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giant hugelkultur (12 feet tall) at basecamp  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Here is a giant hugelkultur bed at basecamp. We have almost zero soil at basecamp, but the soil goes 40 feet or more at the lab. So we bring in dump truck loads of soil from the lab to basecamp.

We wanted hugelkultur at basecamp, but we also wanted a berm for privacy and to block out the noise of passing cars. Thus making this space a bit more of a utopia. The trick is that the house at basecamp is built on a tiny little shelf carved out of the rock. So it has a tiny yard. So we built these berms/hugelkulturs very tall and steep.

Here you can see Tony and Emily adding some hugel goodness in way that helps us keep it tall and steep.

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giant hugelkultur
 
Mark Lipscomb
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I would need mountaineering 101 to harvest from that thing!



I can't wait to see what it looks like when its planted.

 
kadence blevins
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Super awesome! Cant wait to see it full of growth (:
 
Richard Hauser
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I agree that it is super cool, but how do you harvest from something like that?
Is the top just squash and other heavy plants that will slide down to human height?
Or will you create some kind of rolling siege device or ladder for harvesting?
 
R Scott
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Or is the top and outer side not for human consumption? I could see putting lots of prickly things on top, layed into a hedge, and prickly animal and bee fodder on the outer slope.
 
Justin Jones
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The street side of the berm is planted with boring stuff so as not to attract attention. On the house side, there is a narrow path in the middle, and a path on top as well. So think of it like a double-decker hugel bed.
 
Julia Winter
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Excellent!

Need more pictures. Stand a bit further back, ideally with someone standing in front to show the awesome height of it.

I have never seen such a thing. Can't wait to see it full of life!
 
Amedean Messan
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Looks impressively large. How will the erosion be mitigated?
 
Sue Rine
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How much 'logness' is in that thing? And what depth of soil covering the logs, roughly?
 
Brian Cantley
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"Amedean Messan Post Yesterday 7:56:40 PM Subject: giant hugelkultur (12 feet tall) at basecamp
Looks impressively large. How will the erosion be mitigated?"

I had the opportunity to work on that hugelbed this past week adding some more height to it. What you don't see is that there are several more beds. The one in the picture still has a bit more soil needed in order to complete it. When the dump truck is back up and running they can bring some soil down(that isn't just sand) from the lab and finish off the top. We (members of the recent log/cob workshop) helped plant another round of seeds in the completed hugelbeds and the system for keeping erosion down is root systems of all the plants. The completed hugelbeds have peas, comfrey, fava beans, grasses and other plants already up. (don't recall the list of all the seeds planted and growing but I did add sunflowers. We'll see how they grow on the steep slopes.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Mid-construction, it served other purposes, too.
20140501_123244.jpg
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Oliver sunbathing
 
Brian Cantley
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:Mid-construction, it served other purposes, too.


I see Oliver 'cooks' other things than delicious meals
 
Julia Winter
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thanks for the picture! More, please?

Any pics from a bit away, to get a better sense of scale? Does the mound go right to the drop-off (because wow, then that's quite a drop off on one side!!)
 
Brian Cantley
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Julia Winter wrote:thanks for the picture! More, please?

Any pics from a bit away, to get a better sense of scale? Does the mound go right to the drop-off (because wow, then that's quite a drop off on one side!!)


I don't have any camera pictures, but I can say yes it goes right to the drop off; and sometimes the soil we put on top would roll all the way down the outside - 20 feet or so(guesstimate without measuring).
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here are some raw-looking pictures from mid-April.

The first one includes our lovely double-wide for a bit of size reference. If you can see the corner in the hugel just past Tony in the picture Paul posted above, this shows that same corner, before the length in front of the house had more added to it.

The second picture shows where the hugels wrap around at the far north end of the house.

We still have much planting and finishing to do.
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hugelkultur in process - before more added on length in front of house
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hugelkultur with paths halfway up
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here's a pic from Sam's base camp pics thread. This is a close up of the hugelkultur farthest north in my second picture above.

 
Matu Collins
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Are there paths or steps on it? I've considered building a tall one like this for privacy and treating it like a hill with a path of stone steps.

I have had trouble with erosion on my steepest hugels despite dense planting. I will terrace anything steep I build in the future. New England farmers have cursed the rocks in the soil here but I celebrate them!
 
paul wheaton
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Here is an article I wrote about ten years ago about a typical small project.

We need more soil from the lab. So the excavator would load the dump truck and we would bring soil down. But the bucket on the excavator needs some welding love first. So we need to bring it to the shop. But you cannot drive the excavator on the road - it would ruin the road. So it needs to be on the trailer. But the last time we put the excavator on the trailer, it was pretty spooky. We need to had some sort of traction to the trailer. So the trailer has now been moved to the shop so we can weld on traction. Then we wait until we get the dump truck back from diesel mechanic who is replacing the injectors. Then we can move the excavator to the shop where it can gets its bucket welded. Then we move the excavator back to the lab and start moving soil down.

