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I'm finally getting land...

 
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...if all goes well tomorrow, we're going to get twenty acres of hilly scrub oak in N. California.  I'm so excited I can barely think.

I've got to talk to somebody and the rest of my family isn't as into Permaculture et. al. as I am.

This land is dry, but there's a well and a seasonal creek.  Most of the trees are scrub oak and manzanita with some pine.  There are some flat bits, but it's mostly gentle hills.

My plans are pretty grand (not to say grandiose), I want to eventually have a tropical conservatory in a glasshouse and a botanical garden.  It'll look like Biosphere II.
But that's like ten or fifteen years away.  To get there from here I've got to design a farm and business plan.

I think something like this might work: a four-stage system, starting with a market garden based on the "SPIN" (Small Plot INtensive) system on one or two acres to make quick cash.  The second stage is a simple chicken business, get a bunch of little birds and raise them for a few months then, uh, sell them for meat (I'm a city boy so that part makes me a little uncomfortable, but then it's not like I haven't been eating chicken my whole life, eh?) The third stage would be a nursery, mostly for trees.  And the final stage would be the establishment of a food forest over most of the place.  That takes about five years to get going, eh?

Ah, I am so excited...
 
gardener
Posts: 367
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Congrats! Here's hoping the closing goes well!

You have big plans and that's awesome because that's what it takes to do big things! When planning your infrastructure try and plan for everything even if that means just generally but when the business starts focus on one idea before you stress about the others. The market garden first will help you build up a good customer base for the other ideas in the future! Congrats! I'm looking forward to seeing your progress taking dry land and making an oasis through natural systems!
 
gardener
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Congrats Simon! I'm sure it feels great to finally be near the finish line - at least the first one!  I'm looking forward to hearing about your adventures here.

 
Simon Foreman
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Cheers!  It's down to no more than four or five hours from knowing.  We've got the money, the landlord is willing, it's just down to whether or not my sister can physically reach the place.  There are potholes in the dirt road, that kind of thing, but her car has 4WD so I think it should be alright.  That's really the limiting factor.  If we can reach it, it's a deal.

With twenty acres to work with I know I can cover the mortgage payments and more.  In fact, there's a ratty old mobile home on the property and we pay a lot for storage right now, so if we move our crap (er, *stuff*) out of storage and into the mobile home that will already cover over a third of monthly mortgage payments.  We can trim the fat in other ways (Bye Netflix) and nearly break even before even planting a single seed!

Not that I'm not ready to plant.  At risk of sounding like I'm boasting let me just detail some of the things I have already started:

  • Macadamia trees (six, year old)
  • Several kinds of fruiting cactus (~40, seedlings, half a dozen species)
  • Job's tears (five sprouts, one big clump)
  • Dracaena draco (three, just for fun, red sap)
  • Candlenut (half a dozen)
  • Carob trees (only two)
  • Fahrenheit Blue tomatoes (about a dozen)
  • Hallow's Eve hot peppers (ten)
  • Cinnamon vine (about a dozen)
  • Alpine Strawberry (just two)
  • Wood Betony (seven)
  • Tobacco from Easter Island (just four lil sprouts)


  • I've also got a seed chest with at least 300 to 400 different species in it.  Everything from mighty trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum)  to tiny ground cover (Corsican mint).  From deserts to tropical rainforest (I have a cabinet in my living room set up as a little tropical hothouse and I have a dozen tropical tree species growing in there, including six Theobroma cacao!  I'm serious when I say I'm going to build a tropical conservatory up there.  Did you know there's a tree called the "Ice Cream Bean" (Inga feuillei) that's exactly what it sounds like: beans that taste like vanilla ice cream?)  I've got medicines, fibers, and so many kinds of food.

    okay, i'm going to go pace up and down some more...

    love and light people!
     
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    Hey this i great news ! Reading your post makes me feel excited for you! Lots of exciting adventures ahead! I wish you all the best with it !
     
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    So wish you were including egg production.  Some stores are $1/egg now tho most $5/dozen.  A family used to sell eggs by volunteer payments into a lockbox above an ice chest in fairfield, CA when the sign said buy now.  Back side of sign was come back later.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    I just went for a walk around the block.  I just have to distract myself for another couple of hours.

    We're going to do egg production too, but for that I want to get fancy birds and grow a flock.  It's too expensive to just buy a big flock (the really pretty breeds can be $35 per chick or more.)  We had chickens here in the city once before ( https://permies.com/p/1178908 ) but our landlord said 'no' and we had to give them away.  We're really looking forward to doing it again.

    The meat birds would be a way to make money quickly, while they improve the land in chicken tractors.  Like I said, I don't really like the idea, but I'm trying to be practical.  You can get 10x as many (poor doomed little) male chicks for the same price as one Orpington or Wyandotte hen chick.  Things are going to be a bit tight for the first few months, so I'm trying to think of all the options.

    I can collect rocks.  A pile of rocks all mostly the same size is a product, eh?

     
    Clay Bunch
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    A group of rocks all the same size is a product haha don't undervalue them. All the parts of your landscape are design elements that make your design work better and better. Having lots of rocks is a bonus for walls and fencing and many other things around the place.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Still no definite word.  My sister has seen the place, but there are some "small logistical issues" to discuss.

    I'm like Schrodinger's cat over here.  (Technically, Wigner's friend, I think.)
     
    pollinator
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    Bisophere 2?  
    Wow that's a challenge and even a bigger risk for a single person considering the original Biosphere failed.

    Text from the www. why Biosphere 2 had to be closed down:
    The Biospherians had to break into a three-month supply of food that had been secretly stored away before the doors had closed. Then Biosphere 2 began to lose oxygen because the soil had spawned an explosion of oxygen-gulping bacteria.

