As it seems you know, long straight walls are not ideal. Adding a few curves would help, but I am assuming you want to maximize space along a straight property line.
Adding buttresses along the wall would be another option to reinforce. Such buttresses could potentially be multifunctional. For example, a 4 foot deep raised garden bed formed of earthbags on one side would add some stability to the wall. A shed, chicken coop or mini-greenhouse built between buttresses. A cob bench or outdoor dining table. Tea or meditation room?
In the big picture, it doesn't sound like the wall will serve a structural purpose in your home, so it probably doesn't need to be heavily overbuilt. What's the worst that happens? A 10-foot section starts to lean and eventually falls over?
My geiger counter is calibrated for gamma from cesium for when we travel to Japan, not sure if this will be helpful or not? Anyway, if I find myself near a bag of rock dust, I'll check it out. Wonder if the potassium in Azomite might be causing the beta radiation? No way around that. Potash is hot as well.
Decomposed granite around here (socal foothills) is moderately radioactive, and gives off radon. Ambient readings here are usually higher than many areas of Tokyo post-fukushima. As far as I know, uranium does not bioaccumulate like cesium, strontium, iodine, etc., but it's still very toxic.
A bit of tangentially relevant history: The reason for Japan's small farm size is US policy in the postwar era. Prewar, there were a large number of basically landless Japanese peasants in semi-fuedal rural Japan. US wanted to prevent the peasants from turning communist, so they enacted land reform, breaking up large landholdings among the poor. These newly enfranchised farmers became staunch supporters of property rights, capitalism and the pro-American LDP that has dominated Japanese politics for more than half a century. With rural depopulation and aging demographic among farmers, it will be interesting to see what happens to this voting bloc over the next 2 decades.
Japan Agriculture (J.A.) is a huge national agricultural co-op, that wields quite a bit of political clout and is organized in every farming community in Japan. Assuming J.A. favors solar farming, it bodes very well for solar farming. They can throw some weight around with the government in Tokyo and organize very effectively in rural communities. It is also worth mentioning that Panasonic, Sharp & Kyocera are all major PV manufacturers and powerful economic forces as well. It must be understood that Japanese rural communities already draw a significant portion of their income from national government spending or protective tariffs for rice and other products. Solar feed-in-tariffs will only exaggerate this pattern - but they may prevent the Japanese countryside from being entirely abandoned and overrun by monkeys, wild boar and bamboo.
Regardless, ANYTHING which prevents Japan's nuke reactors from coming back online is good news. They start unloading spent fuel pool #4 in November. Duck and cover.
Ellen Schwab wrote: SE Ohio is quite lovely in weather and scenery. The ground is mostly rolling with a few very steep sections.
SE Ohio is indeed quite lovely. I am quite fond of those hills. Family brought me to the west coast & moving back east isn't an option, but the opportunity sounds like a good one.
Adult adoption is a common pattern in Japan when there are no heirs. The adopted children work the family business and eventually take over the business and household. My wife's aunt is such a case. She started working for the family when she came from Tokyo as a young adult, and maybe 35 years later took over the family business, and then cared for her adopted parents in their later years. She is now in her 70's and will likely adopt a young adult - if she can find anyone with the falling birth rate in Japan.
Anyway, I wish you the best of luck. Sounds like win-win for the right people.
The problem with the term ego is that everyone has a definition of it, so it becomes a bit of a meaningless term. It means one thing to psychologists, another to buddhists, another to new agers and another thing in pop-culture. I am a student of buddhism, but avoid using the term 'ego' when possible, because people are likely to misinterpret based on their own understanding of that word.
Buddhism (not unlike permaculture) is based on the practice of observation, primarily of the observation of one's own mind. Classical buddhist texts describe the internal processes that lead us from having a body and sensations through to the conclusion that we have some sort of stable self that is separate from the rest of the world (ego). They also speak of a process of self-reification, which is a sort of confirmation bias - we believe we have a separate self and our mind reconfirms it second by second.
It's not that we don't exist, it's just that, in the buddhist worldview, our 'self' isn't quite as solid, separate and permanent as we tend to think. Where do I end and the world begins? Can "I" really exist as an independent phenomena?
It can be compared to an ecological worldview: Where does the plant end and the soil microbiota begin? Hard to say. Even in our own bodies, bacteria far outnumber our own cells. They are not just in our gut, but in our brains and everywhere else. Evidence suggest the bacteria exert significant effect on our thinking and behavior. (ex: toxmoplasma gondii, the crazy cat lady bacteria).
