Just a quick reflection on this post and the progress made since I first put it here 5 years ago.
A recent article on the NOAA report released last black friday a week ago says we can no longer predict future weather from recent past weather patterns. Sounds like chaos theory to me.
For me this has meant a summer and fall with lots of rain, the direct opposite of last year. My friends kid me that when I have a backhoe (whether rental or now owned) the skys will open up and make it too wet to effectively use it.
My highest pond in the landscape is also the biggest one, and while I really didn't expect substantial rain to fill it until winter/spring, It filled up several weeks ago, and really has stayed near full right on through. For the dam construction (still 5-6 feet short of it's intended height, this means waiting for soil to dry out, and also having to go back and perhaps dry, and recompact clay that is really too wet to build on.
These experiences will come in handy before starting the next project, but inability to manage the project with respect to the chaos of weather has severely compromised my progress and time table here.
The bright side is that I may have a helper to cut trees for swales and other clearings, and in general the water control is performing pretty well even if it is still incomplete.
The middle dam is built up to it's water level, but I can't let it fill with water until I add some more freeboard and manicure the connecting swale to feed another pond that will likely become either a rice or taro pond once it has a better water flow.
So all things considered, the water flow has become very stable, even during multiple rain events that used to carve deep channels on the way to the creek. I really didn't expect results so profound so quickly, but these immature earthworks and water management seems to be one of the most profound things I have ever done. Even just stumbling through the process as a beginner, is better than being so nervous I never start.
On other fronts taking time for the alocasia plants earlier (technically elephant ear not taro) paid off. They happened to find a good spot to grow, and with a little extra care I will be able to grow taro as a starch crop.
Anyway, still hanging in there with too many projects to mention here, but most of it doesn't feel much like work, more just fun and games. Thus ends my update on progress. Still thinking about when it might be time to give two weeks to teach a Permaculture course
It's amazing to come back to this post periodically and see how it started. I'm 71 now, still basically the same, healthwise anyway, mentally , maybe a little more mature, but looking around at projects and the like things are really different.
I continue on my path. My mom's house is almost just a memory, although I do have a few more trips to make there, and my little bit of paradise here was mostly neglected , except for some periods where I did get a fair amount of backhoe work done. The high dam is at or above the proposed water level, and I continue to try and economize finding a laser level receiver, and in the process learning a bit more about how they work and where I've gone wrong in the past.
I have a lot of leveling to do, and while most of my original level was set with an A frame, lasers are getting cheaper and if you have bigger projects they are the way to go.
So I await the latest purchase, and plan to start some fine tuning and moving into swale establishment.
I'm ready to plant a forest of pussy willows on the back of a couple dams, although they will be interspersed with other willows and kept coppiced for firewood and possible nursery starts, since cuttings are easy to root, or maybe the better way to say it is are difficult not to root.
My gardens are starting to take on some actual design, with a few more perennials on the edges and likely a return to deer proof fencing for the main food producer.
But gardens are also springing up on the edges of the ponds. I started a few squash plants at the high dam and even got a couple squash- and except for a quick wire cage I threw over the plants, basically all I had to do was water a few times.
I also started my first grape vine on the edge of the high pond, and after a bit of trimming from the deer, it still seems viable.
The biggest problem with working these areas lately has been the lack of rain. I ran the backhoe till the clay turned into a fine powder an inch or so deep, and with limited water in the pond (I drained out most of the water early in the season so I could work in the hole.) trying to keep the dam clay moist enough to compact has been a challenge, and I finally moved the backhoe on to other areas once I knew the high dam was secure.
I'm working now on the driveways and the middle dam, especially the area next to the pond which will hopefully become a primary garden area.. That excavation was started to add to the bulk of the dam there, and continues now extending to the contour pond connected to it by a swale. That pond should feed into an extended swale, but the walls need to be built up to get back to level with the middle gully pond so the water continues on around the ridge.
Anyway, next steps will involve fine tuning levels, moving my banana circle down to the contour pond (it's crowding out grapes and such beside the house.), finding a nice site for a bigger koi pond, and of course planting lots and losts of productive trees as swales become finalized. Actually, there are too many next steps to really talk about, geopolymer experiments on yet another new RMH, new ponds not yet visualized, more aquaculture, , on and on . So many toys to play with.
The journey continues, likely even will pick up speed. 2018 started with intense care for my mom, ended with the start of more intense cleaning and preparing her house for sale after she died. I still found time to continue my projects, but anticipate a more relaxed and intensive progression. It's so nice to not be constantly planning for the next 6 hr trip and then putting things back together on my return a week or more later.
With the house sold it also frees up some money for ongoing projects, and most recently I invested in two sets of 20 evacuated tubes and manifold for a hot watersolar system. I had used black poly pipe in the past, 2-300' of 3/4 inch pipe in an unwieldy coil with two heavy double paned patio doors on top of a 8X8 frame to help keep the heat in. It worked, but took up way too much time just getting it moved and reassembled and the last time I tried I actually gave up, I figured there has to be a better way than wrestling with such a long length of pipe that totally had other ideas of what it wanted to do.
So my next big toy will likely come sometime near Christmas, and after that lots of fiddling to see how I might start pumping all that sunlight heat through my radiant floor.
Speaking of which, I'm actually practicing pretty daily, and while I doubt I'll ever play in a symphony, I do occasionally get together with a few guitars and misc other instruments, sometimes I get to solo, and sometimes it actually sounds good. I'm at the awkward stage where people are always a little nervous when they tell me to "take it", because it's mostly a crap shoot whether it'll be worth listening to.
