It's hard to start this post. I'm not sure I even know where to start. Maybe this actually belongs in forums such as meaningless drivel, solarenergy, ponds, etc. So much has happened lately and there is so much I want to share with you guys! So if you will excuse my spelling, lets get started.
I took and graduated from Geoff Lawtons onlinepermaculture design course, earthworks and reading the landscape in 2014 and I'm telling you now it changed my life.
A little about my area. SW Missouri. Zone 6. Average rainfall is 43" average evaporation is around 30"
Here is the contour lines of my property. Mine is at the top in yellow
originally my property when I purchased it was laid out similar to this drawing, my neighbors property is included because he is very cool with permaculture and anything I want to do to my land, he will support on his as well.
I had successfully graduated from Geoff Lawtons course by submitting this design:
Let me make one thing clear at this point. It has become apparent to me that permaculture designs are fluid, they are ALWAYS changing. You are ALWAYS having "ah ha!" moments. Where everything is rattled and switched up.
My last drawn design was this and I already know that it is changing as we speak.
DO NOT be afraid to put your ideas down on paper and DO NOT be afraid to change them! I cannot stress that enough
As I go along, feel free to ask questions on things you would like elaboration on
Lets talk a little bit about water. The most required component for life. When I started out on my land I was hauling in water in one gallon jugs. Which got old......really fast. Now keep in mind I'd been wandering the property for a couple years now in every season. I hadn't purchased actual surveying equipment at this point, but I had a pretty good idea of how the land laid. I did my research and was convinced I was going to install a solar well pump by grundfos. I met with a well driller in the area that had installed a bunch. But when he came out, he recommended to me that I install a "simple pump" hand pump that can be converted to solar later on. Do your research, but I think its the best you can buy. So I went ahead and had the well drilled and the simple pump installed. The water level in the well is at 80 feet. The well itself is drilled to 465 feet. This cost $6,700 but was "Well" worth it. Hahahahaha. Pun intended. For over a year I pumped water by hand. I can tell you exactly how much work it takes to get it out of the ground.
After a year of pumping water by hand it got old again. And I discovered rain water. Rain water is AMAZING! It's like free water from the sky! On the 12 x 9 roof on my tiny house, just catching from one half of the roof, I could easily get over 50 gallons in 1 inch of rain.
Looking back now at this point. Now knowing HOW MUCH WATER actually falls from the sky, I might never have drilled a well and only drank rain water. People in all parts of the world do this. You should research it and make your own opinion.
However, I'm already pretty committed to the whole well thing.
I had built a block wall and rigged up an old moped tire and and old pump head to pump water and it did actually work....however it was quite lame.
I broke down and actually bought the electric motor that mounts to the simple pump. I chose the 24v version just to keep the amps down. The motor/ linear bearing link drive kit was right around $1000
A couple pictures:
I could now pump as much water as I liked. The amount that mine pumps is around 5/8 of a gallon a minute
All the while I had started out with chickens, hauling water in for them. I moved on to two goats when I had graduated to pumping water by hand. But when I was able to pump water by sheer sunlight, I thought I needed pigs! You see I had a pond that would dry out every august. It held water up until that point, but in August you could walk across it. Since my rainfall is over evaporation in my area, naturally the pond should gain water level every year unless it leaks. There's a post going around the pond forum, that you can gley a pond with pigs and get it to seal. I was so inspired by the results that I had to try it for myself.
Let me stop you right there. If you have the same idea to get pigs. DONT. They are horrible creatures to keep. Don't get me wrong. The experiment was a complete success. The pond has more water then it has ever had, and it did not dry out in August. However it was not worth the pain that the pigs cost me.
Here was my tiny water hole
and with three tiny pigs.
I'm so happy with the idea at this point. And they look so cute when they are small
over the weeks and months the pond did get bigger and bigger.
The pigs really seemed to roll around the edges and really pack them down.
But it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The pigs cost me a fortune is feed. You must feed them in place for them to stay in the pond of course. I paid 100$ each piglet, and I estimate I spent 10,000 dollars on food (exaggeration of course, but more then I could ever get back)
Pigs are smart....It wasn't long before they figured out they could push their feeder into the electric fence and short it out, then escape. They would flip over all my chicken pens and steal the chickens food. Then the unprotected chickens would be killed by owls and coyotes. The pig decimated my entire flock of 40+ chickens to nothing. They destroyed my garden and caused me so much grief.... The best day of my life was the day I sold them, I recieved $460 dollars. I will never, EVER have pigs again, and cannot recommend them to anyone.
