Liam Hession

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since Jan 10, 2023
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North-facing Hillside in Missouri Ozarks, 6b, 45" avg. precip.
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Recent posts by Liam Hession

Hi! I'm finally getting around to submitting the documentation of the hugel i built (and will continue to build upon) this spring. Here's a link to the point in my build-progress thread where the final product can be seen, if any extra context is desired:

Here are the points from the certification requirements, and a little commentary on each:

- Two pics of the site before the work is started with the intended location marked out.
Note that my hugel is a v shape, one leg of which is 12'. The other leg is still in progress. In the pre-build photos you'll see the full v with a tape measure indicating the shape, but only the left side is relevant to this badge certification

- Three pics of three different stages of construction - showing the contents of the hugelkultur
First you'll see a pic of the hugest log i used, after moving it into position. The first layer of logs with leaves and clay-ey dirt filling the gaps is visible.
Next is a view of a nearly full-height section, showing the switch to perpendicular-to-ridge stacking i made after hearing that recommended on a Wheaton Labs podcast episode. Also shows some of the organic material layered in, and my system of support sticks.
Last i show that same section after i had layered in a lot of smaller sticks, before adding some more organic material and then the soil layer. Again, i was lucky to hear a suggestion at the right time and this layer came out better for it.

- One pic when the hugelkultur is completely built but not planted or mulched showing it is 7 feet tall
Two pics were necessary to show the height in my case, rolling solo. The first shows were i marked 7' on a pole with red, and the second shows a second pole hitting that red mark when laid across the top of the hugel. A third picture is included to give a view of the completed but not planted hugel, with me - 5'9.5" - reaching towards the top to give another sense of the height.

(- pics to prove its length and width)
This isn't specifically in the requirements but i've got the pics to show it. One shows that poles laying up tight on either side of the hugel are at least 7' apart, judging by the red mark. The other shows that the tape measure pulled between two poles at either end of the ridge measures at just under 15'. I included a third pic to show the two-pole setup from afar so there's no worries about funny-business. Yes the back pole is leaning in that pic, but if you think about it, that kind of lean, with a measurement of 15', implies an even longer hugel.

- Pics of all the stuff about to be planted
Pictured are 3 comfrey plants, more than enough Sepp Holzer grains, 10 sunchokes, a cover crop mix*, red clover, hairy vetch, ladino clover, snap peas, bush beans, zinnia & coneflower, chard, squash, radish, corn, and wildflower blend. I included a picture of all the empties too.

- A paragraph or two of what wood was used and where it came from, what was planted, what mulches were applied and anything else interesting
  My wood was all present on site in a messy pile because of a past logging operation using this area to cut the ends off some logs. The dirt that ended up topping the hugel was also from right there amongst the logs, i started all this by scooping it all out into a dirt pile. The smaller sticks were all there too, and the organic materials i layered in were from the grassy area that the hugel shares this landing with.
  The things i planted were picked up at various places in the months i was working on this. I hope to harvest peas and beans at some point, and am excited to see a few healthy squash plants starting on the ridgeline. I also planted tomato and pepper seedlings in the lowest sunniest part of the hugel, where they have the feel of a typical garden setup like i'm used to.
  The mulches i used were 1) dried native grasses 2) dried invasive perilla 3) dried invasive sericea lespedeza 4) fresh invasive sericea lespedeza 5) fresh mullein leaves. They can be seen in a pic below.

- Two pics of the site after the work is complete from the same two locations as the beginning pictures.
That should wrap it up, i hope

* Flax - Carter
  Clover - Yellow Sweet
  Clover - White Dutch
  Clover - Medium Red
  Clover - Crimson
  Lentils - Indianhead
  Millet - White Proso
  Vetch - Hairy
  Vetch - Common
  Cowpeas - Red Ripper
  Buckwheat - Mancan
  Pea - Forage
6 months ago
Time for an update! Post-planting i totally checked out. The upside is, there’s growth on the thing despite me ignoring it for ~3 weeks. And there’s been minimal rain.

The past few days i’ve been tending to it a bit and observing it. With the sun swinging so far north at the start and end of the day as we near summer, i’ve realized it gets quite a bit of shade from the peripheral trees. As with all things natural, this isn’t necessarily a “bad” or even “sub-optimal” thing. I’m not relying on growing my own food yet, so so what, there’s still growth. On the plus side, i’m in the partial shade when i work it at the start or end of the day. After 9am it’s in the sun and the bugs start a-buggin’ me.

I’ve tidied up the mulch and seeded some more clover.

Jan if i had seen your message sooner i would have tried the “whip the seeds at it like you’re mad at it” method! Sounds satisfying. As for my unfinished wing, i’m finding it to be a really useful step up for working on the tall side. So i dont think i’ll fully mulch it lest it become harder to walk up and down. But i’ll cover a lot of it. I read how any exposed wood sort of wicks out moisture from the rest of the hugel. When it comes time to finish and plant this second wing i think i’ll be keeping it about the height it is. It occurred to me that a two-level hugel could have some cool possibilities.

