Blog Archive

Maine Highlands Forest-Garden

Saturday, January 20, 2007



1) Start with a soil test in spots around the varied terrains of the land.
2) Create a landscape design.
3) Bring many loads of materials for composting to the site and immediately commence sheet composting in open flat pasture, if any available.
-Within two to three months, the sheet-composted areas will be ready to plant as seedbeds, which would be in time for a fall garden of leafy deep green vegetables, mesclun and salad greens, herbs and perennials.
4) Build a series of compost bins and assemble materials for heap composting. (A water source is needed for this project.) In 12 weeks, with three turnings, the first batch will be ready for use. A new batch can be started every three weeks in the series of bins, so that, for the entire season we potentially can make 8 to 12 batches before the winter stops us. This would be a huge source of fertilizer for all our growing beds and shrub hedges and, in particular, for the holes we dig in the fall for spring planting of fruit and nut trees from FEDCO.
5) As soon as the ground is sufficiently dry, we can create water catchment systems that are both above and below ground. These will immediately create areas available for sheet composting in any terrain that requires terracing. The open water areas will immediately attract water-loving insects, plants, microbes, amphibians, birds...
6) Create a parking lot and begin sheet-composting around its perimeters in preparation for the planting of flowering hedges, the beginning of our public park area.
7) Hand-dig a small area that is fertilized with manure and azomite to become a nursery for bench-grafted fruit tree seedlings, kiwi and grape vines, nut-producing trees and shrubs. Portable fence cages could be constructed to place over these nursery beds of small woody plants. Winter protection would be added later. This nursery would be mulched and kept weed-free and carefully monitored for problems such as apple borer.
8) Forest-Garden volunteers will attend the March programs at MOFGA that enable us to do bench-grafting with the expert help of John Bunker and Mark Fulford and other FEDCO and MOFGA personnel.
9) Obtain American Elm seedlings and plant on the edge of the natural wetlands down the hill (if we have any).
10) Plant 25 back-crossed American Chestnuts that we order from the American Chestnut Cooperatives Association. These should be situated near infected sprouts that are naturally growing in the woods. (See details of their volunteer test plot program in which we will be participants.)
11) Plant white oak and red oak acorns in the upland areas where nurse trees are present. These seeds are often available at the MOFGA Scionwood Exchange.
12) Erect arbors and plant grapes, roses and flowering vines beneath to be fertilized with compost later in the season as each species dictates.
13) If we can obtain some free plants, start getting blueberries and other berry plants in the ground, deeply mulched, ahead of the 2008 Spring order.
14) With grant money or donations, build or install a wooden tool shed and purchase equipment and hand tools of all sizes and teach the care, maintenance and use of these tools to work crew members, especially children.
15) With the same resource money, place a screened-in gazebo and some park benches for the comfort of the public.
16) Build a composting toilet which can be done quite cheaply with the specifications from Gap Mountain Permaculture 'The Cold Climate Mouldering Toilet'...The base of this toilet is a concrete enclosure that must be emptied every 6 months and does not leach into nearby areas.
17) Erect a beautiful sign near the entrance to the parking area with an area below that has a large space for the posting of demonstrations of the day with their scheduled times. This should be on both sides for passersby to see.
18) Get in place all educational programs that involve young children, especially those that are already organized by community members, such as Wildlife Tracking and other nature studies programs and FEDCO's Seed-Saving program for children.
19) Select a site for private family plots and begin landscaping and sheet composting to create a bedding system that will be ready for use in the Fall or the next Spring. This component will need to be researched before beginning, as there are many excellent examples around the country.

This garden will be in a separate section from the demonstration Forest-Garden.

All of this work in the first year will be small-scale. Many of the participants are experienced gardeners who know how much is feasible to take on. One of the beauties of human-scale food crop production is that every shovel turn is work and time, so we are forced to go slowly and consider every step. Sheet composting opens up large swaths, but only after a careful placing and layering by hand, a forkful or shovelful at a time.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Letter of Introduction

December 27, 2006
Greetings to Community Members
of the Maine Highlands Region

- This is a Letter of Introduction to our Maine Highlands Community Organic Forest-Garden, located in the Piscataquis County seat of Dover-Foxcroft.
- The Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Sangerville and Dover-Foxcroft is organizing a multi-faceted volunteer organization based on the principles of social justice, deep ecology and sustainable living for the benefit of all our citizenry.

