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evan's ant village log  RSS feed

 
Posts: 17
Location: Zone 5a
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 22

After that was all done, I went on a hike up one of the nearby mountains. There was beautiful wildlife to observe on the way up, and then amazing views to enjoy from the peak.
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purty purple orchid-y flower



A beautiful example of Fairyslipper (Orchid family, Orchidaceae), Calypso bulbosa (http://montana.plant-life.org/index.html).
 
Yampah Starr
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Location: Zone 5a
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 35

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another kind of plant



After learning the basics of identifying plants in bloom, the next steps are paying attention to the buds, leaves, and the fruits (seed pods) to identify them when they are not in bloom. This is a fairly distinctive leaf and would be Sticky Purple Geranium (Geranium family, Geraniaceae), Geranium viscosissimum (http://montana.plant-life.org/index.html).
 
Yampah Starr
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 40

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another unidentified growie



Pretty flower and a nice photo, but as you'll see by the common name, not edible and, in fact, is highly toxic: Meadow Death-camas
(Lily family, Liiiaceae), Zigadenus venenosus (http://montana.plant-life.org/index.html). "All parts of this plant contain the poisonous alkaloid zygadenine, which some claim to be more potent than strychnine. One bulb, raw or cooked, can be fatal. Poisoning results from confusing these bulbs with those of edible species."
 
Yampah Starr
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 41

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another flower



What a beautiful Calochortus sp. (Lily family, Liliaceae). Common names in this genus are Mariposa Lily, Naked Star Tulip, Cat's Ear, and Fairy Lantern, depending on the conformation of the flower. If the common name for this species follows the conventions, then it would be a Cat's Ear because of the hairiness of the interior of the petals and the general shape of the flower. Having checked several online sources (including the entire USDA Plants Database Calochortus species list), I have not arrived at a species identification for this beauty. That leaves me to guess that it might be a naturally occurring hybrid, a rare species not on most plant lists, or possibly an undescribed species. The Calocorthus genus includes a number of rare to very rare species, some of which have their entire wild world population confined to less than a square mile in a single location. The two closest matches I found are listed below, though neither is that good a match and neither is known to grow in Montana according to the USDA Plants Database (though I have found that database to not be that complete with regards to full geographic ranges).
Calochortus lyallii, Lyall's mariposa lily (http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+0506+3470)
Calochortus tolmiei, Tolmie star-tulip (http://plants.usda.gov/java/largeImage?imageID=cato_013_ahp.tif)

Evan, I encourage you to seek out a local botanical expert for a proper identification.
 
Yampah Starr
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 43

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another nother flower



This little cutie looks like a False Rue Anemone, Enemion sp. (formerly Isopyrum sp.). There are five species on the USDA Plants Database list, and none of them are known to grow in Montana, according to their data. Obviously, this little cutie doesn't care about that and seems to be growing quite well.

Evan, I again encourage you to seek out a local botanical expert for a proper identification for this plant, too, as this appears to represent a range extension. By the way, is anyone compiling a complete list of the flora and fauna found on the wheaton labs property?
 
Yampah Starr
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evan l pierce wrote:Day 55

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droopy purple flower



This is a Clematis, probably Blue Clematis (aka Western Blue Virginsbower), Clematis occidentalis (Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae) or Rock Clematis, Clematis columbiana. I should note that some sources seem to consider these to be just one species (http://montana.plant-life.org/index.html).
 
Posts: 133
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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It's nice to see all your projects, Evan, and that the ant village is working out for you. Being a plant person myself and having spent much of last year at Wheaton Labs myself, you may be interested in a few things. I saw your mention of finding a few lodgepole pines, I was wondering if you've discovered the grand firs yet, they are absent from most parts of the lab but there's one area where there are a bunch of them. They're easy to mistake for douglas firs if you don't have an eye for the details, but they have a bit different needle structure and bark, as well as a different, stronger fragrance. I also know of one lone subalpine for on the lab, kind of strange because they are normally at significantly higher elevations, and there were no more around the lab that I ever saw. That one is a healthy, good looking tree however.

You're soon to be in berry season, within the next few weeks. Lsst year st least was a great berry year. Serviceberries abound on the lab, I ate plenty fresh as I picked them but I think they're flavor really comes out the best when they're cooked. The almond-ish flavor of the seeds combines with the sweet flesh best when they are cooked. Thimbleberries are a great snack, but its best to eat them as you pick them as they don't last well off the plant at all.

The most wonderful of Montana berries has to be the huckleberry. Related to blueberries but with a more intense flavor, they grow at higher elevations than the lab, where its cooler and more moist. Many places in the mountains are just covered in huckleberry bushes, but what I noticed last year was a huge difference in productivity between different stands. Some bushes were loaded but others had no fruit at all. I found an amazingly productive stand last year. It's 11 miles from base camp mostly up winding forest service roads, so the trip is best if multiple people go and are willing to pick for a whole afternoon (its much cooler up the on hot afternoons). Last year there were literally acres upon acres of bushes that many of them were do loaded the branches were noticeably sagging from the weight of the berries. There were also several varieties of them up there with subtly different flavors, I never fully figured out the exact identities of the different Vaccinium species there but they all taste great. The season lasted from mid July (on sunny, south-facing slopes) to early September (on shady, cool, north facing slopes in the same patch). I kept thinking the season was almost over but it kept on going until finally there was a hard frost. The mountain views are amazingup there too. I could PM you with directions to that spot if you're interested. I'm not sure if the patch will have the same level of productivity this year, since I only spent one season in Montana I never got a chance to observe a patch over multiple years (if you go it would be interesting to hear what it's like this year). What I hypothesised made that patch so productive was that it's in a place where there used to be a dense canopy of primarily lodgepole pine, but the beetles killedmost of them 8-10 years ago or so. This created a patchwork of sun and shade that the huckleberries like, but also all the roots of those dead lodgepole are breaking down and literally feeding the berry plants.
 
