So it has been one year to the day since building these beds. Here is an update. I am sorry for the poor audio. Basically, I have not watered this bed for an entire year and it is growing great. The only water it has received came from mother nature and the little water I added when planting new starts or seeds. This bed has been an amazing success and I have plans to expand and make it even better. Growing in the bed are tomatoes, chard, purple mustard, purple and orange sweet potatoes, morning glories, and a little baby Moringa. Stay tuned for Future updates.
Hey everyone its been a while since I have posted but I have moved to a new home with a big front yard and an open minded landlord/friend. We plan on gardening the entire front yard but for now I am experimenting with one garden bed under my bedroom window. The bed is an attempt to dry garden (no supplemental irrigation) in Sacramento Ca. It is hot and dry up to 9 months out of the year so this is a good challenge. I combined subterranean hugelkulture with a thick "Back to Eden" style blanket of wood chip mulch. I also employed a few other experimental techniques. Check out the videos below and let me know what you think. It is still a work in progress but I am pretty happy so far.
I have added biochar to my wormbin in the past but it never made up all of the bedding. I found that it helped control odors and prevented the bedding from getting too hot when i added a lot of nitrogen rich material like ground flour to help speed up population growth. I got the idea from a youtube video in which the author experimented with adding biochar to the worms feed. He found that adding biochar at a ratio of 50/50 biochar to feed resulted in the fastest consumption. The theory was that the biochar acted as a microbial reef and since composting worms eat microorganisms that have consumed food scraps the protective environment for the microbes resulted in more microbes and more feed for the worms. It worked well for me and seemed to allow me to feed more in a shorter period of time but breaking up the biochar can be a headache.
Building on the idea of soil building and possible dry farming... what if I used an auger to bore holes through the hardpan replicating soil ripping like key line plowing. This would allow for deeper water and root infiltration. It also opens the possibility of injecting beneficial micro organisms (compost tea) directly into and under the hard pan increasing microbial soil building and clay/ mineral fluctuation as discussed by elaine ingham https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2H60ritjag. This would also be a great breeding ground for Alabama jumpers which would feed on the wood chips and create burrows up to 12 feet deep http://alabamajumpers.com/alabama-jumpers-yard-and-garden-compost-worms/. These should be kept out of established natural areas but should be safe and very helpful in garden beds. They also make really good fish bait as they are true to their name and love to "jump."
Thanks for all the replies guys. I should have made a note that I live in Sacramento which is known as the city of trees. Even though we live ina dry climate we have a lot of trees and I can get as many wood chips as I want. I figured that I would have to top off the wood chips regularly maybe twice a year but since I have a near unlimited supply and once established that would be almost all of the regular maintenance required of the system it didn't seem like that much of a chore. I could get logs as well but wood chips are more available and they will drop them off at your farm/garden for free. I was planning to have the beds be about 4 feet wide and the pits up to 3 feet deep and wide. That should be enough for fruit trees and nitrogen fixers that are chopped and dropped. I figure by the time the trees are very large the wood chips will be converted to soil. I could even add some coffee grounds or brewers grains to help them compost faster as I can get those for free in large quantities as well. My goal is a garden that can take care of itself beyond a little maintenance here and there.
From what I have seen tomatoes, greens, and cucurbits (melons, squash, cucumber, etc) will reseed relatively easily. I have also heard of people growing garlic, potato and sweet potato like perinials as well but have not done it myself.
Hey Sam. In my experience unless you rotate your chickens they will completely decimate any ground cover growing in an area the size of most people's backyards. Have you considered a deep mulched wood chips. A deep mulch of a foot or more will protect the soil and provide food for your chickens as it will attract a lot of bugs especially if you add a nitrogen source like spent brewers grains or coffee grounds, both of these you should be able to get for free. As for plant matter you could try patches of comfrey, clover or even moringa trees that you keep low by regularly chopping and dropping for the chickens to consume. Paulownia trees might also work in this situation and some can be left to grow for shade and hawk protection. Also consider a black soldier fly bin that will feed high protein larvae to your birds when filled with food wastes or even more spent brewers grains. You could divide up your yard depending on the size to allow for plant regrowth. Hope that helps.