I have recently found that ducks will create the same pond seal and are much easier to care for!!! DO NOT GET PIGS!!!
By this point I really wanted a shop. I'm an Automotive Technician. I work for Ford Motor Company as an Automatic Transmission Specialist. The girlfriend(whom I'm now engaged to) was very supportive of the idea of building a big shop house. Or shouse. A shop on one side and a house on the other. I had studied all kinds of building materials and alternative building. It made the most sense to me to just build an all steel building. At this point I had purchased surveying equipment and was EXACTLY sure of how the land laid and wanted to build at the top of a ridge line. First came the excavation. The excavation cost me $125 dollars an hour and took $800 dollars to build me a building pad. I decided to put the building right over top of the well. Now I'm all for tree hugging and love nature, but it's just plain awesome when a giant machine starts pushing over trees!
If you guys want me to elaborate on any topic or have questions, feel free to ask, this stuff happened quite some time ago so I'm blowing through it to get to the present.
One of the things that I was taught in my PDC, was to design several properties before you design your own. You have to go at it with an objective mind. Were doing this for a purpose. Good design has merit. I had no other property to design, so mine it was. I struggled and struggled with the building placement. I had settled that I wanted a 40x50x12 shop. That would give me plenty of space to tinker on plans to dominate the world through permaculture (look out Paul ) I did NOT want to place a building in the incorrect spot. There were so many questions to ask, sun angles, ease of access, distance to well, door placements, house placements, where air conditioners could be located out of the sun etc. I was up for nights at a time.
This was my favorite tree on the property, and I'm not exactly sure why. It was the first tree that I REALLY noticed. It wasn't good for anything, a black walnut with too many trunks to be a useful tree in its future, but I liked it and it was my tree. This made designing the shop really hard. Designing around this tree was on thing that kept me up at night. The door placement and driveway situation were forced incorrectly do to this tree. I wasn't looking at the whole picture from an unbiased eye. I wanted to match my design to this tree.....but my design harmonized with the landscape. Once I stepped back from the situation I realized the tree needed to go to fit the design, not the other way around.
The importance from this lesson to keep an unbiased, objective eye on your designs and they will come out just like you want. With this tree gone, the doors and driveway could be in the exact spot they needed to be.
Then the day to clear the trees came. I thought it would be a really hard sad day. I had slept in hammock in many of these trees. I grew to care for them over three years analyzing the property.
It was not a sad day at all. I've never had a feeling of regret whatsoever! And I must admit, it was really really cool to see the force that machine could do. A track loader in this case. (which the operator claims is a far more useful machine then a bulldozer)
The carnage took 1.5 hours. It only took an hour and a half to remove what nature took 15+ years to make.
But once the trees were cleared......wow the possibilities opened up! I could see everything I wanted to implement onto the landscape and then some! It was a glorious feeling that I just cannot explain. Visions of huglecultures danced in my head. The operator recommended burning the piles, but all I could see was a sweet delicious surplus of organic matter!
After the land was cleared it was obvious more analyzing was needed. For the past year before I had ran a transit level with the help of Rachel to plot out contours and see just how everything laid. But it just changed once the trees were gone. If you reference back to the contour map I posted first. It was clear that I had bored the well right in the center of the ridgeline, by luck/accident....well not exactly luck I reckon. It just felt "right" to put it in that place. I had to walk many a snowy cold nights and pump water by hand just because I wanted a well in a certain spot, for some reason.
Well in this case....it worked out perfect. The idea crossed my mind after talking to a few friends. "What if I put the well INSIDE of the shop?" Not only could I pump water all day long for free from the sun. I could use the well as a geothermal source to heat and cool the building.
By this point I'm also an AVID rainwater collector, because I knew what it takes to get water out of a 465 foot hole pumping by hand. A building this size (40x50x12) will collect around 1700 gallons in 1" of rain, sometimes it rains over 3" at a time. Being I'm located on a ridge I have the special circumstance to build what is called a "ridge point dam" Its a dam that has no catchment, its not in a valley like a normal dam. Its on top of a hill. The advantages to this type of dam are insurmountable if you have the land features to pull it off. It will never fill with sediment and fill in, you can grow a polyculture of fish and plants in an aquaponics system, the water can be siphoned out down hill for irrigation, and I can control the water quality, because I dictate what goes into the pond. This water feature if installed correctly has the potential to last 1000+ years. Talk about leaving your mark on the planet.
