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How to repurpose an old concrete pad?  RSS feed

 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Where else besides Permies.com to call on creative minds for a repurposing brainstorm? 

On my land are the remains of the old village water tank, not much left really besides its circular concrete pad, about 16 feet in diameter, with a cast iron outflow pipe in the middle, about knee-high.  Presumably this has been disconnected from the water main.  The pad is full of leaves, and has a thicket of aspen growing up on it, so the concrete is surely cracked.  It is shaded by tall trees that I wish to keep, as they create a wonderful riparian microclimate, and make the air cool and lovely in summer--and they are too close to the creek to cut, anyhow.  Aside from the levelled ground the concrete pad is on, there is a level area in front of it about the same size, like a parking spot; the two flat spots are separated by a trench.  The concrete pad is midway up a steep slope; some of the upper slope seeps moisture.  Light and view are to the west, as there is a powerline right of way which is kept clear; otherwise, the land curves tightly around the spot on three sides.  On the south side of this spot, the creek tumbles down its ravine, more or less westward.  Access is from above, on foot, via a steep former road--now slumped and narrowed at the top end.

I would like to find a constructive use for this pleasant spot, and a greater purpose and vision than simple tidiness, to fight the thicket and extricate the bent sheets of corrugated steel roofing that litters the general area; and maybe torch the years-old, barely-accessible-by-foot burn pile that former occupants left on the slope above, to allow vegetation to grow there instead--though it's full of weird crap, probably including old creosotey water main wood.  I would prefer a solution for the concrete that doesn't involve a pneumatic drill.  What would you do, if this was your land, and you wanted to turn your problem spot into a feature?  Build a wofati powered with microhydro?  A water-powered mill?  A gazebo?  Ignore it altogether?  I'd love to hear your ideas.  Thanks!

Photos show view from above, looking west, and from level, looking east.
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Miles Flansburg
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Posts: 3981
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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I think I would try to use it somehow, I like the water mill wofati ideas the best.
 
Jotham Bessey
Posts: 103
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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With a mix of trees and vines, grow a dome over it.

I watched a video of a guy in Europe that grew furniture by training trees into the shape of chairs. Recently I've been thinking about using the same idea to grow a dome shape room with aspen.
That pad would be a great place to do such an experiment.
 
Trish Dallas
Posts: 48
Location: Dallas, TX, zone 8a
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In my experience concrete is expensive, and flat spots that you don't have to grade yourself are golden.  If it's convenient to your living quarters, sounds like a great place to put your woodpile, toolshed, smithy, guest yurt, ibc totes for your own water storage from the creek...  if it's too far from zone one, guest yurt  😉  , biochar baker, fruit tree nursery...
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Yes, I'd view this as a resource.  Clear the brush and enjoy a nice level piece of (cracked) pavement.  If you have strong predator issues, putting your chicken pen on concrete stops them from digging their way in.  A gazebo is a very nice idea, actually.
 
Julia Winter
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Ooh, I just reread your original post - don't "torch" the burn pile!  That's good organic material.  Haul it somewhere you want to block noise or a view, and build a hugel berm.  Paul's hugelkultur berms are 16 feet tall, but even smaller ones can be very useful.  The wood inside the berm eventually gets very spongy and holds winter water into the dry season.  Plants on this raised soil won't get as soggy in the winter time.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Possibly from your description this tank was placed there to be filled by a ram pump from the creek. Think about restoring that purpose. Maintaining the trees around it would protect the water from summer heat. If it is just used for irrigation it could be left empty during freezing weather or a round building for winter use.
 
Andrew Schreiber
Posts: 216
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Personally, there is no way I could give you sound design advise without more information about where this site is located in relation to your house location, support buildings, intensive food production areas, topography, and so on.

If a design imperative you have is to maintain an area that is comfortable to be in during the summer months,  and this stream bed is near to your zone1 (so you can get to it quickly and easily),  I would maintain it for that purpose and use the already available resource of the concrete slab to create it.  I live in hill country, and the only places on our site that are level are the ones we made level!  Thin the trees to provide the structure and functions that you intend for the space.

Without factoring in it's relative location,  I might put a duck house on the concrete pad.  they would have access to the stream water and shelter from the thicket.   Aspens are fast growing, coppiceable/clonal and useful as firewood.  Putting ducks there would provide added fertility to the coppce,  smaller branches best used as mulch/fertilizer in other parts fo the system as they tend to be higher in fertility that other.  Using the branches as mulch is a way to funnel the surplus fertility of that system into another system without having to muck out the duck poop.