We wish to establish on one site:
--a community garden following the tenets of organic gardening
--a demonstration garden that teaches the practices of permaculture, vegan farming and natural farming
--a public park amidst these gardens
--extensive nature trails in the surrounding meadows, woods and wetlands for self-guided tours and nature-study classes on non-motorized paths that eventually will lead into the center of town.

We are asking for your ideas and expertise, your labor and your enthusiasm, or simply your curiosity. Please join us for our first Public Meetings at:
on the corner of Rte. 23 (Main Street in Sangerville) and Church Street
- on: TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007
at 6PM on each of these dates.

At these meetings, we hope to form a voluntary Board of Coordinators, organize a focus group for public presentations next spring on the book Gaia's Garden, and begin to assign project managers for the next growing season. You may go to our blog for details and for making comments and asking questions at; Or you may call or email, see below...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Unitarian Universalist Church
Of Sangerville and Dover-Foxcroft
P O Box 9 Sangerville ME 04479-0009

Date: November 6, 2006

To: Jack Clukey and the Board of Selectmen of Dover-Foxcroft

From: The Social Justice Committee, Unitarian Universalist Church of Sangerville & Dover-Foxcroft

Re: Request for land use/public space to establish a permanent site for an organic community garden/demonstration garden and park at Snow's Pond on Greeley's Landing Road, so far being called 'The Maine Highlands Community Organic Forest-Garden'

The Site
According to the maps in Town Hall, it appears that the public holding at Snow's Pond includes a field that meets Greeley's Landing Road. We would like to have the entrance to the garden near the berm of the dam where the snowmobile club building is and where parking is available and use the open ground and field for the garden. We would also like to utilize the trails near and around the pond in the wooded and swampy areas for nature study events for school groups and the public.

The Goal

Our primary purpose is to join social justice, deep ecology and sustainable living for our community through hands-on projects and educational programs to benefit all those who participate in our region of Maine. By means of this effort, we hope to do our part in establishing and maintaining a new culture of regional self-reliance that is congruent with a deep regard for our bio-regional natural landscape that sustains us all, with an eye to the future for our great-grandchildren and beyond.

Our Priorities

We will emphasize human-scale food production without the aid of pesticides, commercial fertilizers, tilling machines, or any other expensive gimmickry that masks our direct link with the life and health of soil, water, air and our non-human brethren.

There are very new and exciting, in fact, paradigm-shifting methodologies in ecological farming currently that behooves us to demonstrate and practice them here and now in order to allow all people access to this knowledge. These include; 1)small-scale and low-labor staple crop production (such as naked-seed oats, naked-seed pumpkins, edible fresh soybeans and other cold-weather legumes, tree, shrub and vine crops); 2)vegan composting for a complete on-site fertilizer that does not require animal manures; 3)seven-story forest-gardening to extend seasons, defeat plant pests, increase biodiversity, establish a self-sustaining 'climax forest' garden while minimizing soil disturbance 4)rainwater harvesting systems for drought- and flood-proofing of our food crops; 5)and other natural farming methods that minimize labor and imitate nature to sustain a highly alive and fertile soil structure- methods that represent the very opposite of the popular agricultural approaches of the past 100 years.

All of these principles can be elegantly demonstrated and applied in our community garden with any combination of people and hand tools, utilizing ancient ideas reclaimed and brand new concepts generated from scientific and empirical practitioners right here in our own state of Maine. There are dozens, even perhaps hundreds, of people nearby with deep knowledge of cultivars and cultivation, who, upon the asking, would pitch in on the community level to popularize these solutions to local food needs. The community garden effort is only to organize this remarkable human resource at hand.

