I am planning to use earthbag construction to build a series of 3 additions onto an existing stick frame house. These are very early/rough plans as of yet. The existing single-story house is in good shape structurally, 24x32ft with a crawlspace, plus a small back porch on the north side that I plan to remove before phase 3 begins. The preliminary plan is as follows:
Phase 1 - build a 24x24ft addition on the east side. This will follow the current ridgeline of the roof but the earthen floor will be ~8" below the current floor. Essentially this will just be a single large room.
Phase 2 - Build a 24x16ft addition on the west side... then in the exiting house, we will (very carefully) tear down the west wall and the western half of the center load-bearing wall to open up the floor plan. This will also follow the current ridgeline of the roof. The new floor will need to be level with the old floor.
Phase 3 - Build a 72x16ft addition on the north side... This extension will sit lower in the landscape than the rest of the house by a fair margin so we are planning to the extend the slope of the roof down over this addition (more careful measurement is still required to verify how exactly this will work).
My wife isn't a fan of curvy walls and prefers the walls to be straight. I am concerned about the integrity of that 72ft, laser-straight wall. I assume that we'll need to include buttresses, but how many and how big are unclear to me as yet.
In addition, I am a uncertain of the best method of attaching the earthbag additions to the existing stick frame. I assume that steel strapping would likely be employed... but I haven't yet found an definitive direction on this topic.
I would love to hear about any personal experience with either of these two concerns... or if you have any recommendations for reference material that addresses these issues, I would appreciate it!
I am posting this in the midwest USA regional forum so that it can be easily found by others in the area.
We are going to be raising Chickens and Pigs on pasture this year in an effort to fund the installation of my permaculture design on our farm. If you are interested in purchasing pasture raised Chicken or Pork, take a look at the details on our website:
Dillon Nichols wrote:I modified a hugel bed ~3 years after building it....
When I dug all the way back to ground level on one end, before enclosing it, the majority of the wood was gone, transformed into soil much better than what I had started with. What was left was porous, mostly in small chunks, which could be squeezed in one hand to wring out water. It seems to me that after a max of 5 years in my area there would be effectively no intact wood recognizable as such, making this a reasonable time to rebuild. However, the much improved soil in the old hugel didn't really seem to need more help...
I had a much similar experience, except i had no issue with irrigation. After 3 years only the largest chunks of wood remained, but the soil was almost perfect. I happened to get some video of the process... This was too small of a bed to make any conclusions, but I was certainly encouraged to build more beds.
Our small Hugelkultur bed was falling apart so we propagated comfrey in it before taking it apart... When we did, we were amazed to see how spongy the routing wood turned out... I literally was able to wring water out of a chunk of wood. See for yourself.
I don't know why I didn't think of spreading a cover crop seed mix... I did that at my current home... I'll even have a tractor and disc cultivator that I can use. I really hadn't gotten into the shorter of the plant layers yet in my design, so it looks like that is my next research project...
Unfortunately, due to the afore mentioned time and money restraints, any livestock is not an option in the short term... However, rotational paddocks are a main element in my design and we'll likely work our way through the livestock options by size and restock rates up to cattle.
As for soil quality, the are indications that the soil is excellent... At least 25 years without tillage or bare soil, in fact most of the land had been neglected other than a single yearly hay cutting... Lots of grass coverage... Very most soil... I plan to do some soil and water years in the spring get a sense of what I'm working with.
Some of my concerns is that there are honey locust trees in all the margins of the property... And some of the areas that I'm wanting to stop mowing were only taken back from the honey locusts 5 or so years ago as a fair amount of expense. Those bastards are evil with 6" thorns. I can't afford too many tractor tire replacements before I go broke... That's the major tree weed. We also have the "cedar" that is common around here, maple, and a smattering of others along the borders.
I think my design, constraints, and resources are all lining up to point at stunting the grass and then seeding a mix of soil builders... Now I just need to figure out which species will work best for my site.
