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Sepp Holzer on ponds and "the monk"

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This thread is to discuss the "ponds and the monk" section of the Sepp Holzer's Permaculture article.

Sepp does not like to draw pictures.  In twelve days of training, Sepp never did a powerpoint, although he did have somebody else show some of his pictures from previous projects.

The way he conveys nearly all information is through telling stories and interpretive dance.  By "interpretive dance" I mean that he speaks a lot through his hands.  Maybe that was just because most of us in the audience didn't speak german - but I see him doing it in the german video too.

"The Monk" is something he frequently talks about.  Through interpretive dance.  He places his right elbow in his left hand and makes his right forearm perfectly vertical.   After a second, he moves his right fist left and right a few inches.  

I've seen him do this about 40 times now.  

All ponds have a high flow over flow that is used sporatically, but the monk is there for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.    It is a pipe that goes through the dam at a low point.  Inside the pond there is an elbow that will connect this pipe with a pipe that goes to the surface.  The top of the second pipe will then determine the water level of the pond.  

These two pipes and the elbow are "The Monk".  The key is, that the elbow is a tight fit, but can still slide a little.  So if you move the monk side to side, you can adjust the depth of the pond.

When we were at Mowich farm, Sepp was quick to point at a culvert and holler "catastrophe!" (a word that must be the same in german and english).  He then tells a story about how there will be a great rain storm at 2am and the culvert plugs, the water rises, runs over the dam and the dam is destroyed.  As part of the story he holds his hands together and places them next to his head to show the pond owner asleep at 2am.  

Later that day, I asked if the monk would ever plug:  "NEVER!" The interpretive dance had the body language of waving me off because I'm a stupid child (with good humor).  He then talked about how they use the monk in some interesting ways to "vacuum" up algae, elodea and even silt.  They would go so far as to attach poly pipe to the end of the monk and then buzz around the pond sucking up all sorts of things.  And what's fun is to put an even longer pipe on the downhill side and then you get super duper suction power.  

Later I asked Josef, who tends to be a bit more humble:  he says that it is true, you can have all sorts of leaves and other debris in the pond and monks just don't seem to plug up.

So, I'm thinking about this ...  and I think I can see it ... because 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch of water goes over the edge of the monk and into the monk.  Then debris, which is gonna have some in the water and some out, won't be able to make that tiny, sharp, downard turn.  Debris would just sit around outside the monk.    The culvert could do the same trick if it were lower in the dam and had an upwards elbow.  Big sticks and logs ... the only stuff that could plug the 18 inch culvert we were looking at ...  would not be able to get over the edge of the same culvert standing on end.

I have lots and lots more to say about all of this, but for now I need to post what I've written so far and make some pictures to better explain myself ....




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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So here is my rendition of a pond with a standard culvert. 

And here is my rendition of the same pond with the culvert modified so that it will, in theory, not plug.  I can just hear Sepp getting all upset over my use of the word "theory", because to him, it is absolute fact.



[Thumbnail for culvert_1.gif]

[Thumbnail for culvert_2.gif]

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Now I've zoomed in on the stick coming up on the culvert ...

And I've tried to modify the picture a little to show the stick much closer to the culvert.  The stick will stop at the outside edge of culvert and go no further.   


[Thumbnail for culvert_3.gif]

[Thumbnail for culvert_4.gif]

Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 179
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
Maybe I missed it in skimming, but what size pipe was Sepp using for the "Monk?"
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Quittrack wrote:
Maybe I missed it in skimming, but what size pipe was Sepp using for the "Monk?"


I think it depends a lot on the size of flow he expects.  But I get the impression that most of his monk's are about 2 inches in diameter.  I think some are as small as an inch.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
There is more and more and more to add here.  It will probably take me a month to get it all out.  But here is a tidbit that I thought was really interesting:

Sepp has 72 ponds at his place and he has probably built hundreds of ponds outside of his property.

He has been fiddling with the very top edge of the monk ....

This might be a good time to point out that in a couple of his videos you can see the monk in action.  And in at least one shot is a close-up, complete with sound and the monk is making this "thip-thip-thip-thip" sound.  Sepp thinks that getting the monk to make that sound is the best thing ever. 

