We built a system in rural south west Oregon, based on Wendy's post. 2.5 years in and it is working perfectly. When it freezes, the worms just move to the interior of the bin and activity is slow. In early spring I toss in more worms, just to help handle any stuff that has collected over winter. Granted, we don't get 'deep' freezes. So far we have only one hiccup; in the initial build I did not pay enough attention to screening the exit, and the thing got clogged, resulting in too much liquid retention that killed the worms. I had to dig into it (it was not too awful) and create a guard around the exit that keeps the mulch out. Then we have a secondary screen right at the exit pipe (similar to Wendy's build). Anyway, once that was cleared it has been working like a charm ever since. It was installed for my parents house on my off-grid property (my house still uses composting outhouse) and is used by 2 people. However, we had 13 people use it for a week and the system handled the fluxuation just fine. I ordered and installed low-flow Toto toilets for this system - they rock.
Wendy- thank you so much for sharing this work! It has been a blessing for my older parents to have an indoor toilet as they age.
Wendy Howard wrote:Only just saw this post! The OP is linking to an article I wrote for Permaculture Magazine back in 2014. Since then, the system has performed so well I introduced it to my local municipality here in Portugal. It's now approved for use under the provisions for 'septic tank with drainage', and is being installed by the council where septic tanks have failed or are non-existent. Many people in the area are also adopting it as a solution for their off-grid sanitation. I've open-sourced the system and there's now a website devoted to it. I'm gathering case studies of installations and encourage people to join the forum. The more experience gained, the more potential weaknesses are discovered and ironed out, the better the system becomes.
Thanks for your comments. Good questions and relevant to many I would guess. I’d like to address this here briefly and to clarify some points, as they might be surprising. I would also take this opportunity to expand on the objectives of this book and exactly how it is aimed at supporting those within the constraints of limited resources you mention. That’s exactly what I do in my educational and design work.
Thank you so much for the detailed reply. I can easily see that this text is just what I need for my own homestead. I am grateful you took the time to share your knowledge!
Lorenzo ~ Joined the kickstarter strictly on your review! Thank you so much for the detail you put into the review, as it clarified my decision. I have been a bit busy lately, and had to set my homestead's mainframe design aside. Now I am glad it is not done; I can't wait to get this resource in hand! ~ Thanks again~
Hello, Erica! I am a blog fan, and am so pleased to see you here. (wait a minute, I think I checked out Permies based on a recommendation from your blog! So thanks!)
I just got my copy of your book in the mail, and I absolutely love the feel of it in my hands. The photography is beautiful, the writing is engaging, and it has a ribbon bookmark! Such a lovely piece of art it is.
And, oh yeah! Great info too. I have shelves and shelves of homesteading how-tos, and have already learned cool new stuff from this book! Thank you!
Daniel Johnson wrote:Hello all. My family took the plunge for a lot of reasons. I will be posting up a lot of questions soon about all the issues related to taking care of this land and bringing diversity and life back to it. Just wanted to say hi from Days Creek/ Canyonville OR on our permaculture small homestead farm in progress. Here is a tentative very broad schedule of what we are hoping to do off the top of my head:
Year 1) Learn as much as I can about the land, weather, community, wildlife, and vegetation in the area. Think on the different permaculture zones from the house outwards. Get some garden boxes going for fall crops. Get some sheep (4-6 to start) and chickens (8-12) to start mowing the grass in a rotational paddock system (about 2 usable acres). Plan out the water systems of ponds and swales. Have the local soil and water district pro to review my plans.
Year 2) Implement small pond and hugelkultur (had to google the spellling) bed by our shallow well (help with low water levels during peak droughts?). Start planting some vigourous trees along the fence lines perhaps? Develop a game plan for keeping the deer from killing the fruit forests (bone sauce?) before they get established. Get some bees.
Year 3) Implement larger ponds (gleying with pigs?), swales, permaculture fruit forests. Build some hugelkultur beds. Maybe add a couple of goats to the rotating paddocks to help keep blackberries in check.
I will try add photos along with my guesses on plant identification as I am starting out.
Bruce Quimby wrote:Home roasters here. After using a Hario Slim for several years we wanted to upgrade to something that gave us a more consistent grind. Recently purchased a Lido 2 and love it. Highly recommend it. The grind is consistent, widely adjustable. For our grind it takes maybe 20 seconds.
We are Aeropress users.
We will hack the unused Hario Slim (per online instructions to improve the grind) use it for travel.
Hail, Fellow AP users!
We are really wanting a Lido 2 but our 2 Zassenhaus (one Panama, one antique) will not wear out.
Cristo Balete wrote:Zenais, I've got a book called Northwest Weeds, and you can find lots of natives in the book. Natives are great because nothing bothers them. Yarrow, English Plantain (also good for itchy skin, smash the leaves), dock with the tall spiky seed stem (just clip the seed head to keep it under control) Crane's bill and wild geraniums, sweet pea flowers which you can start early before you plant vegetables, and there are perennial sweet pea flowers, lupine.
