Wildside will always be a work-in-progress. New, low-energy, approaches to the good life will be thought up. There will be new food and materials crops to try out and there will be new understandings of the complex natural world to explore and integrate into our evolving way of life.
There are several specific projects we hope to complete in the next three to five years, as budgets allow. Completing some or all of these projects can make the difference between Wildside as a good teaching platform, and one that is truly excellent. They include:
Wildside cottage was built to be wheelchair-accessible, with three sturdy moveable ramps in the three places where there is a step, a wide hallway, a single pocket door and a roll-in shower.
Not so the gardens. Among the visitors coming to Wildside, some need better steps down the slopes, smoother paths — or even the ability to ride around to see the various gardens, perhaps in a solar-powered golf cart or a donkey cart. Regrading and creating easier access all around is a longer-term priority.
Wildside’s 240 square foot greenhouse is unheated, yet has proved a reliable source of winter spinach varieties from February through April — even when the inside temperature has gone below freezing. We now have two fig trees planted inside, which produce well in August and September. We begin rice starts inside in April, and alternate between tomatoes and sweet potatoes in the raised bed. More experiments to follow!
A 5-foot ‘living fence’ has been planted around the large storage garden, to keep deer out. Another experiment! A diversity of thick, shrubby plantings will grow outside of the metal wire fence to create a confusing vegetative moat whose depth deer will have difficulty judging. These could be augmented by plants whose scent deer find offensive, like mint and garlic. Vines growing on the fencing, primarily schizandra berry (Schisandra chinensis), are also a source of vitamin-rich juices for human consumption.
Hedging against the real possibility that European honey bees will continue to struggle and disappear, we are deliberately expanding habitat and three-season food sources available at Wildside for our region’s 400 or so native pollinators. Many are tiny insects in need of specific habitats, and are also unable to fly far to find food sources — yet they may be essential to our own food production in the future. Pollinator meadows and gardens are planned in several areas of the land.
We would like to finish creating an indoor space for practicing and teaching food preservation with a large work table, folding chairs or benches, a water source and a two-burner electric stove for lacto-fermentation and canning and an oven for drying. A native American method for providing winter squash with a dry space that doesn’t go below freezing may be tried out by digging storage holes below the frost line, directly into the barn floor.
Study and Assessment of the Natural Environment
Not a day goes by but we are made keenly aware of what we don’t know about Wildside’s natural environment…even after many years of living here!
If we can document Wildside’s geological and natural history, including the succession of plants and animals after the last ice age and since 1491 to include the impact of early European presence on this eight-acre patch of land, we will have created an invaluable teaching tool. A map of today’s several distinctive soil types will tell an important part of the story, plus an inventory of the wild flora and fauna with whom we share the land today. To know Wildside in depth in this way will allow us to understand as completely as possible the nature of its complex web of life as it is now, and to appreciate the impact of the changing climate in future years.
To accomplish this well will require brief engagements, at a minimum, of a geologist, an historian, several kinds of conservationists and scientists.
The Donkey Project
Donkeys — and there should be two — could add a great deal to Wildside. They would allow better quality control of the compost used on our food crops — today, although we buy ‘organic’, we can never be sure, for instance, if animals producing the compost are truly free of antibiotics. Also, importantly, donkeys can be trained to haul light loads and pull a small three-seated wagon, which can give animal contact and rides to children, and better mobilty to the handicapped and older adults.
For now, Wildside’s donkeys are imaginary. The scruffy pair in the photo are neighbors.