Last summer while I was camped at the lab I experimented with making rough cordage out of the knapweed that is so prolific out there. I didn't process the plants other than stripping leaves and side branches then crushing the stems. I made a simple hand twisted two ply cord that I tied around my tarp. Pretty strong stuff, it held a knot pretty well but the fibers get brittle when they dry. You could probably make much better cordage with better processing of the plants before making the line.
The wool was all stored in a cedar lined closet and chest which the lady running the sale made sure to mention to me presumably to prevent moth damage.
I haven't messed with the drum carder or loom yet but I did get the wheel cleaned up and working. Too bad my skills can barely make an over-twisted lumpy-bumpy rough yarn at this point. I really need to find a local spinner who'll take me under their wing and show me what I need to be doing differently. Don't get me wrong, I'm stupidly proud of my terrible yarn but it really intrigues me seeing videos of people spinning using the full arc of their arm for the motion instead of inch worming the yarn like I am now.
I am still amazed that I managed to pick up this deal...
So my wife has mentioned a few times that she thought it would be mice to learn to spin natural fibers. This weekend what comes across my Facebook feed but a spinning wheel for sale at an estate sale. I quickly asked if they'd hold it for me until I could make out to look at it in a couple of hours.
Being in the country the estate was over an hour away and by the time I got there I found out that many others had showed interest in the wheel. When I reached the spinning wheel and started going over it I was quickly informed by two ladies that it was spoken for. When I laughed and said that I was the one it was being held for I thought they might lunge at me. I have to admit that I didn't really know what the big deal was. I got dirty looks when I cheerfully quipped "looks like a spinning wheel to me" in response to one lady asking if I knew what I was getting there. There were a couple of boxes of other things that came with the wheel, I have to admit that I only had a vague idea of what they were.
It wasn't until I made it home and had a little time on the internet that I realized exactly the deal I had gotten. I drove away from that sale with an Ashford traditional wheel in good condition, a Clemes & Clemes drum carder and matching hand carders, an older model Schacht fixed heddle loom with accessories, a couple of drop spindles and nidy noddys, a lazy Kate full of bobbins, and multiple large trash bags of wool. I did a quick estimate of what all this would have cost me to get new and came up with around $1750! And they only asked $220 for the lot! No wonder those ladies seemed ready to fight me for it.
Yep, I'm still around, just terrible at the regular updates thing.
I did manage to snap a few pictures this morning of how the pond is coming along. I planted a few water lilies about a month ago and they're putting leaves out but no flowers yet.
The second pond hasn't really had much going on. I didn't put enough effort into making the bottom of the pond into an inviting wallow area so the pigs never really concentrated their activities in one place. I'll be trying again this summer...
What a refreshing book to read on creating your own natural pond. Too many books I've read on building ponds seem to be nothing more than a bloated brochure for a pond chemicals or equipment. With Building Natural Ponds Robert Pavlis has made the dream of having a low-maintenance pond seem much more attainable. The book is filled with beautiful examples of functioning natural ponds to inspire and convince you that a chemical-free pond doesn't have to be a sludge filled swamp from a horror movie. Yes there will be maintenance but by following the guidelines in this book you can reduce the maintenance to an acceptable amount.
Building Natural Ponds begins with an overview of the ecological concepts related to ponds and why a properly built pond is a benefit to the environment around it. I really like that Mr. Pavlis even gives a nod to permaculture here, which is rare in a lot of books out there. The book goes from there to a few chapters regarding thing to consider during the design, planning, and building phases. Here is where you get to dive into the fun part of dreaming of all the features you want or need and (maybe not so fun) the realities involved with making those dreams come to life. The great thing is that these natural ponds involve a lot less in the name of complicated pumps and filtration systems and a lot more benefits to the environment around them.
The next couple of chapters deal with the specifics of plant and animal choices for a natural pond. These are the real workhorses of the pond, what take the place of those expensive filtering systems and the expensive chemicals. As explained in the beginning chapters, a well designed pond is a functioning ecosystem that mostly maintains itself. The next chapter deals with what maintenance is still required to keep your natural pond in tip-top shape as well as examples of why many of the maintenance items associated with a traditional pond are not necessary with a natural pond. The book finishes up with a couple of chapters concerning special cases such as large ponds, swimming pools, bogs, etc.
