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Jen Shrock

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since Jan 25, 2013
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NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Recent posts by Jen Shrock

You can read about my property here:

Jennifer, your property is truely inspirational and gives hope (and proof) of what is possible with proper techniques in areas where so many think it is not possible. Thank you for sharing it.

For health reasons I will very likely be transplanting myself to a new climate sometime within the next year or so. Hot dry would be best for me but I know that I have had a mental block to that because my mind thinks brown and lack of life when I think of those areas. (Keep in mind I am coming from a temperate, adequate rainfall climate.) I have been researching some less than optimal (aka. trying to find a happy medium areas) but in the back of my mind I know what would be best. This is going to be a MAJOR life alteration for me and I only want to do it once, so I am encouraged with what I have seen and read on this thread that the area that would be best for me physically might also be able to become a form of paradise that I am accustomed to. The discussion on this thread and your article on your own site has certainly allow my biased blinders to be reduced a bit. To take your original question a little further,

* What advice would you have for a temperate climate transplant thinking of making a move to a desert climate?
* Beyond plants, is there insight into property considerations?
* Is there a limit to property size that you would try to tackle in an enviroment like this for a newbie?
* Are there groups or other educational resources a person could plug into to help someone establish that different mind set and let them have a group of mentors that would help them shorten the learning curve of such an enviroment?
* If one were to make an advanced trip to explore/research an area a bit, what would you suggest to focus on?

I do find the hot desert to be quite fascinating in what is possible, I just haven't quite wrapped my mind around all that goes along with that yet. Any additional insight and suggestions would be beyond appreciated.
8 years ago
I would be interested in knowing if a concept like this could work to cool a "greenhouse" enough in a hot climate (like Phoenix) to make it reasonable growing conditions during some of the hottest summer months. I know Zach Weiss has a lot of experience with this technology and using it for the heating aspects. I am curious of yours and his thoughts on the possibility of cooling a structure (with the suppliment of shade cloth) to a temperature in which plants would actually survive during the summer. I think if you could get that side of things figured out, with a low or not input cost, in a harsh enviroment like the desert, then it could be used to extend food production year round there too.
8 years ago

Chris Barnes wrote:I understand that adding sand to clay makes a concrete-like substance. In any case, there are numerous data sources around that warn not to do that. Again, this is not something that I've done, but I would be very cautious with that idea.

It depends upon the type of sand being used. Yes, there are types to stay away from, but there are some very applicable, useful types as well for this builder's sand (I believe some refer to it as masonry sand).
8 years ago
Bear with is the middle of the night and I am trying to dust the cobwebs off of the grey matter...

At some point I remember reading or watching a video (seems to me it was a Geoff Lawton one) about a technique in which, before putting in swales, the downhill/berm side of what was to be the swale was keyline plowed/ripped first and then the swale was built and the berm built over the keylined area. If I remember right, this allowed the water absorption even more than just the swale/berm combination. I think that I have also read of people keylining the bottom of swales at times, but I would think that you would want the affect under the berm myself, because it is the plant/tree growing part of the system.

Also, when at a workshop in CA last year, someone mentioned that they read (I believe it might have been in a Brad Lancaster book) about a tree planting system in which a tree was planted with a "pit" right beside it that was packed with cardboard and soaked at the time of planting and this "pit" then acted similar to a wicking bed for the tree to have a source of moisture to help it in it's initial establishment stage. This concept might even be able to be transferred to your infiltration basin concept...instead of using wood (since it sounds like it is lacking in your area) could you layer in cardboard quite thick to use as your "sponge" instead of the wood.

Both concepts would need looked into more because I am trying to dig back through things I read/seen/heard. They do seem like potential prospects for your site.
8 years ago
Alan - You are kind and serve to remind me what it is about permaculture people that I like so much. They are kind, caring, considerate people. I think that I could get my dad to help with the install here and there and I have a new dear that, while he didn't know anything about fibromyalgia when we me, has been learning and I think that he would do what he could to help. There really isn't a permaculture "community" locally. The very few permaculture people I have met or talked to tend to keep very closely to themselves around here.

You asked about my plans. Here is the concept for the front half of the property. The area, from the left edge to where it jogs on the right is 50 ft x 200 ft. The back area of my yard (not shown) is 100 ft x 78 ft and has been planted with fruit trees in rows that follow the contour and has berries, nut bushes and trees and such along the edge boundaries. This front area does have some stuff that I would have to move around that I planted, but I don't think that will be a big deal. The entire yard is relatively flat with very little fall from back to front.

8 years ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes - But to get back to the quesiton at hand--I'd say a way of integrating folks wtih chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia and so on is to give us an opportunity to work and also be able to rest as needed while getting our health back.

