I'm doing the Badge Bit for the PEP (Permaculture Experience according to Paul), and wanted to share my process a bit, like Mike did with Humphrey. (Mine is named Bogart).
First of all, where to build it?
Nextdoor.com was my resource--I posted that I was looking to build this and got 3 replies! One looked really good (1/2/ acre) but it turned out he hadn't quite gotten his wife on board...not a good idea for me to start building a big hill of dirt when there isn't enthusiastic consent. So I held out for someone who was enthused, and some people in middle age (grown children) whho have been binge watching a homesteading makeover show offered me their yard. It's been great--she even bought me the sunchokes so I didn't have to dig up mine, which I've only just transplanted in this spring).
Here are some of my major takeaways:
* Hugelkulturs automatically get smaller when you get closer to the end
* The “sand castle” method works ok. Toss and pat. Maybe not the best method. Maybe not even a good one. But the only one I could come up with, so better than no method. (subsequently vindicated by Mike Barkley's thread).
* which remind me, read Mike Barkley's thread first, before starting. Wish I had done that. REALLY wish I had done that. Cause I just looked at his finished product and he made it look easy...but, well, I didn't know what I was doing...
* Better certainly than the avalanche method, which is no method at all
* Did you know that Avalanche is one of the 2200 types of classifications of soil?
* That’s a joke. It’s actually the name of all 2200 types of classifications of soil.
* I keep hitting this weird soft stuff sometimes between the stones, we don’t have it in New England, can anyone identify it?
* Don’t use the avalanche method. It doesn’t work. It just avalanches down and then nothing has stuck at all. Use the sand castle method. Think back to your childhood. You can do this.
* On a more serious note, in Belmont, MA, it is illegal to make a pit of more than 3’ deep that is rectangular. It can be another shape, but not rectangular. This is, tragically, because a child fell into one and it collapsed on them. Hence the “steps” motif on my hugel trench. This isn't a joking matter. I will have to expand the trenches after I'm done...adding to the footprint which is already over footprint, but my excuse is I didn't know ahead of time.
* My trench is hugel. So hugel. Nobody's trench is hugeler than mine. It made me think I was just being lame, but I dug extra deep on the uphill side NOT to make the thing look taller but because I wanted to soak the water in from teh slope. Frost pockets be damned, I can't let all that water go by if I'm making a trench anyway!
* Lots of worms in the 3’ depth sandy sandy layer. I rescued a lot of them and sent them to Big Worm Rescue. But they couldn’t take them all so I sent some to Joe Mundane. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. #TeamJoeMundane
* My host is awesome, as I mentioned they’re a middle-aged couple and are really into (i.e., “binge watching”) the homesteading makeover show, The Rainey’s or something, where a homestead doctor comes and MacGuyvers up solutions to people’s homestead problems. I saw it once. Anyway, my host is buying the sun chokes and several other seeds! And even tried to get Holzer grain. I think this is a great way to bridge the generation divide and seed conversations that are often tough to have, especially within one's own family. Her son’s a medical professional on the front lines, send good thoughts.
* I put a random piece of plastic gutter that was 7' long to draw rain from the drainpipe into the downhill trench. It worked. I needed to dig a little sand castle moat to get the last foot, but it still worked, my hosts said, and I see plenty of water in the subsoil even after this drought we just had
* I used that same 7' piece of gutter to measure. And this is where it gets dicey. For one thing, after I worked my a$$ off getting it 7' tall, I found out that that piece of 7' gutter isn't 7' tall at all. It's actually 8' tall.
* I really would have saved myself a lot of time, and not had to pile soil on top of seeds I'd already planted that may have put them too deep to germinate, if I'd had a better measuring system ready ahead of time--plus one I could use even if no one was around to hold the thing veritcle for me. The plastic, lightweight gutter thing is a good tool for this, as it does stand on end kind of, and is longer than needed, whereas guesstimating off of a much shorter shovel just made me nuts
* I really should have planned the trenches better beforehand. They're a bit, shall we say, vertical, not how I"d pictured them. See item 7 above, about the Belmont square hole law.
* I definitely experienced some suburban sprawl with this thing. Plus it went way over budget in terms of time--about 40 hours at htis point I'd guesstimate.
