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Sage Jones

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since Jun 06, 2020
Newbie, California naturalist (but pretty new at that too) and native plant gardener.  Lover of nature and looking to learn, learn learn all I can!
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Recent posts by Sage Jones

Hi everyone!

I am a single middle aged person in a large Southern California city.
Plants, permaculture and etc is a very strong interest of mine, although due to my full time career I can't dedicate endless amounts of time to it.
My housemate volunteers himself to help with manual labor some of the time...but he's more of a tech guy....so designing the space and growing things is essentially all up to me.

Last spring/summer (2019) I decided I wanted a little pond in my small (30'x50') urban backyard.
I didn't want an outdoor aquarium, run with filtration and electricity and chemicals; I wanted a naturally balanced pond.
I wanted it to be attractive, available for the birds and insects (and possums); and I wanted it to be an extra water source in case the urban supply ever cut out.

Suffice it to say it was a heck of a lot of work to create. Digging, getting the rocks and pebbles and etc...
Then, it was utterly gorgeous for six weeks until the local raccoons discovered it, had their way with it and turned it into a muddy disaster hole.
It was around that time that I learned about the wicked parasites and diseases they carry. I had to go out of town last August, and I didn't want to leave my housemate with a diseased mudhole, so I drained it.

It's been like this ever since.
I was about to resurrect it, but I never did get a good raccoon barrier up.
A cover or an electrified fence just seemed so ungainly and unsightly.
I had the idea to line the first shelf with stiff little pokey wires (like the ones on those landscaping flags) sticking up out of concrete "rocks", so that they would have nowhere to step down and put their little paws in the pond. The wires would be stuck into heavy cement rocks so that they couldn't drag them out of the way.  I haven't done this project because it seems costly and time consuming, without any real guarantees of working.

Additionally, I was never really satisfied with the EPDM pond liner design. I didn't like the possibility of puncture, its tendency to reveal itself as the rocks slipped, and the fact that you have to surround the pond with all kinds of rocks to weigh down the lip of the liner. And again, the rocks would slip and you'd have this ugly black rubber sticking out. Not a very durable solution, really.

So now I have this big old hole that we dug by hand.
I'n not sure what to do with it.
In the winter, it gets essentially no sun (it's on the north side of my house, and I'm in northern hemisphere).
In the summer it gets a bunch of sun. It has a sailshade over it (for algae control) but it still gets some sun that angles in under and around part of the sailshade.

So of course I'd love a pond; but I'm wary of the labor and very wary of the potential for disease vectoring.
We did manage to avoid mosquito larvae by means of mosquito dunks and a few dragonfly larvae.

Here are my thoughts for the space--please add to these, or suggest a totally new idea!

1. I could fill in the hole and use the space for my baby plants.
That would require leveling all the nearby soil, which has some little slopes... by pushing the excess dirt into the hole.
Again, lots of physical labor, oh and the soil has some lead contamination, thank you older urban neighborhood.
All the labor we've done developing it, would be lost--but then, I don't want to fall victim to the "sunk costs" fallacy (hahaha! sunk!)

2. I could use quickcrete and seal up the bottom of the existing space, and make a pond that way.
That way, no raccoon puncture vulnerability. And no hassle with the lip of the liner or the sliding rocks revealing ugly black liner.
However, I'd probably have to devise some kind of a filter. I'm still a bit afraid of the labor and the potential disease vectoring.

3.  I don't know! Argh! What have I gotten myself into? My enthusiasm and desire often outstrip my time, energy, knowledge and ability to do research.

Thank you so much for your thoughts!



7 months ago
>> You are very right to be concerned, as you mentioned, the brassicas are great at sucking up heavy metals (including chromium and lithium) but so are tomatoes and some of the squashes.  Fruit trees are another collector of heavy metals.

Thank you for sharing your formidable expertise on this topic.

Unfortunately I too have found out that my urban soil contains high amounts of lead. I'm attempting to bioremediate using brassica, helianthus, scented geraniums, also potash (to bind it) and diluting with mulch.

I had thought that consuming the fruit from my avocado, plum, fig trees and also the squash, would be safe because I had read that they *don't* accumulate lead into their fruits?

In your opinion Dr. Redhawk, and anyone else, should I be concerned about eating squashes and fruit from trees grown in lead contaminated soil?

Thank you for your thoughts!
7 months ago
Greetings everyone,

By way of quick introduction:
Hello, and thank you for reading my post!
I'm still pretty new to permaculture. I'm a certified California Naturalist, half witted vegetable gardener, and long time native plant gardener....although all of this is my second field of study, and there's soooooooo much to learn!

So I'd say I'm not a total newbie; but in all honesty with respect to permaculture, I'm RIGHT next door to a total newbie.

I'm located in zone 12b in Southern California, USA.

That said, I have these new raised garden beds. Two of them.
They're 8'x4'x2.5'.

The reason I'm doing raised beds is that my soil has tested with some lead in it, so I'm moving my root crops and leafy greens to raised beds, while I attempt to dilute the lead with lots of mulch, lock it up with potash, and also bio-remediate with brassica, sunflowers and scented geraniums.

But that's kind of a tangent (it's all connected, right?)

So I'm looking for wood to hugulkulture my raised beds. I have maybe around 10-12 cubic feet of ash tree that was cut from my property three years ago. Obviously that's already at the bottom of my two beds right now. I know what it is, it's nontoxic and it's aged.
But I need a lot more wood! I can't put in the soil and compost I have until I solve this wood issue.

I picked up this wood from one of my neighbors (see photos).  Apparently someone hacked the heck out of this tree, just last weekend.  
All she could tell me is that it is "some sort of Asian tree" and the wood seems to have no sap.
Posting on iNaturalist and asking my local arborist did not yield any results as to what kind of tree this might be.

Since my beds are so large, and since hugulkulture has such great benefits, I do want to put a bunch of wood in the bottom of my beds.
In this large urban environment, I'm having difficulty finding good wood for this purpose.

Does anyone know what kind of tree this is?
If this is decent wood for hugulkulture, could I go ahead and put the wood in the bottom of my beds even though it's fresh cut?
Is it a resprouting risk, or risk of leaking plant-killing chemicals?
If it's a few feet down near the bottom of the beds (with plenty of soil between it and the plants) would that be OK?
I have both heartwood and smaller branches.

Thank you so much in advance for any suggestions.
This is a biiiiiiiig forum/website, it's kind of overwhelming, but I'm looking forward to diving into it. I think if I read/knew 1/8 of the things on here, I could be a Permie PhD!
7 months ago