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Glenn Herbert
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Posts: 2868
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I know that hemlock had a folk reputation as being rot-resistant, but any truth to that was from old growth trees. Second or third growth trees have grown much faster in general and are softer and rot rather quickly. I hope your treatments and "dry pad" help with that. I might try using them above grade (on stone pads, maybe with the bottom of the post 1" below finished floor if you are concerned about future inspectors' classification as "timber-framed on foundation"). I would be very pessimistic about hemlock exposed in exterior walls and sunk in the ground, if you plan any of those.

I have plenty of experience with small maple poles, and yes, flexible when green, getting brittle and splitty after some years of outdoorish use.

Locust is so strong that even a 6" post would have structural value, though you might want more of them for assurance. I have also found black cherry to be quite rot-resistant, if you have any of that that is big enough to have real heartwood. (Black cherry is also gorgeous when planed and aged.)

About mass inside the structure, as long as it is not exposed to weather or ground conduction, it will not in any way take more power to heat. It will take more to get up to temperature, but will hold the heat longer and give a more stable environment. For long periods of constant cold weather, the more mass the better. If you are planning a thick clay pad isolated from ground moisture and conduction, you may well run the ducts through that and give yourself warm floors.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Roberto pokachinni wrote: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.



Maybe more for illustration to anyone following the conversation since you already have some experience with cordwood, but for our shed wrap, I didn't get any pictures of the cobwood building itself this year but last year's photos did show the basics. Basically, looks something like this (no idea if this will look right):

||**|| cob-insulation-cob
===== throughwall log
||**|| cob-insulation-cob


We used saved plastics for the insulation material - plastic shopping bags, (washed) meats packaging, deteriorated bubblewrap from previous years "sunroom" insulation, etc. This is definitely not working as well as I would have hoped, but the little bit of sawdust/woodchips we generate here is going back to the soil (and feeding the stropharia beds) faster than we can produce it. I've looked into getting loads of sawdust delivered or possibly using expanded (gotten wet) cheapo wood pellets, but both options, though pretty cheap overall, are more $$ than I'd want to invest for this experimental structure. A few hundred dollars is one thing for several years of use out of something you expect to rot away but even thousand is overkill to me

To the point: would it work? Heck yes - much better than what I have in there now. In fact, using *damp* sawdust insulation infill is recommended for use with the cob mortar to help slow the drying enough to reduce cracking by people like Rob Roy, the poster-child of the cordwood movement

From what I've seen during research "expeditions", sawdust provides better insulation than woodchips overall (smaller and more consistently sized air spaces), though there's reference in the available literature to a mixture of sawdust and wood shavings giving slightly better performance still. In this climate, I'll definitely want to go for sawdust or sawdust/wood shavings, especially since they're available around here locally from mills that deal exclusively with white pine and/or cedar

I haven't seen much reference to using clay slip to help stabilize such a mixture, preventing settling of the insulation, but I'm thinking the little bit of insulative loss would be mitigated by the fact you wouldn't need to worry about settling or separating of the insulation leaving thermal bridges and/or empty pockets. It's something I've been noodling but haven't made any decisions as of yet.

On the shed-wrap, the walls are only 13" (12-14" averaged) with apx 4 inch cob "beads" and throughwall cordwood (reference my illustration above). That gives us apx 4-5 inches cob, followed by 4-5 inches insulation, followed by 4-5 inches more cob. When we do the main cabin, we'll be shooting for 24" walls "MIM", or mortar-insulation-mortar, which is more along the lines of what you did - this creates a "double wall" system with minimal bridging from throughwall logs, only there every so often to provide more stability to the double-wall system, providing a *much* better, more continuous insulation. Assuming the above illustration worked, here's a (pitiful) attempt at a "MIM" style wall:

||****|| cob-insulation-cob
==***== log-insulation-log
||****|| cob-insulation-cob
====== throughwall (log for stability)
||****|| cob-insulation-cob
==***== log-insulation-log
||****|| cob-insulation-cob


With 24" thick walls, that's 18" of insulation and if it's sawdust or sawdust/wood shavings, the R-value should be quite high overall. Because the cob/cordwood acts as thermal mass on the inside of the insulation, it will help to stabilize temperatures as well. The whole wall structure ends up quite breathable which is a huge plus in this plastic and airtight world we live in. Here in New England, it's a regular thing to go from dewpoints in the 60s and 70s *F in the summer months to dewpoints in the negative 20s during the winter, so every little bit of humidity buffer and non-drafty air exchange it a huge benefit ....and, of course, the materials are quite literally "dirt cheap" around here.


Roberto pokachinni wrote: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.



Down here where I have the camper-trailer stationed and the shed wrap, its practically a swamp. The rain we've had the past few days has created puddles in the sunroom and shed wrap through water seeping UP through the floor. So definitely - the water table is VERY high has been a major heat-suck In fact, because our 8" RMH is tied to the earth down here, even a lot of the heating produced ends up running straight down into the soil beneath us. That's a positive in that it does keep the frost from penetrating into our "indoor" space, but we do lose a lot of heat. The heater mass is almost perpetually damp on the bottom inch or so as well, even though we have some 10ft of space between it and the "outside", AND we put down a layer of plastic membrane under the majority of the bench before even building it.

Damp ground is a constant battle where we are currently.

Where I'll be putting the final structure is on a hill above a large future pond (the "blueberry pond" which I've started digging slowly by hand) so will have much better drainage, plus I'll be prepping the site in such a way as to provide not only drainage around the "pad" but also a waterproof membrane apx 3-4 feet below the surface to reduce groundwater seepage coming "up", a hard-packed clay foundation over that and another waterproof membrane over the top ... a'la PAH systems, though not quite as robust or well formed since we're on a tight budget. I may look to use hay or sawdust as an insulation layer between membrane layers to help insulate against the earth below, but that's more expense and I'm not sure if it's truly necessary. Lots still up in the air regarding the larger project.

What I keep coming back to with all the struggles we deal with currently is that it's all part of the plan to figure sh*t out What works, what doesn't, what makes the most impact for smallest input and what is basically a waste of time/energy/money. Each little thing we do "down here" gauges whether it's worthwhile to do on a larger scale "up there". And trust me, some days I have to forcibly remind myself of this fact!
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

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!).