My only real complaint about this book is one that I have with many books - I really wish the whole book was in color instead of just a few pages. I understand the choices authors and publishers have to make concerning printing full color but still, it would make the book better. Still, I 100% recommend this book to anyone thinking about putting in a pond on their property.
Back when all the hard hats out there were still made of metal people used to turn them into amazing works of art for things like retirements or to commemorate the death of a worker. Some people still have them custom made but I don't think it's quite as popular a thing to do.
I've always thought that you could make a beautiful barrel this way but it would be a labor of love, I imagine it taking a very long time to do an entire barrel. Maybe do a few decorative rings instead of the whole barrel.
Do you dream of a pond you can call your own but but the cost, hassle, and skills needed for all the filters and water chemistry seem overwhelming?
Building Natural Ponds shows us that we don't have to have a complicated system of pumps and filters and constant monitoring and tweaking of water chemistry just to have a beautiful natural pond. In the book you'll see how with a little planning and a lot of help from nature (think plants) you can have a stunning pond that doesn't need constant monitoring and adjusting or regular changes of a filter system.
From the author's website:
Typical backyard ponds are a complicated mess of pipes, pumps, filters, and nasty chemicals designed to adjust pH and keep algae at bay. Hardly the bucolic, natural ecosystem beloved by dragonflies, frogs, and songbirds.
The antidote is a natural pond, free of hassle, cost, and complexity and designed as a fully functional ecosystem, ideal for biodiversity, swimming, irrigation, and quiet contemplation.
Building Natural Ponds is the first step-by-step guide to designing and building natural ponds that use no pumps, filters, chemicals, or electricity and mimic native ponds in both aesthetics and functionality. Highly illustrated with how-to drawings and photographs, coverage include
- Understanding pond ecosystems and natural algae control
- Planning, design, siting, and pond aesthetics
- Step-by-step guidance for construction, plants and fish, and maintenance and trouble shooting
- Scaling up to large ponds, pools, bogs, and rain gardens.
Whether you’re a backyard gardener looking to add a small serene natural water feature or a homesteader with visions of a large pond for fish, swimming, and irrigation, Building Natural Ponds is the complete guide to building ponds in tune with nature, where plants, insects, and amphibians thrive in blissful serenity.
About The Author:
Robert Pavlis, a Master Gardener with over 40 years of gardening experience, is owner and developer of Aspen Grove Gardens, a six-acre botanical garden featuring over 2,500 varieties of plants. A well-respected speaker and teacher, Robert has published articles in Mother Earth News, Ontario Gardening magazine, the widely read blog GardenMyths.com, which explodes common gardening myths and gardening information site GardenFundamentals.com. source: Building Natural Ponds Website
Since bamboo has large hollow sections you can get steam pressure building up in those sections when you burn it and then a little explosion when the bamboo finally gives. The bamboo needs to be split or at least cracked so that you don't get the pressure build up.
I got a bit more done on the retaining wall this weekend. At least now the wife can picture where the herb garden is going to be.
It's been warming up a bit and my nectarine tree is sooo close to blooming. This tree's flowers are really fragrant so I'm pretty excited about the bloom, not to mention all the potential fruit the blooms represent.
Another project that I have slowly been progressing on is a dry stacked stone retaining wall. My goal is to have a nice little kitchen herb garden planted in this area. I guess I'd say the basic design is a keyhole style garden.
As far as rubbing the buds off, I do that as soon as I can without having to use too much force. If I try to early/aggressively I've found that I tend to rip a piece of the bark off with the bud, sometimes even peeling off a strip. I'll just rub my thumb back and forth over the bud and if it pops off great, if not then I leave it until the next time I pass by and think about it. As long as you can do it without damage you don't have to worry about it being too early.
One of the projects I've been working on is making swales in my wannabe food forest area. Since I have such an over abundance of wood chips I've been using the older ones to make swales that will increase water infiltration directly over the root zones of the trees. We had a nice little spring snowstorm the other day and the snow really emphasized the swales on the land.