    (As far I remember was the set up investment of Biosphere 2 around 150  Million USD.)

    I guess a good functional Greenhouse system with Aquaponics (e.g) would be more within a one man's budget which pays back if you run it correctly...  


    A success is in germany called Tropical Island which is designed as a holiday park.. They make above 550 Million USD a year...
    ...in the biggest roofed "Greenhouse" of the world, a former Zeppelin production hall...

    Good luck with your idea...
     
    Simon Foreman
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    It's a go.  Everything looks and sounds good.  We'll start the paperwork in the morning.

    OMG you guys.  It's been about thirty years coming.  I've tried to get out on the land before but it hasn't worked out (as detailed in my original introductory post https://permies.com/p/1123829 .)  Part of the reason I'm so stoked about this is that I get to call the shots.  I don't want to indulge my control-freak side, it's more about being able to express myself without the inevitable overhead of getting other people onboard.  Also, I'm just sick of bullshit.

    I gotta say, as a soon-to-be land owner, the SKIP concept suddenly makes total sense.  Of course you want to know people who have proven they have the skills, knowledge, experience, and stick-to-it-iveness to run a farm!  Of course you want to pass it on to people like that, eh?  It seemed like a crazy idea before, and now it's obvious. Huh.

    My sister took a bunch of photos, I'll try to get them off her phone and post some soon.  The place is like a park.  It's overgrown, but there are natural lawns (I guess you call them meadows?) and bushes and trees, and after the recent rains it's all green, green green!  It will turn brown by the end of Summer, of course, but the growth is thick and luxurious.  This isn't a desert.

    The creek!  It's pretty good size, not quite a small river.  The owner says it's seasonal, but the ground under the creek bed has water all year round.  I've already spotted a place to put a micro-dam in one of the photos. "Where are you rushing off to creek water?  Won't you stay a while and soak in?"  We'll get kune kune pigs and gley ponds all over.

    There are some very nice large flat bits on a couple of different levels, and some lovely hilly bits that will make great terraces.  I don't have a topo map yet.

    The mobile home is junk.  It'll have to be torn down.  Reuse and recycle, eh?  There's a well, pump, and even a septic system (although the owner doesn't know where it is! Ha!)  There's one of those IBS totes (the big cube-ish plastic tanks with the wire cage.)  There's a cast iron stove in the mobile home that should still work.  Those things are indestructible.

    I started a mutual-benefit non-profit corporation a few months ago, Ariadne Systems (we don't even have a website yet), so that's a real thing now.  The basic idea is to sort of leap into a cool new future of economic and ecological harmony (like Star Trek) without waiting for something like Universal Basic Income to get passed by law.  These new talking computers are about to change everything, and I think it's time to just go ahead and "do it" in terms of transforming society to, you know, be all Permie, yeah?  I don't have to spell it out here, eh?  

    So this is that.  It's not just about me and my family, it's about an economic foothold to build a new economy for everyone based on life and human values, and all that good stuff.  I hope, after a couple of years when I've got something going, to open it up to host people here, or even create a kind of neighborhood (like Village Homes in Davis, California.)  We'll see.  I'm a bit of a recluse these days, so while I like the idea of having other people living nearby I also hate it.  Give me two or three years on the land and I should be better.

    And now, just to unwind, here's a brain dump of the things I want to do on the land (what's a good name?)

    Greywater treatment via wetlands; Warm pond (75°F, in a greenhouse, heat and humidity for tropical plants); Market garden; Tree nursery; Aquaculture; Alcohol Fuel Production; Kune kune pigs (pigs make ponds); Compost garden (growing plants just to compost them later); Compost-based heaters in winter; Botanical Garden;  Tropical Conservatory; Mushrooms ('nuf said); Cat Sanctuary (my sister's cat is 19!); Banana grove (I have five kinds in sprouting beds); Sequoia grove...  and that's just the start.

    I love you fellow permies!  Cigars and champagne all around!

    00x0x_ir0WDBpt3cf_0t20CI_1200x900.jpg
    a meadow
    a meadow
    00808_kIh8Gh3Vp5p_0t20CI_1200x900.jpg
    trees
    trees
     
    See Hes
    pollinator
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    Nice piece of home, I only can recommend to keep every tree in the ground.
    They keep the water table up.

    We started about 6 month ago and converted rice fields into a Landscape like a park but always permaculture in mind.
    We skipped thinking about tractors and arranged everything in a way that animals do at least 40% of the works, the more the better

    Here a before and after picture for some inspirations..

    DSC_0017.JPG
    Before rice fields
    Before rice fields
    1-Full-View.jpg
    After: Lake 5500 sqm, River 420 meter long
    After: Lake 5500 sqm, River 420 meter long
     
    master steward
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    I'm so excited for you too! Congratulations on what looks like a lovely property! I hope everything works out as well as you hope - we're here to offer help and a shoulder to cry on when you need one.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    @See Hes That's a good point about Biosphere II.  There's a documentary on Netflix about it, I'm about halfway though, and those folks were wonderful but also, I think, a little nuts.  It was a fantastically ambitious idea: to make a microcosm of the whole Earth, and sealed off too?

    The thing I want to build would look like the Biosphere, but it would be just a regular glasshouse, not a sealed terrarium.  In the summer it would provide shade and conserve moisture and in the winter it would keep the ambient air toasty, but it doesn't have to be air tight.  I am going to try to cover several biomes though.

    I'm definitely going to conserve the trees.  It occurred to me that I don't have to put in a food forest, I already have one: the oaks provide acorns, the pines pine nuts, eh?  Acorns were a major staple for the folks who lived around here back in the day.  There are some dead trees and such that are better off taken out.  On twenty acres there's a lot to work with just laying around.  I am jealous of the carbon, so I don't want to sell wood if I can avoid it.  But it might be a good way to cover the first few months.  Then again, it's not winter yet.  Do people buy firewood in April? Hmm...

