The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Permaculture zone 0

Grape shade trellis

Technically, permaculture zone 0 refers to your house (or, in our case, our trailer). But I also like to include anything that touches the house in that zone.

Eleven years ago, when we first started homesteading, I was so excited to try out orchards and livestock and other features of zone two and beyond that I put off paying much attention to zone 0. However, as we've slowly filled in our zone 0 over the last few years, I realized that this zone is really the most important region because we spend most of our time here and get the largest influx of energy from the features of this zone.

Herb garden

To that end, after our move, I'm designating the rest of this summer, fall, and winter time for zone 0. We'll be replicating some of our favorite aspects of this trailer's zone 0 --- porches for summer living, small rain barrels for easy outside water, grapes for summer shade, herb beds and (maybe) a cold frame around the perimeter, plus a mushroom-log station on the north side.

Greywater wetland

And, as I make this list, I can see there's more to zone 0 than will fit into a few short months. As we have time, we'll likely also add a graywater system for the kitchen and laundry areas to take the load off the expensive septic system we're having built. And we may also retrofit windows to make a south-facing, passive-solar wall...or instead do a little sunroom add-on to give me a winter-gardening fix while also adding heat to the home. Finally, we're bringing along our wood stoves and will need to retrofit whatever trailer we buy to accommodate them.

That sounds like a lot, but we'll likely hire out the bigger projects (porches) and take the smaller ones a bit at a time. Regardless, I'm going to try hard to rein in my larger dreams this time around so we don't do much else before zone 0 is done. Well, except the vegetable garden. Gotta have my garden even if that is solidly in zone 1....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I think having some blueberry bushes near your front porch, or around the herb garden, is great. Having some perennial bushes that birds like, or some kind of berries, besides an area for milkweed and wild flowers, gives so much happiness!

I know chickadees and finches like pine trees. But I've also noted that you can hang seed for finches in any bush. All this, in spite of your cats...!

Comment by adrianne Mon Jul 31 11:55:30 2017

A few questions for you today. It sounds like you have a fix on a specific property based on your comment about having a septic system installed--is that the case?? Also, you mentioned you'll have a new trailer. Didn't find a house with land? Can you tell me more about your decision to use septic instead of going with the humanure/composting toilet like you currently have?

Comment by Jennifer Mon Jul 31 17:13:36 2017

Jennifer --- Excellent questions! To answer your first one --- we can't talk about it yet but we'll tell you soon. :-)

The composting toilet/septic decision was a tough one. Especially since the latter are crazy expensive in Ohio --- at least $7,000! However, Mark wants to work toward having an AirBnB at the other end of our property, and I doubt visitors would be keen on a composting toilet. So we're biting the bullet and going conventional. Maybe this is the time to pin him down to being the one to clean the toilets? :-)

Comment by anna Mon Jul 31 17:44:36 2017
No reason you can't have a conventional toilet and a composting toilet. A nice gaily painted little outhouse in the corner of the garden, surrounded by hollyhocks... Then you won't have to track dirt into the house if you feel the urge while gardening.
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Jul 31 21:43:12 2017

My folks always routed the discharge of the washing machine in to the garden to keep that discharge out of the septic system. Had they lived there longer (built in '73, moved in '87 downsizing)they may have done a greywater system.

However, in the winter months, it would have all needed to be routed in to the septic system below ground, as that zone is often 30-60 days with sub freezing temps, and one would have had to deal with frozen hoses and a big grey ice slick where it discharged!

In central MN where I grew up it is lake and farm country, and the lakes/wetlands are a big part of the ecosystem, as well as the tourism economy. They are in cases more concerned with your septic system than the type of roof you have when you do rural construction!

We had both a conventional septic system, and later dad built a composting outhouse down by the garden.

When they built the new, earth bermed one bedroom place in 1987, they also built a guest cabin virtually next door. They incorporated a composting outhouse in to the entry.

You can see it in this walk around video of the place.

Comment by Eric Tue Aug 1 22:57:47 2017

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