Hi Andrea, is the shade from a structure or an evergreen, or a deciduous tree? Does its shade vary due to seasonal variations in sun path? I have a greenhouse that got shaded before I got my place by a big maple to the north that reaches over it and shades it in partially in midsummer, and a barn to the south shading partially in the winter. It did not make sense to have a greenhouse with plants there with no more than 3hrs of direct sunlight per day. However its temp ranges worked well as a chicken and duck house, with a run with more light outside and several hugel bed gardens for them to rotate through. I have considered trying to grow citrus, tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse, but that would require supplemental light to get much fruit and that seems inefficient. How much light do you get and what are your max-minimum temperatures in the greenhouse?
I think you would have better efficiency pulling the air than pushing it. I’d also consider drilling numerous holes in your container. I would also wet the whole batch down to the point where it runs off slightly at the beginning, then adding moisture only as needed thereafter.
I may have missed it posted already, but have you tried using a black “chimney”, with perforations in the section in the pile? The black heats up in the sun, when ventilation is most beneficial, and a thermosyphon passively ventilates the pile. This is just an adaptation off the classic design for ventilating a house passively, and since any heat loss is escaping within your greenhouse (ideally into a thermal mass like you are doing in your soil), it would seem to be worthwhile to me.
It seems to me you’ve done a lot of things right, and many of my first ideas have been mentioned already. The only things I can think of as possible problems in your system
- are contamination from biocides in the chips or other additives (a risk I also accept when taking arborist chips)
- the metal container itself possibly being coated in a biocide
- a non permeable container restricting air flow
Someone called the fire department on my woodchips pile last month after I had been taking from it for mulch and left it steaming. Nothing had been added to this pile of pine and fir. Everyone in California is terrified about fires with all those going on in southern and central CA.
I have had good results from putting duck pond water over woodchips and seeing it heat up to the point of feeling hazardous to climb, and then it developed nice fungal hyphae.
I agree with Tim’s approach if you have the mulch available (I use arborist woodchips, spreading about 14yds this week). The chopping might help in how it slight pulls at the roots, loosening the soil underneath like an herbivore can when grazing, but I think it’s not necessarily worth the effort if smothering with deep mulch.
The main benefits of chop and drop in my opinion are:
- retention of as much organic matter as possible
- a proportional amount of the root system dies back, effectively injecting compost into the soil with minimal disturbance and oxidation/nutrient loss
- protecting the soil and its ecosystem. If we think about a habitat as food-water-shelter-space, debris/mulch of chopped and dropped plants provides all these requirements for diverse organisms and the succession of the soil ecosystem
- the relatively stable habitat within the mulch (temperature and moisture are moderated greatly) allows for this ecosystem succession from bacterial Ky dominated and less diverse dirt towards fungally dominated (fungal species increase exponentially over time without disturbance, but bacteria also diversify just do so with a more linear increase over time).
- this succession is where disease and pest resistance comes from. The decomposition cycle is a little microcosm of evolution, with abundant species of pests or disease being consumed by their predators or control species. If we just leave well enough alone and have enough diversity around us in healthy ecosystems, we will inevitably see natural controls for our plant problems.
I have to ask, if the primary purpose of a very expensive piece of equipment is to mow, why not get some grazers and electric fencing and let them do the work? Seems like the maintenance costs of the tractor alone would be greater than the fencing and even feeding of an LGD or paying a herder. I have used both tractors and excavators to do earthworks, and for most projects that I would associate with permaculture I’d say a rented excavator is more efficient and cost effective. Of course a neighbor helping with their tractor is an offer you can’t refuse, but I do start to wonder how many zeros are on y’alls budgets for heavy equipment and How that effects financial flexibility.
“ I prefer to honor local ethnic and sectarian customs - though that could just be me. “
That is a great sentiment. Considering that we are in a multi ethic, explicitly religiously pluralist country with millions of non-Christians (and with many very serious Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas or hold the traditional view it is a secondary holiday far less important than Easter), and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, I say, “Happy Holidays.”