My wife and I are in the process of purchasing an old 19 Acre homestead from my in-laws. It's been in her family for 25 years or so as a vacation/holiday getaway... It was a little homestead for a family before they bought it. But Of course we want to turn it into a Permaculture paradise... (Shameless link to blog post: http://ourhomesteadingjourney.com/index.php/2016/12/25/buying-the-farm/ )
As you can see it's almost entirely pasture... What you might not be able to see is that there is approximately 3 acres of lawn... Currently cut weekly like it's a personal golf course only 75 miles away from home (we are not in possession yet). I have an overall design plan that is about 90% complete. One thing I'm struggling with is the first couple years. I have no intention of continuing to mow 3 acres weekly, but we won't be ready to implement the major features during the first few years. My concern is that by ceasing the regular mowing regiment, I'll introduce 'weedy' trees and make it more difficult on myself to implement my plan, especially if it takes longer than planned to get into the zone 2/3 border. There are some fencing/structures that need to be removed and some earthworks that need to be put into place in this area. The remaining 16 acres of the property are currently being used by a neighboring farmer for hay production. I plan to continue that arrangement as long as I can, shrinking the hay field year after year with swales and food forestry, until the farmer says it's not worth his time.
I'm looking for your thoughts on this. Right now all I'm seeing is black and white... Cut or don't cut. What alternatives am I missing? Keep in mind that money, time, and resources are especially limited in the first few years.
Brenda Groth wrote:totally agree with the above posts..I found that even the tiniest pieces of root, with or without leaves, will root, the larger ones will produce a largish plant the first year, the smaller ones will suffer a little the first year but will sprout some leaves and then they'll take off the second or third year..
it doesn't take much..remember NOT to put it where you might want to till or dig a lot or you'll move bits all over the place
From what I read before I was under the impression that it would grow much faster than that. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.
Does anyone have any advice for helping comfrey grow faster? I could only obtain one small plant, from which I took root cuttings and planted them. The mother plant seems to be doing well, although I expected it to grow faster. Only a couple (out of about 20) of root cuttings have sprouted after months instead of weeks, so I guess it's not liking the conditions a lot. What could one do to set up a comfrey propagation patch or bed to push things in the right direction?
I've been growing comfrey for almost 2 complete seasons now... I'm getting between 10%-20% success rate for root cuttings. Planting ~50 root cuttings, there are 6 thriving plants, and ~4 struggling plants. Most of the remainder sprout but then die off as young plants. I had the same impression that comfrey would grow faster than it does from everyone saying how hardy it is... but after working with it for a while now, it seems to me that it grows like a villian in a 1980's horror film... slow and steady Jason Vorhees will chase you, never running, but with his unrelenting determination, eventually he will get you. So does comfrey grow and spread.
Trends I've noticed on my property using "True Comfrey" (Symphytum officinale):
*Comfrey plants thrive in wood chip mulch
*Comfrey plants thrive in dappled shade
*Comfrey plants thrive very NEAR wood chip mulch
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in high traffic areas that meet the above conditions (dogs and chickens have trampled several plants)
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in relatively dry microclimates
*(Young?) Comfrey plants languish/die in locations with uncovered soil
*I have only planted a few comfrey cuttings in the shadiest parts of my property and they all have suffered (2 still alive)... but all experienced one or more of the above factors as well.
*Mature comfrey makes better root cuttings... wait for it to flower
*The crowns almost always thrive when transplanted
*I clearly do not know how to collect and propagate by seed.
Obviously I don't have a ton of experience, but I too am struggling with building out my stock and thought that every bit of info might help. In fact, just writing this up has made me rethink how I plan to move forward.
I remember that it feels like you are at "negative 3" in your position... (and how infuriating it is when people talk down to you.) That is why I am currently at negative ~$70,000. I made decisions in life that I thought would improve my station in this current system (read: more income). I found permaculture (and better options) while finishing up an expensive associates degree that I no longer wish to use and shortly after rehabing a house I no longer wish to live in because of my long term permaculture goals. My point is that you could be in a much worse position (and so could I).
One bit of advice that I wish had been expressed to me at your age is financial advice. There are 2 financial "experts" that I have learned a lot from: Dave Ramsey and Jacob Lund Fisker. Both work best (for you) if applied BEFORE you get into money troubles. I took a Ramsey class a few years ago and I learned A LOT about debt, money, and how to control money (opposed to allowing it to control me). The Dave Ramsey class is like an idiots guide to money compared to Jacob Lund Fisker's Early Retirement Extreme book. As an aspiring permaculturist, you will love this book. Much of the advice in the above comments is articulated and expounded upon in ERE.
