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giant hugelkultur (12 feet tall) at basecamp  RSS feed

 
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That's a beautiful basket of greens!  I see kale, lambsquarters, chard, daisies. . .

What are the vaguely heart-shaped leaves sort of on the right side of both photos?  It looks like the growing tip from a plant, but I'm not sure what.
 
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Julia Winter wrote:That's a beautiful basket of greens!  I see kale, lambsquarters, chard, daisies. . .

What are the vaguely heart-shaped leaves sort of on the right side of both photos?  It looks like the growing tip from a plant, but I'm not sure what.


Thanks Julia! Good eye! The heart-shaped leaves are orache (sometimes orach) a relative of spinach. We have a bit of the red variety, mostly a bright, lime-green variety this year. Sometimes known as saltbush, it's a juicy leaf less prone to bolting than some other greens.

We didn't have chard in that basket, but you nailed the kale, lambsquarters (chenopodium album) and ox-eye daisies. Harder to see are radish/turnip greens, dandelion greens, orache, lettuces (maybe red leaf and buttercrisp?), garlic scapes, radish seed pods, pea pods, and hollyhock leaves (which are a bit furry but mild tasting).

Here's what it looked like after I sorted and trimmed the stems and made sure bugs weren't hiding in the daisies. The radish or turnip stems are tough, so those are composted. The older radish seed pods get tough, too, so I picked through for the most tender ones. The kale leaf stems are delicious in my book (lower left in this picture), though I separate the big ones out and chop them in little pieces that I saute first before adding the leafier greens.

The little baby greens in the middle were from thinning seedlings and the lambsquarters, which I used for lunch later. The big bowl on the right was 2-3 meals worth of greens to saute. The garlic scapes on the bottom right are some of the last - they're starting to get tough - and I love to chop those up to add to sauteed greens as well.

Oh, the pea pods were from the field peas we have growing all over the hugels to help improve the soil. I was lazy and didn't pick very many. The pods or shells of these get tough and not as palatable when the peas start forming.


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hugulkultur / hugelberm greens, sorted
 
Julia Winter
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I'm glad you have greens to harvest.  It's so nice to step outside and get some good food!
 
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Couple of years back I was thinking whether it is possible to build a giant hugel and how it would perform. I was building above ground hugels and they were drying out in our Mediterranean climate and the general advise is "build it bigger". So put more material on my existing hugels and build bigger and bigger till I realized buried wood beds might be a better option for my situation. It got me thinking though, whether there was a limit for the size of hugels other than we are only 5 to 7 ft high. But what about surface area to volume ratio- similar to polar bear vs sun bear?
I knew I saw the giant hugel somewhere, now I remember: in one of Justin Rhodes videos (great American farm tour - member videos) while Paul was showing around. It is huge! Such a great experiment.
If my memory serves right, Paul mentioned he was considering to water it, maybe (?), to kick-start it. What was the final decision, did you water it? Any other differences compared to standard size hugels? How was the 2017 season? :)
 
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We have not watered it.   And, in general, we haven't REALLY properly mulched it or taken care of it.  Every year I think "this year we are going to do super awesome stuff with it!" and then higher priorities come up.

This year we had some forest fires in our area such that we were finding burnt cinders in the ground.   We never found a cinder that was still glowing, but it did make us worried - so we started wetting it a bit near the house. 

I think we need to build the soil in these hugelkultur beds.   I've always said that with a hugelkultur, you have to water it like a normal garden the first year, and then water it much less the second year, and the third year and beyond is when the real magic happens. 

So I think that we need to have one year where we water it like a regular garden and build that soil.  Or ... maybe ....  as with so many experiments here ...  we should mark an are as a watering zone and water that.   And have some areas that are not watered.  Diversity!

 
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Thanks for all the awesome pictures.

I think that some experiments with worm shelters near the base of the hugelbeet that naturally will stay the wettest would probably yield great results (unless you don't really have that kind of worm action in your parts). I mean, a little pit, some alternating layers of finished compost, partially finished compost, mineral soil, topsoil, and shredded worm bedding of any kind would be like a worm candy nursery. A worm candy nursery built at the base of Pie-Land. So they would venture out of the nursery into Pie-Land when the conditions were favourable, and they would eat up all the pie and candy, and improve the hugelbeet's moisture retention capacity by adding subsurface structure and castings. And when conditions became less than favourable, they'd go back to the worm candy nursery.