I don't really care what other people choose to say around "the holidays", just like I don't really care in July. I do say Merry Christmas from around December 23rd-25th, but outside of that time I say "Happy Holidays" because a great many other holidays occur over the November-December period. Thanksgiving, New Years, Chanukah, and sometimes other major holidays like Ramadan that float around the calendar. I do think people getting upset about acknowledging that other holidays exist during this time of year is probably a expression of something else bothering them that they read into it, but I do that all the time as a frequently judgmental, projecting ass myself. I also remember my Catholic school teacher pointing out it was very unlikely that Jesus of Nazareth was born on December 25th (the Nazarene desert gets very cold in mid-winter at night, and surviving in labor on a donkey during that would probably require a miracle in itself that likely would have been mentioned). He also pointed out it happened during a period with the Julian Calendar so that would be a different day on our modern calendar regardless. The timing of Christmas by is also pretty darn coincidental with Saturnalia, an important Roman holiday that many current western Christian traditions have reflections of. So I guess my point is I wish we could just lighten the fuck up about it. I think that's what JC would do.
I actually disagree with Mr Boone, but don’t live in the same climate so this is more based on my understanding of the physics and theory than observation in your context. My understanding is thermal mass will mitigate temperature fluctuations, with a larger mass doing so over a longer period of time than a smaller one. So a large enough mass would do this temperature mitigation over the entire year, and theoretically still be absorbing, rather than exuding, heat on hot nights throughout the summer. If the thermal mass (like a stone or wood) is cooler than the ambient temperature, it will also cause condensation, (the water’s phase change from gas to liquid does release energy, ie heat, but that is counteracted when that water evaporates or transpires at a hotter time of the day). I suppose if we are talking small black rocks, you could theoretically get heat output at night like Mr Boone fears, but I don’t think that’s what was meant by the previous post suggesting rocks.
Regarding hugelkulture, I would go down into the ground if you are looking to minimize heat and loss of moisture. Here on the Northern California coast, we have essentially the opposite climate to Oklahoma. We get very little fluctuation in temperature (30f is average winter low, and it’s rarely over 85f in the summer), and we get almost all our rain from Oct-May. So I go up from grade as much as possible to avoid waterlogging in our very wet (100” of rain is historic norm) winters. This gives us a better windbreak as well, which you will lose if going down in the ground. I imagine one would want a windbreak in Oklahoma.
My suggestion would to do a large enough southern windbreak hugel to really hold massive enough amounts of water to get through your dry times. Once it’s saturated, a 7ft hugel will get through 6months without water here for perennials and established annuals. Then you could go down in the ground for half or more of another one’s height behind that wind break. This would give you a lot more diversity of microclimates to work with. On the south facing windbreak, I’d go with your native pioneering trees and shrubs (as well as n-fixators) to enhance the windbreak and have the best chance at handling the desiccating winds. On the north slope you will have much cooler, wetter soil, especially toward the bottom. In addition, just a six foot rise can cause air to drop moisture as dew. It may be harder to find wood people are happy to give away there, but I can’t think of a place that would benefit more from hugelkulture than Oklahoma.
Good points all. In my experience, 2-4ft hugel beds seem to extend my strawberry harvests 2-4 weeks on either end of my growing season. I am interested to see how the newer 5-7ft beds work out over time, but in this first fall they are continuing to produce greens very well. Our basil just fell off a couple weeks ago and sunflowers and beans finished their production in the last week. Strawberries are not anywhere near their peak but are still producing as of November 20th. I do not know anyone without hoophouses or other similar season extension methods that has the same extended season.
An aspect that I think is under-appreciated with hugelkulture is the drainage benefits while not losing water retention. One of the food forest sites I manage gets 100" of rain and 14 acres of hardscape runoff. This water load would equal 1400" per year, over double the rainiest place on Earth. While we have done drainage work to mitigate this deluge and pollutants therein, we did not want to drain what would naturally be a wetland. Hugel beds have been integral to this, and allow us to get soil moisture to a reasonable level for planting a month earlier than home gardeners in our area that only have their house and driveway runoff as additional water to deal with.