 
Sue Rine
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Paul, I knooow what you mean! Oh the pain, and that look on the other person's face that says...I know you were just filing your nails/playing computer games/drinking coffee.

Cool photos on this thread, thanks.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Sounds like you need a portable welding solution - ?

paul wheaton wrote:Here is an article I wrote about ten years ago about a typical small project.

We need more soil from the lab. So the excavator would load the dump truck and we would bring soil down. But the bucket on the excavator needs some welding love first. So we need to bring it to the shop. But you cannot drive the excavator on the road - it would ruin the road. So it needs to be on the trailer. But the last time we put the excavator on the trailer, it was pretty spooky. We need to had some sort of traction to the trailer. So the trailer has now been moved to the shop so we can weld on traction. Then we wait until we get the dump truck back from diesel mechanic who is replacing the injectors. Then we can move the excavator to the shop where it can gets its bucket welded. Then we move the excavator back to the lab and start moving soil down.

 
Julia Winter
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Cool! Thanks for the pics, can't wait to see what happens next.
 
paul wheaton
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Michael Vormwald wrote:Sounds like you need a portable welding solution - ?


Even if we had a portable welding solution (and my first thought here is: yet another thing to buy?) then we would still need the dump truck to move the soil to basecamp. And the dump truck is currently offline getting new injectors.

 
R Scott
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the solarbago (is that the current name?) should be able to run a welder.

Welcome to the world of used equipment.
 
Will Scoggins
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Any updates on the giant hugle?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here is Bella, operating a mini-excavator to finish part of the hugel berms last summer. She loved driving excavators and was quite good at it!



We haven't been taking many pictures because they are not as green and lush as we'd like just yet. Here's why:
  • equipment issues prevented us from finishing them last summer/fall
  • the hugels were not mulched properly last summer/fall
  • "pins" (forked branches cut into 2-pronged spikes) which were supposed to be used to pin branches to hold mulch onto the steep sides were pounded in without holding anything down and had sawdust sprinkled over them (a misunderstanding)
  • seeds that were planted slid down due to lack of mulch, wild turkeys skiing down the sides (really, they did that a lot!), and rain and snow
  • seedlings that did sprout were gobbled up by the turkey or deer before our fence was finished


  • Happily, our sunchokes planted along the tops are re-appearing nicely and we have loads and loads of garlic from plantings by Richard last September/October (?). Something was even nibbling the tops of the garlic before Evan and Nick finished the fence, so we feel like whatever we do has a much better chance of surviving now.

    Fred has been planting and mulching for us a lot in the last several weeks, and we're already seeing lots of sprouting from his efforts.

    Hopefully we'll get more pictures soon.

     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Maybe this year will be the year for better base camp hugelkultur pictures. I'll be watching for photo ops!

    When you have as many and as large as we have here, they are wilder and less tended than in a typical suburban or urban lot. I'm frankly still adjusting to that myself.

    Here's a pic Evan took of Fred harvesting from the berm right in front of the office last summer:



    And picture of them just outside our front door, snow-covered at dawn, in the winter of 2014-15:



    Despite the first paddock (see this thread for lovely aerial views of how we want paddocks here) installed around most of the hugelkultur near the house, we still have a lot of wildlife consuming our food and sprouts. We're mostly keeping deer out of the paddock, though the turkeys still fly in at times, and the rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels are feasting. Sigh.

    I'm attaching pics of the tiniest, beginning rhubarb growth from February 22nd (in the spirit of better late than never). Paul was very excited to see these returning!

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    rhubarb and mushrooms sprouting in late February!
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    evidence that rhubarb plant #2 also survived the winter - nice!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    More hugelkultur updates from March - two months ago already!

    First pic: light dusting of snow, swirling mists, and broody clouds.

    Second: the fencing of the first (and only so far) paddock is keeping out turkeys.

    Third: turkeys out the back of the house from the kitchen window (not in the paddock - yes!)

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    snow on hugel berms
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    hugel and paddock fencing around the house
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    turkeys roaming out back - outside of the fence!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    More from March.

    Both of these are from the hugel directly across from the house / the little walk to the front porch. Most of the straw stayed in place without "pinning!"


    20160325_103104.jpg
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    mullein, crocus and a few other growies
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    straw stayed on the hugel over the winter, plants popping up between
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    As I posted in the couple of pics thread, we had loads of garlic thanks to plantings from Richard in the fall of 2014:

    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:The last of last year's garlic harvest from base camp hugels. We're still building soil with cover cropping (so no fertilizer or compost was used), and only irrigated once (if I recall) in an attempt to save seeds planted in what was supposed to be a rainy season that turned into an unseasonably hot and dry spell.

    So close to no irrigation and no fertilizer but the first/second year hugels and other growies.



     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    From this morning!

    First, morels in the hugelkultur around the parking lot up at the house!

    Second, the southern tip of the N-S hugel berm parallel with the house.

    Third, the east side of the N-S hugel berm.
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    morels in the hugel berm!
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    mullein, autumn joy, asparagus & rhubarb! (among other things)
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    east side of hugelkultur
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    More of a tour this morning. For Julia Winter, who was wondering how things were faring, and to show off loads of plants from Kelly Ware in the next few posts.