    We started about 6 month ago and converted rice fields into a Landscape like a park but always permaculture in mind.
    We skipped thinking about tractors and arranged everything in a way that animals do at least 40% of the works, the more the better



    Oh that is sooooo coooool!  Congratulations!  I can't wait to see it once the plants start to fill in!  I don't think I'll be able to do anything that drastic, at least not for a while, but it's very inspiring.

    @Nancy  Thank you, and thank you everybody.  I really appreciate you all.  I'm so excited that my brain has gone off the end of the dial and wrapped back around to calm.  All I have to do now is get back up there with a check and sign the paperwork in front of a notary (before anyone else does!)
    00D0D_7HzaVNakMeA_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 00D0D_7HzaVNakMeA_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg]
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    [Thumbnail for 00B0B_idFHLCxreco_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg]
     
    Simon Foreman
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    We have the check in hand for the down payment, and we're meeting the owner tomorrow to sign the deal.

    I'm picking out chicken breeds.  I'm looking at these Golden Seabright chickens and they're gorgeous.  They also look like they can handle themselves in the outback, y'know?  There's also a small local hatchery that has what they call "Moss eggers" ( https://www.alchemistfarm.com/moss-egger/ Is it cool to link to commercial products/sites like this?) that seem like all-around great birds.  Dual purpose, incredible beautiful eggs, and less expensive than some of the other options out there.

    I've given up on the idea of raising meat birds.  I just don't think I can do it, raise animals that I know are doomed.  I could raise straight-run chicks and then eat the extra males, I'm that ruthless, but I can't buy little chicks and not give them a chance.  I'm being silly, I know.

    Anyway, I'm thinking of having a two-zone chicken, uh, operation.  The outer zone would be free-range birds, something tough and scrappy like the Seabrights, and then inside that perimeter there will be some chicken tractors with the big fluffy egg-laying birds like Orpingtons or moss eggers. I don't really know if that makes any sense, I just like chickens.
     
    See Hes
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    A last hint:

    I planned about 8 years before I started and I see it is paying out now.
    Everything is at least within budget and time plan most even way below or ahead of the plans.

    Planning is the chemistry of success and avoids repetitive re-design movements.

    I am also excited and would love to rotate the hammer for the next round but I hold myself back and stick to my plan..

    The human brain creates about 400 ideas per day so when you let the fantasy take over you will find out that impatience and excitement creates costly failures.

    Better collect all ideas over a few month, write them down, see how often they change during that time, then you have a first basic plan because some I ideas will not disappear but rather they will improve more and more...
    These ideas that stay need to be tackled from all sides: Do ability, side effects, costs, long term investment and output, flexibility.

    Every feature on my land can be changed in almost a day and become another feature.

    River: Instead of swales, Crayfish farm, Oxygenating the lake bottom (partial), water source for the animals without moving troughs...

    Lake: Recreational island, visitors BBQ - Pizza- Hut-, can be converted into an exclusive fishing park, feeds my planned Aquaponics system, feeds the trees and plants in the dry season...

    Trees chose shallow and deep rooted together to make the best bang for the buck you spend on manure/fertilizer. They also will keep the water table up. They need to be planted by their demand, If you river floods some chestnuts will stand wet feed and flooding, Avocado will not. Chestnuts will improve the pork meat quality.

    Erosion control pinto peanuts and vetiver grass.. here are Pigs and geese in the game again..

    The choice is endless and if you bother more the balance of nature instead impressing people with a Biosphere Greenhouse (Do it in Rome like the Romans do!) you safe a coin and create more income....

    But up to you.
    I am Project manager since decades and I rather turn a coin 10 times before I spend it.


     
     
    Simon Foreman
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    It's done. I finally got land.

    @See Hes You're absolutely right, planning is key.  I've been planning in the abstract for about thirty years, ever since I read about Permaculture in the Next Whole Earth Catalog in high school.  But this is the first time I have a canvas that's "mine, all mine" to work with.  Not a blank canvas, of course, as a Permie the first phase will be to sit with the land for a year or more, just learning and observing.  I'm going to do things, but the primary activity will all be on just one or two acres, with only minimal messing around on the rest until I've really had time to get to know everyone.

    Thank you for all the good advice.

    I feel strangely calm.  Last night and the night before I couldn't get to sleep because my mind was whirling with all the thoughts and ideas and possibilities.  Now that it's real-- I have land --I seem to have shifted into this weird peaceful-yet-electric state.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    I've got a few more details now to share:  It's a 1 x 2 rectangle, half of a 40 acre square.  The long axis is N-S.  It's kind of a slice of a long shallow valley, with a creek and a road splitting it more-or-less horizontally into two sections, 1/3 and 2/3.  The smaller section is South-facing and has the junk mobile home on it, the larger section is about half or two-thirds slope (North-facing but shallow enough that it gets sun in Summer) and then there seems to be a pretty decent flat spot.

    It's not large enough to do a whole Keyline thing, but there are plenty of opportunities for small-scale water harvesting and retention/infiltration.  The creek runs in the bottom of a decent river channel, obviously from floods.  The fellow who sold it to me said that there's water there under the soil even when the creek seems to run dry.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    So many questions!

    Q: Bring soil or just seeds?

    I've got all these plants that I've started here at home.  Most of them have, shall we say, live cultures: woodlice, little millipedes, and these things that look like spider mites but aren't, and something called a "lawn shrimp" (Arcitalitrus sylvaticus)!