At the other end of the growing season, in our climate in the Pacific NW of the US, fall usually starts dry, but increasingly cold rains and ensuing soil saturation and temperature drop is a queue for fall die-back. Soil microbes are the messengers to deciduous or annual plants that its time to wrap it up, and if they have adequate moisture longer, like we do with hugelkulture, these microbes will extend their active period, and thus plants' growing season. Hugel beds seem to allow the season to go on due to forestalling soil saturation as well as cooling. This has appeared to be especially true the past two years, where we got a warm, sunny early fall after our normal late August warm rain (the Pineapple Express), followed by a normal late September cool rain (queuing leaf color change), and then get a long wait for a really cold rain sometime in late October (we are still waiting this year, similar to last year when it came around Thanksgiving). Point being, drainage improvement provided by hugelkulture works alongside soil warmth to extend the season, and the soil biology has a powerful role in plants' response to changing seasons/weather/climate.
Not sure if that corrugated pipe is for trunk protection or is a water conveyance to the tree from a gutter or French drain. If it is for water, it would be better to have it at the drip line rather than so close to the trunk (along with piled mulch this could cause roots or bark to rot).
I like your thinking Fredy, and would also follow The good Dr’s advice. The smell you describe in comparing it to horse/chicken manure is one I have come to associate with high nitrogen content. It would make sense because slugs are basically fat and protein sacks, and proteins are nitrogen based (correct Dr?). I would also agree with your idea of aerating their sludge. I feed them to my birds before they ultimately go into tea or on soil as bird bedding mulch, but I would bet their gut contents are similarly beneficial to worm castings directly in a tea.
Bats are incredibly diverse (only rodentia has more species among mammalian families), but have been widely vilified without good reason. I’d research your local species, and focus on solidly researched, peer reviewed and vetted sources rather than the hyperbolic ignorance at the base of many stories that leads to urban legends and the unfair eradication of beneficial species. In my area, bats have never recorded a transmission of rabies, and farmers in the US save billions of dollars in crops saved from moths and other pests insects that bats control. I would also bet my life that many more people are harmed by insecticides and chemical fertilizers that attempt to replace bats’ ecosystem functions than by bats themselves. I always make sure to use hand protection when I have to move a bat for its own safety (from indoors where they get stuck), but it’s a good excuse to get out the old baseball mitt.
After thinking about it more, I have to admit I was thinking inside the box too much. In your situation I would keep a lot of bird feeders, bird houses, bat boxes and brush piles either directly above your beds or where you can easily direct the fertility the animals that can freely come and go leave you in exchange for the food or shelter you provide.
Sounds like a reasonable perspective Nicole. I agree with Chris that a pet rabbit would be the manure source I’d go to in your situation. I also think raising a vegan dog is just about as cruel as killing it. Most “veganic” fertilizers I know of are bean meal based, so coffee grounds would be a great as a free amendment. I still don’t see a difference in my birds’ freedom and that of worms in my bins or other organisms in “my” soil. They can literally all leave if they want, but I set things up so they have what they need and are safer where I can easily harvest their fertility. Also, if you don’t have a male, the eggs are not viable future chickens, so I don’t see an ethical problem with eating them. I do keep a male duck because they perform a protective service and the dominant females would just act like males in their absence. Regardless, we cannot sustainably extract ourselves from the ecosystem, and animals living, pooping and dying is an inextricable part of that ecosystem. I even subscribe to the theory that plants allowed for and encouraged the evolution of fungus and animals to facilitate nutrient cycling and transport. The more polar ones ecosystem, the more important animals are to carrying over energy and nutrients harvested in the previous growing season through the winter. I also agree with Bill Mollison that any vegan farm is only sustainable without outside inputs that depend on animals if the humanure is being utilized on site. Even then, we depend on animals in our soil helping break that down. Every bird consumes insects when raising young, including humming birds, and every animal in the Pacific NW coastal ecosystem consumes salmon directly except Elk and tree voles. This includes deer who nibble bones for calcium. And all the animals consume salmon indirectly, as it is what composes most of the vegetation.i am not telling anyone to eat meat, I understand it could be seen as objectively gross and it is cruelly produced en masse by industry. However, we are animals, and we all depend on other animals at some point. I think this is a reason to treat them all with respect, not exclude them from our landscapes.
