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pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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And a couple shots of the bare root peaches I had put in. First is one of the Redhaven peaches, dead from the graft up but at least the rootstock is thriving. No idea what the rootstock was on these, but will have to learn to graft in a few years The other two are what happened to the hale havens.
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redhaven rootstock survived
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DOA hale haven
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DOA hale haven (rot)
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Here's a few pictures of the duck run area with the summer duck house, my first attempt at roundwood timber framing of anything and our experiment with a thin, clayey soil green roof. The duckers in these shots are Booger, one of the remaining drakes, and Bubblehead, who got her name because every time you walk near her she makes a shrill screaming sound She's the one duck that didn't get broody.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
58
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And a few of the duckers sitting on nests. I didn't get one of Blondie, who's been hiding away not even coming out to bathe since she lost one of her hatches yesterday (one of the campbells), but what you do get is Patches, Surrogate (so named because she became a surrogate mommy for Patch early on), Brownie, and our prize mother ducker who's hatched two already and is on her way to maybe a dozen or more in the next few days, Egghead If you look closely, you can make out one of the little yellow ducklings hiding under Egghead in the picture - will have to try to get some while they're out and about, but timing was off today.
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Surrogate (left) and Patches (right)
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Surrogate, Patch and Brownie
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Egghead
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Here's a few of one of the ongoing projects: Penny, our livestock guardian dog. We do still plan to bring in a boy for her soon-ish, but money has been tight with all else going on and we haven't bit the bullet on that yet. She was such a handful for a full year that we're a little apprehensive about bringing in another puppy anyway, but it needs to happen soon if it's going to happen.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Finally, I'll get to some of the construction projects. First shot is a rough concept design for the shed, which is what I'm working on now. Next two are the posts going in for the timber framing. The interior posts, those nearest the camper-trailer, will be cut off to 1ft less than the height of the camper roof. The exterior posts mark the exterior shed walls which will be cordwood, strawbale and a fusion of the two in sections (experimenting with wall types here) and will be cut off 1ft, 1.5ft or 2ft less than the height of the interior posts - we haven't firmly decided on this yet, but are leaning toward 1.5ft. Originally (and so marked in the first pic) I had planned for 10ft/8ft on these, but the conditions on the ground are always a different matter it seems
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Rough shed design
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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And, at long last, the latest and greatest in the rounds of cabin designs. This structure has gone through revision after revision, but we're finally set on this general design as we love the organic feeling pattern with the community area in the middle with private wings on the sides.

Now, to describe what you're looking at..........sheesh, going to be harder than I thought

Circles with Xs in them are post markers - this is a post and beam construction, using roundwood timber, mostly 8-14" diameter. The entire structure will be green-roofed with a minimum 3" of straw/hay underlayment for added insulation. Walls are cordwood, strawbale, and possibly a fusion of the two.

So the overall design is to have the community area (middle) with kitchen and sitting area, plus the wings coming off the sides (each with bedroom/bathroom). This creates a courtyard effect. The courtyard, which is facing south, is mostly taken up by a large sunroom - access to the sunroom is from doors in both wings as well as two doors in the community area. This is for passive solar heating use.

Wrapping around the two wings, starting in the courtyard area, are sitting porches. These are designed to be screened in for summer and sealed with clear plastic for the winter, adding more passive solar heating and acting as a shell to help keep the frigid winter at bay just a bit better. Around the whole backside of the structure is "shed" area. The section immediately behind the community area is duck housing while the portions wrapping the backside of the wings act as storage area.

Built into this design is an elevation change for the kitchen area, raised apx 2 feet above the rest of the community area, which acts as thermal banking. There will be RMH piping running through a lot of this. The kitchen is designed to basically run on RMHs (circles with pluses in them) with two 4" systems side by side on the island/peninsula that allow for a hollow between acting as a small bread oven (hopefully) and the barrel tops acting as large-ish burners for pots. An 8" RMH system on the north wall, with ducting running through the shed/duck houses, acts as a larger burner, and with addition of a foil lined hat, a perfectly useful turkey oven...sounds too good to be true, but we've baked at least a dozen decent sized turkeys on our current system over the last couple winters. Yet another 8" system on the west side of the kitchen has its ducting running through the couch area and is accessible as another burner/oven when needed.

The sunroom will have a garden(s) and an 8" RMH system, as well, with the ducting running through the main garden bed.

The wings each have two RMH systems, one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom. The bathroom RMH is used to, of course, heat the bathroom area nice and toasty (that bathtub is planned to be embedded in RMH heated cob!) but also to heat barrels of water for bathing. This part of the design is still a little iffy - I'm worried about freshness of the water and the whole legionaires thing. Anyway, the bedroom RMH uses the bed as its main mass. RMH bed - after the past couple winters I can't wait
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Overall design - scaled to grid = 2ft
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Community area detail - scaled to grid = 1ft
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Wing detail - scaled to grid = 1ft
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Here's two pictures of the future cabin site, just above the future blueberry pond. This is the most well drained area on the whole property I think, which is saying a lot...you can dig a hole 1ft deep and, if it hasn't rained for a couple days, it doesn't fill with water in less than 2 minutes! First picture is looking "up" at the cabin pad from the blueberry pond area (one day, standing here will mean I'm a foot or so under water). Second picture is standing on the cabin pad in the vicinity of the community area, looking off to the west wing. There's clear plastic down now, warming the soil, where we're trying to get a 3 sisters garden going.