Not weeds, but they leave these alone, daffodil bulbs (plant down at 6" so you can plant lettuce over/next to them), day lillies, gladiolus, herbs.
The only things I avoid are weeds that seem to have growth inhibitors, like anything in the sunflower family, gumweed, (sunflower family) a couple kinds of sow thistle (not purple thistle, but the ones with yellow flowers)
Walk around and see what they avoid, and as long as it's not too invasive or hard to thin out, save the seeds, and start spacing them along your rows. Hope this helps.
Cristo Balete wrote:
But they kicked up 50 feet of lettuce overnight and put an air tunnel under what remained, so they aren't helpful. So I planted a native weed that they avoid, or day lillies, daffodils, gladiolas, every few feet. Find what gophers and moles go around, and plant that in intervals then plant vegetables in between.
I am having the same experience. Air tunnels are killing me! Curious as to what weeds you have found that they avoid (I am on the west coast as well).
Wyatt Barnes wrote:Zenais, I am surprised your design has to be shoveled twice. Most two chamber systems simply move the seat location from one chamber to the next to change from active to inactive. You still have to shovel out but only after the chamber has been inactive for a year which should be much more palatable. Any chance you have been working on a mistaken assumption for 17 yrs?
Ah, I wish the builder would have been that thoughtful! Although I have to admit, he built it in the early 70s (was a Berkeley dropout back-to-the-land guy) and the thing is still working, so that is impressive. A redesign would probably not be that hard, but the task is only high on the priority list a few days before the annual shoveling! The day after the shovel, it mysteriously falls to the bottom of a very long list
We used buckets for about 6 years while I was continuously pregnant or nursing. To be honest, the work load of that one day shoveling is probably way less than the bucket system in total, but the buckets were easier on my body for a while.
I imagine that as I age, the redesign will again rise to the top of the list. I love our outhouse, though, and have a really hard time going to the bathroom in an enclosed room inside a house, into water! Blech! I am totally spoiled.
We have a composting outhouse next to our cabin that was built by the previous owner. There are several different styles- ours is the kind with 2 chambers underneath, level with each other, and once a year you have to physically shovel the material from the 'active' chamber into the 'inactive' side. Then, a year later, you shovel the 'inactive' chamber materials into an outside bin (and the active chamber gets moved into the now-empty inactive side, and so on). So, just because there is poo in there does not mean it is not working, it just might mean you have a less sophisticated design than the one shown in your post.
I agree with Wyatt- you could just use a bucket system for a bit until you figure out what is going on. I would open that baby up and shovel everything out- you don't know what meds or pathogens might be in someone else's poo. At the very least you don't know what they covered each deposit with, so don't know if they maintained the correct carbon ratio.
You could shovel it and compost it separately, then start again with your own well-mamaged deposits. This is what we did. Unfortunately, though we always planned to upgrade the design we never got around to it. 17 years later I am still shoveling. At least it gives me one day a year to ponder the meaning of life
I just attended an amazing talk by Susan Weed, and she basically agreed that making essential oils is not only unsustainable but even damaging to the heath (for example, oil if oregano destroys gut fauna). She treats lots of massage therapy folks with immune issues because of their exposure to EOs. Her take is that simple infusions and tinctures work better, are safer, more sustainable, actually do-able by anyone, and cheaper.
I had never thought about this aspect before, and am still processing the talk. The podcast of her talk should be up soon: search for "Free Herbalism Project" which is an amazing series of events in Eugene, Oregon, sponsored by none other than Mountain Rose Herbs. The day opened with a permaculture presentation, so that was cool
Thanks, Justin! I will forward this info to my neighbors! I know that other neighbors have woofers occasionally, so I think there would be a lot of opportunities here. If you don't hear from them soon, PM me here so I can make sure you guys are connecting with each other.
Wendy Howard wrote:Update on the municipal adventure ... We (me and a Portuguese friend who's an architect) met with the câmara municipal (town council) today and they've approved, in principal and subject to further approvals and investigation, the installation of a vermicomposting system to solve the problem of the village septic tank outflow I mentioned above. Not only that, but with the enthusiastic participation and suggestion of the presidente of our local junta de freguesia, they're looking at converting the entire system over to a vermicomposting one - ie. to replace septic tank processing by converting the tank itself into worm housing. And following verification and testing, to convert all the septic tanks of the villages in the area in the same way. The ICNF (Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas) need to agree since it's a protected landscape - ironically they might be the biggest hurdle - and we need to get a few more scientists and environmental engineers on board, but what a wonderful breakthrough for sustainable infrastructure! Kudos to the local councillors for being able to think outside the box and recognise a good solution when they see one!
