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Worst mistakes – series of cautionary tales – various authors  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6691
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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   We are not supposed to mock the ideas of others on this forum but nobody said anything about making fun of ourselves.

    So let's make this thread a series of cautionary tales where we tell on ourselves and explain in detail the blunders we've made. This could be both instructional and cathartic. I'm a fan of stupidity in all of its glorious manifestations and I don't believe in hiding from my mistakes. By examining what we've done wrong we are likely to improve future performance.


   It's always better to learn from the mistakes of others rather than heading down the same road yourself.

  Check out the green building thread titled "My worst blunders" to see just how badly things can go in that area if you're not careful and sometimes even if you are.

    Remember let's not make fun of what people have done. They've probably already paid dearly for these mistakes in many ways so let's not kick them while they're down. Have fun.

   I'm letting others go first since most of my screw ups are of a building nature and I'm sure there are others with more glorious farming and homesteading stories.
 
Ken Peavey
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Location: FL
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Are you fooling me?  There is not enough bandwidth on the planet for me to get out all the mistakes I've made.  You name it, I've done it wrong, broken it, screwed up, thrown it away, or otherwise performed some action which brought shame to myself and my community.  If the Titanic was a human, it would have been called HMS Ken Peavey.  I'm not sure where to start.  Perhaps I should call my attorney and see what I can discuss without incriminating myself.

My worst blunder of all time was with a girl.  I'm a guy, guys do stupid things, and I am not immune to the guy syndrome.  That's all that needs to be said so I'll move on to a topic more relevant to this forum.

Chickens
I enjoy my birds and wouldn't give them up for the world, but they cause me no end to grief.  After a brief stay up north a couple years ago I returned to Florida having left my birds behind.  They would not have made the trip well, but have a good home.  I wanted more chickens, found some for sale at a flea market.  In my excitement, I did not give them such a close look as I should have.  I handed over my cash, loaded up the truck, got home to find I had just bought 6 roosters.  What the hell was I thinking?  I clipped thier wings, put them in the pen, but there was vigorous growth of a particular camillia near the fence.  Every day another bird found the lower limbs which reached the upper limbs which gave them clearance to jump over the fence.  In a week, my rooster problem solved itself. 

A few months later, I bought this place, moved in.  The local hardware store had chicks for sale, $2-3 bucks each.  DMAN I said, Imma get me some chicks, took home 25 of the little fellers (more unattended enthusiasm).  The new place has a garage which I had not yet filled with tools, leftover materials, clutter, and half empty beer cans.  "I can keep them in there for now" I said to myself.  Gave them a box, heat lamp, feed and water, and they did just fine.  After a couple of weeks, they were big enough to let themselves out of the box.  The hole in the side of the garage (which is still not repaired) gave them access to the great outdoors and limitless feed.  This is when I found out about the indigenous hawk population.  and fox.  and possum.  Putting in long shifts at the time I did not get a chance to erect any sort of protective enclosure.  A month later my chicken population was down to 15, and more than half of them were starting to show sickle feathers.  9 gawdammin roosters, 6 hens.  Why did I not talk to the guy at the hardware store?  oh yeah...ZEAL!  So I tossed up some posts and chicken wire to give them an outdoor run, threw in a bunch of feed, then left to work out of town for a while.  In my absense, the neighbors pigs had gotten loose, tore up the fence to get at the feed, and liberated the chickens.  I'm down to 4 hens and 2 roosters.  All I do is bring holocaust to the birds.  The good news is that these birds are alive and healthy and to darn big and fat for hawks to bother with them.  The neighbors pigs are gone, there is abundant food available from free ranging, and they can get up high to avoid predation. 

I will get more hens at some point.  I have an incubator (another disaster story), but will hold off on using it again until the time is right.  For now I'm getting all the eggs I need, with a few to spare, they don't cost me nothin, and I'm no longer seen as a food source for the local wildlife.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 171
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Using freshly cut willow in a hugelkulur bed.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6691
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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    I bought a miniature goat and a kid for my kids. They didn't want to be petted and were not friendly at all. The mother goat was extremely unhappy after leaving a large herd. She constantly tried to leave, vocalized constantly and never did settle in. They ate everything that we didn't want them to eat and almost nothing that we tried to feed them. We sent them to a large herd and the guy told me they fit in well.
 
