Food Forest in Fairview Heights, IL

foodforestThis year, Regenerative Landscaping teamed up with the volunteers at the Fairview Heights Community Garden at Edgemont Bible Church and Get Up and Go! to start a new food forest as a part of their strategy for expanding their community garden. It’s so exciting to see the transformation from resource-intensive grass to a productive landscape! A food forest is a low-maintenance ecosystem that incorporates the different layers of a forest (e.g. Canopy, Low Tree, Shrub, Herbaceous, Root, Ground Cover, and Vines) to produce food. At the right, you can see a diagram of the seven levels of a food forest.

11061772_369415259923232_6332861140967072430_nOn the left side of the page, here, you can see the basic plan for what we planted. The main fruit trees that will form the canopy of the food forest are Pear and Apple. We also added a row of Seaberry trees, because they fix nitrogen in the ground (much like beans) and they also produce berries that are a super fruit and contain carotenoids which give them their characteristic orange color (like carrots).

11263090_365624020302356_4459079423670519809_nAt the right of the page, you can see what the area looked like as we were getting started with planting. A grant from Get Up and Go! paid for the wonderful Pear and Apple trees.

11203171_370180856513339_6969712542558997615_nRegenerative Landscaping donated many other plants to fill in the food forest: the Seaberry trees, Naking cherry bushes, Comfrey, Blackberry bushes, and Sweet Potato plants.

11262453_370354556495969_6852638509832731410_nOn our first day, the volunteers did a great job of putting in most of the plants. We also mulched enough area around the plants to keep them growing well and minimizing competition with the existing grass.

11951776_402113539986737_3730557821657670746_nAs the summer progressed, we mulched the rest of the area inside the food forest.  Eventually, the goal is to shade out most of the ground cover. Until then, wood chips are the preferred choice for ground cover. We also planted four comfrey plants around each fruit tree as a green mulch. Comfrey is a dynamic mineral accumulator as well as a beneficial pollinator attractor. This means that, in addition to attracting pollinators to their fruit trees, it has a deep tap root, so it does not compete with the trees for nutrients but pulls nutrients from deep in the ground to make them available to the trees. They can be chopped and dropped up to eight times a year (pictured below) to create a thick mat of mulch at the base of the tree that provides food for the tree and keeps ground cover from growing and competing with the tree for nutrients and water.

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We hope that the Fairview Heights Community Garden’s first food forest will provide perennial food to garden members for many years to come!

Winterizing the Bees

Bees 2014Last week, we winterized our bees for their second winter. There are two main components that we we added to the hives to help them get through the winter.


The first is to add a level for sugar in the hives. This is at the top of the hive, so we would prefer that they go to their own stores before going to the sugar, and that is what it seemed like they did last year. There was plenty of sugar left in the hives this spring.

Hive Quilt

The Second component that we added to the hives is called a “hive quilt”. It is an level that has a burlap sack filled with wood chips hanging in it. During the year, as the bees keep the hive warm, it also stays moist. Normally, this warm, moist air rises to the top of the hive, condenses, and rains back down on the bees. (Not good during the winter) The hive quilt soaks up that moisture and acts as a humidifier without dripping on the bees.

Closing Bee Hive

The Shire

It’s been a while since I updated the blog. This has been a huge summer for us. We bought 16 acres in June! It’s the next step for us in this Regenerative journey. It’s been non-stop work almost every weekend to get things set up, because we are attempting to work with minimal infrastructure, mob grazing, and multiple species to manage the land. It’s easy to dump lots of money into land like this ($450 to mow the pasture!), so we’re taking it slow and finding natural solutions to management. There are lots of Bradford Pears sprouting everywhere, so we’re getting a couple goats to eat them. We picked up 6 sheep last weekend to eat the broad leaf plants in the pasture, and before that, we brought on a couple calves to eat the tall grass. We also moved out chickens to The Shire to scratch and spread the calves’ calling cards and sanitize the pasture. So far, the only failure is that we lost all three of our roosters to a raccoon.

We’re really excited about the changes (and lambs) coming. More updates coming soon!

To keep up on the day to day updates, you can go to The Shire’s Facebook Page.

Sheep on Pasture

How to Stretch a Pasture Raised Chicken (Serves 6)

How to Stretch a Pasture-Raised Chicken PDF

Meal 0

When you buy your chicken, it is important to also get the neck and the feet.

Meal 1Meal 1: De-breast chicken and use white meat in a meal such as chicken fried rice, pictured below.

Meal 2: Cut off thighs and legs and use dark meat in a meal, such as chicken salad, chicken burritos, or chicken pot pie.

