Win a copy of Straw Bale Building Details this week in the Straw Bale House forum!

Ben Zumeta

+ Follow
since Oct 02, 2014
Ben likes ...
dog duck hugelkultur
Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads
Scavenger Hunt
expand Pollinator Scavenger Hunt
expand First Scavenger Hunt

Recent posts by Ben Zumeta

Those are good descriptions Hugo. I figured a snaking path would not work so well on my narrow property with tree roots in a lot of places. So in watching one of Paul's rocket mass heater videos about inversion chambers under benches that catch rising heat and then allow overflow to be exhausted , I flipped the idea upside down for diversion basins branching off the main stem that will stop and drop sediment between raised beds. I'd describe it as like an alder leaf's veins.
3 hours ago
That does look nice. I only skimmed the video but it seems the main cost would be the wood posts, no?  I am thinking a free alternative would be 8’ long, straight Redwood/cedar/locust poles about 4” thick, which can be found for free around here. Cut stave points on them for driving them in, and basically follow the first couple steps of a junk pole fence/English dead hedge, but instead of filling it in, finish with a wire run through the posts like in the video. Thanks for the idea!
1 day ago
Hugo, I surrounded the pipe in the trench with woody debris (up to 3” thick), and then topped with 6” of woodchips for a path. Duck pond overflow runs through it during the wet winter season. About two years out and it’s beginning to look a lot like compost. I would like to try it using less pipe and just see how the wood drains on its own.
1 day ago
If we learn to utilize something, including weeds, we tend to find that we don’t have too much of it after all:

Too much yarrow?(!) First, it’s a dynamic accumulator up there with comfrey. It attracts beneficial insects, especially predatory and pest parasitizing wasps and flies (ones not dangerous to humans). It makes a great cold and ache remedy in tea. It’s a great compost and compost tea activator due to its chelating powers. It also holds sandy soils together with its fibrous roots.

Jay, it seems you have compacted acidic clay soil rather than sandy erosive soil from your weed description. Around here that would be shown by dandelions, plantain, and dock, which all draw calcium and other easily leached minerals from the subsoil (upwards of 12ft down at times). This helps balance the surface pH and mineralizes the

In response to the C:N ratio question, it seems like a very small amount of high carbon material would balance out even the Nitrogen fixators:
2 days ago
rocky soil and enough sun for grass makes me think grapes if it drains decently.
2 days ago
Good idea! One way to reduce your time and effort is to use unchipped woody debris on the bottom layer, then chips on the top few inches. You can also divert runoff from buildings and ideally animal housing into the woody debris path basins. best of luck!
3 days ago
Most grasses will die if sufficiently shaded, but I’d consider what you want to replace it with in determining how to deprive the plant you don’t want from getting light. You could deep sheet mulch , 3ft deep or more to really knock it out, or 12” and be ready to pull any sprouts. Or, solarize (wouldn’t be my preferred option, as it kills soil fungus). However, I believe that almost any plant is better than bare soil unless you have seeds, starts or saplings to put there instead at that moment. Grass is holding the soil, reducing runoff, and  building organic matter as it  puts carbon in the soil with sugars that are traded with other plants through soil microbes. Every time you mow and leave the clippings you are essentially chopping and dropping, not only adding the 10% nitrogen tops of the plant, but also the roots die back proportionately and in doing so effectively inject compost. Ideally, I’d get rid of grass like natural forest succession does, grow other plants, especially woody perennials and trees,  The shade combined with fungally dominated soil life will suppress the grasses.  
4 days ago
This is about 1/3 of what’s been made so far, and I am guessing I have half again more to make. A few mistakes I will try not to make again are:
I have often put too much material and seed in each batch I roll in a masonry basin, or tarp if I have help, and it reduced the rolling surface to volume ratio and made things go slower than it had to. When rolling, I would start with just enough to cover the bottom of basin, and set aside an almost equal amount of dry clay to add in alternation with water (I’ve used willow water).
In hindsight I would also have set aside at least as much dry clay as I had in the base clay compost mix before starting, for adding as it all rolls. The rain obviously helps with germination, but I underestimated how much dry clay I would need to add and how much the humidity would encourage germination within the balls that were harder to dry. About 5% of the balls have already popped roots in 24-36hrs. Those made up a large part of the 3/4 acre or so at the college I seeded today, and the drier ones I brought inside with a dehumidifier went to the food pantry today or will go to the Margaret Keating food forest as soon as possible. I’d recommend asking your local seed sellers, small and big box alike, for any year old organic or non gmo seeds they could give away. It makes seed balls much more economically feasible.
1 week ago
Got a big batch of seed balls started today with a couple of helpful colleagues. The Crescent City Food Forest I am helping develop received a good amount of donated, mostly year old, seeds this winter. What may be our last rain of the spring is here this week. We have already sprouted and given away hundreds of starts, and have far more seed than we could start individually. So I decided to make seed balls with a mix of everything season and site appropriate we had multiple packets of, though I saved 1-2 packets of every varietal I could. This amounted to hundreds of seed packets of dozens of species of vegetables, flowers, and beneficial companion plants, as well as 25lbs of bell beans and handfuls of native nw wildflowers, sunflowers, peas, and other legumes. It includes many three sisters combinations, and much more that could work well together. I think I will stretch the remaining batch with more clay and compost (8-1mix), as the one I made today has multiple seeds per ball. These will seed the food forest site at College of the Redwoods Crescent City campus, at the Margaret Keating site in Klamath, and be given away at our local Pacific Pantry. It’s a good amount of work but for this amount of seed it’s worth it if my experience with the fall cover crop is any indication. We will now have over 100 plant species on the CR site, including 50+ edible ones. I also think how the plants show differences in various locations  will also be a good educational tool:
1 week ago
The more macro your micro climate, the better it will work. It’s a matter of thermal mass to surface area ratio and exposure to heat loss to the atmosphere. If you are in the middle of an open plain with no windbreaks, you are correct that a small pond and rock pile will do little in mid winter once it’s stored heat is mostly spent. However, if those same features were surrounded by established evergreens except for an opening for the sun path, they would lose their heat much more gradually. The forest floor in old growth conifers of the nw is on average 20f warmer on winter nights and 20f cooler on summer days, and 30% more humid. Microclimates do in fact occur and are easily observable, just go to any west coast (of North America) mountain range, or the Bay Area, and look at the vegetation. However, we can’t expect to small features vast open spaces to have an outsized effect. One might say that it takes a long time to reestablish conifer forests, and I would say that is part of why it’s called permaculture.
2 weeks ago