I'm here to tell you that both of them, both "career" and "purpose" are doing it wrong. The laser-focus on one lucrative career is brittle. If something goes wrong, the whole damn plan blows up. You borrow $300k and go to med school, then the lawnmower squashes your eyeball with a rock. Pfft. Can't do surgery without depth perception. You got a prestigious engineering degree to design engines... in 2008? Pfft. See what I'm saying? If you hang everything on one plan, you're liable to regret it. Life is unpredictable. On the flip side, there's a stereotype about starving artists, because that's based in facts. It happens. A lot. Those folks who "don't need" any money... they're just wrong. Ask them if they "don't need" running water and wi-fi. "Yeah, but that doesn't cost THAT much." It'll cost your whole income, if you plan on only having a tiny income! A plan to borrow money to major in art is a plan to have a tiny income. So. Get good at making money starting now, preferably in a lot of different ways. Being able to say, "Ok, $15 for a sack of vermiculite to insulate my heat riser is no big deal" gives you access to a lot more permaculture than lacking it.
This type of thinking is the primary premise of ERE. A single career, is fragile. You should develop no less than 5 careers: 2 fulltime, 1 parttime, and 2 sometimes
As for the people in your life that don't get it... some of them never will, some just need you to explain it to them, some need you to show them (and explain it), some need you to patiently but steadfastly proclaim the truth without "bible-thumping" them with it. I have won over more stubborn people by being more stubborn, rght, and polite than them. It may take years, but never give up on them.
Well, if it helps... I want to see photos of the updates you make in the next few weeks/months.
Oh, any place a small soakage pond is practical the use of the spiral ditch would make a wonderful addition for surface irrigation and aesthetics. In other words, the question of practicality is more than satisfied. My one practical question is where does it overflow when filled? back "up" the level swale?
I'd love to take a tour, but I don't travel all that much.
I had watched these a few years back and was trying to describe them to my wife a few weeks back but couldn't find them. I stuck them into a youtube playlist here to make them easier to watch in series and so that I can find them again later.
This questino kind of reminds me of something I did at my place. I built a runoff diversion contour to keep the water out of the greenhouse, which I made the mistake of building at the lowest corner of my property. Think of a half circle retaining wall, with a berm build up inside the curve, and the rest of the circle defined by digging the soil up and out of the hole... a place for the rare runoff situation. On the berm behind the retaining wall, I planted hops. Then I wondered how I would water them. I would have to fill up the whole round hole before the water reached the level of the hops roots. Well, I brought the irrigation furrow around the curve up at the level of the hops plants. That way, I could get the water to them "right now", and the water would be soaking in the whole time the hole was filling. Then I kept the furrow carrying the water high, running it round and round as it went to the bottom of the swale or pond. It is a spiral ditch, and it is quite hypnotic to wathc the water going round and round. I did not really plan it that way, did not really set out to make a spiral ditch, but I love it. Probably in the next season, I will need to elongate it into an oval, but I hope I still can keep that spiral flow.
This sounds interesting... do you have any photos?
strawberries are supposed to be good under raspberries, though my experience is that the strawberry plants grow and spread heartily but are not inclined to fruit. Raspberries (in my case Heritage) on the other hand both spread and fruit abundantly. Both are in a woodchip bed.
I'm interested in an establishing a permaculture, perennially/tree based farm on 1-2 acres of an 18 acre lot in South Eastern South Carolina.
The land is pretty heavily wooded and I want to focus on maintaining the current system as much as possible while implementing a greater number of productive trees.
Any advice, thoughts, and questions are much appreciated!
Based on that photo, those trees are not all that old (50-60 years for the larger ones in the image), so I wouldn't feel too bad about making improvements.
Also, I think it was Jack Spirko I heard say that our job as forest farmers is to manage climax (I know Joel Salitin has a similar opinion of grass management). Every (natural?) system is most productive as it is striving to reach its climax state... Then productivity follows the law of diminishing returns... because the elements (trees in this case) gets too comfortable in their luxuriously easy nursing-home (climax forest)... We should continually create thoughtful disturbances to spur on productivity.... make the elements want it more. Prune out some of the old geezers that are hogging all the resources without giving back and allow the younger generation to thrive on the spoils. (still talking about the forest... I swear. )
I know I'm anthropomorphizing a bit... but it is just such an appropriate analogy.