The third picture is a few of the cabin logs cut and peeled - these are 3 peeled hemlocks, 1 peeled cedar and 1 cedar not yet peeled.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Last one for this update - a couple of pictures of the hemlocks I took down this spring and haven't yet cleaned up, limbed and peeled. I did get the stumps inoculated, though, with Chicken of the Woods

Plus one of my hairy ass so you all know what I look like
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Genevieve Higgs wrote:Thank you for sharing your adventure - it's a huge inspiration

Any idea what % of your duck's food come from slugs and other plant destroying crawlies? According to the Internet the have slugs have about 90 kcal per 100g and 7% protein. At any rate they certainly sound like they're earning their way with the fertilizer production btw Laughed a lot imagining you guys sneaking a thermometer underneath a sleeping duck's but



Percentage-wise, since the ducks got sick of the slugs entirely and wont touch them, maybe 2% Also, since the ducks started going broody *somebody* (stern look at the woman preparing a fresh salad) keeps filling their bowls with store-bough layer pellets so they don't even bother going out to forage anymore and the drakes keep raiding the bowls and eating everything. Before they decided that they'd had too much of a good thing, they were gobbling up around a dozen or so each per day, which didn't make much of a dent in their appetites, but added to all the clover, strawberry and raspberry leaves, tasty tadpoles, etc, they weren't even finishing a 32oz yogurt cup of pellets between the (at that time) 10 of them each morning.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Been taking our time working on the shed, trying to enjoy the summer before it's over, so it hasn't gotten as far as I'd have liked by now....but it's coming along.

Here are some photos of the basic post and beam framing from Jul 15
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Aug 1 with the rafters going in. All joints are being nailed (I guess I was too lazy to make all those dowels this time around) and the rafters are round-notched to fit the beams snugly. Post and beam is fir & spruce, rafters are sugar maple.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Ribbing on the rafters
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Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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tarps going up... bottom layer is the old vinyl tarp (white side down) followed be a few layers of old blue tarps. This will be finished off with carpet/carpet padding and a layer or two of new black sheet plastic (4mil) before being covered with soil and seeded with clover for the fall.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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From inside with the tarps up
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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And finally a start on the rock and cob foundation for the walls. These sections of wall will be mostly (or maybe all) cordwood and the 4" RMH bench will be built along the base of this wall. Each section spans ~6 feet between posts
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pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Having lived through 9 Maine winters I like your temperature layering concepts. I hang layers of carpet with padding in between, for the north and east wall of my greenhouse. I can roll up sections for ventilation in the summer. I am interested in how much snow melt you will get on your layered roof from internal heat. You want fluffy snow up there for insulation, not ice.

I learned a lot in Maine but I am glad to be here where we gt 2 separate weeks of below freezing weather.
 
Tristan Vitali
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I'll include a few small updates on the various growies... First is our arrowhead which is coming along nicely
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Seedlings in the upper pond "mud flat"
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Along the shore of the lower pond
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One of the clumps in the paddies
 
Tristan Vitali
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Hans Quistorff wrote:Having lived through 9 Maine winters I like your temperature layering concepts. I hang layers of carpet with padding in between, for the north and east wall of my greenhouse. I can roll up sections for ventilation in the summer. I am interested in how much snow melt you will get on your layered roof from internal heat. You want fluffy snow up there for insulation, not ice.

I learned a lot in Maine but I am glad to be here where we gt 2 separate weeks of below freezing weather.



Hopefully not much snow melt until spring through the green roof and the layers of insulation/padding - every inch of snow makes a HUGE difference on heating inside. Making it through the last two with such severe cold for such a prolonged period (especially this last winter!), I was AMAZED how little heating we actually needed. Definitely a testament to the power of passive solar heating combined with a RMH :) We'll see how things go this year - if the guys at weatherbell are to be believed, we've got one more really nasty one for the northeast before things change for the better.

For the sunroom/greenhouse this last winter, we used 2 layers of plastic with a bubblewrap sandwhich, plus we left the interior layer of window screening from the previous summer. Still had frost developing right through all this when we dipped below -10*F, but it was nowhere near as bad as winter 2013-14 when the frost developed through the plastic at only 0-5*F. We've been looking at possibly getting some rolls of felt for extra nighttime insulation, but it's a bit cost prohibitive.
 
Tristan Vitali
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a few of the various tomatoes fruiting nicely
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One of the brandywines - can't wait for these to get ripe ... tomato sandwiches!
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Some of the cherokee purple
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Black cherry tomatoes....I'm noticing they take FOREVER to ripen
 
Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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A few more
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The one cantaloupe... such heat lovers - surprised we have any producing at all
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One of the many pumpkins developing nicely
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Rose hips....now to get some guinea pigs to feed them to :)
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Must include a few of the ducklings - Egghead's 2 girls are already in full molt-mode and starting to change quickly. These were taken on the 10th and already they've changed a lot. Blondie's 1 hatchling is just starting to show some pin feathers in her tail so looks about the same as she did in these pics.