    We do not irrigate the hugels, though we will water new plants for a few days or so if there will be no rain to help them get settled. Keeping the turkeys out has helped, and mulching so thickly helped reduce the erosion, though we still have mulch challenges in some areas, and the mulch was SO thick in most areas that seedlings would not come up through it.

    The straw was pulled back in areas and seeds tucked in, and these have sprouted and look like they're doing well.

    In Montana, we are easily a month behind milder areas such as Seattle and Portland, and even further behind the sub-tropical areas like some areas of the south or southern California.

    First: hugel across from the walk to the front porch

    Second: just inside the gate, what Paul is now calling "the canyon" between the house and the N-S hugel berm - though I think it still gets more sun hours (heat units?) than most areas in Seattle!

    Third: close up of some canyon polyculture gradually being nurtured
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    hugelkultur berm at base camp
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    "the canyon"
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    beginning perennial polyculture
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    These next shots are of the two E-W-ish hugelkulturs at the north end of the Fisher Price house.

    This first one shows the South side of the first berm. The upper section is one of the areas that is so packed, and so steep that it is a challenge to both plant and mulch. We have ideas, just haven't made the time to implement them yet.

    The next show are the west ends of the two northern-most hugels. The morning light made some of these plantings difficult to discern in this photo. There is an apple tree and a current bush from Kelly Ware! Plus yarrow, comfrey, kale, etc.

    Then the north side of the first hugel. See the kale way up there and why I need a siege ladder!?
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    south side of the first hugel north of the house
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    west ends of northern hugels
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    comfrey and kale love the northern side of these hugels
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    A few more!

    This is the second hugelkultur north of the house - the south side of the most northern berm. Kai is doing some cloche experiments on the little path area halfway up. Those gallon milk jugs help to provide a bit of scale.

    I've been enjoying the lovage from Kelly at the west end of this most northern hugel. (Again, the morning light from the east made this end of things a bit hard to discern.)

    Here is the happiest of comfrey on the north side of the most northern hugel. Lots of kale way up there, too! The two fruit trees, an apple and a pear, are looking healthy and happy, too.


    There are loads and loads of seedlings that you can't see in these photos. Lots of peas, and other nitrogen fixers, as well as all kinds of annual vegetables.
    20160513_095455.jpg
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    south side of the northernmost hugel berm
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    lovage and other growies
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    lush comfrey and "alpine" kale
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    One last picture for today!

    This is a close up of a volunteer serviceberry/juneberry/saskatoon in the hugelkultur across from the house. The leaves on top are really green, they are just lit golden by the morning sun rising over the other side of the hugel berm. This wee little shrub has already set quite a hearty amount of berries (currently green, of coures) for its size. Saskatoons are similar to blueberries in size and flavor. Not quite as sweet, and a bit "meatier" in texture since they have some fine seeds in the middle and are less tender in general than blueberries.

    Other shrubs poking out of the hugels are loads and loads of snowberry or buck brush. As Paul wrote here:

    paul wheaton wrote:
    I know that on mount spokane the property was covered in "buck brush"; AKA snowberry. A nitrogen fixing plant that is mildly toxic. As the name implies, the deer would eat it through the winter. But since it was mildy toxic, they couldn't eat very much in a day. I imagine it is one of those things where it doesn't taste very good to them, but it beats starving. It also makes the meat taste extra gamey. And goat milk comes out extra gamey too. The moral of this story is: before planting lots of browse, it might be good to know how it affects the taste of your meat/dairy.


    We could certainly use the nitrogen fixing of the snowberry around here, though I tend to prefer the saskatoons!
    20160513_100840.jpg
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    saskatoon hugel volunteer with berries already!
     
    Julia Winter
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    Something I've learned is that "cover crop" peas are delicious - the growing ends of the vines. I walk around and rip off the last 6" or so and stuff them into my mouth. I planted them all over my hugels. They aren't blooming yet, but are doing a good job holding things together.

    I'm sure you could stir fry them, I just haven't bothered - they taste so good raw!
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Julia, I snipped off some pea shoots the other day and they are tasty!

    These pics are more about the glorius new, beautiful, Proenneke-would-be-proud piece of art Kai has been crafting, but they work here.

    Not quite completely installed yet. So. excited.

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    Kai's work of art, hand-crafted wooden gate
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    New gate and hugel berm
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    New gate and house with lamb's quarters on the rail from Arakis berms
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Fantastic!
     
    Julia Winter
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    That gate is awesome! Go Kai!!

    I bet lambsquarters and pea shoots would be lovely together. I need to get me some lambsquarters - I'm still sort of stunned that I don't have any on my property in Cully.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    No water, no irrigation greens from the hugel berms!
    Happy-jumble-hugel-greens-20160630.jpg
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    Happy jumble hugelberm greens
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    Hugelkultur greens
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:No water, no irrigation greens from the hugel berms!

    Of course the inference here is human-added water! We do get, in overly round numbers, about 20-inches of rain a year.
     
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