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Major earthworks starting -- central texas

 
gardener
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I was surprised when i came back after 3 days and the pond was "fuller" with no/,little rain.  Yesterday i placed a stake at waters edge. Sure enough its filling from underground.
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wayne fajkus
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Water is clearing up. First pic is sediment pond and is still brown but clearer.

Second pic is main pond . I see no brown, but algae green is showing. There is visibility right now but i expect it to get really green. If i got the angle correct, you can see what will be a rock water fall when water flows in.
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wayne fajkus
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Water is still inching up. Plants are sprouting up through the ashe juniper woodchips. I moved about 2/3 of the leftover topsoil for another project. That was work.  About 4 hours on the skidsteer to do it. Seeds added at water edge and the dam of both ponds.

Still lots to do but having fun putting my work into the project.

Im still amazed at the water quality/clarity of the main pond. Sediment pond and my original pond are brown. This one would be perfectly clear if not for the green tint of algae. I contribute this to the underground water he is capturing with the keyed dam. In the beginning, when we could see the flow coming in, it was crystal clear. It created 2 waters as it flowed in. A clear patch maybe 2 ft in from where it was seeping and the rest was murky. I soooo want to jump in it.
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pollinator
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Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
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wayne fajkus wrote:Zachs opinion was get the plantings in the pond this year and not introduce fish til next year. This wait will result in 5x healthier fish and plants.



What do you and Zach think about mosquitos during this year without fish?

BTW, thanks so much for documenting and sharing this project!
 
wayne fajkus
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I think guppies will be here within a month on their own. Im not sure how it happens (birds bring them in?). At least thats what happened in my other pond.

But i think he was talking about fish, not minnows/guppies. Minnows may be the organic material added to a garden, the fish being the corn plant.  Im just speculating though.

Yesterday i had the same thought though. I have cattle troughs with minnows. I thought about putting a dozen in  main pond, 6 in sediment pond.
 
wayne fajkus
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I have had some purple mooseages that i would like to answer here. 

How to get Zach to your place. Whats the process? 

Go to their website:  http://www.elementalecosystems.com

And click the contact button. Let them know you are interested in a project and tell them a little bit about it. From here Cassie will respond and send you a Project Intake Form, there are questions related to the layout of the land, your goals, infrastructure already on the site, water sources, etc. Cassie gets this information and responds with more information. Response rate is much better when cassie came on board. Like right now Zach is out of the country at Sepp Holzers place so you could wait a month for a reply. 

After the inquiry cassie sets up an appointment for a phone call from Zach. He wanted personal info like what goals you wanted from the land. He is not just water retention. His website covers his specialties (terracing, natural swimming pools, etc). I was impressed that he did some homework. He had viewed Google earth and also had information of typical soil types in my region. The only snafu we had was i had bought my adjoining tract and that tract was where the earthworks took place. I emailed him a google earth pic showing the expanded acreage i owned. 

The next step was a one day consult. Depending on property size, the consultation could be up to 5 days. The big answer that i anxiously waited to hear was " there's material here we can work with". It was like winning the lottery! The consult was reasonably priced imo. Nothing can happen til you know it CAN happen. To get instant answers requires machinery. I was fortunate to have a skidsteer on hand and the only investment i made was spending $200 for a 4ft extension so my auger could reach 8ft down. He did a local consult while my actual earthworks was happening and they rented a mini excavator for the day. Here is a thread with some pics from consult day 

https://permies.com/t/101230/Documenting-waterflows 

After that he presented a google earth pic with a drawings on it that he added, showing plans with options. After that he gave a rough estimate on cost. This was all done while he was here.


 
 
wayne fajkus
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The flow of the actual build. Costs? 

Billing is pretty simple: 

Equipment cost is x 

Zachs cost is x per hour 

Bens cost is x per hour 

Captn Als cost is x per hour 

Estimate is based on estimating the hours on the 3 people. What do each do and why do i need them? Can i save money by deleting 1? Maybe... 

Equipment- zach put upfront thought into this for this specific project. A bigger excavator is not as mobile so maybe 2 are needed, driving equipment costs up, but lowering labor costs. Maybe delivery cost is so high its worth making it a 3 week project instead of a 2 week project and that saves money. The point being he balances several things to determine the best rout. 

Zach- he oversees and makes the decisions. His first day was with a survey level marking the dam, the path of terraces. Proposing areas to put hugel. During construction he made decisions of keyed dam depth (can't break through the dry clay below the underground water flow or it creates problems (you're screwed? Not sure. Lol). He dug up trees that needed relocating (3 year old fruit trees) and bedded them in. He cut trees that had to go (used for hugel and mushrooms depending on species) his is the highest expense and you dont want him running the machinery. We was not here for the entire project. Theres a point where it goes ssslllooooowwww. It's that tedious task of sorting the layers of soil to get the clay. He did other stuff. Consults in other states, creating master plans after the consult, attending a seminar, etc 

Ben is the main equipment operator. He is needed. 

Captain Al is the hand work guy. We was scheduled to come in a week into the project. I think a lot of the artistry of the project comes from him with guidance from zach. The shape of the hugel, the laying of the rock paths (BIG difference between dumping rocks into the pathway and laying rocks by hand). His expense was my big worry cause its stuff "i could do...maybe...i was given the choice and opted for him". Or i could hire local help. After seeing the accomplishments on a daily basis i am glad we included him in the project. He also seems like a guy that doesn't abuse the clock. His workload was different than bens. Al took some days off when there wasnt work to do. Whereas local help "might" twiddle thumbs and/or need constant guidance (pulling ben off escavator to line him up). Al knew what to do and when to do it. The flow went great. 

