Working Outdoors: Perennial Plants, Trail Building and Cutting Firewood

| 3/6/2015 3:53:00 PM

Bee Balm Monarda fistulosa

The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

Much of the pre-construction process for our home-to-be has focused on maneuvering zoning regulations, bank loan requirements, and 2-D house designing. As hands-on, outdoorsy people, Tyler and I have made sure to add in some projects on our land that result in visible, tangible progress that require physical labor and provide straight shots of vitamin D. Below are three activities we’ve undertaken to help prep our future farmstead for the big move-in day later this year.

Planting native perennials. One of our long-term goals is to transition the pasture area of our land to native perennial species. We plan to seed grasses and forbs in earnest this fall, but have started the process by adding some native flowers to the property to, in the least, support the pollinator population. From the Grasslands Heritage Foundation, we purchased bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) plants — one is pictured above — and from Monarch Watch we ordered several types of milkweed (Ascelepias tuberosa, A. syriaca, and A. incarnata). The Editor-in-Chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Cheryl Long — a.k.a. my boss — provided us with some rose-scented monarda from her garden. Although non-native, this particular bee balm provides a natural insect-repelling bonus because of its especially high concentration of geraniol (a compound that smells like roses). We planted the flowers near an area we walk by often, and will purposefully loosen and spread the seeds to encourage a slow spread across the property.

Trail building. We’d previously built a campsite on our land, but we took advantage of the winter months (less foliage) to remove some of the thorny brambles, greenbrier, and underbrush to create some nice walking, running and biking trails through our woods (photo below). We ordered a special ditch blade for our scythe, and Tyler made the first pass through by cutting manually. I followed with loppers to clear the brush along the edges of the paths. Tyler and his dad further cleared the trails with regular old push mowers. The front part of our property has somewhere between a half to a full mile of nice, clean paths that will be so useful when the brush grows in, leafs out and becomes nearly impenetrable throughout the rest of the woods. “Useful” here means “we will be able to walk through without getting stickered, bloodied and generally impeded by vines and bushes.” We hope to work to expand the trails so that we can get our trail-running and cross-biking impulses out without having to leave our homestead.

trail building complete 

3/9/2015 10:13:00 AM

Insculpta, Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad the posts are useful to you, and we will certainly be posting about window selection, flooring, roofing, etc. We will probably be more "run of the mill" than many of our readers and writers who hand build custom homes, but we are choosing to focus on certain aspects (overall energy efficiency, for one) over others. Best of luck in your own adventure!

3/8/2015 3:00:33 AM

I'm enjoying reading your adventure! We bought a very large acreage in central Maine < 2 yrs ago but currently reside in Las Vegas. We plan on building a custom log home. I'm learning a lot reading your blog because you provide the nitty-gritty details that seem to always be glanced over by other authors. In addition, it is refreshing to read the process from folks that seem to have a bit of money, for a change. I'll be interested in reading which brand of triple pane windows you purchase, what you think of Tulikivi fireplaces, what type of roofing you select, etc.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me