The last picture is jut one of all the worms that were grubbing on an old pumpkin from last Halloween that I had tossed out onto one of the piles of wood chips. I ended up splitting them up amongst the fruit trees.
I'm just going to chime in with my two cents here:
First, I think it's great that you're looking at tackling a book, not to mention what seems to be a major reference book. Committing to a project like that is a daunting task. I must say that while I have no reference at all I think that 10000 words a day is a pretty good amount of writing. I've been toying with the idea of writing a much less in-depth book and I still don't have any idea if I'd be able to finish something like that in a year, much less a month or two. That being said, I feel like from what I've seen on the forums you're a little bit more focused than I am.
One of the great little nuggets of wisdom that I've gotten from permaculture is the idea of hodgepodge growth: due to the social complexities and rythmic, cyclical nature of our lives projects will sometimes move forward with great progress and will sometimes not progress at all. This isn't a bad thing since the slow growth times allow for study, adaptation and improvements to the design while the fast growth times allow you to utilize labor and resourses efficiently. The great thing about writing is that your manuscript will wait for you, while our plant and animal systems might not. Don't beat yourself up if your writing is in a slow growth phase while other areas of your life are demanding your attention.
Those are Box Elder bugs. We used to call them 'red-butt bugs' when I was a kid because you'll so often see two with their bright red rears stuck together during mating.
Although annoying when they break out in major numbers, they're pretty harmless. They feed mainly on maple species but I guess that they can feed on some of our precious fruit trees, too. Damage is usually pretty minor.
Far from scientific but we've eaten chickens with mites in our household with no ill effects. We did dispose of the feed instead of using them for broth or anything like that and gave an extra scrub to the skin...
No, it's not a canary grass, it looks more like a rye grass to me.
What's really impressive to me is the fact that this grew in a high desert area that averages 14 inches of rain a year. Not to mention the fact that it grew last year while we were still in a major drought. The soil (sand) out in that area is pretty atrocious, too. In fact the only things this plant had going for it was the sheltered microclimate and I would guess it gets regular guano deposits.
So this afternoon I decided to take my boys to do a little spelunking at a local lava tube. As we made our way into an area where the roof had collapsed I stopped in amazement. In this little green space there were some of the tallest grass stocks I had ever come across. My oldest son chuckled as he took the picture, I could tell that he thinks I get excited about some strange things.
Looks like I'm going to be making regular trips back there in hopes of getting some ripe grain before the birds do. I'm still thinking about going back and grabbing a few clumps to transplant - what are the chances are Ranger will come by...
As of 3/18/17 this film is on Netflix if you have it - I highly encourage people to watch it!
Wow, what an inspiring film! Instead of railing against what big agriculture is doing wrong without presenting any solutions, Sustainable shows a group of farmers who have found their solution and are more than happy to share it with everyone.
The film mostly focuses on seventh generation farmer Marty Travis and the group of farmers that he works with to supply food to various restaraunts in Chicago. What I personally liked the most about this film was the sense of peace you got from the various farmers in the film which seemed like such a contrast to the stressed out, almost haggard sense I get from my exposure to a lot of the 'conventional agriculture' guys. While none of these farmers would deny that the life includes lots of hard work, you can see the joy in their eyes as they talk about the different things they are doing on the farm, about the amazingly nutritious and tasty food they are producing. The resiliancy that these polyculture using farms have seems to allow the farmers to really enjoy their lives as stewards of the land. Nowhere did I see that pained, stressed look that I see in conventional farmer's faces when they're worried that the commodity price might drop or that one disease is going to wipe out their entire crop.
I believe that the farms featured in the film and others like them will provide a legacy of good food, increasing soil health, and profitable family enterprises vs. the big ag legacy of degraded soils, non-nutritious food, and ever growing debt cycles. I can't wait to hear Paul do a podcast review! (hint hint)
From the film's website:
"A vital investigation of the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system, from the agricultural issues we face — soil loss, water depletion, climate change, pesticide use — to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it. Sustainable is a film about the land, the people who work it and what must be done to sustain it for future generations.
The narrative of the film focuses on Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer in central Illinois who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agribusiness. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago"
Sustainable gives hope that not all is lost when it comes to agriculture. While hundreds of millions of acres of land are being farmed in ways that depend greatly on massive external inputs and still degrade the land, there are more and more farmers realizing that they can can have profitable, diversified farms without those inputs and they're improving their soil as they do it.