Richard Kastanie
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The view from the huckleberry spot
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pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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" Umbrella wasps look similar to yellow jackets but are actually native pollinators that are so good at recognizing faces that they can remember humans who either left them alone or tried to get rid of them. Beeware the biodrones with advanced facial recognition."

Yes I keep paper wasps in my green houses. I talk to them and they will often stand on their umbrella shaped nests looking at my face and appearing to pay attention. From time to time I need to move their nests to an out of the way location if it is on a movable substrate such as an empty pot. Occasionally I disturb a nest I did not know about and I will get a tiny sting to notify me; never had repeated stings like with yellow jackets.

Normally the paper wasps drive off the yellow jackets by robing the nest of the solitary queen before she gets a large nest but one year I noticed a sudden decline in my paper wasps and discovered a rapidly expanding yellow jacket nest so it can work both ways. After I removed the yellow jackets the paper wasps quickly recovered.

My green house remains pest free and my raspberry houses get a few fruit maggots but mostly I just find where they started to eat their way in before they were taken to feed the paper wasp brood.
 
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Day 79 (part 1 of 2)

Jeremy Watts presented this morning on Soil. Soil is our resource base; it can be considered as a sort of ecological bank account. The conventional agricultural system has been making withdrawals constantly and as permies we need to utilize systems that make deposits in order to maintain balance.

Jeremy mentioned that soils are the most complex ecosystems of which we're aware, and a single gram of soil can contain between 2,000 and 8,000,000 different species of microorganisms. Soil can be thought of as the edge or interface between geology and biology.

Soil particle size plays a major role in drainage, fertility, and the ability of soil to store and release nutrients. Of the three kinds of soil, (sand, silt, and clay,) sand particles are the largest and thereby have the best drainage and least storage capacity. Silt particles are much smaller, and clay particles are smaller still. Clay also has a high cation exchange capacity, a negative charge that attracts positive ions, meaning clay can capture and store soil nutrients more effectively than other soil types. Soils with a combination of sand, silt, and clay are called loam. Loam and clayey loams are considered ideal.

A jar test can help you to determine the percentage of sand, silt, and clay in your soil. To conduct one, take a jar and fill it about a 1/4 of the way with the soil you want to test. Then add water until the jar is about 3/4 full. Finally, add a tablespoon of salt and let the mixture sit until the layers separate. Salt breaks apart the structure of soil, hence why "salting the earth" was used as an ancient technique of warfare to destroy the resource base of competing civilizations. Once your layers have separated out, the sand will be on the bottom, the silt in the middle, the clay above that, and finally organic material on top, and now you can measure the percentage of each layer.

Soil in the landscape is composed of different horizons. On the top is a layer of organic material, then the top soil, then subsoil, then weathered rocks, and finally the bedrock on the very bottom.

Residual soil forms in place, and only about 3% of the world's soils are formed this way. Transported soils are moved from elsewhere by wind, water, glaciers, etc., and most of the soils in the world are of this type.

Inorganic materials may be calcite, quartz, feldespar, and/or others. Organic materials are either living or dead. If it lived once, it can live again in the soil. Coppicing, pollarding, or pruning causes plants to self prune their root systems to remain balanced. Leaving roots to decompose in the soil creates pockets for air and water to flow and contributes to the fluffy texture that is ideal for gardening. Compaction destroys this texture and should be avoided.

The primary garden soil elements that plants need are: firstly carbon, (life on this planet is carbon-based,) then the familiar N, P, K, or nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. To generalize, nitrogen is responsible for growing shoots, phosphorus for growing roots, and potassium for growing fruit and flowers. Plants can grow with just N, P, K, but they will not be healthy without also having trace minerals, vitamins, etc.

Nitrogen is the embodiment of speed and power. One way nitrogen is made available is by lightning breaking the bonds of N in the atmosphere. Symbiotic rhizobial bacteria that live in nodules on the roots of leguminous plants fix atmospheric nitrogen. The rhizobes receive starch from the plant's roots, they form ammonia, convert it to nitrites, and finally nitrates, which the plant can use. When these plants are grazed, pruned, or simply die, they leave this plant-available nitrogen in the soil. When the soil is turned, about half of the N is lost to the atmosphere. In the second world war, the Haber-Bosch process was developed to make nitrate bombs. After the war, this excess product was marketed and sold as fertilizer, continuing into the present day.

Phosphorus is often found with calcium, and bones are a good source. Seabirds and salmon moving upstream bring P from the sea into land-based ecosystems. A peak phosphorus crisis is thought to be on the horizon, and one way to recycle P back into your system is to pee all over it.

Potassium can be found in hardwood ash, granite dust, and greensand.

Other macro and micronutrients that plants need in trace amounts include: boron, cobalt, chromium, calcium, copper, chloride, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, sodium, zinc, and vitamins.

