Andrea Locke

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since Aug 25, 2019
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Gulf Islands BC (zone 8)
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Recent posts by Andrea Locke

I think this might be for crimping pleats into clothing, like ruffles. As a person who never irons (unless absolutely necessary, as when sewing), I don't know if this is any more useful than crimping hair
6 days ago
Hi John,

I probably shouldn't have mentioned the water management bit in connection with the earthbag terracing as I think it just confuses the issues. The earthworks consist of a few swales where they will plant fruit trees on a different part of the property. Its just that we brought the tractor over to give them a hand with that and are also using the tractor for the other bit with the terrace so the two parts are mingled in my mind equipment-wise.

The slope that I referred to as steep is a short stretch that slopes at maybe about 10 percent. Not hugely steep, but the steepest part of their lot. They want two or three broad shallow steps that will be at most two sandbags deep with no cut and fill, just filled in behind with a few inches of topsoil to level it out. The only cement involved would be in the sandbags not in the planting soil. Rainfall is about 36 inches and this particular spot receives very little runoff from above. They are trying to get a few inches more soil to make planting pockets for trees. The back part of each step will be the very shallow and rocky native soil which will be planted with herbaceous plants that don't need a lot of water in summer, like lavender. They've just removed a lot of invasive gorse and broom from this area and need to get other species established for competition to keep those from taking over again.

I appreciate that you want to make sure this is safe from an engineering point of view. I think it will be.

The earthbags are being used in a way that is equivalent to stacking a few rocks to make a shallow wall. Although the soil is rocky there isn't anything really suitable for stacking without bringing rocks from off site. At the moment though the problem is to make the material filling the earthbags stable after the burlap eventually rots away, a lot of cement is having to be brought to the site to mix with the soil for earthbag filling. Is there an alternative approach to filling the bags that would minimize or eliminate the cement in the bags while retaining the long term stability the cement imparts?

3 weeks ago
I'm looking for advice on a durable fill for burlap earthbags that will remain after the burlap decomposes.

We're helping some friends set up the water management earthworks and plantings on a parcel of land they bought last year. They had intended originally to terrace and plant in one area that is a fairly steep hillside but it turns out there is only a thin layer of soil over rocks. However, they've recently dug out a pond in a lower part of the lot so there's a large pile of mostly clay available. So we put our heads together and came up with a plan to make shallow earthbag terraces, and then backfill with the topsoil from the pond excavation.

The earthbags are burlap, as they didn't want to use plastic that would break down over time and remain in the soil.  The idea is that the burlap will break down after a year or so, and by then the filling will have hardened and will remain. The mix we started with for filling was about a 5:1 mix of clay soil: some kind of bagged cement mix, I'm not sure exactly which.  It's dry mixed, more or less - there's been some rain so the soil isn't completely dry, and the idea is that the fall and winter rains will fully saturate the bags and the filling will harden.

The problem is the amount of cement mix that is being used in the filling. So far, it's taken 2 bags of cement for 11 earthbags. I read online that a 10:1 mix would work, but it would be even better if we could eliminate the cement altogether and use something environmentally friendlier. But it's going to have to be something that will hold together after the burlap rots away and handle a lot of winter rain.

Any ideas?
3 weeks ago
I still haven't managed to take any photos of the work-of-art farm stands in my neighbourhood. Seems every time I leave the property it's raining or my phone battery is dead.

However, I thought I would share this decidedly-not-a-work-of-art that I threw together today as a temporary farm stand. We got a wholesale order of bulbs for fall planting and are selling a bunch of them. Going forward, whenever we can buy plants or bulbs for our own plantings for less than retail price, we're buying extras to sell to cover the whole cost of the order. So we had pre-sold a bunch of garlic, elephant garlic, saffron and decorative allium bulbs, and needed a place for people to pick up their bagged orders. Most are prepaid by e-transfer before pickup but there were a few folks who wanted to pay cash at the time of pickup.

So what we've got here is a cooler to keep the bulbs dry and keep the deer and my neighbours free-ranging sheep from eating the bulbs, a locked cash box bolted to a counter which was all part of a farm stand i bought and dismantled last year, we will reconstruct one of the days at our new place, and the whole thing balanced on two lawn chairs. I put it outside my gate to keep my goats from messing with it and also reduce the chance they would sneak out past some unsuspecting stranger.  They greatly enjoy their occasional escapes through this gate.

I only expect to use this for a week or so and it seems to be doing the job so far. It's halfway up my driveway and not visible from the road so I'm not concerned that someone will walk off with the cash box and the counter it is attached to which is just balanced on the chairs. Once all the cash-paying customers have picked up, I will switch to one lawn chair plus cooler.
1 month ago
I was just explaining to my daughter two weeks ago when we were looking at an old survey map for our place that the old surveys use this measure...but in my head, never having seen the actual chain, I was picturing it like a heavy iron chain of links like you'd use to pull something with a vehicle. So I'm excited to see what the actual surveyor's chain looked like, so different from my mental picture and so much more practical and lighter for hauling around the landscape.

