I'm a ways North of you, but here's some thoughts that should still apply:
-Compost or mulch too heavy in oak leaves can be a problem. They're best in a mix. That plenty of manure you mentioned should do the trick!
-Magnolia, Mesquite, Cedar, Pecan and Walnut are all to varying degrees allelopathic, and may not play well with a garden. Especially the shells of pecans and walnuts. Buried under the garden wouldn't have the same effect necessarily, but
-Black Locust, Honey Locust, Catalpas and all of the above are pretty rot resistant, can take a long time to break down.
-Most of the Texas metros have services like Chipdrop, that take chipped wood from landscapers and deliver it to gardeners. I pay them $5 for the inconvenience of keeping out the above mentioned species and they bring me tons of mulch
-And speaking of: TONS of mulch. Even Spring and Winter gardens tend to dry out under the Texas sun, especially if you're in part of the hill country that still gets the full blast of the wind. Mulch helps, I hear some have had good luck with sunken beds, and something upwind to help break the wind (shrubs, corn, sunflowers, etc) can be a huge help. A little wind isn't bad of course, but this part of the state at least loves to flatten a garden.
-Mulch also helps with the 5-inches-of-rain-in-two-hours storms, and with hail season.
Keeping to a single species can be beneficial in certain instances, such as: building a reed bed water filtration system for gray water, setting up in ground areas for things like king stroph, wine caps, miatakie, etc.
Interesting! This makes a lot of sense to me, as most reedbeds are wetlands established far from any wetland microbiome. It also brings to mind Stamet's water mycofiltration system(s). Could you elaborate on this, RedHawk? I would very much appreciate it!
Total biochar novice here, hoping for guidance! I recently saw this little clip from an interview with Mark Shepard in which he said that, if there was a ready resource and it was appropriate to his situation, he could see creating a system that produced biochar, and generated electricity from the heat. This made so much sense to me, but I couldn't find any examples of this having been done.
A search of the wonderful biochar forum here at Permies yielded this post, but nothing else.
Is this a potential possibility? Or is the reason I can't find any examples that it's not feasible/would only work at a very large scale?
My understanding is that the problem with acrylic/similar finishes when it comes to natural walls is that they're waterproof- no water in, no water out. Makes sense in keeping the rain in and the damp out, but it also seals whatever moisture is still inside the walls, so they don't cure properly. Just like rushed/improperly cured concrete, the wall will rot over time, due to the moisture trapped inside it.
That's my limited understand on the topic, hopefully one of the (WAY) more knowledgeable natural builders around here can contribute more!
I think you won't find this sort of system at the residential level because finished compost offers its own benefits. It's a great idea for lower quality compost, like the stuff that results from sewage sludge, but for me, seems like more effort than its worth for the individual farmer/gardener.
I like having both compost and worm compost/castings for plants. I think they provide complementary benefits to the garden.
I see no one's jumped in on your thread so allow me!
I hate to be the 'it depends' guy, but... =)
Any of those systems provide enough thermal mass to effectively cool a house in summer and keep it warm in winter. Integrating that wall style with passive solar design, appropriate tech heating/cooling systems and other elements of house design can create a home that is comfortable year round.
Which is most appropriate for your specific area depends on some other factors. How humid is the region? How wet are the soils? How much rainfall? Water plays a big part in the long term health and efficiency of walls. Also what's the elevation? How much wind reaches the site? Is it from a consistent direction, or is it more seasonal?
Rammed earth is traditionally seen in more arid circumstances, though there are notable exceptions to that rule. They're great for absorbing the heat throughout the day, and releasing it throughout cold desert nights.
Cob and strawbale are more universal in their use, though it's my understanding that straw bale is a little more common in temperate situations (where straw is more abundant/readily available).
There are a number of other strategies that are very helpful to keeping a home cool in the hotter parts of the world:
- Move heat sources outside. An outdoor/detached kitchen, shower, and laundry facilities help to prevent you from heating up the house you're trying to cool.
- Build to where the wind blows. Catching a cool breeze can make a huge difference in a home's comfort, and building with the direction of the prevailing wind in mind can mean a one-time action with benefits for years.
- Get low. This one is very dependent on your soils, but as we see in Paul's WOFATI building style, sinking a home a few feet into the earth can greatly contribute to the coolness and temperature regulation of a structure.