    It is found in Australia and nearby areas of the Pacific but has been introduced to other places, like California, New Zealand, the British Isles, North Carolina and Florida. The first recorded instance in California was in 1967.



    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcitalitrus_sylvaticus

    I assumed most of these critters are local, but they're mostly not.  Also, most of my soil (indoors and out) also has E. foetida living in it.  Very useful animals, but also non-native invasive, eh? Should I just bring seeds and leave the soil (and most of the plants) behind?
     
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    I am south of this in California and this really interests me, with what could be grown there. I would want to try a lot of different seeds, such as what I gather and collect for doing this. I would be all about growing what can be grown, with any others who want this. And I would like to be involved in development such as that there.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Hi Fred, I have a lot of big plans for this site, and it will be at least a year or two before it's ready for other people to visit or reside there.  If you're still looking for a place to put down roots then, check with me again, eh?  I don't plan to go anywhere.
     
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    Super cool!!! If you are looking for helpers around the farm let me know !!
     
    master steward
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    Simon Foreman wrote:

    It occurred to me that I don't have to put in a food forest, I already have one: the oaks provide acorns, the pines pine nuts, eh?  Acorns were a major staple for the folks who lived around here back in the day.  There are some dead trees and such that are better off taken out.  


    1.) Pine nuts - some are more edible than others, so I suggest you double check what species?
    2.) Standing dead wood can be incredibly important habitat for a lot of birds, so maybe check what species locally need them before assuming they aren't an important part of the ecosystem. Of course if one appears dangerous, safety first!
    3.) You mentioned all the green that will turn brown by Sept. Early fall is fire season where I live, and dry grass can be the start of it. So as you're considering swales/ponds etc, think "fire break" in the design - which directions do the prevailing winds come from for example. Small fires are crucial for some ecosystems, but the Indigenous land managers of 500 years ago had lifetimes of experience in managing the ecosystems and researching their management for your precise region could be well worth the time investment!
     
    Simon Foreman
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    @Drew Thank you for the offer of help, I appreciate it.  I want to get to know the place first before bringing other people in.

    For what it's worth, when I was your age I was homeless on the street and eating at churches and out of garbage cans.  Hang in there dude.  If you want to get out in nature to clear your head and heal up, check out Natl. Forests.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_National_Forest  https://www.recreation.gov/

    One day I hope to have a place where people can rest and heal, but it's going to be at least a year or two.


    @Jay Thank you for the tips.

    I'm probably not going to collect pine nuts (to eat, I probably will collect them to sprout!)  However, I have six Torrey pines about a year and a half old, they have large edible nuts.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrey_Pine  It will take a couple of decades to get a good harvest from them, but you gotta start somewhere, eh?

    I looked into firewood and timber and it's too much work and would require parting with too much wood to make a worthwhile amount of money.  (There was a recent thread that I can't find now that was pretty detailed about logging and forest mgmt...)  I'm not eager to cut down any tree dead or alive, y'know?

    In re: fire, that's my primary concern, even before water, when it comes to design.  The recent fires up there have been ... words fail me.  I take fire very seriously.  I mean, it's like living inside a huge fireplace that's been prepared to burn: kindling, wood, etc.  It's spooky when you see it.

    This might sound nuts, but one of my hobbies is robotics, and I'm going to build rock-stacking robots (there are many rocks there) and use them to build stacked-rock walls all over the place.  Big thick ones to block fire.  I mean three or four feet thick and twenty feet tall.  If there is rock to quarry I can cut monoliths and place them using the method of Mr. Wally Wallington of Michigan (who should be world-famous as the person who figured out how to move monoliths.  As the old legends state, they walked.)  If I can figure out a substitute for cement (it's kinda toxic and it's a CO2 source) I can also make foamed-cement blocks which are effectively fireproof.  (cf. "aircrete")

    Eventually I'll run tiny canals here and there, connecting large ponds and little spillways and such, and the whole thing will be too wet to burn easily.

    I don't have enough land to work with the ecology the way Indigenous people did, that would require cooperation of so many landowners in the region that I just don't see it happening, y'know?  I'd love to do that: permaculture the whole region.  I just don't think it's socially & politically possible.

    Instead I plan to turn pretty much the entire twenty acres into a dense park-like structure.  In anticipation of the climate shifting to a warmer, wetter, uh, "regime"? is that the right word?  Anyway, I've been collecting and sprouting tropical trees for the last year or so.  But also desert plants, and cloud forest plants, etc.  I'm hoping to cover the bases.  In the meantime, big climate-controlled greenhouses.

    I'm a fan of Christopher Alexander's work (Pattern Language, Nature of Order, ...) and I've been dialing in the architectural/ecological fusion I want to work towards: I want to erase the distinction between "Inside" and "Outside".
     
    Jay Angler
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    Simon Foreman wrote:

    It will take a couple of decades to get a good harvest from them, but you gotta start somewhere, eh?

    Absolutely! I planted a Monkey Puzzle tree (seeds may be edible), but I'll be pushing up the daisies before I even find out if I got a girl tree or a boy tree! I planted it for whomever caretakes this land after I'm gone. If we want to heal our land and our society, we need to start thinking decades into the future, but planting now!
     
    Simon Foreman
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    I feel the same way.  I planted this Sequoiadendron giganteum the last time it looked like I might get some land.
    god_tree.jpg
    Sequoiadendron giganteum, nearly two years old.
    Sequoiadendron giganteum, nearly two years old.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    I found an old news clip on the YouTube that shows Mr. Wallington's methods. I cannot believe that this fellow isn't world famous.

     
    Simon Foreman
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    We got more photos of the land.

