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Ludi's permaculture projects

 
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Ludi, how often does that rain event happen where you get flooding at 39million gallons per hour? Despite being a drought, it looks to me like you have an excess of water.

Is rain and the well your complete sources of water? Have you ever had to bring water in? How often and how much?

Have you done a rain water harvesting calculation for your buildings and tanks that take into account rainfall and times between rain events? We could work through that now. It should tell you how much excess capacity you have.


I think to get more help with the overall plan, it would be useful to gather the information in once place. It's quite hard having to read through the thread again and try and keep all the information in one's head. Do you have a system at home where you have all the information easily readable?

Maybe people who do formal design can offer some suggestions here. I'm thinking a document that shows all inputs in one place for instance. I'm also seeing some really good suggestions from people, and it would be good to keep them in some kind of order and see how they interrelate. Part of design is how to contain and use information. Something like googledocs might work. You want a system that keeps the information easily accessible, and in bullet points or similar without all the discussion around it.

I liked the idea of using an overlay, and wonder if there is a way to do that online so we can all take part? Does anyone know?


In terms of overall design, we're talking about a plan over time right? So that when you go to implement a specific project eg the food forest by the water tank, you can easily see how this will fit into all the other things going on, rather than doing it in isolation. The point being to increase efficiency and reduce the inputs that cost you (esp in terms of time and labour).


I agree with whoever said focussing on water. It seems so crucial to everything else you are trying to do, and if you could sort that I think things would become much easier for you.

The other thing I would look at doing is encouraging weeds wherever possible, esp ones that can produce mulch and/or shelter for you. By weeds I mean any plants that will grow on their own. I live in a dry climate, not as dry as yours, but nevertheless water and how to hold it in the land, and increasing plant material as much as possible is what I see working.


In the short term, re your asparagus and other bed you will leave dormant for now, I would suggest getting whatever mulch and brush you can and covering those gardens. Let nature look after them for a while, but give it a hand. Keep as much moisture and life as possible going by giving shelter. I don't know what is available in your area, but this is one of the things I would do in terms of design: make a list of resources.

The hugelkulture and other experiments you are doing look very good (and I think you should be giving yourself way more credit than you are for what you have achieved so far), but they seem like second tier strategies to me, that would come once the water harvesting is set up.

In that sense, it might be worth considering paying for a consultant to come in and do the swale etc design for you. If you are spending $1000/$2000 a year on land improvement projects, could you suspend things for a year and use some of that money to get the design right?

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Thank you. What I am asking for is input from other people about where they think I should move things.


I like your ideas for your big project. I'll be looking into elderberry as a possibility. Am also in the central Texas area and always looking for edibles that can grow here. Experimenting with goji at the moment. Our fig is doing well. Besides more hugels, looking to put in some keyholes. Did you find someone to assist with a swale design locally? We also have an old well. have considered using solar as a backup. Always looking for a local well expert. Our area is only an acre, with an 8 percent slope towards our house. Any time it has that rare rain it's a big deal at our house.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Rose Pinder wrote:Ludi, how often does that rain event happen where you get flooding at 39million gallons per hour? Despite being a drought, it looks to me like you have an excess of water.

Is rain and the well your complete sources of water? Have you ever had to bring water in? How often and how much?



The extreme rain events of that scale are rare, every 3 - 5 years I think. Rain and well are the sources of water, we've never had to truck water in.

Thank you for your suggestions. I'm looking for specific suggestions here of how I might rearrange elements to work better with each other, if that is possible. I don't see being able to hire a consultant, which is why I'm asking here.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Cal Burns wrote:
I like your ideas for your big project.



Thank you, I often wish it were a smaller piece of land, though I like the privacy we have. But it is a big responsibility, and we've learned we can't just let it "return to nature" without some management because of the water challenges. I like to hope we'll get those worked out in the next few years. If we could distribute the water more evenly throughout the property, we'd have fewer challenges with both flood and drought.
 
Rose Pinder
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Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Thank you for your suggestions. I'm looking for specific suggestions here of how I might rearrange elements to work better with each other, if that is possible.



Ok, does that mean that you specifically don't want to look at overall design? I might have misunderstood.
 
Tyler Ludens
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What I am looking for is specific recommendations on how I might rearrange the existing elements to work better in an over all design, or possibly to remove or add elements in order to improve the over all design.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's the finished hugelkultur for the figs. It ended up a little taller than I expected because I kept adding more material, but I think it will settle some. I'll be waiting a couple months before planting:



There's a berm to the right of the tank that I might enlarge so that the hugel is included in more of a swale type structure such as the hugelswale mentioned by CJ above.
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Ludi, I keep looking at your map, thinking and slinking off again.
I'm having a lot of trouble visualising things, and while I think specifics like livestock positions may need to change in the long-term, maybe focus on the big, underlying stuff like the water and earthworks suggested on your PRI thread.
I don't know a thing about that big stuff, but there's some very knowlegeable people there.
Very intimidatin, labour-intensive and probably expensive, but otherwise I think there's a danger of wondering what's up and moving things about, when maybe the issue is deeper and more comple than rearranging elements.
I am not qualified to offer specific "do this" advice, so I won't!
Another question, is the abandoned garden fenced? Could it be part of a rotational coop-and-run system? I'm pretty sure your chickens need to be locked in due to predators, right?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, Leila. The abandoned garden is fenced, but not chicken-proof fencing all around, they could squeeze through. It's possible what I've been asking for, specific advise about how I might make the zones 1 and 2 work better as a system, is not something people can do here on the message board, or possibly those who could won't do it for free, which is fine. Or it's possible the design is basically ok as it is. Nothing must be obviously horribly wrong or multiple people would have pointed it out and said "I think you should move x to y." Either that or the whole thing is completely hopeless but nobody wants to say so! Maybe this attempt might help others with planning and map making.

Our main focus will be on rain water harvesting structures and working on gardens right near the house. The rest is going to have to be good enough for now, I guess.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's another, smaller hugelkultur for two Pineapple Guavas:



These raised beds will only be for very drought tolerant fruits such as Figs, Pineapple Guavas, Loquats, Jujubes, etc.
 
Posts: 50
Location: Zone 5B: Grand Rapids, MI
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Awesome work Ludi! I think you might be at the point with your place where getting a professional consultation might be extremely valuable, given that you could get a reputable designer that wouldn't break the bank. You seem to be able to do the work yourself, so it would give you an extremely precise and focused plan on how to fully optimize your system and weed out efficiency related issues to save you years of time and money. I'll be following your progress hoping to learn from your success.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you. I probably won't be able to hire a professional consultant, I don't have that kind of money. If I had any confidence in being able to locate someone who knew what they were doing, I might try it, but I have no such confidence.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Aquaponics update

(Almost) everything is doing well. Even some terrestrial plants doing ok, these Chard and Cucumbers in the flood and drain bed:



Miniature Egyptian Lotus is growing well but not blooming:



I thought the American Lotus was dead but it grew back and is trying to compete with Duck Potato. Also in this tank are native Narrow-leaf Cattails:



The half-barrel beds overflowing with Duck Potato, Taro, Lizard's Tail, Pickerel Rush, Louisiana Iris, Bamboo, Tiger Nuts. I'm going to replace these barrels because they have a tendency to leak and drain the system, so I've been keeping their taps turned off. Because I turned off the flow of water, my Watercress died. Oh well, can't win them all!



Fish house in August:



I wish I could get some pics of the Bluegills, they're eating like mad and getting bigger. But today they felt like staying out of sight.
 
Posts: 1132
Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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thanks for the update, looks great
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you!

 
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What kind of yield do you hope for from your bluegills?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Not a huge yield, as there are few in the system, maybe a dozen. They aren't an especially fast-growing fish either. I'm thinking of trying again with Channel Catfish, who are much faster and larger growing, and will complement the system by foraging on the bottom. The Bluegill are primarily surface and mid-depth feeders who prefer live food.
 
