So, does your growing operation need to have no outside inputs to be truly permie?
No. If it follows the ethics, it is worthwhile and good. People are meant to be part of a society. We exchange goods and services.
Do you make sure that your inputs come from sustainable sources as much as possible?
What happens when a sustainable input isn't available?
If your NET output benefits the earth, benefits mankind, and allows the surplus to be returned, go for it! I don't think many people here would object to using diesel fuel to construct permaculture earthworks that will provide many years of benefit.
"SELF-sustaining" is not really my goal. Designing a system that more efficiently produces a good with little waste...that is permaculture is my mind...that is more my goal: sustainability, not self-sufficiency.
My inputs come from an sunflower farmer and a big-box garden center. I wish my next door neighbor produced seed or potting soil...but I do the best I can.
Regardless, the seed is an easily transported and stored dry good that is being transformed into a perishable product weighing 3 times as much. This production is best done nearest the consumer (in my case, next to my kitchen). I only sell locally. In my opinion, this model is SO much more permie than lettuce shipped from California. It's a step in the right direction.
I'm doing microgreens on a very small scale as a hobby business. I have been producing one tray of sunflower, and one other experimental tray each week since June. No lights. No fertilizer. Captured rainwater for irrigation.
My inputs are organic seed and organic potting soil.
My sunflower costs per 10x20 nursery tray:
8 oz. seed $2
1" soil $1
In 10 days, I get 6 - 5 oz. bags that I sell for $4 each. I typically just sell one bag a week to friends at work, but that still gives me a profit, and I have over 2 lbs of greens for me and my family to consume every week, just from the sunflowers. The remaining root mat after the harvest is put in the garden as mulch.
At this scale, I am just fine tuning the process and making sure I can get a high yield consistently. In the future, it would be easy to expand production 10-fold without a major expense (like a greenhouse).
I think every household should do this. Even if you sell none, compare the cost of 2 1/2 lbs of sunflower microgreens vs $4 for one organic romaine clamshell at the grocery store.
I use it to fill holes in the lawn and spread over swales. As I understand it, the nitrogen isn't immediately plant-available. It needs to be digested by worms or other critters first. It tends to cake together and repel water if mixed as more than 30% of a soil mixture. That might be desirable as a compacted footpath with a gentle slope.
Since this might be a temporary solution, I would recommend simply tying into the existing supply line leading to the existing house. If there is too much pressure loss, put in a booster pump with a pressure tank. Setting a second pump in the same casing sounds problematic and unnecessarily risky to me.
I've been growing microgreens for a few months. I am aware of two soil-less media products for growing in 10x20 trays. SuretoGrow pads are a light fiber mesh and MicroMats are a compostable wood pulp sheet that expands into a mushy goop when watered. Both cost $1.40 per tray. I use the MicroMats for small seed like brocolli, arugula, and amaranth.
For larger seed like peas, sunflower, and beets I use a loose organic potting soil media. I imagine that the water retention and structure of the media are more important than the nutrients when growing microgreens (10 days to harvest). Since the seed cost is much higher than the grow media cost, I have not yet experimented with soil alternatives. Perhaps a mix of shredded newspaper and used coffee grounds (free from Starbucks) would be a good option. For comparison, organic potting soil costs about $1.00 per tray.
Pea shoots taste like peas, except without the sweetness. The bottoms of the shoots can get a little tough and stringy when eaten raw. Sunflowers are my most popular crop so far. They are very tender and delicious.
In my state, Arkansas, a grower of microgreens would be considered a "farm" by the Health Department. You are free to make "one cut" when harvesting vegetables, then package and sell. However, if you sell "prepared salads", or if you "process" foods like drying herbs or washing greens, then you become a "food processing facility" and a whole bunch of other rules come into play: independent bathroom facility, 3 compartment sink, approved water supply, inspections, permit, etc.
If you do "interstate commerce" then you are subject to FDA regulations. Currently, there are FDA "guidelines" for seed preparation when growing sprouts, but no requirements.
So, technically, a microgreen farmer, whether using soil (for bigger seed like peas, beets, etc.) or hydroponics, is under the same regulations as any other farmer. (Your individual state may differ.)
Given that a microgreen farmer typically uses sterile potting soil, or hydroponics, there would be no additional risk of bacteriological contamination from the growing media. Growing indoors also eliminates the risk that a passing bird might drop a "salmonella bomb" on your greens. The highest risk comes from the seed itself. Use organic to be sure there are no chemical treatments. I might use the FDA guidelines method to wash the seed beforehand if the seed husk is likely to cling to the final product.
I imagine that the restaurant chef would expect to have to wash their own greens prior to use, especially when buying direct from the local farmer.
Back to packaging. I was thinking of trying to fold freezer paper, or maybe butcher paper into pillow boxes, or take-out boxes like those used for Chinese food. It sounds like a little square of moist paper towel in the bottom might help. Perhaps a Koolyok:
In the US, public water system sources are classified as either Groundwater, GWUDI (Groundwater under the direct influence of surface water), or Surface Water. Since you're taking from a reservoir, I would technically consider you a Surface Water system. Granted, you would be a relatively less risky surface source because they are concrete lined reservoirs fed only by groundwater. They are still open to some contamination. Boiling will neutralize bacteria and most microorganisms, but not cryptosporidium. To use this source safely , a state agency would typically recommend applying a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses (most commonly chlorine bleach below 4 mg/L), then running it through a 5 micron filter (not required, but extends the life of the more expensive 1 micron filter), then a 1 micron absolute filter. Personally, I am not a fan of chlorine, so I might just use a Berkey for the portion I'd be consuming.