    You can see it's pretty dense and lush for chaparral.  The flat part is covered in thistle.  The ground is rocks.  I will not be doing a lot of digging here.  (That's fine with me, I didn't want to dig in the first place, heh.)
    IMG_0989.JPG
    The land
    The land
    IMG_0991.JPG
    The land
    The land
    IMG_1001.JPG
    Thistle & rocks
    Thistle & rocks
    IMG_1003.JPG
    Erosion control?
    Erosion control?
    IMG_1004.JPG
    Thistle & rocks
    Thistle & rocks
    IMG_1015.JPG
    The land
    The land
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Where did all this gravelly loam come from?  I'd guess from that time it rained for forty days and forty nights and the whole land was flooded.  I'm not talking about the Flood that Noah survived, I mean the Great_Flood_of_1862

    The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest flood in the recorded history of California, Oregon, and Nevada, inundating the western United States and portions of British Columbia and Mexico. It was preceded by weeks of continuous rains and snows that began in Oregon in November 1861 and continued into January 1862. This was followed by a record amount of rain from January 9–12, and contributed to a flood that extended from the Columbia River southward in western Oregon, and through California to San Diego, and extended as far inland as Idaho in the Washington Territory, Nevada and Utah in the Utah Territory, and Arizona in the western New Mexico Territory. The event dumped an equivalent of 10 feet (3.0 m) of water in California, in the form of rain and snow, over a period of 43 days.





    I think I'm going to either build temporary structures, or floating structures, or maybe things made of stone that go all the way down to the underlying rock.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    I'm just thinking aloud here (my friends and family listen and nod politely but they're not into it, y'know?)

    So for power, my biggest use will be keeping the tropical hothouse warm at night and through the winter, and it seems like a combination of compost heat plus solar-warmed sand battery will be the simplest way to go.  I doesn't make sense to use PV to get electricity to then power heating elements, eh?  And I don't want to burn wood to do the job (except as a backup heat source) because I'm jealous of that biomass, I want to use it to build or make hugelkultur, etc.

    My next biggest use of power will be the computers, sensor networks, and robots.  I'm using a BeagleBoard as the main "brain" of the system, those use about two Watts.  Most of the individual sensors will be powered by ambient energy flux (pressure, barometric & wind; telluric currents, atmospheric electrostatic, etc.).

    The "strange engine" opens up a world of possibilities.  It's just so incredibly simple.  And if you use e.g. methanol as the working fluid it runs off of e.g. the difference between hot water and room temperature air!  I bet you could make one that works with ice!

    Part of the idea here is to use the simplest, least artificial systems and materials possible.  In a sense, I'm going to pretend that civilization is a million miles away (like I'm homesteading on Mars or something, eh?) so anything and everything I can do with local materials and simple, easy methods is, uh, more in line with this principle.

    So, rather than PV panels, it makes more sense to use solar-warmed sand batteries and simple, uh, linear Stirling generators.  (It also avoids the economic and environmental overhead of PV panels and electric batteries, eh?)

    To power a robot you would put heated stones (like in a sauna) into a little hopper on the side...
     
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    Are you thinking about aquaculture?  

    This talk from Zach Weiss in the online Permaculture Design Course is amazing and full of great information.  I thnk it is a must watch for everyone who has land and is thinking about aquaculture

    Watch it here: https://youtu.be/-tR1hkouW1o
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Oh yeah, there will be fish.  I don't eat them myself, but I always have at least a couple of goldfish in an aquarium.  Now that I have the room I'm going to make a 100' diameter warm pond under a big greenhouse to heat and humidify my tropical trees.  Dunno yet exactly what species, maybe just plain ol' goldfish, eh?  They would be mostly just to fill the niche, supply nutrients.

    That will be in a few years, in the meantime I'm going to make small ponds and channels and such.  Where I am, the main limiting factor (after not burning down in a wildfire) is water.  It's one of those places that gets pretty much zero rain all summer, the creek is already dry.  I'm basically going to cover everything in greenhouse plastic to retain moisture.  If I had the money I'd put a pillow dome over the whole place right off.  There's enough moisture in the land and foliage to humidify an enclosed space, if the atmosphere isn't carrying it off, and between that and wicking irrigation I bet you could grow pretty much anything just with seasonal rain. (Don't tap the aquifer.)
     
    Fred Frank V Bur
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    Simon Foreman wrote:Hi Fred, I have a lot of big plans for this site, and it will be at least a year or two before it's ready for other people to visit or reside there.  If you're still looking for a place to put down roots then, check with me again, eh?  I don't plan to go anywhere.



    I think I will be checking here at regular intervals to see the development and watch how ready you are. More people working together with what they grow on land good for it will be really good for a needed sustainable way.
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Cheers Fred!

    I got up there last weekend, but only for a day or so and I didn't really get to look it over very well.

    First impressions: it's lovely.  Dry, mostly scrub oak.  The creek has water in it here and there.  It gets hot.

    It was above 95F in the middle of the day, but down to maybe 60F at night (my thermometer broke, so I'm estimating.)  There was a nice breeze, otherwise we would have been in a bit of trouble.  (We're from San Francisco, 70F is a hot day here.)  We weren't really prepared for the heat.  When we got too hot we just jumped back in the car and turned the AC on!  I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me half a day to remember to just wet your t-shirt! After that it wasn't so bad, but I didn't walk around much, y'know?

    After the heat, the only other problem was the mozzies, but we got some bug spray that actually worked and that made it okay.  I'm planning to make traps for inside and bat houses for long-term control.  (The first night I was plotting mozzie destruction campaigns... until I saw a couple of bats circling silently in the moonlight and thought better of it.

    The ground is tan/red loam and lots and lots of rocks, from baseball-sized to grit.  Not many boulders, not much sand.  Like I said, if you wanted to make a cheap fortress this is the stuff you would put in the walls.  Digging is out.  Although it's possible.