This is great news! I think you should start a new thread about this, so lots of folks can see it.
We are putting in our new system in a few weeks. Thank you SO much for sharing your experience with me!
In my experience, the key is cutting them small before dehydrating, then fully dehydrating them so that they shatter when ground (like coffee beans). I have ground dried veg to near-powder in coffee grinders (reserved for spices), a small mini-food processor, and my larger food processor.
My favorite use for these is to make my own bullion powder: mix 1/2 cup powdered veg with 2 -4 Tbs arrowroot powder, 1 Tsp saltt, and several teaspoons dried herbs (parsley, dill, etc). Mix thoroughly and then mix in 2 Tbs natural oil (sesame, olive). Store in fridge for up to 6 months.
The oil coating keeps air off the veg so that flavor and nutrition are retained. This makes a GREAT soup base!
Meryt Helmer wrote:Zenais Buck the Ressiliant Gardener talks about raising chicks before their was electricity. I am outside right now but if you remind me or I remember later on I will see what it says.
Oooh, thank you! That book is on my list; it might have to move up to the top!
Right now I have about 10 chicks in a box next to the wood stove. They seem content, but I am concerned about them. Not to mention burning up: we usually keep the house much cooler than the 70 degrees we are at right now! Whew!
My neighbors have heard me talk about permaculture for a while now, and have decided that they want a permie on their property. They are an interesting international couple with 2 teens.
We live near Roseburg, Oregon, on 20 acres in a forested off-off-off the grid neighborhood. It is a unique community and could be a great opportunity for the right person.
If you are interested, message me via the forum and I will pass your contact info to them.
Here is what they wrote:
Land Manager Position
We are looking for a long-term land manager – six months to a year to start would be great.
We’d like to find somebody who is permaculture minded, interested in alternative building, enjoys hard work, has some skills in small construction, willing to be flexible, and can think creatively about off-grid-living.
We have 20 acres off grid (and butted up against BLM land) outside of Roseburg, Oregon located in a one-of-a-kind valley that has about 35 all off-grid homesteads in it.
We do a lot of traveling, and we are starting to plan to move overseas for a season and so are starting to ask around about folks who would be interested in helping us with current projects and to manage the property.
The property has two cabin-areas on it already - one on each side of the stream (we are in one, friends are in the other). We have lots of projects going on at all times (everything from cob chapel to micro hydro/solar systems to road work to yurt building to soccer pitch to music studio to chickens to barn/wood-working area etc...). We'd be interested in chatting with you if you'd be interested in helping out. We could figure out lodging, food, stipend, etc...
Peter Ellis wrote:Healthy compost does a great job of boosting your soil food web. The entire compost process is a culture of good soil biology. Nothing premature in wondering why compost is not growing stuff in one season. My home grown compost (or leaf mold, since I can never seem to get a hot pile going ) spontaneously produced numerous squash plants for us in its first season, coming right out of the pile
So yeah, if the place with the dumped off site compost is barren, and the beds where you used that stuff are underperforming compared to beds where you did not use the stuff - you likely got some bad compost. Time may heal all wounds and eventually the beds may come around, but that would not be evidence that the compost was ok.
At least it has spurred me to soil testing! I have been a bit lazy (well, cheap) and have never tested. I am stopping by our Ag Extension office today!
Patrick Mann wrote:I think it's premature to blame it on toxic compost - certainly based on the information available. I don't think it's unusual for a pile of compost to be bare for a season. Commercial composting is so hot that all weed seeds are killed - so you can't compare it to your garden soil which is full of weed seeds just waiting to germinate.
I had a similar experience after terracing my yard - it took about 3 years for things to really start growing well. My conclusion is that the soil food web was destroyed and it just takes a while to reestablish the complexity of soil flora and fauna.
Thank you all for you sympathy! I will take your suggestion, Joseph, and putting the remaining compost in thin piles on the edge of the property. I can then watch it and see what happens. One pile can be my control, while in the others I can add worms, fungus, etc. and record the event. Perhaps something good can come of this after all.
As for the garden- I think testing the soil so that I can fast-track to balance is the way to go. Unfortunately it will be to late to plant out all my lovely seedlings- I had better get to making some new garden space quickly!
Sadness. I have been concerned about a few of my garden beds for a year now. They look great, but the plants have been stunted and scrawny looking. I blamed moles, the cold and damp, and bad timing. This spring while prepping my beds I found a pile of forgotten compost that I had brought in from off site, to save time (my compost was not ready yet). I could not believe it- it was dusty dray and had no weeds! What sort of compost sits out for a season and does not grow anything? Then I put two and two together and realized that the sick beds were also the ones that had received this compost.
I think the compost must have some toxins in it or was not finished and the nitrogen is completely locked up. I really don't want to spend the money to test the compost- it makes more sense to test the soil in my sick beds I think.