And hey, Peace, i had a neighbor who’s from this area and knows his trees to look at all the ones i was worried about and he said they’re not black walnut. Red oak or some other type. Interesting to see about the various species that are fine w juglone tho. Will check that out again if i’m ever planting near some of the black walnuts in my woods.
6 months ago
I would like to write a good summary post that would offer guidance to anyone else attempting to build a big hugel like this using just manpower. For now, a smattering of my thoughts on it:

- 7 feet wide at the base can be hit if you have a first layer of logs that's 4 feet wide, or maybe even less
- spending some time on pulling together materials that will all go on together should save back-and-forth time later when you're actually say layering in the sticks, for example
- during final soil layering, i ended up favoring hand-piling on moist soil to my initial strategy of flinging soil on top by shovel. It's more painstaking, but it's less tiring and seems potentially more efficient overall because you don't get lots rolling off. Might only work with sufficiently moist conditions, which for me came after rains but you might wet things with a hose.
- i think it would have been a good move to make two piles of soil when i was excavating at the beginning, the second one being on the other side of the hugel build area. That way i wouldn't have had to wheelbarrow soil around the corner to the backside during the final layering

Okay a second question:

What are the top tips for initally seeding your steep hugel? Many of my cover crop seeds rolled down to the base. Manually poking hundreds of holes for the other various bean/veggie seeds was a bit tedious, does anyone have some clever "hack"? Or just KISS?

And finally:
Is my mulch layer too thick, or too messy? (see below) Someone sell me on why i should go back to it sometime to neaten it up.

7 months ago
It's done, planted and mulched! The first leg of the V that is. That's enough hugel for me for now! Plan will be to onboard Eric's suggestion about Wine Cap mushrooms for the other leg of the V, which will remain in the stacked-wood phase for a while. That brings me to my first advice-seeking question:

What should i cover the incomplete section of the hugel in, given that i might not continue work on it for almost a year?

Thanks again to Tex for that extensive but very digestible Hugelkultur overview. It led me to layer in a lot more branch/twig matter before adding organic material, everywhere i still could.

Here are the first key shots to share, showing the broad outline of the work over the past week:

7 months ago
I find that a great practical summary Tex, thank you. There's one thing you said, and this aspect has been befuddling me for a while actually:

Tex McFaden wrote:
2) The Base, Height and slanting sides --  ideally, a 6' base at 6' height (to account for settling/compacting) and the angle of the sides at no more than 45°... especially during the first year of establishing your mound.

How can a 6' base 6' height triangle have a rise angle of even close to 45º? With those dimensions i'd expect it the angles where the hugel side meets the ground to be 63º. Because having a 6' base, 6' height triangle would mean the two slanted sides are around 6.71' long (two 3'x6'x6.71' right triangles back to back). According to an online calculator, that triangle would have the angles 63.4ºx63.4ºx53.2º.

Stated differently, wouldn't a hugel with rise/run of 45º have a 12' to be 6' tall?

I've been wondering about this for a while in the context of how steep it seems you have to make the hugel for a hugel badge if you follow the minimum requirements of 7' tall and 7' wide.
7 months ago
Got back from a day away just a bit before sunset, spent an hour "whittling" the angle of the dirt pile to make the hugel pointier. After yesterday's inch or so of rain, the soil was a nice stickiness for this work. Will see if there's any major avalanche. Some pictures to show what it looked like before the rain, then a few stages of whittling it down. Will be reclaiming a lot of good soil to cover other areas with if this sharper shape can (literally) stick.
7 months ago
Alright what, does Big Wine Cap pay you to post in forums like this? I'm just kidding, as far as i can see unpaid enthusiasm is one of the most under-cultivated resources in the world. Appreciate seeing it

Though i'm named Liam and live by a place called Irish Wilderness, the assumption that i'm in Ireland would be incorrect. I'm out west of Poplar Bluff, MO which you may be familiar with. Actually in PB today.

I'm going to take this Wine Cap idea and run with it! Expect to hear back about this, though like you i can end up pinched for time with everything that wants doing
7 months ago
Eric i love that idea, i'm game to make any amendments that someone thoughtful thinks are worthwhile. Do you mean that i'm likely to encounter Wine Caps around my woods, or in the nearby national forest? I've been thinking a minimal bit of material (respectfully) claimed from the nearby Irish Wilderness might be a suitable way to inoculate my soil further. Especially given that the soil pile has been sitting out in the sun for weeks now - i imagine much of the outer layer has been in suboptimal conditions for soil microbiota.

Also practically, do you think any mycelium or mushroom material should be layered directly onto wood where possible. Alternatively, how do you think the effectiveness would compare if i just mixed it into already-layered top soil. Perhaps this question is one i should plan on collecting some first-hand experience with, to share here!
7 months ago
Turns out the heavy log-moving was the easy part, or at least the quick work. Or it's just that i'm tired out. Anyway, i've been completing the stack for the first leg of the "V", and layering on more organic material, and covering more of that section in topsoil. Forgot to get a final photo of where i ended for the day today. It's going to rain tomorrow, so we'll see how that settles the current topsoil layer

Photos from the last two days.
7 months ago
Thanks for all that context everyone. The work today was slower going than i expected, so i actually will not be able to get it planted tomorrow before the rain. Right now it's got the topsoil piled up on part of it, in the corner that i've used for trialing each new stage before moving on to the rest. We'll see what the rain does to it, seems like worst-case i'll have more soil tumble off to the base and i'll need to toss it back up. More details about the project here:
7 months ago