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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Personally, I think it would be fine! 


Idle dreamer

Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
I feel one should water the soil as it is put onto the Hugel in order to minimise subsidence.
but clearly K.B.'s is much too big and the rain will have to do that.
The other I notice is that hardly anyone puts any rough compost or leaves on the wood before covering. Just an observation...
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Rough compost and leaves would tend to make the pile subside more than soil would, I think.  I put old trampled sheep hay and manure on top of the wood and soil in my hugel beds.   
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Ludi - That sounds good. I notice from the old drawings and German pics that they dont use only wood.
I made a small one and went to town on it, wood covered with green twigs and leaves, some vermicompost, compost, rockdust and bonemeal was mixed in the soil covering everything. Watering it well as it grew. A lot of work.
I will use compost and leaves or hay when making bigger ones later with thick straw or pine needle mulch.
josh brill


Joined: Sep 06, 2010
Posts: 86
    
    1
We built 7 3 foot wide 45 feet long beds last fall.  We learned a lot about stacking the wood and brush and how much soil needed to go on to the bed.  We finished 3 more 45 foot long beds yesterday and today I put in 5 4 ft wide 23 ft long beds. 
The beds we built last year are planted with different greens on each slope and once its warmer we will be putting in peppers,  tomatoes and herbs.  In other beds we have onions and peas going.  I wrote a bit about how we build them on our blog http://breezymeadowsorchards.com/blog/


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Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I wasn't sure if I should make a whole new thread about the following, or if too many offshoot hugel-threads have been happening. Anyhow...

So I've got 6 fairly large hugelbeds, 50' long  X 5' wide X 3-4' tall. The beds run north-south. I'm going to plant fruit trees in the beds (sweet cherry, peaches) and I'm wondering whether its better to plant on the east or west side of the beds. I should mention that in my zone, sweet cherries are pretty fragile. I think most would consider them unable to grow in zone 5a...but they don't know about using hugelkultur, ponds, and rocks....

My initial instinct says to plant on the east side, so that they get the earlier sun warming the soil and lower trunk. It would also free up more space on the sunnier west side of the bed for vegetables etc.   However, my instincts are often completely wrong so I thought I'd throw this question out there.

But then I also recall that many types of fruit trees should be planted on north or west facing slopes in my zone to cause the trees to take longer to break their buds and leaf out in the very early spring. This is because we get frosts in may and often in early june which could kill early bud breaks.

It would be ideal to plant on both sides, that way I could fit more trees in because I could use the 5' width of the bed as part of the distance between trees, if they alternate between east and west. 

What say you?


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Stonewall Greyfox


Joined: Apr 13, 2011
Posts: 13
My wife and I stetched last year to have a Geothermal HVAC system put in our house in Central VA last year.  The downside was that due to the S-T-R-E-T-C-H, the additional $2-3k for regrading of the yard just wasn't there.  And so we've been left with 2 trenches running about 60yds. each North to South. 

Having dispaired over not having a tractor to regrade the surface, I've now found the answer HUGELKULTURE  HUGELKULCHER  HUGELKULTURE.  The project started this week, when I found someone on Craigslist offering up free 'stacked' fencing.  The fencing had been a cheap pine worm-rail (virginia rail) fence.  We loaded the truck up with all that we could carry, and laid the first course in the 20" deep trench. 

The rest of the material will come from assorted woods from around our 5.5 acres (most of which already having been downed...or the last of the prunings from the Orchard this past January - which has provided a temporary habitat for wildlife these last few months).  This will additionally be suplemented by grass clippings from the yard, and from the brooder box bedding (now that the ducks and chickens are outside).

This really is an exciting project and I am looking forward to seeing it come together.

Now to decide what to sow.

Paul B.
Caleb Larson


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 76
Location: Missoula,MT
    
    1
StonewallGreyfox wrote:
My wife and I stetched last year to have a Geothermal HVAC system put in our house in Central VA last year.  The downside was that due to the S-T-R-E-T-C-H, the additional $2-3k for regrading of the yard just wasn't there.  And so we've been left with 2 trenches running about 60yds. each North to South. 


Great idea, excavated ground loop systems always cause terrain issues, and you have found a great solution!

I would imagine that the extra heat source of the wood decompisition will actually be a slight benifit for several years.
Its cool to see modern technology and permaculture in harmony. Great Work!


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October 26-28 with Erica & Ernie Wisner
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For more info or to register
contact Caleb Larson @ ruggedtraditions@gmail.com
Karen Crane


Joined: May 03, 2011
Posts: 153
Is this the method Paul talked about in his  video interview
as a method for water retention?
In the interview he says he liked the method better than rain barrels.
I did not get the name of the water catching method he was talking about.
Anyone know> Or is this it?
It sounds similar.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
I live on the south shore of Nova Scotia (zone 5b).  I just put in two tiny hugelkultur beds--tiny because I don't have much room.  In the first one, which has scarcely been in for two weeks, I already have a pepper and a cucumber germinating.  This is UNHEARD OF for this region at this time of year.  They're not covered at all--simply growing in the bed.  Looks like some kind of leaf cutter already got to the cucumber but the pepper is doing well and I have put out beer traps for the slugs and snails.  Wow!
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Travis - I put in some small Fruittree saplings.
I am stacking some rock on the west side of the little trees.
If you have some rocks - you could stack them to "nurse" the small trees through winter and frosts. Once they grow much bigger they should be fine.
As to exact placement of trees depends on slope and prevailing winds.
personally I'd plant to the west of a hugel and have some rocks to the west of the tree.
                      


Joined: Apr 27, 2011
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
LFIRE-  I heard that broadcast, adn as best i recall, yes, this is one of the means he mentioned as being preferrable to rain-catchments, in his view.
Jimmy Townsend


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Hedgesville, West Virginia (eastern panhandle)
Hey guys and gals! I thought this would be a perfect place for me to put a few photos of the raised beds I've been working on.  They are relatively small-scale.  Hand dug with one shovel...  At the rate I've been going, 2-3 beds per day.  Average of 7 ft long.  maybe 1.5-2 feet tall.  I took many types of deciduous woods of various states of decomposition, with a whole slew of mushroom and fungi species.  Then... well, it varies with each bed... but then I put a load of horse manure, leaves, twigs, and gobs and gobs of harvested white clover  - yall know the story.  I hayed the tops for now to protect the sods, but I still need to cover them in compost.

My only concern was the grade.  The hill I am doing it on is somewhat steep.  To anyone who has walked on Sepp's beds, how steep did they seem?  I'm pretty new to 'terraforming', and sometimes it looked like a bed might slide down the hill .  If I put hay on the backside of a bed and it has a tendancy to slide off, is that too steep? Fingers crossed, but I think they are pretty solid.  They endured some heavy rains since they've been built, and are still standing strong.

I angled the beds slightly to channel the water, maybe 7-10 degrees as a guestimate.  ...there are two hills, and I am thinking about angling the top one a few degrees to the right (the land seems to flow that way), then the bottom one to the left a few degrees to get as much water retainment as possible.

This is my first try at forum picture uploading, but here is a try at a 360 view of the beds
















This one might help you get an idea of the grade.

Whatd'ya think?   Would you steepen the angle, or lessen ot to a more parallel state?  I'm still  new at working with the flow of the land, but it's been a blast!  By now, there are already about 5 more beds.  Right now i've got limited pc access, but i'll try to update these beds as much as possible .
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Looking good!  Personally I would not change the grade, because the slope gives you subtly different growing conditions in each bed.    Beautiful setting by the way, neat old building back there.
Jimmy Townsend


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Hedgesville, West Virginia (eastern panhandle)
H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Looking good!  Personally I would not change the grade, because the slope gives you subtly different growing conditions in each bed.    Beautiful setting by the way, neat old building back there.



Thanks!  Isn't she a bute?  All hand dug/built.  Goes straight to the bedrock in the basement.  Needs a lot of work, but we've got a lot of plans for it.  Might do a bed and breakfast with a vegan cafe in the bottom.  Gonna put a printing press, and a darkroom in it.  Do mushrooms and root celler in the basement.  We're gonna put the recording studio in it for a while too until we either convert the old barn into a studio/performance hall or go all out and build one.
Travis Halverson


Joined: Mar 25, 2011
Posts: 91
Location: Minneapolis, MN
    
    1
Pretty piece of land you got there.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Jimmy, what part of the world is this in?  Looks like Pennsylvania (where I grew up) but I guess it could be anywhere.