Erica Wisner wrote:
Ernie, of course, needs to be different... the thing he got excited about was that manzanita is a wood he likes to trade for.
Larger trunks makes wonderful goat-crooks, walking canes, and tough enough for mallets and marlinspikes for rope work.
So as you get going on the "big" hugels, maybe keep an eye out for a few nice big gnarly pieces for us magpies?
Erica & Ernie
We don't get that much in the name of large trunks on the manzanita here, that's more the white manzanita a little further south. I've seen those get to over 15' tall with almost 2' trunks but I would call those old growth. The red manzanita here is old if it gets to be 7-8' tall and over 10" at the trunk. The burls, though, now those make some amazing pieces of art!
Should you ever find yourself passing by on I-5 feel free to swing by and you can have all you want to harvest. It really is lovely wood, if only I didn't have a zillion other higher priority projects on my list - all in time...
I give The Year Round Solar Greenhouse 9 out of 10 Acorns.
I highly recommend that anyone thinking of building a greenhouse picks this book up before they get too far into the design process. The wealth of information covered by the authors is sure to give you insight into the best design for your greenhouse, even if you think you've figured it all out. It was quite revealing to me just how inefficient traditional greenhouses are and how much room for improvement there is in their design. I especially like that they aren't pushing some one-size-fits-all miracle greenhouse (that they happen to sell) that is going to do everything for everyone. This book gets into the reasoning behind the designs so you can understand if a specific design element applies to your design or not.
The reason I gave this book a 9 instead of a 10 wasn't due to not liking the book, just that the book left me wanting a little more. While the illustrations were clear and concise it would have really been great if the whole book had color illustrations/photos instead of just the color section in the middle of the book. I understand that it's a cost of publishing thing but I personally would be willing to pay more for a full color version. I also feel like it would have been nice to have a section that did have some actual detailed plans of greenhouses the average DIY person could build. I know that it would fill an entire book with plans to cover every design solution for every person but I bet you could cover a good number of people's needs throughout various climates with a handful of specific designs.
Which has a larger overall fossil fuel cost: Growing produce in Florida then shipping it all the way to New York to sell or growing that same produce in New York in a conventional greenhouse and selling at local markets? Believe it or not, the conventional greenhouse selling locally can still use 10 times the fossil fuels that growing in Florida then trucking it over 1000 miles to be sold!
How is this possible?!?
Well, conventional greenhouses actually aren't that efficient. They tend to get too hot in the summer, requiring some way to cool them down, then they get too cold in the winter, requiring some kind of heating to keep it warm enough for plant growth.
The Year Round Solar Greenhouse shows us that this doesn't have to be the way greenhouses are. It is possible to have a net-positive (produces more energy than it uses) greenhouse that will allow you to grow bananas at 9000' in the cold Colorado Rockies. This book gives you a myriad of techniques that allow you to harvest and hold those precious few degrees during the winter while minimizing overheating in the summer, all while minimizing your need for energy hungry heating and cooling systems.
The Year Round Solar Greenhouse isn't a detailed step-by-step how to book but rather a collection of knowledge that explains the why behind what they recommend you do. If you're looking for a book that has detailed build instructions with material lists and plans then this isn't the book for you but if you're trying to design the the best greenhouse for you're specific site then I think that this book is indispensable.
From the Ceres website:
Want to grow your own bananas avocados tomatoes and nutrient dense food year-round, even through the winter? The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse is the one-stop guide to designing and building greenhouses that harness and store energy from the sun to create naturally heated, lush growing environments even in the depths of winter. Topics include:
-Principles of solar greenhouse design (siting, glazing and insulation)
-Selecting and installing glazing materials
-Sustainable heating and cooling methods (passive thermal mass materials, compost heaters, rocket mass heaters and GAHT systems).