We will also have a large area available for individual plots for those who wish to have their own private growing space, such as are available in conventional community gardens. Furthermore, some bed space will be committed each growing season to the Unitarian-Universalist Food Cupboard and the Living Word Food Pantry. This could be something that could be handled by small groups of young pupils, perhaps, or any other organized group interested in a community service project.

In late spring, we could have American Chestnut Weekend for planting at the garden and sending home seedlings to participants. In the summer, we could have invasive species extirpation days, when a group could eliminate take-over species from our woodlands and wetlands, such as Japanese knotweed, barberry, exotic honeysuckles, phragmites, loosestrife, etc., in order to allow the beneficial native species that feed and shelter wildlife to continue to provide for those essential members of our Northern New England landscape communities.

Immediately, we can organize stargazing events at the site, as we have discovered Snow's Pond to be the darkest open sky within walking distance of town, especially if we can arrange with the snowmobile club to turn off its streetlamp on clear nights! The first star party--new moon, just prior to Thanksgiving, Monday, November 20th, 6pm!?

We would like to create living hedges and wildlife corridors around the community garden to discourage deer and other foragers and to demonstrate the value of plants over electric and hardware fencing.

Eventually, we would want to develop a small nursery and seedling operation for the gardeners, especially the children, to take home and nurture in their own yards and fields, along with a sack of compost they helped to make in the community garden, so as to get their plants off to a good start. We would like to keep records of who takes what home and help them along with a 'buddy expert' as the seasons pass to assure success and establish a long-term discipline and association between the grower and his/her orchard and forest-garden plants. This would be particularly important for those species that are part of a broader plan to bring them back from the brink, such as American chestnuts. This is also true for heirloom food crops that the National Seedsavers Exchange is encouraging individuals to cultivate and grow seeds for posterity.

In fact, we would like see our whole gardening community share in the work of bringing back certain bastions of our landscapes that give us human food (American chestnuts, butternuts and walnuts, white and black oaks, for instance) and that add to the biodiversity and beauty of the north woods and swamps (American elm, brown ash and other varieties needed by wildlife).

Finally, we want to work with our community in this most essential of endeavors--supporting life day to day with healthy, fresh food that is uncontaminated, unadulterated and independent of the market forces outside our spheres of influence.

Who will be the responsible party

The Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Sangerville and Dover-Foxcroft considers itself the initiators of this project and operate under the non-profit umbrella of its church and local congregation. We are pleased to get this going and take full responsibility in organizing the project, but also hope, immediately to open it up to the public for anyone interested in joining our Coordinating Board. Penquis C.A.P., in particular, has said they are very likely to have one of their people join the Board and we hope that will also be true for Soil Conservation, the Extension Service, the School Board and other public and private institutions and individuals. As far as our Social Justice Committee is concerned, there are few of us and we need very shortly many more, but regardless of who joins us and how quickly it gets underway, you have our word that Snow's Pond or any other public land the Board of Selectmen deem appropriate, will be treated in the spirit of our intentions as outlined above, as we proceed in our goals.

Our immediate plan of action

Beyond submitting this proposal to the Town, our first step is to hold a weekly focus group this winter on the book Gaia's Garden that applies many of the principles of ecological gardening as outlined above. Each chapter will be assigned to a person who will study it, perhaps add other resource material and then create a presentation to the public, so that the book will be the basis of a public lecture series. The focus group will be announced in the local papers and on fliers around Dover-Foxcroft and surrounding towns and will be held in a public setting. It will be associated with the community garden plan and will be announced as such. Depending on when and if you approve of our Snow's Pond proposal, we will announce that as our site as well. We would like to begin sheet composting and putting together a garden landscape plan by late spring 2007, holding planning meetings and the focus group up until that time.

Thank you for your attention and consideration:

Sidney Mitchell -- 564-8687, e-mail -
and other members of
the Social Justice Committee, Unitarian-Universalist of Sangerville and D-F:
Joan Shapleigh, Theresa Boettner, Tom Kemp, Carol Ippoliti, Gail D'Agostino