Ph can be thought of as the potential for hydrogen. The lower the ph, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, the more acidic. Ways to raise ph include adding lime or ash, and one way to lower ph is to add conifer needles. Improper ph levels can make nutrients unavailable to plants, even if they are found in the soil.

Bacteria is the glue that holds soil together in aggregates or clumps. Protozoa are like proto-animals and proto-plants that do animalesque and plantesque things in the soil on a microcosmic scale. Nematodes are typically beneficial predators of bacteria, and they also eat fungi and exudates from plant roots. Arthropods are typically beneficial predators of insects. Fungi is composed of a mycelial net and the familiar mushrooms are a fungus' sexual organs. Mycelium has a structure that mirrors that of the galactic filament, and can be thought of as an underground internet transferring nutrients and information between plants. Mycelium has been found to be intelligent enough to efficiently solve mazes, and almost every species of plant in the world has a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Actinomycetes are microorganisms that seem to have similarities with both fungi and bacteria. Earthworms are amazing soil builders and allegedly a single earthworm can process 20 to 40 tons of topsoil in a year.

The best way to amend soil is to simply add lots of organic material. Soil building plants like nitrogen fixers and nutrient accumulators can help with this while also providing a yield. appropriate technology like the yeoman's plow slices through compacted soil without pulling it up and can help to get air and water into the soil. A roller-crimper does not cut down plants but instead bends them over and crimps them, which prevents them from growing back and keeps the soil covered. Minimize tillage and keep the soil covered with mulch or groundcover to keep it healthy. Biochar has many pore spaces that hold air and water. A single tablespoon of charcoal has 10 acres of surface area.

Howard continued on soils. Plants have a main or tap root, with many fibrous roots coming off of it. The tips of these fibers are surrounded by a suspension of nutrients and microbes, which are stuck together in globules by an electromagnetic charge. In this rhizosphere, starches are exchanged for nutrients that the plant needs.

In conventional systems, NPK is added in a pelletized salt form. Since farmers are paid by the size, rather than the nutrient density, of their produce, the plants get big but not healthy. Bugs smell the unhealthy plants and come to correct the imbalance. Farmers respond by spraying pesticides. The compacted soils are colonized by weeds that heal compaction and soak up excess nutrients, but again the farmers respond by spraying herbicides. Irrigation bloats plants with water, causing fungi to grow, which farmers respond to with fungicides. Instead of spending so much time and energy fighting nature, we can work with natural systems to grow healthy food.

Check out Elaine Ingham's website: soilfoodweb.com
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soil types by percentage
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Jeremy talking soils
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a mushroom growing in my house
 
evan l pierce
Lab Ant
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Day 79 (part 2 of 2)

It was crazy hot this afternoon, and it's only supposed to get hotter over the weekend. Instead of having our hands-on session in the hottest part of the day, we went on a trip to go swimming in the river. It was great to chill out and observe the lushness of a riparian ecosystem.

This evening, we had a hands-on session up on the lab. A mulch crew gathered up manure-rich hay and delivered it to Jesse's plot so he can make some compost. A planting crew put some seaberry and honeyberry bushes in the ground on both mine and Jesse's plot. And everyone else helped to cut, haul, and limb small trees for the fence around Hamelot. Thanks everyone for all the awesome help!
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the lovely river
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honeyberry
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ham ham Hamelot
 
pollinator
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Yes, thanks Evan. And, re: Julia's comment, thanks for 'bring us along' so comprehensively, especially with your wonderful notes.

Julia also made the PV1 come alive for me with her amazing notes from each speaker. Still grateful to her for that.... and now to you. (Among, of course, all the other spectacular 'sharers' on Permies ;)
 
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Hi Evan,
Here is a quick edited video of your tour of your site at Ant Village



Edited by moderator to embed video
 
pollinator
Posts: 1133
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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It was interesting to see your acre, Evan. Now it's easier for me to visualize what you're trying to do.
 
Posts: 167
Location: New Hampshire
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One thing the video tour made me think is that one of the downsides to the ant village challenge is that you need to do things in a hurry. That means you really can't take the time to observe a lot, so you might miss some things or misallocate stuff in the name of expediency. It might take a few years of observation to really get to know your land. Thankfully it doesn't seem like you'll be doing much of anything that wouldn't be able to be undone.
 
evan l pierce
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Day 80 (part 1 of 2)

Today's topic of the permaculture design course was Water. Jeremy started off the discussion with some of what water does for us. Water fosters life processes, can be used to develop productive food systems, and to develop hydraulic means of energy production.

97% of the water on Earth is saltwater. Of the 3% remaining freshwater, 75% is frozen as ice or snow, 13.5% is deep (800+ meters deep) groundwater, 11% is shallow (less than 800 meters deep,) groundwater, 0.3% is in lakes and ponds, 0.06% is in the soil, 0.035% is in the atmosphere, and 0.03% is in rivers.

Aquifers are deep groundwater, the deep storage basins of the earth's freshwater supply. Aquifers can't be recharged effectively and so are a relatively finite and precious resource. The water table is where our wells usually draw from, the shallow groundwater, and it can be recharged.

Water wants to take the shortest route downhill, following gravity and running perpendicular to contour lines. But as permies we want to keep water on our land for as long as possible.