It's true that they don't fix it leguminously (with rhizobia & root nodules), but there was this: http://www.permies.com/t/6601/woodland/poplar-trees-guilds#58699

So they do fix nitrogen within the stems, then (possibly? likely?) are able to redistribute some of their excess out through roots to fungal networks that can help to feed others in need. Also, since they're such an easy chop-and-drop coppice (and the material rots down so rapidly), the nitrogen they fix can be made available to a guild with a regular coppice and mulching cycle. Add in the fact they create such a loose canopy (they're actually what Bill Mollison referred to as "reflectors" in a PDC), make pretty excellent fodder and leaf hay for livestock, and (if I'm not mistaken here) host both endo- and ecto- mycorrhizal communities, they're definitely a nice addition to most polycultures in my book. The fact that they spread their root systems so far out is sort of a boon in that they can source nutrients from far-away sources that may be lacking in their immediate location, helping act as a nutrient accumulator for a given guild. I'd definitely not write them off

Alders, too, are great, though they do tend toward creating dense shadow which can be a drawback in some polycultures. I'm using our local alders, which are more bush-like than tree-like, in this regard as well. Also, because our local alder species holds on to its *very* dark green leaves until very late in the season compared to others, it makes a serviceable heat-trap going into the late summer/early fall and helps to extend the growing season for anything on its sunward side - another boon for our climate. They, too, make excellent chop-and-drop coppice and I've harvested a few clumps of alder on the property twice in just the last 3 years for RMH fuel and woody mulch. They make an excellent species all around for wet/muddy, cold climate and nitrogen starved areas.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Glenn Herbert wrote:I know that hemlock had a folk reputation as being rot-resistant, but any truth to that was from old growth trees. Second or third growth trees have grown much faster in general and are softer and rot rather quickly. I hope your treatments and "dry pad" help with that. I might try using them above grade (on stone pads, maybe with the bottom of the post 1" below finished floor if you are concerned about future inspectors' classification as "timber-framed on foundation"). I would be very pessimistic about hemlock exposed in exterior walls and sunk in the ground, if you plan any of those.

I have plenty of experience with small maple poles, and yes, flexible when green, getting brittle and splitty after some years of outdoorish use.

Locust is so strong that even a 6" post would have structural value, though you might want more of them for assurance. I have also found black cherry to be quite rot-resistant, if you have any of that that is big enough to have real heartwood. (Black cherry is also gorgeous when planed and aged.)

About mass inside the structure, as long as it is not exposed to weather or ground conduction, it will not in any way take more power to heat. It will take more to get up to temperature, but will hold the heat longer and give a more stable environment. For long periods of constant cold weather, the more mass the better. If you are planning a thick clay pad isolated from ground moisture and conduction, you may well run the ducts through that and give yourself warm floors.



Oh do I wish we had black cherry! Any decent hardwoods would be a blessing The logging industry literally wiped them out in my area - no oaks, no black cherry, no walnut, no chestnut (though that could be blamed partially on the blight as well). The neighbor's father tells of a time not that long ago when oaks were the predominant species in this area, but today it's mostly sugar maple, birch, beech and balsam fir. Even the pines and hemlocks are petering out with the frequency of cutting and poor genetics left behind to seed.

I'm honestly surprised we have so many maples over 10" diameter on the property still since they're somewhat valuable to the industry if for nothing more than firewood. The "larger diamter" hemlocks I'll be using for building weren't cut due to a disputed property line when they did the logging this last round (apx 1/3 of the property, from blazes to stonewall along the eastern side, was issued a secondary deed when they had already finished their work). Those trees are roughly 45 years old at 18-24" diameter at breast height, which is approximately when the last whole scale logging of this area was done (40-60 years ago). We have a few yellow birch that were rotting out and coming down on their own that showed an age of near 90 years, their reputed life expectancy, but nearly everything growing on this property is either ~40-50 years old or is less than 15.

Anyway, yes, the hemlock posts will be sunk into the clay slab. With the waterproofing membranes, the slab/floor thermally tied to the heaters, all the main support being under roof and interior to the overall structure, etc, I'm expecting there wont be any major issues. The ones that will definitely end up exposed are the outer posts supporting the outside edge of roofing and making up the frame for the shed-wrap around the northern 2/3 and the porch-wrap around the south 1/3 of the structure. For these I might look to use white pine instead, though I'd prefer to use that beautiful pine for interior furniture Another option might be to use one of the more caustic, nasty, toxic gack preservers, but I'd like to avoid that if possible (both for sanity and $$ reasons)

We do have a couple of tamarack/larch on the property which would be excellent for use in these rot-prone situations but there's only that - two. Lots of small sapling/whip tamaracks which aren't generally in the best locations, so many have been being transplanted or "thinned" out (they do make excellent waddle material). Same with cedar - only have two down (they were in the worst possible places) and two live/standing right now. None are very large diameter, but respectable enough in the 10-14" range.

Trying to source everything directly from my own, picked-over and rutted up plot of mud is really a lesson in creative thinking Within the first few months, I had to completely scrap the idea of building a standard "log cabin" due to the sheer number of trees I'd need to build something large enough to call a "home". Moving to roundwood timber framing and cordwood/cobwood was a choice driven by the lack of good quality boles on the property and the relatively small diameter of what we do have.

In 50 years (should the structure survive that long), maybe I can guilt my children (should they exist by then) into building me a better and more durable home from the oak, walnut, cherry, locust and pine I'm planting now...until then, if I don't want to source logs from an industry generally doing things backwards (or spend a relative fortune I don't have to buy sustainably harvested), I'd sort of stuck with what I got - low quality, small diameter, rot prone species and a whole lot of imagination
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2348
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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That was an interesting link about Poplar. I'd never heard of that before. Definitely is inspiring material. I have tons of poplar on my property. hmmm. Food for thought, and very intriguing at that!

We followed Rob Roy's book on the build I mentioned. I'm pretty sure I understand your present practice cob cordwood structure. I can see how the through log is likely there to stabilize between the two cob walls, particularly on your narrower walls. I'm not sure I understand the full pattern in your second typed sketch. Mostly the ==***== log insulation log units. Is there no mortar on these logs? Or are they two short rounds in each cob wall, with a full space of insulation between them? The rest seems pretty logical.

I would recommend woodchips mixed with sawdust. Straight sawdust would pack to tight, not be as insulating, and would tend to settle more. The woodchips alone would not be as insulating, as sawdust as the air pockets could be larger and more airflow might occur side to side. The mix of the two would give you great insulation value, would be more stable, and would dry out quicker than sawdust alone. You want it as dry as possible for insulation, and good to mix it with lime mortar powder, or borax (wearing a mask!) to keep insects out and aid in the drying. Another thing that can be added is dry sphagnum. Make layers of it, or break it up and mix it with the other materials. Once your walls are dry, and you have a dry home, bring in some spagnum to dry on racks. Thin strands can be pushed in any cracks that might have formed around your logs (between it and the drying cob) or on the end of the rounds, interior or exterior. The dry moss will expand as any moisture comes in contact, and will tightly seal the crack, and yet be breathable. The sphagnum is so acidic that it is virtually sterile (that and it's moisture absorbing qualities served soldiers well as wound dressing in WWI). I wouldn't use a clay slip in your chips/sawdust. I would increase your chips vs sawdust ratio and sort of pack the space tight (the chips won't allow you to over pack it), and have some straight sawdust to top up over the mix in each gap. There is not going to be much settling at all from what I can figure, if you did this.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:We followed Rob Roy's book on the build I mentioned. I'm pretty sure I understand your present practice cob cordwood structure. I can see how the through log is likely there to stabilize between the two cob walls, particularly on your narrower walls. I'm not sure I understand the full pattern in your second typed sketch. Mostly the ==***== log insulation log units. Is there no mortar on these logs? Or are they two short rounds in each cob wall, with a full space of insulation between them? The rest seems pretty logical.