I have a feeling that what's happened to all that buried wood, in absence of adequate moisture to allow it to break down to sponginess quickly, is that it and the surrounding soils have reached an equilibrium of sorts, although again, drier than desired for the wood to act like a sponge. I fear that, as Paul has suggested, it will need watering for establishment to be able to gain the internal momentum to do the truly awesome things we expect of it.

I have to say, that's twice the height of the largest hugelbeet I ever built, and mine was half-buried (I dug a 3' trench, filled it with woody debris, and piled everything back up to just over 3' above ground), so that one is probably at least four or five times as massive in terms of cross-section. I had serious problems with dessication due to high surface area, and had to wrap/cover the bare parts until I could get groundcover started, otherwise it was like trying to fill a seive with water. There is so much productivity to be gained, though, from a relatively minor addition of water that I think it's absolutely worth it to do so.

In perspective, that hugelbeet is probably likely to act as a soil life reactor for the whole surrounding area. Congratulations on an amazing feat. I can't wait to see it when there's actually time to devote to it.

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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A few points of update ....

In the first year, we seemed to be infested by turkeys, deer and rabbits

At about the two year mark, we got a fence.  And then it was just rabbits and chipmunks.

Last year, things started to grow, but it was a super dry year.  And with forest fires in the area, and the berms so close to the house, we did spray some water on the surface.  But a lot of stuff died anyway. 

Over the winter, jocelyn became besties with a feral cat.  Who seems a lot less feral now.  Chipmunks are now rare, and rabbits are gone.  The hugelkultur is starting to seriously thrive!  Yay!

We have planted a few garden things.  But we have also allowed some "weeds" and wild stuff to do their thing.  We've also been doing a bit of ruth stout style composting. 

A few weeks ago, the boots moved these two big logs onto the berm.  Yay boots! 

....   jocelyn and i agree that we need to get out and do more stuff ...   or, more accurately, jocelyn and several doctors agree that I need to get outside and get some exercise, and the only way I am willing to do that is with projects.   So we spend 20 minutes a day working on my stuff and 20 minutes a day working on jocelyn's stuff.  Today was my project.   On a previous project day, we moved three blocks of wood out so we can set the log on them.  Today, we put the log there and got to work on peeling the log and cutting the first notch for placement. 

In the pic below, you can see a big diagonal log on the hugelkultur.  And you can see a sorta vertical log behind jocelyn.  The new log will be a horizontal log, connecting the other two logs.   In time, we will fill with soil and mulch up to the logs.   And the logs will be carved up so they will be kinda like stairs. 

Due to limited space and a desire to block the road, the hugelkultur bed is very tall and narrow.  So we cannot make proper paths on it.  But we have oodles of trees.  Way too many trees.  So we are thinking of creating a permanent network of scaffolds all over the outside of the hugelkultur so the upper parts will be easier to access.  And we hope that this will help us to make the hugels even taller. 

hugelkultur-structure-jocelyn.jpg
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jocelyn models the log about to go up onto the hugelkultur
 
paul wheaton
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Just grabbed some firewood to keep the log propped up.
log-work-shim.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-work-shim.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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Three cuts with the electric chainsaw, followed by some chisel time and we have the first notch.
round-wood-timber-cut.jpg
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round wood timber framing style notch cuts
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round wood timber framing style notch
 
paul wheaton
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The notch goes in only about a third of the way. 

The log that will be placed here will not be flush, but will sit up a bit from the diagonal log.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here's some additional pictures of Paul working on the siege ladder or scaffolding we're creating for the hugelkultur in front of the Fisher Price House.

paul-eyeing-the-log.jpg
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paul eyeing the log
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paul chiseling the log on the left / north
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paul chainsawing the log that will go in the chiseled out part
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paul chiseling the log on the right / south end
 
paul wheaton
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Fred and I talk in great detail about the age, the structure and the massive jungle of growies

https://permies.com/t/89308/podcast-Hugelkultur-basecamp

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Been too busy gathering/harvesting, drying herbs, cooking for workshops and doing accounting to post much!

