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Small, easy projects that make a big difference

 
gardener
Posts: 566
Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Let’s face it: grand plans for permaculture transformations can appear so overwhelming that instead of jumping into the unknown, it’s easier to escape into one’s comfort zone or plan, plan plan. Mustering the energy and courage to initiate a massive overhaul of existing conditions can be downright scary!
To inspire each other to take a mini-leap into action, what did you do today that gave you an immediate sense of permaculture accomplishment?
 
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daily ? kinda?   i completed a small project of planting an asparagus last spring where my horse's water buckets overflow.  the asparagus are watered when i clean the buckets.  i will have my first harvest from this bed soon.  
 
master gardener
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Himalayan Blackberry takes over on my farm. Cutting it back takes way too much time as it re-grows with a passion. Our fencing isn't good enough for either pigs or goats. My goal for the last week is to work on an area where I need to dry-dock the portable duck shelter for the wet season - it came late, but they're days away from needing this spot now. I'm digging out the roots and rocks as best I can. It should weaken the plants enough that keeping an eye out for sprouts should be enough to keep the area clear. The target area is about 11x13 feet and I'd estimate I'm 3/4's done. However it rained too heavily yesterday to work on it. I'm hoping it will ease off this afternoon, but even if I don't finish the targeted area, I feel as if I accomplished a lot! The soil has to be moist enough that I can fork it, but not sooooo... soggy it will turn solid in response to the disruption. I timed that aspect well. I'm not sure this qualifies as an "easy" project - the big mattock I use to pry out the roots is at my maximum for shoulder strength - but the trick was to spend 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours at any one go, and to try to spend time most days the weather cooperated.

The ducks will appreciate this - the bits sticking up from mowing are pretty sharp on their feet. I was hoping to get some cold tolerant seeds started, but there's just not enough sun for germination at the moment.
 
Amy Gardener
gardener
Posts: 566
Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Today I closed the valve that fills the hot water tank, luxuriated in the residual hot water, then flushed the sediments out of the tank by attaching the garden hose to the tank spigot and back-washing. I removed the sediment-clogged screens on the sink fixtures which stopped the leaks from too much pressure on the blocked aerators. The project took about 3 hours. I probably added years to the life of the hot water tank, saved 2 water fixtures, and fortified multiple fruit trees with the grey water. I feel really energized right now handling this long neglected chore.
 
Amy Gardener
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Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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For years, I have submerged a brick in the back of the toilet tank to reduce water used for the flush. Today after much reflection on typical US biorhythms, I put another brick next to the first. I figured that most of my guests stop by after their morning ritual so this is a “#1” toilet. Flushing .8 gallons of water for the basic guest tinkle is more than generous. This reduces by half the 1.6 gallon flush in the original “low flow” toilet. This seems like a good compromise for guests not fully trained in the art of saving water.
As for me, the composting toilet works just fine for all permaculture business.
 
gardener
Posts: 624
Location: Tennessee
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  • I have recently organized my seeds for planting in 2013 in chronological order of when they will need to be planted.
  • I have also been hitting the Permaculture Design books more intensively because it will soon be time to establish the designs I make.
  • Posting my questions lately here on Permies must count as a small something that can make a difference, too, because I got a design idea for sideways "S" shapes in my garden beds that I am going to try out, and I certainly never would have thought of on my own!  
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    master pollinator
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    Rachel Lindsay wrote:[I have recently organized my seeds for planting in 2013 in chronological order of when they will need to be planted.


    Rachel, this gave me a chuckle! I am pretty sure you meant 2023. I do actually have unopened seed packets I meant to plant in 2013!
     
    Rachel Lindsay
    gardener
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    Jane Mulberry wrote:I do actually have unopened seed packets I meant to plant in 2013!



    Hopefully they are still good! They might be, depending on the kind of seed. (If only your seeds could take me back to 2013...)
     
    Jane Mulberry
    master pollinator
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    Oh, I would make some different choices if they could!

    I must plant them and see what somes up.
     
    Amy Gardener
    gardener
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    Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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    Speaking of seeds, today I selected the darkest purple-blue seeds off the best of last year's blue corn. I had hung these prized ears in the cool workshop in a cotton sack just for this purpose. Flicking off the seeds by hand, staring into each purple-blue kernel, sorting for planting, then protecting these special seeds until Mother's Day (corn planting day for me) put me in touch with something indescribably promising. I feel like these seeds are "talking" to me.
     
    Jane Mulberry
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    What a wonderful, hopeful, connected feeling, Amy! Made me smile reading you describe it.
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 554
    Location: Málaga, Spain
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    I am terracing a slope in our terrain. It's not super important since we have other flat areas, but this is an urban shared garden, and i think that's an interesting piece of project for showing rainwater harvesting techniques.
    I had to wait until ir rained for real, so the soil is now wet and digging is possible. It took me a couple days (I can only work for two hours a couple of days per week), but the result is... sexy! I did it Sepp Holzer style.