John Polk
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Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Yeah.  Solitary animals will seldom be happy, even if they have their kid(s) with them.
 
                        
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dale hodgins wrote:
    I bought a miniature goat and a kid for my kids. They didn't want to be petted and were not friendly at all. The mother goat was extremely unhappy after leaving a large herd. She constantly tried to leave, vocalized constantly and never did settle in. They ate everything that we didn't want them to eat and almost nothing that we tried to feed them. We sent them to a large herd and the guy told me they fit in well.


Well, I will have to disagree with that.  There are exceptions. I have a few hens that are older, and will die a natural death. One of them has what it looks like a form of arthritis, so she lives in the basement, separate from the other chickens. She can only make a few steps on her own, so not really suitable for outdoor living.

Sorry if this is not really on topic.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I used a 4 foot carpenters level to survey two swales. In my haste to get it staked and dug (we had a short time with a machine rental)  I didn't get the bubble exactly in the middle, so the swale is not dead level, and noticeably slopes.

I see this as a happy accident though because we have a high water table with many of our fields staying 'spongey' even into late may, so it might be good to be slightly channelling water away from the garden. There's also a risk of flooding if the local waterway lock systems ever failed, as we are 2 kms from a lake that used to shore up very close to our property before civil engineering had its way with the local water systems. Maybe I'm fooling myself though and its just a big screw up.
 
Michael Newby
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: Mount Shasta, CA Zone 8a Mediterranean climate
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For the past few years, my stepdad - Todd - has been trying his hand at growing potatoes.  The problem is, he has limited space and wants maximum production.  He read about growing the potatoes in tires and stacking the tires up as the plant grew, but didn't quite understand the process and managed to smother his potatoes.  Year two, tries the same thing, doesn't add too much soil too early this time, but dumps his stove ash all over them (potash for potatoes?) and manages to wipe them all out.  Year three comes around, he decides to try using soiled straw from his duck run to fill the tires with, which I must admit I told him to do.  I think it would have worked wonderfully, too, if it wasn't for the fact that the ducks had eaten a large amount of blue hubbard squash, whose seeds seem to pass right through them.  Todd's potato patch turned into one of the greatest blue hubbard patches I have ever seen.

This year I finally got a garden going and planted a small patch of my own potatoes the old fashioned way - stick 'em in some soft dirt.  I got a decent crop of potatoes with very little external input after the initial planting.  When Todd dropped by and asked what my secret was, I told him that it was pretty simple - I just avoided the urge to Todd my 'taters 

This has now become a family euphemism that's said anytime we feel like someone's trying to do the advanced things without getting the basics right first...
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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This will break the rules, a little, but you should never, ever, ever chop firewood in flip flops and shorts.  Long story short it is about my husband, so it breaks the rules but it happened to the whole family really.

I was planting garlic, the kids were doing yard work and we were going to have a cook out later that night so my husband was chopping some wood for a campfire.  Not thinking he put his foot up on the stump for wood chopping and hit a piece with a hand hatchet.  It hit a knot in the wood and the beautifully sharpened hatchet sliced his ankle straight down into his foot.

I heard "Honey!!"  And I hurried up to find him on the ground with his hand clamped on his ankle and blood.  Lots of blood.  I ran around and did the usual "oh my god" type of things.  I ran inside to get some wet towels etc and to call an ambulance when reality hit me.  No health insurance and the possible cost of an ambulance.  Let alone we lived deep in the woods and would have to wait awhile.  I ran back out and told my husband I could get him to the hospital in 20 minutes, and cheap too!!