Forests recycle about 74% of the water passing through. Evaporation rates are extremely low in a fully shaded canopy, the roots of trees are highly efficient at capturing and storing water, and the layers of deep leaf litter and natural hugels act like a massive sponge that holds water and releases it very slowly. Water coheres to itself, and adheres to other surfaces, making biological storage, and thereby life itself, possible.

There are several ways to store water in ponds, and understanding the landscape is key to determining which methods to use. A saddle is the area between two ridges, and if you have such a landform, you can build a saddle dam. A ridgepoint dam is built on a descending ridgeline. A keypoint is the place in a landscape where a slope meets flatter land, or where the land goes from convex to concave. Keypoint dams often offer the greatest catchment for the least work, and once established can be easily used to irrigate slopes lower down. Contour dams are built on contour where the slope is 8 degrees or less. A barrier dam is built across running water, like a stream or river, and needs a fish ladder. A check dam is built across swales or channels. A gabion is a kind of dam constructed of stacked stone or a stone-filled wire cage. And a turkey nest is a kind of donut-shaped dam that can be built on flat land and is mainly for storage rather than catchment.

Ponds can be sited to reflect sunlight, causing a sort of double-sun effect, and if placed uphill can be used to passively gravity-feed water downhill. When building a pond, first dig down a bit both where the pond will be and also where the dam will be. You're looking for soil with a clay content of at least 30%. A model can be built and tested using the materials you plan to use for the actual pond. Plan your spill ways to be able to deal with maximum rainfall and overflow. Ponds can be aligned long ways to the prevailing winds to increase aeration and to reduce evaporation. By the time the wind reaches the middle of a long pond, the air is saturated and so you lose less water to evaporation. Keep the pond shaded to reduce evaporation as well. Use rocks along the edges to hold heat and provide habitat, and be sure to seed the banks to minimize erosion and evaporative losses, and to take advantage of this saturated soil for growing.

A dam should be slightly crowned on the crest, like a road, so that water doesn't pool there and wash the dam away. Freeboard is the distance between the top of the dam and the top of the water in the pond, and your freeboard should be at least 3 ft. The key of a dam is a compacted, impervious layer tied into a clay layer underneath. The key runs through the core of a dam. A pipe, like Sepp's monks mentioned a few posts back, can be used to drain water out of a pond. A spillway designed to handle overflow should be located off to the side of, rather than through, the dam, and should be low enough to maintain your 3 ft freeboard. Spillways can divert overflow to swales or other elements of the system.

Water can be siphoned into or out of ponds, and roads can be used to catch and divert rainwater into ponds. Islands can give ducks sanctuary from predators. Too much nitrogen or fertilization in ponds can cause eutrophication. The more edges a pond has, the more opportunity for production, habitat, and filtration.

Ponds can be sealed a number of ways. Gleying is the process of using animal manure to create a soppy, anaerobic layer 6 to 9 inches deep. Ducks, cattle, and especially pigs can be used to seal ponds this way. Clay, especially Bentonite clay, is great for sealing ponds. An excavator with an articulating bucket, like a giant fist, can grind, vibrate, and pound the bottom of a pond to compact and seal it. Explosives have also been used to seal ponds.

Understanding contour is important to siting ponds, dams, and other water features. An a-frame level can be used to find contour.

There are many effective ways to acquire water besides simple wells. Rainwater catchment systems can be built with first-flush diverters so that the water collected has less debris in it. Airwells are large stacks or piles of rocks; the outer rocks are in the sun and heat up, while the inner rocks are shaded and stay cool, so condensation forms on the inner rocks and causes moisture to collect. Fog collectors are like giant nets drained to gutters that trap and store the moisture of fog and mist. Humus wells utilize deep-rooted trees to catch water.

Greywater can be diverted from showers, laundry, and sinks, and reused in the landscape. It can be sent to mulch basins around woody species that filter the water while using it to produce fruit, into artificial wetlands where species like cattail efficiently convert the contained nutrients to soil, into mycofiltration systems with fungi that bind up or break down toxins, or any combination of the above. Ultimately, once biologically filtered, it can re-enter your productive water systems.

Other water systems include chinampas, (highly productive garden systems that maximize edge,) curb cuts, (an urban technique for collecting street run-off,) wicking beds, (a garden irrigation system where water is added down low, causing plants to grow deeper roots,) ollas, (a similar irrigation method where a sub-surface pot is filled with water that is seeped into the soil lower down to encourage deep root growth,) drip irrigation, (a method of irrigation that attempts to minimize water use,) and aquaponics, (intensive hydroponic systems that grow plants and fish together in symbiosis.)

Cyanobacteria are a highly prolific and successful nitrogen-fixing form of aquatic life that can be used to increase fertility in, for example, rice paddies.

Riparian buffers are densely vegetated strips of land along rivers and streams that can protect waterways from pollution and also shade the water to prevent evaporative losses.

Natural swimming pools use plants to clean and filter water rather than toxic chemicals like chlorine. They can be used for food production as well as swimming.

Microhydro systems utilize flowing or falling water to generate electricity or run machines. A ram pump is a device that uses the water hammer effect to develop pressure that lifts a portion of the input water to a higher elevation than it started. A trompe is a water-powered gas compressor.

Howard gave us a few formulas:

Spillway lengths should be equal in meters to the square of the catchment area in hectares.

Rainwater harvested from a solid surface (gallons) = (catchment area in sq. ft.) x (max inches of rainfall) x (conversion factor 0.623) -Or- 1 inch of rainfall on 1 sq. ft. surface = approximately 0.6 gallons

A water tank at 10 meters high gives 1 BAR of pressure, (which is the typical water pressure in cities.)