With ecology, it's quite a problem for us to isolate anything from anything else, and obsession with separating this from that has resulted in the precarious gambit of agriculture and civilization as we know it.
This is, perhaps, the central point of buddhism: You can't separate this (self) from that (other) - and the full catastrophe proceeds from the mistaken belief that you can. The belief in a separate, solid, permanent self (ego) creates human suffering in the same way pulling the cow out of it's pasture and sticking it on a feedlot creates suffering for everyone involved.
Albert Einstein summed up almost the entirety of buddhism in one succinct paragraph:
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.
As for calling out PW or anybody else on their 'ego', I don't see the point. Here's my favorite quote on egotists from Ambrose Bierce:
"An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me."
We have a grape arbor around 3/4 of the house, and they definitely will climb over our asphalt roof without problem, even in 100f+ Grapes drop their leaves earlier than most deciduous trees. They are dropping right now here, just as we want a little more heat to get into the house.
Very productive, perfect cooling strategy. Only complaint is varmints love them - raccons, possums, squirrels, rats... plan for them.
John Elliott wrote: If it is 15% "coarse fragments" you should be able to get a fine screen that will hold back that fraction. Some bacon spatter screens that you can buy at the dollar store have a mesh that size.
We've got lots of coarse silt fragments in our decomposed granite. Better to screen them out? What difference does it make?
Eric Markov wrote:
My wife's mother, who is from Taiwan, mentioned that during WWII & the Japanese occupation there, the locals relied on sweet potatoes to survive.
The Japanese saw it as peasant food and demanded other foods/meat.
The tops were stir-fried. Also tubers would be sliced into thin strips and dried. They could be stored this way for a very long time. Then they would just boil the dried strips into a soup.
When things got tough in Japan later in the war, they fell back on sweet potato as well. Many asians look down on SP as animal fodder, but plenty of people eat them, too.
Dried sweet potato (hoshi-imo) is still eaten in Japan as a snack food. There was some guy in Ibaraki prefecture doing Fukuoka-inspired Natural Farming and making a killing selling dried SP in Tokyo.
Here in Los Angeles, you can find the leaves & shoots at Farmer's Market, and elsewhere sometimes in Asian Markets - a cheap way to get slips for growing your own SP.
Had SP leaves for lunch today: toasted sesame oil, garlic, SP leaves & shoyu. Yum!
Most people attracted to Permaculture are young, dreamy idealists looking for some kind of system to structure their activities and impart meaning. It does not matter much whether things ‘work’ because you are not obliged to depend on them. It is their symbolic value that counts. I have encountered numerous ‘permaculture gardens’ with abysmal levels of productivity that have nevertheless persuaded their creators that they are virtually self-sufficient in food.
While I certainly fit the profile of a not-so-young-anymore dreamy idealist with abysmal yields, this is a luxury afforded only to first world permies. The author should take a good look at the success of permaculture in the 3rd world. Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America...
Cut a big hole in the center with chainsaw/drill/chisels/fire, whatever. Then use it as your composting toilet for a week. Innoculate with fungi & bacteria. Then build a big compost pile or hugel on top and plant into it.
hannah ransom wrote:
The problem is never getting to the castings part. I'm POSITIVE I could find someone on craigslist to come pick up castings. It's a way to deal with my refuse that I am worried about. Worms don't seem to be enough for the amount of scrap I produce. It's not that I throw a bunch of good food away, I just eat a lot of produce and have well over a gallon (blended!!) weekly.
Sure, someone will take your finished worm castings. Maybe even pay you for them.
Which neighborhood in LA are you?
A handful of worms won't be able to handle huge volume of compost right away, but they will increase in number quite rapidly if happy and become an impressive composting force. Enough worms and a big enough bin and they will take care of whatever you give them.
The biggest challenge is finding enough 'browns' to go with your 'greens'. Cardboard, newspaper, used paper napkins, dried leaves and woodchips are all candidates.
Nothing wrong with palm fronds. My observation is they take an awful long time to break down, even in a humid climate like FL, which is one of the reasons they are used in traditional roofing in the tropics. In the desert, they will take even longer.
Burying them will speed the process along, but, as mentioned above, they are fine as a mulch to keep the ground covered.
Citrus is very low maintenance, will like a little water.
As mentioned, San Diego county is avocado capital of the world. Avos also will need some water. I wouldn't worry too much about the humidity. We are very dry up here in the foothills and little inland - our Haas is a champ.
Pomegranates are no-fuss low water. Grapes do well. Mulberry. Loquat. Blackberries and figs will go feral, so obviously well-suited.