    Well, it is only one terrace out of three that are projected, but I am very happy about how it looks now.
     
    Jane Mulberry
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    Abraham Palma wrote:I am very happy about how it looks now.



    Would love to see photos as I need to do some small-scale hand-dug terracing in my garden for rainwater management.  
     
    Jay Angler
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    About 5 years ago, I tried to rehabilitate an area that has a rock wall to the north, and rocky slope to the south. I'd piled a bunch of compostables there for a year to try to build soil in place, but it's still pretty crappy. I'd also put some fencing up against the rock wall to act as both a trellis and deep protection. I put in several types of shrubby plants of which one of the thorn less blackberries and the goji berry are still alive, but not productive or terribly happy.

    So the over-all project may not be small or easy, but luckily I'm pretty good at breaking things down into manageable bits:

    Step One: Add compostable material as available. I've been more or less working along in front of the wall with areas being given layers of Goose bedding, leaves from pear and apple trees, and dead animals such as a few old layers that didn't make it through the unusually cold weather we had before Christmas.

    Step Two: This is the "small project" for this week. I'm trying some "grocery store seeds". I got a mix of dried fruit for Christmas stockings and it included Goji Berries. I think one reason the Goji hasn't produced well, is that it would like some Goji company. (The crappy soil and dryness are also a factors, but that relates to Step One and Three...)

    So I soaked 4 berries overnight, carefully sliced them open and harvested seeds from each, drying them on a scrap of fabric. I'd numbered each section, as I wanted to make sure I got any genetic diversity I could - no guarantees there, as the fruit could all have come from clones.

    A few years ago, I'd made up a bunch of tall pots for starting tree seeds that are made from a stiff coffee sacking we got from a local Fair Trade Importer. They are completely biodegradable, so I don't have to disturb the seedlings (assuming I get seedlings) when I go to plant them. I did 3 pots for each berry I took seeds from, and I put three seeds in each pot.



    So the front row in the picture has the number "3" on it. The back row would be the 4's, and you can see there's a bin to the left that has the 1's and 2's in it. I have *no* idea how fertile the seeds will be, so please think positive thoughts their directions. At least it's all compost if it doesn't work.

    The big Step Four for this project will be to take some of the recent terracing  ideas from here on permies and figure out how I can get some more soil over the area that won't just slide off with our winter rains. I've got some punky wood that will help that, but I'm not sure if I should just lay it at ground level as garden edging or what.

    The even bigger Step Five will be figuring out how to protect the plants on the south side from deer pressure. I've got ways to cover them while they're small, but when we get one of our bad droughts, things the deer have ignored for years suddenly become irresistible!

    Sometimes making a "small easy project" is to break it into small easy parts! Now that I've started seeds, they will need watching and on-going care, but the rest of this project can be done a little here, a little there, a little thinking in between, and at virtually no cost in money, and building soil is never a waste of time in my thinking.
     
    master steward
    Posts: 11086
    Location: USDA Zone 8a
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    Rachel Lindsay wrote:Posting my questions lately here on Permies must count as a small something that can make a difference



    I will have to go along with Rachel.

    I try to help spread permaculture where I can here on the forum.

    Here are some small, easy projects that folks can do to help make a big difference:

    https://permies.com/t/167081/Guerrilla-gardening-suggestions

    https://permies.com/t/974/Seed-Balls-good-winter-project

    https://permies.com/t/174814/Step-Step-Instructions-Growing-Wine

    https://permies.com/t/100000/composting/dispose-Kitchen-waste-garden-waste

     
    Jane Mulberry
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    Anne, you do a great job, I love the way you share links to relevant threads!
     
    Amy Gardener
    gardener
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    Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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    The forecast indicates rain here in the high winter desert. My furrow irrigation channels are usually dry, but soon, when the rains come, the hand-carved mini-trenches will gather rainwater from the roof. With luck, the water will flow throughout the furrows much like our vessels circulate blood throughout the body.
    To prepare, I went through the 1 acre and cleared the furrows with a shovel and mini-rake, moving the mulchy debris from the trench to the inside the tree’s drip-line (to retain soil moisture under the summer canopy). Using the blade end of a 12lb steel spike aerator, I broke through the dry ground just outside the drip-line in the places where I want extra moisture to penetrate. Where I want the water to run across the surface (not infiltrate), I use the flat disc end of the aerator to pound the ground in the furrow. Happily, I rerouted some trenches due to healthy widening of drip lines.
    Freshening up the furrows is an easy way to optimize what little rain we have: small project, big impact.
     
    pollinator
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    Last week, my small project was to do my winter sowing. I sowed hablitzia, good king henry, perennial kale, spinach, collards, salvia, lettuce, and nettles. Part of my 2023 goals are to have more perennial greens.

