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pollinator
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L. Jones wrote: But given finite time, start with the projects that will (gently) bring surface water into the homestead area, and work further out until you hit the edges of the high-side, then work on the lower parts as you can.



I want to mention this comment from you has been really helpful in getting me to see the project as something I can get my mind around, instead of this enormous problem beyond my abilities.
 
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Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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I'm happy it was helpful. It's so easy to get paralyzed by the scale of things needing to be done and miss the fact that even the largest project is made up of smaller, manageable parts. If we guess right, we can even start with parts that make things more manageable long before the full-scale scheme is fully implemented (or even fully envisioned, if the most basic aspects are at least sketched out.)

Sometimes it can be helpful to literally take 4 stakes and 40 feet of string and mark off a 10x10 foot square and say "this, this 100 square feet, I'm going to fix up this hour/today/this weekend/this week." You can't completely ignore everything else (especially family/stock) but you can really focus directed effort on a chunk that size - and when it's done, you can move the stakes. They are often not physically required, but they can help serve as a physical reminder not to get trapped in "everything that needs doing."
 
Tyler Ludens
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L. Jones wrote: If we guess right, we can even start with parts that make things more manageable long before the full-scale scheme is fully implemented (or even fully envisioned, if the most basic aspects are at least sketched out.)



I'm trying to get some help on how to improve placement or integration of the elements in my design, but I don't know how to ask the proper questions, nor how to present the plan beyond the design I posted above.
 
L. Jones
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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Jeanine mentioned these free Bill Mollison pamphlets recently, and I've found them good reading, though I have issues with some specifics (ie, planting your tomatoes in the same place all the time - that works fine until you get the verticulum fairy. I prefer to make the verticulum fairy work a bit harder.) Still, on the whole they are a good read and have useful ideas scatted throughout. You probably need to look at both humid and arid, as well as water and forest given your conditions - I have not read the arid one yet, as it's not very applicable here, I expect. I'll probably read it eventually, though. A big take home for me has been to do a lot of "1 in 2000" (ie, very nearly, but not quite level) swaling/terracing to soak water in and move it where wanted. If the budget allows, these days a laser level can a be a lot less frustrating than the water levels he mentions - they can work, but they can also have problems - hose kinks and bubbles can throw them well off, and then fiddling with them to make sure that they are working right becomes a time sink.

On the right side of this webpage: Permaculture institute key concepts

As for your design, it's a bit small and hard to read (at least for my eyes. black text on gray photo = painful), for one thing, and there's only a gradually developing sense of the terrain/topography (rising to right, falling to left) from adding in the pictures + description & where the new swale is supposed to be. Not that I'm anybody's permaculture designer, nor prone to paying money to become one. I'm more a gleaner of useful concepts, and I pick and choose what to believe in - ie, tomatoes in same spot all the time, no, managing water for more into the ground and less runoff, yes. This despite the fact that I also realize that typical rotation cycles are not really adequate to take out verticulum, so perhaps tomatoes in the same spot is no worse than the usual 4 year rotation, really. I simply do poorly at checking my brain at the door and accepting anyone's word as law...I'm a questioner.

While I find navigating their website maddening (too bloggish, I guess - search box seems to be the only hope to hit what you might be looking for other than random-ness) I think the development of milkwood (which I think I first came across with thier rocket-stove-shower) might be enlightening/applicable for your locale, even though it's far away - it's also a place with creek, dry a lot, lots of wet sometimes - and they have done a lot of dams/ponds (some less successful than they would have hoped) but ultimately they are getting there. Here's a starting point on their site (note that they are Aussies, so North is "towards equator")

Milkwood
 
Tyler Ludens
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The map is not ideal but I have low computer graphics skills.

Here's another one showing the flow of the water around the site:

 
L. Jones
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
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I might reveal my age a bit by saying that sometimes, pencil and paper is easier and more effective than upgrading computer graphics skills. Either tracing paper or normal paper (and a sunny window and tape) can get stuff transferred from google earth or other "picture sites" (and perhaps contours & streams from the "topographic view" as well) and then you can do what you will and scan or photograph the results, with almost no computer involvement in the process except at the ends...

Another thing (though then you can't trace as much - well, perhaps if you know someone with a projector?) is to make it BIG. Your property at the size of your kitchen table...

