R Spencer

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since Oct 24, 2016
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What was that the tree said?
Interested in: mass reforestation; temperate climate agroforestry; ecosystem restoration; alchemy; building a better world instead of being angry at bad guys; "be a ladder, a lamp, a lifeboat!"
Skilled in: communications; IT; electrical; forestry; ecology; philosophy; wilderness skills
Working on more skills in: tree propagation; agroforestry; gardening; natural building; underground building; entrepreneurship; resolving dissonance; restoring humanity's mutualism with trees
Looking up to: Mark Shepard, Sepp Holzer, and many more.
Eastern Great Lakes lowlands, zone 4/5
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Recent posts by R Spencer

Thanks for the feedback and ideas! Between that and my own pondering, my latest thinking is to 'fence it' off from the road with a shabby wattle wall so it is less visible.

An upgrade would be a movable tall triangular covering, basically an A-frame like some people make to guard shrubs from snow but with latched or locked end-walls for security/seclusion. I'd put that wood triangular cover over the hand pump to block it in, but that I can open the end walls up to use or can remove entirely for well maintenance.

The wattle wall/hedges/debris wall probably blends in better but is less 'secure'. Certainly easier, and hedges are nice for other reasons too. Also, messy hedges and roundwood structures already fit the site aesthetic, so that's a plus for occlusion by natural wall.
1 month ago
Some context about site and water use: This is for a rural site (passed by 1-2 dozen cars per day) where I'm trying to establish a low-maintenance coppice orchard and forest gardens using overflow from a tree nursery. I live nearby now but am moving four hours away this coming season, so I will only be around occasionally. Some local friends agreed to come water new plantings if needed and are up to continue planting the site out, and I am hoping to collaborate with local permaculture people who want access to land for food production. Eventually I might sell this site - a home site is part of the design but not a project I'll take on - until then I am happy to grow useful trees and enable land access for permaculture activities.

Following up from this thread about off-grid pump options - https://permies.com/t/152460/grid-pump-options - I am having a deep well installed with a simple pump, buying the hand pump and motor adapter. I figure this way I can hand pump on an as-needed basis into buckets, hoses, or storage tanks. If I setup shop on site longer and want tanks to be refilled without tedious and precious time pumping, I can switch to the motor adapter and power that with batteries charged from any means available.

My question now is about exposure and security for the hand pump and well head. When the project is complete, there will be a well head sticking out of the ground a little, apx 100' from the road, and a somewhat tall hand pump extending up above that well head, like in this image:

Since I want it to be easy for someone to stop by and water trees, I am thinking to leave the hand pump installed and keep the motor adapter stored in a shed. This made me wonder, are there any measures I should take to reduce the well/pump's exposure from elements or abuse?


I'm not sure what issues there could be if any, or how to mitigate them, so that's what this thread is asking about. For example, if someone came along and used the hand pump without permission, that doesn't seem so bad. Heck, part of the motive for investing in a well is potable water and supporting useful tree crops, whether that's for me or someone else in need of those resources during desperate times. If someone needs water, I don't want to refuse them water. On the other hand, someone withdrawing a lot of water and/or using the hand pump carelessly could reduce the lifespan of the costly well/pump install, and my absence might entice that abuse. Worst yet would be someone malicious trying to damage the well or water, which I think is unlikely enough that I'm not worried about it. In terms of exposure to the elements, Simple Pump is meant to be very weather resistant, so I don't think it needs a shelter.

At this point exposure seems okay, security questionable. A hedge to block easy view of the pump from the road seems like an easy improvement, while a more substantial well house would give better shelter and security (could have a removable roof and wall for maintenance, secured with a simple combo lock to give permission for access as needed). What do you think?
1 month ago
Thanks for the tip on Backwoods Solar Electric.

The land is fairly flat. It is also in a very cold place. That is one of the my remaining uncertainties: how to keep a pressure tank and well parts from freezing if the property is idle with no one there in the winter.

Overall I am starting to approach this as if setting up the property for long RV visits in terms of electric and water. It seems like that is the more conventional route people take to end up as similar goals I have. That is:
- access to reliable water (and power for that and more) when someone arrives and needs it,
- safe to maintain when unused (as during winter),
- with no other infrastructure on site but the possibility of the well servicing a hypothetical home there in the distant future.
2 months ago
Thanks for sharing your insights! I think it makes sense to get the well setup with a proper electric pump.

I'll take a closer look at my options for on-grid power. There are poles by the road, within 100' of the property edge, but there is no permanent structure to house an electric panel.

If not on-grid power, I figure a solar panel could power the main pump in times of high water need and high fatigue/busyness (during droughts, when the sun is shining fiercely). Then a hand pump would be in place as a backup. And the solar panel power hookup could eventually be replaced with a connection to a more stable micro or macro power grid.
2 months ago
Can you bury them in soil, like the soil they would be planted in anyway? And can you leave the root crown and canopy unburied so it has light exposure and does not get smothered?
2 months ago
Forest gardener here between Ithaca and Syracuse.

Anyone interested in urban ag in CNY, I recommend connecting with the Alchemical Nursery Project in Syracuse.
2 months ago
I want to setup reliable water access at a property I have access to but will be a long drive from for most of the year. Other people who live closer will also use this property for small farming (small as in, a BCS being the biggest equipment used for ag). The largest water draw is likely to be livestock, but at most they would graze 10 acres, so I think a 'farm-scale' well is not needed; a single residential water well should more than suffice. We will try to use rain and surface water for most ag anyway.

Many neighbors have wells. One company quoted that a deep well will need to go down 200ft or maybe more, and cost $5-10k. Thankfully we can afford that and recognize the value of reliable water access, but we want to keep costs minimal.

One big challenge is there is no infrastructure on site yet. There will be a shed but no electric hookup.

My question is: how should I approach drawing water up from this well? I could ask the well digger to set it up as a manual hand-pump well. Solar or wind is interesting too, but nobody is living on site, that seems less desirable or reliable. Getting electric hookup is possible but increases prices even more.

My thinking is to get a manual pump, and if an electric pump can be installed later on then do not get one to start with. If an electric pump is much easier to install when the pump is first installed, we would get that and also a manual pump, with the electric pump being idle. I don't think we need a pressure tank to begin with. We would be camping on site and roughing it, or watering plants manually, or pumping to fill up a tote that is in the right spot and high enough to drain into drip lines or to fill stock tanks. That's the tentative plan anyway.

Any feedback, tips, insights about pump options and ease of retrofitting wells? Tips on well sizing also appreciated, I am still figuring out the details.
2 months ago
You may find this Q&A useful: https://gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/55743/what-are-hazards-of-cold-weather-and-frost-to-tree-seeds-and-seedlings-in-northe

Though that is about a northern context, the principles of protecting potted plants from frost sounds the same.

A takeaway that feels most relevant for you is, the plants will be safe when planted but are not safe now because they are in pots. They need to be in pots because you don't want to plant them in their permanent home until they are more mature(?) But can you simulate 'planting' the pots in a safe nursery space?

Basically, buffering the pots from temperature fluctuations is key. If the leaves get knocked out from frost, won't they come back? I figure you need to keep the pots elevated so they drain, you can then bury the pots so the roots are buffered from temperature extremes. Piling up pine needles could work but they may blow away, and maybe rodents will be attracted to them and in-turn to the potted plant roots (that is an issue with piling leaves up for this purpose in the north). Even better is piling up soil around the pot sides (just make sure to mark them so you don't lose track of where the pots are!) It is as if you are planting the pots, but above ground so they don't drown.

As for where you do this, in a forest seems best since trees moderate air temperature, but you may have other issues e.g. with shade.
2 months ago
Hey folks,

I'm moving around the Reading / NW Philly area as 2021 starts. Looking for tips about housing and community and to connect with permaculture-minded people.

Anyone from that neck of the woods or have tips on where to look for housing? We're not familiar with intentional communities in the area so if you know of any, please share some info here!

3 months ago