Sandra Ellane

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since Nov 08, 2011
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Recent posts by Sandra Ellane

Hi Matthew,

I just had a conversation with my son’s employer who is a landscaper and needs to set up a similar system. I installed a few rainbarrels this year and he came by to see how I did it. You can see a write up of it here:

Like Ed, I run my drip irrigation off of the city water, and use the rainbarrels for separate watering. There’s not enough pressure to force water through the emitters. Also, even running off of the hose bibb from the house, and going through a screen filter, I have a couple emitters every year that clog. Any little bit if dirt can clog them. I saw your link to the first-flush diverter, but if bugs/leaves blow down the downspout in between rainstorms that stuff could end up in your barrels. Also, take into account any algae growth, etc. That all can find its way out to the emitters and clog them.

I like Morgan’s suggestion of the drywall screw, that way it’s more of a soaker situation. I am considering using a soaker hose on the barrels that are near a grassy area, so this is similar.

A suggestion regarding the leach field concept- instead of tapping into the bottom of the container, you may want to tap in toward the top, that way the container will hold some water after it stops raining, but will feed the leach field once it fills up. I installed some pvc connections toward the top of my barrels for overflow, and I direct that overflow to the surrounding plants. It may not be a big deal for you if you live somewhere that gets frequent rain, but I’m in the desert where it can go weeks without raining.
10 years ago
Do a google search, with criteria = companion planting edu. There's a few nice articles, such as

Plants with strong odors do confuse, deter, and oftentimes stop certain pests.
-Certain plants hide other certain plants we don't want detected.
-Certain plants, and especially herbs, are considered nursery plants for the good insects providing shelter, nectar, pollen, and even dark, cool moist spots for lacewings, lady beetles, parasitic flies, and wasps.
-Certain plants serve as a 'trap' crop, which pushes insects away from other essential plants (rue's bad odor and disagreeable taste will keep even the most persistent of pests away).
-Certain plants create habitats which attract more beneficial insects (such as lady beetles, praying mantis, and ambush bugs).

There's also a rather critical one,

Years ago I picked up a used copy of Rodale's The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, and it in part describes companion planting similarly to a guild- certain plants will benefit from the shade of other plants; some plants bloom early before their neighbors have a chance to leaf out and shade them.

I have a feeling that the reaspon there's not much scientific data on this is because of funding sources. Who is going to fund a study that will prove a way to minimize chemical intervention? Not the chemical companies.

Start small, with the simple concepts, or you'll get overwhelmed. Then branch out as you feel comfortable.

Good luck (and welcome!).

10 years ago
A few months backI purchased a small quantity of soapberry seeds from and am satisfied with them. I followed the propagation suggestions in this pdf from the US forestry service US forestry Western Soapberry. I used a utility knife to make a shallow cut in the seed coating because they are very hard and soaking them didn’t do much (I tried soaking overnight in water, then tried soaking for a couple hours in vinegar).

I live in the city so I can’t have too many of these trees- I planted 3 seeds and two came up (the third probably would have sprouted too, but I was happy with the two. They'll take a while to grow up, but for about $5 it's not too bad.
10 years ago
I built my own from plastic 55 gallon barrels and PVC parts. I based the design off of a PDF that the City of Albuquerque made available. I used PVC tee fittings so I could chain multiple barrels together. The write up for the barrels, photos, etc is here:

And the write up for designing the system (including the link to the PDF with the design info) is here:

They’re really easy to set up and so far they’re working great. Just look on Craigslist for the barrels and make sure to ask what the barrels were used for. Some of mine had chili peppers and others had rubbing alcohol.
10 years ago
The houses here in NM are almost always poured slab on grade, but we have termites (and we're definitely in the dry desert). I had a house that got some in one portion, along a brick patio of all places. I think you're wise to keep wood a little ways away from the house.

By the way, termites like drywall too, not just the wood itself. Chickens will eat them though .

Maybe the closer you are to the house, you can modify your hugel bed to not have as much bulky wood. Build it with earthworm-friendly substances to get your soil in a good state.
10 years ago
Alex is right- a lot of sun is needed. It's almost like solar cooking your soil (in fact, I guess it IS solar cooking )

Here's a link to what it entails:

Incidentally, I used a bbq grill to cook some soil on a smaller scale- the amount is more than what can be done in the kitchen oven and without stinking up the house), but of course much less than solarizing on the ground. You can find my write up here.
10 years ago
Do you have access to a fridge and microwave, or would you be relying on a cooler? I take salads routinely, as well as leftover casseroles, etc.

And definitely sandwiches! (Yes Leila, many of us fall back on these )

To keep the bread from getting soggy I bring packets of condiments that I keep around. If there's a fridge available you can bring bottles of condiments and salad dressing and keep it at work during the week. Hopefully you don't have a food thief there....We had that problem for a while....
10 years ago
What about solarizing the soil? Downside is that it kills everything including beneficials. I've used solarization on a small scale and especially when I've planted something and it almost immediately wilted up from a bad infestation. I wouldn't use it large scale though.
10 years ago
The much-interviewed farmer, author and polyculture advocate is renowned for his wry observations about America's food system. On Saturday, Salatin passes through New Mexico to offer some of his earthy insights to the kids at Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm. For $60 ($25 children under 11), you can listen in over a brunch assembled from ingredients raised right at the school. Students will also play marimba music and offer tours of the self-sustaining Santa Cruz, N.M., property, about 20 miles outside of Santa Fe. For tickets, which benefit the middle school Montessori, visit or call (505) 747-9717.

More info can also be found at polyface farms and
10 years ago

Dale Hodgins wrote:

I found $2 worth of duct tape and set about to fix the truck once and for all.

Red Green would be proud!!
10 years ago