If you are frost-free, Moringa oleifera should do well.
Without frosts, be careful about choosing stone fruit varieties - also stone fruits often do better with a bit more pruning and thinning - not the best for non-attentive growers.
Rats are an issue in CA when there is abundant fruit, especially if neglected. Having a cat or dog around will help keep them under control.
Kales and chard are productive and relatively low maintenance once established.
As mentioned, chile peppers will be perennial and productive. You can probably overwinter sweet pepper in a sheltered spot, I've even overwintered tomatoes, and I do get occasional frosts.
Pay attention to the wild edibles to see what is growing locally: We get a seasonal abundance of sow thistle, chickweed, dandelion, wild mustard, purslane...just noticed some mallow popping up. Also look for lambs quarters and curly dock.
Prickly pear fruits are delicious, once you figure out how to clean them.
Momoy, Datura wrightii or Californian jimson weed, was used by sucking on part of a leaf to protect the spirit (4–6). However, it can be used in other ways to help with spiritual healing. Momoy is the Chumash name for the plant. Some patients, who do not listen well, need to breathe the aroma of the crushed stems. This opens up their breathing passages and their ears. When patients live with too much stress from jobs and relationships, they may find it difficult to take a moment to rest and breathe. Momoy helps them breathe and in general opens them to listening to God and healing.
Some patients need to soak their feet in solutions made from momoy. This is especially true of domineering people, who may be very decent, but are basically mean. The roots or stems of momoy, ~0.25 kg, are fermented in the sun in ~1 l of water for 3 days. The fluid is then heated on the stove to body temperature, or slightly warmer. The patient may then soak their feet for ~15 min. Some patients may need to soak their feet every night for a week before bed. This may help them relax and become receptive to God.
Momoy contains atropine, scopolamine and other compounds (9). This plant has been used as a way of inducing sacred dreams in order to talk to God. The dose that causes a sacred dream, hallucination, is very close to the dose that inhibits breathing. This makes the plant very dangerous. In addition, scopolamine crosses the blood–brain barrier slowly and may not penetrate adequately until up to 13 h. This makes using momoy for induction of sacred dreams very dangerous. The seeds contain ~0.1 mg of atropine and 0.05 mg of scopolamine each (4). As few as seven seeds have resulted in poisoning leading to hospitalization. Death may occur with blood levels of 47 ng/ml of atropine and 21 ng/ml of scopolamine, or urine levels of 200 ng/ml of atropine and 95 ng/ml of scopolamine. However, it is safe to use momoy for aromatherapy or as a foot soak. Momoy should also be used as part of Chumash religious practices, as protected by religious freedom laws, provided that its dangers are well understood.
Is the tree in already? If not, just tear up the turf and turn it upside down when you plant the tree, then mulch and plant over it.
Mint will spread by runners, faster or slower depending on how suited it is to your climate. It does like water and will compete with other plants for it. I generally prefer to keep it contained, but sure you can chop & drop (smells great!). It's certainly easier to control than most grasses.
Rain is not your problem. Cob has proven itself in rainy Wales as well as many buildings in PNW. Earthhaven is technically a temperate rainforest, and they have lots of cob and strawbale, mostly problem free. The good boots and hat adage applies.
Long, very cold winters on the other hand are going to be a significant challenge, if you have them and must be designed for.
As for the northest, I have a few handprints in a cob building at Sirius Ecovillage outside of Amhearst, MA. Quite a nice building when I saw it finished, but I never visited in winter. Might ask some folks over there how that building performs. I don't know of a lot of other cob in the northeast, but I'm sure there are several tucked here and there.
Be very wary of mixing modern materials with cob - there is a high likelihood of creating some sort of moisture barrier that will end up trapping moisture in the cob, rather than retaining the natural breathability of cob.
A cob house or other uninsulated thermal mass would tend to split the difference between nighttime lows and daytime highs.
Proper passive solar design strategies can certainly push a house towards warmer or cooler than ambient temps, but if the calcs don't add up, you've got a real problem on your hand that is going to require constant energy inputs in order to correct, whether it's heating or cooling - and heating or cooling a big thermal mass could be a major task.
If someone is new to earthen building, or building in a climate that has not had a lot of earthen building, there is risk of major errors. I agree that the romance may sometimes be overriding practicality - lots of cob & strawbale houses out there that have assorted problems - first and foremost with condensation & mold which can make a place completely unlivable.
We could use the permaculture advice that applies to planting exotics that are not tried-tried-and-true in a given area: Plant on a small scale with careful observation before moving to a larger scale. In other words, if you really want to try cob or other thermal mass in an area where it hasn't been done successfully, build a little kids playhouse or 10X10 guest bedroom first and see how it performs.
Cob structures can be relatively efficient even when not ideal climate-wise simply because they tend to be much smaller due to their labor intensive nature - less space/mass to heat/cool.
Cob-cordwood is something that offers a somewhat better r-value than pure cob. Light straw clay another option. One can do the north wall in something with better insulating properties and a southern wall in cob. Or one can do a thinner cob wall inside an envelope of straw bale.
Lastly, when designing keep in mind that any particular function, such as heating/cooling should be supported by multiple elements in the system - passive solar + rocket stove/cook stove + solar thermal pop-can heater, etc.
Pretty much everything we need to do to adapt to climate change is already built in the permie mindset.
Diversity as mentioned above. Saving a broad range of open pollenated seed....developing landraces which have deep & resilient genetics, rather than intensively bred plants. Share seeds with others, so if your seed gets wiped out for some reason, someone else has them.
Perennial crops tend to be more resilient than annuals, anyway.
Also, designing for disaster with careful sector mapping: fire & flood in particular.
Understanding how to create and use microclimates.
Store carbon in trees and soil.
And then there are the 'invisible structures' - organizing within the local area to move towards resiliency ala Transition Towns, Bioregionalsm, etc.
David Thomas wrote:@ Holly: Yeah that's kinda what I'm wanting to figure out.
I hear so much about cob being a thermal mass and holding heat. I imagine that it would hold the cold in as well if set up correctly. I have no cob experience, just hoping those that do can shed more light on the matter.
Thermal mass will hold 'cool' the same as heat. It will tend to average out somewhere between the midday highs and overnight lows. So, if you're overnight lows are still uncomfortably hot for you, thermal mass alone isn't going to help you much.
A few feet underground, the temperature will tend to average out between annual mid-summer high air temps and annual midwinter low temps - that's a significant source of cool to tap into. Cool doesn't radiate like heat does, so you are mostly left with convection or conduction as the natural ways to move that cool around without expending energy.
Earthen, stone or tile floors can suck heat out of your feet by conduction, which can make a surprising difference even when air in the house is warm.
Proper passive design is doubly essential with earthen building. In warmer climates, wide roof overhangs keep the sun off the thermal mass walls. As mentioned above, shade trees are really helpful too.
Dale Hodgins wrote:I think the most pleasurable and marketable means of improving food in the short term, is through using nutritionally dense spices. I like my mashed potatoes laced with Italian spices and stews containing Indian and Italian spices. I've found that by using these things, I'm less likely to go crazy with salt. Many bitter things can be added to soups and stews in moderation. Single food meals such as a big meal of sweet corn, are bound to leave us lacking in many nutrients.
Yep, me too.
Spices tend to be nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they loaded with vitamins and minerals themselves, antioxidant compounds in many spices prevent the formation of toxic substances during cooking. For example, rosmarinic acid inhibits the formation of acrylimides (cancer causing compounds formed in starches, especially during baking) or heterocyclic amines (carcinogens formed when meat chars).
Oregano is has the highest ORAC (antioxidant) potential of the typical western garden herbs, followed, I believe, by rosemary.
Who needs nutritional supplements when you have tasty perennial superfoods galore in zone 1?
Short answer is woodchippers turn a solution into a problem, rather than the other way around.
We've taken responsibility for a job that nature would do by itself (breaking down cellulose) and turned a resource into a problem (need machines & fuel).
What else can perform the function of a wood chipper? Fungus, bacteria, worms, farm animals, humans walking down a path covered in twigs, wood gasifiers, etc. Probably the best way to break down wood is with fire. Why use energy to break down wood when you can get energy out of the wood?
In any particular situation, none of those might be practical and a few situations mentioned in this thread where a woodchipper could be useful. Like with earthworks, perhaps a one-time sheet mulching with woodchips makes sense in some situations, but ongoing woochipping (fossil fuel inputs) seems counterproductive, especially when there are so many other elements that can take care of that function for you and provide a yield.
I confess to having used a woodchipper recently (neighbors were complaining of fire risk from my brushpile, and they were right) and now I have a beautiful pile of well-composted woodchips - amazing soil from it LOADED with worms. Since I'm in early stages of establishment, building soil is a priority. The woodchipper solved a short-term problem (fire risk & neighborly relations) and gave my garden a boost towards long term productivity. I can live with the compromise.