I have been mulling over this idea for awhile. A few years back I was able to grow watermelons that produced seed without watering them but once or twice in Mediterranean Sacramento California by digging a mulch pit and planting seeds around the edge of the hole. The hole was a foot and a half deep and about as wide filled with grass leaves and any other organic matter I could find. This planting was in a relatively open field with no real protection from the wind or sun. The watermelons were small but they did produce seeds. My goal was to produce "Rambo" resilient seed stock. The success of this method got me thinking about dry farming using a similar method on a larger scale. Instead of singular holes I invision long trenches filled with wood chips alternating with beds for growing fruit trees, shrubs, other edible plants and support species. The wood chips would act as a below grade reservoir of moisture for the plants growing in the adjacent beds as well as act as pathways. The whole deal would be covered with a deep mulch of wood chips a foot deep or more. Below is a simple drawing of the whole system. My hope is that this would allow for a healthy dry farmed crop in drought stricken Sacramento and our extended 9 month dry season. The ditches would of course be deeper than the original mulch pit I described. There is a rough picture below of the idea. Tell me how I'm crazy lol...
I have been eating a cyclic ketogenic diet ( high fat low carb) off and on for over a year. It has had a huge positive impact on my mood and energy. That being said one thing that I have learned is that it is best employed on a base of a large amount of leafy green vegetables. We now know too that bacteria in the colon can convert indigestible fiber into short chain fatty acids which are readily converted into ketones. This is how ruminants generate a lot of their energy. They do it far more efficiently than we do but it makes me think that changes in our microbiome may explain our inability to extract large volumes of energy from "indigestible" fiber. Indigenous populations tend to have a more diverse microbiome so my hypotheses is that they are able to extract more energy from indigestible fiber than modern populations can. Long term consumption of large amounts of varied plant matter may reverse this trend to some extent.
As a side not the short chain fatty acid butyrate can be found in relatively high amounts in grass fed butter.
It should also be noted that ketones have a protective effect on our neurology and the brain actually uses ketones more efficiently than glucose. Ketones metabolism is also associated with less free radical formation which means less inflammation and cellular aging.
Add coffee grounds free from any coffee shop just leave a trash can or other large container. Use spent brewers grains free from local microbreweries. Horse manure is often available free as well just make sure the horses had not recently ingested a deworming agent.
That's perfectly fine Teresa. Glad to see your response. My thinking is that as a group Sac area permies can educate each other and exchange seeds and genetics. There may also be opportunities for land access and making some supplementing your income via direct farm work or even small value added businesses like soap making, preserves etc. Urban ag land is plentiful and cheap. Feel free to post some pics of what you are doing in the garden. Thanks!
Hello, I am reaching out to all my local Sacrameanto and Sacramento area permies. I would like to meet up, exchange seeds and ideas. I am also looking for partners to start a farm in our urban setting. So please drop by, tell us a little bit about yourself like what area you are from, your permie goals, and anything else interesting or useful about yourself. Perhaps together the permies community can get some things accomplIshed.
For slugs and snails I blend hot peppers, habanero or hotter with garlic in a blender with water. I strain the mixture and spray on seedlings one a week until they can take care of themselves. Spray the plants and the area around the plants. The hot peppers really irritate the slugs/snails bodies.