The second option - shorter logs mortared in with the space/insulation between. I really should have used a clear illustration there - try this one: http://www.daycreek.com/forum_images/010312b.jpg (not embedding since I don't know if that'd be ok where I don't "own" it). In that illustration, B is what we've used on the shed/wrap structure, with the logs 13 inches long, while on the future cabin we want to go for C with 18 or 24 inch "throughwall" logs and the short logs being 6 inches with a 4 inch bead of cob mortar. Accurate visuals always help me with this stuff.

The trick is going to be cutting/splitting all that wood and then NOT burning it come winter. I mentioned before how we were not as impressed with the look of the full round logs and that they seemed to have a lot more issue with expansion/contraction as the humidity fluctuates throughout the year - plus, quartered pieces should season more quickly with our short/cool summers and build some beautiful holzhaufen.
 
Robbie Asay
Posts: 84
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I love your place! I'm very impressed with what you are doing with the streams.

Interestingly enough you'll understand my internet usage as I'm taking classes on web development mostly for my own curiosity and benefit.

What is the average humidity there? Here in western WA it's around 75% annually. It's damp enough through the year that power washing your siding is a good thing to do and I live a good 35 miles away from Puget Sound.

LOVE the snow pics!
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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It's spring!

Well, it's been spring for 2 months now. I've just been too busy checking out other people's threads and taking care of some business around here to say so until now. Figure I'll take a few minutes to do a general update on things. First off, the survival of the cordwood through this winter was impressive considering the troubles we had last year with the load-bearing stackwall method and full-round logs. The issue we're seeing now has been from the foundation and frost action on the outside...all the mud has "heaved" off. To be expected I suppose - think I mentioned already somewhere in here that doing rubble-trench or dry-stacked stone for the foundation would be smarter and is the plan for the cabin build (should I ever get there).

Here's a picture of the foundation "damage". It is definitely only cosmetic damage, though, so I'm not worried, plus the walls are not load bearing and if they do start coming down because of this, it'd just be the impetus to redo the foundations as dry-stack stone instead.

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foundation frost damage
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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A few more pictures of the cordwood/cobwood walls standing strong...well, the first one was the section I didn't finish before the freezes set in and it never got finished, plus, because the cob was very wet going into the winter, it suffered badly on the foundation issue mentioned (see the bottom right of that wall? YIKES!) .... so 2 strong walls and one not so strong
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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As soon as the ground thawed, I started on the new garden along the driveway-side of the new "bottom pond". For this one, since we've already got 3 stropharia beds and two more on the way, I went for a more standard "wood core" technique with already rotted wood, hoping to get the soil up to snuff a little faster. First, I dug out the bed to about 6 inches deep, then laid in well rotted birch logs, covered those with a layer of mulch hay, placed they clay/soil over this, then mulched the top. On the 19th, I planted some old "alaska pea" we had around in the bed so there's some legumes in there that, maybe, will produce a crop...then hopefully we can throw some collards in later this summer for a fall crop.

Toward the bottom end of the garden, I made two "volcano caldera" hills with clay, stuffed the inside with some (very sadly and truly disgusting) rancid beef & chicken livers pluss well-manured duck bedding, then capped them off with more clay, mulched over the top with more manured duck bedding hay and mulched that with fresh mulch hay. These will be, with luck, a couple very productive acorn squash hills.

A few pictures of the process - it was a late day project over two afternoons so please excuse the dark photo with the clay/soil going over the first layer of mulch hay.
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Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Due to our neighbor's inconsiderate, self-entitled and self-centered way of keeping a dog, we had to put in some basic fencing along the southwest portion of the property. Between their dog digging up gardens and compost heaps, doing the poop thing all over the place up here and the fact our poor dog was constantly chasing the thing out to their property and coming home with burs and all else stuck in her long, beautiful fur, it was fencing or the shotgun. Fencing seemed like a more humane, if not expensive, solution. So a 200 ft run of 4ft plastic deer fence with some deadhedging (thanks permies for making this an option in my mind!), plus some additional deadhedging running along the rest of the southern (road-facing) portion went in. I'm liking it so much I just might do more along the eastern and western boundaries to help keep Penny from wandering during her heat cycles.

Here are a few pictures of the run along the southern portion. It's above what will eventually be the wetland area. The area on the north side of this was cleared out a bit and planted with autumn olive and willow fedging, plus the deadhedge itself was planted with nearly 1lb of rosa rugosa seed from last years hip harvest (not expecting them to sprout until at least next spring). In the third picture, you'll see it to the top and left running behind the front pond.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Also on the menu this spring was getting in the new "duck run" garden beds. Where we set up the summer duck house last year was a mucky mess of duck poop, so why let it go to waste, right? Problem back there is that the soil is almost always saturated...would be great for another cattail pond, but I want cabbage and broccoli. I dug trenches in the mucked up mud, laid in partially rotted saplings, mulched over the wood and buried those, then mulched everything over again. The paths between the beds are planted with white dutch clover and it, just the other day, got planted and a nice plastic netting fence surround (including over the top) to keep the ducks from eating our seedlings.

3 cabbage varieties: Storage No 1 (F1), Derby Day (OP) and Red Express (OP)
Umpqua Broccoli (OP)
Borage
A few onions to help confuse the cabbage moths - later this spring, once the soil is warmed well, we'll be putting a few early jalepeno in the mix as well.

And a few pictures
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Tristan Vitali
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Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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One more update for tonight before I eat and get some sleep - this year's pea and bean trellis is in and planted with sugar snap pea. We were having a hard time figuring a good spot to put it so I caved and cleared a spot near/in the cabin pad area for it...good sun, decent drainage and wont shade out our other crops for the year. I cut a few maple poles, buried them in, and set up some guy-wires to help ensure they don't come down. We ran rope along the top and bottom, then some wool twine we got super cheap (and partially rotted) a while back went up as the zig-zag trellising. Also planted are some assorted morning glories and moonflowers The total run is around 40ft, shaped like \__/ with the opening to the south to capture sun/heat. Later this spring, we'll be planting out butternut hills and some cucumbers in this "courtyard" as it should work well for a heat trap.
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Tristan Vitali
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Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Oh, one more...definitely last one though

Potatoes are in - doing tire stacks again this year, 20 total, in a more sunny area beside the still under construction "blueberry pond". We planted about 20lbs of potatoes saved from the 50lb sacks we pick up in the fall harvest sales - commercial russet type, grown in-state.