Other things to consider when building a dam include: Clay should be packed on the inner and pond-side of the dam, as well as the bottom of the pond, but leave the ground uphill of the pond natural to store water in the soil uphill. Try not to site ponds or dams on rock, sand, or gravel, as these materials are too-well-draining. A dam slope should be at least 2:1, but 5:1 is better. Don't plant trees or plants with deep roots on a dam.

The cheapest way to store water is in the soil. The next cheapest is to store it in ponds/dams. And storing it in tanks is expensive.

For water security, utilize as many different sources as possible: rainwater, wells, springs, ponds, soakage, condensation, and greywater.

To summarize the permaculture approach to water, we want water to take the longest path, over the most distance, over the most time, traveling as slowly as possible, with the most passive friction, rubbing up against as many living things as possible.
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Jeremy on water
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some dams
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alder maybe?
 
evan l pierce
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Day 80 (part 2 of 2)

The hands-on session today was up at Jesse's ant plot, and we learned about building an a-frame level and finding contours. Jesse already has a decent amount of experience with permaculture design, so it was great to have him teaching this important technique. Thanks Jesse!

Seeing the contours of Jesse's plot flagged out had me reconsidering how I've been going about my own design. I'm not sure I will take the time to find all the contours of my entire plot, (some of the stuff I've built or am in the process of building is kind of in the way, and a lot of my plans involve changing contours or deliberately building things like giant hugels oriented catywompus to them,) but it seems like valuable information, and I think I may at least map out the contours of Avalon before undertaking any serious earthworks there.
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a-frame levels
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contours flagged
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a black and gold beetle
 
evan l pierce
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Day 81

Today was a day off from the PDC, and lots of folks went into Missoula to see the market and whatnot. Yesterday evening Devin helped me get the fence around Hamelot ham-proofed. And today Heather, Curtis, and I went and picked up Sir Chops from Abe's farm and got him situated in Hamelot. Abe has a pretty sweet little farm on the edge of Missoula and I'm looking forward to learning about butchering from him tomorrow. Sir Chops is a wily little guy, and I didn't get a very good picture of him yet, but he seems to be enjoying his stay here so far. He has lots of water to drink and splash in and even some dumpster-dived organic yogurts to eat, so hopefully he won't even feel the need to try to escape, but if he does try, I think the fence will hold. I guess we'll see in the morning.
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Abe's farm
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slop for Sir Chops
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Sir Chops in Hamelot after dusk
 
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crossing my fingers that your pen holds. I liked that the video explained how that fence was put together! helps a lot!
 
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Day 82 (part 1 of 2)

Sir Chops is right at home in Hamelot, with plenty of shade, water, and occasional slop. He's already put in some work fertilizing and rooting and digging and spilling his water to make a wallow. Nice job, Sir Chops, keep up the good work!

Haven't heard from Abe, but to be honest, I'm relieved that we won't be slaughtering and butchering Sir Chops just yet. There's still plenty of work for him to do in Hamelot, and I think it's better for him to have some time to relax and de-stress from being moved.

The fence seems to be holding so far.
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tail a wagging
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Sir Chops in Hamelot
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pennycress
 
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Day 82 (part 2 of 2)

Today Howard presented on Climate. Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get. Climate chaos resulting from unbalanced human systems is expected to continue and perhaps intensify, and our best defense is to diversify; plant some perennials that can tolerate warmer climates, and some that can tolerate cooler climates, and some that can tolerate drier climates, and some that can tolerate wetter climates, that way no matter how the climate changes your system has a chance of surviving and even thriving.

Our landscapes are shaped by climate. Flat country or gently rounded hills were shaped by rain, whereas steep angular sharp country with exposed rocks was shaped by sand, wind, and aridity.

Howard laid out three primary climate types: Temperate, Tropical, and Arid.

Temperate climates usually have wet winters and dry summers. They typically have deep soils, and perhaps 40% of the biomass is held in the soil. A small amount of tilling is generally not too destructive. The freezing winter temperatures result in seasonal dormancy, kills off insects, and provides a sort of a fresh start every spring. Herbs thrive in this climate, and lots of life lives in the soil. Animals are often found living in the ground. The summer is the main time for growth. Design for harvesting sun and warmth. The polar extremities of temperate climates have extremely long summer days and extremely long winter nights.

Tropical climates usually have wet summers and dry winters. The soils are shallow because heavy rains wash the organic matter out and away. Maybe 90% of the biomass is held above the ground in trees and other plants. Biochar is a viable strategy. Woody plants tend to grow quickly. Animals usually live in the trees. The rainy season is when the main flush of growth occurs. Designing for shade, and mulching over swales is key.

Drylands may have only day of rain a year, and so extending water is the primary design focus. Deserts are floods waiting to happen. Positioning elements in relation to water and shade is key. Animals often live under under ground or in shade. What mulches are grown tend to be high quality as the stressful environment concentrates nutrients. Gardens can be planted in ditches or holes to keep them wet. Pumping water from underground to irrigate in arid climates can be highly problematic, as the groundwater is often saline and so using it adds salt to the soil. Rainwater harvesting, gigantic swales, gabions, and plants that cast lots of shade are useful strategies.

