History

  • We purchased Draco Hill in 1997 from a well-known farmer in Cedar County. We continued to rent the farm land to local farmers or the local FFA chapter over the next 13 years. The pasture had cows in it for another two years.
  • In 1999, with the expert advice of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, we planted a riparian buffer between the agricultural land along the river and the river itself. The purpose of these 3+ acres of trees is for their roots to filter some of the farm chemicals out before the groundwater hits the river.
  • By 2004 it was clear the oak and walnut trees in the planting were being chewed off by the deer every year. Sycamores were growing fast and furiously though. Since we weren’t living here full time, we didn’t have the facilities to cage the trees so we let nature take its course. The good news was that the root systems were doing their job even if the trees above ground looked like oak bushes.
  • In 2008 the flood put all of our riverfront land under water. Our neighbor Nate Miller took this photo while he canoed on the “wrong” side of our riparian buffer.
  • 2008 Flood South FieldIn 2009 builder Roger Laughlin of Laughlin Design in West Branch IA finished construction on Dragon’s Nest and we planted some fruit trees in what would become our permaculture experiment on the north side of the house. We earned a 5-star plus Energy Star rating from the U.S. EPA for the energy efficient design of the house.

 

house from southeast

  • In the spring of 2011, our friends Lyle and Glen Waters prepared the farm ground on the north end of the property for a prairie planting and the ground at the south end for a tree planting. That April we installed a 3-D electric fence around 6 of the 7 acres that would be planted to trees. Later that spring Lyle planted the prairie seed and Kevin Kelly, from our local nursery, planted the tree seedlings.
  • In the summer of 2011 we moved into Dragon’s Nest full time. With only half of the summer left, we still started a small garden on the northwest side, and planted blueberry bushes and asparagus.
  • That summer we added 3KW of solar installed by Tim Kruse of Green Light Renewable in Des Moines. In 2012 we added another 3KW and that 6 KW meets most of our general electric needs for the house. (Heating and AC are provided by geothermal.)
  • By summer 2012 we had expanded our garden on the south side of the house, expanded the beds around the fruit trees to include medicinal plants (an experiment to grow tomatoes up the cages didn’t work), and expanded beds along the curved patio to include strawberries and garlic.
  •  With the help of WWOOFers we also created berms and swales in key locations and tied in our roof drainage system to those gardens to help recapture rainwater, something on our minds with the worst drought since the 1930s hitting the state.
  • 2013 is focused on growing vegetables more successfully, tending a new permaculture orchard built at a workshop in the spring and helping Morse Farm, an experiment in organic perennial farming, get off the ground.

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