At least I hope they're all girls. Only 3 from 60+ eggs still, though Surrogate is still on her eggs. I think she has 8 left in there and I've been playing hands-off for the last week, so no idea if they're still alive.

Next year, we very well might pick up a low-power incubator and do some hatching ourselves. I'm pretty convinced at this point that the conditions are the main problem - not enough humidity control where they've been sitting - combined with them being new and likely too many eggs under their behinds. With the new shed/duckhouse setup, should it last through the spring snowmelt this time around (fingers crossed!), they should have a better shot with controlling the humidity the eggs are incubating with and we'll be cutting the #/nest down to 12 max.
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Ninja, Blondie's babe...feisty little thing :)
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Cheeky, the chicken little of the bunch
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The ducks having a grand ol' time honking and tweeting while they munch on bugs and slugs
 
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I have just found this today and ....maybe one of the best permie blog post i've seen here...

You are educating and entertaining us...

Genius!!!

Thank you

Greg
 
Tristan Vitali
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Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Will post an update RE:"original plans" as we're coming to the end of the growing season...been both a busy and relaxing year with only 3-5 hours a day of work on the projects and about that much in relaxation time and enjoyment of everything that's been done so far. It's truly amazing to see how much has changed in just the last year, never mind the past three years. So much is completely different from when we first got here in July 2013 - it's no longer a mucky muddy swampy thicket of birch and aspen, blackberry and maple, impossible to even move through without coming out covered waist deep in mud and scratched up so badly you wonder if you should get a tentanous shot (yes, it really was that bad). No more is a warm humid summer night silent, nor crisp clear mornings devoid of bird song and rainy evenings absent of frogs chattering...the sounds of crickets, frogs, beetles, and birds have serenaded us from early May, lasting well into November last fall. Visually, we've gone from a closed and cramped driveway covered with horsetail and coltsfoot, and lined with walls of brush so thick you could be standing 10 feet from a moose and never know it, to lush and flowing green grasses, flowers everywhere and beautiful reflecting pools.

Currently, the big project is the shed build, which is in essence more of a full wrap of utility space and barrier to the cold than a "shed". We've put a couple of cordwood wall segments in, continued with building the foundation sections, built out the RMH heater bench and have started on getting soil up on that roof. Lots of digging for the last couple weeks and even more over the next month or two as we finish up the roof and get the walls up. Unfortunately, money always being the biggest strain on a person's mental, physical and emotional state, hay bales are just too damned pricey to be using in quantity for this build. Best I'm finding (delivered) is $4/bale and we really need around 100 to keep with the original plans...so the solution is to just cut back on haybale use to areas we want to super-insulate (duck house) and use cordwood for much more of the wall build. We have wood available and we have clay available, and although it takes more time and effort (and calories) to build them with cordwood, it's a whole heck of a lot more affordable (read: dirt cheap!)

So as the digging progresses, I'm expanding first the cattail pond which already produces a massive amount of much needed biomass, getting another one started just upstream from the current one, starting prep on some garden beds that will run between the driveway and these ponds, and eventually get back to expanding the blueberry pond. All the topsoil removed goes on the roof (pre-seeded and planted with drought tolerant wildflowers, lots of that godawful hawkweed stuff, various clovers and the occasional wild strawberry) - all the clay subsoil then goes to construction materials for the foundation, walls and RMH. Needless to say, the bed of the pickup will be pretty unsightly for at least another season

On to the various themed areas, starting with the "walnut guild" - walnut/hickory/cherry/beech. This spring I was able to get about half of the area cut and cleared, ready for planting, then I put in 30 black walnut and 10 butternut, around 50 black locust and 30 autumn olive. There was already quite a bit of beech up there, most of which was coppiced for firewood use this winter and is already sprouting back nicely, plus at least 4 that I left standing. I also left a few hemlock and sugar maple standing as well as a surprise oak tree sapling I didn't know was there until I almost hit it with the chainsaw. Dotted throughout the area are fire cherry which were left in place since they're quite tasty and the birds really rely on those around here. No black cherry yet which is good because my planting density was a bit higher than planned, and no hickory yet though a friend in Tennessee is hopefully going to be sending me a box of hickory nuts from her back yard this fall that I can plant out We'll also be clearing a little more this fall (at least I hope I can get to it before the snow flies) and planting out pears from saved seed to at least get some rootstock going. Some other seeds are waiting to go out this fall and early spring such as local/native st john's wort, greenbriar, rose mallow, comfrey, and some wild ginger. Next year I'll be moving some of the runners from our front garden sumac patch up there to establish a few pockets of staghorn production. We'll be waiting on planting the hazelnut up there until after we have some overstory starting, so should be a few years before we get started with that. Similarly with fox grapes, though we do have a few trees standing that would serve nicely for a handful of plants over the next year or two.