Milo Jones
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I've been thinking about bluegills in a pond. I understand it is hard to keep them in check, but 10-20 pounds of protein a year seems realistic for me. Plus I grew up eating fried bluegill. I don't think my father ever tasted them smoked, or we would have spent even more time at the lakes.
 
Tyler Ludens
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If I had a pond I would definitely want Bluegills as they breed easily. Mine might even breed in the tanks. We had some nesting in our seasonal creek one wet year.

 
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Rose Pinder wrote:
I liked the idea of using an overlay, and wonder if there is a way to do that online so we can all take part? Does anyone know?



I'm not sure if this is what you want, but I built this site to help facilitate garden mapping and layering. www.plant-life.us

You can see my garden in the link in my sig. Click the little eye icon at the top to turn layers on and off.

Is that what you were looking for?
 
Rose Pinder
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Looking really good Ludi
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you!

 
Devon Olsen
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Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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weve had blue gills breed in our fish tanks before(just a tank in the living room)
and from memory I THINK one bred with a cichlid at one point too...
 
Tyler Ludens
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Aquaponics Treefrog on Duck Potato leaf:

 
Tyler Ludens
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We got three inches of rain in one hour yesterday. My hand-made berms were inadequate. Time to use more large equipment!

 
pollinator
Posts: 371
Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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How did those infiltration ponds fare? Maybe if you dig out a big swale and a bunch more of those ponds you could probably catch most of the water most of the time. Getting all your rain at once may make berms less practical than indentions.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, we're hoping to get another basin dug and also put in a couple swales in strategic locations. I thought we'd be able to do without a swale uphill of the house, but, my little berms didn't cut it, we're going to have to go with the larger structure. It was fascinating to watch the water piling up behind the berm and then breaching it, and pouring down past the house.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Hmm............. I just had an odd thought. If that field is flat enough, you could maybe rent a tractor and a subsoiler and keyline plow it instead. Supposedly you should only need to do that once on flattish ground, and it'd be quicker for water managing a large area than building individual swales would.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We tried chisel plowing it (not with a real keyline plow, which we probably couldn't afford to hire), but it didn't do much....
 
Marc Troyka
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Bleh. Well, at least we know what doesn't work. I kinda doubt swales alone will be able to handle all the runoff though, you'll probably have to end them in basins, or maybe use contour basins instead of swales.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Hard to know. The difficult thing is trying to plan for overflow routes to the next catchment, as the water will need to move through the house and shop area in a non-destructive manner.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's the plan for the coming earthworks. The round shape is a new infiltration basin we're hiring dug for us, the blue lines are swales my husband plans to dig using a generous neighbor's tractor. The break in the swale is to allow passage of vehicles across that field. Swales will be on contour except the one which ends at the basin, it will be slightly sloped to direct water into the basin. Lines are the shape they are in this drawing because I can't draw straight. :

 
Marc Troyka
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I saw some interesting channel looking things in this pic. I highlighted them in orange. I think the middle one might be your driveway or something, but the other two look like they may be water flows. Is that correct?
water_channels.jpg
[Thumbnail for water_channels.jpg]
 
Tyler Ludens
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The top one you've drawn is where water flows from the back field, the other two are drive ways.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Ha, well one out of three is better than zero I guess. You could definitely use that top one as a spillway, just use the shape of the water flow as a guide for a swale and embellish the shape a bit. The spot with the shaded in bit looks like it might be good for a small infiltration pond. Of course, you'll want to direct it around the back of the house instead of through the yard.

I don't see an obvious place to put a spillway for the swale closest to the house =\.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I plan two spillways for the swale closest to the house, one directed toward the kitchen garden to the south of the house, and the other to be directed between the house and the shop. Eventually I plan to have more berms, hugelkultur, etc in there to slow things down.


 
Marc Troyka
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Cool. Looks good to me. Good luck at any rate.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks! We'll see if we can actually get it done, and not wash away any more.... :p

 
Tyler Ludens
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Aquaponics Bluegills

 
Tyler Ludens
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Working on the water garden. Here's a rough plan:



The blue lines are overflow routes for water.
 
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