We got him into the garden cart and me and the two kids pushed/pulled him up the hill to the mini-van and he was able to hop, lean etc into the back seat.  It's usually a 25-30 min drive, I did it in 12 minutes.  No one realized until we were in the little room Dr. and Nurse in attendance that we were all dressed, well, in yard work clothes.  His feet were green from walking through the mowed grass in flip flops. 

Fortunately he didn't slice up his tendons, and he healed very nice.  But to keep him working it became a family affair.  I drove him to work, my son carried his things and opened doors on the job projects and my daughter behaved herself and kept me company.  We did get a trip to Va Beach, Delaware Beach, and camping in the woods on his company.  His scar looks a lot like a smiley face.

Remember kids, chop wood in boots and socks and long pants.

Tami 
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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This made my blood curdle; both the image of the ankle and the low quality of life that the whole medical insurance situation in the USA causes.
 
Sam White
Posts: 226
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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SergioSantoro wrote:
... low quality of life that the whole medical insurance situation in the USA causes.


Almost seems like extortion doesn't it... Man I love the NHS
 
Case Smithey
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I had a flip-flop firewood cutting incident this year as well.  Though, not as bad as you described. 
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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  I chased a baby bear into  tall grass.

    It was in Algonquin Park in Ontario when I was about 23. I had just purchased a new camera. After about three strides I realized the error of my ways and sprinted to the safety of my vehicle. This could have ended very badly since there is only one place he could have been headed. His mom wouldn't have been pleased.

  I dodged that bullet unscathed but whenever we swap stupid stories and I trot that one out it's generally agreed that this is the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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This is mocking others, but hey,  it certainly fits the  emerging gory theme.
When I was two, my mother let me feed garlic into one of those hand-grinders as she turned the handle...
On a related note, I have an index finger called 'stumpy' and I can do party tricks which kids find hilarious
I realised my cautionary tale doesn't have a clear permaculture 'point' so I'm  creating one. My folks were old-school hippies with no electricity, who spent most of their time producing food. There ya go!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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My big mistake:  Expecting to be able to grow a garden in Central Texas.

Virtually everything I have planted has died.  After ten years of trying to garden here.

When it isn't a drought it's flooding.

 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Hi Ludi. I wonder if you have examined the possibility of impounding a large quantity of water to use during periods of drought. I'm thinking of a lined pond which would also have a rollout upper cover to prevent evaporation. I imagine that very little would live in this pond because of the extreme temperatures which would be reached under such a liner but this may be a way for you to have a multi-year water supply. The water might be a stinky mess but it would also tend to grow algae and provide you with plenty of nitrogen. A raised pond may be created by forming a big doughnut shaped pile of fill and placing your liner in the center.

   Do you have any sort of natural Gulch or ditch where native plants thrive or at least survive? If you were able to harvest even a couple inches of rain per year off an acre or so of land, that could provide enough water to have a few thousand square feet of garden. Their may be legal restrictions on rainwater harvesting but if you could sculpt the landscape to accommodate this you'd probably never be picked on by the water police.

     Check out what the natives did in Chaco Canyon. Labor-intensive stuff but they survived for a long time in a difficult climate without the benefit of rubber liners, the permies forum and earthmoving equipment.

    Oxfam has done quite a bit of work in the Sahel. This area borders the Sahara desert. On sloped land they pile rocks in a V-shape pointing uphill and all of the water is channeled to one spot where they grow useful trees and also some millet and other garden plants in the shade of those trees.

   National Geographic did a the story on a man who was a child refugee who was trained by Oxfam in the 70s. He and his sons have created the largest forest in the Sahel region of Mali. They have worked with nature and only grow plants which are successful in their harsh environment.
 
Suzy Bean
pollinator
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Paul and Kelda talk about sepp holzer's Permaculture chapter 1 in this podcast. They talk about the value of mistakes. http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/441-podcast-080-sepp-holzer-permaculture-chapter-1/
 
Deb Rebel
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Spouse did this one, no gore.