When I was doing environmental field work in northern Ontario, a number of the lakes were identified as 'bottomless' on the old surveys because the method of measuring depth at that time was to lower the chain until you felt it hitting bottom. If the lake was deeper than a single chain (66 ft I think), they linked chains together until they had enough to reach the bottom. Of course, with multiple chains linked together the sensitivity of fishing for the bottom would be reduced and you might not be able to tell, or maybe they didn't have enough chains on hand to actually hit the bottom - those were the so called 'bottomless' lakes.
1 month ago
Roadside honour stands selling produce, eggs, flowers and crafts are a big thing here, although sadly I've heard of several closing during the past year as thefts have become worse. In some cases not just thefts of produce but even unbolting and making off with the cash box.

There are lots of beautifully built artistic constructions of cob, roundwood, etc., and next time I'm out and about, I will try to take some photos to post.

This one, though, will always be one of my favourites.

1 month ago
Part 2 - some photos to go with the 1-year progress report.
1 month ago
We're just over a year into our farm and homestead development on 38 acres of which more than half was clear-cut (and left in an awful mess) by the former owner about 6 years ago, and having taken photos to document the one-year mark it seemed like a good time to post an update here. 99% of the physical work on-site has been done by my daughter and her boyfriend, using my subcompact tractor (I would have bought a bigger tractor had I known this property was in our future). I commute up when possible and help out for a few hours, but with a fulltime job and the livestock still living at our old place, I can only manage occasional day trips. Looking forward to the time (maybe next year?) when we are fully moved to the new place and are no longer splitting our energies between two properties and spending so much time on the road (we are not too far as the raven flies, but the round trip for humans involves 4 ferry rides and the accompanying long waits in ferry lineups so it's loooong).

Original condition of property:
- approx 15-20 acres clear-cut, full of slash and giant stumps and even stacks of large usable logs (very wasteful! but we're salvaging as much as we can before it rots), badly eroded (we figure from the soil level on the stumps about a foot of soil was lost), regenerating mainly as sparse invasive plants with the occasional seedling of native trees and a few resprouting stumps, provincial soil survey characterized this area as sandy loam coastal Douglas fir forest, currently loamy sand with very low nutrients
- approx 1-2 acres former homestead/farm site, old apple/pear/hawthorn orchard, some bricks (chimney, foundation?) are all that remains of a house that was found inside a massive overgrown invasive holly patch from a mother plant that was probably planted by the old house
- approx 3 acres very overgrown and wet field, remnants of a horse shelter, remnants of a barbed wire fence
- few areas of the property completely escaped the logging, even if it was removing the higher-value trees only. Wet alder areas were not logged.
- logging roads in bad condition criss-cross throughout the property

Accomplishments to date:
- Farm gates installed across the two access roads, and the roads themselves made usable for access with a pickup truck or tractor - ditches and culverts installed (eventually these will connect up to ponds), graded (box blade on tractor has made this a much faster task than the tractor loader bucket),  roads surfaced with homemade wood chips where possible, supplemented with one load of purchased gravel in the worst areas. This has succeeded so well that one day this summer when my elderly truck was in the shop I was able to (carefully) drive my small car that has very little road clearance up the (admittedly best) road to reach the RV.

- About 2 acres completely cleaned up (slash piles dismantled;  usable lumber salvaged; firewood chopped, split and sold; posts set aside; branches and rotted lumber chipped and/or turned into biochar), invasive species uprooted and biocharred, native species rescued and either moved and replanted on the property or donated to the native plant depot, swales constructed, berms planted with European x Japanese hybrid chestnuts, underplanted with a bunch of different things (peas, potatoes, various squash, perennial bulbs and pollinator support flowers, herbs, strawberries, asparagus, clovers, oats, fruit bushes), irrigation installed (because the swales only got built in the spring after the rains were mostly done, and this is a sandy soil with very little organic matter in a place where there is almost no rain from April to September - we hope to minimize irrigation once the trees are bigger and the soil condition and moisture retention improves). The chestnuts were planted with a sprinkling of a commercially available mycorrhizal inoculant and we have a couple of bathtubs in use to propagate king stropharia on cardboard and burlap, which is being distributed out into the planting berms under woodchips where and as possible

- Another 3 acres fenced and partly cleaned up, continuous with the first 2 acres - cleanup and planting to be finished this fall, hopefully - we may bring some of our goats up to help with clearing brush. The goose house was dismantled and moved up from the old place for the goats to live in, if they come up to help.

- Well installed last fall, pumphouse built, pump put in this spring, presently powered by generator when needed as there is no power to the lot and will be hooked up to off-grid solar, eventually. Latest improvement is a hot-water-on-demand system hooked up to an outdoor shower. To irrigate, start generator and pump water to a 250-gal tote on the back of the truck and haul to top of hill where a big tank is hooked up to the irrigation system...

- Water storage in tanks, totes and barrels catching water off all possible roof systems - the newly built pumphouse, outhouse, small storage shed, and RV - most shed building was done with recycled pallet wood, salvage from the old horse shed, and rough lumber chainsaw-milled on site

- RV parked on site and made more livable and comfortable by addition of solar panels, deck made with chainsaw-milled lumber, bathroom has been removed and installation of wood stove is in progress in former bathroom - bathroom was not in use - built an outhouse with composting toilet with solar powered fan, and the outdoor shower mentioned above. A second RV was donated, needs some work but this might be my home next summer which is my goal to move up/sell the old farm.