- Grow your house. Integrating plant systems, especially when paired with your ventilation system, can cool a structure significantly, while providing clean refreshing air at the same time.
- Cool in, hot out. Speaking of ventilation, being intentional about how air moves through the structure can help keep temps low. Venting hot air from the top of a structure, and using that movement to pull in cool air from near or even under the ground (using the Bernoulli effect) can continually cool your house, using the energy of the heat that you're expelling.
- Shade. Shading your roof and walls, either with plants or nonliving shade materials, can reduce the amount of heat energy entering a structure.
I know this didn't directly answer your question, but I hope it was helpful!
I see what you're saying, but I don't know that I would want to block any winter sunlight, even in Central Texas.
If it's permanent and relatively high up, what about angling the cloth? If the shade cloth sloped about 30 degrees, with the Northern side at the lowest point and the Southern side at the highest, you may get the best of both worlds. Taking more cloth to the side of the garden the wind blows from (should generally be the North or West where you are, though local topography counts), you could get the direct sunlight in winter, plus the warmth generated by a dark colored shade cloth. In the summer with the sun directly overhead, you could get the shade from the cloth while still allowing a breeze over your garden.
Might be kind of a pain, but for a more permanent structure like you're describing, it might be worth considering.
As for materials, I like wooden or galvanized metal fenceposts, and aluminet shadecloth. If you use wood be careful about finishes, if you use metal, same thing. Don't want to start adding toxic gick to your garden soil. Where you plant under the shadecloth, taking advantage of microclimates of light exposure, would make a difference. Your tomatoes would probably thrive at the edges of the shade, while your lettuce and asparagus would probably be perfectly happy at the center.
I'll admit, I'm completely out of my depth when it comes to the specifics of your question. But I'll offer what thoughts it brought to mind, and maybe bumping it back up on recent topics will get a nibble from someone more knowledgeable.
Are the Vicuna you're referring to domesticated?
Here in Texas, there are a lot of farms that have had success raising exotic animals like elephants, giraffes, and goats from around the world. They're successful because the climate is close enough, and the animals have access to food similar to what they're acclimated to eating.
For an Alpine species native to areas with large temperature variations, I would hazard a guess that the main difficulty will be in finding a place at lower elevation with similar flora.
I'm also in 8a, and have a trumpet creeper vine with a downright alarming rate of growth. It ate 10 feet of fence in a year, top to bottom just covered the whole thing. The red/reddish trumpet flowers draw in hummingbirds, and the plant keeps pumping them out from May through September.
It also produces thousands of air-dispersed seeds, so that's something to watch out for. I just gather up all the pods throughout the season before they open, end up with a small bucket or so of the seed each season.
It sounds like your community is flourishing! From that aerial view I can tell what a beautiful place it is, and also that a Permaculture consultant could offer many opportunities for positive change. In addition to your post here I would recommend you reach out to the Permaculture Research Institute; I imagine they would be able to recommend a PDC instructor/consultant in your area. Here is their contact page.
Best of luck to you and the Small Footprint community!
Randy I've considered the same issues. Many threads here on Permies talk about starting small and expanding a house from a financial standpoint, but I haven't seen any books specifically on how that process works. Roofing and windows, the only solutions I see are to plan on modular roofing, with each part of the roof complementing the rest but standing on its own, and planning on where you would/could extend when placing windows. Foundation, however, seems to be the sticky wicket.
For my area it seems like a rubble trench foundation would be the best option, so in designing a structure (we don't have land of our own yet, but plan on purchasing and building our own home), one idea I've had is extending the rubble trenches out two feet beyond each wall. Using either roof overhang, something to shield it from rain or counting on trench drainage, I plan to dig out 10 feet, partially fill that trench so that the rubble slopes towards the structure, and backfill until it's needed. That way, if in the future I want to build out additional walls, I can simply unearth that part of the trench and extend it without disturbing the structure. Or so I hope. Will probably have a concrete footing as well, which would help.
Here's a few poorly done sketches of what I'm thinking:
I can't believe I'm the first person to respond to you, looks like your projects are coming along very well! That's quite a worm bin, how deep is it? I vermicompost as well, though at this point only on the residential/single family level.
