We, too, are victims of budget creep! It is always amazing how easily expenses add up, and our project is no exception. It is always difficult to guesstimate large projects, the unknown, or the wiggle factors that incorporate significant savings through upcycling and DIY projects.
In tracking our expenses from 2009 up to date, we could see how early expenses involved investing in plants, mulches, compost, etc. Unfortunately, since we are not able to take on the commitment of small livestock at this time, we do not have a readily available source of animal manure (nor other benefits to having animals), so these materials are currently purchased to supplement green manures. However, we can foresee animals in the future, at which time our primary expenses are not so much in plants and soils, but rather in energy-saving technologies that increase the sustainability factor while decreasing the environmental footprint.
Specific Activities and associated costs for each phase of the project are delineated in the attached pages.
Budget-Phase-1 – Permaculture Awareness; Investing in a Food Forest: Phase 1 (2009-2011) is characterized by 1) an early education on permaculture, its importance, and its potential, and 2) a considerable investment in infrastructure, plants, soil, mulch, and equipment to make it happen. It is hoped that future phases will have the key plants established, cuttings can be made to further propagate species, and that there will be a lesser need for buying soils and mulches.
Budget-Phase-2 – Bees, Scythes, Building Backyard Diversity, Education, Outreach: Phase 2 (2012-2014) is an emphasis on building the foundation. Primary expenses are in gaining more education, investing in tools, purchasing bees and building beekeeping equipment, investing in more plants and soils/mulch, doing more outreach, and diversifying income streams. Phase 2 involves filling in the understory, better defining the guilds, and integrating bees and other pollinators into the ecosystem. In 2014, far less money was invested in plants, seeds, soils, infrastructure, and equipment; however, more needed to be spent on labor to help get an overwhelming garden under better control! (Hard lesson in permaculture principle to start small & grow slowly!) A larger amount of funds went toward education expenses, including books, manuals, and tuition, and a key accomplishment will be in earning a Permaculture Design Certificate. More money was also devoted toward diversifying income streams and on marketing, outreach, and participation in a garden event, which proved not to be financially profitable, but was a good experience in communicating permaculture ideas, the potential behind backyard diversity, and the importance of beekeeping & growing plants to support pollinators.
Budget-Phase-3 – Optimizing Zones; Capturing Energy; Building Self-Sufficiency: In this phase (2015-2017), we see a shift from plants and soils to optimizing our systems through infrastructure improvements. New technologies and home renovations can be big-ticket items, so our plan is to improvise and do things ourselves as much as possible. The home, a small farmhouse built around 1900, has plenty of room for improvements! Solar energy technologies are coming down in price, but a grid-tied system can still cost approximately $10 K and will take many years to pay for itself, so this reality check influenced our decision to note it as an option. The dream plan includes a greenhouse, aquaponics, solar panels, solar rooms, rocket stoves, greywater re-use, and other projects as feasible. First priority, however, and a subject of growing concern, is figuring out how to best capture, conserve, and distribute water to where it is most needed.
Budget-Phase-4 – Amenities, Outreach, Evolution: Phase 4 (2018-2020) represents a maturing of the system, which will require less input from us and be more about the garden becoming self-sustaining. In this phase, we hope to add small livestock and be growing animal feeds along with our own mulch. Household renovations still represent the largest expenses, as well as building a gathering place for workshops and family gatherings. We hope during this phase to flesh out diversified income streams through our endeavors, and it will be fun to see how much our efforts and lifestyle changes can reduce our environmental footprint. A big part of this phase will be doing more outreach activities and helping others set up diversified backyard systems that support both pollinators and their own needs, while enhancing a part of our planet for future generations.
Budget summary for years 2009-2020: