• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Nancy Reading
  • r ranson
  • Jay Angler
  • Pearl Sutton
  • paul wheaton
  • Leigh Tate
  • Burra Maluca
master gardeners:
  • Christopher Weeks
  • Timothy Norton
  • Jeremy VanGelder
  • Paul Fookes
  • Tina Wolf

podcast 140: Suburban Permaculture in Great Falls, Montana

Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Listen Online


Paul Wheaton talks to some local folk about using permaculture to deal with the area's specific challenges.

Support the Empire

Help support the empire and get all of the podcasts in bundles here

To support production of these podcasts, make a donation here at Paul's Patreon page.

author and steward
Posts: 49757
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
transcript ...

>> All right, so this is Luna.
>> Yeah.
>> She seems plenty excited to see me, not so excited to see the rest of you. All right, so we are in Great Falls, Montana. And oh, yeah, Hi, Luna, you mean glad to see you too. A little black lab puppy. Just full of energy.
>> Come on, come on.
>> All right, so we're at how many acres you have here?
>> Just under one.
>> This is kind of suburban.
>> Yes.
>> And last night I presented at the library in front of about what? 50 people?
>> Yeah, about 50 people.
>> And we talked about replacing irrigation with permaculture. And I got a little tour of Great Falls. We went to the falls and I kind of had my expectations set higher.
>> Than that.
>> And then it is like that's it. Those are the great falls, really? And I guess if you are paddling up the Missouri river and you get to that, it is like son of a bitch. How do we get past that. And then they seem greater when you are in a little canoe at the bottom of the falls.
>> With the head winds.
>> This is what I noticed yesterday is Great Falls really wanted to restyle my hair?
>> Everybody's hair.
>> All the fellows have short hair for a reason.
>> And we like our clips.
>> Women pin it down.
>> Or cut it short.
>> Women pin it down and so, yesterday we talked about making a pod cast today and he said I can't record a pod cast in Great Falls because of the wind. But today mysteriously something has happened. It is like an inverted tornado or something. We have children.
>> Peddling about.
>> Let's go stand on the grass. All right, so and then I went and visited a property yesterday, which was an interesting property. I was told it is the most permaculturesque property in Great Falls.
>> Yeah, the only one that I know of. This is a new concept here.
>> Yeah, he might be.
>> He has a jungle yard.
>> That is for birds.
>> Jungle yard, that sounds like permaculture.
>> Yeah.
>> So this puppy is just big enough so when it jumps on me, it seems to be able to hit me in the nuts. Switch to decaf little puppy. Yeah. All right, so a lot of the lands here in Great Falls. This is kind of the overwhelming scene here is wind.
>> Yes.
>> Lots and lots of wind. And it is not just the gentle breeze. It is generally like you are standing side ways and that is normal. People in Great Falls have very sturdy ankles from leaning into the wind no matter which way it is blowing.
>> Side ways.
>> Yeah, I have seen a lot of the trees, they all have a tilt of them to give you an idea of which way the wind normally blows, so it is easy to tell. And in fact, another property of Great Falls is that not a lot of trees at all. It was kind of like the drive over here from Missoula was beautiful. Up until about halfway, two thirds of the way, and then it started to get a little more flatty, desertesque. The rainfall here is about the same as Missoula, but the thing is that you have so much more wind, the wind is very desiccating. And so then when we saw the property yesterday and he was planting a lot of trees. He had a lot of trees going, like five acres and the advice that I gave this guy was berms.
He is trying to build these windbreaks out of trees. And well yeah, windbreaks with trees help about 20%, 15%. And berms help like 95%. So here is a thought.
Trees on berms. New idea. [Laughter], but I was talking about around the perimeter can think about berms that are not just like ten feet tall, think like 20 feet tall. Wind is just a powerful issue. The first thing you do, all the planning around here needs to start with what are you going to do about the wind. Because it is just going to dry everything out so, so fast.
Last night when I was giving the presentation, we started to talk about morning dew and it was like do you guys even get morning dew?
>> Very rare. You can go outside in the morning in bare feet and they will not even get with the.
>> Okay. So it is kind of like ‑‑ because it is like if you did something to increase the humidity in your area, in our acreage or subacreage. So what? By the time morning comes around that stuff is 20 miles away. It won't make a lick of difference. I am noticing, you are flying your eco flag.
>> I am cheap, I love to be able to hang the clothes and it is nice especially today because I will not have to pick it up off the neighbor's fence.
>> [Laughter] I was kind of thinking ‑‑ because we are looking at a clothes line complete with clothes. I was kind of thinking that because of the wind, you put your clothes out there, I imagine they might dry in about four minutes.
>> That is about it, as long as you can keep them hanging.
>> Hang them up and keep them going.
>> When I talk to people that have never done a clothesline before. Use a clothesline instead of using a drier, it saves an immense amount of energy and then they say I don't want to put them in the sun, don't they get sun bleached and stuff? And you know what? It ain't really the sun that drys your clothes, what really will dry your clothes is the wind. Even a gentle breeze does amazing stuff. So in this particular case, if it is a windy day out here ‑‑ I'm going to say if it is a normal day out here in Great Falls. I was told when it is windy, it is about 50 miles per hour.
>> Windy.
>> When it is a normal day, you have like 20 to 30 miles per hour.
>> Pretty much.
>> And you have a lot of sunny days and if you put them out on a normal day, usually how long does it take to dry them?
>> About an hour.
>> Okay.
>> Jeans.
>> And towels.
>> So jeans and towels will be dry in about an hour.
>> Yeah, and all the other stuff takes a lot less. The kids clothes and shirts and stuff is less than that.
>> Right, right. The key is that now, let's take that same stuff. I think when I put my clothes outside to dry and I don't have as much wind as you do. I am thinking it will be 3 or 4 hours. So here a little faster.
>> Okay.
>> It does kind of give you an example of the desiccating effect and what it will be like growing stuff out here. That is really the first step to try and see what you will be dealing with. Now the guy yesterday, his name is Bill?
>> Oh, yeah. He has listened to quite a few.
>> And you have listened to some of them.
>> Oh, yeah.
>> All right. So another thing too, like if I go to somebody's house, I don't like to go and give advice if they don't know who I am. I am worried about getting shot really. I don't need that, I'm trying to help. Is it not helpful for me to tell you how stupid you are. This is so stupid. Who thought of this, you? [Laughter].
>> Only for the faint at heart.
>> [Laughter]. So you've got a little less than an acre. And I would still, even still, granted as I come out here to your backyard. I am thinking if we were going to be putting a berm around all of this. That is the first strategy, the thing that is for sure going to work. Then I think okay, the down side of having a berm is that you better really, really love what you plant inside of it because that is all you will ever see again. What view will we be blocking out? Is that rusty old dump truck something that will be okay to block the view of?
>> I suppose. It'll break my heart, now that is west too. That is where we're getting beat up a lot. From the west.
>> And is that a horse trailer there with the hay on it?
>> It is.
>> I think that is from 1952. I think they painted the side of that with house paint. So I'm not sure, if this is somebody's idea of an artistic horse trailer, would it be okay to block that?
>> That would be okay. That would be acceptable.
>> On the opposite side we have a pathetic yard and that is a conventionally built standard issue house with a standard issue deck. I mean, are you going to get weepy if you don't get to look at that a lot.
>> What you are missing is the five dogs, the hounds and everything else that are baying and causing noise and whatever. So that won't break my heart either.
>> So when your children are out here, do they come out and express how much they love your children too?
>> They do. And I never want my children to put their fingers through because they might lose them.
>> Those are child finger eating dogs. So a berm there would probably be okay?
>> Yep.
>> Now, which way is south?
>> That is south.
>> Okay. So on the north side of the property, you have two fences because one fence just isn't really enough.
>> No, they put that fence up about a year ago. They have British white park cows. And they milk them and everything and so they're really nice when they come up. But that was their property line so they put that fence there and this one was here. So this is snake habitat. Which we have rattle snakes. That is the bad thing. Our neighbor's dogs were bitten so we do have to mitigate for that, watch for that.
>> Okay, so that was kind of my thinking was the reason why you have rattle snakes is because somewhere around here you have a whole lot of rattle snake food. And I imagine that piece of land that we are looking at, I think they even mowed it.
>> They did, they baled it last year.
>> I imagine there is a lot of rodent habitat in there.
>> Oh, yeah. They have a lot of ground squirrels.
>> Which could also be said to be snake food habitat.
>> Okay.
>> And I think that ground squirrels specifically. Aren't they full of what is called ice cream for rattle snakes?
>> Yeah, they like those quite a bit.
>> So it is no wonder. I wonder if you could find other snakes that think that ground squirrel are full of ice cream and then introduce them here and they will kind of push back the rattle snakes.
>> Possibly. The bull snakes are kind of like the same thing. I actually know somebody that likes catching them. Of course, he likes catching the rattle snakes too, crazy guy.
>> Well, could you have a separate bag of just the bull snakes.
>> I need a couple of bull snakes.
>> It is a thought. I've never heard of anybody doing it, it is just an idea.
>> I know he relocates a lot of them, but the bull snakes in particular. It is worth a shot. I wouldn't mind having them around.
>> So to the north, it is not a bad view. It is not a great view, but, you know, the other thing is, pretty much that is what we're talking about doing. You could just put up berms on the two sides, but I would think that you would be further ahead to put berms on three sides. But ‑‑ now there is a gentle slope to this land and I think it goes ‑‑ where we're standing now, the north side. Right now I am standing on the highest point on your entire almost one acre.
>> Pretty much.
>> Yeah, I think so. That is another thing too, if there is any cold air pooling. You have a great big U‑shaped berm around the perimeter of your property, if there is know cold air on the north side, it will go around you and it will not get over the berms and if any cold air lands inside of this U‑shape. It will go down that way. And I think I would open up channels a little bit so the cold air could go south.
>> And if we did have a berm along this fence, any snow that we get catches here. So grabbing that moisture would be a benefit too.
>> Well, now, snow collecting here in Great Falls is different from almost everywhere else. Because almost all the snow that falls here is what they call that horizontal snow. So other people might see flow fall from the sky. I don't think ‑‑ I think it is actually snow that fell in Missoula and then flew over here. I think it flies somehow and it might go up more somehow in a series. What you get is snow drifts.
>> We do, a lot of drifting. We will have a lot of bare spots in The yard and then 3 or 4‑foot high drifts.
>> Okay. And I would imagine what is going to happen with your berm is that if you put a berm in here that you will get a lot of snow building up on the outside of the berm, maybe some on the inside. More predominantly on the outside. I don't think it will make it over the berm too well. But I imagine a lot of snow catches up on the houses.
>> Quit a bit, until it blows off.
>> Okay, and then anywhere where there is a low spot on the ground. I can see out in the front yard where the road is, there is probably a lot of snow that builds up there. So you have this really deep snow and then you walk three streps and it is almost dry.
>> Absolutely. Bare ground.
>> The magic of the drift. I would say the first step is on the perimeter put in a rather tall berm and the trick with building a berm so incredibly massive will be where does that material come from. And so if I were to dig a hole here about 3 or 4 feet deep here, what would I find?
>> Oh, very ‑‑ a couple of inches of kind of topsoil and then it hits clay and shale and rock and nastiness.
>> How far can I dig down before I can't dig any further and what have I encountered?
>> You can go down about 8 or 10 inches and then you need a pick. And then you keep going and there is more rock. And you can keep digging, but it is just harder and harder to dig.
>> You know what a track hoe is?
>> I love track hoes.
>> Let's say that I have the biggest track hoe that I can find and get in on your road here. How deep is that going to be able to dig?
>> You should be able to get 10 or 20 feet.
>> Oh, see, that is what I wanted to hear. Here is what I am thinking, I'm looking around a lot here and I see a bunch of spots where I don't see any consideration for drainage. Up by the road there, does it puddle near the road?
>> No.
>> So we're sitting on top of like awesome drainage. I don't see anything in place here that give as shit about like, oh, let's get all freaked out about how my backyard is going to turn into a lake in the spring. That is not an issue?
>> No.
>> Okay that is good to know. So basically, if I dig down with my jumbo track hoe, my amazingly awesome track hoe of beauty. If I dig down, no one is going to get really weepy about that.
>> No, I don't think so.
>> You will start exposing some really rough gravelly kind of rocky stuff and some growies don't really care for that very much, but we will start off by changing the land. We will start out with the topsoil and save that over there. We want to save that because that is our friend.
>> So get a couple of five‑gallon buckets out here and save your topsoil.
>> [Laughter] yeah. Well actually I think it is thicker than what we usually have in Missoula.
>> Oh, wow.
>> So you are ahead of us there. Because of the desiccating effect and you get only 13 inches of rain a year I understand. Which is about the same as Missoula. And I will guess that your soil is alkaline?
>> Very alkaline.
>> So way that is we can come up with to acidify the soil will be a good thing. Because a lot of garden plants like a P H of 6.5. Now what is the P H ‑‑ what do you expect is the P H of your yard here?
>> It has been 7.5.
>> That is not too bad. That is alkaline, but not too bad. We can work with that. That is actually going to be easier than I thought it was. I thought you would say over eight.
>> I have not found it over eight. About seven and a half.
>> Your lawn does look pathetic. I thought that might be due to the alkalinity of the soil because of some of the colors that I see in the grass kind of make me think that is indicitive of a high alkaline soil. But 7.5 is not too shabby. I think driving a track hoe is so fun and so I think everybody should do it once. And so I think get a big track hoe and build some berms. So shape the grounds. Scrape the topsoil off and set it aside and anything that looks like it could be turned into topsoil, set that aside. And then you're going to start digging down and get your gravelly kind of ‑‑ because the outer berms will be predominantly this gravelly stuff. This subsoil stuff. And those will be the really tall berms.
>> Put wood?
>> Well that is the next thing. We want to do some hugelculture stuff if we can, but all of Great Falls is shy on wood.
>> Yeah.
>> It is like the trees tend to be small, if they are there at all. Like wow, you can see a long, long, long ways. What is the farthest? I bet we are seeing about 20‑miles in that direction and we are at ground level.
>> On a clear day you can see way more than 20 miles.
>> There is some brown haze over there and ‑‑
>> Some mountains over there.
>> That is probably a good 50 or 55 miles away. And there are some mounts over there and that is much closer, maybe 35 miles away. This is some flat country that we are standing on now. I think I see some trees on those mountains over there. Not that I see individual trees, but it looks green.
>> Yeah.
>> So building a hugelculture bed is not going to be easy here. Because we don't have a lot of wood to work with. Do you have a source for ‑‑ I kind of wonder if you could even maybe buy some kind of local hillbilly that will get you a load or two of wood.
>> The city cuts down trees all the time. What do they do with those? They have to chip them and they might not mind not having to chip them.
>> That is true. And then we have friends down that live down south near night heart and have a cabin and they are taking out some trees.
>> Those are so good, I've heard about those friends.
>> I will say hey, you don't have to haul those out, I will take those.
>> Oh, yeah, there you go. I have just the spot for you to get rid of your waste trees.
>> That's it.
>> And after we've done that I will tell you about hugelculture. After.
>> Trees, trees, hold on to them.
>> When I have all the trees that I need I will tell you about hugelculture and how awesome it is. I would say that some of the berm that I will build will be some of that rocky stuff. And I would worry about the top 6 or 8 feet to have the trees in it for the hugelculture stuff. And that organic matter will find it down underneath that rocky stuff and try and make them as steep sided as you can. And then inside of those really big berms, you can have smaller hugelculture beds, maybe 6 or 7 feet tall. And now, if you don't mind sharing ‑‑
>> Okay.
>> So now, if you don't mind sharing with the pod people, how tall are you? And when I say how tall you are, I want to know, because I am looking down, how short are you?
>> I'm five feet. I have my shoes on and I am five feet.
>> And now Sepp Holzer recommends that the height of the bed, when you put your hands straight out, and that, but I'll tell you that I want you to do it much taller than that, because these will shrink down. They will get smaller in time and they will come down to be your size later.
>> 10 or 20 years.
>> Actually, I think they will shrink 20 to 30% even in the first year.
>> Wow.
>> So I've seen people that go and build them.
>> I better go and check on them.
>> Oh, screaming children. Yeah check on them and count their fingers.
>> Light sabers.
>> Every time I see Liam Neesan in a movie, I think a sword is coming out eventually. That is all he does. I will solve all of my problems with a sword. A sword is like a big laser. I will hack my way into this house through this door, this steel door, that is what the light saber is. We were talking about permaculture. I think the thing to do and so much of my time in Great Falls has been focused on I have to beat the wind and everybody, their first thought is the trees. And the trees here will grow so slow because it is so hard to be a tree here. And so you need to kind of create some tree habitat. I notice that you have some chickens. Are these the illegal chickens of nasty and wickedness.
>> We are outside of city limits so us rebels have them outside of city limits.
>> I heard that the chickens formed some sort of mob syndicate in the town and they had to be banned because they are just so evil.
>> I know, they are evil, but we just love our eggs.
>> So these are not the same evil chickens that they had in the city that were doing the mob thing. These are different.
>> These don't peck out eyes like the ones in the city do.
>> Okay, that makes sense. If the chickens are coming to your home and pecking out your children's eyes, shoe ban them. We will show them who is boss. Ban them into oblivian. This looks sad and pathetic.
But, you know, hi chickens. All right, so they've got a very tiny little space to work in here. Do you have issues with predators is that why you've got ‑‑
>> We have issues with neighbor's dogs that can come over our fence. So yeah, that is kind of harsh.
>> Have the chickens listened to my pod casts, because wherever I go they follow me.
>> They think that you have scraps because I feed them that.
>> Oh, you guys are so stupid. We don't have any food. All right, so dogs are an issue here.
>> They are, but during the summer time, especially I do like to let them out. Besides the winds we have grasshoppers in biblical proportions and it is nice to kick the girls out so they can clean you mean as many as they can.
>> When a grasshopper is of biblical proportion, does that mean that the individual grasshopper is just eight inches long, or that there are 87 zillion of them?
>> 87 zillion. Awful.
>> Those guys know how to party.
>> They do and they breed and come in droves.
>> What you need to do is have more chickens and even more grasshoppers.
>> Well, more chickens and less grasshoppers.
>> Oh, the dog is back. I notice your choice of puppy is black labrador. And you tell him to sit and he's looking at you like I love you. Sit, I love you more. See I can sit. Look at what he did. Sit. He did. All you need is a giant guy to holler at you, that's all you need. Yes, I think you're cool too. Let's talk about the chickens again. Yes, I am the most fascinating thing that you have seen this hour. You know what? When I hear about neighbor dogs that you just described. I think of opportunities for comedy. And nothing brings about an opportunity for comedy like an electric fence with a really hot pop.
And then you just, you'll be in your home and the windows are open and we're going to pretend for a moment there is no wind and then you hear yipe, and you go oh, those dogs, they somehow got into my yard. That is so funny.
>> That's true, that would work.
>> Yeah, and it brings comedy to your life. And that is what you enjoy, joy is rooted in comedy.
>> True.
>> So find your joy. Experience joy.
>> Plug in your joy.
>> Those things take hardly any power at all. Like five watts a month. That is like a dime in power a year. And getting a great laugh about 20 times a year. That is worth a dime.
>> Our neighbor's dog is dumb, but I don't know if he is 20 times dumb, but maybe only once. He might actually learn.
>> Might, okay. Some dogs are more trainable than others. Yeah, it could happen. I hear you. So then there is that ‑‑ plus maybe a little strand right along the top edge of the berm. So you don't miss out on the comedy opportunities. I like the idea of being able to move the chickens. Right now where they are, there is no greenry.
The grass is just starting to show signs of turning green and there are things that could be planted to bring out the greens. And I see under the tree you have a unique fence.
>> Deer. We have the deer that come in even over the double fences, through the neighbors and through the front yard and it looks like a highway. Just with the amount of deer poop it looks like we have Clydesdale horses and they will come back here and just nail them. My husband took them off once last year, and overnight the deer came in and just nipped them all back.
>> So this is where it is a little challenging for me. There are dogs, in fact, when we were talking about earlier with the snake food habitat. There is a dog that likes to eat the snake food and that is the terrior. Specifically the rat terrior, and they think that anything that lives under ground is food. They have a one‑track mind that eating those things in the holes. Granted, they tend to dig, but that adds texture to the landscape, which I am for.
>> Yep.
>> The other thing is if you keep them as an outside dog, which I generally recommend. And black labs, you see these puppies they are pretty much good for just hitting people in the nuts. Of course, they are bred to be a bird retriever, and they like to eat birds sometimes.
>> Like chickens.
>> And so when I think permaculture. I don't, the black lab is cute, and what not, but all puppies are cute. But I think dogs are such an awesome farm animal when you get the right breed. Sorry cute puppy, you're not one of the good breeds. Look at that, right now, testing to see if I can eat a chicken. Can I eat a chicken Mommy, they look so good. Can I just eat one?
>> Here is the comedy.
>> [Laughter] and does the dog learn?
>> No, she doesn't.
>> The dog just got its head caught in the fence trying to get a chicken and that was pretty funny. Got it out, but it will try it again later.
>> (Dog barking. )
>> Oh, and here comes the neighbor's dog.
>> Yep.
>> Rather than having all of this fencing stuff around the trees, you need the right kind of dog and they make chasing the deer the most fun thing in the world. You just need to make sure that the dog is outside all the time. Some people are like oh, this dog is so cute. The wind blowing outside and I will bring the doggy in. And that is not farming. That's ‑‑ I don't want to even think about what that is.
>> That is adoption.
>> I have seen these families where they buy the dog better food than they feed themselves.
>> Yeah, I've seen those too.
>> I like a good respectful relationship with the dog. I have my job and the dog has his job and we all get it figured out. So I can see a dog being a part of ‑‑ you've got less than an acre and I am thinking the first thing I think of is you need to get a great pyrenees, and I think that anything smaller than five acres, I'm not sure that is right for the dog. It might be disrespectful to the dog.
>> Okay.
>> But I am wondering what it would be like to have one of those terriors? Which granted they are pocket size so they are cheap on the food bill there.
>> They are.
>> And plus, if you have some of those ground‑living squirrels there, that cuts back on the feed bill right there.
>> That's true.
>> And then when they see a deer, they have this thing that they want to talk to ‑‑ they have a message for the deer that they don't want to stick around to hear.
>> And terriors have a message for everybody.
>> And that could be a problem. And I like to use the message, shut the fuck up. And that seems to help. You know, terriors, a lot of them turn into awesome dogs and they are not barky all the time. Some places they are barky all the time. But I think where they end up being barky all the time, and this goes for great pyrenees too, if they are in some sort of a pen or on a leash. But I think if they have the run of the property, they tend to not be barky.
But when you have a neighbor dog that is barky all the time. That is when I use the phrase, shut the fuck up. This reminds me of a joke. I try to start the pod cast with a joke and this ‑‑ it gets time to push the button and then I'm like oh, I can't remember a joke. But I remember Robin Williams had this thing about the New York echo and that is where you go and sit late at night and yell hello. And the echo comes back, shut the fuck up. That is the New York echo. All right, moving right along here.
This must be your garden over here.
>> One of them.
>> What is the tall stuff that you have in there that is all leaning.
>> Sunflowers.
>> They have a powerful lean on them.
>> They do.
>> But they are very tall. You must have put something into the soil here that they liked.
>> Well, when I built this it was so marginal, I put down newspaper or cardboard and then put compost or composting manure over it and plant right into that. That works really well here.
>> One of the things I want you to stop doing is bringing organic matter on if you can help it. Getting the trees. If you have old cotton wood trees that might be an exception. Because well, cotton wood trees are usually not put some place where there are persistent herbicides, but the composted manures and the compost, especially the commercial grade stuff, that typically has, almost universally persistent herbicides.
>> I got caught with that two years ago. We got some that was fifteen years old or so, and then the next year we got some more and then I couldn't figure out why my tomatoes were curling and things like that, even though the compost was several years old if it was several years old and it was some weed seed free hay fed to the horses and so the residue was there and it darn near wiped out my garden. So after that I said absolutely. Even years old.
>> So basically, that stuff is so persistent, it has a half life typically of 7 to 11 years. So you still have that here. So, you know. When you get the berms and hugelculture beds, maybe the thing to plant here is predominantly grass. Look at how happy it is over here. When you got the persistent herbicides, they are typically a broadleaf herbicide so the grass is like yeah, compost, and that herbicide does not bother me because I am grass. So keep jumping up and hitting me in the nuts, that would be great. Man, you're so happy to punch me in the nuts, what is up with that? You have been in some special training or something, haven't you?
So you've got green grass, it is very early spring here. And we are at April the 3rd or fourth. And over in Seattle or Portland they are getting ready to put their tomatoes in. They don't do if in Mother's day or so. But their pea crop is going strong now. Here we are just starting to see the first ‑‑ over in Missoula it is greener than ‑‑ I think it is about time to mow.
>> Wow, I think the soil temperature here is only about 38 degrees. So it is still pretty chilly.
>> So I mean, yeah. The sunflowers were happy last year. They didn't get too twisted or warped and saddened.
>> We had a few come down, but for the most part they grow in so thick that they support each other and they come up wherever and I let them because I love them.
>> Maybe you should build hugelculture out of old sunflower stalks. That one here is about a good eight feel tall here. Quick organic material for the hugelculture.
>> Yeah, that is what I started with that one with, it is stacking up.
>> Here is another bed that you have go on here.
>> Here is knapweed.
>> When we bought this five years ago it was nothing but bare ground because it was a go cart track. And knapweed and thistle. It is actually a huge improvement.
So I moved some raspberries here and this is a start of a hugelculture bed. I have to get a lot more materials, but I grab what I can.
>> I would try and mix soil into the bed as you are building the hugelculture up. Because the magic comes with the soil to wood contact. What you have there is a whole bunch of wood stacked up and then if you threw a bunch of soil on top of that, very little soil would reach the soil in between there.
>> So layers.
>> Yeah, yeah. If you have smaller wood, do it in layers. So it would be wood, soil, wood, soil. Just enough soil so you can have contact and the earthworms also go in there and start to find things. And yeah, that is the beginning.
>> Grab any wood that I can, throw it in and have to grab the Christmas tree over and throw that on and keep stacking it up. Until I have to get a ladder to keep stacking it up.
>> [Laughter]. Get the track hoe.
>> Get the track hoe.
>> Yeah, yeah, I think the thing is if you get a bunch of wood here and stuff here, you could probably do a lot of this ‑‑ if you get the giant track hoe, the biggest that you can get, you can do a lot of this in less than a day.
>> That's true.
>> Because it is less than an acre. And a lot of this is just open. (Child screaming. )
>> Come on.
>> Oh, the suffering. So who is this?
>> This is John.
>> So John is having some editorial comment at the moment. And I think John is against something. [Laughter].
>> Being hit by his older brother.
>> (Inaudible.) John starts it and Sam finishes it.
>> That is normal.
>> Once again we are talking about slow learners. It is going to be a while.
>> All right. So we're getting the reward for taunting your older brother.
>> Exactly.
>> The consequences of your actions.
>> All right, what you have here is currently in grass, a great big lawn and you have some trees that you have started. Now at Bill's place I was kind of suggesting a lot of this big berm stuff and hugelculture, but he already had the trees planted and a lot of trees planted and that would be sad to have to rip out trees. And they are just little things and some of them might be ten feet tall or so now. Those are the oldest trees and it has taken so long for them to get that big. What I am advocating is if we get them started on a hugelculture they will grow very faster. That type of thing. And it is sad to have to really undo all of that stuff.
But here, I am telling you this stuff, and you are really not having to undo much. In fact, if you were to put in a great big berm over here on what would be the west side, then you've got ‑‑ I see three trees planted there.
>> And one is dead. So two.
>> So if you had this ginormous track hoe, you could scoop up a lot. Because these trees are currently tiny. And granted that would be a transplant.
and what would happen if you transplant a tree?
>> You kill the tap root.