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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Back to the updates while I have a few to spare

Seed starting on the RMH in the sunroom. We picked up some large, shallow plastic bins at wally world and a few dozen of those plastic place mats they sell. The place mats were hacked up into strips and used to create compartments in the bins. Soil mix is about 15% worm castings to 85% peat moss with wood ash and bone char from the RMH. Seeds went in between late january and early march...lost some of the tomatoes to damping off and had to replant, plus some things just never sprouted at all (we have the worst luck with bell peppers it seems). Oddly enough, basil, which I've never had trouble with in the past, has for 2 years in a row been impossible for me to sprout, both saved seed and newly ordered in the fall. Starting to think there's a curse involved

First picture shows the top of the RMH bench with the three bins on it. The bin closest has (bottom to top) leeks, dill, pineapple ground cherry (only a few sprouted), and eggplant (which might not have sprouted at all, meaning I was tricked by volunteer tomatoes). The middle bin is our roma tomatoes on closer end, black cherry tomatoes on the farther end...good success in this bin The bin farthest from the camera is an assortment of peppers, both sweet and hot, followed by the big tomato sandwich toms (brandywine, cherokee purple and debaro), followed by the early cherry tomato (which didn't sprout at all) and the oregon spring (which damped off badly but replanted and they came in nice). Along the side of the bins, the plastic tray closest is seeded with common thyme, the bit of egg crate was supposed to be basil, the milk jug bottoms are our rhubarbs, on their second year (not doing so hot yet, but hey...they're still alive!), the toilet paper rolls are comfrey that actually sprouted this time, plus some store bought scallions/green onion growing out their roots for planting.

Second picture shows the thermometer embedded in the bench - this was after two days since last firing and nights dropping into the middle 20s

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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Also grabbed some shots of the mushroom logs. For some reason, turkey tails have moved in and are starting to grow on some of the logs in ricks. Hope that's not a bad sign for the shittake and oysterthat *should* have been fruiting by last fall. I'm planning to do some shock treatments this year - maybe drown some logs in a barrel for a night.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Also have innoculated a few stumps around here. I've posted pictures of the sulfur mushroom stumps (did these in hemlocks) but haven't put up any of the phoenix and blue oysters that went in last year, so here's just one of each. There's around a dozen sugar maple stumps with the blue oyster and several dozen fir stumps with the phoenix oyster. Also including a shot of one beech totem - there's three total, innoculated with lions mane. Turkey tail is starting to take these over as well, which I hope is not a bad sign. I'm thinking some shocking on the totems is in order, too - a few good thumps with the mallet might help wake them up...if they're even home anymore
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blue oyster in sugar maple stump (one of a dozen or so)
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phoenix oyster in fir stumps (lots of these around now)
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beech totem with lions mane...note the turkey tails growing from between the cookies :(
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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A couple shots of our happy-ass LGD, Penny. She's calmed down so much over the last year it's unbelievable - never would have thought she'd become such a gentle and loving dog with the way she was as a puppy. She spends some time leashed still, to keep her from wandering too much, but now that she can be trusted to not dig up gardens, wander off every chance she gets to go exploring and to not be a general menace to ducks/cats/people, we're letting her roam the property more and more. That deadhedging between her and the road is a big part of that trust - know I feel a lot better taking my eyes off her for a moment with her trained to not cross that very obvious, impossible to miss "line in the sand"

First two were from our last and pretty much final snowfall April 9th or so and the third from a week or so ago.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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And finally, a couple shots of the mousers experiencing the great outdoors for the first time in their lives Well, not exactly in these shots...they've been going out off and on since late winter, but now that there's no cold wet white sh*t on the ground and there's things to chase, like cabbage moths and baby grasshoppers, they're starting to really love it.
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Almost forgot these pictures of the new "hot gardens" going in - wood core innoculated with stropharia/garden giant. You'll note I built with all different sized pieces of wood, plus chips and sawdust, of several species (birch, beech, aspen, alder and sugar maple).
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Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
60
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Robbie Asay wrote:I love your place! I'm very impressed with what you are doing with the streams.

Interestingly enough you'll understand my internet usage as I'm taking classes on web development mostly for my own curiosity and benefit.

What is the average humidity there? Here in western WA it's around 75% annually. It's damp enough through the year that power washing your siding is a good thing to do and I live a good 35 miles away from Puget Sound.

LOVE the snow pics!



Hi Robbie - sorry I missed your question. I'll point you to the city data pages for our two closest "official" weather monitoring sites, millinocket and bangor. Take an average of the two and that's us
http://www.city-data.com/city/Bangor-Maine.html#climate
http://www.city-data.com/city/Millinocket-Maine.html#climate

Definitely not as steady with the humid here as it looks on those graphs, though - we go from dewpoints in the negative 20s to dewpoints in the 70s, sometimes in the same week. That's usually spring and fall, though - humidity-wise, winter is generally dry and summer is generally damp overall. When the leaves are off the trees and the sun is still strong, though, all bets are off. Received my first static electricity shock in 3 years a week ago due to the near drought conditions we had for most of April It was getting so dry, we didn't even get frost on a few nights that dropped into the 20s!
 
Hans Quistorff
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Posts: 960
Location: Longbranch, WA
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It is interesting to compare there to here in Western Washington. Having lived north of you in several places along the St.John River I made the comparison that the polar vortex there comes off the Hudson Bay and ours comes off the gulf of Alaska which is a lot wormer. Our southwest weather comes from Hawaii instead of the Great Lakes. and our summer southerly flow comes up along the mountains from California instead of the Appalachians. If we happen to get a back flow from the northeast it comes down the Frazier River and is bitterly cold for a few days but there it comes in from the coast and can be quite mild.

The climate cycle here is like the 1950's last year and this year. With the possibility of climate change it may get even hotter this summer. My ponds are dry.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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So, it's been a long, hot, dry summer followed by a rather sudden and bitter winter, and I'm just now getting back to updates. I guess I kept myself too busy this year as I didn't get much for pictures and video, but there's a little to share on that front. I made an effort today to get out there and get a few more photos and video, but the video still needs to be edited and uploaded before I can put that up.

First, I'll do a quick overview of the goings-on regarding annual growies and conditions. This year was ridiculously hot and dry for us - lots of 80s and even 90s with very little rain. The ponds were pretty much dry from middle May through to early Novemeber. The fits and spurts we did get for rain were pitiful - 1/10" to 1/4" at a time with sometimes over a week between events. Thank god for this heavy clay! We'd have lost pretty much everything without that extremely high water holding capacity. Even still, we had alligator skin in the ponds, dust storms when the wind picked up and had to make trips for drinking water several times.

This dryness led to a rainwater harvesting structure being built in july/august to ensure we didn't go too thirsty with a catchment area of about 36ft by 28ft (so a nominal catchment of ~700 gallons per inch of rain). That gave us enough to finish out the year with drinking and dish water, duck water and a little for bathing every week or two (yes, was also a very dirty year!).

The dry also affected the various growies with the potatoes, broccoli, peas and squash taking a big hit. With the decision being water for humans and animals or irrigating, the choice was obvious. We still got a decent amount of squash for the year with an estimated 60 lbs of harvest, but that probably should have been double or triple. The butternut actually produced this year for the first time and the "gold nugget" bush type maxima did pretty well, but we got nothing from the acorn squash and only about 1/4 of the pie pumpkin harvested 2015. The poor potatoes, planted along the shore of the in-progress "blueberry pond", mostly gave up the ghost in august from heat and drought stress, turning yellow and then being attacked by mice. We still harvested at least 20lbs of potatoes from those stacks after sorting through the half-eaten and rotted ones...might have had closer to 50lbs if we got to them before the mice. Far cry from the 200lbs we were hoping for!