Remember, most productive perennial food crops don't grow deep in the forest (or any system); they are typically edge/pioneer species.
Both Jack and Joel have some great ideas regarding land management. My advice is to look into their writings/videos/podcasts/... works. Also, Eric Toensmeier and his works should be of use to your situation lots of forest gardening research.
Native shade-tolerant (think forest edges) N-fixer: American groundnut
Taking interest in this post led me to in interesting epiphiny. After reading multiple articles from the links, I came upon this excerpt:
" I have seen wild American chestnuts growing in low lying swampy areas. At first glance, it seems that they can tolerate wet feet, but a closer look at the topography reveals something else. In older forests the ground is very uneven. As large trees topple over and are uprooted, a depression is created where the root mass once was. As the root ball breaks down, a mound is formed. This landscape feature is referred to as ‘pit and mound’ or ‘pillows and cradles’. It is commonly associated with almost all old growth forests.
Pit and mound landscapes are essentially covered with vernal pools and raised beds. Chestnuts, like almost all trees, prefer to grow on the mounds. If you have a wet field, and want to grow chestnuts or really any other fruit or nut tree, then make some mounds. The bigger they are the better they work and the harder they become to mow around. I have made them with everything from a shovel to a bulldozer. The pits catch and store water while the mounds provide drainage for the root crown.
Taking pits and mounds a step further, we can create swales and berms to plant rows of trees on. These rows can be set on contour lines to maximize water catchment and prevent erosion."
So another year later, I have some more updates. I added dates for posterity.
(2015) * I took Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Design Course (link to discussion) and my wife and daughter watched the lectures with me. I expect it will have an influence on my yard in the coming years. In fact, it kinda negates my original question as I realize that I was asking many of the wrong questions.
(2013) * We still have chickens working for us by breaking down our ample amounts of leaves and "weeds".
(2014) **We now have a new coop as planned in the above images.
(2014) ***The materials for the coop were sourced from an old porch that FINALLY met its end during a violent storm.
(2014) ***The coop has a dug out (12 inches deep) bare earth floor, this cavity was filled with woodchips
(2015) **** These woodchips were excavated in October, 2014 and spread out onto various garden beds as needed and new free woodchips were replaced… this process needs to be repeated again, estimating 6 month cycle.
(2013) * We are still composting all kitchen scraps, chicken manure, guinea pig manure, leaves, etc.
(2014) ** although we now throw it all into the chickens
(2013) * We have utilized natural "waste" by building 3 hugelbeets 5 hugelbeets from nuisance foliage and trees.
(2014) ** All are planted already.
(2013) * We have an extended "hugel-berm" to mitigate the flood and erosion from our neighbor's runoff.
(2014) ** It is now closer to 40 feet than the original 20. (Although, there is water seeping into the basement as I type because of all the rain anyway.)
(2014) ** we have thrown kale, lettuce, chard, beet, and other seeds onto it...
(2015) ** Even with all of the rain this year, no seepage, just dampness
(2015) ** This berm is under-utilized, it has been planted with lettuce, kale, lemon balm, lovage, nanking cherry, spearmint, peppermint, strawberries, beets and less directly: comfrey and false indigo
(2013) * We have planted some perennials (raspberries, blackberries, grapes, asparagus, lavender, mint, & blueberries) and intend to plant more
(2014) ** Pretty sure most of the asparagus has died.
(2014) ** The black berries are alive and growing... but no berries yet.
(2014) ** My wife and I shared A blueberry last summer.
(2014) ** No grapes yet of course
(2014) ** Pretty sure the lavender died... we'll see... already planted its replacements...
(2014) ** CHOCOLATE MINT IS AWESOME! Our daughter drank the choc mint tea all winter. And we are still kicking ourselves for only putting it in the final batch of strawberry jam we made. Chocolate mint really makes the strawberry jam pop. Will not make THAT mistake again!
(2015) **** the dog dug up the chocolate mint it is still alive but much less vigorous
(2014) *** We got more mint varieties. They will be spread.