>> But you already transplanted and there is no tap root and that is not such a big deal. We can take the tree with the track hoe and dig it up in one giant scoop and set it aside for a moment, put in the berm and then come and put the tree back in. Now, you have a power thing here, so that is something to keep in mind.
That I think is the key is that you can do a lot of this without having to displace a lot of trees. It is not like they are that old or big.
>> No, no.
>> And you will not get too terribly weepy. How old is this tree here?
>> Second year.
>> So if we are planning to do a hugelculture bed this year and then it grows like crazy because it is really grooving on the hugelculture thing, then you will like ‑‑ any sadness that you felt on the replant day, it might go away.
>> I don't think I would feel that sad, that would be good. I don't think that would be a problem.
>> Of course, with permaculture, the big part is some people are worried about what the neighbors might think.
>> Up here I don't think so. One neighbor has birds, and another has five dogs, you know, everybody seems fine with what everybody does. Up here it is not too bad. What my husband has to think is another thing.
>> Oh, okay. So now we're talking about some tall berms here and we talked about the view, and really that is all you'll be giving up, is the view. You will give up the wind and if your husband is like this wind it really adjusts my hair to perfection.
>> He is not a fan of the wind so the bonuses and pluses outweigh the negatives I think.
>> He will probably be on board.
>> I will not go that far.
>> Remember this is being recorded.
>> I'm not going to go that far. It will take some work.
>> What do you believe will be your husband's objections to the hugelculture and berms?
>> Me bringing in the track hoe.
>> Will it be the expense or the glee that you'll be on your face as you're driving.
>> Probably part of the glee. He is a very patient man. With my various experiments he is you are doing what?
>> Maybe he'll be like can you do this so‑called permaculture on half or a third of the land or maybe not the whole darn thing.
>> Maybe baby steps. Because once you start to see the benefits and not so much wind, then it makes sense. So yeah.
>> Which, you know, I am looking at this like what if we took everything from that building right there where the cement is from this point this way north and that would end up being about a third or maybe a quarter of your land and we did a big U‑shape of berms and then a big hugelculture in the center because you got all the wood from the friends and therefore I have hugelcultured one third and the rest I left a little more conventional. So I have crazy over here and then we can ‑‑ maybe I'll just be the crazy lady of the neighborhood and maybe in four years I will have been the Montana renowned jungle maiden.
>> There you go.
>> They'll call me Jane, and they'll call you Tarzan.
>> [Laughter]
>> Lord of the jungle.
>> And with the not watering that is the big thing because up here where we live, we are on community water system and we have massive cisterns and it could cost $200 a year and that is not even keeping the lawn green, that is just barely keeping the front yard alive and watering the gardens. So to do something where you are not watering like that. That is huge. That is a heck of a lot of money.
>> And you'll be the person demonstrating that. And it is a very difficult area.
>> It will be a lot just to not have that expense. So that is a big plus.
>> Yeah.
>> Because I hate paying that water bill. Pretty much everything that you have here I hate. But I like telling you what I think.
>> I knew it.
>> That's why you careful up.
>> I like the eco flags, that is awesome. You do think if you get the big hugelculture and the big berms around, I think you have the potential, especially if you can get ahold of all of that old cotton wood and stuff, you can do all kinds of hugelculture beds and add a lot of texture to the land and then on the top edges of the berms you grow whatever will help to be windbreakish, because don't we all love to break wind once in a while. I think you can make something on just a third of an acre that can be so amazing that it will draw attention for hundreds of miles.
Because, you know, I think the woes of this area are not exclusive to Great Falls. I think this is all of eastern Montana has this same type of ‑‑ lots of wind and low water thing going on. And you might be able to set a pace for this group and your challenges are a little different from Sepp Holzer and most of the properties that I usually go and see. Anything else that you want to talk about?
>> The water, the wind, the poor soil, and building it up, this is a process.
>> All right, if you like this sort of thing, come on out to the forums at permies.com where we talk about forest gardens, homesteading and permaculture all the time.
Check your pockets for water buffalo. You might need to use this tiny ad until you locate a water buffalo:
physical copy of the SKIP book
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic