In my ongoing permacultural self-education program, I got to looking at designing a sustainable orchard for some of our land up here. Since this orchard would need a well designed shelterbelt and since I want to use as little fencing as possible, I got to looking at good shrubs for Zone 2-3 areas. This led me to learning about an amazing bush that was once used quite heavily, at least here in Alberta, but which many people are clearing out. This bush is the Caragana arborescens or Siberian Pea Tree.
During WW1 and 2, many Russian people survived through winter by keeping chickens which were fed carragana peas they had harvested the previous autumn. It turns out carraganas are soil-beneficial too, being a nitrogen fixer. So not only am I looking at integrating it into my orchard shelterbelt, I am now trying to figure out the best way to integrate them into my mom's laying hen operation as well. Obviously we'll look at harvesting the pods for winter feed, but I also hope that planting them wisely in the large coop should allow the birds greater access to the outside in winter.
One of my first summer jobs was actually clearing a thick hedge on some property where the owner was going to build a larger house. I can attest to the fact that this is a HARD job, but it does suggest that the wood has light structural capabilities. I suspect that with some effort, one could grow some lovely fences or chicken coops or whathaveyou. These shrubs have landscaping potential outside of hedging too, since they make great weeping trees. My mom has one in her yard garden and its quite a lovely little thing. The one concern both in hedging and landscaping is that these are a very hardy shrub, quick to grow in marginal soil and with little rain...therefore they spread quite happily if one does not harvest or at least clear pods.
So, if you or someone you know is considering getting rid of their carragana hedge, maybe re-consider or have a conversation with them about doing the same. They're a beneficial little tree, if a bit prickly.
Peace and comfort.
3 weeks ago