Mountain ranges and elevated land masses have substantial impacts on climate, called orographic effects. 100 meters of altitude is roughly analogous to 1 degree of latitude. Maritime areas tend to have less annual temperature change, basically they are cooler in summer and warmer in winter, due to the moderating effects of a large body of water. Continental areas are the opposite, and more extremes can be found towards the interior or centers of continents. The rainshadow effect is the drier warmer air that flows down the leeward side of a mountain.

Along coastlines, wind can be a problem and designs should attempt to create a wind lift. You can add clay, grow wind breaks, mulch heavily to avoid drying out the soil, and utilize salt-tolerant crops.

A lamona is a swale and/or berm around a large hill or rock. Boomerang dams, aka fish-scale swales, are a good water harvesting system.

Microclimates are ranges or features in a landscape that usually involve a large body of water. While naturally occuring, they may also be designed around aspect, slope, thermal mass, evaporation, condensation, humidity, etc.

We touched briefly on Hadley cells and Ferrel cells, subtropical jets and polar jets, and on finding plants for your site by using climate analogs. Places in the world with similar altitude, latitude, and distance to a large body of water will likely have plants that you might be able to grow on your site.

We talked a bit about vermiculture. Red wrigglers are the worms you want, although apparently some folks have had luck with other varieties. Place your worm bin near their source of feed, keep it dark and not too wet, and add manure and kitchen scraps. Worms can consume their own body weight daily.

Finally we talked some about black soldier flies. Under ideal conditions, say 76 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, their lifecycle can take as little as 35 days. In less ideal conditions, they can remain dormant for up to 6 months just waiting. During the 5 days they spend as adults, they don't eat; their focus is on reproduction. They apparently repel houseflies, and are not nearly as aggressive or annoying. They need light and something like a tree.

These midsummer days have been so long, so hot, and yet so full of busyness, I've been having trouble keeping up with my daily updates and especially the summaries of my notes. I apologize for being a little behind.
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climate learnings
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red wriggler
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flutter on by
 
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No worries - when it's super hot, it's hard to think, let alone compose notes and type on a heat-emitting laptop!
 
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Day 83 (part 2 of 2)

For today's hands-on session, we started building a community tool shed for ant village. There was this skiddable little a-frame roundwood timber structure on the lab, and with Paul's approval we decided to skid it over to Jesse's plot, pull the roof off, and add four 7' poles, one in each corner, for height. Jesse is very efficient and accurate with a chainsaw, and he made quick work of the notches. We braced these poles and put the roof back on top.

Down at basecamp there was this big stack of 3/8" milled lumber, and since it was getting a tad mildewy Paul happily donated it to the ant village tool shed project. Since it's an outdoorsy structure and no one will be living in it the mildew shouldn't be a problem anyway. We loaded a big pile of it up and hauled it up to the lab where Jesse and I set about nailing it to the sides of the tool shed shiplap style. When it's done, I think it'll be quite functional, and pretty too.
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ant village community tool shed in progress
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chocolate colored lady bug?
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moisture and shade loving plant
 
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Day 84 (part 1 of 2)

(still a placeholder, sorry)

This morning Howard taught on Earthworks. We also watched a great geoff lawton video on the development of his first permaculture site.

In the afternoon, Josho Somine presented on Spatial Design Fundamentals in Landscapes.
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Howard on earthworks
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Geoff Lawton on his first permaculture site
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mystery plant near creek
 
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Day 84 (part 2 of 2)

This evening the hands-on session was earthworks up on the lab. Folks got a chance to drive the tractor and also operate the excavator. As much fun as the excavator is, I figured since it wasn't my first time, I'd let other folks have more time instead.

While folks were playing with the heavy equipment, Devin and I worked on moving stone and actually made a bit of progress on the internal retaining wall of my shelter. We decided that the stone bench in front of the fire pit project was actually a super low priority, and with a limited amount of good stone, we'd put it to better use as part of my shelter instead. My shelter, which I was calling Daboree, you know, like how folks with a good drawl might pronounce debris, is actually going to be a bit nicer than a debris hut, so it'll need a nicer name. I'm thinking Siesta has a nice ring to it. I'd like to think that when I become a grasshopper I'll have time to take a nice midday nap in there occasionally.

Speaking of names, I have all kinds of crazy names for the different areas, structures, and paddocks/micro-nations of which Ava is composed. These various names will be thoroughly expressed in the permaculture site design master plan we're working on. Oh yeah, the PDC participants split up into 5 groups and each group of 3 to 4 people will be creating a permaculture design for a different site. One group is doing a design for basecamp, one for the lab, one for Brandon and Nikki's homestead in Georgia, one for Jesse's ant acre, and one group for my plot, Ava. I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with.
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tractor fun
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early Siesta
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arachnid allies materialize majestically, spinning fractally factual actual webs, spectacular silky spirals specifically
 
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Day 85 (part 0 of 2)

This morning James, John, and I got up early and went into Missoula to pick up six rabbits and some pig grain from Abe. By the way, Abe's awesome, so go look at his website: abecoley.com

Instead of butchering Sir Chops, we decided to let him keep up the great work he's doing making ponds and turning over and fertilizing the land, starting in Hamelot but ultimately working his way up the draw and eventually sealing all kinds of water catchment areas all over Ava. After all, to quote the mighty sepp holzer, "if you don't have pigs in your system, then you must do the pigs' work."