So, he's fiddling with the top edge just a tiny bit - like a millimeter worth of fiddling.  He's trying to encourage the water to go down the monk as a spiral.  But if he can get the "thip-thip-thip" that's even better. 

He talks about getting a lot of oxygen in the water.  And he talks about catching fish out of the pond where the water comes out of a monk from a higher pond and dribbles into this pond.  So he will catch fish from the end of the pond where the water dribbles in and from the other end.  The fish from the end with with water coming in have more life and energy than any other fish on his property.  I've heard him tell this story three times, where the fish is so full of life it even leaps out of the pan (no innards and no head).  repeatedly.  He ends up cooking the fish by holding it in the pan. 

Sepp has a certain sort of spiritual connection with his land.  And it seems that this whole life force thing involving the spiraling water in the monk is a really big part of it.  And the "thip-thip-thip" is even better. 

I kinda wonder if it is nothing more than the water has a maximum of dissolved oxygen at that point, and that is what makes the fish so lively.  My impression is that Sepp thinks there is more to it. 


Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 179
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
Well, the man is obviously very charismatic, and quite eccentric... What he believes is probably up for speculation due to language barriers, but he does seem to reside in a little different reality than the rest of us.  Most of the best minds live in a world all their own, and seem to not only think outside the box, but don't even know of the existence of the box. In a lot of cases, that's referred to as Autism. I have two sons who have it. And everything is black and white with them, no in between. (which i thought of when Paul was saying how everything that he didn't come up with was a "catastrophe."

He's brilliant, that much is certain. He's just a little out there. he's a rebel. 
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
paul wheaton wrote:


I kinda wonder if it is nothing more than the water has a maximum of dissolved oxygen at that point, and that is what makes the fish so lively.  My impression is that Sepp thinks there is more to it. 





you always catch the best fish at the bottom of the dam! I think your right about the dissolved oxygen. but I am not real spiritually minded and try not to assign more meaning to things than is neccesary. sometimes something just is what it is. great idea to keep it from clogging.


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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Not sure if this is the thread, but I just watched the video about sealing ponds with saturation & vibration.

Sepp Holzer talks a little bit about the Brazil nut effect in that video, but doesn't speak of it by name.  He talks about rocks and sand working their way up to the surface as things are shaken. More importantly, though, clay and silt will work their way down, for precisely the same reason; if there are too many coarse particles, the coarsest layer can be skimmed off and more assorted soil put in its place.

I wanted to provide links to more info on the mechanisms involved...especially for anyone who is having trouble following Mr. Holzer's reasoning, or wants more theory behind their efforts to adopt his methods:

Brazil Nut Effect
Soil Liquefaction

Notice in the picture at the bottom of the second article, how the largest particle (the sewer system) has worked its way upward, forcefully enough to tear up the pavement. The caption mentions buoyancy, which certainly played a role, but I doubt that is the whole story.


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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
One little thing about the life energy:

The monk slurps down much of the surface of the pond, including probably a lot of algae and insects. Fish living in that effluent would probably not only get more oxygen, but better food. Not only more calories, but likely also more omega-3 fatty acids, which allow animals to keep moving even with a cold body temperature.
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Not sure if this is the thread, but I just watched the video about sealing ponds with saturation & vibration.

Sepp Holzer talks a little bit about the Brazil nut effect in that video, but doesn't speak of it by name.  He talks about rocks and sand working their way up to the surface as things are shaken. More importantly, though, clay and silt will work their way down, for precisely the same reason; if there are too many coarse particles, the coarsest layer can be skimmed off and more assorted soil put in its place.

I wanted to provide links to more info on the mechanisms involved...especially for anyone who is having trouble following Mr. Holzer's reasoning, or wants more theory behind their efforts to adopt his methods:

Brazil Nut Effect
Soil Liquefaction

Notice in the picture at the bottom of the second article, how the largest particle (the sewer system) has worked its way upward, forcefully enough to tear up the pavement. The caption mentions buoyancy, which certainly played a role, but I doubt that is the whole story.
Where is that video Joel? I would really like to watch it. All I have picked up so far is that he likes to use pigs to stomp the ground... they seem to compact it and bring about waterproofing somehow. I would love to use no liner.. so expensive. Problem is my rocks absorb water so would have to blast them away to seal effectively.

