Mark Roeder

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since Feb 24, 2014
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PDC in a semi-arid cold, mountainous climate.
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Helena, Montana, Zone 4B, semi-arid, cold, mountainous
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Recent posts by Mark Roeder

I would have loved to see you incorporate the hillside into your design. Imagine the entire back wall at 45-50 degrees year round and used as a passive climate battery while freeing up more floor space.
I agree with you that an external compost pile seems to be the most efficient way to go. Why waste internal space on compost? You can get hot water and hot CO2 laden air from a short run to the heap.
I'll get pics up soon, but I'll probably start another post so as not to infringe upon yours. Keep up the good work. Don't forget to get some kind of insulative cover figured out!
1 year ago
Great work! I was amazed at the similarities in our overall designs, even though your structure is much more permanent in concept than mine. I used a harbor freight carport which originally measured @ 10'x 20'. I reconfigured it to look almost identical to yours, but measuring @ 18'x 17'. I mounted the tubular frame of the unit on charred 4"x 4" skids recovered from pallets. The individual pieces of the tubular frame were screwed together with self tapping screws and I used tensioning wire in a triangular fashion to increase the frame's strength. Double greenhouse poly on wiggle wire channel covers the front and sloped roof of the greenhouse. The sides and back use metal siding with 2" of reflective foam board as insulation. It is anchored in position and when inflated it is very taut and wind resistant. I did have to add 3 support poles under the sloped portion for snow load. The perimeter has a Swedish skirt made up of a tarp, hay, tarp sandwich about a foot thick which extends four feet from the building. Next winter I'm adding a large compost heap (8x8x6) for supplemental heat on the west end and I will connect this to the passive solar water barrels located on the north wall.  
The inside layout consists of two 4'x16' raised beds and a 30" wide platform along the entire north wall, on top of the water barrels. Perforated 6" flexible drain tile was installed in both raised beds and during the day the hot air collected from the top of the greenhouse through a perforated PVC septic pipe and it's forced down with a small 24VDC blower powered by a solar panel. This is always on while the sun shines. I've found the neatest thing about my set-up is the roll-up thermal cover placed at the junction of the front wall and sloping roof... on the inside. The thermal cover is made from floating row cover and weighted at the bottom. It is connected to a 2" PVC pipe running the east-west length in a manner that lets the front section hang to the floor while weights on ropes and two ceiling mounted pulleys keep the upper portion almost slack-free. In the future I'd like to add a better insulated cover as this is the biggest area of thermal loss.
I'm located in Helena, Montana, zone 4B, semi-arid and mountainous climate.
1 year ago
Aside from Johnny's Seeds, where can I find permaculture market garden tools? I've searched craigslist and the local hardware stores, but I cannot find a broad rake or heavy duty silage tarp anywhere.
6 years ago
Thank you for the updates! I was just thinking about how you were progressing. Not to make your head swell, but this has been fascinating from the get go. Your updates are very important.
7 years ago
Metal roofs and solar...and water collection go hand in hand. You really don't want to ingest water from a petroleum product covered roof. Think of all those nasty hydrocarbons and benzenes and other chemicals that would be added to a potable water collector. In fact, I believe it is illegal in many states to use rainwater collected from a tar shingled or tar papered roof. I THINK you could still use the water for watering plants.
Metal standing seem roofs are just about perfect for solar. Many companies use metal roofing as the preferred way to attach solar panels. For water collection just use a bypass/flush filter device so that the dirt and debris which accumulates on your roof between showers will by discarded.
7 years ago
Perhaps the Easterners and Europeans should get a dose of reality. I shudder at the thought of some of the commenters trying to survive in more of a wild environment. We have coyotes, wolves, brown bear, black bear, grizzly bear, mountain lion, lynx and bobcat, not to mention rabid skunks and sometimes even packs of wild dogs. If these were to predate on livestock then I hope they would see the usefulness of a gun. The real concern is of the two legged variety. We are about 45 minutes away from any law enforcement response. What does a responsible person do when the lives of others are at stake? He arms himself and is prepared to defend lives. He is not a self appointed Rambo. He is a responsible gun owner who doesn't have to wait for the police to come out and investigate after the act. He can stop the crime before it has been committed. The type of people that don't get this are usually the victims. Better a sheep dog than a sheep. There are wolves out there and our European cousins are starting to relearn that the hard way.
7 years ago
Wow, thanks for that. Almost forgot about the short term benefits of slash and burn agriculture! I figured that I'd better check things out in more detail, so I wouldn't shove my foot into my mouth. This may get rather dry. "Fire acts as a rapid mineralizing agent (St. John and Rundel 1976) that releases nutrients instantaneously as contrasted to natural decomposition processes, which may require years or, in some cases, decades." So the organic matter on the forest floor acts as a slow release fertilizer and a fire releases the remaining nutrients for plant use.

