Wow what a busy month July has turned out to be for us here at Paca Pride! Our first official year in business has seen every weekend, and a number of weekdays, booked with guests or events. That bodes well for generating buzz about what we are doing here to establish a homestead campground on land that was logged by the previous owners. They left us the stumps, logging debris, and 10 years of overgrowth to contend with on land that was fit for a quarry to mine gravel.
That was then, and now, 5 years later into our project, we are seeing some great strides in establishing a “Permaculture” working with the abundance that nature provides. Our first challenge, and the one still most prevalent, is that of establishing good, healthy soils, or tilth, that will serve as a base for a veritable food forest in the future. As human cultivators, playing our role, we are managing the stages of a forest to remain in an alpine meadow, providing plenty of forage for our herd of llamas and alpacas to graze. But in this land of glacial till, rocks and gravel rule the day. So, first up is simply letting our grasses grow and not mowing them into a lawn. This introduces more organic matter to the topsoil, allows the grasses to re-seed themselves, and, since we also allow nature’s nutrient accumulators to grow amongst the grasses, pull up vital minerals from the the ground for future growing seasons. Our weeds work for us rather than seen as public enemy number one!
Dandelions accumulate lots of good stuff in their leaves, along with plantains and other opportunistic plants that nature sends to work on bare patches of soil. Introducing white clover to the mix starts helping to fix some nitrogen to feed grasses and other forbs. Soon, shrubs and deciduous trees will take hold and we’ll be watching the landscape take shape.
Right now, our front yard is a glorious meadow replete with plenty of wild flowers among the flowering grasses. We step in to control only those plants that need control, namely blackberries and bracken fern. We think we’ve won the first round of stepping those thorny shrubs back to the edges where they help control wildlife and provide additional habitat, but only time will tell if our plans will bear other fruits.
Our herd provides plenty of great manure for our compost bin and then its off to the garden and landscape beds that are beginning to see themselves populated with edible landscaping plants like oregano bushes and day lilies. We even let portions of their manure remain behind to help fertilize the pastures and ret urn some of that nutrition to the grasses for future foraging. The chicken tractor helps speed this along as our poultry birds help rake out the manure and control flies and bugs.
Speaking of our herd, since July is our official start to summer out here in the Cascades, they were all due for a shearing haircut to remove that weighty prize of fleece and let them be more comfortable in the heat of the season. Mid-July saw the entire herd shorn as we harvested the fiber for processing at the fiber mill and for sending into our fiber cooperative to make our famous alpaca socks we sell.
As a homestead with a bent towards permaculture, everything figures into the sustainable picture, so even our chickens are allowed to free range and perform their bug control duties while providing us with fresh eggs. Our garden has to consider this roving brigade and so we use a row covering method that allows easy access to our raised beds yet keeps the scratching and pecking birds from turning the garden’s bounty into chicken feed before it reaches our table. (Alas, they did get to our strawberry patch this year as I wasn’t paying to close attention, so chalk up a point to the flock!)
Our days have been busy with much passer-by traffic popping in to curiously explore this new offering along the Mountain Loop Highway. Luckily, our calendar is also seeing a steady upward trend in the number of bookings we are getting as well. This month of July had a touchstone moment as we hosted our first weekend Yoga retreat to great success. Group retreats and events seem to be taking center stage as we are the perfect spot for a family reunion, corporate retreat, or a gathering of yoga enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty of this sacred space we are creating in the mountains.