And the beloved sugar snap peas? Forget it...I think we got about a pint worth of pods before they just gave up. Most of the plants gave up before they even flowered.

We tried growing the "pink popcorn" corn variety with pretty limited success, likely also due to the drought conditions. The stalks got to their requisite 4-6ft height and produced 1 to 3 ears per, but the ears were mostly bare with undeveloped kernels. We have at least a 100 fold increase in seed planted to harvested, so that's something, but it didn't leave us much to enjoy for the winter by any means.

Things that did exceptionally well, however, were beans and tomatoes. We put up enough canned green beans to provide 3 meals a week for 5-7 months, plus dilly beans and plenty of fresh steamed green beans over the long summer. The tomatoes really went nuts with over 18 gallons of tomato sauce put up on top of tomato sandwiches and hours of blissfully munching fresh cherry tomatoes. We also gave probably 30lbs of tomatoes away to neighbors.

Garlic and onion production is set up well surprisingly. I planted 10 yellow multiplier onions (aka potato onion) in the mulched bed in fall 2015 which turned into a harvest of 60 (thought it was more than that but records indicate otherwise) - 50 were replanted for next year. Also in fall 2015, we started a strain of siberian garlic with about 20 cloves planted - 60 cloves went back in the ground with another 40 or so kept out for eating. Both seemed to do pretty well despite the higher temps and dry conditions, so hopefully a normal year wont hit them too hard!

Also put up for winter was around 2 gallons of homemade sauer kraut from a decent cabbage crop out of the duck run garden, several quarts worth of blackberry, raspberry and strawberry jams, plus a few assorted pints of peas, magenta spreen, etc. Slowly but surely, growies and harvests are starting to settle into a rhythm. Turnips and kale also did well this season, coming out sweet and crisp beyond comparison, with enough to enjoy ourselves plus some to feed the ducks, while collards and lettuce fell flat with none even making it to harvestable size before bolting or going brown. Arrowhead, pickerel weed and calamus flowered early and went dormant, while, amazingly, the water lilies grew like mad in the dried up pond bottoms, producing copious amounts of leaves with super-short stems.

Someone upstairs decided that middle october was a good time to turn on the spigot and we pretty much made up for the drought conditions all summer in just a few weeks. Typical here I guess, but made for quite a mess. As the ponds filled up, the water lillies were flooded over with feet of water. Neighbors that saw their wells going dry for the first time in 30 years were flush with water again and our ponds were overflowing down to the streams below. Obviously, after such a year, I became more determined than ever to retain our snowmelt
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One of the cranberries planted into the blueberry polyculture this spring (look for the tag)
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Blueberries with cranberries underplanted along the north and west shore of the middle blueberry stream pond
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One of our turnips harvested after the first snow
 
Tristan Vitali
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Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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So the second big update will be on the perennial plantings and thinning/clearing work. Unfortunately, there's no pictures of most of this, but I'll pop the few in that I do have of the pasture work. Spring 2016 was supposed to be a year off from bareroot and plant orders, but that didn't happen. I got the bug and ordered in 50 cranberry (actual cranberry, not the bush type), a bunch of hardy kiwi and some elderberry. The cranberry were planted around the backside of the blueberry stream ponds, under the establishing blueberries. Even with such a dry year, they got through beautifully and even put on some growth. The kiwi, a mix of 20 anna and 10 chung bai females with 10 male meader vines, went in dispersed throughout the property and did definitely struggle a bit with the heavy clay and super-drought conditions. 10 elderberry went in 3 clumps - one in the "peach grove", one in the oak forest and one down along the deadhedge at the south end of the property pictured on the previous page. I don't know if they'll make it.

I finally finished with transplanting out the remainder of the autumn olive bareroot and got another 25 of the black locust planted out...only 50 more of those to go! The black locust that I heeled in two seasons ago are approaching 10 feet tall now, so that's the #1 priority come spring thaw.

Black walnut and black cherry seeds were put in the ground throughout the walnut guild area. I believe we have an even split of the bareroot walnut and butternut that survived up there with a total of between 10 and 15 out of the 35 total planted. Of the two, the butternut definitely has a higher survival rate. None of the pears I seeded the previous fall sprouted for 2016 so I left things alone for now with that. There's still quite a bit of clearing and thinning to do up there and A LOT of soil work to be done (thin black acidic topsoil over heavy clay and rock), so I'm not surprised the pear didn't do anything. The blackberries, as expected, have made a huge comeback and I'm expecting an excellent harvest up there next year.

The pasture area was expanded by another half acre or so with more apples seeded along with some crabapple, redbud and mulberry. The composition is really coming along with a lot more tender grasses, clover, yellow dock, evening primrose, dandelion, etc establishing. Still not seeing a lot of the seeds I've put down over the last couple years but things are definitely coming along. The ferns are down to about 10% of the composition now and most of the brushy birches and aspen saplings have finally started to give up and rot away. With such a dry year, too, the rot of the buried slash was exceptional, allowing for much more aerobic soil conditions than in the past which should be a huge boon for nutrient cycling. We might even be ready to bring in a goat or two! Still lots more to be done and I've been working on more expansion this winter as I harvest firewood...at least another acre worth of clearing and thinning before all's said and done there.

A new garden bed was installed along the skidtrail running from the cabin pad area out toward the peach grove (just cardboard with a thick layer of mulch over it) and planted with fava bean during the summer - didn't get any harvest from them as they were flowering just in time for the freezes to start. I also put in the two rhubarb crowns we started from seed a couple years ago (glaskins perpetual) - they had just enough time to settle in before the cold hit thankfully, so they should make it. The garden bed went along the southern "mound" of the skid trail, then along the central mound where we have some really nice raspberries (two clumps of wild primacane, in fact) I seeded some peach pits and transplanted comfrey and siberian pea shrub. Along the northern "mound" which acts as the southern border of the western oak forest, seeds from some truly delicious local wild apple trees were put in along with dwarf russian almond and seaberry. The northern rut was filled with thinned out saplings while the southern rut acts as the pathway.

In the peach grove, more peach pits and some apple were seeded after I did some more work cleaning out the balsam fir carpet trying to establish itself there. The peach rootstock that sprouted back from that ill-fated gurney's order are hanging in there, not growing much yet, but they leafed out and grew a little. Autumn olive and wild fox grape that were planted in there are starting to put on some size now, and clover is starting to take after several limings and soil surface disturbances. I'll need to thin the area out a bit more this spring, taking half of the cover I still have there as the real beneficiaries of all the reduced competition has been the aspens

I began work on clearing and thinning along the edge of the "western" oak forest area this summer, starting at the skid trail mentioned above and moving my way up toward the walnut guild. I didn't make it all too far, maybe halfway, but was able to open up a large enough swath and create some of the edge contour I'm hoping to have running along the interface between it and the fruit savanna. Deadhedging was put all along the forest edge and then apples and cherry, plus some seaberry, seeded just along the outside of the deadhedging. Into the opened areas, mint and roman chamomile were transplanted from our starter patches down here in the current zone 1 areas. I believe a few mulberry also were able to sneek into this mix.

