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Casey Pfeifer

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since Aug 17, 2014
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fungi tiny house trees
7th Generation Design's Mission: To create lasting freedom in time, health, wealth and spirit for current and future generations through the design, implementation and stewardship of regenerative ecosystems that restore the health and function of the land, abundance of water and food, and cultural integrity.
Santa Cruz, CA
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Recent posts by Casey Pfeifer

I’ve had good success with California Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca var. Californica) in heavy shade outdoors and dappled light underneath overhangs in hanging planters. While you probably won’t get tons of fruit if they don’t have at least some light, mine started fruiting underneath the black walnut canopy where they were the predominant groundcover in their second year with zero direct sunlight. Due to their prolific runners these plants create awesome cascades of strawberry foliage and red internode stems, up to 8’ long when I last measured!
3 months ago

Stacy Witscher wrote:While I can see the value of limiting eaves and trees close to the home, these things make temperature control of the home much easier. I think that I'm going to try to balance these issues, as much as I can. I see no value in a home that survives a fire, but is miserable to live in.

Hi Stacy,

I agree that trees next to the home are critical from a livability perspective. One things we've done with an umbrella shaped Engelmann Oak on the East side of my folk's place (growing literally 8' from the back door) is to do substantial trimming/limbing/cleaning of the entire sub-canopy zone, all the way up to the apex canopy. This has left the tree's shape intact (and thus it's shade providing and climate moderating benefits) while reducing the ability of any fire to climb into the crown, which does overhang the house. It's also really beautiful to be underneath it and see all of its structure without the clutter of dead branches. We've trimmed low branches that were close to contacting the roof, but haven't limited the tree's shade profile at all.

One thing I'd like to add should my folks be amenable to it is installing a WEEDS fire sprinkler system, as part of which we could actually plumb a small 1/4" line or two up the trunk(s) of this oak and actually have a subcanopy mister (or several) capable of wetting the tree from the inside out, which in addition to it's already present ember trap effect, would increase the fire resistance of the tree and house, I believe even more so than if the tree weren't there at all. The trunks would be moist, the canopy dripping onto the roof and surrounding ground near the house, and would require that much more heat energy to ignite.

Just a thought on how we can turn trees that are critical to a home's livability and beauty into fire risk-mitigation assets instead of liabilities.
7 months ago
Loved the video Zach, thank you for posting Cassie!

I'm curious, would you happen to know what the yardage limit for an earthworks project is for it to not need a permit up where this project was installed?

We've run up against this barrier many times down in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in California, and are constantly weighing the pros and cons of trying to dig an illegal but regenerative hole in the ground for a reasonable price, or attempting to go the legal route while often being forced to install things like concrete spillways, not to mention vastly inflated permitting costs (CA is crazy). I'm really inspired to see that someone, somewhere got one in! Also really appreciate the parent's ethic an aim to put today's capital to use creating an abundant future for their children and extended family. I feel like that's our generational calling if we're willing to step up and answer it.

Great work!
7 months ago
Hi Wayne,

Nothing would prevent this from being used in a gravity fed system, you’d just have to make sure you have ample standing pressure for the DC Latching valves to operate - typically that is around 25 - 35 psi - but it would be worth checking the manufacturer specs on whatever brand of DC solenoid valve you might use in constructing your OGIS.
7 months ago
I thought I'd add a quick addendum to my previous post on some minimalist work boots I recently purchased and have been using this past week.

I just purchased a pair of LEMS Boulder Boots for farm use and tasks that are best performed with some foot protection.

These boots have a wide toe box, zero-differential heel-to-toe, minimally upswept toe that goes away when actually wearing the boot and great traction. They are incredibly light weight, very flexible and at least for my feet the toe box is wide enough to comfortably accommodate me wearing my CorrectToes toe spacers as I rehab my domesticated feet.

While I still prefer to be truly barefoot, sometimes it is safer to have shoes on (working with manures, working around/with sharp tools, other people etc). I am a huge fan of these boots, which is saying a lot because I'm generally not into shoes at all.

If anyone is looking for a minimalist work boot this is worth a look!
2 years ago
I've been doing the 'barefoot' thing for about a decade now. Love being barefoot whenever possible. Most days I can pull off never having to put on shoes, save for heavy loading/unloading, working in/around other people (esp. with tools like shovels, picks, forks etc.) and making deliveries to town.

