Tree Tubes

are very necessary for raising baby trees with sheep, to keep the sheep from grazing the new shoots before they are taller than the sheep can eat. When we started our main tree planting, we ordered five foot tree tubes for the large trees (Pecan, Oak) and three foot tree tubes for the smaller trees/bushes (apple, hazelnut, persimmon, pawpaw). The issue has been that sheep can definitely eat above three feet, so we’ve struggled to keep them from eating off the tops of the small trees/bushes. The apple trees made it above browse line a white ago, but they really seem to like hazelnuts. Last year, I tried something I’ve seen where I used two five foot tubes as a wider tube around the hazel nuts, and we’re getting hazelnuts off those this year! The other success we’ve had is the oaks growing almost too large for the tubes. This has caused some leaf/grass litter to build up in the tubes and keep moisture near the trees, causing them to fill up with ants under the bark.

This weekend, I took all the tubes off the oaks to free them up to keep growing and reuse around more hazelnut bushes. We’re looking forward to hazelnuts this fall!

To the right is a picture of the original tree planting. Below, from left to right, are a baby hazelnut, wasp and spider nests in a tree tube, and a picture of our sheep, getting fat on the weeds this summer.

As a side note, we really do love the spiders. Trees with spider webs is a premium method to control flies.

We want to hear from you!

We are in a period of planning and planting, adding new pick your own crops that can be raised without spraying poison at The Shire. If you live in the area and have crops you would want to pick, please send us a note!

I have a suggestion!

Dealing with the Heat

The last couple of weeks have seen heat advisories and heat indexes over 100 degrees F. That is a real issue when you have animals outside. How do we deal with the heat at The Shire?

Our main tool for dealing with the sun is shade! We don’t have just one tree that every animal clusters under like some farms you might have seen. We have built in rows of trees so that animals are NEVER without shade. Trees not only provide shade, but they also release water vapor into the air. Under trees can be 10-15 degrees cooler than out in the sun as well as preventing sunburns from direct exposure.

In addition, we have to stay vigilant to keep water filled. Animals do drink much more water than usual during these hot temperatures.


Cooler temperatures for animals is only one of the many rewards of agroforestry.  The person who has inspired me the most on agroforestry has been Mark Shepard. (You can read about my opportunity to hear Mark Shepard in person by clicking here.)

Our first big project after purchasing The Shire was to plant 100+ trees: oaks, pecans, apples, hazelnuts (more of a bush), pawpaws, persimmons, mulberries, and honey locust. Those trees are now starting to provide rewards of shade and produce their fruits, but we are still several years away from hitting substantial production.

This year should be the first year we harvest hazelnuts and apples. There won’t be a large quantity, but we’re hoping that it is a sign of things to come.



Food Forests

are magical. They are systems that take on a life of their own and require minimal maintenance after planting. Before we ever started at The Shire, I started a permaculture design company called Regenerative Landscaping. Our house was the first and only Illinois house to be featured in the St. Louis Sustainable Backyard Tour. In our small Fairview Heights backyard, we raised ducks, chicken, and bees. We also planted about 40 feet of blackberries and 20+ fruit trees. When we had a chance to move closer to The Shire, we were so sorry to leave our yard behind.

This year, we have big plans to start planting an even larger food forest at the Shire. We are planting a 1/5 acre food forest to act as a nursery for filling the rest of The Shire. We are putting in 8 apple trees (Liberty, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith), 4 pears (Elberta and Early Elberta), and 3 cherry trees(Montmorency, Bing, and Rainier). In addition to that, we are planting 120 blackberry plants that will stretch for 350 feet.

We are excited to see them grow and start producing food for our community!