Come Help Build a Permaculture Demonstration Site at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre!

Come Help Build a Permaculture Demonstration Site at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre!

After purchasing the former Clearwater School, members of the Harvest Moon Society began to brainstorm about how to use the school building and yard as a place for community to gather and share knowledge about sustainable agriculture. The vision of the site remaining a place of learning has guided the Harvest Moon Society to transform the schoolyard of the Harvest Moon Learning Centre into a permaculture demonstration site. Perma-what? Permaculture is a practical way of designing sustainability into human and agricultural spaces. By using space efficiently and working with the environment, we can grow a bountiful garden that uses closed-loop systems to build healthy soil in a sustainable way. This site will be used for training and workshops in permaculture design. With the help of all the rural and urban workers at the Work Bee this transformation got underway and will continue June 17-19 at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre for a planting Work Bee. Take a peek at some of the exciting projects at the permaculture demonstration site…

Once the permitting process is complete, a greenhouse will be constructed along the back of the school. This will provide space and a nurturing environment for seedlings before they are planted outside. These seedlings will be destined for one of two gardens. The Community Garden will be accessible to community members and visitors to the Learning Centre and be watered by a rainwater catchment system that will be built as a part of a workshop this summer.

The second garden has been called the Secret Garden, but will not remain a secret for long! With a “Chicken Moat” around the perimeter, the Secret Garden is protected from deer by the double fence that serves as a home for the laying chickens. The chickens provide manure that is high in essential elements for healthy soil and also eat up insects and veggie scraps, loosen up the soil with their pecking, and lay eggs. But that is just the moat…wait till you step inside the Secret Garden…Straw-covered paths throughout the Secret Garden will take you through attractive perennial beds to a Three Sisters garden intercrops corn, beans and squash. First Nations across North America recognize the beneficial relationships between these crops: the three sisters create a community in which each plant is beneficial to the others. The corn tall in the centre of each mound, the squash sprawls around the corn preventing the growth of weeds and the beans climb up the corn while fixing nitrogen to the soil. This tradition of companion planting provides us with a healthy harvest while building the soil for years to come.

Behind the Three Sisters will be a guilded orchard. Fruit-bearing trees not only provide refreshing fruits, but also shade for smaller plants to grow beneath them. Plants and trees can benefit from each other by attracting or deterring insects or animals and by taking in different nutrients at different times. Because of differing root systems, fruit guilds allow for more intensive planting so that the smaller plants and the fruit trees don’t compete with each other but rather co-operate and also provide fruit for us to eat.

A permaculture garden would not be complete without uniquely shaped garden beds. The middle of the Secret Garden is a veggie bed shaped life a leaf with the veins as pathways so gardeners can easily reach all of the beds. In the fall, you can expect a wide array of veggies: arugula, beets, carrots, cucumber, kale, lettuce, peas and so much more. Enjoy seasonally all summer and watch for canning workshops this fall!

Beside the Leaf is a raspberry patch and a Herb Spiral. The Herb Spiral is a mound one meter high that maximizes the use of space while creating microclimates so that the herbs can all enjoy their favourite environments. Rosemary enjoys the sun on top. Chives get more moisture lower down, and thyme and oregano get the both shade and sun on the west and east sides. The fruits, veggies and herbs of the Secret Garden will be used in workshops at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre and provide healthy local ingredients for meals and edible merchandise at the Harvest Moon Festival and other events.

Walking down the hill from the Secret Garden, you will find the lunar garlic patch. The moon’s gravitational pull is linked to the tides and, even through we are in the middle of the continent, the level of water in the soil. We can use the phases of the moon to determine the best times for planting and harvesting. The garlic will be rotated through three well-drained beds and after it is cured in the fall it will be enjoyed throughout the winter. Look for garlic for sale at the Harvest Moon Festival Septemer 16-19!

At the bottom of the permaculture demonstration centre is the Prairie Restoration site. This section of garden beds nestled around the Willa Villa cabin and the sweat lodge will be home to a wide variety of plants that are native to prairielands but have largely been outcompeted by other species. Species of grass, such as Little Bluestem, will be seeded along with Purple Prairie Clover and Black-Eyed Susan. Plants that have a variety of medicinal uses will be planted in a Medicinal Spiral while woody perennials will form a deer fence and surround a bog of wetland plants.

This transformation from fields of grass to garden beds involves a lot of work! As a part of the Harvest Moon Society’s commitment to building relationships between urban and rural communities, a Work Bee weekend in mid-May brought 30 new and seasoned Mooners together to get these projects started. The amount of work accomplished and sense of co-operation was reminiscent of a barn raising. The Work Bee was an opportunity for Winnipeggers to visit Clearwater and hike the Lessons from the Land Trail. Days of hard work were concluded with by gathering round a campfire to chat and sing along with some talented musicians.

The last Work Bee was so much fun, we just had to do it again! Friday June 17 to Sunday June 19, come on down to the Harvest Moon Learning Centre in Clearwater to continue to work on these numerous exciting projects. If you are interested in participating, check out the Facebook event HMS Work Bee Weekend for more details and to figure out car-pooling. Camping available and all meals potluck style. This is a great chance to learn about the Harvest Moon Society and be a part of the development of Manitoba’s first Permaculture Design Site! All are welcome! Hope to see you there!

Click for more info about the Harvest Moon Society!

Written by Laura Husak. Laura is a research assistant working on a research project exploring local food, food sovereignty and rural adaptation. She enjoys spending time at the Harvest Moon Learning Centre in Clearwater, Manitoba.

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