Check out those mushrooms! I was reading up just the other day on coffee ground substrates. Are those oysters? Do you have experience growing other kinds of mushrooms on the substrate? Would love to hear all about your process.
Is "The Blue Economy" the name of the book? That's a fantastic concept for a book.
Well it's certainly true that trees don't have a genetic or planned death/senescence.
And it's true that trees always continue to grow, and that in most situations this will result in the tree not having sufficient resources to sustain itself.
But I don't know that I would say that, barring coincidence, trees die of overgrowth. There are a few reasons I say that.
1. Because resource availability is the specific mechanism that you're working off of, and resource availability varies and is dependent on the larger system. It's not possible to say 'this tree died of overgrowth' unless water availability, soil condition and their contributing climactic conditions are totally equal over time. While that may happen, I would say it's more the exception than the rule. Also, I know in a way it goes without saying but those effects are reversible: if water or missing nutrients become available, the damage to the tree is undone.
2. Because as they age there are a number of things trees do to compensate for approaching the limits of their resource availability. Typically as trees age they put more energy into phytochemicals and antioxidants, be it for tree health, insect deterrence or other reasons. Self pruning is common as well, and is, if you think about, a really elegant way to turn the challenges of seasonal variability into a solution. Also few trees stand completely alone, and the transmission of nutrients and sugars from older trees to surrounding, younger trees is a recently discovered but well documented phenomena.
3. Because there is such a thing as aging in trees, it's just not a matter of genetic degradation. Trees age physically- phloem pathways are disrupted, destroyed, collapse or bust, are rerouted or abandoned. Scars reshape and reorient the tree, affecting its hydraulic patterns, growth patterns and efficiency in moving sugars, minerals and water. Older trees put less energy into root growth than younger trees, even after the addition of soil nutrient and/or water. Older trees grow their foliage slower, and individual leaves are usually bigger, likely as a result of these and similar things.
It's certainly not wrong to say that trees die of overgrowth. I just don't know that it's necessarily the full story. To me it seems more accurate to say that trees don't age at a cellular level, when they die it is due to the cumulative effects of the circumstances of life.
You are probably right about there being a world of difference between Texas and MN deer.
I thought this was really interesting because I used to live in MN and moved to TX some years ago; hunted whitetail in both states and loved'm all. Anne I definitely agree about sticky, soap-defying dish nightmares though! I have the same problems with beef tallow though. If it's bad enough, I'll just boil a pot of water to slowly pour over the plates, with a pot to catch the water. Then I have to deposit it somewhere it won't set my dogs digging.
Sarah what a treasure, thank you for sharing! Some of your tips I'd never heard before. I especially appreciated the point about saving fat skimmings for cooking, it always seems such a waste to throw out! I was hoping you could elaborate on a couple of the points you made.
"Start with cold water and let everything sit in the pot for 1 hour before beginning to cook." I'd never heard this, what effect does it have?
"Do not completely cover the pot. " Does this have to do with maintaining the temp? Is there another reason?
Thanks to all for sharing! This thread has inspired me; my veggie scrap freezer bag and bone scrap freezer bag are calling!
If it were me in this situation, I would use it to demonstrate my point. I would set up two test plots, one using his salts and another using all of your alternative methods. Document the results, then send him a copy, put the results online and put a link on any website/social media his business has, do any and everything you can to get the word out. He gets the first laugh, you get the last.
Whoops, wrong picture. The point I wanted to make was that you don't need to peel them, so long as it's dry the shell will crack and the nut comes right out. Here's what it looks like after one good whack with something heavy:
Alicia you're a treasure, thank you so much for the recipes and please let us know if you publish! I would be your first and most enthusiastic customer.
Jolylynn sorry about that, my process breakdown wasn't super clear. When I crack burr oak acorns, they seem to always crack into two neat halves, both shell and nut. I simply remove the nut from the shell (so long as the nut isn't rotten, it always comes out whole and easy), and toss the shell halves in one bowl and the acorn halves in another. By far the easiest nut to shell I've ever dealt with. Once I have a the separated nuts, I throw those in a blender with enough water to cover them, turn the blender on and wander off for a minute or three (takes a long time to blend to a small and uniform size, and I never seem to get to the point of 'meal'). Then I strain, through the ground acorn in a big glass pitcher, add water from the kettle, strain, water from the kettle, strain, water from the kettle. I repeat that process (waiting about 10 minutes between water changes) until I've lost count of how many times I've changed the water and/or the water comes out clear.