So items bolded are started, in place already, or should be going in this fall and early spring:
overstory: Walnut, Hickory, Black Cherry, American Beech
understory: American Hazelnut, Staghorn Sumac, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Eastern Hemlock, Pear, Black Locust
vines: Greenbriar, Seeded Grapes, Morning Glory
shrubs: Elderberry, Hibiscus/Mallow, Bladdernut, Currants (stupid laws just wont change), Goumi Berry
herbaceous: Pole Beans, Winter Squash, Melons, Perennial Sunflower, St John's Wort, Echinacea
ground cover: Peppermint, Lambs Ear, Sweet Woodruff, Lobelia, Viola, Comfrey
roots: Beets, Carrots and Parsnips, Onions/Garlic, Wild Ginger, Giant Solomon's Seal, Gentian, Daylilies, Jerusalem Artichoke, Hosta, Ginseng
fungus: Oysters and Shittake, Lions Mane on Beech, Reishi on Hemlock (Ganoderma tsugae)

The oak forests got next to no attention this year - planted out ramps from seed and a few patches of greenbriar seed, plus some plum (25 american seedlings), wild fox grape seedlings (around 10-15) and black locust (10 to 20), but overall there wasn't very much done. Oh, and I got 200 american hazelnut seedlings planted along the eastern property boundary for fedging. After the mouse ate my white oak seedlings (plus the apple, plum and mountain ash) this spring, I thought about ordering more acorns to direct seed, but decided to hold off for a bit since there is just so much thinning that needs to be done out there still. This fall, as I get trucking with winter firewood harvests, I just might start popping in some apple seed.

Likewise, the fruit savanna got very little attention. There's several acres there waiting to be cleared, but as it stands, there's maybe 1/2 acre of area ready for planting. The "peach grove" area started last fall does have 3 red havens planted from the failed burgess order, all 3 of which were dead from the graft up but might make serviceable rootstock someday - they're growing out a bit. There's also around 10-15 black locust and a handful of autumn olive planted out in various spots with some concentration in the peach grove. This fall, I'll be popping some cherry pits, a few apple seeds and a handful of peach pits into the ground in that area, but I have doubts I'll be making much headway into thinning/clearing the thick brush of birch/maple/aspen before next fall.

The pine forest area got some more attention though - lots of stump and log innoculation, more transplants and bare roots, a few bulbs and more seeding:
overstory: Korean Pine Siberian Stone Pine, Eastern White Pine
understory: Beech, Black Locust, Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple
vine: Wild Yam, Wild Fox Grapes
shrub: Blueberry, Dwarf Siberian Pine, Blackberry, Hazelnut, Lingonberry
herbaceous: Sweet Cicely (seeded but never took), Bracken & Ostrich Fern, Evening Primrose, Bunchberry, Stinging Nettle (seeded but never took), Partridge Berry, snowberry
groundcover: Strawberries, Cloudberry, Dewberry, Wintergreen, Viola (just one made it - will have to reseed), Lobelia, Skullcap
roots: Daylilies, Giant Solomon's Seal, Hosta
fungus: Reishi on Hemlock, Saffron Milk Cap, Pheonix Oyster, Shittake, Pearl and Blue Oyster, Lions Mane, Chicken of the Woods

The smaller ponds have been doing quite nicely and things are coming along well with them - we lost our azolla fern last year after a full on inundation that washed them downstream, never to be seen again, and didn't order more this year. We brought in some water lily, more duck weed, water hyacinth (wont survive the winter of course), and more pickerelweed plus planted a ton more arrowhead/arrowroot. The few seaberries we planted out around where the front pond is now just didn't like the soil (far too heavy) so there's only one left of the five. We might try more in the future, but we've mostly replaced that with nanking cherry which *doesn't die* here Also, our sweet flag (calamus) did seem to take last year and more did come up this year, but they never flowered. Really hoping they will next year.

overstory: White Willow (just the shrubby locals so far - want to bring in some weeping willow soon)
understory: Eastern Hemlock
vine: Seeded Grapes, Dog Rose Swamp Rose
shrub: Seaberry**, Highbush Blueberry, Hibiscus / Marshmallow (Rose Mallow), Nanking Cherry
herbaceous: Meadowsweet, Bistort
"groundcover": Azolla fern, Cattails, Floating Islands of lettuces etc (ducks love lettuce and ducks love floating plants...floating lettuce would never stand a chance!)
roots: Lotus, Water Lily, Calamus, Arrowroot, Pickerelweed
fungus: Wine Caps on floating islands? (see note about ducks above)


The pasture has really been coming along nicely (at least the areas I've cleared already). The composition is really starting to pick up nicely and the diversity is going through the roof. Even the water logging of the soil is starting to become a non-issue Soon, sooner than I will be, this pasture area will be ready for animals.