"Fire does volatize the most needed nutrients such as 98 to 100% loss of nitrogen (N), 70 to 90% loss of sulfur (S), and 20 to 40% loss of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in field bio-mass."

According to the Forest Service, "Because N is such an important nutrient in these ecosystems, the replenishment of N lost by volatilization during a fire must receive special consideration."
In the Pacific Northwest, "Nitrogen is an extremely important nutrient because it is the one that is most likely to limit tree growth in forests and other wild land ecosystems (Maars and others 1983). Because of this inherent limitation, significant losses of N during a fire could adversely affect long-term site productivity in many wild land ecosystems, particularly if N replenishment mechanisms are not provided for during post fire management.

Nitrogen contained in unburned forest litter and soil is released solely by biological processes and is referred to as being regulated by "biochemical cycling" (McGill and Cole 1981). Because of the close relationship between carbon (C) and N, C:N ratios play an important role in regulating the decomposition rate of OM and, as a result, control the rate at which N and other nutrients are released and cycled (Turner 1977).

The role of S in ecosystem productivity is not well understood, although its fluctuations in the soil appear to parallel that of inorganic N. Sulfur is considered the second most limiting nutrient in some coastal forest soils of the Pacific Northwest, particularly when forest stands are fertilized with N (Barnett 1989)."

In 'Red flags of warning in land clearing' by L. S. Hamilton, "Critchley and Bruijnzeel (1996) succinctly sum up the impacts of burning "Not only do the more volatile constituents like nitrogen and carbon go up in smoke by burning slash, depending on the intensity of the fire, 25-80% of all the calcium, potassium, and phosphorous present in the slash may be lost this way as make matters worse, nutrients which remain in the ash are vulnerable to removal in runoff and leaching."

So yep, the ash does contain many valuable nutrients, but the majority are "up in smoke" or lost by leaching and surface erosion. The funny part is that this could be considered a natural cycle of the forests. Over time the forest will recover and rebuild the carbon and nitrogen needed for the cation exchange sites. That's the kicker. We as individuals don't have that extra hundred years to wait and see.

WranglerStar uses small, low intensity fires, so he retains a lot more of the nutrients than if the fires were hotter. It's my guess that his forest might be even more productive and healthy if he chipped what slash he could. I like the hugelkultur idea, but it comes back to the availability of heavy equipment. Do they really need hugelkultur if they get in excess of 24 inches of precipitation each year? I believe Cody and family have done wonders with the forest preserve and he is reintroducing the native pines and repairing the damage done by the "loggers from hell". Truly they are Stewards of the Land, high praise in my book.

So a thumbs up for all the regenerative forestry and permaculture techniques that you have been able to use. You channel is one of my favorites.
7 years ago
The orchard and garden are looking great. How did you ever get rid of the wasp problem in your greenhouse? I know you guys stay very busy and are right in the middle of a full scale remodel...LOL, but the point of permaculture is to help ease the workload. Did the wood chips in the garden help reduce the weeding?
Just do what you can do and enjoy it.
As far as your forest, I've heard that if you return at least 10% of the nutrients/carbon that you take out, you will not lose any fertility. When you burn, you return nothing. It does help control wildfires, but all the accumulated material goes up in smoke and removes the nutrients from the carbon cycle. That is the reason for the wood chips. You can harvest any salvageable wood for lumber or burning, but try to chip the small branches and needles to return to the soil. They have the most nutrients anyhow.
I always try to remember that the number one thing is to build your Soil Organic Matter, whether it be garden, pastures or forest. It will feed the web of life beneath the forest floor and make your land not only more fertile, it also makes your land more resilient and less affected by climatic and catastrophic events such as drought, flood and fire. Think of it as a buffer or sponge. SOM is good. The organic material not only stores water, but it feeds the biota of the soil that can act in a symbiotic relationship with your trees and plants. Feed the fungi.
I hear you on having animals, I'm in the same boat. How do you get away when you are tied down to their care? It's a problem many of us have. Ducks, seem like a good fit for your pond. Maybe you could build a floating raft to keep them out of reach of the coyotes or other roving predator. Geese are another option and they act just like little cows on the landscape. I could just see Heartracer trying to round them up.
7 years ago
Thank you for the reply. It is nice knowing what is going on "behind" the scenes. I hope you enjoy your winter and we'd love to see some cross-country ski videos. Can MrsW use her jogging paths for skiing? Have a very Merry Christmas.
7 years ago