Hiking the Appalachian Trail- Slack packing

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Many guests who stay at our inn take day hikes on the Appalachian Trail. Some want to complete all of the Georgia sections by slack packing.

The trail starts at Amicalola Falls State Park which is about 40 minutes from the inn by car. A five-mile hike is required before reaching the official starting point of the trail. While you are at the park enjoy the falls as well.

North of the inn are two locations where the trail crosses the main highway. These areas are closer to Cedar House Inn. One is Woody Gap which has parking available. Park in the right parking lot and hike to Preacher’s Rock.  At Blood Mountain the trail also crosses the road. Mountain Crossing, a store with hiking supplies and gifts, is located near the road and trail area. Blood Mountain is the highest part of Lumpkin County and the trail is more strenuous. Many guests like to hike to the trail shelter.

A couple of weeks ago we had guests from Colorado who spent the week at our inn. The purpose of their trip was to hike the Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail. They were not considered thru hikers but slack packers. Each morning they had breakfast at the inn and dropped their car off near where they would finish their trail hike that day. The Hiker Hostel would meet them at their car and shuttle them to the trail area where they were beginning the day hike. They hiked most of the Georgia portion of the trail using this method. Each evening they came back to the inn for a hot shower, Mary Beth’s cookies and chai tea.

Benefits of slack packing are many. No roughing  it on the trail carrying a heavy backpack in all kinds of weather. No freeze-dried dinners or oatmeal breakfasts. No sleeping on the hard ground. A unique way of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Book a room or yurt with us and try hiking the Appalachian Trail using slack packing. The Hiker Hostel is no longer in business but there are other parties that can pick you up and take you to your car. We have some names or you can check with Uber.

For more information about our inn visit Cedar House Inn & Yurts.

Building Permaculture Swales to Conserve Water

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We built a permaculture swale above the vegetable garden and blueberry bush area to capture the rain to prevent runoff and conserve the water for future use. Swales have been proven to retain water by forcing the rainwater into the Earth down to the impervious layer of soil. The water then travels under the surface and provides plant roots with needed irrigation. Such water can travel great distances and be stored for extended periods of time. Swales conserve valuable rainwater that normally runs down slopes and eventually ends up in driveways and storm sewers. They also help reduce evaporation of rainwater.

We built a  permaculture swale above the garden to capture water running down the hill from the north end of the property. The swale is approximately one foot deep and 16 inches wide. Swale depth can vary depending on slope of hill and soil type. For example we made the swale shallower but wider in areas with rock closer to the surface which made digging more difficult. The swale at the top of the hill provides water for the peach trees, blueberry bushes and concord grapes. Decomposed leaves are placed in the swale to help retain water. Wheat straw covers the leaves and swale berm to prohibit erosion.

Another smaller permaculture swale was dug at the bottom of the hill using the same technique. This swale catches additional water for the vegetable garden. We are considering the addition of strawberries on the berm portion of this swale since they have deep roots and will help stabilize the berm. Not to mention fresh strawberries in the future.

Additional swales will be built on the property in the future.

To see a video of our swales visit video.

Geoff Lawton is a renowned permaculturist and did a great video on how swales work. Visit his video by clicking how swales work.

swale
New Swale
Swale planted with comfrey and cornelian cherries

Permaculture Gardening at Cedar House Inn

Our property at Cedar House Inn is not known for good soil for growing flowers or gardening. We have planted over 250 trees and shrubs since we purchased the property and struggled with digging each hole. First we have a very thin layer of top soil, then hard clay and finally a rock layer. To have a viable garden we have no choice but to haul in or make our own dirt.

Rather than hauling in dump truck loads of top soil I decided to make dirt the way mother nature intended. Down by the yurts we have a forest of trees and layers of leaves under the trees that have accumulated for many years. Raking back some of the leaves you notice decomposition of the organic matter. Worms, insects and fungi are all doing their part in breaking down the leaves. Could I use a similar process to make good dirt in areas where only rock and clay exists? I read about Permaculture (sheet mulching) and Lasagna Gardening that explains just how I can do that.

Last Fall I identified where I wanted the vegetable garden to be. I then took large sheets of cardboard and placed them on the ground as a weed barrier. The cardboard decomposes over time like the layers of leaves in the woods. After watering the cardboard sheets I hauled many loads of leaves to place over the cardboard. Next I added wheat straw, then more leaves. This created a “lasagna like” layer. Some beds were covered with black plastic to help the composting process. When my wife had vegetable scraps I dug a hole in the bed and bury the scraps. I also buried rotted wood to add other microbes and insects to assist in the composting process.

One bed has a worm tower that I made. The tower is a 5 gallon plastic bucket with holes the size of a pencil that I drilled. We add vegetable scraps and red wiggler worms to eat the scraps and make worm castings and tea.

I have read that by Spring if the organic matter is not fully decomposed that is fine. I can dig a hole in the garden for the plant, add some top soil in the hole and plant. This type of gardening also requires no weeding which I like.

We are looking forward to growing vegetables using this simple permaculture gardening method. Be on the look out for more posts about how our garden grows once planting season arrives.

The main problem we have now is that our trees have grown so well that we have too much shade for some vegetables to be productive.

For more information on our inn using permaculture visit Cedar House Inn.

sheet mulching
Sheet mulching