But even though Sir Chops' life is spared for now, the PDC class was still very interested in learning about butchering, hence the rabbits. I've raised rabbits before, and participated in butchering them many times, and from experience I can say that they're much easier than pigs, and easier than chickens and other birds too. Plus since there are six of them, multiple people will get a chance to get their hands dirty, and other people will get to see the whole process more than once.
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ridiculously cute bunnies destined for the stew pot
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self heal
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did I already show this?
 
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Day 85 (part 1 of 2)

(placeholder)

Josho presented on natural building.

Howard explained a bit about what we're aiming for with our design project exercises.
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Josho on natural building
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a sweet woodstove and colored cob wall
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True, a baby bird Carol Anne found
 
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Day 85 (part 2 of 2)

For hands-on, James led the group in a respectful and informative session of rabbit butchery. He explained four different methods of dispatch, and demonstrated two, the first involving a broomstick and the second a hammer.

Our goal was to use as much of the animal as possible, so Heather also led a class on hide preservation.

Three of the four rabbits went into a delicious stew that Stewart artfully threw together. The fourth was frozen for later.

Literally seconds before Brandon was about to slaughter his first rabbit, a doe, she suddenly gave birth to five baby bunnies. Her life and those of her offspring were spared, along with an adolescent rabbit that's still a little small to butcher. They've all got plenty of nesting material, water, freshly pulled grasses to eat, and even a couple twigs to gnaw on. I think Josh, ant #3, has decided to raise them.

My vegan diet experiment was cut short just a few days shy of two months, and now I'm back to being omnivorous for a little while. I didn't seem to gain any superpowers from being a vegan, but maybe it was because I wasn't able to maintain total purity during the experiment. In any case, I have a great amount of respect for folks who are able to meet a large part of their own food needs without keeping animals. For me anyway, I felt like the experiment was worthwhile, and the main drawbacks were just inconvenience and social awkwardness from being around omnivores. That said, I don't think veganism is for me right now, and I plan to respectfully raise and butcher my own animals.

Death and life. Life and death. Being a farmer is so raw.
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rabbit death
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rabbit life
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rabbit stew
 
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Day 86 (part 1 of 2)

Josho talked about communities and invisible structures.

(Placeholder. There's actually lots I'd like to say here, but I'll have to come back to it. I took good, but disorganized notes.)
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Josho flashing his local bling
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lil brown bug visiting my arm
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caterpillar pretending to be a leaf
 
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Day 86 (part 2 of 2)

Devin, Tim, and I were working together on a design project for Ava. It was great to have such creative and knowledgeable individuals on my design team. We burned the midnight oil and I drank a lot of coffee in an effort to put our design together.

We had very little time to draft our maps and prepare our presentation, so there were some inaccuracies, but all in all I thought we did a fairly good job. I feel like I'm better prepared than ever to develop Ava into a permaculture paradise.
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water layer
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my coffee is black, just like my soil, my market, and my flag
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a frog!
 
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Day 87 (part 1 of 4)

Today was design project presentation day. The first group to present was James, Fred, and JR, and their design was for basecamp. This was a pretty huge piece of property to have to design for, especially considering how little time they had to work on it, but they came up with some very intriguing ideas. Their design included a tiny home village, a wofati classroom, ponds, food forests, paddocks, art installations, a company store, a gathering space on top of the volcano, and of course, good submarine access.

The second group to present was Curtis, John, Todd, and Josh, and their design was for the lab. This was an extremely massive piece of land to design for, and they wisely focused on just a couple parts of it. One area they designed for, Dances With Pigs Meadow, included ponds, swales, treed terraces, and a network of paddocks. The other area they designed for was sort of centrally located between wofati 0.7 and 0.8, and it included a community berm shed, outdoor rumford fireplace, ponds, and big hugelkultur mounds.
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basecamp design team
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lab design team
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a mushroom
 
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Day 87 (part 2 of 4)

Brandon, Nikki, Heather, and Mike's design was for Brandon and Nikki's homestead in Georgia. It was about a 2 acre property and their design included a natural swimming pool, some infiltration swales, a vernal pond, a food forest, hugelkultur garden beds, a shady sitting area, a greenhouse for avocados, and some kid's playhouses built out of cob. Sounds to me like it'll be a place that exemplifies southern hospitality and permacultural abundance.

Jesse, Carol-Anne, and Jim designed Jesse's one acre ant plot. Their design included a wofati, a freezer wofati, abundant hugelkultur berms, an annuals garden, a decent-sized pond, lots of fruit and nut trees, a berm shed workshop, and strategically placed paddocks utilizing the berms to minimize fencing. I thought it was an awesomely well-done design, and I'm totally going to steal as many of their good ideas as I possibly can.
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Georgia homestead design team
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Jesse's ant plot design
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st john's wort
 
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Day 87 (part 3 of 4)

Tim, Devin, and I worked on a design for Ava. We tried to do each layer, (water, access, zones, structures, paddocks, etc.) on a separate sheet of semi-transparent paper, so that we could overlay them and view them each separately or all together. This worked alright if you were up close, but it turned out to be less feasible when it came time to present to the whole class. We ended up taking pictures of each layer and displaying them up on the overhead projector, which turned out to be a little confusing for everyone involved.