I edited incorrectly, because I have no idea what I'm doing lol....to be continued...soon, there's much more
in the meantime, heres a video of how I pumped water for a bit, and kind of explains the block structure next to the well. It was an old moped motor and back wheel ran off of batteries and solar panels attached to a really old pump head. It did not work at all until I put the buckets on there. I filled the buckets full of rocks to act as a counter weight as seen on oil rig pumps. Then it worked like a champ!
To begin the shop, a building pad had to be constructed on the ridge line. The building dimensions are 40x50. The operator wanted a 4 foot perimeter on each side. I used a compass, and 100 foot tape measure to drive T posts into the 4 corners of the building, at a dimension of 48x58 with the 58 foot side being faced perfectly east and west so the pitch of the roof will be pointed to the south for optimum solar exposure. The northwest corner of the building was the highest point. That point was spray painted pink at the ground. Then using a transit level we measured the other 3 T posts and tied a pink ribbon to indicate level. The lowest point was the Southeast at 18" low. SW 9 inches and NE 9 inches. Clay was dug out from the area where the ridgepoint dam will be to build the pad. The pad costs $800 dollars to build
The day the hole was dug for the building pad material it was dry. The first time it rained, the pond filled up with some water and has had water in it ever since. You always wonder if your doing the right thing, are you actually harmonizing with nature. I saw several signs that knew I was going in the right path. Once that place that had trees was gone and full of water, in came the frogs!
There are so many frogs reproducing now its crazy. The landscape changed dramatically overnight and nature came in to fill the niche that was created overnight as well. It was a very interesting observation.
Materials started to be trucked in for the construction. All the metal and gravel started pouring in. The gravel set me back another 750 dollars. Its amazing how much they can charge for some broken rocks.
I went ahead and had a footer dug and poured full of concrete. In the big picture this most likely was unnecessary due to the placement of the building on a ridge, there really isn't a way water will collect under the building and freeze. However I did like the idea that a footer basically creates an upside down box that will "Lock" the building into the landscape and keep it from shifting.
Forms were placed and the gravel was spread. Pipes laid into the floor.
An important thing to learn here, and I was all worried sick about getting the pipe placement in the concrete correct. It doesn't actually all have to be planned out perfect. All you need to know is where the toilet is going to be. There will be a vent pipe for the toilet attached to that, and then you can run whatever sinks, laundry etc into the vent pipe. So if your like me and like to change your mind about things alot, Just figure out the toilet placement and everything will be good
The forms used here are actually pieces of the metal used later on in the building.
Make sure and have plastic laid underneath the concrete to act as a moisture barrier.
Concrete is all poured, dry, and cut. The cuts are to give the concrete a place to crack, However the day it was poured and the day before they cut it, I already had one crack all the way across the pad....darnit. But ALL concrete cracks and that's just something you have to deal with.
If you notice in the corner, embedded in the concrete is are the metal plates for welding the I beams and square steel
It's amazing how the building can go from too big looking to too small looking at every stage during construction. After the concrete was poured I had an "oh crap" moment where I panicked and thought the building was definitely not big enough.
The next step was the same way. They came out and welded all the I beam trusses together on the ground. When they laid there on the ground I almost had a heart attack. They looked WAY WAY too short.
I must say they only looked to short for a bit.....right up until the point where they stood one up. Then it was a "holy crap this thing is huge" moment
Using this giant fork lift they lifted the first I beam into place
I took this picture and it confirms the building was placed exactly how I wanted. This is 7 minutes until midday and the shadow is almost lined up. At midday the shadow is perfect. The buildings roof line will be perfect for solar panels! I have exact southern exposure
We opted to do blue roof and trim with gray sides and white garage doors. I wanted green. Rachel wanted blue. So blue it is. Haha, but I do love the color combo. It did turn out awesome.
r-10 insulation was put up. I had spray foam quoted but the estimate was just out of this world ridiculous. They wanted $4,600 to spray two inches of foam in this building and I just couldn't justify the cost at this time.
Sorry everyone, life is hectic, progress is slow, and there are always disasters to stop you along the way. Your going to have to wait for the solar installation details. Right now lets talk about designing and staking out a pond.
First I had to move all of my years of junk out of the playing field. My first disaster was my rain water catchment tank had broken a rung and fell over, causing to to spill half its contents. Not so bad, but it fell on the valve side and I had no way of emptying it and it weighed to much to pick up. I ended up digging a large hole underneath it so I could reach my arm under and drain the tank.
Everything had to go even the tiny house
The top soil was removed from the area and a lot of it was used to level the backyard. This was quite a chore. In some spots there was over 4 foot of top soil!
This next picture really shows some of the topsoil cuts....it's thick on this land. Every place I have dug has 18" of good black worm infested topsoil, but on this ridge line like I said....4 foot plus.
The fresh earthworks were right at the end of October beginning of November. I have a poison hemlock problem, so its important for the ground to be sewn with seed as quickly as possible so that I can dominate the landscape with planting of my choice. For this time of planting I chose to broadcast Austrian winter peas and annual rye grass.
The peas are a legume and use nitrogen fixing bacteria to fix nitrogen into the soil from the air....provided the correct bacteria is present in the soil. Soooooo don't forget the innoculant
Stir in the millions of bacteria.
Everything was broadcast heavily and has started to germinate.
Now the pond again is going to be a ridgepoint dam, kidney bean shaped, located on the SW corner of the building in the middle of the ridge. All of the rain water from the roof will be run off into the pond. So how do you lay it out to give the pond builder clear instructions? Easier then you'd think. The hardest part is deciding what to do with all the material. Constructing a dam in a valley your constantly searching for material to build the wall and always worried about having too little material. I have been informed by the pond builder that I am going to have a massive, unreal amount of surplus material to deal with. You have to get the decisions right moving material around because at 125 dollars an hour its far too costly to move it multiple times. I'm going to use most of the material to level out a giant pad in front of the garage doors, so I can have a place to park broken cars to fix and projects etc.
I decided that I want the outer toe of the dam at 100 ft. So I hooked a tape measure on the corner of the building and using pink spray paint, I painted out a 100 ft arc of the entire area. 18 ft in from each side of the building the arc stops.
I then drove approximately 10 T posts around the area marking the outer arc
With all the T posts in the ground, its time to start measuring.
Get out your level
My basis measurement if off the top of the footer for the building. Remember your not measuring the stick itself, your measuring where the stick contacts the ground.
I measured the footer and have determined that my MAXIMUM allowable water height should be two feet below that point. Giving myself two feet of freeboard, That puts the top of my dam wall at the same height as the top of my footer. So then I went around measuring that height on all the posts. I also marked 1 foot below that in case I don't have enough material to build a wall that tall, however I do not think that will be the case.
You can kind of see the ribbon in this picture.
Its good to have scratch paper for all your measurements
Its important to note at this point....the pond can be any shape you desire, by placing the t posts in any place you want, however if your not harmonizing with natural patterns in the landscape and have a decent plan, chances are your pond will fail. Also keep in mind that water ALWAYS sits on level and will always conform to the contour of the land. But if you felt inclined to shape the backside of your dam wall as a starfish and you have the money to implement it and your convinced it would work.....then by all means hammer in the t posts in the pattern. I chose an arc because its quite simple and a very stable dam for such a large body of water.
At this point catastrophe has struck again. The last time the track loader was out, it was low on transmission fluid so he hauled it back to the shop to see why. I called him up to tell him the pond was all marked out and ready to be dug. He informed me that a bearing had went out in the transmission and caused a seal to rupture. The transmission must be removed and fixed and that's going to put the pond on hold for quite a while
I've considered trading out the labor on the machine for a free pond, but I really only work on car and truck transmissions and know nothing about heavy equipment.....the case dealer quoted 1 week of labor. It could be a 5-10K dollar repair....ouch.
This weekend I finalizing my design for the solar system and will begin installation. The installation will be quite in depth and I will take a massive amount of pictures to show you guys step by step what it takes to build a system to code. That may take a month to get organized. If you have any questions or concerns related to solar installation that you would like me to cover in detail now would be a good time to put in suggestions