Hello all you lovely permies out there. I am trying to plan for a small business raising pasture pigs and chickens initially and goats, sheep, and ducks sometime in the future. The basic idea is to manage the pigs and chickens on pasture. I want to employ rotational grazing for the obvious reasons of pasture health, soil building, and animal health and well being. I also plan to use imported organic matter to build compost piles in each paddock and allow the chickens to work it over for insect thus producing compost for the paddock or bedding material for composting worms. I plan to seed pasture after the animals leave with fodder trees, bushes, and herbs like paulownia, tagasaste, and comfrey. One or two of the paddocks will also be put into fruit and vegetable production while not permitting animal access. These animals will go to feed myself, family and friends and will be a part time job as I do work a day job. My questions are about management. How much electronet fencing (paddock space) will i need for a heard of say 10 hogs and 30 laying hens moved a couple times a week? How much "emergency" feed should I have on hand? Can you recommend and good brand of charger and electric fence? Pitfalls? Things I have not considered? Any help will be appreciated. Thanks!
I love geopolymers. I also have seen some incredibly nice homes in caves/old mines in the appropriate environments for them. I think with the correct skill sets, motivation and money anything can be "made to work." I love the concept of Wofati, and think some could last millenia if built properly.
As a natural/traditional builder, I can't say I have ever seen a "modern dome" work survive much past 20 years without major issues...
I think brick/stone domes/vaults have great/excellent potential, and though I don't believe "modern domes" work (or have proven to) I love traditional domes of all types starting with Brunelleschi's Dome. In the vernacular forms, like cloister (ambulatory) vaults, caponier in domestic application, timbrel (catalan) vault...this is one of my favorite forms/types!!, groin vault, muqarnas (stalactite vaults)...and it rambles on....
Auroville Earth Institute is a wonderful place to explore the possibilities of such structures in the methods that have historical/empirical positive track records...
That is a very good point Jay. I could see how a monolithic structure would be subject to forces that might crack the dome as it is one solid piece. A dome made of individual bricks would potentially absorb forces without cracking. Something to consider anyway. Hmm perhaps a dome made of geopolymer bricks. It would take longer to build but that is not a huge issue as it would last a very long time. I definitely want a round domed structure made of a natural material and earth bermed. The plan is always evolving.
You can use any medium that is not have too much nutrients. I recommend compost or vermicompost mixed with sand or rice hulls for a simple starter mix. 30% sand or rice hulls will allow for better drainage. Peat is actually a finite resource that is "mined" from peat bogs which take 1000s of years to form so not using peat is probably more permie friendly.
Hello all my permie friends, I have been researching earth bermed housing for quite some time, about 5 years, I am now settling on a design which balances price, sustainability, time to construct, and aesthetics. I have decided on a monolithic dome made of geopolymer and geopolymer air-crete for insulation with arches for windows doors and straight furniture. I would like some input on my design ideas from all you walking, talking, parallel processing, pattern recognizing super computers.
I have looked at the WOFATI design that Paul likes but I would prefer a round domed structure for aesthetic reasons and because of the fact that it is the strongest possible structure in nature. WOFATIs also have a limited life span as they are a wooden structure. I know that life span is probably 80 years or more but I would like something that could last centuries and house generations of people.
Pros: cheap to build; strong structure; very local sourced materials; fast to build
Cons: limited life span; requires an impermeable layer to prevent water infiltration; wood posts require protection where in ground; not round or domed
Next I looked at earth bag and super Adobe building methods. These methods are cheap, easy to learn and provide very strong structures that can bermed. However it does take a lot of labor to fill bags and I am not a big fan of using synthetic materials for the bag. That is of course a personal choice.
Pros: cheap to build; can be built into a circular domed structure; very strong structure; fire proof; flood proof; earth quake proof
Cons: uses synthetic materials; lots of time and labor; difficult to build a "perfect" dome; requires a synthetic impermeable membrane
Monolithic domes are real super structures. They are fire proof; flood proof; earthquake proof; tornado proof; hurricane proof; and bullet proof. They will last centuries if not longer and are the strongest structures we know of. They can be built in a single day by using inflatable air forms and shot-crete and insulation can be made by mixing in a foaming agent. Arch ways provide flat surfaces on the otherwise rounded dome for windows, doors and to connect more than one dome.