Meal 3Meal 3: Make chicken stock/broth from the remaining parts (body, neck, and peeled feet). If boiled down long enough, this should produce 14-15 cups of chicken stock/broth. The leftover meat from the body and neck can be combined with the meat to make chicken noodle soup or for another meal

Meal 4-001

Meal 4: Use the remainder of the chicken stock/broth as the base for any other meal, such as Potato soup or in a pasta dish that cooks the pasta in the broth. You can also drink the broth straight.

Picking up the Nucs! (Bees 2015)

IMG_5877I picked up two nucs (nucleus hives) this afternoon to expand our apiary (bee yard). I loaded them both with some extra tag-alongs into my trunk (which is why I kept my bee suit on). If you want to get some weird look, just ride around in town with a bee suit on.

IMG_5880We started two hives last year, because we read that the survival rate for first year bee keepers is 50%. True to form, we lost one hive this spring. They were alive and flying some of the days in February, but they didn’t have enough stores to make it through the last cold snap at the beginning of March. It was the smaller hive that we picked up last May, so that makes sense. They also didn’t expand as much as the other hive throughout the year. IMG_5881The other hive is going strong. We opened them up today and saw lots of maturing brood, so their numbers should be growing a lot in the days to come. For that reason, we went ahead and added a honey super, so they have plenty of room to grow into. You can see that we added a queen excluder (about an inch wide) to the green hive, just above the third hive body, so that the queen won’t lay eggs in the top (fourth) box, and we can harvest honey from it this year! (very exciting!)

IMG_5882IMG_5884The nucs were driven from Florida yesterday, but they made it safe and sound. I prefer to buy bees raised locally which we did last year, but since my hive died so late in the winter, there weren’t any opportunities for that. It is extremely hard to find bees for sale as late as March. You really need to order bees in January. I also opted to buy nucs instead of bee packages to give them a head start. A bee package comes with a set weight of bees and a queen. They have to start from scratch, building out the comb before they can start laying eggs and expanding the hive. A nuc comes as a small hive, including frames with comb built out on them, eggs and brood, and some honey. As I unpacked the nucs, I checked each frame for the queen, just to put my mind at ease. I did see her in the second nuc but didn’t spot her in the first. I’m not too concerned, though, because there were lots of newly laid eggs in both.

IMG_5885We installed both nucs, then put some hive beetle traps. They fit in-between the frames and are filled with vegetable oil. The bees can’t fit through the holes of the trap, but they chase the hive beetles through them, where they drown in the oil.

IMG_5887It was a great day to install the bees. They took to the new hives, and we’ll be monitoring their progress with anticipation! Thanks to my Mom for all the help!

If you need help setting up a new hive, we can help on choosing hive placement, provide an equipment purchase list, and supply training and nuc/package installation assistance. Go to the Regenerative Landscaping Services Page for more info.

“Paradise Lot”

Do you live in the city and dream of owning a farm? You need to read “Paradise Lot”! This book changed the way I think about the home I live in and what is possible. Don’t let the farm you wish you owned stop you from fully utilizing the site you do own. Regenerative Landscaping can help you plan and prioritize projects to reach your greatest potential for where you are today! Fill out our Design Questionnaire to start the process.

Getting Ready for Spring!

I am so excited to be enrolled in the Geoff Lawton Permaculture Design Course this winter! This opportunity is giving me even more tools to help teach how to produce healthy food and do it in an enjoyable way. I am really looking forward to all the designs that Regenerative Landscaping will implement this spring!

RLFoodForestThat reminds me that I already have Seaberry and Naking Cherry bushes on order for this spring. I would like to start working with you on designing projects now, so we can order all the rest of the plants that are needed for a thriving/regenerative ecosystem. There are usually short windows that trees can be shipped during the spring, so contact me if you’re ready to start planning for this spring!

Here’s some inspiration for you!

“Restoration Agriculture” – Mark Shepard

20150108_154618 This Thursday, I had a great opportunity to go to the 6th Agroforestry Symposium, hosted by The Center for Agroforestry at Mizzou. There were many good speakers including a Land Owner’s Panel Discussion (see picture). They hosted the Agroforestry Field Day I attended back in October.


My main reason for going was to hear Mark Shepard speak and hopefully meet him. He wrote a great book named “Restoration Agriculture” that has inspired me in Regenerative Landscaping. I even have some trees on order from his farm in Wisconsin to try out for Regenerative Landscaping. I was excited to meet him and get a signed copy of his book. I hope to get a chance to implement some more of his big ideas on regenerative agriculture.


Psalm 1 – Tree Reference

Planting Garlic 2014

Today, we finally planted our garlic (about 250). We were about one week late, because we shoot for having garlic planted on Halloween. Planting is really a fast process: just make a row in the soil with a garden shovel and poke each clove in, right side up, spaced about 6-8″. I also space my rows about 6″ apart.