I've heard multiple people rave about the taste, but with the process I'm using I find they come out pretty bland. It's a nice additive for soups, stews, breads and even pasta sauce, but can anyone tell me if a different process (cold water leaching, roasting), will bring out more of the flavor?
Seconding the mug method! Here the burr oaks don't drop their acorns til they're dried, so I just line'm up and get out a big glass stein. One drop per acorn, and they make a nice satisfying crack when you do it right =)
My process is typically crack ->throw in blender ->add water and blend -> strain, hot water leach -> throw in the pan before adding anything else for ~5 minutes on medium. Does roasting really do more to bring out the flavor?
Alicia your recipes look fantastic! My partner is vegan and I'm always on the lookout for new soyless meat substitutes, can I bug you for that burger recipe?
From the look of all this, perhaps the ability and the desire to eat all sorts of foods may be a great adaptation
Cecile I think you make a very important point. It's always fascinating to me to see the total transformation that comes over some folk's thinking when the topic of diet comes up. I have a friend that studies evolutionary biology who, when the subject of diet comes up, will waste no time launching into an explanation of how we were 'meant' to eat a particular diet. Perhaps I take a more fundamentalist approach to evolution than most, but what I take from it is that there isn't much of anything we're 'meant' to do. Organisms try things, they work well or they don't, (or they work okay, or most likely they work well in some ways and don't in others and are okay in the rest). When people say we're 'meant' to eat a certain way, are they after ideal, perfect nutrition?
Even if there was a diet that was 'meant' for humans, pre-humans vs humanity now are very different things. We've been through some extraordinary breeding and selection activities throughout human history, and I wouldn't doubt with more genetic drift than any mammal before us.
My partner is a vegan, full stop. She's also an avid runner, with a deep and abiding love of carbs. If I try and eat the same, I put on weight faster than a man carrying buckets through a thunderstorm, my sinuses pack overnight and I'm tired and inflamed dawn til dusk. I eat a diet much closer to keto/paleo, and find that the more meat and vegetable I eat, the happier and healthier I am. The only thing we really agree on food wise is dairy (none in our house.)
I do believe there are limits, of course, to what a human being can thrive on (looking at you, breatharians), but I'm not surprised to hear that some people do great eating raw beef twice a day, or never eating raw meat, and anything in between. Whatever diet one consumes though, variety seems an effective way to ensure you're not missing anything. Keeps life interesting, too.
My dog certainly love raw meat! There's a company in my area that connects small organic farmers and ranchers to consumers that skirts all the health code red tape by marketing their grass fed and organic meat to pets.
Then again, my dogs get tested for worms and parasites regularly...
Well if no one else is going to give the counterpoint...
I would agree with the general consensus that you only need a piece of paper if you need a piece of paper- ie for a specific career option. That being said, there are so many things that university offers a young person that they will not access through apprenticeships.
For one, access to the research and evidence to counterpose the less formalized and often incorrect information in most alternative/unaccredited institutions. If you want to learn to work wood, someone can show you exactly what works. If you want to start curing cancer with food or rehabilitating ecosystems, things are a little less clear and (typically) a lot more likely to be full of 'miracles', panaceas and snake oil.
For another, there are many things outside of just learning how to make things sustainable that are very helpful if not vital to the kind of life you seem to want to live. Finance, basic business law, communication, management, basic chemistry, soil science, technical writing. If you propose to someone designing their property, you'll get a lot farther with a company name, legitimate contract and service agreement, letterhead, etc. And not being slapped with an audit for the way you filed taxes on your earnings is a plus. Where I'm at, the ability to speak Spanish is a game changer, both in terms of making business connections and hiring reliable, trustworthy and hard working employees for the kind of work you're also describing.