overstory: Sweet Acorn (White/Bur) Oak, Redbud
understory: Poplar/Aspen, Black Locust, Staghorn Sumac (will be moving some runners from the established patch in spring), Eastern Hemlock, Apples (handfuls of seeds going in this fall), Crabapple
vine: Dog Rose Rosa Rugosa, Wild Yam, Pole Beans
shrub: Dwarf Siberian Pine (too expensive and not necessary), White Willow, Nannyberry, Raspberries/Blackberries
herbaceous: Fava Bean, Hog Peanut, Lambs Quarters, Dandelion, Stinging Nettle, Comfrey, Bracken/Ostrich Fern, Horsetail
groundcover: Reed Canary Grass, Tall Fescue, Giant Miscanthus, Orchard Grass, Ryegrass, Winter Rye, Buckwheat (now naturalized!), Amaranth, Quinoa, Pearl & Wild Millet, White & Red Clovers, Vetch, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sorghum
roots: Turnips, Beets, Daylilies, Chicory, Burdock, Jerusalem Artichoke, Daikon Radish
fungus: Wine Caps, Oysters and Shittake, Hen of the Woods on Oaks, Reishi on Hemlocks

And finally, we haven't yet touched the future wetlands area...really wishing we could though as we need to develop the outer berm fast and get it planted very densely with evergreens - the road noise is killing me. Seems they've stepped up logging in the area 4 fold since 2013 and towns a bit further up the road must be just booming with all the delivery trucks rushing by between 3 and 6am EVERY FRIGGING DAY. Heck, at this point I'm inclined to fill the whole area with sandier soil and plant nothing but thick/dense/fast growing thuja species! Grrrr...

So next update should include pictures of the progress on the shed / duck house / utility wrap structure - meant to grab some photos today but got busy digging and forgot.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Grabbed some pictures the other day before I got back to work showing progress on things.

First, here's a shot showing the soil on the roof. At this point, we've got all the way to the camper roof covered from this angle and had to give ourselves a few days off from the digging and hauling of soil with this mini-heat wave (registered 94* out here today - sept 7!). We laid the vinyl tarp down and stapled it in place, then several layers of old blue tarps and 4&6 mil plastic went over that and got stapled in. This was all saved from previous years. This spread the load out nicely so I was able to walk around on the roof (carefully) without having my foot go through. We then put some old carpets and carpet padding over that - just refuse that people were getting rid of, so 100% free. At that point, with the carpeting and padding down, I was able to walk around freely up there...very good support. Over this went 6 mil plastic sheeting - the local box store evidently doesn't carry black, so ended up with the slightly more expensive clear. Clayey, clumpy topsoil, apx 2-4" thick, goes over that. Much of it has clumps of grass roots, clover and wild strawberry, plus a heck of a lot of hawkweed. We're loading up the back of the pickup, then hoisting it up in 5 gallon buckets that I spread. To avoid walking on the plastic membrane or having the wind wreak havoc on it, I've rolled the plastic and just unroll as I work my way up.

As we were putting more soil up the day of the photo, I did notice a little bit of bending in the rafters toward the middle of the shed/wrap from the weight, but not anything too serious I hope. The big test will be when we get some heavy rain later this week that will saturate the soil - if things start to look a little to heavy for the rafters, we might need to add a couple more posts down the middle to help support the weight.

Second photo is from the inside. The happy little guy walking through the shot is our mostly deaf kitty, Chickabee - currently 14 years old and more loveable than we can stand. He's a great mouser *when he sees the mouse*, so has been mostly useless in tackling the latest problem of mice eating our ripe tomatoes before we pick them. The other morning, we found a mouse poop in his empty food bowl....not a good sign. Anyone local looking to load some kittens off on another permie?

I have to say, the cordwood wall segments look gorgeous Loving the look of the split pieces as compared to all rounds, plus it definitely seems to have more strength than when using full rounds. Definitely worth the additional effort in splitting these since not only should there be less cracking due to expansion/contraction of the wood but it gives the cob a lot more rough surface to grab and hold.
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Tristan Vitali
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Here's a couple shots of the RMH bench built along the foundation. I was thinking of insulating this but decided to save time/money/effort/materials and just build it onto the foundation. Heck, the heat from the RMH might get spread too far to make it "comfortable" out there on a -20* night in early February, but at least it will be spread more evenly through the structure. The cob/rock foundation, plus the cordwood/cob walls will all be radiating some heat this way. We probably wont bother adding any windows to the wall segments along the RMH bench, giving us more wall space for hanging tools and whatnot.

The way I constructed the bench area is the technique I used last year for the RMH bench through the duck area - cob and rock for the "wall" portion, then crosswise layers of sticks and wood, then a nice thick layer of cob over the top of this, pressed down through the lattice created. I'm guessing the ones closest to the core will be prone to burning out, but we'll see, and even then, hopefully the cob itself will hold well. We'll be adding another layer or two of cob on to what's shown here in the pictures.

The exhaust stack comes out from the foundation area where I created an upper ledge so only gasses from the bottom of the bench/bell will flow through, allowing us to extract more heat. As the wall gets built, the stack will be incorporated right into the cordwood and cob, then we'll put a hole up through the overhang portion of the roof, create a plastic and tape gasket for it that goes to above the soil level and replace the soil around it to hopefully seal it down tight.
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Tristan Vitali
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Just damned purty I say
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Tristan Vitali
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Also grabbed a few photos of the duckers. Here's the crew doing their thing plus one of Egghead sitting pretty
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Tristan Vitali
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And the ducklings have pretty much finished their first molt now. At this point, we're almost 100% sure that Ninja's a drake, so will be on the dinner table sometime this fall, but the twins, Cheeky and Blackface, appear to be safe
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Tristan Vitali
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And finally, here's a couple of photos of where I've been stripping the topsoil for the roof.