(2014) ** Have since planted sunchokes, true comfrey, rhubarb, horseradish, plum, elderberry, service berry, smooth sumac, malabar spinach, false indigo, and more
(2014) ** Awaiting deliver of gooseberry, goumi goji, hazel, pawpaw, nanking cherry, mulberry, pomegranate (to be potted), hardy kiwi, and more.
(2015) *** Gooseberry, goji, hazel, pawpaw, mulberry, and nanking cherry didn’t make it… replaced the Gooseberry and hazel this year. I don’t think they are going to make it again… I am NOT impressed with this nursery.
(2013) * We have naturally eliminated the poison ivy (I hope!) ] caused from years of neglect.
(2014) ** Confirmed! I have to keep an eye on it though... it is still in the negligent neighbor's yard.
(2015) ** I still find poison ivy seedlings from time to time… but I am almost certain all of the roots are out/dead
(2013) * We *had* to plant tomatoes in the #1 bed because my wife has an itch to can a bunch of them.
(2014) ** We got a metric shit-ton of tomatoes... some several dozen quarts of tomato sauce were canned.
(2014) ** We have planted more tomatoes this year...
(2015) ** We decided to not plant any tomatoes this year…
(2015) *** We were gifted 10-12 tomato plants (from two different sources. Thanks Mark & Tina)
(2013) * We have planted a crop of annuals (tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, carrots, cantaloupe, strawberries, snow peas, green beans & sweet potatoes)
(2014) ** Winners: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers (now pickled), celery...
(2014) ** Losers: peppers, zucchini, carrots, cantaloupe, snow peas, beans, sweet potatoes (although, the water company helped kill the sweet potatoes).
(2014) ** The jury is still out on the strawberries; they didn't produce but a few berries last year, but they multiplied and are very happy this spring... we shall see. I got a different variety... just in case
(2015) * Last year we planted (tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, lovage, more strawberries, snow peas, broccoli, onions, garlic, radish, okra, swiss chard, kale, sweet potatoes and more)
(2015) ** Winners: LOVAGE! (we are never planning celery again OMG it is awesome and perennial), LAMBSQUARTER (“weed” that provides an excellent source of spinach-like v), zucchini, tomatoes, garlic
(2015) ** Losers: cucumbers, carrots, snowpeas, radish (went straight to seed), okra, chard, sweet potatoes
(2015) ** Jury is still out on the strawberries (not much fruit to speak of but looks very healthy), and kale (came back this year, nothing last year)
(2013) * We seeded the entire yard with white dutch clover.
(2014) ** Felt the need to seed it again... it was pretty thin in most areas that i really wanted it. it did VERY well where i attempted to seed thyme and chamomile along with it... though the thyme and chamomile did NOT germinate.
(2014) ** I also seeded some annual rye. seems like a waste.
(2015) *** It was.
(2015) ** This year I purchased a covercrop seed mix from https://greencoverseed.com/smartmix. I am very happy with this. Cover Crop Seedmix: Clover- Balansa, Chickling Vetch- AC Greenfix, Spring Forage Pea, Alfalfa – Common, Winter Pea- Whistler, Oat- Rockford, Impact Forage Collard, Florida Broadleaf Mustard, Nitro Radish- Diakon Oilseed, Winfred Hybrid Turnip, Sugar Beet, Flax- Selby, Safflower, Flower Mix
(2013) * We have a top bar hive built, and are awaiting a swarm from my father-in-law.
(2014) ** I got the swarm!
(2014) ** It died over the winter.
(2015) *** Still dead, my father-in-law’s hives had several collapses this winter, so I’ll get no swarms for a while
(2014) * We had a dump truck full of ramial wood chips dropped off to fill the chicken coop and cover much of the yard with over 6 inches of organic matter. What a difference! The yard is always damp now, and the chickens love to hunt for worms in it. There is so much fungal activity now!
(2014) ** The carpet has been replaced with wood chips... the raspberries are popping up through them all over... including in the neighbor's yard... i hope he don't mind.
(2015) ** We received a small load of wood chips in October, 2014 that were used in the Chicken coop. I was lucky to catch a tree trimmer in our neighborhood.