If I absolutely must purchase shoes to wear for certain occasions, I always look for 1) zero differential between heel and toe, 2) a broad open toe box (as opposed to confined, artificially narrow toe boxes that predominate due to current fashion sensibilities), 3) a neutral toe box (no 'upswept' toe contour so common in many of today's athletic shoes) and 4) no arch support (arches are made stronger with load from the top, just like a stacked stone arch or the Roman Aqueducts - the surest way to collapse an arch is to push up from underneath it - same principle applies to feet albeit with different subtleties). Basically, I look for a shoe that allows for my foot to naturally express it's shape, exerts the absolute minimum amount of interference with my proprioception (any change here messes with gait and posture all the way up to head position) and provides a second skin to protect my foot from unwelcome foreign objects or substances.

During the summer here on the farm our clay soil becomes rock hard, and all the plants like to leave spiky presents that can penetrate even thick skinned feet like mine. On days like these I'll sometimes wear my bike tire sandals that I learned to make at the Acorn Gathering a couple years ago. They meet all the requirements from above and are light as a feather to boot, but do a great job of keeping the pokies out of my feet.

Before I shifted my lifepath into regenerative farming I ran a fitness business and ultimately a CrossFit gym for the 8 years following college. We converted lots of people to the barefoot lifestyle there. The most important thing that always made or broke someone's transition into barefooting was whether or not they stuck to "slow and steady". All too often people would get super fired up and contrary to our recommendations, they'd go do the same activities they used to do but either barefoot or in a more 'minimalist' shoe. Like David Fraleigh said in a previous post in this thread, changing the way we walk from the lazy, proprioception starved yet commonly accepted 'heel to toe' to something more like forefoot and midfoot first, fox-walking takes A LOT of work and attention. Entire muscle groups and gait patterns need to be relearned, individual muscles need to condition from their formerly lethargic life, and your body needs to learn to interpret all of the new sensory information coming in.  

The entire energetic patterning of each step needs to change from, in 'heel - toe' mode: first contact with ground is made through heel -> energy is transferred directly through ankle mortise joint (weakening it) -> energy is transferred directly up the tibia into the knee joint (degrading it) -> energy is transferred to femur and directly to hip joint (degrading it) -> further up the kinetic chain in a stressful way...

to 'fox-walking' mode: first contact with ground is made with forefoot/midfoot -> energy is attenuated by active and strong arch of foot -> passed through active peroneal, gastroc and soleus muscles in the lower leg -> passed to active quadriceps as it crosses the knee -> passed to active glute max, medius, minimus and TFL with minimal energetic transfer through the 'hard tissues' of the skeletal system.

Essentially, when the decision is made to go barefoot, the vast majority of people will need to retrain their gait from a passive, impact heavy, energy absorption system into an active, impact minimal, energy attenuation system. The muscles, muscle groups, and order in which they are used is different in each of these patterns. The former 'heel - toe' pattern takes a toll on joint surfaces that are meant to roll, slide and glide by turning them into shock absorbers and directly compressing them. The latter 'fox-walking' pattern attenuates the forces involved in each step with active musculature, thus increasing longevity and health of joint, fascial and other connective tissue. I won't go into the 'step off' part of gait here - maybe another time if anyone is interested, but suffice to say, 'heel - toe' is a "pulling" style of walking, while 'fox-walk' is a "pushing" style of walking - and we want to push not pull when it comes to our gait! Pulling leads to a whole host of additional problems (work flow is hip flexors -> hamstrings -> anterior tibialis/peroneals -> eccentric impact loading of the arch and intrinsic muscles of the foot WHICH EQUALS a round gut, flat butt, blocky midsection, large muscular cankles (ankles as thick as calves), dysfunctional arches, over-pronated feet (duck feet!) To each their own, but I don't think most folks desire that outcome...

Whew, I didn't plan on that, but I got fired up reading a barefoot thread! I hope this added something to the conversation.

Oh, and before I wrap,  here's a great podcast with the 'Barefoot Podiatrist'  Ray McClanahan on Daniel Vitalis's Rewild Yourself podcast. He covers all sorts of great stuff, but lends that Western-trained medical perspective to it. Interview with Dr. McClanahan starts at about 31:00.