Traditionally monolithic domes are made of cement but as cement tends to crack, is hydrophilic and produces a lot of co2 in its production I wanted to find another material to use. Geopolymers are cement like substances made from a variety of rock dusts, fly ash, or iron blast furnace slag and a strong base like lye or sodium carbonate. All of these materials are either waste materials form industrial processes or are very inexpensive. Geopolymer are essentially man made rock. Recent research suggest that the pyramids in Egypt were made from artificially made lime stone blocks instead of blocks being mined from quarry. These man made stones are almost indistinguishable from real lime stone and they last of course for 1000s of years. Geopolymer shave up to twice the compressive strength of cement and up to three times the flexibility. I have also read that they are self healing if cracked but I have not a confirmed that.
A monolithic dome made of geopolymer would potentially not require a impermeable layer when bermed as it is one solid piece of rock.
Pros: everything proof; relatively inexpensive; lasts potentially for 1000s of years; can be built in days; aesthetically beautiful; very modular (easy to add additional domes)
Cons: needs some experimentation to create the proper mix of geopolymer precursors; permitting; need inflatable air form and pump.
I will post some videos and links to some of the stuff listed above. I will also work on a drawing of the house perhaps in google sketch up. In the mean time I would appreciate any input, critiques, ideas, or perhaps you can tell me how crazy I am.
I rarely use a mulch that is less than 6 inches thick. Usually Ii like 8" of mulch for annuals and up to a foot on perennials. Ii should qualify this by saying that live in a hot dry Mediterranean climate. The issue with fungus should not be if the soil and plants are healthy. Consider spraying with compost tea or horsetail spray.
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:My take on pretty much all heirlooms that were lost and have now been found is that it's mostly about marketing hype. If the fruit tasted as luscious as the ad copy claims, and if they were as easy to grow and generally adapted as they want you to believe, then I believe that they would not have fallen out of favor in the first place. There is currently a lot of hype going around about this watermelon.
I trailed hundreds of heirloom tomatoes, muskmelons, and watermelons in my garden. Approximately 99% of them proved to be unsuitable for my growing conditions, and not just a little. Melons from the deep south don't have the slightest chance of producing fruit at my place. A low-sugar melon grown on my farm beats the taste of a high-sugar absent melon every time.
I haven't tried the watermelon but the article link clearly said it feel out of favor because it does not ship well.
Unless you want all kinds of animals digging through your mound I would avoid meat scraps in your mound. Watering each layer as you build your mound is a very good idea as the bed tends to be pretty hydrophobic in the beginning.
To my knowledge the old school terraces were built by hand by a large number of people however I do remember reading a thread about an author who describes methods of earthworks using water allowing it to do the work of carving the earth instead of using machinary or human labor. Some work is needed to setup the water to work for you and erode the land to get the desired effect bit I got the impression it saved a lot of labor.
I really love this idea, it is simple, easy, and effective. It is also something that is not difficult to sell. I think micro reforestation in empty city lots and unused areas would have many benefits for the populace and the local municipality.
I am in Sacramento. Those beds should do fine even if they are not sunken. I have made similar beds for years. Sunken beds will hold water longer but what I have been playing with is mulch pits. Dig a deep hole about three feet deep and wide. Back fill with mulch like leaves, weeds, and woodchips and cap with a thick layer of wood chips. The beds I made using this method have not been watered through over 2 months of Sacramento heat over 95. I just checked the pit a few days ago thinking that it must be time for some water. To my surprise the material under the chips is still saturated with moisture after 2 months.
Dig a hole 2 feet wide and 2+ feet deep. The deeper the better. Use the dirt from the hole and build a mound around the hole. Back fill with leaves, grass, weeds, manure, etc. Top with 6" of free wood chips so that the back fill is even with or above the surrounding mound. Compress by stepping on and add more mulch if necessary. Mulch and plant in the mound. Water pit until it over flows then water mound. This seems to be better than raised beds in my climate. I may try adding wood next season as well.