First few years we were married, he liked to cook once in a while. He made a roast, mashed potatoes, and wanted some nice gravy. He's a cornstarch gravy person, I was a flour gravy person. So he grabs the white powder and starts cooking up his gravy. And it won't thicken up. It just won't thicken. So finally in disgust he puts it on the table anyways and it is dutifully ladled over the potatoes.

He had grabbed the powdered sugar, not the cornstarch. It was beef flavored SWEET syrup. Over 30 years ago and that one will never be forgotten.

Now that I'm celiac this has extra meaning--if you're not sure, double check your ingredients before adding it to what you're cooking!
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
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As a means to save a little money, I have been cutting my husband's and my hair. Since we've been together he has had a military style buzz cut. Easy.

Several years ago, I had gotten home from a really crappy day at work. My car had broken down on the way to work. I had to ask the boss to run me back over to the garage (that pissed him off). Just crappy all the way around.

When I got home, husband asks if I could give him a haircut. I said, "I can't. Not after the day I just had." He pleaded and I gave in. The first cut was straight down the middle. I then realized that I had not put a guard on the clippers. I had just given him a "reverse mohawk". I tried to blend it in but it was glaringly obvious.

Thankfully, he was off work for the next three days and was going hunting with his brother. The next morning, he got into his brother's truck, took his cap off, leaned over and said "Check this out." His brother said, "Cool!"

That next week he had to have a group photo taken at work. It wasn't as obvious anymore, but I could certainly still see it.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I moved people to my farm and didn't charge them rent. I know some people have had success with this. In my experience, the person who pays no rent, will become an absolute pain in the ass hoarder, who gathers up every free item from the side of the road. This has happened 3 times. One person who contacted me through a friend, one who I found on this site and one brother. It's the weirdest thing. I have had other tenants in my life, and none of them accumulated crap to the extent that these folks did.

This same brother currently has a fifth wheel trailer sitting at my place. When I agreed to store it, the deal was that he could put it there and have a 5-foot parameter. He can also store stuff under it. If anything exceeds that boundary, I can enter the unit and take anything that I like. I have reminded him of this a few times and after 6 months, not a single breach of my rule.
 
Deb Rebel
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It took me awhile to find that thread about building blunders. Maybe you went to lift from the ashes (and old bandages) and provide a better link to it, Dale?

Many many moons ago, I needed to get a job and bail us out, so I moved 250 miles to a major burb with friends (I figured I could couch surf for two weeks with the number of friends I had there.) I got hired as temp then permanently hired and promoted up. I had the drive and motivation though, stayed with friend 7 weeks and moved to own apartment (and paid them for that 7 weeks of rent and utilities.) SO, another friend ended up in similar situation and I invited them in. 3 months turned into 29!!! and a formal eviction notice PLUS tracing her parents and getting them to come get her. (Number 4 of an identical pass for her parents)

I will no longer offer you a bed, supper, field gleanings, tools, supplies, studio space, or pay your booth fee. I am NOT interested in what ever you have dreamed about raising stuff on the place. Sayeth the tired old geekina that will
 
Travis Johnson
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I seem to strike a cord with people on here and part of it is that I always tell the truth...yes even the parts where I have made mistakes.

I am writing a book now on farming because I just could not find one out there on taking a farm to the next level...plenty of beginner farming books, but nothing on the next stages. Realizing I had the experience and ability to write one, I am. But it is written in an unorthodox manner, and part of that are these little boxes injected now and then in the text. One is called "Fails" and goes into a little quip into something that we tried that failed so others do not make the same mistake.

I think it is important, not only does it show my wife and I are human, but that we made a lot of mistakes that others can avoid. It puts you out there on the chopping block for ridicule, but so be it, writing is that way anyway.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Travis Johnson wrote:... I am writing a book now on farming because I just could not find one out there on taking a farm to the next level...plenty of beginner farming books, but nothing on the next stages. Realizing I had the experience and ability to write one, I am. But it is written in an unorthodox manner, and part of that are these little boxes injected now and then in the text. One is called "Fails" and goes into a little quip into something that we tried that failed so others do not make the same mistake....

please let us know when your book is published, it sounds interesting!
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