Inside the oak forest area where I thinned a few spots, I was able to seed in some persimmon, redbud, various american plum varieties (standard, goose, dunbars, ussuri) and some medlar. Still much to be done with all that. Also, some of the ramp seed I had left from 2015 found new homes.

In the northern end of the oak forest transitioning into the walnut guild, shagbark hickory was seeded.

And finally, I began work on the northern end of the pine forest (which had very little pine in it) and seeded around 150 siberian stone pine in a rough grid. Lots of birch, aspen, beech and maple are still coming out of this area for firewood and building material as I try to get it all opened up. In an effort to fully mimic the natural fire regeneration of a pine forest, I'm scattering all the RMH ashes this winter in the area. Hopefully that helps these guys do their thing and get going fast. I don't want to wait 20+ years for a pine cone!

As always, seedings of these perennials are quite dense with sometimes only 3 or 4 feet between and generally two seeds or more per hole. Sometimes, for things that I'm expecting difficult germination from, as many as 7 seeds will go in a single hole. STUN is definitely what I'm shooting for here with as much genetic diversity as I can muster and a density of planting that allows for high losses to soil/climate/disease while still having enough left for rigorous culling of non-performers

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The lower pasture area
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The new section of the pasture opened up on the eastern side, looking east
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More of the new section of pasture looking north
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 333
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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So the third update will cover building projects. I, again, didn't get much of anything for pictures and video, but have gotten a few just today that will need to be sorted, organized and posted later. Right now, I'm just trying to ensure I get these updates online before I lose the opportunity to do so!

Early spring, right about the time I had posted updates last, I put together the new summer duck house. I did grab pictures and video of that today, sans-roof and buried in snow, and will have to post them up later. I have a couple shots of it from early summer that I'll post below as well. The structure is red and sugar maple timberframing with deer fencing, window screen and hardware cloth. The roofing was composed of scrap paneling with layers of plastic and old blue tarps over the top. Pretty ugly but highly functional. I'll save more detail for when I post pictures.

Following that and spring sowing, I began working on the shed-wrap structure, getting the haybale walls replaced with cordwood and putting on extensions that fully wrap the sunroom on the east and west sides. I scored some nice double-pane windows from the local earthworks and fuel supplier guys down the road while getting propane tanks filled last winter, plus some more from one of my aunts who was doing some remodeling at her place in NH, so we were able to include a lot more glass in the new walls. This turned out to be both good and bad. I did grab photos and video here as well, just today, so wont go into a lot of detail now - more to follow on this.

As mentioned in the first post, due to the ridiculously dry summer we had this year, I put up a large water harvesting structure. The thing worked great for what it was designed to do, but once the sky opened up and the ground got saturated, I should have expected trouble. The structure was a simple rectangle roundwood frame composed of four rows of posts tied together beams going lengthwise and something like reversed rafters going widthwise. Over the top of this was a huge vinyl bilboard tarp tied and stapled down to the frame. The whole structure was higher at one end lengthwise, lower at the other. Something like below from a birds-eye, but imagine the "_" characters as shallow "V" shapes creating channels for the water to flow down. Barrels were placed at the bottom of these sloped channels to capture the water.

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Now, because it was square, the posts were shallowly buried and the whole thing was quite lightweight (nothing more than about 3 inch diameter was used), I did expect some trouble, but it was so strong during the dry summer season that I let my guard down. Once the ground got wet, the whole thing got wobbly, and on our first snow, down it came. Thankfully, the tarp wasn't damaged (much) - that thing cost a pretty penny. Most of the wood is being reused and/or becoming firewood now, so really, I'm only out a few days of work and the nails that will never be bent straight again.

No pictures of this structure, unfortunately, and it's long gone by now so no way to get any for you. You'll have to use your imaginations  As noted in the first post, nominally, it could harvest 700 gallons per inch of rain. In reality, that was probably more like 500 gallons with splash, water missing the barrels during heavier downpours and puddling followed by evaporation. Still, I'd estimate we harvested at least 1,500 gallons between early august and middle october - a life saver for us and the ducks on such a dry year. We even were able to stock up on water going into the winter freeze this year, putting away around 300 gallons total before the first snows hit and took the structure down.

Oh yes - also there was the new solar panel frame. We're up to three 100 watt panels now and the new frame was build in I think middle april or may. I set it up with a removable frame for the panels separate from the stand itself this time as the weight of the panels makes it pretty hard to move around. I tell ya - not much you can't do with a chainsaw, some old 2x4s and a few nails  Once you've thrown in some scrap rope, there's nothing that can't be done.

I also decided to finally upgrade to an MPPT charge controller (been running a 30amp PWM for this last year and a 20amp PWM the previous two years). Unfortunately, because it's been so icy this year, I can't get the cabling loose enough to install it! I finally broke down and ordered 100ft of new panel cabling which should be in soon so I can get it done before the end of the month. I'm hoping to see the gain in daily charge that I'd get from another 100w panel with the overvoltage coming off those panels in the bitter cold and clear skies we get late january through late february around here  As it stands, even on partly cloudy days around this time of year, we're getting a good 30-40amps of charge off the 3 panels - that's more than half of what we use in a day. We're having to rely on the generator less and less, and that means less trips to buy gas, less ugly, noisy, stinky generator time, and less wear and tear. We've needed to run the generator once and sometimes twice a week, burning about a gallon each time, since middle december. This is down from every other day, burning up to 1.5 gallons each time, just two winters ago.

And finally, the 4" RMH build from 2015 was a failure. It was just too small for our cold winters and the amount of heating we need out there. Also, chopping the wood small enough to feed that little monster was annoying and tedious as all get-out. This fall, it was time for an upgrade. After doing some research and playing with math, I decided to give things a go with just rebuilding the core. The cross-sectional area inside the bench is at least large enough to accommodate a 7" RMH system, but the stack is only 4" round ducting, so it was a gamble not replacing that. The gamble, though, paid off. The improved 6" system is composed of a regular clay brick, rectangular core wrapped with fiber blanket, round heat riser with fiber blanket insulation at apx 43" tall, a 30 gallon steel drum, a 4.5ft tall stratification/bell chamber directly behind the barrel which also acts as ash pit and manifold, 12 foot long bench with oversized interior to allow for better heat capture, feeding out to a 4" round duct exhuast stack embeded in the wall with "H" on top. It runs like a dream and puts out some serious heat.

