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Me and mine's excellent hugelbuild adventure

 
pollinator
Posts: 1384
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
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I'm doing the Badge Bit for the PEP (Permaculture Experience according to Paul), and wanted to share my process a bit, like Mike did with Humphrey.  (Mine is named Bogart).  

First of all, where to build it?  

Nextdoor.com was my resource--I posted that I was looking to build this and got 3 replies!  One looked really good (1/2/ acre) but it turned out he hadn't quite gotten his wife on board...not a good idea for me to start building a big hill of dirt when there isn't enthusiastic consent.  So I held out for someone who was enthused, and some people in middle age (grown children) whho have been binge watching a homesteading makeover show offered me their yard.  It's been great--she even bought me the sunchokes so I didn't have to dig up mine, which I've only just transplanted in this spring).

Here are some of my major takeaways:

* Hugelkulturs automatically get smaller when you get closer to the end
* The “sand castle” method works ok.  Toss and pat.  Maybe not the best method.  Maybe not even a good one.  But the only one I could come up with, so better than no method.  (subsequently vindicated by Mike Barkley's thread).
* which remind me, read Mike Barkley's thread first, before starting.  Wish I had done that.  REALLY wish I had done that.  Cause I just looked at his finished product and he made it look easy...but, well, I didn't know what I was doing...
* Better certainly than the avalanche method, which is no method at all
* Did you know that Avalanche is one of the 2200 types of classifications of soil?
* That’s a joke.  It’s actually the name of all 2200 types of classifications of soil.
* I keep hitting this weird soft stuff sometimes between the stones, we don’t have it in New England, can anyone identify it?
* Don’t use the avalanche method.  It doesn’t work.  It just avalanches down and then nothing has stuck at all.  Use the sand castle method.  Think back to your childhood.  You can do this.
* On a more serious note, in Belmont, MA, it is illegal to make a pit of more than 3’ deep that is rectangular.  It can be another shape, but not rectangular.  This is, tragically, because a child fell into one and it collapsed on them.  Hence the “steps” motif on my hugel trench.  This isn't a joking matter.  I will have to expand the trenches after I'm done...adding to the footprint which is already over footprint, but my excuse is I didn't know ahead of time.
* My trench is hugel.  So hugel.  Nobody's trench is hugeler than mine.  It made me think I was just being lame, but I dug extra deep on the uphill side NOT to make the thing look taller but because I wanted to soak the water in from teh slope.  Frost pockets be damned, I can't let all that water go by if I'm making a trench anyway!
* Lots of worms in the 3’ depth sandy sandy layer.  I rescued a lot of them and sent them to Big Worm Rescue.  But they couldn’t take them all so I sent some to Joe Mundane.  Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen.  #TeamJoeMundane
* My host is awesome, as I mentioned they’re a middle-aged couple and are really into (i.e., “binge watching”) the homesteading makeover show, The Rainey’s or something, where a homestead doctor comes and MacGuyvers up solutions to people’s homestead problems.  I saw it once.  Anyway, my host is buying the sun chokes and several other seeds! And even tried to get Holzer grain.  I think this is a great way to bridge the generation divide and seed conversations that are often tough to have, especially within one's own family.  Her son’s a medical professional on the front lines, send good thoughts.
* I put a random piece of plastic gutter that was 7' long to draw rain from the drainpipe into the downhill trench.  It worked.  I needed to dig a little sand castle moat to get the last foot, but it still worked, my hosts said, and I see plenty of water in the subsoil even after this drought we just had
* I used that same 7' piece of gutter to measure. And this is where it gets dicey.  For one thing, after I worked my a$$ off getting it 7' tall, I found out that that piece of 7' gutter isn't 7' tall at all.  It's actually 8' tall.
* I really would have saved myself a lot of time, and not had to pile soil on top of seeds I'd already planted that may have put them too deep to germinate, if I'd had a better measuring system ready ahead of time--plus one I could use even if no one was around to hold the thing veritcle for me.  The plastic, lightweight gutter thing is a good tool for this, as it does stand on end kind of, and is longer than needed, whereas guesstimating off of a much shorter shovel just made me nuts
* I really should have planned the trenches better beforehand.  They're a bit, shall we say, vertical, not how I"d pictured them.  See item 7 above, about the Belmont square hole law.
* I definitely experienced some suburban sprawl with this thing.  Plus it went way over budget in terms of time--about 40 hours at htis point I'd guesstimate.
* I had to backfill one of the trenches--to get rid of extra dirt from a trench tat wasn't yet deep enough--and took the opportuinty to throw some extra limbs in from the hemlocks nearby.  They really needed to get sawed off anyway.
* Wattles.  This is the most important word I have used in this post.  I should have made them earlier.  Mike did them, that's how he was able to get that skyscraper effect, and keep the mulch on.  I resisted doing them because I somehow thought it would be a ton of work, and I was feeling frustrated, isn't this hugelbed supposed to SOLVE problems, not create them? my host is going to judge me and permaculture because all i've done is create a massive erosion problem, plus all the dead bodies of people who've fallen into my trench couldn't escape.  BUT!  today I went out there and I wattled.  And it literally took me just 45" of wattling to make a big differencde.  We'll see if that holds after the rain--but it's got to help the roots of the clover and brassicas that are getting their start in there in the meantime, so anything that buys time is worth it.  The only bad wattle is a wattle you didn't make, I would say.  And, again,
* sandcastle.  Always sandcastle.
* Holzer grains are really hard to get a hold of.  I think they have the variety (secale multicaule Kuhn 1974, according to a post on permies somewhere) in Germany but it's 30E for a phytosanitary certificate.  Then there's be shipping, plus I wouldn't get actual grains Holzer had landraced or cultivated and it's really cool to have something that one of my heroes has actually grown on his farm!!!  Shout out to Clayton for shipping me seed, thanks! you're the best
*mulch--I thought it would be hard, but my 4 kinds of mulch actually went to 5.  One was seaweed that my host kindly hauled back from the sea.  Not great by localization standards, but it was already there, she wanted to contribute something, and it does sure supply lots of nice mineral content.  I also used:
     * driveway mulch: dogwood petals and other fallen tree flowers
     * their leaves, plus maple seeds.  Yes, you read that right, I planted weeds on the hugelbed.  I know I know, but hear me out, they are deeply taprooted, they'll help prevent erosion, and it would have been more work than it's worth to Cinderella them out of the leaves.  They just fall on everything.  Maybe next time I'd put a tarp there, but I didn't think of it.
     * grass clippings, from lawn with broadleaf weeds--I rode by on my bike and snagged the yard waste bag
     * bark mulch--to make mini-mini-wattles also by sticking them into the dirt.  It did help some.
     * tea leaves.  Long story.  Ok, since you asked, we were picking pallets at this tea importer, and out in the side there's a fenced off area, and they'd dumped all this waste tea there in a HUGE pile, I mean Humphrey and Bogart put together sized pile.  So we took a shovel and shoveled them into a tote bag and made off with it.  I like it especially for really steep surfaces--you just confetti it over the steeps and it sticks a bit here and there.  Anything to block the sun is better than bare naked soil.
* Yes, you did just make a big erosion problem--not just the one where the hugelbed is really steep, but the one where the trenches are...but that's OK, it won't get that much worse in just a few rain events, so there's time to chip away at it after the badge is done and make it nicer for the real utility
* real utility is the only motivator that really keeps me going with this, just getting a badge, even one from someone I respect, is still sort of jumping through a hoop.  I had to keep focusing on how much yield this might get, and the yields in terms of learning.
* Hopefully the crocodiles in the moat will keep the sunchokes from escaping, but if not, well...there's worse problems we could be having at this point in history.  
* I killed a bunch of my host's lawn, unfortunately, buy leaving a pile of dirt on there for a few weeks.  I honestly THOUGHT I was going to move it right back on the top of the bed after a week and the grass would be sad but make it through...but of course you know what happened, and today I just shoved a bunch of it into a wheelbarrow before I had to go, I didn't even dump it yet.  
* saving all those clods of clover for SmallCloverRescue was a waste of time since you never bothered to put most of the clumps back onto the hugelbed after, and now the clover died in the drought--so next time just save a few and let the rest go!