    Someone in recent past took a big dozer and carved a long (150' or more) wide (20'-25') flat spot right out of the side of the hill.  They installed a retaining wall to keep the hill above the flat from eroding down onto it.  No, I'm kidding.  They didn't do that.  I get to do that.  Yay!  (That is sarcasm.  I'm actually pretty annoyed by the irresponsibility of the folks who did this.) Thankfully, it won't rain again for nine months, so it should be pretty stable until then.  Any and all suggestions for what to do with or about this raw wall of earth and stone are most welcome.  It's south facing...

    Anyway, the ecosystem is pretty standard chaparral with some pine trees and manzanita.  In Permaculture terms there's not a lot to work with here.  The ecosystem as-is wouldn't support a single adult on twenty acres.  I'm not a farmer, I don't want to make money raising and selling produce, and I'm not trying to be self-sufficient (although I do intend to eventually grow most of my own food) so the driving motives here are to make it "nice" and to grow a bunch of different kinds of plants.  (I want to have a botanical garden and a tropical conservatory.)

    What that boils down to is that for the rest of the summer, at least, the primary activity be simply collecting material and composting it to build soil.

    The mobile home is indeed kaput.  There is a lot to salvage though, including lumber, PVC pipes (and some fittings and valves), siding, plywood panels, some pallets, etc.  There's a portapotty that seems to have been cleaned before it was abandoned, which is a tiny miracle.

    I'm thinking of getting a couple of large tarps (20' x 30' at least, as big as I can get) that are silver on one side and dark on the other, and mount them about 8' high to shade a big area from the sun to keep it from heating up.  Then, under that, a kind of "cold room" shack, very simple, with 4x4's for columns and just enough framing to support those 4' x 8' rigid foam insulation panels on the sides and "roof".  If a swamp cooler or something isn't enough to keep it cool in there I am not above buying a small AC and running it off a generator, if that's what it takes to make a livable temporary space up there where I can bootstrap to a proper home with proper climate control.
    Ideally I want passive solar, earth building, etc., all the good stuff.  But I can't make that stuff if I'm passing out from the heat, eh?

    That's about as far as I've gotten, plan-wise.


    Someone spilled a cactus out of a wheelbarrow?
    IMG_1031.JPG
    Cactus about to bloom like a maniac. Someone spilled it?
    Cactus about to bloom like a maniac. Someone spilled it?
     
    Jay Angler
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    Simon Foreman wrote: It gets hot. It was above 95F in the middle of the day, but down to maybe 60F at night


    So think of Indigenous building styles and lifestyles that coped with that. Lots of thermal mass that absorb the warmth of the sun during the day and gently gives it off at night.

    After the heat, the only other problem was the mozzies, but we got some bug spray that actually worked and that made it okay.  I'm planning to make traps for inside and bat houses for long-term control.  (The first night I was plotting mozzie destruction campaigns... until I saw a couple of bats circling silently in the moonlight and thought better of it.

    Bats are really struggling due to habitat loss etc, so this is a great plan!

    Someone in recent past took a big dozer and carved a long (150' or more) wide (20'-25') flat spot right out of the side of the hill.  They installed a retaining wall to keep the hill above the flat from eroding down onto it.  No, I'm kidding.  They didn't do that.  I get to do that.  Yay!  (That is sarcasm.  I'm actually pretty annoyed by the irresponsibility of the folks who did this.) Thankfully, it won't rain again for nine months, so it should be pretty stable until then.  Any and all suggestions for what to do with or about this raw wall of earth and stone are most welcome.  It's south facing...

    OK, I can't figure out where the kibitzing stops and the issue starts, so how about a few good pictures of the damage to help people reading this get a better idea. If you're thinking greenhouses, this could be the beginning of an earth bermed "Chinese style" greenhouse, but we'd need to know if water is going to pour down that hillside and drown the green house, or if there's a way to arrange things so the hillside is mass.

    Someone spilled a cactus out of a wheelbarrow?

    It looks like a type that the "pads" are edible - could be your first crop if you encourage it. Has to be prepared with care as the prickles are serious about not wanting you eating it!
     
    Simon Foreman
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    Thanks for the feedback Jay!  I really appreciate it.  (Not to complain but my friends and family are not into it.  They say things like "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself" and change the subject...  At least they're supportive, eh?)

    So think of Indigenous building styles and lifestyles that coped with that. Lots of thermal mass that absorb the warmth of the sun during the day and gently gives it off at night.



    Oh yeah, with thirty degree swings in temperature every day it only makes sense, eh?

    I'm going to make galleries divided by large stone walls.  The chief design element here is fire (not water), so the fundamental task here is to convert what amounts to a huge well-laid fireplace into a huge what I call Fire Respect fortress.  Literal "firewalls" three meters thick and seven to ten meters tall.  The inter-gallery walls will be a little smaller, of course.

    I don't have sand per se, but I do have lots and lots of gravel, and I can make sand batteries out of that.  I also want to have both warm and cold ponds to store thermal, uh, gradients.  Some of the plants I want to grow are alpine.  Anyway, yeah, moderating and making use of the crazy temp differentials is high on the list.

    Bats are really struggling due to habitat loss etc, so this is a great plan!



    I'll have to find the right people who know the right size/shape/placement for houses for the local bats.  Then make a bat apartment building...

    OK, I can't figure out where the kibitzing stops and the issue starts, so how about a few good pictures of the damage to help people reading this get a better idea.



    Sorry about the kibitzing, I'm just pent up with no one to talk to.  I get flowery.  I'll try to tone it down.

    I was so distracted by the heat and running around that I didn't get any pictures (except the cactus and one soap plant(?) flower.)  However, IMG_1003.JPG I posted above (caption: "Erosion control?") shows the eastern half of the cut.  (I'll repost it below.)