    This week, I started my True Potato Seed - another goal was to increase my carbohydrate production. A subset of that goal is to grow 6 months worth of potatoes. I figure one plant a week will do us fine, and I was given some tomato berries in the fall, so I don't have to spend anything on seed potatoes. I am excited to see the variation!

    Other small things for this week: I'm currently packaging up bulk seed for a local free seed initiative, I am going to give all my tools a good clean and sharpen, and less glamourous but I'm going over my budget. I lost a client due to their work schedule changing so I need to readjust for less income. Luckily it's not a huge deal but still something that needs doing!

    Edit: I almost forgot, today we wassail the apple trees!
    IMG_20230117_092230.jpg
    winter sowing seed plant protection
     
    Abraham Palma
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    I took a couple of pictures of our just made terrace. It is not very clear upon the images how it works, I'll try to elaborate.

    The trick about a terrace is that you want it to absorb as much water as possible, but then it also has to drain, or consider where the eventual excess water will go to. Then you need also to secure the borders, lest they fall over the next terrace.

    In a terrace, you set a flat surface where there was a slope, and the easiest way is making the terrace perpendicular to the slope, but in our case we had a couple more things to consider: it is near the fence, so it kind of changes the best direction of the terrace, since making the terrace parallel to the fence gives us much more working space; also, we already have some grown trees there, which we preferred to leave in the borders, so they kind of marked the width of the terraces.
    That's how we decided the location.

    Then, the tilting is following Sepp Holzer's guidelines. We have allowed a small slope towards the left, but also towards the inside of the terrace. For once, it allows a very small drainage towards the left, so we don't have to care about runoff water. Next, it makes the borders of the terrace drier than the interior, preventing border collapse and making it easier to cultivate close to the wall.

    For increased protection, we are planting aloe and other succulents along with some tree cuttings on the borders. Additionally, I've loaded the area with wild and farming seeds to start fertility. Once it is established, I want to dig sunken garden beds on the interior of the terrace where we will cultivate, about 60cm, a pathway of a similar width and then the succulents securing the border.
    1674026328550.jpg
    new terrace slope drainage
    1674026328565.jpg
    new terrace slope drainage
     
    gardener
    Posts: 1824
    Location: Japan, zone 9a/b, annual rainfall 2550mm, avg temp 1.5-32 C
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    I'm half-way through putting together a simple 2 bay pallet compost station which should help me deal with kitchen and garden waste. Half-way through I dropped a pallet on my ankle though! Lucky it seems to be mostly just a scrape. I'm a wimp to injuries though so it took me out for the rest of the day. Unfinished... but almost done!

    I find that taking care of things from the waste (or end-of-life or end-of-use) perspective tends to nurture a very long-term mindset.
     
    Jane Mulberry
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    Thanks for the photos, Abraham. A very similar slope and width to the area I'd like to terrace at my place, between a long outbuilding that used to be animal housing but I hope to convert to an outside kitchen, and the back of the house. A goal is to grow herbs and summer food plants near the kitchen for harvesting as I need them (my garden for storage and canning foods will be elsewhere). Also, I need to reduce the amount of water running down to the back of the house, as it's mudbrick with no stem wall!

    The idea of sloping the terraces backward is perfect.
     
    Abraham Palma
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    The idea of sloping the terraces backward is perfect.



    Not mine! I read it from a Sepp Holzer's book, due credit.
     
    Jay Angler
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    Abraham Palma wrote:The trick about a terrace is that you want it to absorb as much water as possible, but then it also has to drain, or consider where the eventual excess water will go to. Then you need also to secure the borders, lest they fall over the next terrace.

    In a terrace, you set a flat surface where there was a slope, and the easiest way is making the terrace perpendicular to the slope, but in our case we had a couple more things to consider: it is near the fence, so it kind of changes the best direction of the terrace, since making the terrace parallel to the fence gives us much more working space; also, we already have some grown trees there, which we preferred to leave in the borders, so they kind of marked the width of the terraces.
    That's how we decided the location.

    Great project Abraham! You took what you had to work with, added it to what you knew about permaculture, and came up with a compromise that would work for you, your climate and the land you had to work with. It's too easy to grind to a halt when you can't do it "just like the book says", which allows perfection to be the enemy of "good enough". I hope you new garden spot grows well for you!
     
    gardener
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    Yesterday I started stratifying some of my seeds that need cold or hot periods before germinating (milkweed, cranberry, bladdernut, cornus mas, mulberry...). Wrapped in damp tissue in little bags, with today's date and the plant name.....I feel so organised!
    seeds-for-stratification-in-fridge.jpg
    Seed starting stratification
    Seed starting stratification
     
    We cannot change unless we survive, but we will not survive unless we change. Evolving tiny ad:
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