The book covers Ceres solar greenhouse design, as well as many variations, including:
-Attached solar greenhouses,
-Earth-sheltered and underground greenhouses
-Off-grid greenhouses using solar panels
About the author:
Lindsey Schiller is an avid gardener and greenhouse designer. In 2011, she co-founded Ceres Greenhouse Solutions, which researches, designs and builds energy-efficient year-round greenhouses. Lindsey studied greenhouse design at the University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) before delving into passive solar greenhouse design. Lindsey has designed, toured and helped build hundreds of energy-efficient greenhouses spanning small residential structures to acre-size commercial facilities.
She is also the author, along with Marc Plinke, of The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse: How to Design and Build a Net-Zero Energy Greenhouse. She believes the key to a green thumb is knowledge, and her goal is to make it easier backyard gardners, schools, and small-scale farmers to grow their own food, sustainably and year-round.
The first few are of the first pond, showing the willows and the reeds.
The next couple show how much growth the willows have put on. Hard to believe that these were just sticks hammered into the ground not that long ago. It looks like this fall I'll be able to harvest willow whips for fencing and whatnot. We've already found that they make the best marshmallow sticks around.
The last picture shows what little progress we've made with the second pond. At this time I'm not sure when I'll be putting pigs back in there, too many variables to consider.
Wow, thanks for all the encouragement and good words.
First I'll just apologize for the fact that I'm really not very good at regular communication with others, especially online. I guess I'll just use the excuse that I'm really an introvert at heart.
As far as the ponds go it's still a learning curve. The established pond has gone (mostly) through it's first winter and I've noticed that it loses level after a good hard freeze then thaw. I'm pretty sure that it's the freeze heaving the soil along the water line. Couple that with the low clay content giving not-so-flexible soil and the relatively thin seal the pigs made gets compromised all around the pond. Over time it does seem to seal itself back up and the level comes up to the spillway but it can take weeks.
The re-sealing of the ice-heaved pond might go faster if I still had ducks in the pond but alas the predators got to them. Needless to say fencing and other predator-proofing is pretty high on my list for this year. The chickens fared much better and enjoy their regular walks to the pond for water so at least I'm still getting their inputs near the waterline. Since a blue heron discovered the pond not as many of the big fish made it but there's still 5 of them and hundreds of the small guys. The cattails and the willows are just starting to wake up, I think the cattails are established enough for me to remove the protection.
The second pond didn't just hasnt gone as well as the first - I don't think it ever really got much deeper than the picture I posted last summer. I'm sure that there were multiple things that caused this: A major part, I think, is the fact that the pigs had much more room, with a larger flat area that they preferred to hang out around for doing their business, so less material to gley. Another factor could be that I didn't really spend as much time pulling the larger material out so it was probably more difficult to seal as well as less comfortable for the pigs to wallow. The third thing I've thought about is that the pond is getting it's water from the overflow of the first pond so it's water supply fluctuates more and is simply less due to seepage and evaporative losses from the first pond.
I am planning on keeping pigs in the second pond area again. I'll probably tighten up the pen a little to see if I can force them into the pond area more often as well as go in and pull out a lot of the larger material from the pond before I bring them in. I've thought about trying to get some green matter like grass clippings but I'm kind of organic matter poor around here besides wood chips which I don't think would lend themselves to the gley technique.
Things haven't really woken up from winter yet (we just got 3 inches of snow two day ago) so it's all still a little boring looking but I promise I'll try to get some pictures the next halfway decent day so you all can see how it's progressing.
If you have anything below the level of the pond you can use a garden hose to siphon water and muck out using that to irrigate areas that could use the nutrient boost. Main thing is to do it when you can replace the water that you'll be siphoning out of the pond.
Hi Sam. I added your question to the natural building forum to see if we might be able to get more people to chime in.
I'll second the big log sunk into the ground, it's a good relatively cheap mount for an anvil that can handle a beating if you use good dense wood. Besides that little tip I'm having a hard time coming up with anything that would satisfy all your design requirements that I would call 'natural' short of large stone work.
Good luck with your search, let us know what you end up going with.
This is a great guide to get you started building your own rocket stoves. The book covers so many different aspects, not just the how to but also the why behind it.
The book includes case studies of existing RMH's that have been in use for quite a while, design considerations, tips on placement in the home, as well as lots of useful calculations and pages for taking notes about RMH's that you may build/operate.
I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in rocket mass heaters.