    It's a little hard to judge the scale from the photo, at the midpoint the height of the back wall is about 7', but most of it is more like 4'.  You can see that there's no water erosion yet, so it must be fairly new?

    It could well form the back of an earth bermed "Chinese style" greenhouse.

    I figure the simplest thing to do for now would be to put some sort of awning over the hill above it to protect it from (too much) rain.  I expect it's pretty stable by itself w/o water running down over it.

    could be your first crop if you encourage it.



    You're so right.  I think it's the wrong time to water it, and we just had a lot of rain anyway, so benign neglect for the next few months, eh?

    Cheers!
    IMG_1003.JPG
    A flat spot, yes, but at what cost?
    A flat spot, yes, but at what cost?
     
    Jay Angler
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    Simon Foreman wrote:

    Sorry about the kibitzing, I'm just pent up with no one to talk to.  I get flowery.  I'll try to tone it down.

    I didn't mean to sound critical - I don't mind flowery, but as someone who'd just been out dealing with un-permitted soil excavation ( a rat under a sitting duck's nest box and she's due in just a couple of days!) I wanted to give you some ideas, but I just couldn't be sure I understood the problem clearly enough and wanted you to know that so if you thought my suggestions were crazy, you'd know I maybe didn't have the problem understood.

    And wrote:

    I'll have to find the right people who know the right size/shape/placement for houses for the local bats.  Then make a bat apartment building...

    Yes! Even animals that are technically the same species may adapt to their local habitat. There are bound to be people who know and most are more than willing to share their knowledge if they think it will support their goals. Natural mosquito control is certainly a happy thing in my books!

    While asking the locals about bats, also look for ancient and modern fire mitigation systems. I think we're growing out of "suppression is the best and only tool" mentality, but my country is currently burning up and this was completely predictable and people were still allowed to build houses in danger zones that weren't "fire proof" because somehow despite the building industry building huge numbers of houses for decades, we still have a housing shortage. I best not go there...

    As for the cacti - I think it's time for research first. Watering can easily kill plants like that. Reproducing them so you can distribute them to more areas of your land if they're edible or desirable, is done in a totally different way than usual plants (I have a friend who'd totally into cacti and succulents, so I know enough to know that I don't know enough!)
     
    Simon Foreman
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    It's all good, as the kids say.  (Do they still say that?  I don't get out much.)  I generally like to be precise first, and flowery later.  I could have been more clear.

    That said, any and all suggestions about that wall are welcome.

    In re: ancient and modern fire mitigation systems and folks building homes in fire zones, or flood zones for that matter, my place is both.    Flooding should be rare (every 200 years or so it rains for a month or two and the Central Valley become the Central Sea) but fire is ...  like I said above, fire is the chief design element on this parcel.  Right now it's basically a giant fireplace, all laid and ready to burn.  Have you seen the videos that have come out of the recent N. Cali wildfires?  There was a literal tornado of fire above Redding.

    I lucked out: in the NE corner of the plot a large creek curves though in a bend that has a vertical wall 20'-30' tall.  There's pretty deep water (at least 3') in the bend, and the creek leads from there to a large "tank" (pond) about 200' feet away.  In an emergency (in the next few months, before I have something better) we can duck into the protected creek channel and run to the pond.  I'll set up a ladder and such to make it feasible.  That's the last ditch, normally we would have warning and jump in the car.  We're not really out in the wilderness, we have neighbors, and we're only 10 miles from the freeway as the crow flies.

    First thing I'm going to do is clean out the area around our camp/future-home-site really well.  Trim the grasses, groom the trees, remove and compost the brambles and woodpiles, etc.  Then I'm going to proceed in an Archimedean spiral covering the ground in a few inches of moistened wood chips and then plastic sheets to contain the moisture.  (There are also some chickens in the mix, doing the the chicken tractor thing.)  The idea is to change the whole moisture regime of the place, from dry summers to, not wet, but moist, humid.  To start this would be under a 50'x50' shade tarp, with the edges blocked by more plastic sheeting, essentially a big, cheap, temporary shadehouse.  I'm going to then enclose that in a larger structure that's made out of the local materials.  Large stacked stone walls with membranes covering the galleries between them.  (Not exactly, there are a lot of details I'm omitting to save time, so this probably sounds crazy, but I swear I have a feasible plan, or at least I think I do.)

    I like chaparral, I do, but it's a shitty ecosystem.  It's hot, dry, boring, and acorns don't taste that good.  If I had 1000x the space I would run Kunekune pigs in there in imitation of the Spanish dehesa ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehesa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Iberian_pig )  Maybe try cork oak.  But I don't.  So I'm going to change it.  I already asked permission from the land and the nature spirits there and they were all like, "Yeah dude, come on in, the more the merrier!"  If anything they're even more enthusiastic than I am.  The box of seeds... in the "third eye" sense it shines like a sun with potentiality.

    So, yeah, fire sucks (to live with.  It's a good friend.)  I'm literally going to build a big stone fortress to keep it out.  Also giant fire-fighting robots.  Again, I know this sounds nuts.  I've been planning this for a couple of decades.  I've got all the parts I need already, and all the details worked out.  I just needed the room, and now I've got that.  Metaphorically this process is the unfolding of a seed.  That's how I feel right now: I am seed that has found itself in sanguine soil.  My totem is Sequoiadendron giganteum, the tree in the image of God.  There is nothing to do but grow.

    How's that for flowery?  

