Hi Hisham, won’t it require a lot of irrigation in your dry climate to grow grass or alfalfa in the orchard rows? That could be a problem, especially if you already have salinity issues. Would native wildflowers be an alternative? Or maybe, as Tyler suggests, just mow the weeds periodically and let the cuttings add to the fertility of the soil?
So here is a question on steep sided hugels. Does anyone have experience with water absorption?
I ask because in doing some recent land clearing, at the final ‘rake it all smooth and purity’ with the tractor rake stage, I ended up with small piles of small sticks and root bits and dirt, which I stacked in a big mound or pile off to the side so I could plant the newly cleared area. The several times I have gone back to the pile to bury compost in it, I have noticed how very dry it is, just under the surface, even after a heavy rain, and my thought was maybe the water is just running off, since the sides are steep, just like it would on a slope without swales.
So while not designed as a hugel, I am wondering if steep sided hugels have this same problem? Does one need to be sure to thoroughly soak everything while constructing the hugel so it then stays wet?
Bob, another reason you may want to track expenses and keep receipts, at least on the house build, is that in the event you sell it, you will need to calculate your cost basis and thus your capital gain. Although the exemption for capital gain on sale of a primary residence is fairly generous now, who knows what time, inflation and politics will do to that exemption in the future.
I think the essential part may depend on who is asked. Since discovering Permies and learning so much here, I certainly now see poop as a resource and not waste. Am I utilizing this resource? No. Not right now at this time in my life at least. I do pee outdoors as much as I can, on my compost pile, or on the grass, around plants and trees if I'm too far away from the compost pile.
I think you are looking pretty good there, Tricia! I would probably add some more dirt to the end to cover the logs so they don’t dry out, mulch and then plant the mound (and the uphill slope). Once you observe how that one functions, your next one will be even better!
Wow Trisha, you are ambitious! That sounds like a lot of work by hand.
No expert, but before I tore apart and rebuilt, I would think about widening the base. Maybe add two logs wider at the bottom on either side, then one on either side on top of those? Might soften the angle enough to hold the dirt.
You could also stake some horizontal poles to keep the dirt from sliding down.
Not sure I would use chicken wire - might make it difficult to plant/harvest/weed?
Have been AWOL for the last couple of weeks - too busy to stop and smell (photograph) the flowers perhaps. This week, Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus Carota, or wild carrot, decorating my fence line. Couldn’t have arranged it better if I tried!
Said to have numerous health benefits related to the urinary tract.
With full respect to Paul and other permies, but maybe a bit less scatalogical discourse up front for newbies? Maybe a level 10 permie gets the secret handshake and signs the non-disclosure agreement before getting the dump (see what I did there) on composting toilets and willow feeders, but not before they get there?
I know many people are instantly turned off/tune out at the thought of not flushing that stuff away, and if they think it is an essential part of the permie play book (and it IS right up there with herb spirals in frequency of mention) just won’t consider it. Can one be a permie and still choose a flushing toilet? Is composting poo an essential element? It is not entirely clear.
Not everyone thinks a poo bucket is sphinctacular - it takes a while (if ever) for the average joe to come to grips with the thought of having to handle his turd after it leaves the bod.
Joking about the secret handshake and NDA, of course, and of course it is an important discussion topic - just noodling out loud about public perception and how that topic plays with those just getting introduced to permaculture. Or is it a threshold - those who can’t get their head around the concept that there might be a better way just aren’t ready for permaculture?
Hey Denise, hang in there! Cooler weather is coming...someday!
I try to do as much as I can as early as I can - I tend to rise fairly early anyway, but once 9ish rolls around, it is usually getting too hot! Then I try to stay out of the sun/heat until the sun goes behind the trees. I figure why suffer, even if it means some things go undone until cooler days. A few weeds don't get pulled, projects don't advance as quickly as I might like - but I don't get heatstroke or make myself miserable, either, and that probably helps me to stick to it in the long run.
Well said, Travis. Sounds like a lot of people feel entitled to “should” on you. Keep ignoring them, and keep enjoying your success. You have built a sweet life for yourself and your family, and provide healthy, delicious food to your community. Well done!
Pearl, fear is nature’s way of saying be careful! It is a very healthy thing on a tractor on a slope with holes and stumps. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to stop and slowly back out of a situation because the fear of rolling gripped me.
I have a lot of hills, and cleared a lot of cutover with hidden holes and stumps and logs and rocks. I do hope you have a roll bar and wear your seatbelt! A lot of people have died in tractor rollover accidents - it happens. Your fear and caution is well placed. Don’t hesitate to hire out stuff that seems just too dicey. It may keep you alive.
Anyway, my point being, don’t beat yourself up because you get scared, or take longer to cut using an unusual pattern. We need you round here!