Our design included a small 10x12 wofati, a larger community-sized wofati, an earth-sheltered solarium spa, a natural swimming pool, a shaded picnic patio, numerous hugel berms along both internal and external borders, 6-9 paddocks containing at least one pond each, a tree perch, a compost toilet outhouse, a diversigolf course, and a series of terraces / chinampas on the south-facing slopes of Avalon. Of course, this is a long-term vision, and this year the focus will be on finishing the small wofati (Siesta,) building most of the hugelberms (and in the process digging some of the ponds,) and building lots of fencing both around the perimeter and between the paddocks.
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Ava design sketch
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white clover
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grasshopper aspirations
 
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Day 87 (part 4 of 4)

Talent night was a lovely way to end the day and it was great seeing my fellow students show off all their awesome talents.

There was joke-telling, singing, instrument-playing, mock-oxen-driving, rope-tying, birthday-memorizing, poetry-reciting, and a gapper transformed into an ant before our very eyes. That makes 4 ants now!

For the talent show, I shared a few poems that I'd written from my time living at Bardo Farm, interspersed with little dulcimer jams. This beautiful appalachian mountain dulcimer was a gift from Bardo, originally received in trade for a pig. It was hand-crafted by Alan Carruth, a Luthier out of Newport, New Hampshire.

A poem about the long days of sugaring season:

"Sensibly the sun rises in the middle distance, alchemical mirrors transmute golden photons into leaden electrons, consciousness drips into cups, still steaming.

Sleepwalkers rising from matutinal marshlands to ride the rivers of vernal velocity flowing into estival estuaries of ecstasy.

The sky is covered in an inside-out blanket, the earth a patchwork quilt of greens and browns. Lining beds with stone pillows, daydreaming of a nap.

Simmering sugary mists and fast-burning flames, awake, awaiting. A syrupy fog rises, leaving ever sweeter potions as the day's gallons boil down to spoonfuls."

A love poem to heavy equipment:

"Streaming ribbons of bubble-gum pink liquid fire, the blood that courses through steel veins, fueling a twenty-six ton dragon of earth-shattering fury.

Beauty in disturbance, reorganization, aggradation, transformation, the bright side of a chainsaw, gaps, glades, and golden sunlight.

Weaving among piles of boulders, exposed roots, and fallen trees, the freshly upturned earth giving way slightly beneath my feet, in the once and future woods.

The slow dance of succession, growing green bandages over old wounds."

A poem about living in a leaky tent in a rainforest:

"Fractal pillars hold up a ceiling of infinite stars. Persian rugs of moss, sparkling statues of mica. Camped out in a cathedral.

Arboreal access and arcane arithmetic accelerates arhythmic pitter patter patterns of precipitating particles against my plastic patchwork palace.

Infinite humidity, swimming through dreams, the crash of non-differentiable waves, falling out of clouds of probability and soaking into neurofungal nets.

Gaps and clearings in the clouds, the brightness of heaven shines through."

And finally, a poem about unwrapping thousands of yogurts and feeding them to pigs:

"Societal decomposers recollect organic particles, liberating biomass from petro-plastic prisons.

Post-non-consumed packaged processed products politely provided to patient pigs and poultry.

The cacophony of critters coalesces into concordant consumption.

By and by, the barn becomes a banquet hall, before breakfast, the sacred rite of slop is observed."
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beautiful butterfly
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alder
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a dull simmer, as opposed to a sharp boil
 
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Day 88 (part 1 of 2)

I'm now a bonafide official certified legit permie. How about that.
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permies all
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ask around the streets yeah I'm certified
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but I still suck at identifying plants
 
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Day 88 (part 2 of 2)

We went huckleberry picking at the spot Richard shared with us. It was just as extraordinarily bountiful as he promised. Thanks Richard!

Our hands were all stained purple and blue from picking, and our lips from gorging ourselves on berrylicious abundance straight from the bush.

It was a delicious end to a great PDC, and while I'm glad to have completed the course, I'm sure gonna miss all the wonderful friends I made over the past two weeks. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
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huckleberry
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not huckleberry
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hucking views
 
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Day 89

Sir Chops is starting to warm up to me, I think. He lets me get a few feet closer before running away now, but he still won't let me get close enough to scratch him behind the ears yet. I was down in Hamelot limbing up fence poles, just minding my own business and not chasing him around, and I think the more I do that sort of thing the more relaxed around me he'll become. It probably doesn't hurt that I give him tons of slop too. Jocelyn has been sending me buckets upon buckets of delicious kitchen scraps for the good Sir, and he's thoroughly enjoying them. Thanks Jocelyn for all the yummy slop! And Sir Chops sends his regards.

Oh, I'm not sure if it's visible in this picture, but Sir Chops has one blue eye and one brown eye! Cool!
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Chops at rest
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weird triangley berries?
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some nice growie
 
evan l pierce
Lab Ant
pollinator
Posts: 753
Location: ephemeral space
588
greening the desert
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Day 90

Brian, Josh, and I worked on tearing the excavator apart to remove the faulty spring inside the track. It was disconcerting to see Brian having to slice through a link to get the track apart, but after much heaving and hoing and grunting and hammering, we got the spring out and Brian took it into town to either get it fixed or get a new one. The excavator looked like a metal giant ripping off his own toe and gruesomely lifting it into the air.

I still have several placeholders back there I need to go in and fill in from my notes, but aside from those I'm finally caught up on my daily posts, so today is actually today! Yay!
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torch action
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spring sprung
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a growie I'll identify someday
 
Uh oh, we're definitely being carded. Here, show him this tiny ad:
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