* I had to backfill one of the trenches--to get rid of extra dirt from a trench tat wasn't yet deep enough--and took the opportuinty to throw some extra limbs in from the hemlocks nearby. They really needed to get sawed off anyway.
* Wattles. This is the most important word I have used in this post. I should have made them earlier. Mike did them, that's how he was able to get that skyscraper effect, and keep the mulch on. I resisted doing them because I somehow thought it would be a ton of work, and I was feeling frustrated, isn't this hugelbed supposed to SOLVE problems, not create them? my host is going to judge me and permaculture because all i've done is create a massive erosion problem, plus all the dead bodies of people who've fallen into my trench couldn't escape. BUT! today I went out there and I wattled. And it literally took me just 45" of wattling to make a big differencde. We'll see if that holds after the rain--but it's got to help the roots of the clover and brassicas that are getting their start in there in the meantime, so anything that buys time is worth it. The only bad wattle is a wattle you didn't make, I would say. And, again,
* sandcastle. Always sandcastle.
* Holzer grains are really hard to get a hold of. I think they have the variety (secale multicaule Kuhn 1974, according to a post on permies somewhere) in Germany but it's 30E for a phytosanitary certificate. Then there's be shipping, plus I wouldn't get actual grains Holzer had landraced or cultivated and it's really cool to have something that one of my heroes has actually grown on his farm!!! Shout out to Clayton for shipping me seed, thanks! you're the best
*mulch--I thought it would be hard, but my 4 kinds of mulch actually went to 5. One was seaweed that my host kindly hauled back from the sea. Not great by localization standards, but it was already there, she wanted to contribute something, and it does sure supply lots of nice mineral content. I also used:
* driveway mulch: dogwood petals and other fallen tree flowers
* their leaves, plus maple seeds. Yes, you read that right, I planted weeds on the hugelbed. I know I know, but hear me out, they are deeply taprooted, they'll help prevent erosion, and it would have been more work than it's worth to Cinderella them out of the leaves. They just fall on everything. Maybe next time I'd put a tarp there, but I didn't think of it.
* grass clippings, from lawn with broadleaf weeds--I rode by on my bike and snagged the yard waste bag
* bark mulch--to make mini-mini-wattles also by sticking them into the dirt. It did help some.
* tea leaves. Long story. Ok, since you asked, we were picking pallets at this tea importer, and out in the side there's a fenced off area, and they'd dumped all this waste tea there in a HUGE pile, I mean Humphrey and Bogart put together sized pile. So we took a shovel and shoveled them into a tote bag and made off with it. I like it especially for really steep surfaces--you just confetti it over the steeps and it sticks a bit here and there. Anything to block the sun is better than bare naked soil.
* Yes, you did just make a big erosion problem--not just the one where the hugelbed is really steep, but the one where the trenches are...but that's OK, it won't get that much worse in just a few rain events, so there's time to chip away at it after the badge is done and make it nicer for the real utility
* real utility is the only motivator that really keeps me going with this, just getting a badge, even one from someone I respect, is still sort of jumping through a hoop. I had to keep focusing on how much yield this might get, and the yields in terms of learning.
* Hopefully the crocodiles in the moat will keep the sunchokes from escaping, but if not, well...there's worse problems we could be having at this point in history.
* I killed a bunch of my host's lawn, unfortunately, buy leaving a pile of dirt on there for a few weeks. I honestly THOUGHT I was going to move it right back on the top of the bed after a week and the grass would be sad but make it through...but of course you know what happened, and today I just shoved a bunch of it into a wheelbarrow before I had to go, I didn't even dump it yet.
* saving all those clods of clover for SmallCloverRescue was a waste of time since you never bothered to put most of the clumps back onto the hugelbed after, and now the clover died in the drought--so next time just save a few and let the rest go!
I'm going to post lots of pictures and maybe some folks will comment on which ones are actually worth submitting for the badge and which are extraneous. But they're helpful here to see the process I think.
(verb, slang) To keep something all for oneself, thus depriving anyone else of having any. A slang term derived from the last name of famous actor Humphrey Bogart because he often kept a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, seemingly never actually drawing on it or smoking it. Often used with weed or joints but can be applied to anything.