Chris Kenney

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since Feb 18, 2014
Santa Ana, CA USA
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Recent posts by Chris Kenney

Thanks for all the helpful links! Yay kindred spreadsheet spirits! Has anyone looked into the Natural Capital plant DB? I bookmarked it after watching How to create a permaculture design but stopped at the pay wall for the time being. Anyone else use it?

Although to be honest, the system complexity is so much to digest in the first read that I haven't cracked open volume 2 yet. Going through this book, I've found myself becoming more thoughtful and less anxious to "DO SOMETHING" now for fear of doing something rash and irreversible. Kudos to the authors for the research and bravery it must have taken to get started on the experimental guilds they describe in the tour of Paradise Lot in Perennial Abundance.

I found myself blocking the basic plant strategies: competitors, ruderals and stress tolerators into being analogous to the animal stress response frameworks of fight, flight, and tend/befriend respectively to make them easier for me to remember.

I've had to reread the food web section a couple times as my initial inclination was to start thinking about it in terms of an energy pyramid and to try to back into how little space one would hypothetically need in order to be able to support various human diets. It seems like we have more than just the square footage variable to play with though. We could shade our diets towards herbivory to extend/avoid that second law of thermodynamics about some energy being lost through every transformation along the food web. We could also start looking at the ecosystem through something like a factory stock and flow system and seek to smooth production over time to avoid booms and bust cycles of various booms and busts in various populations along the web. I'm a little rusty on systems dynamics, but it seemed like in most cases this involved ferreting out and removing bottlenecks within the system, often by injecting additional diversity.
4 years ago
Lol at the 3.6 "How much is enough?" table. 35-40 species per quarter acre is pretty close to the level of diversity that came with my urban lot, so I guess I'll be tinkering with a lot of functional substitutes then. The mad scientist in me wants to be able to run more experiments than could reasonably be supported on the suggested scale, but I guess that is what the "time" axis is for.

One thing that struck me as odd is the authors emphasize how important it is to have clear objectives. Yet there isn't much discussion of whether having multiple objectives can result in too much objectives diversity and stress our designs. Does "clear" mean "few"? Can our goals for a site be too dense? If so, how do we know we are approaching this position?

There is a comfort to getting your plan down on paper and in so doing, avoid the major mistakes. But sticking too closely to a plan can shut me down to being open continuous learning. The universe of things to learn far exceeds the lived experience I could apply to a design right now and that universe is expanding! Despite well-laid plans, I too, am tippy-toe harvesting! I don't want to be faulted for lacking strategy, but I also don't want to be a Baron Haussmann or Robert Moses making sweeping potentially disruptive changes to the landscape without fully groking how this might change life for inhabitants. It seems like it might be more constructive not only to start with a basic plan, but also have a soundboard to shop it around to so that you can leverage other folks' experience too? Maybe have a "plan" to redraw your plan periodically based on how things go and how your objectives evolve?

Like Ann, I was also intrigued by this concept of inheritance and continuity. In my 9-to-5, I interviewed elders and their children about what their plans were for their property when they passed away. Children, often scattered across the globe, typically had little interest in their parents' homes beyond a liquidity event. Would it be possible to combine "rent to own" real estate schemes with a live-in elder care arrangement and serve a couple needs in one swoop? WWOEFing? It seems like this idea on page 102 to start cultivating a *neighborhood* forest garden might help build a succession bench, though this would probably take generations to become fully established. Does anyone have any good resources on neighborhood building in general?
4 years ago
Mimcry-- In a similar vein to this book, there was a tip in "The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic" DVD along the lines of nature abhorring a vacuum, so when Stefan weeds, he refills the spot with some more desirable variety of ground cover. Any suggestions on what species could mimic Asparagus Fern and Bermuda grass niches? Speaking of Bermuda, the section describing Martin Crawford's polyethylene+mulch+ground cover strategy was pretty inspirational for me. I wonder if it would work with more "opportunistic" grasses. Since I'm on a smaller urban lot, perhaps the polyethylene mat could serve double duty as a temporary outdoor living room in the interim if it could handle a little foot traffic.

I can relate to Doug's comment about the pitfalls of PDC designs and Instant versus Relay succession strategies! It always seemed a little odd that the PDM started off by telling you how important it was to take a year to observe the land, to make incremental changes and see where complexity starts to stack up. Yet it is so tempting to finish the course by submitting this "extreme makeover" permaculture design to apply All The Things. It was helpful to see an example of a staged design and also helpful to see some more gradual-adaptive approaches like "nuclei that merge" that might better accommodate my learning curve. I feel this most acutely on the topic of earthworks. EFG1 subtly points out that if you do a lot of land contouring, you might end up in a relay planting situation where you'll have to do your time with sun-loving early succession species before having much success moving in more of the forest layer... unless other people read pg 42 differently? Has anyone tried doing Instant succession on right after swaling? How'd it turn out?

To build Zenais' thread about the preforest stage of succession, I found myself wondering a lot about what Dave and Eric would have to say about Tom Spellman's Backyard Orchard Culture approach. In several places now, they have critiqued a forest garden for being too densely planted to allow the trees to reach full productive capacity (Hart's pg 0, Charlie's on pg 64). I can't do Tom's whole philosophy justice in one post, but for small scale operations, he advocates taking several varieties of an edible tree and planting them close together, possibly even "in one hole." This checks their growth, which, if still too vigorous, he suggests balancing with extreme pruning sessions at several points during the year. It seems like this could put you in somewhat of a persistent preforest stage without a fully loaded canopy. You're left with less yield per tree, but with an extended fruiting season, all within reach without needing to get out the ladder or fruit picker basket or chasing away squirrels and birds that came a little early to collect the surplus. Super dense but also supporting diversity and sustained harvest. Yes? No? Has anyone tried this approach? How did it go?