Interesting links. Never knew of that before.....brazil nut effect.

Chelle
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
He might be referring to this video I took:

http://www.youtube.com/paulwheaton12#p/u/18/3vHXa3y8B7M


Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Yes, I think that's the one.

Cyara wrote:All I have picked up so far is that he likes to use pigs to stomp the ground... they seem to compact it and bring about waterproofing somehow.


In the video, he seems to suggest that they are only tall enough to make themselves a wallow, and he wanted to work on a larger scale, so he had to train the backhoe operator to imitate the pigs. But he certainly did learn the technique from them, after much wonder and contemplation.

Cyara wrote:Problem is my rocks absorb water so would have to blast them away to seal effectively.


When you do a shake test near your intended pond site, is there any proportion of clay/fine silt? The video talks about having to scoop up the rocks that have risen to the top, and add soil, sometimes repeatedly...but blasting probably isn't required. Is the weather such where you live that keeping them wet as they freeze and thaw might be worthwhile, to increase the proportion of finer stuff?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
new podcast talking about Sepp's ponds and stuff

http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/305-podcast-035-sepp-holzer-film-discussion-2/

Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
And another podcast (036) discussing ponds and the monk Q & A style at the pub: http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/1360_0/permaculture/sepp-holzer-on-ponds-and-quotthe-monkquot


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    8
Paul and Kelda continue reviewing Sepp Holzer's Permaculture (the book), chapter 1 part 5 in this podcast: podcast

They talk a lot about the monk and the energy of Sepp's water.
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4588
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
173
Here's a few photos I took of the monk in Tamera, Portugal.

















With thanks to Tamir Yaari, one of the speakers at the Water Symposium and a member of the Water Landscape Design-Tamera ecology team, for not only being a model in the photos and showing how the monk moves, but also for later helping a certain fat, pain-wracked female to cross the stepping stones on our tour of the gardens without falling head-long into the stream. I still feel guilty about him getting his feet so wet...


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Burra,

Why is the water level not currently at the top of the monk?
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4588
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
173
Portugal had just had one of it's driest winters on record - most people were suffering from empty wells, in April, when they should be full.

As I understand it, the water retention landscape in Tamera constantly 'loses' water to the surrounding land. Only the dam itself is watertight. Water is free to be absorbed into the landscape anywhere else. The stream/creek below this lake now flows constantly, all year round, despite the fact that for decades it had only flowed during or just after rain. I guess a combination of no rain and constantly losing water as the lake rehydrated the landscape meant that there simply wasn't the expected level of water.

Of course, the gathering of so many 'rain makers' in one place meant that the rains finally did come - it had just started to rain as I took these photos and it basically didn't stop for weeks! Our wells are all full now, but I haven't been back to Tamera to see what the lakes look like when they're full.
Chad Ellis


Joined: Aug 09, 2011
Posts: 67
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
    
  11
Wow! That is way different than I had imagined thanks for the photos!


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Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
why does it move again?

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Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4588
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
173
Devon Olsen wrote:why does it move again?


It allows you to adjust the level of the water in the pond. If your pond is full and the creek below it is too dry, you can tip the monk and it will allow water to allow water to flow out. If it's tipping it down with rain and everywhere has plenty of water, you put it back up straight again.

Edit to add, Tamir went to great lengths to warn us to be exceedingly careful when trying to adjust the monk - if there is a lot of water getting sucked down then the monk is likely to swing back up and bash you on the head!
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
ok, thanks, so if one doesnt want to or doesnt have a stream beneath the pond period, it would be acceptable to have a monk that doesnt move?
or is it for some reason a requirement ot have it move around for some reason?
Pecos Rich


Joined: Jan 23, 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Far Nor-Cal
Devon Olsen wrote:ok, thanks, so if one doesnt want to or doesnt have a stream beneath the pond period, it would be acceptable to have a monk that doesnt move?
or is it for some reason a requirement ot have it move around for some reason?


I can't see a reason. We've got the biggest monk you've ever seen in a lake nearby, and it's totally immobile.





