Forest Permaculture is an integrated three dimensional design of permanent agricultural layers combining tall trees, small trees and shrubs, vines, perennial and self-seeding ground covers, and livestock to sustainability and permanently provide nutrients.
Okay, that sounds so serious and professional. Permaculture is a method of farming management where the environment provides food for your livestock. Forest permaculture means that it is in the woods rather than a pasture and is my preferred location for all of my livestock. So instead of a one dimensional, mono-crop of an annual alfalfa pasture which provides food once, maybe twice, to your livestock, forest permaculture provides three dimensional food crops which sustainability and permanently provide food while also providing shade and security for all of your livestock. This is precisely what you need for your homestead. This creates a diverse food source for your animals and makes it much easier for you to maintain.
Ideally you will already have a section of forest located fairly close to your home and ideally this acre will be the edge of the forested area allowing for you to butt your acre garden close to the edge of your livestock runs. You will be caring for your livestock, garden and greenhouse on a daily basis. It is best to keep them as close as possible to you so that you do not have to exert more energy than needed; especially in the summer time when the majority of your energy will be spent in the fields attending to crops. If you do not have the ideal scenario, I would suggest starting your own forested acre for your livestock area with a variety of food producing trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers. It is also time to test your soil to determine the shortfall of minerals and trace minerals that your pasture lacks. Add the necessary amendments to your soil to ensure the health of all your livestock.
Check with your local nurseries and extension offices to determine the right varieties of food source for your area and purpose. Also verify that each potential food source isn’t poisonous to the various livestock species you will keep in your pasture. In the following figures I have offered suggestions for each permaculture layer. These are general options. Please know that a specific variety of grass, herb, weed, legume, plant, vine, bramble, shrub, or tree may be poisonous to your livestock. Research your local options and determine the best varieties for your area to best serve your needs. If you do have this forested acre for your livestock, it is time for you to open up the canopy of your forest, remove toxic elements and then add appropriate food producing vegetation to ensure a constant food supply for your birds and other livestock added to the rotation such as cattle, horses, goats, sheep, hogs and even rabbits. During the first year of running livestock through your forest, reseed and replant after all the animals have moved through that paddock. Every year following, reseed and replant the pasture at least twice. Once the animals have moved to their winter location, replant any shrubs or trees necessary to increase the food yield for your livestock. Think about what you are planting and where you are planting it. In each cell, you will have a variety of different animals moving through.
Try to line up large trees, small trees and bushes with the edges of your paddocks. This will allow large animals, like horses and cows, to maneuver around the trees rather than through them. It will take time to fully integrate a permaculture system in your forest pasture (at least seven years), but the initial investment is worth it for a sustainable food supply if only for the significant decrease of labor required to feed your livestock as time passes. Your flock will give your forest: manure, soil disturbance, pest control, and fire control. Your forest will give your flock and livestock : grasses, legumes, fruit, herbs, seeds, veggies, insects, perches and shelter.