I don't hate woodchippers. But I certainly wouldn't want to build woodchipping into a design for a property.
california bay laurel and true bay laurel are quite different. The california laurel is moderately toxic, but I wouldn't be overly worried about using it for mulch. Test it on something easy to replace, rather than using it on your precious exotic perennials.
This kinda looks like a zone 1 or 2 location ... maybe right in front of the house. It will naturally get a fair bit of attention from both residents and guests. So, this would not be the best spot for stuff that needs attending only a couple of times a year. This moves you in the direction of the annual veggies/kitchen garden, berries that need to be picked daily when in season, housing for small animals, etc. Also, perhaps a place for things that are vulnerable to pest pressure from things like possums or squirrels that may pause at going out in the open (especially if a dog is around).
Also, consider that the circular driveway creates a natural edge where lots of sunlight gets into the center. You could build your 7 layers inwards from the driveway towards a grove of small trees at center... or go with Renate's idea, pond in the center.
You could put a medium sized nut or fruit tree (chinese chestnut?) towards the north side of the loop to create a couple of nice shady parking spots for summer, without shading out other productive area.
Cob is not a very technically challenging material, but it is very labor intensive and slow-going, even with a few people working. Get your roof and your footing right and you're probably good for a few hundred years.
Mixing the cob is a lot of work. You could cut down on your personal labor if you have a small concrete or mortar mixer - there are mixed opinions on that, no pun intended.
Your climate, # of sunny days vs. rain and harshness of winters will be a factor.
Some other techniques such as earthbag, hyperadobe, earthship, cordwood, wattle & daub, etc. can all be done on at a quicker pace, though I personally love the sensuality of cob.
Consider building in modular fashion. Maybe your first winter you do a 'shed', 'guestroom' or other temporary shelter and work on your dream home once you have a roof over your head.
All and all, considering many people spend 1/3 of their lives paying for a house, a year or two isn't a long time - and, if cared for, you sure won't be the last to live in it.
Gopher snakes, king snakes and such help with rodent control. If you have any spare snakes, please send my way.
Otherwise, the smaller garter snakes and lizards are generally beneficial. I have a small hoard of southern alligator lizards on patrol throughout the garden. I see them setting up shop along ant trails and otherwise eating bugs. Some of them have gotten quite used to me and let me touch them.
Lizards like piles of stones here and there throughout the garden, especially sunny spots.
Scott Stiller wrote:Yukkuri, that's interesting information. This is the first year I've grown any kind of potato so I'd like to try the Okinawa variety you spoke about.
Ben, your recipe has got my mouth watering. Will be trying this one too. Thanks for the comments guys.
You can probably find the okinawan variety from companies that supply SP slips.
Mine was storebought, and I had a hard time finding one that would sprout - they were conventional and several just rotted.
Unfortunately, I was undisciplined and got all my slips mixed up - don't know which is which at this point.
Murasaki simply means 'purple' in Japanese... there's a wide range of purple sweet potatoes from japan. Most are like 'murasaki' - kinda purplish-reddish skinned with white or yellow centers. Some varieties fatter and some thinner and longer.
I am growing something that looks like 'murasaki', but don't know for sure because they are from storebought tubers. I am also growing an 'okinawa sweet potato' which has deep purple skin/purple flesh for the first time.
Most SP will tolerate some wet conditions, and the japanese probably tolerate wet better than US-developed varieties (1500mm+ annual rainfall), but that is just a guess.
The young leaves of the dogwood make a light and pleasant smoke. It has been used in traditional pipe-smoking mixtures by the Ojibway and probably other nations. I gather some whenever I am in the east for this purpose.
When testing, distinguish between chemicals and elemental toxins.
Something that is an element, such as lead, arsenic (both common in old orchards due to use of lead-arsenate use), mercury, cadmium, cesium, etc. will not break down. Hope you don't have any of these, bioremediation of that sort would be a major labor of love, though not impossible.
Manmade chemical compounds break down, some quickly others more slowly. The more 'life' in the soil the faster that will happen. As others have noted, fungi are great helpers. Bacteria are also amazing at breaking down chemical compounds, for example gut bacteria are known to break down BPA. The majority of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, vetinary meds & plastic junk fit in this category of chemical stuff that will break down.
So, yes, innoculate the whole place with fungi, lactobacillus and compost teas. And get as much organic matter going as you can. If you're in a dry place, a bit of supplemental water will help the microbes thrive. These are nature's way of breaking stuff down and they can turn around many toxic situations in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years.