At least I can turn this tragedy into an experiment and work on bioremediation for the beds. I would love to hear any thoughts/suggestions on this.
And what do I do with the remaining bad compost? We live really far out, and hauling it back to town will be a big chore.
It can be motorized and bicycle-ized, but I can hand crank out enough flour for bread in a few minutes, with no exhaustion. It is definitely heirloom quality. I figured I might as well bite the bullet and spend the money once, rather than purchase many less sturdy (and less efficient) mills over the course of my lifetime.
Kyrt Ryder wrote:Periodically [once every few days up to once a week or so, however frequently you feel necessary] do not open the Chickens up to the pasture. Leave them locked in the run and throw some appropriate vegetation in there with them to munch on in addition to nature's-provided-protein. They'll do their chicken thing and snap up as many flies as they can catch and scratch up their eggs/larvae.
The girls have a roost over deep litter (straw) then a small covered run with food and water (also deep straw). They leave this area daily to free-range in pasture protected by movable electric fencing. The flies seem to be loving the poop that ends up under the roost. I do turn it occasionally, and also turn the straw in the run. I thought the chickens would turn it, but they prefer to be out in the pasture, so they don't spend much time in the run.
I don't mind insects at all, but I do feel like the fly population might be excessive, and am wondering if this indicated mismanagement on my part.
I assumed that people knew that you had to add organic material in order to get the TCEC Total Cation Exchange ?. It is the process of having added and continuing to add it that builds the soil food web. This means that your soil can absorb the minerals that are added. I read Steve Solomon's book, "The Intelligent Gardener" and some other soil science materials. The minerals won't just flush down to the water table if you have humus, organic material and a soil food web, but that doesn't mean you have the minerals. Yes, Dillon, mine were pelletized, so it comes in slowly. Also, I added some and then added some the next year, so as to not shock the soil food web. Elaine Ingham is making a controversial statement when she says it doesn't matter. Many scientists disagree with her. She started soil food web, inc., but I believe that now she is chief scientist at Rodale, Organic Gardening magazine publishers in PA.
I don't till because I know it's bad for the soil food web and the mycorrhizal fungi. I spread it out in the fall and cover it with yearly wood chips. Oyster shells are good for avoiding the worst forms of severe calcium deficiency, but they are so slow that you will have sufficient calcium for your grand children. That's not my goal. I am working on mineral balance, ph balance, humus, and soil food web all at the same time, trying to develop all of them. It doesn't make sense to me to say wait ten years until you have perfect humus in your soil. Then you can start on one of the others. I can't wait that long.
I was thinking about this just a few minutes ago as I was working in my garden, pulling bindweed I followed Mr. Solomon's lime advice a few years ago (Growing Veg West of the Cascades) and I have to say that my garden responded very well- not only in food production quantity but in quality. The year after application the soil was starting to change into dark, rich beautiful stuff- full of life, too, in a way it never had. I am considering purchasing the Intelligent Gardener, but my books-to-read stack is already so high I am in danger of being crushed every time I walk by.
Now to bindweed: here is what I noticed just today, as I started poking around in beds that have been dormant all year (under straw mulch, and scratched by chickens). The newest beds, the ones that have the least soil amendment (worm castings and other conditioners) have the most bindweed. I hoe my entire garden almost daily- really just slicing the baby weeds with a sharp hoe chop-n-drop style. The older beds have had eagle-eye hoeing jobs done on them for a few years now, and there are no bindweed bits apprearing at present. The newer beds, converted from pasture, have copious amounts poking up. Today I scratched down with a fork to get as much root as possible and pulled them out before they get too big. After today, I will simply hoe the tops as they reappear.
Interestingly, the area that was practically tormented last summer by my mole adversary was free of bindweed! Is that crazy? The soil was gorgeous; loose, dark, and full of worm castings, with NO bindweed. The other end of the bed (where I put the mole trap, I confess) was not as gorgeous, and full of devilwee... I mean, bindweed. I had already decided to befriend mr. mole when I learned his poo had thousands upon thousands of fungal spores, and now I am best friends with him, seriously.
So, to sum up my rambling (I think I am a little lightheaded from the scent of the wild fruit trees out side, sorry!) I can report that in my annual garden pulling bindweed roots in early spring and then quickly slicing their growing tips when they appear seems to be controlling its spread and vigor. My chickens were let loose in the annual garden for several months, and they ate it down to nothing- this may have helped as well.
I have heretofore ignored the pasture- most of our native meadow is bindweed free, and only the small pasture near us has an infestation. I hope to turn that area into a food forest next year, so have been turning the chickens out on to the pasture in the hopes of controlling it there. Fortunately the pasture is in between two seasonal creeks, and those have proved to be an obstacle to its spread.