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Colin Dunphy

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since Mar 05, 2015
former transplant coordinator, now homesteading at historic house near washington dc to start a polyculture farm.
Clinton, Maryland Zone 6b; 40" precip
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Recent posts by Colin Dunphy

it was creative destruction. nevermind.
1 year ago
I am looking for literature about the term "economic consumption", or rather, the term that describes the macroeconomic process of promoting the contraction of the agriculture industry in favor of higher paying manufacturing jobs. I learned about it on this site and on some farm's website but they are all escaping me, perhaps because I am remembering the term wrong. I know Alan Greenspan has used the term in question and that it is a real term, whatever it is.

Thank you!
1 year ago
how about stinging nettle?

i want to do something similar with my current septic pit that seems at least one hundred years old. did you have to get plans cleared by the county or anything like that? little worried about that, and what designs they may approve for me.
3 years ago
Total newbie here, but with a 10x10 coup and only 7 chickens, I've got mostly pine shavings with some manure in it. I understand whenever you amend wood/pine shavings into soil it will suck nitrogen, so it is best to keep it as top dressing. The manure should be protected/suspended in it which aint bad making it more like boosted mulch. To this date I've composted it, but plan on doing this in spring.
3 years ago

I just received a uhaul's truck worth of wood stump grindings, topsoil, and what looks like leaf mold, all from a local tree service.

Im curious what the community would do with the leaf mold looking stuff. I understand it was a pile of leaves on the client's property that the tree service was asked to clear. There are still whole leaves present, but most is small, broken up and black, like a leaf mold. I am only learning about compost and mulch but I believe this to be an early form of leaf mold, maybe year one or two, when I guess it can take three years to complete. I understand leaf mold has a lower nutrient concentration that compost and for that reason, compost is valued more.

I wonder if it is not too late to turn this stuff into compost or if it best to continue it on the leaf mold process? Im planning on starting an oak savannah food forest in spring using a 1 acre long abandoned tobacco field. I need compost but dont want to force a square peg into a round hole/change horses midstream.

3 years ago
one more thing, theres a picture in mollison's manual about catchment of heavy metals as they flow down through stepped beds. Indivual beds are sloped back towards the slope, like they are swales. Metals collect in this ridges, if you will, while water flow over and down the steps. I believe this technique was tailored more for the harvest of metals, but I would imagine it would be a help in purification. flow forms are awesome but expensive so i may try making one from a mold using concrete.
4 years ago
Im not sure if what Im doing is going to work, so it for what its worth.

I just rented an excavator just outside washington, dc for 200$ a day, 150$ delivery. We needed it to fix our main water line that busted in the middle of a field. I kept the machine for an extra day and dug my pond, and rainwater catchment system, really easily. Its a wonderful machine and not too hard to get the hang of. I learned how to use it the first day digging the hole for the water line, so maybe it could take an extra day or so if you have more digging or no experience. My pond is 27x12x4 with steps. There is 100' of trench that I dug with the machine that feeds the pond, including 5x10x2 reed bed in line with the trench. Most of the time was spent on grading of the earth. Special care must be made to separate top soil, clay, rocky soils if you got em. Not sure if i need to line it yet. I have alot of clay but also rocks.

I more or less constructed the trench as a swale (berm on lower slope) but I believe it needs to be a diversion drain. As I understand it, Mollison describes a swale as only trying to stop the flow and control the water infiltration (usually on contour). A diversion drain transports the water. For this reason, im de-emphasizing the berm so as not suck moisture from the drain. More importantly, Im moving towards a drain liner and gravel to limit the infiltration of the water while in the drain. Im also considering using found materials in the drain (streambed) like tin roofing in thin strips.

I plan on using broom sedge, a native grass weed as my reed to filter and purify the water in addition to stabilizing soil from erosion. Its a noted and despised weed amongst farmers, so I get a kick out of trying to use it for benefit. It may have allelopathic properties but that sounds more like it being suited for extreme conditions (poorly drained acidic soil).

Any updates?
4 years ago
good thread. wide spectrum of input.

any updates?
4 years ago

I recently had access to an excavator on my farm property so I went ahead and dug my ponds. I have a general ideas but a little fuzzy on the details and finishing touches so your advice is appreciated as I have been in on this all by myself. I envision the ponds supplying water for my garden and animals (small scale chicken, maybe livestock).

I have currently dug a 90' trench about 1' deep that captures rain water run off from a gravel (millens) road. I placed the spoil on the southern side of trench to act as swale though its is really just a berm and the whole is a diversion drain.

The drain leads to a pit that a dug out in a natural depression in the valley of two hills. I hope to treat the water somewhat here before it enters into a larger pond and/or capture silt. I dug the pond 8'x4'x5' deep. The soil is very, very rocky and quite orange and clayey.

I have a drain leaving this pit to another pond that sits 3' lower on a lower landing of a series of hill enbankments. This will be through a covered/buried pipe so that farm vehicles can travel over. The water will then flow down the 3 foot bank over the course of 10, utilizing flowform fixtures.

The water collects in a pond that is dug to look kinda like a gourd. The long axis is 27', and 12' in the middle. Its wider at one end, hence the gourd. There 2' shelf wrapping around the interior of the pond about 2' down. This soil is loamy for the first foot, but hard clay after that, and not rocky. I have not designed an overflow for this yet but there is another enbankment 10' below that I could divert the water down.

NOW, as I have only dug these features, there is still flexibility to refine my design.

Current plan:

1- Clean and tamp trench to prevent run off. Fill with some gravel (suggestions?) 90' could get expensive. I've considered reed beds in step wise fashion inside this drain as there is about 4' fall over the course of the trench, but Im worried that the force of the water run off would harm the grasses growing in whatever pits I would define inside the trench. Furthermore, they may be dry for some period of time in between rain events.

2- Im debating filling the first pit with gravel and sand to make a horizontal flow reed bed. I am somewhat worried that the walls are two steep as its basically straight down and again, very rocky. I would like a vehicle to be able to travel with 3-4 feet of the pit so, again, too deep? Im also concerned that reed bed would have prolonged drought periods. Does this pit need standing water to support reed beds? Do i need fish to keep down mosquitoes if there is going to be standing water in pit? My family has mosquito concerns :/

3- Do I need to a sealing layer for the ponds? The big one seems like it might be clayey enough at least after a foot deep. The pit, however, is sooo rocky. Im tempted to just wait for the first rain and see what happens? I dont have animals or a chipper to start gleying easily.

4- Havent looked into flowform yet but hoping I can make something cheap. (cut bowls in half?)

In the meantime, Im going to rake the dirt, plant anything I can around to prevent erosion and start seeding. Suggestions there are appreciated as well. Im thinking grasses and reeds to clean, non edibles and edible perennials, and shrubs. I need to find something to put in while l wait for fruit trees to reach maturity.

4 years ago
Hello all,

I am starting an endeavor to restore a house built in 1750 near washington, DC on an old tobacco plantation. There are about 200 acres currently downhill from the uphill home site that are being farmed conventionally using well irrigation for cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, greens, and more. The fields are row cropped, mounded and wrapped with plastic with water pipe running the length.

I am attacking two small abandonded fields next to the house where I have been living for past 8 months that total an acre. There is a larger field that runs the length a creek that cuts through the property as well that I could use, but it is very rocky, slopy, and rolling that totals 2.5 acres. There is another 10+ acres woodland. I envision a farm community that would involve visitors/clients coming to the farm in some capacity (helping with harvest, education, etc) in an attempt to draw attention to the preservation of the house. Im hoping the farm and people can help save the house, basically, but im totally flexible on whatever acheives that goal in long term sustainable way.

My question is how I could best design my operation to utilize the waste of the larger farm? There are multiple fields of wasted, rejected veggies after each season. They plough the waste back into the fields, make their mounds, and wrap in plastic every spring. Is this is a suitable pasture situation where i bring in a herd of animals and let the eat the waste? Should I be interested in collecting the waste for my composting efforts (they use fertilizer and pesticides)?

Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
4 years ago