Like Ann, I found the site-specific suggestions for Charlie's garden very interesting. Not only had I been neglecting insectary strategy entirely with my "if I can't eat it, I won't water it [or even bother to introduce it]" philosophy, I also hadn't put much thought into dynamic accumulators beyond the permie go-to of comfrey (which I have yet to start successfully from seed).
4 years ago

Sam Billings wrote:Hearing the driving directions during the podcast was pretty funny, too.

lol @ 51:24. It wasn't until moving to OC and experienced the close-the-gap-when-blinker-goes-on phenomenon that I got serious about bike commuting.

Most socal drivers have more than their 10K hours behind the wheel, so they're pretty intolerant of mass-transit-using n00bs (like myself), but are good about not running over rogue cyclists...

Granted, bikes are a less viable option if you all have trunk full of fermented swag or are trying to record a podcast en route.
Great tips--

You were right about the degrading buffering ability of vinegar-- I managed to bring it down to 8.0 before the fish came, but when I retested yesterday, it had bounced back up to 8.3 and I am out of vinegar. Will add food grade Phosphoric acid to the shopping list.

Truth on adding biology! Since the fish are tiny (1-1.5"), they aren't keeping up with the vigor of the duckweed, which I guess is a start. I read that taro is water loving and picked up a stalk at the grocery store and dropped it in the watering can just to see what would happen... Nothing so far. A "super dwarf cavendish musa" (Musa acuminata) is also on its way. They say the banana tree should stay sub-4 feet. It may not fit in the watering pot, but it can probably soak its roots in a similarly diametered planter, at least until the arrangement becomes too precarious. I wonder if when its canopy comes in it might help stem some of the evaporation off the pond? In semi-arid socal, it seems the pond level can drop as much as an inch in a day. How do other folks combat evaporation? There would be less surface area on a 55 gallon plastic barrel but then would I need to worry more about aeration and limit the plant options?

Didn't realize adding ammonia might actually be beneficial-- I have an abundance of worm castings and can probably macgyver a strainer bag equivalent in a couple mins

Answers to your q's--

How big are these new fish?
--fingerlings1-1.5". There were 14 originally, it is tough to get them to hold still long enough to count past 10 at the minute. They don't seem too densely stocked for their current size.

Do you have any kind of filter system?
--not at the minute, potentially in a future state. We found some rad videos of folks running hydroponic sluices-- PVC tubes they had hole sawed grow baskets into. They had to pump the water to the top, but then it could gravity feed its way through 90 feet of PVC from there. A little worried about fully integrating this sort of filtration with the fish pond until we know what we're doing. We may try changing out some of their water and feeding the dirty water through this sort of setup to see how it goes. Is there a more elegant way to filter? The pond already feels a bit like it is on life support with its air pump and heater plugged in.

Is there an air pump or are the bubbles under the watering can coming from the water draining back down into the tank?
--that bubbling is an air pump we anchored under an overturned clay pot that the watering can is sitting on. We didn't have aquarium-specific tubing or air stones, so it is an old drip irrigation hose free flowing.''

Thanks again for your help!

5 years ago
Chlorine: Null

**4-box** turned out to be a 5-box with a "high" pH test as well

pH: 8.4
Ammonia: 0.25 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate 0 ppm

So the pH is the only thing that looked like it was on the extreme side.
Someone on a random blog mentioned amending high pH with vinegar, does that work?

Youtube of the setup. Supposed to have 12 Hawaiian Gold coming sometime this week.

5 years ago
Reluctant to resurrect the "female representation in permaculture voices" topic because it is clear Paul feels serious accusations were raised. *duck* As a woman, I saw this comment as more of an open invitation rather than some vast conspiracy.

In addition to rattling off a lot of women I need to go research, I found the comment Geoff starts at 17:16 intriguing. Why there may not be as many women with the same trappings of fame? "A lot of the women are close to family, close to home... not necessarily at a distance, traveling so much as men..." The cut scenes in Geoff's weekly distros are a case in point-- he's jumping from communal gardens in Berkeley to several spots in New England in the space of a couple seconds of footage. He's at Paradise Lot in MA one week and building gabions in Jordan the next!

In future parts of this series with Geoff and other permaculture "Jacks," can you ask how much traveling they find themselves doing in order to teach and learn?
Are there ways they or we as the beneficiaries of this training can help offset the transportation resources needed to keep them itinerant and the knowledge circulating?
Hi Permies-- Apologies if I missed this elsewhere-- part time lurker, first time poster, feel free to redirect me.

I have this bucket list item to catch and/or farm my weight in fish (only 115 more lbs to go!)

Looking to convert a 60-ish gallon koi pond into the foundation for an aquaponics system and stock with tilapia or something similarly newbie friendly and edible.

Everything I've read on aquaponics so far emphasizes testing water quality, but I haven't found any that go into more detail.

So now I'm holding an intimidating box that says it will test pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate levels and another for colorimetric and titration. This would be to test municipal tap water that has stood a couple days to dechlorinate, or perhaps been helped along with a crushed vitamin C tablet if we're in a hurry. The water hasn't killed the duckweed yet... although duckweed probably got its name for being pretty hardy. Is this sufficient testing equipment? Overkill?

Anyone have any go-to resource suggestions for how to test fish water and what ranges the values should fall into?
Which ones are most critical to pay attention to?
Can anyone share how often you actually find yourself testing your water and around what events?

Thanks for your help!
5 years ago