(2015) ** We had another dump truck full of ramial wood chips dropped off…
(2015) *** The first yard or so were used to build a compost pile… My wife really got interested in making compost/soil during the Geoff Lawton PDC we took together.
(2015) *** Paths were laid in our far back yard with the next several yards to make it more accessible and defined
(2015) *** the remainder will be used to swap out the chicken litter
(2014) * That big pile of sticks... is still there. though it has shrunk... some.
(2015) ** Gone! It was folded into several garden beds and the remainder was burned for enjoyment… and smores.
(2014) * The "Next year's bed" that the chickens were on was ready in time for us to plant broccoli, cucumbers and rhubarb in it all performed beautifully!
(2014) ** We even were able to make cookies out of the rhubarb in the first season from the stalks that the bugs decided to chew off at the base. very good!
(2014) * Also, we got 35 walking onion plants... they are small... i hope some survive the transplant.
(2015) ** some did… they are in the process of walking as I type.
(2015) * I was able to spread Comfrey by root division... we now have 2 STRONG comfrey plants, 3 weak comfrey plants, and 2 mediocre plants. I plan to divide at least one plant later this year.
(2014) * Of the 19 plum trees planted, only 8 remain.
(2015) ** The same 8 remain, but the trees that were planted in pairs have clear winners/losers… I expect 3 to die off either this or next year. This is not a problem.
(2014) * Of the 12 elderberry bushed planted, 11 remain!
(2015) ** 3 produced berries, though due to our absence at ripening time, we were unable to harvest them… the same 3 are already producing flower buds, so that is promising
(2014) * We planted 5 smooth sumac saplings in the area behind our property.
(2015) ** They are still alive (some at least)
(2014) * We have planted 7 service berry trees in our yard, and 3 in the unused area behind our property. (Couldn't resist with the endorsement provided by Deb Stephens above.
(2015) ** These are all doing verywell… though I did torch one while killing some honey suckle off of the fence line… it didn’t make it.
(2014) * We have 7 more chicks...
(2015) ** we now have ~30 chickens (started with 6), ~10 are planned for slaughter, the remainder are in 3 various stages of laying productivity: pullets, prime, post-prime (still laying). We are preparing to cycle through the older layers when they begin to slow their production
(2015) * We planted an Apple tree last spring (clearance)… it flowered this year
(2015) * We planted a Methley Plum last fall (clearance)…
(2015) * We planted a Diamond Princess Peach this spring (clearance)…
(2015) * We picked about a dozen morels in our yard... me and the kids liked them (tase like fried chicken skins)... my wife, not so much
(2014) *My wife planted more useless plants that she claims look pretty...
(2015) ** not this year… muah ha ha ha
Yea, more than once I thought of that Jack Spirko podcast you linked above. He was definitely onto something when he claimed that a PDC is well suited to those students that have already collected a bunch of "permaculture" knowledge... Compared to my wife and daughter, I spent less time focused on learning the techniques than on changing my thought patterns. I believe this to be because I had already learned many of the techniques.
The more I think about it, the more I like the 'Forest for the trees' analogy. Many of us tend to focus on the details do much that we fail/refuse to see the bigger middle picture. We either focus on the details, or the other extreme. By having the details out of the way, and buying into the bigger picture (permaculture is good et.al.), the student is better able to assimilate the more elusive lessons via the PDC.
I have been remiss in my obligation to provide updates...
The lecture time is over, all that remains is the final design exercise... I can honestly say now that the course was worth the money for me...
As I have begun the design exercise, I am realizing how much more I understand the way relationships between elements (different people, animals, structures, plants, earthworks, nature, etc) truely define ... well, everything. I don't mean that is a mystical kind of way. For example, your parents are "your parents" entirely because of their relationship to you. Really, every other element is defined in the same way. This means that we can redefine any element simply by adjusting the relationships between elements, e.g. your parents might be each other's spouse. This may not be the best example, but the point is that the identity of the elements in the system is only as important as the quality of relationships they have with one another... and that understanding was worth the price of the course. By no means was this the limit of my education via this course, but possibly the best summary I am able to conjure.