Is it a problem that millions of animals live in garden soil, and are necessary to break down organic matter and provide nutrients in any organic system? In this process many of the animals and other soil organisms have to die for the system to work and produce healthy vegetation. We also kill them ourselves whenever we disturb the soil, even by walking on it, however careful we are. We also kill inadvertently when we walk on soil as we pick, or dig up roots, and we do this to those animals and other organisms equally deserving of respect in the soil that worked so hard their whole lives to help grow our food. Maybe I am just rationalizing because I tried to be vegan for awhile, and I love vegans' intentions (Jainism may be the most consistent ethical system I know of), so I am in no place to criticize. However, we could not live without other animals' participation in the ecosystems we depend upon. Therefore, I do think giving all our fellow living things a good life with as much freedom as possible is important, and I hope my animals are the luckiest ones in the litter/clutch I got them from. I would keep ducks for their manure and entertainment value alone, and my ducks and chickens can fly away if they want to. I just give them a safer, more comfortable place to live, water, and food. In exchange I get eggs and fertilizer. This is also true of the worms I keep, as well the microarthropods and other soil invertebrates I try to provide habitat for in my garden. I don't mean to criticize anyone, I just think this is something to consider.
I get the shower to a borderline uncomfortably hot level towards the end of my shower, getting my core body temperature up. Then i run it an absolute cold for about a minute. The contrast makes the world feel like a hot shower.
As the son of a nurse, I can say from observation how unhealthy the work hours and environment are for health care professionals. This is similar to a lot of fields of overworked altruists (i.e. teachers, social workers, etc), but to an extreme extent with life threatening consequences for failure to perform. It seems a certain level of masochism is expected for those who care for our wellbeing. This expectation of accepting deleterious working conditions as an expected trade off for doing inherently rewarding work goes beyond health care providers of course (the aforementioned teachers and social workers as well as many other civil servants, not to mention regenerative farmers and conservationists). My mom has battled lifelong health problems as a direct result of her job, and as a result of the stress it put her under psychologically. Sleep deprivation that is the norm for nurses, doctors, and EMTs is known to be a cause of muscle mass loss and fat retention, in addition to its tax on mental health and impulse control (i.e. insomniac binge eating). Of course, we can always bring up will power, but we only have so much, and those who put themselves in constantly stressful situations dealing with crazy people or saving lives often use it on things other than self-care.
Thanks to Grant from the Smith River Alliance for sending this photo he took of me in front of a hugel bed built by local youth in 2018. Behind that in the background is another 5000sq ft of hugels that were all finished in the last year. Grant was on a tour I gave of the site during our Food Forest Grand Opening Harvest Festival. Thanks to the many volunteers and several amazing colleagues, it went very well from my perspective. We had at least 150 attendees, I took about 50 people on tours and many seemed interested in applying principles of what we have done at home. We also had a petting zoo (the pallet and lattice fence I built with mostly scrap materials in just 3hrs held up well and looks pretty good. The food was mostly from the site or it was very locally grown, and apple cider pressing was a big hit and will provide us with a lot of seedstock for starting locally adapted apples the Sepp Holzer way. The band was also very nice to hear as people bustled about and it seemed a good time was had by all. It had a lot going on and several people put in long hours making it happen, but I am glad we did it!
Thanks to all who came and especially to those who helped! For further involvement, come on out to the Crescent City Food Forest — Taa-‘at-dvn Chee-ne’ Tetlh-tvm’ — at the College of the Redwoods Campus (@Washington & Arlington) on Monday’s from 2-5pm for the Permaculture Garden Club or the 4th Friday of the month for seasonally themed volunteer projects and workshops.
