A while back I heard that you could use topographic maps in the design process of a permaculture farm which sounded to me like a great idea! Since we bought our homestead back in October, I have been looking for quality topographic maps of the land with little success. One place I looked into was mytopo.com. While they allow you to purchase topographic maps in print or as a digital file at a reasonable price, unfortunately, they didn’t offer the type of detail on their maps that I needed for planning our farm.
After spending a significant amount of time searching for detailed topographic maps, I came across one by ESRI which is very detailed and useful but what I really wanted was a map with satellite imagery overlapping the topographic lines so I could also see where existing trees and structures were.
Eventually, I came across a mapping program called ArcGIS that had the functionality to overlay these two types of maps. They have a free 60 day trial which means you can probably get maps of your property for free! When I set out, my intention wasn’t to get to get free maps but it sure is nice. If you plan on getting into permaculture design consulting ArcGIS looks like an invaluable mapping tool that is worth paying for. I played around with the program for 3-4 hours and barely scratched the surface of its capabilities!
Here is a brief tutorial on how to make topographic maps of your property using ArcGIS Pro. These maps can be used to get a better understanding of the water and energy flows on a property and give a different perspective than you get from the ground. Permaculture designs can be applied directly to the maps by hand or potentially designed right in ArcGIS although I haven’t learned all the features needed to do this yet.
**Update** I have a better tutorial for making a map here. You may still want to watch this video as there is a bit of information not covered in the second video.
**Update** In the video I mention that 1:6000 is the best detail on the topographic maps but 1:2000 actually provides better detail (1 meter elevation lines!) so even more detail than I originally thought which means it will be useful for even smaller properties!
This is the level of detail available. 1m contour lines.
Having maps like this will allow you to understand your land better and think about where roads, swales, trees, structures and ponds would be best located during the planning stage of your permaculture design. Of course, when the actual work is to be done a ground survey will be necessary.
There is a much wider variety of fruits and nuts available to the northern gardener than are commonly grown but you really have to hunt them down. Having more people work with these food producing trees and bushes will increase the odds of exceptionally suited selections of these plants being discovered. Many of the best fruit trees for northern gardens and farms were just stumbled upon in someones yard. The Evans Cherry is a good example of this as it was found in an old orchard in 1976 on a piece of land near Edmonton that was to be leveled for a federal jail. Up until that time the general consensus was that cherries couldn’t be grown on Alberta’s prairies. That tree had been there since at least 1923 just waiting to be rediscovered.
After recording the the first video on cold climate nurseries I came across several more nurseries worth mentioning and felt like another video was in order. I want to stress that ordering early in the year is important because nurseries often sell out come spring time. If you wait until planting time to order you may miss out on many varieties they carry or be past their designated shipping time frames.
Tree nurseries mentioned in this video:
In this video, I talk a little bit more about the construction of our tiny house pantry and briefly go through the groceries you’ll find in there. I also take a quick look at our bathroom shelves which were built using the same salvaged wood and construction methods.
Previous pantry video.
Something I forgot to mention in the following video is that mail order nurseries often sell out of much of their product months before they ship their trees out in the spring. In order to receive the specific product you’re looking for you’ll need to be placing your orders by January and February, otherwise the availability decreases quickly as spring approaches.
I Review the websites of several nurseries I have found online that have the best selection of trees for permaculture projects in cold climate zones. These nurseries have a wide assortment of trees, bushes and shrubs that are adapted to growing zones 2-5. Some of them are focused more on fruit and nut trees while a couple have a greater variety of support and wind break species.
The tree nurseries mentioned in this video:
We have been fairly happy with our Splendide washer/dryer combo and were even planning on doing a full review but decided to put that off until we were able to troubleshoot some issues we had come across. We had noticed that the dry times seemed to be taking longer than usual which made us suspect a possible lint blockage. Additionally, over the past week or two it has been shutting itself off and giving diagnostic codes during the dry cycles. We suspect that the lint blockage was caused by the type of exhaust flap we installed to keep the cold winter air from creeping into the house. Once we change the flap, we’ll be sure to follow up on whether or not the issue was completely resolved.
**Update** The washer/dryer does seem to be working normally now.
This video was taken part way through building our custom pantry. I built the pantry from the free cedar boards that you can watch me planing in the last video. Stay tuned for our follow up video where we’ll show you the final product.
Follow up video.
I managed to score some free cedar boards for the tiny house but they were a bit too rough to use as is. I discuss why I chose to buy a planer and show it in action!