Ink in things that don't move, and pencil the rest.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I started by using paper and pencil, but didn't get far....
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's another map showing contour lines and larger view of the property and existing features:



Blue lines are seasonal water features. Small brown lines are existing berms to control runoff.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I was able to get some helpful advice on the PRI messageboard for developing strategies for rain harvesting. Making lots of maps with my husband's help.

Here's a new one showing an idea for management of the upper seasonal creek to try to direct it more into the middle of the property where it might soak in a little better instead of just going downhill and taking out our driveway. We're thinking of a big brush check dam at the north end of the property to direct the water into a new infiltration basin (in purply pink):



 
Tyler Ludens
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I wanted to show an example of rolypoly/sowbug/slater behavior toward plants growing in the same location but under slightly different conditions.

Here we have (left) a baby squash plant from seed and (right) a baby Devil's Claw (Proboscidea louisianica) from seed, growing in the same bed:



The squash seed was planted in a thin layer of soil over mulch, thoughtlessly I had not made sure to clear the mulch down to the soil underneath but just put everything on top so it dried out over the past few dry sunny days. The squash plant had not managed to get its roots down to the soil below the mulch before the weather turned warm and dry after the last rainy spell and so is experiencing stress. The plant is almost completely eaten by sowbugs and probably won't survive:



The Devil's Claw on the other hand grew from seed already in the soil from beneath the mulch covering so it has roots well down into the moist soil. No stress on this plant and it is untouched by sowbugs:



As soon as the sowbugs start attacking the plants I know there is stress from somewhere. If I wanted to try to save the stressed plants I might be able to by providing huge amounts of soft moist green mulch for the sowbugs to eat. Sowbugs prefer to eat plant material which is dying or rotting. They do not, in my experience, eat significant amounts of healthy plants.

Ridiculous numbers of baby sowbugs in the mulch near these plants:

 
gardener
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Hi, Ludi. If the photographs are any indication, you may soon want to call yourself "active dreamer". I think that would be more in line with your "prove it" stance when dealing with idle talkers.

You'll recall that several months back, I used your thread as an example when I suggested that we all have a personal projects thread. After watching your progress and the respectful commentary of many of our members, I think that your thread proves that a safe zone which is light on criticism and heavy on proof can be a fun and informative way to present yourself. Therefore, I intend to bring that thread to the top again, with the suggestion that readers follow the link to your projects to see not only what you are doing with your homestead but also to use it as an example of what this sort of thread might look like.

Have a great day and keep on "proving it" for all to see. Thanks: Dale
 
Tyler Ludens
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You're welcome and thank you, Dale.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I would really love to get some design advice on how to improve the over all plan. Not sure how to ask for it, actually....

"Help!"

 
Tyler Ludens
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We staked a contour in the field behind the house, where we plan to put in a swale:



All the King Ranch Bluestem (introduced grass) died during the drought so that field is pretty bald.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Got new Bluegill for the aquaponics. They only had tiny baby ones, barely larger than minnows....
 
pollinator
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Got new Bluegill for the aquaponics. They only had tiny baby ones, barely larger than minnows....



Have you tried Tilapia? I heard Bluegill grows very slowly. I got Tilapia last September and they have spent all this time in my living room, growing very slowly. I'm just about ready to move them outside into the hoophouse. Now that the water temp is getting about 70° they are starting to grow much faster. Should be 1 1/2 lbs by September and I'll keep some for breeding.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've not found a supplier of Tilapia in this region. I don't have a greenhouse so I wouldn't be able to keep Tilapia for breeding, and one of my hopes for the Bluegill is they may breed. Apparently they will breed in confined spaces more easily than for instance Catfish.
 
Cj Sloane
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What's your water temperature? Like I said, I keep mine in the house over winter.

I think the place I ordered from was White Brook Tilapia but the shipping was very expensive. There are a bunch of Texans on the Backyard AP site who raise tilapia that you could probably purchase from.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't have anywhere to keep them in the house.....
 
Posts: 79
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Go out whenever you can and fill a glass jar 3/4 of the way with dirt, fill it almost all the way with water and shake it until it is completely dissolved.
Set the jar on a stable spot for the next 24 hours then come back and check it. if you could, post a picture of your jar after it is settled.

This will tell you what type of earth house would best be suited for your area. An earth house is insulated well, easy to maintain, and practically free if you don't count your labor.

I would say an underground fishery would be ideal but I am pretty sure you are still over that giant hunk of limestone that makes up most of texas
 
Tyler Ludens
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We will not be building any earth houses here, but thank you for the advice.