I'm going to post lots of pictures and maybe some folks will comment on which ones are actually worth submitting for the badge and which are extraneous.  But they're helpful here to see the process I think.

Bogart
(verb, slang) To keep something all for oneself, thus depriving anyone else of having any. A slang term derived from the last name of famous actor Humphrey Bogart because he often kept a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, seemingly never actually drawing on it or smoking it. Often used with weed or joints but can be applied to anything.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 1384
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
118
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Pics or it didn't happen. . .unless it was Carol Baskin, then can't convince me that it didn't happen.
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evidence of location of build site relative to wood used (within about 1000 feet I believe)
evidence of location of build site relative to wood used (within about 1000 feet I believe)
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Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 1384
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
118
kids trees urban writing
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More pictures.  

White clover in the big glass jar.
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White clover in the jar--my partner got me a pound or two for about $15 with a gift certificate she needed to use up from eBay. Thanks sweetie!
White clover in the jar--my partner got me a pound or two for about $15 with a gift certificate she needed to use up from eBay. Thanks sweetie!
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Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 1384
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
118
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last dose of pictures.  The white plastic thing is 8' long--I measured it with a piece of paper I had in my backpack (11", it was 98" by my measure, I rounded down).  That's also the gutter piece I used to divert water from the drain pipe to the downslope trench.