The ladybug was just too perfect not to admire though. There is chopped salsify on the ground, and buckwheat blossoms in the background.

The lambs quarter on the hugel berms has been EPIC this year! Butter knife for scale on our restaurant-sized stainless steel bowl.
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Ladybug
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huge bowl of lambs quarter
 
paul wheaton
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These pics are from two days ago.    So it would be july 27.   Note how green it is in the background.

Jocelyn and I stopped work on our projects for a month during the pdc and atc

But here, you can see that this log is almost ready to go into place.
hugelkultur-log-carve-1.jpg
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hugelkultur-log-carve-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for hugelkultur-log-carve-2.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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Up until about 7am this morning, the hugelkultur has received zero irrigation this year.  You can see in the pics above that it is quite lush. 

BUT!   The current plan is grow magnificent gardens without irrigation next year.   So I think there is still some soil building to happen.  And some of the newer hugelkultur doesn't look this nice just yet.   And there are a couple bits of the old hugelkultur that don't look this nice.  

So today I went around some of the hugelkultur next to the house and irrigated some of it.  Not all of it.   In fact, I was careful to NOT water perennials that I want to keep.   So the fruit trees and rhubarb did not get water.  If their massive root system happens to find their neighbors water, that's fine.   But I want tough perennial plants. 

I am thinking about Sepp's story about his project in spain.   He was bullied into irrigating one of his hugelkultur beds.   On the second year, he removed the irrigation.   The hugelkultur that had no irrigation continued to thrive.  The hugelkultur that had irrigation ....   everything died. 

So I am irrigating the stuff that will do great this year and I am thinking that those things will develop show roots, but the soil soil will expand.   And then next year, those things will do poorly - but do a great job of feeding the soil.

 
paul wheaton
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about half this video has stuff about the giant hugelkultur

 
paul wheaton
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I think the tab is ready.  The left side was a lot of chiseling.  I think I need a bigger chisel.
last-tab-cut-on-log.jpg
[Thumbnail for last-tab-cut-on-log.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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The tab is just a little long, so i used the electric chain saw to cut off an inch or two. 

This is all tape measures and eyeballing it.   The inside length of the two slots gives me an idea that I need to shorten this tab an inch or two.   All of the angles are just guesses.   I don't need this to be perfect, I just need it to be "good enough".  After all, this is for a garden and the idea is that this log will, in time, rot and feed the soil. 

I made the slots about an inch wider than the tabs.  The log is so heavy, I don't want to have to move it back and reshape it. 

cut-off-an-inch-or-two.jpg
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paul wheaton
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Jocelyn put together a mix of tung oil and wood ash to get the joints to rot a little slower.
add-tung-oil-and-ash.jpg
[Thumbnail for add-tung-oil-and-ash.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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I brought over a tall chopping block and placed it near the berm.   I lifted the lighter half of the log so that the log was resting on the chopping block.   The I lifted the insanely heavy end and placed it on a little stob near the slot to hold it in place.   That's as much as I felt I could do by myself. 

log-moved-80-percent.jpg
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paul wheaton
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Here you can see the right end of the log tab sitting on the stob.
log-moved-closer.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-moved-closer.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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And here is the other end.   I felt I couldn't move this part by myself, there would just be too much wrestling, and I was barely able to move the log.    But in this pic you can see the tab and the slot destination.

You can also see where jocelyn trimmed a lot of the growies.  Jocelyn also offered to make breakfast for the fellas if they would help me get the log moved. 
log-moved-halfway.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-moved-halfway.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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CE and Jeremy arrived and we got the log moved in about 30 seconds of serious grunting.

It looks like my eyeball guesses for angles and stuff were pretty good, but just a little off.   So the log sorta stuck up a bit due to the imperfections of my eyeballing.
log-in-place.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-in-place.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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CE practiced the fine art of stompitty-stomp-stomp and got the tab to fit into the slot on the left side.
log-stomped.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-stomped.jpg]
log-in-place-on-one-side.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-in-place-on-one-side.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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The right side is sticking out a bit more and looks less likely to cooperate with stomping.