- Small car-shelter greenhouse in use inside the fenced 2-acre chestnut polyculture orchard, growing plant starts, some veggies (hot peppers, tomatoes), etc. Nursery holding area for potted trees and fruit bushes that were moved up from the old property but not yet planted is temporarily sited next to this greenhouse as it is the only area deer-fenced

- Bigger Solexx-covered hoophouse (12 x 25 ft) partly built in the middle of the property at the same level as the orchard. We paused construction after a barn swallow decided to build a nest up under the roof - for now, we refer to it as a wind tunnel, the ends are yet to be built. The swallows have moved on so we can finish the ends now. This area is where the nursery operation, most vegetable gardening and future farmstand/nursery sales will be located but the area has to be fenced first. Soil is much better than up on the hill, and I think of it as the Goldilocks zone - neither too dry or too wet for most plants. A few raised beds next to the wind tunnel grew huge garlic, fava beans, some deer-resistant herbs, and an experimental plot of saffron. Most of these were lightly munched by deer later in the summer. Chestnuts were planted up in the dry zone as the drainage is better there and once established they can handle the dry.

- Orchard rehab. A multi-year process of removing broken limbs, cutting back the holly that was smothering the orchard, other invasive plants. Underplanting trees with comfrey, herbs, etc. and spreading wood chips. seaweed and composted manure.

- Two beehives installed on the edge of the orchard are doing well.

- Mushroom logs were prepared from a freshly killed maple tree that blew down in a storm, and installed in the wet alder woods - oyster mushroom, turkey tail, reishi, shiitake. We've also tried seeding morels and chanterelles but that's more of a long shot.

- Starting to clear and level space for buildings - 20 x 20 livestock barn will be made from 2 shipping containers with a roof over the gap; and there's a 46 x 20 steel quonset kit coming in Sept.  Much as we would like to build with wood milled from the site, fire risk is a major consideration and we're planning the larger buildings will all be built with fire-resistant materials. Earthquake resistance is also a consideration here.

- Built a mobile chicken coop on an old boat trailer - so far not in use, as the chickens are still at the old place. But will be used with electric poultry netting for silvipasture between the chestnut rows.

- Listed last, but was one of the first activities initiated and is ongoing - observation and discovery. Figuring out the patterns in soil, water and light; developing a native plants list for the property; wildlife cameras; etc.  In general the original design for the property is still valid, but some details of building placement were tweaked (adjustments for soil moisture) after a year of observing the site.

Long term plans:

- This will be a multi-generational homestead and farm business. The main 'cash crops' of the farm will be the products of the nut polyculture (mainly chestnuts, but also other nuts, fruits, berries, herbs, etc.) and a nursery operation specializing in perennial food and medicinal plants. Essentially a permaculture/regenerative farm and garden nursery. We're not quite halfway through planting the trees we have on hand at the moment for the polyculture orchards. Got some income already this year from sales of nut trees, fruit bushes, etc., and have pre-orders for garlic, saffron and other bulbs that we'll be selling this fall. It will be a few years before the farm income comes close to matching the farm expenses, although selling the old hobby farm and eliminating that mortgage will help. Until we're closer to breaking even I keep my day job.

- The rest of the clearcut mess needs to be cleaned up (a multi-year job), and as this happens we'll plant out different areas or set them up as pasture for the times we can't have livestock in the tree alleys.  We have a few hundred trees and shrubs in pots awaiting planting. Some of these will go into the second chestnut area, but trees that are less drought-resistant than chestnuts (quite a few of the trees, in other words) will need to be planted in the lower and wetter parts of the property.

- Thanks to the deer, all planting areas need to be fenced like Fort Knox. We want eventually to fence the whole perimeter with deer fence but the distance is a full mile and there are higher priorities to do first.

- We'll be building two small houses and a bunch of other outbuildings, off-grid solar-powered, also rainwater storage in lots of ponds as well as the tanks that will eventually be repurposed for domestic-use rainwater storage. We want a bunch of ponds not just for irrigation water storage but also to act as fire breaks around the property, plus have plans for a big one with an island in the middle planted with edible and timber bamboo. The drainage ditches and planting swales and future ponds will eventually all be connected together as one cohesive water management network.

Sorry, this has turned out a lot longer than I intended! But it's been a busy year. Maybe I should start a thread for the farm and probably will do that soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading and I hope this will be useful documentation for someone else starting out.

1 month ago
I have found rosemary to be one of the easier things to root in water. This is something I have usually done in late winter-spring. I haven't been very meticulous about changing the water, just making sure it stays topped up.
If you want to add rooting hormones, just put one or two pieces of wilow in the jar of water too. I haven't found this is necessary but it won't hurt and may help.
2 months ago
The same website had another article showing photos of Edison phonograph parts, that has a clearer image of something similar to the cabin find.

This image in particular -

2 months ago