Your beds look great.  I did a couple of small ones less than a week ago and planted beans in them about three days ago.  I accidentally dug one up today and it had already germinated.  I was in shock.  That's REALLY early for Nova Scotia. 
Jimmy Townsend


Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 12
Location: Hedgesville, West Virginia (eastern panhandle)
Thanks Travis!

Hey Willy, we are in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.  A place called Hedgesville, just outside Martinsburg.  Do you have a picture of your beds anywhere here?  I'd love to see em!
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
the only thing i would do is go chop some of that grass before its all seed and make the mulch thicker on the beds. then start planting like crazy.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
I want to make hugelkultur beds in the low, hot, dry Arizona desert - less than 7 inches of rain per year.

From what I've read on this forum, I'm thinking that this might be the direction I should go since I can't get big rotten logs or trees.

Dig a series of pits, maybe 3' deep. I will make sure the pits drains before adding the wood. If not I'll have to dig down through the caliche until they do.

Fill almost to the top with a mixture of free firewood (from Craig's list), tree trimmings and any wood chippings I can get from landscapers. Trimmings and chips will probably be primarily palo verde, mesquite, acacia, sissoo, ironwood and other xeriscape trees and bushes. Will those woods be acceptable for the bed? I doubt that I will get any large logs and it will be fresh, smaller pieces, not rotted as preferred. (We work with what we can get.) There will be abundant green leaves to add nitrogen to the wood.

Add a layer of manure, then soil and compost until the bed is maybe raised 1' since it will settle.

Add water while building the bed and water thoroughly at the end.

Plant nitrogen fixing plants immediately and anything I want the following season. Mulch plantings with hay or yard trimmings.

I think it would be good to put one of these pits between the 2 rows of dwarf fruit and citrus trees on the side of the house where the occasional rain runs off the roof to catch and hold it. (Our entire yard is graded to run in that direction.) I can plant on top of that until the trees make it too shady.

Do I have it right for the area of the country I'm in?

By the way... This is an amazing forum! I found it just a couple of weeks ago and have learned so much that I am completely redoing my yard plan. I've been working on that plan for months and discarded it without a qualm since now I know that I can do thing so much better! Thank you all so much for the help you've offered in my various posts.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I hope your plan for "hugel pits" is right, Becky, because that's what I'm trying to do, except I can't dig that deep because we have a rock shelf. 

One detail I want to point out is the importance of filling in with dirt around the logs and sticks because otherwise there are big holes and air spaces that seem to want to dry things out.  The pits where I've been careful to sift dirt into the debris seem to be doing better than those where I just put soil on top of the manure.

Your idea of watering during construction of the pit is a very good one -  I've found it takes a LOT of surface watering to get the beds saturated if you wait until they are completed to water.  I suspect there may be some dry pockets where surface watering hasn't penetrated. 

I'm so happy for you that you found this forum before doing your yard.  I wish I had!  I would have saved literally years of wasted effort and dozens of plants and trees which I've killed by doing things wrong. 

I hope you'll be taking lots of pictures during the process for a complete record of developing a permaculture yard for an arid climate.  I think this information is so important especially during this time of horrible drought for us in the Southwest.
                      


Joined: Apr 27, 2011
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
Becky, may I suggest you take a good look at  HYDROSOURCE.COM

They have two products that will greatly aid in your ability to hold water.

They have the top of the line water holding gel that you introduce to your soil.  This is a way to get some of the hugelculture effect as far as holding water an nutrients.

It wouldn't cost much to integrate this with some mounds. 

              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
MMC11 wrote:
Becky, may I suggest you take a good look at  HYDROSOURCE.COM

They have two products that will greatly aid in your ability to hold water.

They have the top of the line water holding gel that you introduce to your soil.  This is a way to get some of the hugelculture effect as far as holding water an nutrients.

It wouldn't cost much to integrate this with some mounds.


does it effect the soil longterm? I have been wondering about products like this. Many nurseries are using them and I have been wondering about issues that may arise. Trying to build soil vs industrialized soil amendments. just curious if anyone knows.
                      


Joined: Apr 27, 2011
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
This Hydrosource.com product lasts 10-20 years, though you can't expose it to undecayed manure or it destroys it.

Check out their "library" menu.  It has images and files of test plots, though more are about their landscape fabric.
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
H Ludi Tyler wrote:
One detail I want to point out is the importance of filling in with dirt around the logs and sticks because otherwise there are big holes and air spaces that seem to want to dry things out.  The pits where I've been careful to sift dirt into the debris seem to be doing better than those where I just put soil on top of the manure.

Your idea of watering during construction of the pit is a very good one -  I've found it takes a LOT of surface watering to get the beds saturated if you wait until they are completed to water.  I suspect there may be some dry pockets where surface watering hasn't penetrated. 

I hope you'll be taking lots of pictures during the process for a complete record of developing a permaculture yard for an arid climate.  I think this information is so important especially during this time of horrible drought for us in the Southwest.


I hope it works too! I'm not expecting a rock shelf but I'm crossing my fingers that I don't hit any big bad layers of caliche. It's everywhere out here and nothing can grow through it if it's not broken up - and breaking it up can be a real pain in the... back. 

I found the suggestion of watering each layer in the Lasagna Gardening book which said that mulch can absorb enormous amounts of water. Figured it would be the same with this. Thank you for the suggestion of sifting dirt down into the wood. It makes sense that any empty spaces would dry things out in our climate. I'm guessing that I'll have to water consistently for at least a year to help the wood break down. It's so dry here that without additional water to help things along I doubt there would be adequate moisture to rot the wood.

MMC11 wrote:
This Hydrosource.com product lasts 10-20 years, though you can't expose it to undecayed manure or it destroys it.


I plan to toss fresh manure in the pit since I don't want to wait for any I get to compost. The Hydrosource cross-linked polymer seems quite pricey at almost $100 for 20 lbs. It would probably be a good idea for my smaller garden beds where I won't be using fresh manure. Do you know how to figure out how much you need?

Dr_Temp wrote:
does it effect the soil longterm? I have been wondering about products like this. Many nurseries are using them and I have been wondering about issues that may arise. Trying to build soil vs industrialized soil amendments. just curious if anyone knows.


I was curious about the same thing. What's in it and is it really good for the soil?
Are there less expensive alternatives than this brand or are they less effective?

I'll take pictures when I start working on the yard. It would be nice to have a visual chronicle of the change.
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
I found the info on how much to use on the website. Sorry I didn't look before I asked the question! It sounds impressive and anything that saves water is wonderful out here. I'll keep reading and see if I can figure out if there are chemicals that would be absorbed by the plants.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Safety of the product is discussed on this page:  http://www.hydrosource.com/whatsnew.htm
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Safety of the product is discussed on this page:  http://www.hydrosource.com/whatsnew.htm


This quote from the the page didn't particularly reassure me.

"Hydrosource CLP is very safe when used in agriculture for raising food, and when handled as directed. Hydrosource CLP is many times more safe than the food you eat, and the cosmetics and cigarette smoke you come in contact with, regularly."

I would hope that it's safer than cigarette smoke!!! It does sounds like a great product to conserve water but I don't know enough science to evaluate their statements. I have learned that it is often better not to trust people who are selling you something. What do the rest of you think?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Personally I would not use it, but I'm one of those kind of extreme tree-huggy types.  I'd stick to regular old organic materials like sticks, leaves, manure, etc.

I stopped using cosmetics and avoid cigarette smoke to the best of my ability, having already been exposed to plenty of it, thank you very much! 

A lot of things "used in agriculture for raising food" are not safe, in my opinion. 
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Personally I would not use it, but I'm one of those kind of extreme tree-huggy types.  I'd stick to regular old organic materials like sticks, leaves, manure, etc.

I stopped using cosmetics and avoid cigarette smoke to the best of my ability, having already been exposed to plenty of it, thank you very much!   

A lot of things "used in agriculture for raising food" are not safe, in my opinion. 


I feel pretty much the same - avoid cigarette smoke and use very little cosmetics anymore. I'm not an extreme tree-hugger, but I have a fond relationship with them and pat them from time to time when no one is looking. 

You're in central Texas. Extreme drought there? Pretty hot?
Do you find plain old hugelkultur and sheet mulching adds enough organic matter to keep the soil moist enough with moderate watering?

