Participant Forum: Permaculture?

The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!

Picture of Christopher Schmitt
The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Christopher Schmitt - Thursday, November 5, 2020, 6:38 PM

Hi everybody,

This week (for Week 2), my family and I sheared our Christmas trees and talked about our permaculture goals for our farm. One of our biggest concerns is, since we purchased this land as a former Christmas tree monoculture, we have been struggling for four years to figure out how to incorporate permaculture and sustainability while maintaining the habitat that already exists here; for instance, 4-to-6-foot spruces which are a primary habitat for particular nesting bird species. For years, we have wanted to intercrop by planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops such as clovers; also, we have researched insects such as ladybugs which can control the populations of aphids which threaten the health of these spruces. Easy, right?

The problem is, that, our number 1 Earth Care project and goal is that, "ecology comes first", and to be honest, my kids would be devastated at the possibility of cutting down a live tree (they actually have names for the trees and aspire to have Facebook profiles for all of the tree personalities--they call cutting down a live Christmas tree "tree murder" :) They know the trees and track the species of birds which call the trees home, so of course this already is a unique process, but unfortunately when nothing is done to influence the hefty portion of trees waiting out in the fields, then it will be like having to take care of 18,000 babies all at once!

We have been considering balling the trees for families to plant in their yard as part pf a family CSA in which the family engages in "family tree" activities throughout the year, and then gets their balled Christmas tree at the end of the year--however, the downside with this is the disturbance to the natural area, and the machinery that is necessary.

What are your thoughts? We would love to hear any creative ideas you would like to share!

Picture of Pamela Sonn
Re: The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Pamela Sonn - Thursday, November 5, 2020, 9:24 PM

Hello Chris (and Family),

Your tree project - and desire to not murder or necessarily ball up the trees - reminds me that I saw somewhere that a tree farm has an 'adopt a tree' program.  I'm searching around in my email newsletters to try to find it because I didn't read it thoroughly and now wish I had the information to give you the details!  Maybe it was through the Action in Agroforestry newsletter from the University of Missouri.  Basically, the sponsors paid a bit and received information about the tree but the tree stayed put.  Also, at one of those Permaculture Conference sessions I asked the farmer about carbon credits.  He said that New York State is working on legislation to make that a viable thing - so that tree farms or agroforestry in general could be activities that qualify to receive money for doing the good deed of sequestring carbon for the long term.  His recommendation was to keep records and endeavor to be able to show quantifiably to your best ability how one's tree farming practices were stockpiling carbon.  That way, when the legislation does pass, one has records to use in applying for those funds.

Happy Thursday,



Peggy Berk
Re: The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Peggy Berk - Thursday, November 5, 2020, 10:09 PM

Hi Chris,

I feel your dilemma.  I have about 6.5 acres of natural forest on my property in Catskill Park and while, on the one hand, I’d like to create a food forest and possibly bring in some small barnyard critters, I am loathe to clear any forest to make the room to do so and upset the natural order.

I will be very interested to see how you and your family resolve this.



Picture of Melinda Kelley
Re: The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Melinda Kelley - Thursday, November 5, 2020, 10:27 PM

Hi Chris,

It seems like if COVID weren't an issue, your forest might lend itself to some type of community holiday or winter-solstice-like activity...which would help with peoplecare goals but probably not address your site (and culling) needs.  Sorry that I don't have any suggestions for you along those lines!

My challenge with my personal goal-setting is that everything that I have in mind seems like a site goal.  Now I'm wondering if I'm not challenging myself enough personally - although if the goals are too personal and not site-related, are they really related to permaculture?

On a side note, I enjoyed the article on the myth of self-reliance.  It was reassuring that even if don't have a hugely productive site from the perspective of my family's diet (which is a given, considering our shade) I am at least making good decisions in terms of where I am sourcing other foods.  I can definitely do more but my addiction to farmer's markets seems to be a good start.  And as one last comment, I don't know when the article was written, but the fact that there was a comment about "those worried about an impending collapse of society" seemed eerily prescient (given what's been happening in our country in the past nine months) and was a good reminder to me that any little bit of self sufficiency helps.





Picture of Debbie Sexsmith
Re: The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Debbie Sexsmith - Friday, November 6, 2020, 9:37 AM

Hi Chris

I liked the goal setting too and really like the idea of it as a beginning that we will keep working on fine tuning. I was wondering if it might help to talk about how nothing really ends and how things just get transformed.  Are there things that the trees would be useful for on your farm?  Perhaps a bridge, a treehouse, a bird feeder, a bat house, a bees nest, signs, pathways, etc. Maybe they have higher purposes to fulfill ;)

Picture of Christopher Schmitt
Re: The Goals Setting Activity was Fun!
by Christopher Schmitt - Friday, November 6, 2020, 1:12 PM

Hi everybody again,

Thank you so much for your responses and ideas for our question on what to do with our 4-to-12 foot trees. What we hear people saying is that we could start an "Adopt a Tree" project, we could try having solstice trees that never come out of the ground, and to repurpose cut trees for all kinds of things--all fantastic ideas and thanks again! We are all sitting here brainstorming, and we are laughing about what we ourselves do each season, and how we wish there were some way to do the same thing with other families as part of a CSA offering...every year we thoroughly enjoy working with our trees, from planting new saplings around April (after the last upstate NY snow!) to observing them house the next generation of birds, to staking out the new saplings to make sure they do not get trampled, and carefully tamping down the goldenrod that smothers the young ones, to our massive shearing efforts in the early fall after the bird nesting has concluded (the kids call this "Marie Antoinette Days" for the selected few who have gotten 'ahead' of themselves :) ; and finally come winter solstice there are the decorations with bows and food ornaments, such as popcorn and peanut butter balls, apples and oranges, for an edible wildlife feast, all followed by setting up our own Christmas tree, which artificial 6-foot tree that we have been using every year since 1999! In other words, we refrain from even cutting down our own trees!

Here is an idea we are brainstorming: since we want to share this experience with other families without having to disturb the environment, we are thinking of providing a yearly CSA for families where they get to "adopt a tree" and get to know about their selected tree all year long, either in-person if they are close, or via the internet if otherwise. For those nearby, they could come to participate in the Winter Solstice tree decorating for the animals, as well as the shearing in the fall, etc. We could create a greenhouse with seedlings from our own trees, and the CSA family members could receive a sapling of their own to plant and become their family tree, which they now would have the correct knowledge to take care of, because of their educational experiences with the "older relatives" throughout the entire year!

And as for maintaining the 4-to-12 foot tree ecosystem, we are going to have to manage that area by culling some trees and planting some new ones, while using the timber and/or woodchips for projects.

Thank you so much again for your fantastic suggestions and helping us get our ideas together!

Chris and family