Well, it runs like a dream on nights that aren't TOO cold, anyway. We are suffering from perpetual leaking around the exhaust stack roof hole that has eroded away the entirety of the outer wall section, exposing the exhuast stack to the outside air temp. On nights that drop below -10* (like last night), the system becomes sluggish and runs cool as it fights to push the rapidly cooling exhuast up the stack. At about 0*, however, that baby really sings

I grabbed some video of it today that needs to be edited and uploaded still, so updates coming with that down the line as well. Going to wrap this up for now, though, so I can enjoy some hot mocha and relax for a bit. Still to come in this update blitz are ducks, photos I *do* have ready and some thoughts on all this craziness I'm doing around here
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Tristan Vitali
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So back to it with more photos and some video, starting with the pine forest and blueberry pond dig. I'm posting photos of the blueberry pond dig that took place just before the ground froze in addition to a rambling video "tour" taken the other day here: https://vimeo.com/199242858 (it's still be converting as I post this, so give it a bit)



After such a dry year, as mentioned in the first update post, I was determined to get more water storage in for both the ducks and for irrigation. The blueberry pond has been planned for a good long time now, since before I even bought the land, and it was high time to do it. We also needed (and will need) copious amounts of clay for building projects and driveway repair. So, after finagling the finances a bit and receiving a small bonus for Turkey Day, I decided to have the earthworks and fuel guys down the road put in 3 hours of work with their excavator. This translated to an hour of loading and unloading plus 2 hours of actual digging, but the results were spectacular. I honestly expected only half the work that was done to be accomplished that day, but the guy running that machine knew his stuff and surprised the heck out of me

So following along with the plans, the blueberry pond itself is somewhere around a 1/8 acre surface area, oblong in shape with length running north-south, with enough depth to ensure aquaculture is possible in the long term (maximum dept of the dig went to about 20ft). The original plans called for the pine forest to extend all along the western short of the pond, but due to shading concerns for the future cabin site, we've reduced this to only extend about halfway up the pond edge from the south. The pine forest species, primarily blueberry and cranberry, will be planted all along the actual pond edge with the western shore being very steep and cliff-like, allowing the bushes to overhang the pond. The eastern shore borders the driveway and the interface between the two is planned to be a strawberry bed interplanted with onion, garlic, spinach, etc. Already, these polycultures are planted along the blueberry stream ponds lower down the driveway, with already some 200 strawberry plants on the eastern edges and nearly 300 blueberry along the western edges. The blueberry pond shores just continue this patterning.

The northern end of the pond will need some more excavator work to create a shallower beach area where we'll be putting down a couple/few loads of sand. Eventually, I want to stock the pond with bluegill (possibly some trout but we'll see) and they'll need spawning areas, plus, call me crazy but I want a beach to lounge on  Rather than continuing the pines up along the western shore, the area to the north and west of the pond will be contoured a bit and planted with primarily juneberry (likely Amelanchier alnifolia), possibly mixed with some sand cherry (should the soil dry out enough) along with a few eastern redbud and manchurian apricot. Until the soils are ready, we'll be putting in more annual garden beds through that area for the next couple years.

The southern 1/4 of the pond was left rather shallow (might even be too shallow - we'll see once the snow's gone) to serve as a marshland area, allowing for sweet flag, pickerelweed and arrowhead cultivation. I'm looking into doing some wild rice in the mix as well. Just inside the eastern shoreline for the length of the pond I'll be setting a shallow shelf for more arrowhead cultivation. I'll also be sinking a tree top or two to provide cover for fish once things are at that point.

Here's the latest incarnation of the pine forest guild/polyculture "layers" with items already in (planted, transplanted, seeded, innoculated or just already present) bolded - items seeded that haven't yet appeared in italics. Much will need to be propogated still as numbers are still small, but at least they're in!  You'll note in the video that I talked about some red maple in the pine forest suffering heart rot - these are all coming out of this area as I really would rather focus on the sugar maples where I can.

Overstory:
Siberian Stone Pine, Eastern White Pine

Understory:
Beech, Black Locust, Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple, Crabapple, Apple, Eastern Redbud, Black and White Spruce, Balsam Fir, White and Yellow Birch, Willow, Ash

Vine:
Wild Yam, Fox Grape

Shrub:
Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Hazelnut

Herbaceous:
Bracken & Ostrich Fern, Evening Primrose, Bunchberry, Partridge Berry, Snowberry, Sweet Joe Pyeweed, Sweet Cicely, Stinging Nettle, American Licorice, Virginia Bluebells, Columbine

Groundcover:
Cranberry, Strawberries, Cloudberry, Dewberry, Wintergreen, Viola, Lobelia, Skullcap, Ramps, Wild Ginger

Roots:
Daylilies, Giant Solomon's Seal, Hosta

Fungus:
Garden Giant, Shittake, Pearl, Pheonix and Blue Oyster, Lions Mane, Chicken of the Woods, Turkey Tail
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Tristan Vitali
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a few more pictures after the dig was completed
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Tristan Vitali
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So next in line is the shedwrap structure. I got some more video the other day showing the

exterior here: https://vimeo.com/199247816



As well as some of the interior here: https://vimeo.com/199250650



Excuse the issues with the camera battery quitting on me

Attached also are some pictures.

I'll the video and pictures speak for themselves - same building techniques were used for the cordwood though I did try stuffing some sections around the duckhouse with hay insulation rather than plastic which is providing better insulation right now but I'm concerned about rotting. Also, you'll note lots of leaking and wet wall issues due to the ice damming. Will make sure to show a picture of that, too - we've had some serious ice storms this year with over 1" of rain at temps down to 15* a few times...not a kind year on the cob.

Also in the second video, I show off the 6" RMH core rebuild. Pictures back there on a cloudy day are impossible even with lights on it seems - far too dark - so video was the only way to go. The core is thus:
> feed tube and burn tunnel built with standard clay brick (not firebrick) wrapped with ceramic fiber blanket
> riser apx 43" length of 6" diameter round heating duct wrapped with ceramic fiber blanket that was partly soaked on the inside with clay slip (providing some rigidity as the ducting burns out)
> 30 gallon steel drum

Everything else is pretty much as it was - the same bench and exhaust stack from the 4" system build in 2015.
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Severe Ice Damming
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Southwest "extension" wall
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And same from another angle
 
Tristan Vitali
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more pictures of the exterior of the shedwrap
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Southeast extension wall
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Eastern walls with duck "sunroom"
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Inside the duck "sunroom"
 
Tristan Vitali
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I made this quick video before the battery gave out on the camera covering the winter food stores from our harvest plus an overview of the solar setup. On the solar setup, you'll see the charge controller reporting 12.6V, the two 100ah batteries wired in parallel, the 750 watt pure sine wave inverter sitting on top of the batteries, plus the battery charger sitting on the floor that we plug into the portable cheapo generator. The three 100 watt panels are shown outside through the window. It's a mess - cobwebs, mud and tangles of wires, but it's functional

https://vimeo.com/199252184

 
Tristan Vitali
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And, finally (for now), ducks. I do have video but that will have to wait until at least next week to upload as well since I used up my vimeo upload quota this afternoon, but I can put up some pictures now.

2016 was a year of duckers. In June, 12 golden layer hybrids arrived at the post office. I'm attaching photos of them to this post. We chose 6 as all female and 6 as unsexed, so of course, we got 7 girls and 5 drakes. I've culled one of the drakes so far and will take 2 more, leaving 2 to tend the girls.