 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Hello people, thank you for the ideas you've offered.  I should say that this site could be at best zone 3 for distance and convenience from the house; currently it's part of zone 4, because I haven't had need to visit that spot.  (I should have mentioned that the spot is downhill from the house and the garden, and accessed by a steep footpath.)  From the ideas you've offered, I'm leaning toward some sort of building.
 
-Trish D, guest quarters are sounding like a good idea, with privacy from the main house, but a nifty spot with a view. 
-Julia W., the coop that came with the property is thankfully raised against small predators as you wisely suggest, and now has an electrified bear fence around it, too.  Now, about the burn pile...hauling wood uphill from the burn pile on the steep slope is awkward, if I want to get it up to the driveway so it can be removed, but maybe I could drag it downhill with the help of my good friend gravity, if I can find a use for its contents on site, at the location in question.  There may be something useful buried in it.  No views or sounds to block, thankfully.  What I'm concerned about is the creosote content in the old timbers, which was used to keep the wooden tank and its wooden pipes from rotting.  I believe the creosote could contaminate the ground and groundwater, and the air as well, if I were to burn it.  Is there a fungus that would eat creosote, I wonder?  Maybe that's a question for another topic.
-Hans Q., From extant piping I believe the original tank was gravity fed, and I know it used gravity to supply the town below.  Having water storage on site would definitely be handy, but it would need to be uphill from the garden, where it would be used.  I can rig that with a pipe leading down from the creek, but that would be a different project, which I might get to this year or next.
-Jotham B., I almost missed seeing your post, and yet that is such a cool idea.  I've seen pictures of that done as well, by someone down in California.  I could do that there, or I could choose a different aspen grove with a sunnier exposure, and an earthen, growing, flowering floor--an outdoor "living room".

Thank you for all the ideas so far, and I'm open to more!
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Hello Andrew S., we cross-posted.  I've added some of the missing info in the post above.  I certainly wish to use the ramial aspen growth in the food forest to be, in a reverse hugel.  Though it would be neat to have ducks, the wild ducks of the area don't care for the creek as it's not broad, flat and swimmable, but jump-across narrow and steeply rapid, so I doubt that domestic ducks would like it either, unless I were to make them a pond beside the creek.  I should add that it's a potable creek, and sometimes travellers fill their water from it downstream of me, so would not want to fill it with duck poop.  I might dream of a reed bed and aquaponics with ducks, but predators are a concern--bears, coyotes, martens, wandering dogs, etc.--and this spot is not in view of the house or main grounds, which are on a bench land:  the spot in question is over the bank and out of sight.  I would be concerned about slope stability, too, if I were to put in a pond on that flattened area.  Am I being negative, or simply foreseeing hazards?
 
Jotham Bessey
Posts: 103
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
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Regan Dixon wrote:Hello Andrew S., we cross-posted.  I've added some of the missing info in the post above.  I certainly wish to use the ramial aspen growth in the food forest to be, in a reverse hugel.  Though it would be neat to have ducks, the wild ducks of the area don't care for the creek as it's not broad, flat and swimmable, but jump-across narrow and steeply rapid, so I doubt that domestic ducks would like it either, unless I were to make them a pond beside the creek.  I should add that it's a potable creek, and sometimes travellers fill their water from it downstream of me, so would not want to fill it with duck poop.  I might dream of a reed bed and aquaponics with ducks, but predators are a concern--bears, coyotes, martens, wandering dogs, etc.--and this spot is not in view of the house or main grounds, which are on a bench land:  the spot in question is over the bank and out of sight.  I would be concerned about slope stability, too, if I were to put in a pond on that flattened area.  Am I being negative, or simply foreseeing hazards?


Build with local conditions in mind. Predators are not as bad as they are said to be. I have hens now. My family had ducks as well in the 80's and we have many predators.
I don't consider bears as predators though. Just saying.
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Hi Jothan, just wondering--do you not consider bears as predators specifically for poultry, or at all?  I've lost many chickens to bears, specifically grizzly bears, as have neighbours.  Some sort of mustelid killed my neighbour's ducks.  Perhaps our wild thangs are a little bolder, here.
 
Josephine Howland
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Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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Regan Dixon wrote:Hi Jothan, just wondering--do you not consider bears as predators specifically for poultry, or at all?  I've lost many chickens to bears, specifically grizzly bears, as have neighbours.  Some sort of mustelid killed my neighbour's ducks.  Perhaps our wild thangs are a little bolder, here.
  We have had bears kill our chickens and even tearing the metal roof off our coop, and these are just black bears, Grizzlies oh my!
 
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