Also recently had a buddy let me try a pair of his XeroShoes - pretty darn cool overall!

Ok I'm DONE!
2 years ago

Jordan Harder wrote:
Though not a groundcover or interplanting candidate, vetiver grass can handle the pH and can provide a close by, perennial and very valuable source of chop and drop mulch/compost material. Its columnar root system won't compete with the blueberries, and it can provide a host of other benefits depending on your situation. Might be good edging for uphill on contour water infiltration?

Why is the vetiver grass not a candidate for a ground cover? Too much competition for nutrients?

Due to its size (will likely be as big or larger than blueberry bushes), growth habit (upright, clumping grass, doesn't sprawl or creep) and texture (very stiff, not super easy to work around for pruning the blueberries). I'm not worried about root competition, vetiver is very deep rooted. Perhaps it could edge or bookend blueberry rows, or be used to mitigate overland water flows through the blueberry patch, more of an edge Planting than an interplanting.
2 years ago
Hi Paul,

We've done research (though not yet implemented) on a mono crop blueberry retrofit, and if I recall correctly sorrel and yarrow were two of the leading perennial groundcover candidates that worked within the pH restrictions of blueberries. Particularly we looked at dwarf yarrow for covering pathways (the place is u-pick) and sorrel along with woodland strawberries for groundcover on the planting mound. The strawberries underneath are something we are playing with as well, but have not seen an actual example executed, much less in a commercial system.

Though not a groundcover or interplanting candidate, vetiver grass can handle the pH and can provide a close by, perennial and very valuable source of chop and drop mulch/compost material. Its columnar root system won't compete with the blueberries, and it can provide a host of other benefits depending on your situation. Might be good edging for uphill on contour water infiltration?

Also just started growing and experimenting with creeping raspberry (Rubus  calycinoides) - don't know about its pH requirements exactly but it might work as a groundcover - also not sure on its root profile, though it does well in droughty, hot sites, so might be fairly deep rooted and thus not compete with you blueberries? Forms a beautiful mat of 3" high vegetation, with the added fun bonus of small orange raspberries once a year.

Best of luck with everything!
2 years ago
Thank you for taking the time to document all of your work. Your photos of the pond formation process have been the best resource I've found for actually convincing people that gleying can be done!

Best of luck with all of your current and future endeavors!
2 years ago
I am curious if any experienced pond builders out there have principles they use to guide the construction of small ponds? (by small we're talking anywhere from 4 - 10' diameter)

More details - We have a less than 1 acre market garden in Coastal Southern California nestled amongst 3 swales planted with lines of fruit trees (see attached Google Earth shot). As part of our efforts to increase the species diversity and thus resilience of our market garden operation we have created habitat zones bordering most of our market garden paddocks - our attempt to create patches of pollinator habitat, shade, wildlife forage etc. amongst our no-till annual vegetable raised beds. We would very much like to add some sort of perennial water element to bolster these habitats - something to lets the bees, butterflies and birds come and drink, to give dragonflies an opportunity to thrive, and hopefully entice some frogs up from the creek lower on the land into the market garden area.

Market Garden Paddocks (Green), Swale Catchments (Blue), Possible Pocket Pond Sites (Red)

Our soils are heavy clay, we are in USDA zone 8b/8a (last winter low was 26, can get down to 22), low/non-existent summer rainfall but with a semi-consistent fog cycle. Lots of sun in the market garden currently and regular diurnal winds - up canyon in the afternoon and gently down canyon at night.

Our current vision - we have automatic irrigation on all of our veggie "paddocks" and will be installing some pressure activated drains on the lines to help prevent bursting when we get into frost season. This means on a regular basis we will have a few gallons of water slowly draining from our irrigation lines, which we would love to put into a water basin of some sort. We have looked at just burying a stock tank, but we feel this would eliminate many of the benefits a more natural water body would provide the landscape - sloping sides, better access, less embodied energy, slow-but-steady hydration into the surrounding soil etc.

I'm specifically looking for input on 1) how small can we go? , 2) how can we manually seal a small water body? (we have pigs, but they're dangerous near the market garden...), and 3) species ideas or guild construction principles for reducing evaporation from wind and sun?  And of course anything else that you think is important to consider that I have not listed here.

Thank you in advance Permies!

- Casey

2 years ago