Our Chestnut Hill Research Site is home to many exciting innovative projects. We have been creating a holistic chestnut-based forest garden, establishing fiber plant and natural dye gardens, and experimenting with forestry practices that incorporate a diversity of mast-producing nut trees into canopy gaps of the rich mixed-mesophytic southern Appalachian woods. We are creating working models on the homestead scale to demonstrate that all our needs (fiber, fuel, food, fodder, farmacueticals, etc…) can be met from our home land-base if we are truly willing to become inhabitants of our bio-region and commune with the life around us.
Through our Re-wilding Wildlife Forestry program we are using coppice agroforestry and biomass harvesting techniques with a variety of Appalachian native trees (Black Locust, Tulip Poplar, Black Birch, Staghorn Sumac, Sassafras, Oaks, Hickories, etc…), as well as non-natives (Tree of Heaven), to manage canopy gaps that are interplanted with mast producing trees (Chestnut hybrids, Hickories, Pecans, Burr Oaks) and other native edibles (Hazelnuts and Paw Paws).
Through these integrated plots we are planting future wildlife and human food crops in the forest; harvesting materials for structures, baskets and on-site winter tree guards; wild-crafting food and medicine; collecting fuel for rocket cook stoves and mass heaters; and harvesting and processing bio-mass for soil building on contour.
In our Chestnut-based Staple Food Forest Garden we are using permaculture and holistic orcharding techniques to grow various Chinese chestnut cultivars and hybrids. Each individual chestnut in our orchard is a nucleus for a different guild or companion planting method. Some involve perennial nurse trees and shrubs on coppice rotations; others are planted with various herbs, nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators; and others are intercropped with annual staple foods.
Part of our gardens are dedicated to creating a Natural Dye and Fiber Plant Garden space. Through wild-crafting from the abundance of native Appalachian plants and cultivating other plants from other parts of the world we are growing and coloring our own natural fibers. Much of these plants are integrated into a forest garden site that is planted with soil-builders, berry shrubs, pollinator gardens, and medicinal herbs. Some of our dye plants include: Goldenrod, Black-eye Susan, Queen Anne ‘s Lace, Staghorn Sumac, Woad, Apple, Prunus species, Madder, Dyer’s Chammomile, Maples, and Comfrey. Some of our fiber plants include: Nettles, Milkweed, Flax, Cotton, Hickory, Basswood, and Bamboo.
These projects are just the beginning of the Chestnut Hill Agroforestry and Forest Gardening madness! Throughout the rest of 2012 and into 2013 we are implementing the following projects:
1. Edible Insect Farming (Mealworms)
2. Agroforestry Silvopasture Systems
3. Extensive Pollinator Support Gardens
4. Chinese Herbs and Native Adaptogens integrated into Mast Producing Forestry Plots