 
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I agree with the limestone in the water tanks. Run it over the rocks also. You will always have a bio slime in healthy water. I would look into that.

Under your beds can you put ina layer of clay to hold the water in the bottom of the beds. You need moisture as much as you can get. Also I would chop up my wood for the beds. It may not matter, but I feel it would hold water better. Either way a great start.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'll have to remember to drop some rocks into our house water tank. We're not using the water to drink at this time, but it would be good to have the limestone in there.
 
Daniel Morse
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My buddy in Cal does a small solar pump (very small) and lets water int he tank flow over these rocks. Anyway, the motion helps stop any algae growth and keeps the water aerated a bit. Just to keep it fresher he says. I am in Michigan and have lots of ground water. But, when we lived in the desert of so cal, water was priceless. Lots of my friends had it delivered weekly. I get it.
 
Nathan Wrzesinski
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okie doke, what are the chances of burying a 40 foot shipping container to house your fishery and perhaps chickens/rabbits/other small space food animals?
 
Tyler Ludens
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The chances are exactly zero. Our land is underlain with limestone ledges, and we're short of $ for such enormous earthworks + expense of shipping container. Just is not going to happen. Annual budget for improvements to the land is between $1000 and $2000. So no big projects are possible. I have to keep my ideas really modest. If I had lots of spare $ and some minions, it would be different! Minions would be especially nice.
 
Cj Sloane
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I don't have anywhere to keep them in the house.....



A 20 gallon tank will hold plenty of breeders...

I do have a small AP set up in the house. A 20 gal FT & 40 gal FT. The plant do so so because there isn't enough light but people have overwintered in there basement with no plants and the high nitrates don't effect the fish.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Wish I had a basement!

 
Cj Sloane
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I don't have a basement either. My AP is in the living room.
 
Tyler Ludens
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My living room is filled with paying work, unfortunately....no room for AP.....
 
Tyler Ludens
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A Media Luna is a rock construction meant to stop erosion at the top or bottom of gullies. I built one this morning at the top of a small gully forming where water runs off our back field:



www.drylandsolutions.com/Erosion_Control_Field_Guide.pdf
 
pollinator
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glad you enjoyed the bottle house in Copemish Michigan..it has been around my entire life I think, I remember it when I was a small child..something so fragile lasting so long? Have you made any decisions concerning using your bottles yet? Started any projects with them?
 
Tyler Ludens
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My long-term plan is to use the bottles to build a masonry structure to contain the storage tank for the well water, with extra thick walls of stone and bottles. But it is realistically not likely to ever happen. Just a dream, really.

 
Brenda Groth
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never give up on your dreams and be cautious not to limit yourself with what you are able to do on your own. I've amazed myself with what I've gotten done..and even more amazed with what my son can do given a few tools..like a tractor !
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for the encouragement!

 
Brenda Groth
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thought of your bottles again this morning when our local news station was doing an interview with a gardener..who had taken a small area of their property and created a fantasy bottle tree garden world..it was beautiful (I don't think i'd do it but it was beautiful)

They had taken posts and pounded extra long nails into it to hold the bottles..and then they had sorted the bottles by color and size and age and had created these beautiful colorful trees of bottles..some were made of curved rebar rather than wood and nails..

They had placed paths between groves of tall bottle trees, dozens of them, they had blue mason jar trees, red bottles, gold, brown, amber, green, etc..and they continue to add more and more trees to their fantasy forest..

Normally I would consider something of this design ugly, but it definately was not ugly..they say in the winter it is especially beautiful with the sun shining through the snow on the colored bottles..
 
Tyler Ludens
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Probably not something I'll want to do, but interested to see pictures of it.
 
pollinator
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Hmm.. limestone shelf sucks. I'm thinking bury wood, clay, and peat moss wherever you want swales, and then plant them with alfalfa and daikon until you mine your way through. Unless you break through the limestone, I doubt you'll be able to do much in the way of water retention (or anything else). Same with garden spaces.

I wish we could trade . I'd happily take some of your limestone for some of my crappy georgia red clay (with a pH somewhere in the negatives).
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've got clay over my limestone, the "best" of both worlds!

 
Marc Troyka
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I've got clay over my limestone, the "best" of both worlds!



Well, on the plus side, clay loam holds a whole lot of water. That, and one less thing to add to your soil.

About how far down is the limestone?
 
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