I think there is some hard-to-quantify additional risk from contamination (bird drop, insects, algae, etc.). It's expensive to test for crypto, but a simple total coliform bacteria+E. Coli test at our State's lab runs US $17.50.
Your soil type becomes an issue as well. Increasing the moisture content of the sub-base of a road makes road maintenance more difficult if you're on a silt/clay soil. You will get soft spots and the fine soil particles will migrate into your gravel road as you drive over it. Sandy base soils have less cohesion, making erosion more of an issue. In that case, try to design more flat retention areas and larger sills so the water moves slower through the system.
If the problem is indeed in your well, a chlorine shock is probably the easiest solution. I don't like drinking chlorinated water either, but a shock is just temporary to kill the bacteria. The well is then flushed, the chlorine dissipates fairly rapidly and you're left with a sanitized water source.
I have a similar problem. However, I have found that the bacteria resides in the hot water heater. There aren't many micro-organisms that live in the bottom of wells, unless they colonize it after it is drilled. Also, your well probably has a check valve that prevents water from your piping from flowing back into the well. When I have the water heater at a low temperature (vacation setting), the bacteria thrive and I get a sulphuric odor in the water. When I turn the heater up, I can effectively kill the colony and flush the stinky water out of the tank. You might try testing to see if your cold water is as bad as your hot water.
A local civil engineer should be able to help. Often times surveyors have a Professional Engineer on staff that does this type of work. I am licensed as a PE, but not in your state. The trouble is, when you start to get into engineered solutions, the cost goes up quickly. At a minimum, they will want to do get a drill rig out there and drill some test holes.
I can recommend the "Land Development Handbook" published by the Dewsberry Companies as a good general resource. Again,....expensive.
Additionally, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has several engineer manuals available for free download. They are pretty dry reading, but may be helpful if you have some familiarity with soil engineering and want to try to crunch numbers yourself. I have their "Slope Stability" manual and I see "Retaining and Flood Walls" and "General Design and Construction Considerations For Earth and Rock-Fill Dams" that might also be useful.
In a more general sense, for earthwork structures on a slope, it is best to cut into the slope and create a level spot so your structure is "keyed in". You want the weight of your berm/dam/whatever and all of the water behind it to be fully supported by a flat stable surface.
I wonder if carnauba wax or beeswax could be applied to the interior surface of a smooth pipe to encourage the condensate to bead up and roll downhill to a collection point. Secondarily, maybe it would seal off any toxins in the pipe material. It seems that this "earthtube" concept might be a potential source of distilled water, in addition to conditioned air.
You can legally design and build a single family residence as long as it meets all of the building code requirements of the jurisdiction having authority. Jurisdictions can vary wildly in how much they are involved in the process.
Bear in mind that if you are designing and building for a third party, you have a great deal of liability for anything that doesn't go smoothly. I am licensed and I have witnessed the anguish and expenses caused by construction and design defects. Personally, I would never put my personal assets and property at risk by designing or building for a third party without professional liability insurance. I applaud your effort to utilize natural methods and forego the traditional education process, but be aware of the obstacles. Namely, you are part of a society that often uses litigation to resolve problems, and you would benefit greatly from the knowledge and experience that Jay C. White Cloud describes.
Congratulations on the new land and trailer house!
I would go with small swales on contour. Clay has low permeability, so getting the water to stay on the slope will help. You can set the overflow points (aka sills) progressively farther from the driveway so as each swale overflows, it fills the next. I would plant with pioneer species, like comfrey and black locust, and maybe some daikon radish to build organic content. Mix in a few annuals and experiment with what grows well in your zone. Chop and drop the pioneers and radish for a few years to build the soil both from above and below.
My wife knitted a few dryer balls and stuffed them with wool. The heat of the dryer encourages the wool to release its "animal scent". Our clean laundry would come out smelling a lot like our dog after being caught in the rain. We stopped using them.
That's a very creative adaptation of the swale. Thanks for sharing. One thing that occurred to me is that you could deepen the mini-reservoirs so that you encourage more water to soak into the berm versus flowing along the berm. In your case, it sounds like you have sandy soil, and yours are plenty deep.
It also occurred to me that one could accomplish similar results by building the berm in the shape of a series of commas instead of a straight line so that the berm itself curves inward periodically to form the dams. That way the interrupted water tends to flow more into the berm plantings instead of down the ditch. The sills would occur at the innermost edge of the comma. (Maybe use a single level patio block.) You might get a more organic looking system with an opportunity for larger plantings in the centers of the comma shape.
Falling liquid on the outlet side won't generate enough pressure to overcome atmospheric pressure on the inlet side unless the outlet is below the inlet. Outlet always has to be below inlet for a siphon to work.
Assuming your chlorine level is being reported in milligrams per liter (or the equivalent parts per million), that appears to be your biggest problem. To my knowledge, groundwater does not have naturally occurring chlorine. Therefore, it is likely that somebody is adding chlorine to disinfect it. Typically, public water systems chlorinate to a level 0.2 through 2.0 mg/L (or ppm) to kill microorganisms. Above 4.5 you should be able to detect a chlorine smell or taste. Chlorinated water is not so good for irrigation because you actually WANT microorganisms in the soil.
Chlorine will dissipate from a surface exposed to air. Therefore, if you can store water in a rain barrel, or pond, before irrigating with it, you can decrease the chlorine level. A swimming pool test kit might help you check the level.
I have been lurking for several months since hearing about this forum on a podcast. In more recent browsing, I found a link to an entire college course on Permaculture at NC State University. I am about 5 hours into the lectures and I think it's excellent. Gaia's Garden is one of the textbooks for the course. In fact, the photo on the front cover is the instructor's garden!