Hey Matt. I am in Sacramento so I feel your pain. This year I have had a lot of opportunity to experiment on 9 acres that I am leasing. What I have had a lot of success with is mulch pits. I have watermelons, beans, and sunflowers I have not watered since planting and the melons just started running. They are about 3 feet wide now. And this is through very hot dry and windy days. We hit 102+ for about a week a couple weeks back and I did not water. Temps have been 90+ since then and I still have not watered. Everytime I go out to the farm the watermelons have grown and are thriving in the heat despite my neglect. I think this is a combination of growing technique and genetics. The watermelon variety is ali baba a heirloom from Iraq. Other varieties are doing well but the ali baba is growing like a weed.
I am a first time owner of hogs and after a bunch of research I decided on the American Guinea Hog. I am very happy with my decision. The breed is old and very resilient in both extreme heat and cold. They have a thick layer of hair which is good for keeping the sun off their skin and keeping them warm in the winter. They are docile allowing you to pet them and scratch them. I have never seen them be agressive towards humans or other animals like chickens and they gain weight on pasture without the need to supplement heavily with grain. They also are easy to butcher as they rarely get over 300 lbs. The meat is considered a delicacy and the breed is featured in the slow food ark of flavor. They are also relat
ively inexpensive I bought mine for about 100 each. I plan to sell the ones I have now for their meat but plan to use the proceeds to buy a male and three sows for breeding my own American Guinea Hogs.
I just slaughtered a 300 lb American Guinea Hog sow and we did not scald we just skinned and quartered her took 40 min and I have a black trash bag full of lard. So you can skin and get plenty of lard. Also black pigs like the agh tend to have a tough hide which does not make for good eating. There is no real reason to go through the hassle of scalding when dealing with agh in my opinion but perhaps someone with more experience knows of a reason you might want to.
Snails or slugs are always a problem with deep mulches initially. I solved the problem by spraying the area and my seedlings with a mix of hot pepper and garlic blended in water. Each spray will last about a week unless it rains or you use sprinklers. You only have to apply this until plants are about 6 inches tall or the weather dries out. Stacks of stones or piles of wood will also attract lizards and frogs which will help balance the eco system.
Daniel, I had not seen that video, thanks for posting. Her statements in the video seem to contradict mine about durability and she would know better than I would. Perhaps they would make a good cheap perimeter fence.
George I hope your talking about the fedge and not pallets lol. The pallets are great for a quick cheap enclosure but I don't expect them to last longer than a couple years before they fall apart. Do you know what species you want to use? Something thorny no? Black/honey locusts, osage orange, and even jujubes supposedly make good hedge species for livestock containment.
The pigs definitely do not have nose rings that just seems cruel. You probably can't tell from the picture but the ground is very uneven. The mulch hides this. So the pigs did root but not a bunch because the soil was dry and they were only in the pen for a week. If kept on moist ground for longer they will root/till even more.
Thanks John, I hope that other will benefit from my experience. The number one permie complaint I have seen is "I can't afford land." Well Ag land is expensive to buy but cheap to rent or lease, free if you can work out a deal with the land owner. Maybe I will do a quick guide to acquiring land for permies.
I had a bit of free time today so I went ahead and laid out the 3rd pasture pig pallet paddock (say that 3 times fast). The first pallet enclosure needed to be rebuilt so I just cannibalized that one. Now you can really see the work the pigs and chickens did in comparison with the surrounding vegetation.
As you can see they have left a loose mulch perfect for broadcast seeding some more ideal pasture plants.
Here you can see I am laying out the new paddock around another black walnut tree.
The Mulberry tree from the first paddock. Plenty of mulberries forming. This tree stands alone in a field and has not been irrigated for year perhaps ever. I think I will clone her and plant some more around the pig paddocks as they make great fodder for the pigs and chickens over a very long time.