Permaculture tour at the Bullock Homestead

On Tuesday, August 17th, the 4 kids and I joined several others in my Permaculture Design Class to tour the Bullock’s homestead on Orcas Island.  We left early to catch the ferry from Anacortes and came home late, but there were enough “rests” during the day that it all came at a reasonable pace.  (What else can you do when waiting at the ferry dock but pick blackberries and take a snooze?)

The Bullock homestead & nursery has been there for 30 years, and it is an excellent example of a “mature” permaculture system.  The main area of the homestead is densely packed as a perennial “food forest”.   The 3 hour tour started at 1 PM, and I could tell that we were just getting a taste of the thought, detail and purpose that was behind everything there. 

Everything is carefully laid out, with all the details around fertility, water and waste flows thoroughly worked through. 

Sea Buckthorn is a heavily fruiting shrub that enriches the soil while producing sweet & healthful berries

The Sea Buckthorn is one of my favorites because it illustrates the beauty of a multi-purpose plant.  There were several examples there of this leguminous bush, and they were loaded down with sweet yellow berries.  The fruit contains every vitamin in the book, and it enriches the soil as well!  This is one that I’m going to add to our collection at home next spring. 

Abigail especially liked the Cornelian Cherry.  These smallish fruits were sweet with a touch of tartness that grow on a lovely tree.  It’s a member of the dogwood family and has very dense wood that sinks in water.  I’m looking forward to having one of these around too!

Abigail really enjoyed the Cornelian Cherry

The homestead’s main production focuses on vegetables, fruits, & nuts.  They’ve got garden plots with traditional vegetables, but I was most impressed with how they were growing burdock.  Doug Bullock emphasized that this was one of their best winter vegetables.  It’s delicious and keeps very well until the root is harvested in the winter of its second year.  I especially liked how they were growing it in open bottomed barrels filled with sandy soil.  To harvest these, they tip over the barrel and pull out the long roots.  I can see that it’s a whole lot easier to harvest out of barrels than it is to try to dig one of these up!  Doug also explained that they grow long and straight in sandy soil.  When they used rich soil in the barrels the roots split and spread out making it difficult to harvest them.

Doug Bullock explains how they grow burdock in open bottomed barrels

The day was very enjoyable, and I came away with the confidence that Kathy and I are taking our farming in the right direction.   It all comes as one step at a time.

Linked with the Simple Lives Thursday – September 2 Blog Hop.

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