80% of business enterprises fail in the first 18 months, and for most of them the only goal is to make money at all costs. 90% of intentional/eco community efforts fail. Starting or even continuing these projects that are 'alternative' to the status quo is harder, not easier. There's more roadblocks, more red tape, a smaller initial market and more difficulty in market penetration. Operating costs are much higher when you don't pollute, don't screw people over and don't cut corners to sell a crap product as a quality one, especially right out of the gate. You can learn the skills to meet these challenges on your own through rigorous discipline and a good deal of searching and independent study. Realistically, this doesn't ever seem to happen.
Finally, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I wouldn't be so certain you know what needs to be done when it comes to sustainability. I say that not because of who you are, but based on the realities of the situation: very few if any people can say that they know the best solution for people, planet and the future in any situation and be correct. There isn't a clear and distinct answer for what is the best course of action in every situation. In truth, there are very few things we have developed that we know- verifiably, with the ability to measure and replicate results- to be sustainable ecologically, economically and environmentally. Permaculture, appropriate technology, sustainability, these things are all still in their nascence, learning to crawl and developing their language. They're all attempting to develop in ways that are off the beaten path of intellectual endeavor as well, which slows things down considerably- their empirical results aren't achieved through isolating variables, their funding isn't from huge grants or bigger corporate interest, their goals lie beyond tiny, individuated nuggets of fact. Even then, I doubt there will ever come a time in which permacultural practices don't require the caveat 'but experiment and see what works for you in your area'.
College for me (5 years ago) was as much about learning who I was and what I believed as it was about the material I was learning. I did not pursue a degree for professional certification or a given career, and though the cost was exorbitant, I'm glad I did it. I developed my reasoning abilities, my ability to entertain concepts with a degree of impartiality; to recognize my own inherent bias in any situation; to critically engage a text be it a published study or a logical argument; to challenge my presuppositions about what is real, what is truthful, what is nature/natural, and what role humans play in the biosphere. I learned a lot of history, philosophy, logic, biology, and ecology, and a little bit of linguistics, chemistry, botany, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, business and law.
If you do choose to go to university: don't go for the name of the school, go for the quality of the departments in which you will study. Look into each professor before you make the commitment to pay for and attend their class. Study the material, and make your focus on learning instead of grades. TAKE NOTES- if you're taking courses that actually matter to you, you will be happy to have them later when that information is relevant. If the professor has a specialization that you find interesting, utilize them. Go to office hours and ask them questions that occurred to you in the class. In short, get your money's worth.
On the one hand, I get really excited about bioremediation techniques, particularly remediation of the most persistent and most common petrochemical products like polystyrene.
On the other hand, the idea of feeding mealworms on styrofoam and then incorporating the end result into soil or feed makes me cringe. The only study I've seen on it is this one, and while it seems to show very strong evidence this this is possible, I have a few concerns.
1. Their evidence seems to suggest that most of the styrofoam breaks down. Most of it gets eaten, and most of it that is eaten is digested and depolymerized. Most is not all, though.
2. The study parameters showed that the mealworms grew fine on a diet of solely styrofoam- for one month. Whether something would bioaccumulated and reach toxic levels, we can't know.
3. It's one study. If there's more out there I can't seem to find it.
If the intent was, for example, to get a city grant to divert styrofoam to a mealworm farm, then sell the waste product to the city for landscaping mulch, I would be all for it. The plastic contamination would probably be less than what the wind and surface runoff deposit in plastic anyhow. As something intentionally incorporated into your food production system though, I would be very hesitant.
As far as testing, I would say test the fecula/detritus and the worms at 1 month, 2 months, 3 months and the same bin at the year and two year marks.
I've done something similar to what Redhawk is describing:
finished vermicompost from worm bin (where all kitchen scraps go)
good sized clay pot, buried to just below the lip of the pot
add vermicompost, then water directly into the pot.
I have very thick, clay-ey soil and live in a more arid region, so the pot helps me water and water deeply without splashing on the surface or losing much to evaporation.This method also inoculates the soil with great microbiology.
I find it drains pretty quick (under a minute), but I'm okay with that. For one it ensures no anaerobic conditions arise in the pot. For another, a pot is small enough that filling it never swamps out my garden bed.
I do remove the compost after this (dump it on the surface of the garden bed, cover with mulch)
I believe Wes' word of caution is an important one.
There is definitely evidence that, at the least, continuous folic acid supplementation can result in unconverted and unhealthy folic acid in the body.