    Seriously though, my whole thesis is that science and technology have delivered: we know what we need to know to live well, without destroying the vitality of the Earth, we just have to apply our knowledge and resources efficiently to meet our needs and we're golden.  Rather than argue with people about it, I'm just going to make a demonstration.  I'm going to take raw land (not particularly good land, from the conventional ag point of view) and with a handful of seeds, chickens, and gadgets, make it into a paradise.  Specifically I want to construct the infrastructure to support a lifestyle that is comfortable, easy, and in harmony with Nature, and I want to do it quickly and cheaply.  It should be easy: the plants, animals, robots, and forces of Nature do almost all the work!  Once it's set up, my job is to watch and adjust.


    In re: housing shortage,  I feel ya.  In Park Merced in San Francisco (where we're moving from) we have families living in RVs next to the lake (Lake Merced) and empty homes going unrented for months or even a year or two.  There's some kind of disconnect there, eh?  Plenty of empty units, plenty of "unhoused" people, ...?

    I don't feel like I'm going to be able to affect those kinds of issues.  Hopefully, if I succeed, it will inspire others, but these days it's not like it was thirty years ago when regenerative ag and Permaculture were fringe.  Now youtube is coated in folks doing great things and telling everybody about it.  Even things like Jean Pain compost heaters have a dozen videos or more.  It's wild!


    In re: the cacti, yeah, I'm in the same boat "I know enough to know that I don't know enough".  That's going to be my other full-time job now, learning about all these different kinds of plants and what they like and how to best grow them.
     
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    Simon, we started like you 13 years ago hailing from the Bay Area. Our land is only 3 acres in the sierras. Using only manual labor and weekends we have it going pretty well now. I am eager to hear more about your adventures, questions etc. I am a little envious that you get to move up full time. Family obligations will keep us divided between our two places so no animals for us. Best wishes
     
    Fred Frank V Bur
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    Simon Foreman wrote:Cheers Fred!

    I got up there last weekend, but only for a day or so and I didn't really get to look it over very well.

    First impressions: it's lovely.  Dry, mostly scrub oak.  The creek has water in it here and there.  It gets hot.

    It was above 95F in the middle of the day, but down to maybe 60F at night (my thermometer broke, so I'm estimating.)  There was a nice breeze, otherwise we would have been in a bit of trouble.  (We're from San Francisco, 70F is a hot day here.)  We weren't really prepared for the heat.  When we got too hot we just jumped back in the car and turned the AC on!  I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me half a day to remember to just wet your t-shirt! After that it wasn't so bad, but I didn't walk around much, y'know?

    After the heat, the only other problem was the mozzies, but we got some bug spray that actually worked and that made it okay.  I'm planning to make traps for inside and bat houses for long-term control.  (The first night I was plotting mozzie destruction campaigns... until I saw a couple of bats circling silently in the moonlight and thought better of it.

    The ground is tan/red loam and lots and lots of rocks, from baseball-sized to grit.  Not many boulders, not much sand.  Like I said, if you wanted to make a cheap fortress this is the stuff you would put in the walls.  Digging is out.  Although it's possible.

    Someone in recent past took a big dozer and carved a long (150' or more) wide (20'-25') flat spot right out of the side of the hill.  They installed a retaining wall to keep the hill above the flat from eroding down onto it.  No, I'm kidding.  They didn't do that.  I get to do that.  Yay!  (That is sarcasm.  I'm actually pretty annoyed by the irresponsibility of the folks who did this.) Thankfully, it won't rain again for nine months, so it should be pretty stable until then.  Any and all suggestions for what to do with or about this raw wall of earth and stone are most welcome.  It's south facing...

    Anyway, the ecosystem is pretty standard chaparral with some pine trees and manzanita.  In Permaculture terms there's not a lot to work with here.  The ecosystem as-is wouldn't support a single adult on twenty acres.  I'm not a farmer, I don't want to make money raising and selling produce, and I'm not trying to be self-sufficient (although I do intend to eventually grow most of my own food) so the driving motives here are to make it "nice" and to grow a bunch of different kinds of plants.  (I want to have a botanical garden and a tropical conservatory.)

    What that boils down to is that for the rest of the summer, at least, the primary activity be simply collecting material and composting it to build soil.

    The mobile home is indeed kaput.  There is a lot to salvage though, including lumber, PVC pipes (and some fittings and valves), siding, plywood panels, some pallets, etc.  There's a portapotty that seems to have been cleaned before it was abandoned, which is a tiny miracle.

    I'm thinking of getting a couple of large tarps (20' x 30' at least, as big as I can get) that are silver on one side and dark on the other, and mount them about 8' high to shade a big area from the sun to keep it from heating up.  Then, under that, a kind of "cold room" shack, very simple, with 4x4's for columns and just enough framing to support those 4' x 8' rigid foam insulation panels on the sides and "roof".  If a swamp cooler or something isn't enough to keep it cool in there I am not above buying a small AC and running it off a generator, if that's what it takes to make a livable temporary space up there where I can bootstrap to a proper home with proper climate control.
    Ideally I want passive solar, earth building, etc., all the good stuff.  But I can't make that stuff if I'm passing out from the heat, eh?

    That's about as far as I've gotten, plan-wise.

    Someone spilled a cactus out of a wheelbarrow?



    I have been hearing about that heatwave in the northwest,  it is in the news and it is unusual, it is still cooler further south from there. It is a time to be really careful.

    I am glad to hear you would leave the insectivorous bats to do the work, and bat houses sounds like a really great idea.

    I like the idea of digging and building an earthen fortress. If there is a hill dug into with a wall that should be retained, this can be shared work, I think, and I also think it could be a really good spot for such a home, or fortress,  built there.

    My home does not need to be anything more than a simple home. What I find important to have is a place where I will grow all the things I might, for food and other things, possibly with others, which would be good, to grow more independent of needing to get things elsewhere.

    The natural environments and botanical garden are fine along with that, which I think any would enjoy.
     
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