I agree that most of what is used in agriculture for raising food is not safe, which is why we want to grow as much of our food as we can. My husband balks at paying the prices charged for organic produce in the store but he is aware that once we get our yard done we'll be eating $10 tomatoes for a few years. LOL.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
The hugel beds seem to be holding moisture much better than unamended soil, though I am still watering every evening except on cooler days (today is 100 F  )
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Thought I would see if I can upload my yard plan and get some of your thoughts.
The squares are 10 sq feet. The brown are proposed garden beds with wood chips dug in below the soil line.
The orange is where I would dig trenches about 3'deep to fill with whatever wood I can get, then manure, then soil, then mulch.
Opinions? Suggestions?


[Thumbnail for Back Yard.jpg]

Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
I've read that hugel beds dont do well in dry areas.
Ours is not as bad but in the dry season we can go 3 months without any rain.
I considered putting a perforated pipe on top of the wood in the bed
in order to water it well from time to time.
I was concerned that the dam water with have totally different micro organisms in it
than those growing in the bed and disturb the whole system.
so I did not put the pipe in.
If the wood in a hugel dries completely the soil organisms may change. (?)
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
check out Glenn K's posts earlier in this thread.  His drip system on top of the hugel beds seem like a great way to go if you are in a very dry climate.

I think a lot will depend on your soil type as well as precipitation patterns, though.  Our clay stays moist down below a few feet even after 4+ months without rain.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think the traditional mound style hugelkultur beds won't do well in a dry climate, but I think sunken "hugel pits" may work - I'm still not totally certain though I have put half my vegetable garden in this way!    Seems like such a large dose of carbon in the soil should help moisture retention especially if augmented by leaves, hay, manure, etc.  I don't think the logs will hold water the best until they are somewhat or mostly rotten.  So far things seem to be doing better on the hugel side of the garden compared to the non-hugel side. 
              


Joined: Jan 13, 2010
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
collect all of the run off water (roof, sidewalks, driveways), gray water, urine... encourage the animals to pee a bit too. could add up significantly along with shading the soil to reduce evaporation.

get ~50" of rain here, so it's a different problem.
                                


Joined: May 29, 2011
Posts: 1
Hello everyone...I want to build a 5 foot Hugelbed like the one featured in the 2011 Permaculture magazine featuring Sepp Holzer.  I've built other Hugelbeds but none approaching that height. I gave it a go a few days ago but can't get the soil to stick to the steep slopes...plus, it's not 5 feet, looks unstable..a virtual mess really..so...I need help. A step by step to building a steep 5 footer (it should look like a tipi).  Many thanks.
                


Joined: Feb 15, 2011
Posts: 5
Here are some pictures of the hugelbed i finished building today.
I put about 100 seed potatoes and 150 peas in there. It will be crowded, but all my other beds are full.


[Thumbnail for 1 [50%].JPG]

[Thumbnail for 2 [50%].JPG]

Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
I don't know if this qualifies for hugelkultur but I got the idea from this forum.  Raised beds don't normally do exceptionally well in my area.  But I figured that the general theory would work.
I used a tiller to break up the thatch of the 'dreaded centipede' grass but didn't go any further down.  If I were smarter I wouldn't have bothered and I also wouldn't have messed up my shoulder in the process.  Anyhoo.... then I just stared putting down layers of old bedding from the chicken coop, leaves, piles of limbs from the apple, pear, and plumb tree and grass clippings.  Today I added some compost tea and I will just keep adding to the mess until spring.  I did throw some butternut squash seeds in the other day and they are already coming up.


[Thumbnail for newbed4nextyear.JPG]



1. my projects
                          


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Lanaudière, QC, Canada
I've just rebuilt and planted five 120 cm² raised beds and build a new one using the hügelkultur method. My first try at this.

For the 120 cm² framed raised beds, I piled about a foot of rotting wood on the bottom, covered it with 15-10 cm of dried leaves and top that off with 15-10 cm of garden soil and compost. No problem here.

For the new bed, I piled deadwood 60 cm high in a footprint of 365 x 75 cm then I covered the pile with 10 cm of up-side-down turf, 15 cm of dead leaves and topped it all with 20 cm of a mixture of garden soil and compost. It makes for very steep bed as prescribed by Holzer. Getting the soil to stay put on top was challenging and I hope that the first hard rain won’t wash it all away. I planted it with a Costata Romanesco zucchini, a Tromboncino zucchini and several Nasturtium. 6 more beds will follow in the coming weeks.

Has anyone experienced erosion or collapse of hügelkultur beds?










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subject: Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread
 
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