Introducing Tenalach Farms

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    • #2047 Reply

      We’re very excited to participate in this adventure venture. Tenalach Farms is a work in progress, a permaculture homestead, diversified small farm, nursery, craft shop and educational center. Melisa Ellis is a native Michigander who grew up on the eastern side of the state. Peter Ellis is a native of nowhere, really, having moved around so much growing up that he’s not really “from” anywhere more specific than “the United States”. The name Tenalach was chosen for our home partly from a false internet meme, where the word is defined as gaelic for “the place where the land sings to your soul”. Romantic and beautiful, but it isn’t true. The word means “hearth”. And that works just fine. Our not yet finalized logo includes the phrase “Hearth to hearth” with the final h in a different color than the other text, urging the reader to see “heart to heart” and then “hearth to hearth”. The intent and meaning of both is our goal in all we do.
      Peter is building our house, a roundwood timberframe with straw bale infill, PAHS, attached greenhouse, with a total enclosed area of about 1600 square feet. Each of us will have our own studio/workshop. The frame for Peter’s shop is up, with a reciprocal roof frame and temporarily enclosed with a large billboard tarp.

      The site is twenty wooded acres in southwest Michigan, roughly an hour’s drive from Mike and Kim at Lillie House. About two acres of the site are elevated and don’t tend toward vernal ponds, while the remainder is low lying land with an extremely high water table that often is above the ground’s surface. Located within the Allegan State Forest, the site backs directly onto the Bravo Wildlife Refuge. Peter has cleared an area in the woods that will be developed as our primary teaching space.

      Our design involves digging a couple of ponds, a shallow one at the foot of an eastern slope below the house, that will serve as a reflecting pond to amplify the solar energy reaching the house and to provide a microclimate for the primary garden areas, which will be along the slope above the pond and surrounding the pond. A deeper and overall larger pond will be in the woods near the eastern property line. We hope to be able to lower the excessively high water table enough to let the trees of the forest grow better root systems, not running into anaerobic conditions mere inches below the surface. The woodland pond will create a large edge zone of a complex nature that should encourage a terrific diversity of life.
      We also have an area on the site where several straight line channels were dug, probably about a hundred years ago, presumably in an attempt tp drain some of the water. These channels lead into what once was a county drain (it’s marked as such on one map that I have found) along the line with the wildlife refuge. We envision experimenting with waru waru in this area, since the channels are there already 😉

      Building the house has proven to be a much slower process than we had hoped. The timbers involved are massive, the task of moving them around without machinery daunting, and Peter is largely working alone, while Melisa has an off site job providing our income at this time. Peter also retired at 60 and is pushing 65 now, so there are some limits on what one old man really ought to be doing by himself 😉

      Melisa is studying Ayurveda, has interests in herbalism, is an excellent cook and describes her hobby as “string”. She knits, crochets, sews, spins a bit – if it involves string 😉
      Peter has his PDC from Matt Powers, interests in natural building techniques, rocket stoves, green woodworking.

      We’re currently raising rabbits, chickens and ducks. Plans for the future include adding geese (the hatchery cancelled our order this year!) possibly goats and pigs, although we would need to do both of these on a very controlled small scale. Our site is fortunate in that we’re a pretty stable native ecosystem, and introducing goats, pigs, or both on too large a scale would disrupt that balance.
      So far our gardening efforts have not gone well. It dawned on Peter this year that trying to grow annual plant varieties in a forest soil was asking for failure 😉 We are hopeful that some of the area cleared in the course of gathering materials for building the house, and intended to become our intensive garden area, will be shifted more toward a bacteria dominated soil, both simply by being cleared and by moving our rabbits and poultry over the area, introducing lots of bacterial activity.

    • #2048 Reply
      Michael Hoag

      Thanks for being the first one to introduce yourself! Welcome!

      Just trying to help out around the village

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