They have a rain barrel there at the house, but it isn't big enough to last through even a small (by our standards here recently) drought of about 2 weeks for the hugelbed.  It was empty after I used it for irrigating the first week.  I used tap water.  (Hoping I'm not driving up their water bill too much--but they get to share the harvest).

I snuck a potato in today at the bottom, cause it was already sprouty, don't tell Paul, it might not be 70% n-fixers by volume anymore.  Actually, I also put more nitrogen fixers on, mung beans that have spilled, so it should balance out.  

All that's left is the Holzer grain and the comfrey, I think...
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bark for mulch
bark for mulch
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and any I happen to find later in this woodpile
and any I happen to find later in this woodpile
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their oak leaves, crumbly, plus obligatory maple seeds (*#$#$!)
their oak leaves, crumbly, plus obligatory maple seeds (*#$#$!)
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grass--that's what the kids are calling it nowadays--plus some broadleaf weeds you can kinda see if you squint
grass--that's what the kids are calling it nowadays--plus some broadleaf weeds you can kinda see if you squint
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hypoteneuse is up to the 8th rung on that ladder, and ladder really useful by the way for access!
hypoteneuse is up to the 8th rung on that ladder, and ladder really useful by the way for access!
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gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1737
Location: mountains of Tennessee
648
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
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Bogart. That is hilarious. Humphrey is glad to know his twin is almost born. Treasure of the Sierra Madra. A Bogey classic. Your post made me think of that strangely relevant movie.

The pix look good. Once you acquire the last bit of required plants I think you're ready for official PEP certification. Will look it over closer after dinner just in case something was overlooked. Maybe Mike Jay will have some additional insight.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Thanks, I appreciate all the help.  For the record, I think I've only seen one Humphrey Bogart film.  And I hope we'll have lots of variety and diversity of names of hugelbeds for the PEP badges going forward!  Also I need to deepen the downslope trench just a little bit, and the east side one, six inches or so.  Then do more tapering of the edges of it to be in compliance with safety regulations and to reduce erosion of the sides of the trenches longterm, but the tapering is independent of the badge.  Oh, and move the rest of the soil off the lawn that's smothering her poor grass...but that's a bit down the road.

Now I just need to bogart some comfrey....
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Humphrey BOGart.
Built a
Hugel
with a go-cart.
Can't convince me
It's off to
A slow start.
Planted sunchokes,
Now they
Shop No-Mart.
What's happenin?
Humphrey Bogart.


That's WAY harder to rhyme with than Carol Baskin.  

Just wanted to mention I have refrained from employing the full beauty of the English language on this thread in case my kind hosts read it, it's probably nothing they haven't seen before but I'm trying to be a bit civilized.  If I need to add more beauty to get the badge though I'll do it.
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
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https://permies.com/wiki/pep-badge-gardening

To get the gardening sand badge you will need to post the pix & be certified for each of the individual BBs (badge bits) in their own section of the PEP forum. Via the link above.

Hugel is the hard part of this particular badge. Have you done the other two?

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks Mike.  I have not done the other two.  It's going to be a bit of a challenge to get enough straw that's definitely without herbicides, but I think I have a hookup, and I can't remember the other one but I think I can work it out.  If anyone feels like donating me some straw though I won't say no!  

I just want to say thanks again to Clay and Paul whose generosity is extraodinary.  Paul paid the postage for my Holzer grains.  Give that man some coin, and spread the Better World Book!
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
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No need to wait on straw for this part. You could select appropriate pix & some of the words from this thread & post them in the hugelkultur part of the gardening badge. Might want to add a pic of the grains though. I just looked over the requirements carefully. Noticed some details have been clarified since Humphrey was made. I think it's ready to be certified once it's in the PEP hugelkultur BB thread.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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I got Holzer grain!!! Thank you Clay and Paul (and Sepp and the land of Montana and Austria)!

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Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Mike Barkley wrote:No need to wait on straw for this part. You could select appropriate pix & some of the words from this thread & post them in the hugelkultur part of the gardening badge. Might want to add a pic of the grains though. I just looked over the requirements carefully. Noticed some details have been clarified since Humphrey was made. I think it's ready to be certified once it's in the PEP hugelkultur BB thread.



DOne. Thanks Mike, and I got my Badge Bit!  Woohoo!!!  I am now 1/3 badger.  

Or 1/3 of 1/22th badger or something. Dig, dig.
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
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Congrats Joshua. Saw the post yesterday & was prepared to certify it then. Figured it was better to have someone else check it out too. You're welcome for the pointers but really it was no big deal. You did all the work.

Please update this thread with pix every now & then. It is fun to observe the changes. I think you will be quite pleased with how much food one of these can grow.

Considering building another one for flowers. With a backhoe.

 
A "dutch baby" is not a baby. But this tiny ad is baby sized:
Devious Experiments for a Truly Passive Greenhouse!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paulwheaton/greenhouse-1
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