In the first photo, you can see the cattail pond recently harvested for biomass/hay mulch (will also be going on the roof). I'm expanding this cattail pond back about 2 feet (clay subsoil goes to wall and foundation building), leaving a ledge for a pathway, then will be creating a "bowl" shape to lay wood chunks, sticks and chips into for stropharia. The width of this bowl area is marked out with black wire on the left, wooden 2x2 on the right. Over the innoculated bowl of woody stuffs, the clayey subsoil will go back on top, then a nice thick layer of duck poop hay. This is how we set up the other "hot garden" which is producing BEAUTIFUL long cayenne peppers, black cherry tomatoes, nasturtium, thyme, lavendar and golden purslane right now, plus gave us a few harvests of stropharia mushrooms this year and has a couple of tea roses, one on each end, plus a nanking cherry in the center, doing awesomely The ledge area along the cattail pond will be seeded with white dutch clover as well for erosion control and all the other benefits clover brings to the party.

In the second photo (looking back the other direction), there's a grassy area to the left that will become another cattail pond (it was started last year but never finished). This will be set up with a garden bed with same setup as above. The "upper cattail pond" will be a bit more narrow as the pasture fedge has already been started directly behind it (rosa rugosa, hawthorn, willow), running along an "underground stream" about 6" under the heavy clay soil.

Between the two beds there's a pile of rocks - these surround one of the nanking cherry bushes planted in spring 2014 which is now about chest height and has been doing way better than the other 5 planted that year, which are only knee high.


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Tristan Vitali
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Just some pictures after the snow last week
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Cozy :)
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Yes, those are little wally-world solar lights sticking out of the roof
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The unfinished north side taking a beating
 
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Looking good Tristan, thanks for the update !
 
Tristan Vitali
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Wanted to get a few photos of our new kitties up, so doing that now. They're sisters that look so much alike we often can't tell which is which until one opens her mouth Since Chicky is just too old, going on 15 years now, to do much with the mice (last time I said that, he took out 4 of them in 3 days!) it was time to bring in a couple of reinforcements

Here's the obligatory vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/158696965

This is Skinny-Mini, quite a talker with tons of energy. She'll hopefully make a good mouser once she gets the hang of it. She hasn't taken any down as of yet, but it's still soon and still winter. Once they're out patrolling the tomatoes ...
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Tristan Vitali
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And here's Hidey Cat - she's more of a grump and spends more time hiding (hence the name) and growling at the other two cats. She's taken out two mice already, which is just plain awesome
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Seems to me that with an incomplete (not solid or continuous) rafter/purlin system (also some of those pieces look pretty small diameter), that the sagging of the plastic between roof members will possibly get worse over time, particularly with a heavy snow year, or when heavy deep snow is followed by saturating rain. Hopefully the many layers of plastic and the carpet will spread the pressure out enough that this will not happen, but I've seen more sturdy looking structures collapse under wet snow on B.C.'s North Coast where I grew up.

I really like your project. Awesome. I just would probably have made a more solid ceiling/roof structure to hold that all that roof material and snow potential.
 
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Just found this thread - love the project! - and fully agree with Roberto. From my experience, roof framing of that size won't hold for more than a couple of years, especially at the low slope without smooth sheathing, which will guarantee lots of small ponds which risk becoming bigger ponds and collapsing the whole thing in case of a heavy wet snow, or rain on thick snow. I would put in a center row of posts and beams to support the rafters as an early priority in spring. If they sagged noticeably while adding the soil, they will sag more with time.

The house plan looks good and functional, though I have reservations about the sheer number of RMHs. Each one is another constant warm air loss point. As the uses are spread widely, there is a certain minimum needed, but I see at least a couple of places you could simplify the building with minor increases in the ducting complexity.

I would definitely advise modifying the bedroom wing systems to have one RMH feed and chimney, with two paths the hot gases can follow and a damper to switch between them. This would let you tend one fire and choose the ratio of heat going to each area. You might start with the heat going to the tub, then switch to the bed so its warmth cycle lasts all night. I'm not certain about a way to condense the community/kitchen systems, but I do think a single 6" is likely to be more reliable than two 4" units.

What are you planning for chimneys? The drawing seems to show each exhaust going out the wall and terminating, unless those X's indicate chimneys. Through-wall exhausts are not going to be reliable in a cold gusty climate; you really want the chimneys to go straight up inside the house and through the roof, preferably at high points to ease waterproofing and drafting.
 