Kyle, those are good points. I would just say we need to move beyond burn piles and bury as much wood as possible. Where feasible, this can be done with excavators and other equipment often already on sites being managed for fire. In more remote locations, let gravity and natural uphill erosion carry the soil to trees felled nearly on contour (but with a slight cant).
I lost 21lbs in 5 months eating 4000-5000calories per day. Got ripped, met my future wife, and I only had to do an average of 8 hrs moderate exercise a day hiking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. You can eat whatever you want, just do some badass shit and you will be what you are. Shame is bullshit.
By “conduit,” do you all mean metal pipe or the grey plastic electrical pipe that I have often also heard called “conduit”, and which I understand holds up to UV much better than pvc? Thanks for the clarification, I am mostly self taught with a lot of this stuff and therefore have big gaps regarding shorthand like this.
Yes it is burlap mesh cloth for erosion control. It’s not cheap but it worked. I might just try a cover crop and wood chips or another organic inexpensive mulch if I had to do it again. I would also forego the pipe in the wood filled trench anywhere 10ft or more from a structure that I worry about sinking.
I did not realize what I was doing and calling hugel drains had another name! I don't think I can use the term "faggot drain" in teaching contexts with teenagers in Northern California without being very careful. It did seem like such an obvious idea that it could not be new, and its good to know it has millennia of proof behind the concept. We have done thousands of feet of these at food forest sites around structures and roads, on the site at College of the Redwoods Crescent City, where 14acres of hardscape runoff can exceed 386,000gal/acre/inch of rain (equals 14" of water running on site for every inch, and we can get 10"+/day in winter storms). This requires serious accommodation and the wood filled drain trenches seem to be working well and hold a lot of water before running it off. We also have immense amounts of woody debris available. I have also added other water retention structures with large overflow sills to manage floods while holding as much as possible in this highly impacted wetland that we are trying to restore as habitat in addition to growing food for and teaching the community about solving these common regional problems for themselves.
When installing drip line on top of a hugel this spring I had to dig across a 2yr old woody trench. Even though I was trying to be careful of the irrigation line also in the wood trench, and knew basically where it was, I took one swing too many with the pick-mattock at the hard pan silcrete around the trench. Instead of shaving an inch off with each swing, as I had been doing laboriously on the silcrete, the mattock sunk swiftly, almost 2ft. It went into the compost that had become of the wood in the trench. It broke the pvc irrigation line down almost 3ft at the bottom of the trench after it also went through a 4" drain tile. The wood was only 2yrs old, and had become potting soil textured humus. It still drains well and seems to be benefiting everything around it, including the hedgerow and hugel beds adjacent.
It is a relatively short succession plant compared to many other conifers (800-1200 yr lifespan versus 2000-4000yrs+ for more shade tolerant species), but just like many other disturbance dependent plants, it has many uses and byproducts of fungi and salmon. Here’s a sketch of how i might use big evergreens to my advantage:
I enjoyed this podcast as usual, and agreed with most of the advice. Unfortunately though, Paul repeats some commonly held and understandably common forester fallacies about Douglas fir and conifers in general. While of course harvesting these trees can be called for at times and I have done so when we have a use for the wood and space they would leave behind, they do not "desertify the landscape." They in fact support salmon streams, massive amounts of mushrooms, dozens of edible and medicinal plants, and ecosystems with close to the highest biomass on Earth (2nd only to Redwoods and up to 10x a tropical rainforest) (Noss). The contention that Doug Fir "desertifies the land", that Paul mentions several times, is an understandable misconception held by many in the forestry and gardening world. It is allelopathic as he says, but not to a diverse array of plant and fungal associates native to the areas from Mexico to Alaska, the pacific to the Rockies, and sea level to 8000ft. So of course it is in no danger of extinction, but I post this more for the immense amount of life Douglas fir and other conifers support in the NW, especially older trees.