I have fibromyalgia and have been thinking increasingly more about accessibility. It is something that I have been diagnosed with for 14 years, but it seems to have started to get much more problematic and difficult in the last 2 years or so and I can tell that things keep progressing. Permaculture has particularly interested me from the healing aspect of the body. Nutritionally and mentally, it all makes sense. Physically getting things done comes and goes. Having been used to being able to go, go, go, it has been an adjustment (and frustrating one at that) to find how tired I am. Muscles don't always cooperate or I know that I will be paying for my activites later. Weather fluctuations have brought on more bad days than good. Fibro-fog as they reference it some days has me feeling like I have memory issues, as I just sometimes cannot find the right word and just have to pause and wait and wait for it to come to mind or have others chime in with it. People don't understand. They see you on a good day and think that you are faking it when a bad day comes about. That can be frustrating. Luckily work has accomodated the doctor ordered longer lunches to allow me to rest so that I can manage the long , stressful workdays. Financially it has hurt (they now just skip performance reviews) but it has allowed me to continue to work and support myself while managing my condition.

I have drawn up a very ambitious plan for my semi-urban lot. The implementation itself is my area of concern. I want to have a large portion in raised beds (area of approximately 50 foot x 125 foot), at a height that is comfortable enough for me to sit on the edges and work (thinking 15 inches). I keep thinking about where this Fibro might physically take me in time, so I want to be sure the beds aren't very wide. They need to be easily worked at arms length from each side without reaching, just in case mobility changes significantly. This will be a lot more beds to put in, but easier to put in up front than trying to adjust after installation. Materials to make the beds structure are a sticking point because I want cost effective, durable and aesthetic. The cost effective and durable tend to be in complete opposite realms. I am tossing around something that is inexpensive but not as durable (breaking apart heat treated pallets and using the planking vertically - I have continual access to pallets and would screen them to be sure they are heat treated and not chemically treated) but would be able to be changed out piece by piece easily as needed, without breaking down the entire bed and starting over. Living in an area that has long winters and the potential for frost heaves, I mull around if I really need to dig down and secure the corners in the ground. I know that I is just the thought of the work and what it will do to my body. I also have been thinking a lot about the paths between. I would like something like wood chips that could break down and then be recycled into the beds in later years, but the reality of the work associated with that makes me wonder at the sanity of that thought for myself. The paths would be an easier "later" adjustment if it was too much to maintain in time. In all of these beds I want to grow my health...nourish my body, heal it medicinally, delight it visually and fragrantly. Experiencing nature with my full senses fills me with life. Fruit tree installation in the far part of the yard was done last year.

Breaking the implementation into bite size pieces will be key. I do feel urgency behind it, though, because of how things have quickly started to change in the past several years. Managing my own expectations is key. My mind still has the healthy, conquer the world in a day mentality, while my body seems more focused on the leisurely stroll pace of things idea.
8 years ago
It is great to see the fruits of our labor coming to life. Thanks for the update, Zach. Thanks for the great cinematography, Raleigh.
8 years ago
It would be nice if a description of each of the workshops would be available. Only the title is listed and it doesn't do anything if you select on it. Before I sign up for something it would be nice to know what you were going to learn.
9 years ago
Thanks for the comments Zach. It is a lot of time and money and I have been trying to determine, in the end, what certification ends up meaning. I guess I am trying to figure out if there is a true benefit. Do you know what to expect once you receive your certification?

I am also trying to understand if there really is a specific set of topics that must be covered or a formal defined format. I know that you said you have not taken the "normal" permaculture route and have only trained under Sepp. The "normal" permaculture has very defined topics that must be covered and, like Sepp, a project that must be completed and approved at the end. So far, it seems like the workshops are more freestyle than what I expected if they are counting them toward certification.

I am still undecided if I will eventually go for the certification or not. I am half way there. I think learning under Sepp is exciting, frustrating, a true learning experience (since his answers are often presented in a way that makes you think through and come up with your own solution), etc. I always find myself jotting down those golden nuggets of information that seem to pop up in his answers when he opens the floor to various questions.

The one thing that I valued most from the recent workshops was his feedback on my property. I was hesitant to present since it is an urban lot and since he seems geared toward larger projects. At the last minute, I decided to present at Montana because there were quite a number of urbanites in the group and I thought that we all might be able to benefit from his insight. I was excited and relieved that the presentation was well received by him and many of the suggestions that he offered were already things I am trying or have been in the plan to implement in the future. It is the darn pond thing that gets me everytime with him, though. Haha. "Listen to nature and it will tell you where they need to be." (Got the same response in Cali when I asked a question about one.) Well, nature has told me I have an option that will come to fruition in time.

What would you say is the greatest thing that you have taken away from training under Sepp? Is there anything that you would change or do different?
9 years ago
Zack - Can you explain the requirements for the Sepp Holzer certification process? Are there specific topics that one must be exposed to and in what amounts or is it left more to chance by which workshops a person attends? What are the benefits to becoming certified? Did you receive your certification after your presentation at the Montana workshop?
9 years ago