One metaphor that stuck in my mind from readings was (and I am probably not quoting this completely accurately) the concept that the burrows and tunnels and dens and holes are like the lungs of the earth, and when it rains, they fill up, and the earth exhales, and when the water dries up, the earth inhales. I like that image. Mollison I believe, or was it Lawton?
Hey TJ, an interesting dilemma. One approach might be to bite the bullet and build something really small and basic and “to code” to get the occupancy permit, and then get to work on the structure you really want.
This has a couple of advantages. First, it can keep child welfare folk off your back. Second, it improves your prospects for resale should you need an exit strategy. An alternative, non-permitted structure will really be viewed as raw land for most people. Always good to have an exit strategy! Bad neighbors, illness, disability, family issues - all might require a move someday, and no matter how much heart, soul and money you pour into it, if a purchaser can’t get a loan, no sale.
It might be worth undertaking an education campaign of your local building inspector. Might take time, and might require some compromises, but at the end of the day most code requirements originate from safety concerns. Even if you are willing to live with it, they need to “protect” those that come after you. Not sure what county you are in, but some are more “active” than others in enforcement. I do know someone who built a straw bale house, and one who built without a permit. In your shoes, with kids, I would be pretty reluctant to risk a no-permit build too.
Hey Bryan, good points! I commute one day per week, and work remotely the rest of the week now (for the last year or so). Is about 2.5 hours away, so usually involves a hotel for the nite at my expense.
It has been a fairly deliberate transition - bought the land 5 years ago, paid it off, built a barn with apartment on top, and that is paid for and liveable, and just last month sold the house in suburbia, so that toehold is now gone.
I just thought it would be easier to know it was time and pull the plug, but my brain is surprisingly resistant. There are still plans that need capital - solar set-up, land clearing, water harvesting, ag buildings - but that will always be the case I suppose.
These all sound like first world problems when I type them out - maybe I have grown too accustomed to throwing money at problems. Anyway, thought it would be interesting to hear if others wrestled with/are wrestling with the same decision.
Any other straddlers out there? A foot in the conventional job market and a heart on the farm, but afraid (ok, chickenshit) to let go of the income, benefits and “security” of a traditional job? I admire all of you who have cut the strings and live a homestead style of life, yet can’t quite bring myself to do it. From a financial perspective, am in a good position to do it - no debts, income streams that keep me above the poverty level without working - but am plagued by “what if’s” - what if the income streams dry up, what if I get sick, what if I need a major repair on something, that sort of thing.
Have reached a peak career wise, with great income, after a lifetime of being a good wage slave. Maybe that is what makes it hard, the golden handcuffs. And I can work remotely most of the time, although that actually makes it harder - stuck inside all day on a computer/phone calls all day instead of out doing stuff I want to do. Literally looking out the window at a truly beautiful place with so much to do.
Part of me says quit being a whiny-baby, you have the best of both worlds, ride that income wave while you can. The other part says yeah, but you are really tired of 50 hours per week doing something you don’t want to do. And life is short - just how many good years do I have left as a mid-50 something? I could be stricken tomorrow with a disabling illness. And energy levels really do begin to decline!
Has anyone taken the plunge and regretted it? Wished you had done it sooner? Am I just too used to having money in my pocket and doing what I want when I want? My current situation is probably not something I could duplicate if I jump and then reconsider - that door will be closed. But who knows what else I could do, if my time and energy were my own?
That is very sad, Su Ba. I looked at a property here in Virginia that was interesting, until I saw the 10 acre field covered with disintegrating black plastic sheeting and irrigation lines underneath the weeds. I couldn’t figure out how I would ever get rid of all that.
Luv, do you know if they can reuse the drip irrigation lines, or do they yank, trash and replace with each crop? I guess I assumed the former, but I can certainly see the irrigation supply companies promoting the latter!
Wow, loving those ferns! Donald, the NZ ferns look truly prehistoric. Would love to have a patch of those here - really beautiful. Ghislaine, what type of tree is that blooming amid the ferns? Gorgeous picture! Sonja, I love the redwood forests - how lucky you are to hike there!
Judith, it is shocking. I was on the central coast of California earlier this year, and the amount of plastic used in organic ag is beyond belief. Envision miles of fruit trees or grape vines draped in plastic. Acres of berry fields or lettuce covered with it. As best I can tell, what we buy at the grocery as ‘organic’ (also wrapped in plastic, by the way) is simply farmed in a conventional way, but draped in plastic instead of chemicals to keep weeds down and pests off. So, while you do gain some benefit in eating organic food in the sense you are not ingesting ‘cides’, it doesn’t do the soils many favors, and creates huge volumes of plastic waste.