I have been told by experienced mushroom hunters in the NW that many of the edible mushrooms that Doug fir supports only start to fruit at 70yrs, which happens to be the stated age of her trees. In addition to my admittedly biased but pretty well researched opinion (I have worked as an educator and backcountry ranger in several national parks in the NW), the contention of Doug fir desertification contention is challenged by both Mollison generally in the trees section of the big black book. It is also contradicted specifically by University of British Columbia’s Suzanne Siamard (https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other/up-next?language=en), as well as by Noss Redwood Ecology. This misconception, that is still held by many foresters, besides fincancial incentives to justify cutting forests, is likely due to their observation of the fact that Doug firs, like many dominant canopy trees, do keep their understory clear of most non-native associate plants evolved to coexist with them. It is also based on older research on overly thick “dog hair” second growth that was often herbicide ridden and the soils were very different from an old growth forest or even one that has gone through 70yrs of succession without chemicals. However, the clearing of the understory of nonsymbiotic plants by Doug firs’ root exudates (many trees, including many oaks do this as well), helps reduce their fire risk. On the other hand, Doug for has the highest diversity of associated fungi of any North American tree, and western hemlocks and Redwoods both require an inoculation of fungi that requires a host of Doug fir and/or alder, and therefore have the shade tolerance to thrive under other conifers, unlike Doug firs which will drop foliage and branches getting less than 6hrs of sunlight. The hemlock’s shade tolerance is partially a product of the hemlock's immense surface area greater than any other tree in north america relative to their footprint (up to 30,000x). While Douglas fir is not quite as high on that surface area list as a result of fire adaptation, it shares the evergreen needle characteristic and with its immense height and the geometry of needles versus broadleaves, surpasses the surface area of any deciduous tree, especially in winter. Together with other evergreen native NW plants in the understory, this makes coniferous forests vastly better adapted for rain absorption in the winter, when the Pacific NW (where this site is) receives over 90% of its precipitation. Deciduous trees are vastly lower in surface area relative to their footprint (Noss), especially in winter when we receive most of our rain in the NW, and therefore do not slow and hold the water in the landscape nearly as well. They are better adapted for harsh winters and wetter summers than the maritime NW gets.
So if the goal is to store as much water as high in the landscape as possible, nothing can beat a conifer in the northwest at creating surface area for rainwater absorption and diversion over as long a path as possible. A Doug fir can grow exponentially faster, and therefore sequester more carbon and retain more rainwater and condensation, every year of its life for 1200yrs, and Redwoods (also referred to as weeds by some) 2250yrs. The water caught in the winter is then released throughout the year and supplies much of the summer moisture downwind (usually east). The loss of coastal conifers is a major cause of desertification inland in California and the NW.
The “water thief” contention has been put upon many other trees as well, including cottonwoods, but that is based on an integral misunderstanding of how trees interact with the landscape. Byproducing yields of fruit, nuts and hardwood relatively quickly, deciduous trees have been less prone to this wrap. Conifers however, only produce good timber over a much longer interval (really nothing will ever compare to old growth now 98% gone) and they also have much less obvious byproducts in the fungus and salmonids they support in massive quantity of allowed to function in a healthy global ecosystem. I think this is why this misconception about them being anything but integral to the NW ecosystem is so prevalent. I do not have a solution for the fact that the conifer-salmon ecosystem has been so badly damaged, but I still believe conifers are essential to water retention landscapes in the northwest. Northwest native peoples did burn to keep oak Savanna’s where hunting was favorable on flat plains, but they also seem to have respected that the slopes were best covered by conifers, and the conifers were given respect as they had key places in very important structures like longhouses and fish traps as well as religious customs and stories. All in all, another good pod cast, but this common misconception held by foresters, gardeners, and the public at large is harmful to our watersheds and collective welfare in the long term. Also, Doug fir does very well in hugel beds if you have no other use for it. I think it’s because the fungal associates it harbors are beneficial to the soil.
It is all futile. All we build will disintegrate. We will all become the singularity. Knowing this has no effect on my motivation in trying to be a good person, or any other endeavor that I attempt because it seems to have a compelling combination of being good and right. It seems to me working to help as much life flourish for as long as possible, even if that is only a minuscule contribution in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t need to have any greater meaning to be motivating.