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You mentioned planting black locust; is there any mature black locust available, or on nearby land that you could buy? If you are planning post-in-ground support for code reasons, using black locust will maybe double the lifespan of your structure (more or less). It may be worth spending some money on to increase the longevity of the whole structure.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Seems to me that with an incomplete (not solid or continuous) rafter/purlin system (also some of those pieces look pretty small diameter), that the sagging of the plastic between roof members will possibly get worse over time, particularly with a heavy snow year, or when heavy deep snow is followed by saturating rain. Hopefully the many layers of plastic and the carpet will spread the pressure out enough that this will not happen, but I've seen more sturdy looking structures collapse under wet snow on B.C.'s North Coast where I grew up.

I really like your project. Awesome. I just would probably have made a more solid ceiling/roof structure to hold that all that roof material and snow potential.



Yeah - that was my worry with it, too. We didn't want to use the better materials from the property on this experimental structure as we're limited in such (the loggers took out most of the decent trees and left almost all sh*t genetics to reseed and meet their standing trees per acre requirement). At the same time, I certainly don't want it to collapse on us! Building the cabin later on, we'll be using roundwood diameters of over 12" for things like rafters and mostly of hemlock - with this structure, I used mostly thinnings from the "pine forest" area where we have those multi-stem sugar maples packed so close they're crowding.

Before the snows set in, I did add some interior support posts (sugar maple) where the rafters were thinner and/or longer - figured this was quick and dirty but effective reinforcement to help ensure we don't have a catastrophic issue. We've had a VERY light snow year (and overall very easy winter) this time around, but we did have a couple of heavier storms with upwards of 18" to 24" on the ground at a time followed by heavy rains (1-2" rain/sleet/freezing rain) on top of that - thankfully I noticed no sagging whatsoever. I'm pleased with its performance so far, but very cautious I'm sure that was a lot of weight to deal with, but not as much as a 3-4 ft snow pack will be in an arguably more normal year!

I'll also be seeding the soil that's up there now (clover, buckwheat, grasses etc) once I feel like I can trust this warmth to stick around and hopefully some root structure in the soil will also help to reinforce things, reducing any stretching/sagging around the wood. As it stands now, there's been no sign of stretch in the layers of plastic/vinyl/tarp/carpet, but the sooner we have roots spreading through that soil to hold things together, the better off it will all be.

Roundwood timbers are quite a bit stronger for both compressive and shearing stresses than their dimensional counterparts for given diameters, assuming the joints are done well. That's sort of a blessing for us cheap and self-educated bastards. When I build something I'll actually be living in, though, such shoddy "scrap timber" wont be what I'll rely on (and I really hope I'm crafting better joints by then!).
 
Tristan Vitali
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Glenn Herbert wrote:Just found this thread - love the project! - and fully agree with Roberto. From my experience, roof framing of that size won't hold for more than a couple of years, especially at the low slope without smooth sheathing, which will guarantee lots of small ponds which risk becoming bigger ponds and collapsing the whole thing in case of a heavy wet snow, or rain on thick snow. I would put in a center row of posts and beams to support the rafters as an early priority in spring. If they sagged noticeably while adding the soil, they will sag more with time.

The house plan looks good and functional, though I have reservations about the sheer number of RMHs. Each one is another constant warm air loss point. As the uses are spread widely, there is a certain minimum needed, but I see at least a couple of places you could simplify the building with minor increases in the ducting complexity.

I would definitely advise modifying the bedroom wing systems to have one RMH feed and chimney, with two paths the hot gases can follow and a damper to switch between them. This would let you tend one fire and choose the ratio of heat going to each area. You might start with the heat going to the tub, then switch to the bed so its warmth cycle lasts all night. I'm not certain about a way to condense the community/kitchen systems, but I do think a single 6" is likely to be more reliable than two 4" units.

What are you planning for chimneys? The drawing seems to show each exhaust going out the wall and terminating, unless those X's indicate chimneys. Through-wall exhausts are not going to be reliable in a cold gusty climate; you really want the chimneys to go straight up inside the house and through the roof, preferably at high points to ease waterproofing and drafting.



Ha - busy day suddenly Check on the interior support posts - got those in about 2 days before our first heavier snowfall. I used fresh, green sugar maples for the rafters which are quite flexible and elastic when first installed and tend to become much more rigid but brittle as they season/age. With the warmth we've had this spring, some are trying to grow branches right now, so they're still quite green even after months of being up there. Sugar maple is a choice based on economy - we've got some beautiful, larger diameter eastern hemlock that will be used in the future more "permanent" structures but this being an experimental try at doing this kind of thing, I didn't want to waste them

On the RMHs for the future cabin, the Xs do indicate chimneys - we've found that a stack up to 2 feet above the roof level topped with an "H" formed of 3 ducting tees does nicely here with the wind patterns and constant pressure changes. We'll likely run these actually inside the walls, surrounded with insulation and cob. This provides good stability and insulation to the stack while also "hiding" it a bit from prying eyes of anyone who does stop by to poke noses where they need not be We've had good success burying our 8" exhaust stack inside the wall of the duck house - at top burn temps on relatively mild nights, the stack will get to maybe 90*F, but on really cold nights in the past, we had trouble running it with the stack mostly outdoors due to ice build up as the water vapor froze before getting out.