They started laying in early November at only 4.5 months old which caught us offguard - expected them to start at about 6 months. For most of November and December, we were getting an average 3 eggs per day from them, but they've either stopped or we have an egg eating duck in there as we haven't had an egg in over a week now. I'm hoping it's the day length and cold because figuring out which duck is eating eggs will be near impossible

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Tristan Vitali
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We'll have to wait for the videos to show the muscovy ducklings, but they're still here as well. We're down to just 4 of the original 13 ducks with only Patch, Egghead, Brownie and Surrogate remaining. All the rest have been culled and graduated.

Over the summer, however, we ran 3 nests. We should have had 4 nests, so to speak, with 3 with ducks sitting and one in the makeshift cooler incubator I set up. Egghead didn't sit this year for whatever reason, but because she was such a patient mother last year and generally stays out of trouble, we decided to keep her on. The other three were all busily brooding and raising ducklings for the summer. The incubator worked great up until we had a stretch of rainy weather and the generator kicked on us - we had to run all the eggs started in the incubator out and fill up Brownie and Patch's nests with those eggs. The 18 eggs from the incubator went under Patch and Patch's eggs, started around the same time as Brownies, went under Brownie.

And boy did they do well. Surrogate hatched 9 ducklings on June 30/July 1 followed by Brownie's hatch of 7 between July 16th and 18th, then 7 more from Patch on the 25th through the 27th. Of the 23 muscovy ducklings, I believe 19 made it to adulthood with 3 being lost in one day to drowning in a bucket (likely a drake got a hold of them) and 1 that got trampled into the mud by its mother

Eggs were off the charts this year with us not even being able to keep up with them. The muscovy started laying in late March, 19 total for that month, followed by 41 in April, 137 in May, 66 in June, 14 in July and a hiatus in August during the worst of the heat, then another 20 in September and 5 more in October. Just over 300 eggs for the year from our original 7 girls, not counting the ones we let them sit on nor the ones Penny ate before we found them hidden in the blackberries by their pond.

Next year we HAVE TO set up a roadside stand and try to offload some of these eggs  In fact, I'd like to set up a relationship with a local restaurant if possible, but that's a whole other story. With the layers laying an egg a day, plus all these muscovy laying every day or two through the first half of summer, we're liable to be drowning in eggs if we don't find a market.

Again, will have to wait for the videos to see the muscovy as ducklings, but I do have a few shots of the duckers all grown up and doing their thing the other day that I'm attaching here.
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Egghead and Patch sitting on the perch in the duck house
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Kind of a dark shot but here's a portion of the duckers in their house
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A couple of the ducks trying to squeeze past each other, one coming in and one going out to the duck sunroom - lots more bills are visible in the low light to the right
 
Tristan Vitali
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Been a while since I said I was going put the video of ducklings up, but finally got one up...a year later. We had a few nests and this is only the first, plus we brought in a dozen golden layers which you'll see toward the end of the video swimming in the pond. Some of these little cuties are sitting on nests now: 5 nests being sat on so far with two more waiting for ducky butts  Egghead and Surrogate are sitting, plus 4 of the ducklings from last year on 3 other nests (yes, 2 ducks in one nest...again). We've kept a total of 10 muscovy girls - 4 from the original raft and 6 of their daughters from last year. To avoid any inbreeding, all muscovy drakes were culled by the beginning of March and I ordered 18 fertile muscovy eggs from a random farm on ebay to (hopefully) introduce new genetics through 3 drakes. These are in two of the nests. The other 60 some-odd eggs, with more to come, are golden layer offspring and sterile moullards from the layer drakes servicing the muscovy girls. Next year, the layer drakes will be replaced with new blood as well to avoid issues with the mallard genetic lines.

Will try to do what I can to start documenting again - been seriously slacking off with it this year...too busy to think of it and the camera battery isn't holding a charge, so needs to be replaced. Pictures, though, are definitely doable, so will TRY to get some shots. This Sunday looks hot and humid, so perfect day to take it easy and get some pictures of everything. With luck and determination, this year will have more updates on things like the upcoming juneberry area, our try at growing grains for the duckers, a new freestanding greenhouse, progress on the blueberry pond plantings and shoreline tweaks, the (planned) rabbit colony, our roadside stand, general growies progress, pine forest updates, the cabin pad build/construction, the start on the "perch pond", and much more. Hopefully pictures of LOTS of ducklings, too

So here's the first hatch of muscovy ducklings from last year:
 
Tristan Vitali
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Sorry to anyone following the thread - I'm terrible at this stuff I guess  So, about a year later, I'll get some pictures from last year up, maybe a few winter scenes, and finally (maybe) the pics I just took this evening. Lots more gardens, lots of ducklings running around last year, and so on...otherwise, not too much progress on the overall picture really. It's been difficult to get things rolling on things between finances (which are always lacking it seems, no matter what) and delays on excavator work last year.

So first up, last year I popped up a hoophouse/greenhouse. There's a roundwood post and beam set up down the center so it doesn't collapse under the killer snow load we get
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Tristan Vitali
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Lots and lots of growies...here's a nice run of photos for ya
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Tristan Vitali
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Just in case you didn't realize that practically everything we grow is edible
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Tristan Vitali
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This is the story of a very happy Skinny Cat
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Tristan Vitali
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And now, DUCKIES
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13 from a single nest! WOOT!!
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This girl nested under the blackberries - took us a couple days to find her!
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She only hatched one
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Tristan Vitali
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Got more than I realized - here's a few more (file names are descriptive but the last few have captions)

Edit: This post was supposed to be after the next, but the next post failed to go up...insert swear words here
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rescued from the new blueberry pond shoreline garden
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seeded from roadside collected seed two years ago
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this guy's in the sunroom - went nuts on us...that's ONE PLANT!
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mice ate my acorns, but seems a few survived the carnage
 
Tristan Vitali
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Ok - can't seem to find any winter photos. DOH! Here's the pictures I grabbed this evening...all growies getting rolling for the season. There's much more planted, even in the pictures I took, and many more things established around the property that I didn't photograph...but it's a general idea of what's going on so far for the season.

One thing to note is all the bottles being used for bell cloches. Instead of starting a million tomatoes indoors, I seeded these tomatoes at the end of april directly into the gardens and then popped the bottles over the top. They've been through several frosts and even one total freeze (hitting 27*F or so) with no noticeable damage, and just about every tomato seed had sprouted by two weeks ago. They're already as far along as the ones I started in March for transplants which is really encouraging. As long as things continue along, I'll be direct seeding the majority of the tomatoes from now on. Squash, pole beans and the pink popcorn also got bottles to hopefully help encourage them to sprout faster in the cool soil (it's barely the end of may - we usually can't get them in until early june). Doing good with the popcorn so far - that's up and going with soil temps in other areas of the gardens still under 65*F.

I also used bottles over cucumbers - the cukes were transplanted out and are ALWAYS decimated by slugs, but the slugs don't seem to be nailing them under the bottles. Just about anything we usually transplant out or that prefers warmer soil temps gets nailed by slugs most years, so hopefully this is a new tool to help keep 75% of what we plant from being eaten over night  Fingers crossed
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Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
2019 PDC for Scientists, Engineers, Educators and experienced Permies
https://permies.com/wiki/100059/PDC-Scientists-Engineers-Educators-experienced
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