I agree that soil type would matter a lot and that sandy silt would be extremely vulnerable. I know nothing about British soils. I do know coniferous forests of the pacific NW. The erosion preventing and water infiltrating power of conifers in winter, when most of our rain occurs, comes from the vastly greater surface area they have versus dormant deciduous trees. A large redwood can absorb 3/4” of rain in an hour before it has any substantial runoff. After a very dry summer and fall last year many rivers in Oregon below extensive conifer forests did not rise at all after a 2” rain on thanksgiving day.. It can take 70yrs for a raindrop to go from hitting an old growth conifer to flowing into the waterway downstream (Mollison, though I don’t know how one would test that). Given that you have more evenly distributed rainfall conifers would be less naturally dominant than my area, but my original point was that it is worth considering how you are going to keep your soil covered with grazers on steep ground. It is pretty universal that overgrazing on steep terrain can cause severe erosion (this has happened in masse in Ancient Rome, the American West, and Africa as well as China), it seems Sepp Holder has figured it out in similar terrain to what you talk about. It seems some major earthworks for narrow terraces like mentioned above would be in order, and this would solve the fencing on steep terrain problem.
I have never raised large livestock myself. However, in research I've done on their management to prevent erosion and desertification, grazing is restricted to land with less than 5% slope. In addition to the increased need for vegetative cover on ground of steeper slopes, it also becomes very difficult to fence steep and irregular terrain. So the way you would avoid overgrazing by rotating pastures would seem to be quite difficult to do on such steep ground. In the Loess Plateau restoration videos, it was mentioned that any land over 15% grade was kept as permanent forest, largely conifers. This was because conifers provide their full erosion control year round, whereas deciduous trees are far less effective in winter. Just my 2 cents.
I should say I do not have a compost toilet at home (other than a septic system I try to manage as permaculturally as possible) and am just applying what I know from managing some in national park wilderness situations, as a practitioner of LNT in the backcountry, and at friends homesteads.
I would first ask, does your orchard ever flood (which would not be good for trees anyhow) or get so dry as to be dusty? I would not risk it if so without thoroughly mitigating these risk factors. I’d also keep in mind, dilution is the solution to pollution, so it is possible to go too far down shit creek.
If you go ahead, I’d put it uphill of fast growing nutrient hungry plants, and even plant them on top of the filled trenches. Keep voluminous woody debris, chips, sawdust and or other carboniferous organic matter on hand where you plan to be depositing humanure, and layer it in as evenly as possible. Manage the moisture and nitrogen levels by minimizing urine mixed in. So I’m saying you’re gonna have to tell gramma to go pee on a Bush (capitalization was autocorrect, but I’m leaving it, my Grammi was a Perot supporter ;). When people get weird about humanure, I have to ask them what is more absurd and disgusting than billions of large mammals defecating in drinking water? Imagine if the next highest biomass mammal population I can think of, wildebeest, were to require porcelain bowls of clean drinking water to rifle their turds into all across the Serengeti?
Parasites will not travel through the root-fruit barrier, which functions a lot like the blood-brain barrier and also protects from heavy metal transmission. The vector of disease would be through fallen fruit or dust.
I think the points about how to design a compost pile to passively benefit everything around and downstream are right on. On the other hand, both the humanure and poison ivy also need to be considered for their potential spread of their natural nastiness.
I like the habitat brush pile idea for the ivy, though I may start it with a 12” layer of sticks to prevent the vines growing again (at least what I do with English ivy).
For the humanure, it seems a trench in/right above the orchard filled with that mixed with woodchips and woody debris, topped with woodchips at least a foot thick would be a great way to use it, assuming the orchard is large enough to absorb the nutrients and does not flood.
I compost virtually everything except coffee grounds through my chickens and ducks, which get bedding of woodchips or straw. This all then runs off through woody debris trenches between dozens of hugel beds. I topdress the hugels with composted bedding (deeper layer under continuously piled newer bedding). The birds are much better about turning the bedding than I am a pile.