Also in this design exercise, I am becoming comfortable in my ability to analyse a piece of land and see the "mainframe" potential. That is one thing i realy admire about Geoff's class... I don't know if other instructors emphasize this, but he really shows how to think from a framework mindset... with less emphasis on the details, even though most people want details, myself included. After finishing this course, I really appreciate this "framework mindset". I forsee the usefulness of walking onto a property and being able to immediately say "ok ponds go here, here, and here... roads/paths go here, here, and here... now, here are the possible building sites... and, we just need to fill in the details in between." The same structural planning is used throughout... rebuilding forests: 'what are the most important species when the forest is mature? what are the required support species to get it there? fill in the understory. now fill in the shrubs... etc'
Its important to note that while the course was going on, I didn't see the 'forest of understanding' that I was learning; all I saw at the time was that I was learning about (a sampling of) various 'trees of knowledge'. I knew I learned a lot, but it is only now that I am putting it all to use do I truely appreciate the lesson and the skill with which it was given.
Again, I don't mean for any of the above to sound mystic... its just not the easiest subject to describe in words. I have recently been reminded of Plato's Allgory of the Cave and have to say that this often rings very true to the topic of permaculture.
Last year I tried to collect some seed by hand, but had no luck with making them germinate... I'll have to try the bagging method.
I did however have GREAT success with dividing my one strong plant. Using very small root divisions, I only had one failure. It was right next to the chicken coop, where too much traffic kept it too weak to survive.
Judith/Dan, If your plant is flowering, I suggest that you go ahead and split it... I was afraid to kill my one plant (I only waited until after the first flowering), but it turns out my fear was unfounded, now I have 10 plants to work with this year.
Michael Cox wrote:
The freaky cheap aspect of these structure is in their absolute simplicity. When you start trying to deck them out in a more sophisticated interior the cost of construction then becomes dominated by the interior fixings and the savings from the wall construction become proportionally less significant.
Is that less true of an earthship, cob or wofati?
I mean, I could build one big empty room using any of the above methods very cheaply (with much labor), but the more "comfortable" I make these buildings, the more expensive they become.
But yes ending up with a swimmingpool in the living room is a significant risk... or potential benefit! I would think that significant drainage (inside and outside the walls) would be part of risk mitigation.
Why couldn't they be made comfortable? It wouldn't be any more dificult to finish than an earthship, or wofati, or cob, or... the only exception is that the exterior walls could be erected dirt cheap by one person with a dozer/excavator in a day. Roofing, glazing, plumbing, electric, finishing, etc, would all be silmilar to the above housing types. Correct me if I am wrong.
At this point in time, completely a thought experiment. We are saving to purchase land in the next 2-3 years. So I am feeling out posibilities in light of a very limited budget (probably in the thousands instead of tens of thousands). i.e. Do I want rugged land or flat? How quickly can we build and move? What tradeoffs will we need to decide on? etc.
My wife has tentatively agreed to this design as a possibility for temporary housing... just working through it.
And like I said, finding info on this is next to impossible. I have only ever heard of 2 structures build like this. Not to mention that it has the trifecta of warning signs: 1. it's quick, 2. it's easy, 3. it's cheap. Those four factors make me very leary... but one was built by Bill Mollison, the other by his student Geoff Lawton. These two are well respected for unconventionally achieving very positive results. Also, the design passes my "bull-shit-o-meter" and, like I said, I love the simplicity of the design; I just kinda speaks to me.
All that said, just because Bill, Geoff and I don't see the faults of the design doesn't mean they do not exist. (not that I'm in their league)
Michael, about 3 hours before you mentioned the Permaculture Designers Manual references this topic, I purchased the book... I can't wait until it arrives... I know what I'm looking up first!
Andrew, sloped/terraced walls are not inherently negative, but they might be percieved as a negative, or have a negative relatioship with the other elements in the system (like my wife) thus causing negative effects to other elements (me).
Honestly though, its more about understanding the options than making decisions ahead of analysis. If everything else works out and the walls must have a significant slope then we would make the best of it.
While surfing youtube looking for permaculture videos (which I am often wont to do). I came accross a video with Skeeter discussing the medicinal food forrest garden he planted while filming a class/course he did on organiclifeguru.com. They don't seem all that expensive ($20-$60) compared to the thousands for a full PDC.