On the bright side - i think my angles look pretty damn good for eyeballing.
round-wood-timber-fit.jpg
[Thumbnail for round-wood-timber-fit.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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CE and Jeremy take turns stomping.
log-stomp.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-stomp.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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I added a little extra wood ash to the joints.
wood-ash-log-joint.jpg
[Thumbnail for wood-ash-log-joint.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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In time, I hope to build up the soil to be level - or maybe even taller than the scaffolding.   As the log rots, I hope that the log will end up resting on a whole bunch of soil.

Next is to to cut the steps into the logs.
hugelkulture-scaffolding-logs.jpg
[Thumbnail for hugelkulture-scaffolding-logs.jpg]
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Here's Paul working on the first step! He plans to leave a "spine" or a solid core through the middle of the log, with the steps off to the side.
paul-chiseling-step.jpg
[Thumbnail for paul-chiseling-step.jpg]
Paul chiseling the first step
 
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Why didn't you use the excavator to lift the log into position?  Grunting is fun but we don't want you to hurt your back.  We need you too much.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Why didn't you use the excavator to lift the log into position?  Grunting is fun but we don't want you to hurt your back.  We need you too much.



   - The excavator is at the lab and is very difficult to move to basecamp.

   - The tractor is at the lab and easy to move to basecamp.

   - Thanks to the work done during the ATC (mud, jim and rodney), the electric tractor is running again and could have been of some small help.

The bottom line is that with all the heat, the log became lighter.   I could lift either end - even though it was pretty grunty.   And I am feeling my age these days (plus those recent health glitches).  So I thought that if I could lift either end, then it would probably be pretty easy for these young bucks.   And in the end when Jeremy and CE showed up, we had it moved in a minute or two.  Piece of cake.  The idea of bringing in any piece of equipment seemed suddenly silly.


We need you too much.



:)

I think you should prepare for me not being around.  I'm old and fat.  A poster child for a heart attack.  One of these days somebody is going to say something mean and *poof* I'll be gone. 






 
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Gotcha, I forgot the lab and basecamp are not real close.

I tried to round up a tree spade and bobcat to move two 8' fruit trees.  After striking out on that I just dug them up by hand.  Took 5 min.  Moved them in a wheelbarrow.  Done in a half hour.
 
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An amazingly useful tool to move large logs is a cant hook....maybe you already have one and this was too steep for it to be useful?
Here's an image of one although I've never seen one all shiny with no rust
http://i.ebayimg.com/images/i/121786903198-0-1/s-l1000.jpg





 



 
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We have plenty of cant hooks and peavies.  But neither of those would lift a log up off the ground in this way.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:We have plenty of cant hooks and peavies.  But neither of those would lift a log up off the ground in this way.



Of course...I let my worry about everyone's backs override rational thinking
 
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more carving of the steps
log-steps-2.jpg
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log-steps-1.jpg
[Thumbnail for log-steps-1.jpg]
log-steps-3.jpg
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Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Wow that's some serious scaffold action, man!  I'd say you will get some longevity out of that system!   I was thinking of doing a scaffold of lashed together cedar branches, kind of like monkey bars or a Jungle gym
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Roberto pokachinni
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Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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In the video above this post, Paul mentions potatoes that he didn't plant showing up in the hugul and mentions burying kitchen scraps, speculating that there was a potato that didn't meet the kitchen standards that was discarded in the compost.

I have grown a nice crop of potatoes from small peelings that I found had sprouted in the compost.  I transplanted them into the garden with excellent results.
 
paul wheaton
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Adding another log.  

This one went up about 30 times faster.  The log is shorter, but also, we learned a few things from the first log.  

Plus, all of this project is just eyeballing the cuts with a little measuring.  Not as much measuring as you would use for true roundwood timberframing.  This is just something quick for the garden.  Further, these logs already have quite a bit of rot, and we plan on filling the soil underneath the logs before they logs crumble.  So we are embracing the rot! 

And the fact that the logs have a bit of rot, means that shaping them goes a bit faster.

In these pics we are quickly shaping a tab onto the end of the log.  We want this log to provide a little bit of wood on top of the log it is connecting to so it can be like a step.  The first cuts are easily done with a chainsaw.  

For shaping the tab, we decided to drill and chisel.   Look at my fancy new chisel!
cutting-log-tab-chainsaw.jpg
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roundwood-cut-shape.jpg
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roundwood-tab-shaping.jpg
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roundwood-tab-shaping-2.jpg
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