And I definitely agree on the 4" systems - the one I installed in the shed/wrap for this winter has been a nightmare to deal with. It's just too small. They're hard to clean out, difficult to keep burning and have a very low power when it comes to driving the gasses through the system. The idea to have a sort of oven between two 4" RMH barrels embedded in the monolithic counter is still something I'm playing with, but I doubt I'll go that route. A serviceable oven made with foil on top of any 8" system barrel is good enough for us. We don't do that much baking now and when we do, it's usually a turkey and we use the 8" barrel top in the sunroom with a smoker cover anyway

As for reducing the number of RMH systems, I agree with you from a cost perspective as the insulating materials for these things can be quite expensive. The ducting, too, can get rather pricey. We're currently reducing ducting costs by building stacked stone bell chambers, two to three times the cross sectional to ensure there's decent flow, and that's been working out great. We don't have a decent substitute for the exhaust stacks/chimneys as of yet. The thing I'm concerned with is our extreme temperatures here in the winter months, the length of winter, and the copious amount of mass inside this structure. I keep thinking that less mass would be a good thing to ensure we don't end up fighting it from January through May. Keeping this much mass inside an insulated envelope will work out great "if and only if" there's enough heating power to handle it. But you're right - that many fires to tend means you'd be spending all day running one or two at a time - maybe not the best idea from a human energy perspective. I'd also prefer to not burn 20 cords of wood per winter!

Another thing I've been thinking about is maybe going to 10" or 12" for the 3 main heaters - central community area plus the two bed heaters in the wings. Bigger definitely seems to be better with these from the efficiency standpoint and less systems would simplify things.

Thankfully, it's still quite literally on the drawing board Going to be a couple years before we start building anything



 
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Glenn Herbert wrote:You mentioned planting black locust; is there any mature black locust available, or on nearby land that you could buy? If you are planning post-in-ground support for code reasons, using black locust will maybe double the lifespan of your structure (more or less). It may be worth spending some money on to increase the longevity of the whole structure.



Mature black locust here would be hard to come by - it's very in-demand for heating and usually cut before it reaches 6" diameter so there's no need to split. We're going to do charring and borax treatment for the posts, then likely wrap the sunk-ends in layers of plastic bags ala Oehler's underground houses. We're planning to use the PAH technique to an extent as well, and the site will have been prepped with an insulated slab of dry packed clay apx 4 or 5ft deep before we even get to sinking posts, so hopefully that will help everything hold up even better
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'm curious about your cob cordwood system. I was part of building a cordwood house using a traditional concrete instead of cob a while back [too long ago that it would age me to tell you ]. I'm wondering if you are able to use the woodchip infill as an insulative layer between two cob mortar 'walls' as is done with concrete, or are your cobbing mortar layers continuous in the length of the piece of cordwood? I hope I described it properly. I will elaborate: With the place that I helped with, once it was solid, we had basically two concrete walls (six inch patties of mortar near the ends of each 24 inch length of wood, which joined previous layers of concrete patties), with wood chip insulation (a little less than 1.5 feet) between these concrete walls that formed from the joined patties, laying on the centers of the wood rounds (which projected slightly out of the concrete). The main reason that I'm asking is that if you have the chip insulation, and 24 inch walls, in addition to proper windows and door units for your climate, then you are likely to not need nearly the heating that you describe. I'm not sure, but that's my guess. It could be that with such a high water table that you are loosing heat into your floor as well, and this may be mitigated by the dry clay layer that you mentioned, but might also be facilitated by a layer of plastic below the dry clay. I have no experience with that though.

quaking aspen saplings (what the locals call popples) since they're N-fixers,

I don't think that that is accurate. Poplars are not nitrogen fixers, from what I know. They do provide a lot of biomass (leaves/deadfall), which have the potential to aid in nitrogen sequestering (through fungi), but they do not fix nitrogen leguminously from what I understand. Further, poplars have incredibly wide seeking root systems that will enter other systems (up to 200 feet away from what i'm told) to gain nutrients or to spread their clonal colonies (while not fixing nitrogen, they may actually be taking it from other desired plants!). I am planting my initial wilder food forest in close range to poplars and cottonwoods (close poplar relatives), and so will be facing whatever that means as well. I'm curious to hear further of your experience with poplars as part of your polyculture/guild. I have often been curious about gardening in the poplar forest as it is the most open canopied of all the forest systems where I live. My own system is in a feral meadow, which is bordered by these species, but not in a large clonal monocultured type open grove. I have that elsewhere in my forest, but these ones are just along the edge of the field between the field edge and the creek-land, and this creekland soon transitions into the rest of my hundred year old post fire forest. This transitional area also supports a great many other species, like cedar, birch, spruce, alders, doug fir, amibilis fir, red dogwood, pines, willows, and probably others I'm not thinking of. My intention is to allow the edge effect and huge close diversity of this multiple transition zone to facilitate the stability of my created 'guilds', which have just begun using some local wild transplants. Within my own planted food forest system, I will be removing all the poplars and cottonwoods (though not the larger mother trees near the creek) and adding alders (which are nitrogen fixers) and more and more wild edible/medicinal plants.

 
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