Other than that, my new DSR is performing nicely, I've been cutting back trees and have a fair amount of somewhat seasoned wood, and a hot shower whenever I need one, and I'm even cleaning out corners I haven't looked at for years, even throwing some stuff out, although I'm not sure if I'm keeping up with the stuff I'm bringing in ;-).
I went up and started the clean out of the octagon, my first dwelling, a tiny house with a wood stove that could create a sauna in the middle of January. That will be replaced with some sort of RMH, and the little greenhouse where I kept potted figs is slowly emptying and the little appalachian water heater there will turn into a rocket stove also.
So many toys to play with, maybe I should set up some of these projects and share the fun of developing with others who want to learn.
Oh by the way, I turned 72 on my birthday since the last post
Well, thought I should keep things half way caught up here, I'm still around, still having fun,, although a bit amazed at the different complications the outside world has been throwing at me. The latest is a rich vein of gold that is currently being looked at by a pit mining/cyanide extraction type operation--Aston Bay-- and they are currently trying to get a foothold and permission to start.
Just got done getting rid of the pipeline, and now this--if you don't laugh, you cry.
So I just keep on going, having as much fun as possible (maybe the universe thinks I'm having too much fun:-).
My upper pond is full and overflowing occasionally , so far I haven't connected it into the major swale system that is in place, but that will happen soon, and in the meantime everything is protected ,out of harms way.
I keep talking about the earth tube, and have most of the materials ready to go, so that will likely start in the next month. The upstairs is ready to be closed in/ air tight, so the thermal siphon can actually make the earth tube functional as an air conditioner with no extra energy use or machinery once it is set up.
I have decided to spend this next summer starting an out reach program, involving others in using some of the garden spaces my pond excavations have opened up.
I'll probably be putting in lots of blueberries, but no extravagant numbers of diverse trees this year. My new greenhouse is lovely, so far still an experiment, but with luck it will start some plants in another month or so, nothing too fancy, 10'x10', about 100$worth of material--just a typical plastic hoop house, but for the little bit of time I put in it was certainly worthwhile.
Thinking about a bigger one with a pond inside it by next fall, TWT.
Raising koi has become more of a reality, 6 fish I got last spring grew to 8 inches in a small molded pond, and the success motivated me to build a liner pond with wetland filters and waterfall. Everything needs to be off grid, so currently 2 solar panels and one battery power a small 25$ submersible pump.
The two wetland filters associated with the pond (about 15' diameter) along with the waterfall should offer many different habitats, one plant I'm thinking about is wasabia japonica (75$/lb-real wasabi) It grows in flowing water, so either one of the wetland filters or the waterfall should work. I bought about ten roots that should get here sometime soon, so another grand experiment.
I have about 60 butterfly koi now growing out in the greenhouse, and another 9 butterfly koi growing out in an aquarium in the kitchen, and they will go into a setup of ponds that should prove quite nice. Sort of an expanded version of the system I used to grow out the small koi last spring, only the wetland type filter system will be used for them so I won't be constantly changing and cleaning filters, and should be able to get better water quality as well as helping plant growth. I'm especially interested in starting a good stand of horsetail, a very useful and medicinal herb-- often used as a pot scrubber, it is also a primary ingredient in Dr. Christopher's bone/calcium formula.One of those herbs I have been trying to get going for some time.
Anyway,bigger and better, keep having fun, and all that, I know my website needs work, but pictures and such at www.permaculturebob.org
Funny how things can seem to be slow and easy, and yet actually be moving at breakneck speed. Probably the best description of the process is Permaculture itself. When the focus shifted from annuals to perennials suddenly I became surrounded by things that are moving forward with little or no inputs from me. And as I slow and steady add new things they take on lives of their own, an occasional weeding or mulching and the growing process jumps forward seemingly totally out of scale with my actual work.
Of course there are periods of intense focus to start an element, but once up and running, that energy is forgotten in the wealth of new contributions the element makes back to the system.
Of course that depends almost totally on the amount of preplanning/design that is put into the system as a whole and the individual elements as they are added. Sure there are occasions where I just experiment with things to see what they will do. Sometimes they work, sometimes not so much.
The Koi ponds and biofilters are an example of that. Lots of learning along the way, design, redesign, and suddenly there are dozens of new edges I couldn't have understood without having the rough structure in place and working.
The 6 koi from last year have all emerged from their cave and even started to anticipate the food associated with my arrival. So much better than having them scatter as soon as I come near. The bio filters are starting to work quite well, and new opportunities for growing present themselves almost daily and I don't believe I could have understood all the possibilities just trying to plan them all out.
The little koi from inside are all in outside ponds now, and they are sharing a biofilter system. I discovered many more things from installing their system, and the fact that this area has more shade opens more possibilities.
The gardens all got lots of fresh mulch, new gardens are started with only minor emphasis on actual production of anything but soil. The ponds have stopped overflowing, and drier conditions have started to affect the water level in the upper pond, but the fact that it is there keeps the other ponds full.
My swimming pond with it's haphazard filter of limestone gravel is clear enough to see my toes--so 6 feet of clarity with no real ongoing effort is a real achievement--even though I only had a general idea of what the results might be when I dumped that limestone into the gully just at the entrance to the pond.
I'll save any other updates for later, so for now, Keep having fun.
10 Podcast Review of the book Just Enough by Azby Brown