The top one is at Whiskeytown Lake, the one on the bottom is (I think) Lake Berryessa. The folks who built these lakes don't refer to this type of spillway as a monk, they call it a "Glory Hole". More info & pics, including the bottom end (its BIG!) can be found here: http://daviswiki.org/Morning_Glory_Spillway




.
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
very beautiful... though it does look quite dangerous for anyone who's too stupid to steer clear
or if its dark and someone isnt familiar with the lake, looks like it could use some pylons or something sticking out to help keep people and or peoples belongs from being sucked down it lol
Pecos Rich


Joined: Jan 23, 2013
Posts: 4
Location: Far Nor-Cal
Devon, it's not too obvious in the pictures, but both Glory Holes are in a sectioned off chunk of lake right next to the dam. The line of dark shapes floating on the water in the background of the first pic and the line of orange floats at the top edge of the 2nd pic are both roped together barriers preventing anybody from ending up in that part of the lake on accident.
andrew curr


Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 285
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
    
    1
my monks are made of 100mm sewer pipe
nb,sewer pipe is treated to prevent solar degridation
occasionally i suck up a long necked tortiose which is probably bad karma (any design ideas for tortose mitigation??)
I try to irrigate when the wind is such that i get to vaccum up the azzolla on the surface


we have to forest our farms and farm our forests
andrew curr


Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 285
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
    
    1
Patterns in permaculture are universal!
Almost all Europeans of Sepps age Particularly germans and Austrians of Seps age Went hungry after Ww2 Thus they take food security very seriously
One of my mates mum; still has fond memories of sucking on honey locust pods as a treat
mary yett


Joined: Nov 01, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
    
    2
I attended the Sepp event at Spirit Mountain Farm April,2013. Sepp spent several hours demonstrating how to glue ( with ultra quick setting cement) landscape fabric to the horizontal part of the monk- the part that goes under the dam- before it is installed. We couldn't find the correct materials for this demo, but he went through the steps involved anyway.

He feels this is important to keep a trickle of water from working along the outside of the buried part of the outlet pipe (the monk can "sweat"), as this small seepage can in time erode along the outside of the pipe and cause a breach in the dam. Making the surface of the buried, horizontal part of the outflow pipe irregular and rough w/ the glued on landscape fabric makes it nearly impossible for water to sneak along the outside edge of the pipe.

He said many times, "water has a small head" - meaning it can creep into tiny spaces.

He also went over many reasons why the monk should have a moveable joint and be adjustable - among them were (note*- he prefers many small ponds connected in series by overflow pipes or ditches to giant lakes in most farm situations, like his own farm - Tamera is a different style large scale installation)
-- water tables can vary ( see Tamera photos above) - you want to be able to adjust how much ,if any water flows out of the drainage pipe and be in control of water
levels on all your ponds
--- if you want to harvest the fish in a farm pond, simply move the monk (rotate it down), more water will flow out, drain the pond to the point where all the fish are concentrated in the deepest part of the pond, scoop out want you want w/ a fishnet, immediately move the monk back to where it was , and watch the pond refill
---if an unwanted species of fish or plant or a disease should get into your pond,move the monk, drain the pond and keep it drained until what you don't want is dead ( maybe even adjust the monk of the upstream pond to hold more of its water for a while), then move the monk back, refill the pond and introduce what you do want back into the pond
--- the pond downstream from the pond in question may need more water moving into it temporarily because water in the lower pond is being taken out to irrigate a crop or run a microhydro power plant - just adjust the monk accordingly
--- etc, etc

Sepp strongly believes that a movable monk is REQUIRED on all dammed farm ponds - this gives you the ability to make infinite adjustments in the future depending on what you want to accomplish.

Manitoulin Mary
Adam Klaus
pollinator

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 851
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
    
  49
Interesting discussion. Paul's diagrams are particularly instructive. The vertical spillpipe is quite effective as an algae/surface scum removal device as it naturally overflows, and is quite impervious to blockage.

Regarding the 'Monk', there is a commercially available water level management structure, called an Agri-Drain, that performs the same essential function. I suspect it is a bit more fail-safe and fool-proof than the Monk.
It draws water out from deep in the pond, as opposed to the surface spillway, and can be set in 4" incraments to determine the surface elevation and release water downstream.

I use both a surface spillway, and a deep Agri-Drain in my pond to great effect. The two definietly complament one another, and add an extra layer of redundancy for overflow management.
The piping for both then tie together off the backside of my dam, and allow me to then direct the water through gated irrigation pipe to different pastures on my farm. Or I can bypass that piping and send the water downhill into my lower pond, and ultimately the dry gulch that now is an intermittant stream.

I just wanted to share my experience with these types of water control structures. Storing water is obviously excellent. Being able to direct that water where it is needed most on the farm is truly outstanding.

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mary yett


Joined: Nov 01, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
    
    2
Sepp uses a double vertical pipe adaptation of the monk which draws drainage water from deep in the pond instead of from the surface. One of the main reasons he uses this modification is when he has fry, baby fish, in the pond that he wants to stay in that pond and not go down the drain pipe. Small fry tend to stay in the warmer, top layer of the pond, so drawing water from deep in the pond keeps them in place. I don't know how to put my drawings on this website, so it is difficult to describe.

He also described a technique for collecting fry for stocking another pond or for sale - using a regular monk, spread lots of fish food on the surface near the monk outlet, allow them a short while to gather to feed, then bend the monk slightly, suck them up and collect them downstream at the outlet.

By the way, landscape fabric was used for the demonstration of monk construction at the Duluth workshop because that is all that was available locally, but what Sepp actually recommends using to wrap the horizontal pipe is geotextile builders fleece.

Manitoulin Mary
john mcginnis


Joined: Jul 07, 2013
Posts: 2
Reading this thread about the monk triggered my brain on something I had seen elsewhere --




Aquaponicists are just now experimenting with hydrocyclones in leiu of air blowers to oxygenate the water. Its more efficient and they generally run pumps as part of the system anyway. They eliminate one whole bit of kit. Yes it is more energetic than what Sepp does with a Monk but the concept is the same.
luke allen


Joined: Jul 09, 2012
Posts: 8
I am wondering what material to use for the pipe? Steel? PVC? Sewage PVC?

What does Sepp recommend?

thanks everyone, this is a great thread.

Luke
Zach Weiss


Joined: Oct 20, 2012
Posts: 238
Location: Montana
    
  42
Hey Luke!

For the Holzer Monk Sepp recommends this type of pipe:



This particular pipe is probably overkill, unless if you have a large amount of water coming into your pond. But this is the best picture I can find of what your looking for.

The pipe is integral to the Holzer Monk system. This is the type of pipe used for water mainlines, food grade and safe for drinking water. I have also seen him use the red/orange stuff for ponds.

Notice how one side flares out for the sticks to connect together. On the pipe section that connects to the elbow of the Monk you take the rubber gasket out. This is what allows the monk to pivot.



It is also important that you have a long connection to the elbow. Most of the Monks that I saw at the Holzerhof and Krameterhof were 4" pipe, there was always a backup spillway close by for times of high water.


Visit the Krameterhof and Holzerhof | Workshop with Sepp Holzer this August | Healing Waters
Zach Weiss


Joined: Oct 20, 2012
Posts: 238
Location: Montana
    
  42
During the workshop in Austria this past summer we installed 3 Monks as part of a three pond system, all built during the workshop.



The posts on either side of the Monk are Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia, which Sepp calls acacia). They are sharpened to a point and driven in the ground with an excavator.


The pole in this photo is a willow, being used as a stake for a peach tree (it was falling over because it was so loaded with fruit).

Behind these two poles another pole or two is placed horizontally so as to protect the elbow of the monk.



A dock is built off of the two poles, and they also provide an attachment point to secure the monk with a chain. The docks allow you to adjust the level of the Monk without taking a swim.

Timothy Hewitt-Coleman


Joined: Sep 30, 2013
Posts: 48
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
    
    6
I have installed a little Sepp Holtzer like overflow in my pond.

I have devised a little collar though that helps draw the water from a little below the surface.

I hope that this devise will cause my pond to be more oxygenated, warmer and hold more duckweed.

All good characteristics for a pond that I would like to support my Tilapia.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/fJjcdpPrxeQ[/youtube]


A chroncile of our many mistakes - http://www.born2farm.blogspot.com
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4588
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
173
Here's the video.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15047
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The collar does, indeed, do all of the things that you wish.

There is one downside: if there are any oils floating on the surface, the oils remain on the surface.
 
 
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