native Honeysuckle