That being said, the same negative health effects could be linked to glyphosate or other pesticide usage.
Personally, I think grain intolerance as well as allergy problems are on the rise in part due to the twin evils of increasing sugar consumption and decreasing physical activity. While these things do not directly result in any intolerance to my knowledge, they do lead to chronic mild to severe inflammation.
Another thing to consider is that food labels can't necessarily be trusted. Due to an endless series of loopholes, just about anything can be labelled as something else. For example the sweetener people were recently able to change the name of high fructose corn syrup, since people stopped buying it. Even then lot of that information is self-reported and on a voluntary basis, and from my understanding is basically never verified.
Mick I think you have the right idea- keep it basic. To which I would add 'and know exactly where your food comes from, and how it gets to you'.
I'm not too far from you, just the other side of Gainesville if memory serves. Permies is an incredible resource for rabbits, goats and aquaponics. Hope you find some great insight hear, and that we get to hear how things go with those TAMUK rabbits. Glad to make the acquaintance of a fellow permaculture goofball in the area!
I doubt there is a way to make aquaponics work everywhere, and if there is it probably involves negating natural forces instead of working with them (which, in my view, isn't very permaculture).
I don't think that means that aquaponics can't have a place.
As someone mentioned aquaponics does much better in warmer climates, but it can certainly work in cooler climates. One thing that would be helpful would be to raise a fish more suited to your climate. Trout is the classic example of a cold system fish, but there are certainly others.
Will Allen's aquaponic operation Growing Power does very well through the winter raising tilapia in Wisconin. I believe he uses waste oil from local restaurants in heaters to heat the water and greenhouse, as well as compost heaps in the greenhouse. He uses already existing flows in the system he is part of (the economy of the Milwaukee area) to generate heat for his operation. I think adding worm/BSF/other detritivore systems to also incorporate those restaurant's food waste would be even better.
I like aquaponics as a permaculture solution, in part because it is intensive: I feel it's a very appropriate technology for the massive waste streams in our society. I think even if it would be unsustainable in a completely off grid situation, it is still very valuable for the situation so many of us are in. A well designed permaculture system takes into account the forces at play in their time and place, and that includes society and economy as much as sunlight and rainfall. A system that takes misused waste from a poorly designed system and produces food, compost and soil amendment in an efficient manner is in my mind very permaculture.
Maybe we should call aquaponics (and systems like it) 'permaculture transition technologies', or something like that.
I've kicked around the idea of adding granulated charcoal to a section of rammed earth wall as the collection surface of a solar chimney; glad to see people more experienced and knowledgeable than me have had similar ideas!
That's exactly what I'm looking for! And as you said that seems like a pretty straightforward plumbing job. Thanks for the info!
I'm also looking into replacing the disposable filters in my showerhead with something I can fill myself; I really want to create a simple, two stage cartridge system to filter then dose with ascorbic acid (we're in fracking country, and on top of that the city loves their chloramine).
I really want to get a Berkey, those seem like a nice medium between plumbed in-line filters and disposable cheapo ones, particularly for someone not confident in their plumbing skills or with concerns about their rental situation.
That being said, Henry any idea where I could find that filter system? Looks simple, easy to use and like it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
If your water has a high chlorine content I would also look into filters for your bathtub/shower head. Many chemicals including chlorine, flouride and carcinogenic 'disinfection byproducts' (DBP's) are absorbed through the skin and the lungs (steam) when you bathe.
On permies, we advocate that people follow the law or at least not admit to breaking it on our site.
A position which I in no way intended to challenge, my intent was merely to comment on an aspect of agricultural regulation both in your locale and globally that, to me, seems bizarre. Perhaps in the future I should follow your example and keep quiet about it, I'm still relatively new here so if I misinterpreted the rules or spirit of the cider press please feel free to remove my comment.
While Bryan et al have certainly given you some viable options depending on climate and site conditions, you might achieve your goal more easily with, say, a stout evergreen bush to block the wind and an edible or medicinal vine climbing it, or a fast growing nurse tree with a slow growing high value tree.
It sounds like the site for this hedge is a tough spot, cold, windy and a little ways from the house (far enough it may not get regular attention). It would seem to me that a small polyculture would stand a better chance of flourishing under those circumstances.