To summarize, zach puts thought into equipment needed, what people to bring, when to bring them. All this is to give value to the customer. My observation of ben - using transit level kind of stuff- i personally think he is ready to take a bigger role. Like zach lay out the plan and ben takes it from there. Getting the second zach means meeting the demands and quicker turnarounds on projects. I am not sure with Al, just because i didnt see him doing those projects. He may very well be trained. It may be that ben is zach, and Al is ben and then later Al is a zach. I hope that all make sense. They all have talent and are cordial and want to heal the earth. I have blind faith on all 3.



 
wayne fajkus
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Crew accommodations. 

The Elemental Ecosystem crew were self accomodating. When i had asked about this, i was told that they pitch tents. In my case i had an 85% complete tiny house with barely adequate air conditioning and offered that too them. Zach and Ben used it. I think Captn Al slept in his vehicle. Its set up for it. 

I left the back door open for bathroom use. 

Its probably worth having a discussion on this. I will say they are all good people, they don't interfere with your normal living unless you want them to. I probably averaged feeding them one meal every other day. It was a mix of home cooked vs going out. 

Bens morning coffee method (pour over coffee pot)  changed how we make coffee, finally ditching the k cups and all the one use plastic associated with it.


 
 
wayne fajkus
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Just planted all the trees we had to relocate, as well as some others i had bought. Most went on the bottom slope of the long terrace that comes from the culvert. The poor trees got picked leafless by deer while they were bedded in a cattle trough. I remember Zach saying that Sepps handling of trees is ruff and people cringe when they see him planting them. I guess Sepps philosophy is if the tree can't handle a little abuse, it shouldn't be here. I'll see if they resprout leaves which i think will be the case.

Interesting tidbit. That slope was FULL of moisture. The trees I planted 30 or so feet back from the pond was not as moist. I now know why Zach suggested I tree that area.

Heres a pic of the slope . You cant really see the trees but should make sense of the location i described.
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wayne fajkus
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Aerial pic. Still amazed at color difference.
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wayne fajkus
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You can see 3 ponds in that pic. From bottom is sediment pond. What looks like a road to right is the terrace.

Above that pond is the main pond. Its pretty evident of the cleanliness of the water.  Continue above that and you see my original pond. Its brown slso. This is so amazing to me. The difference between a pond "system " and a pond.
 
wayne fajkus
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Dams have hay mulch. Pond edges have woodchips.
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Yay thank you so much for posting about the whole process Wayne! That is super helpful for other potential clients to see. :)
 
wayne fajkus
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I planted iris every 5 paces around main pond. Zach told me where to plant them but i forgot. It was either on the edge of the pond or on the edge of the terrace around the pond. So planted in both locations.

Ludens is sending me some water plants(THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU):

Duckweed 
2 kinds of water weed 
Chinese Water Chestnut 
Louisiana Iris 
Lizard Tail 
Watercress 
Narrow-leaf Cattail 
Duck Potato

I started researching them to see "where" to plant them. A lot of these are edibles. Super exciting.

I havent seen evidence of mosquito larvae yet, but put in some minnows from my cattle trough as a just in case.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Yes!! This is so exciting to see! I can't wait to see what takes hold and thrives! :)
 
wayne fajkus
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Water plants are planted. I skipped the cattails after seeing tyler ludens pulled them out for invasive reasons. Zach mentioned concerns also.

Water is getting less green. Still looks good.

Water is flowing out past overflow. Will see how long this lasts, if it continues through rainless summer months. My mind probably thought the water would go around the keyed dam underground.  Its cool seeing it go above ground. Maybe both are happening?

The grass is much more established on the wood mulch vs the hay. Big sections of hay have blown off. While we seeded it with several seed types, the original bermuda seems to be coming up almost everywhere. The spring deer plot mix (4 seed types) came up pretty good . The 40+ native seed types havent sprouted. I think it's waiting for a rain, or i will need to water it.
 
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wayne fajkus wrote:
Water is flowing out past overflow. Will see how long this lasts, if it continues through rainless summer months. My mind probably thought the water would go around the keyed dam underground.  Its cool seeing it go above ground. Maybe both are happening?



Water flows are a pressure thing: it takes the easiest way out. If you're seeing flows above ground chances are that your soil deeper down isn't as permeable as you would want it to be.

Great story Wayne!
 
wayne fajkus
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The only concern right now is lack of rain. Seeding is not progressing. The seeds thrown out while Elemental Ecology was here is doing good as we had plenty of rain for them to sprout.  The seed i have spread has done nothing. Got a little rain today. Hopefully we get more tonite.

The pond is full.and flowing out overflow though.  It's just the grass. I need it established before summer heat hits us.
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master pollinator
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40% chance of thunderstorms tonight and the days ahead!  Do a rain dance!
 
wayne fajkus
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Lol. We got .36" since my last post. Happy happy.
 
wayne fajkus
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I started working on innoculating the logs with mushroom spawn.  This is my third attempt and i have my fingers crossed. I used mushroom mountain this time for the spawn and supplies.

I bought their drill bit and plunger. The system worked great.  The spawn is sawdust. I opted for this over dowels i have used in the past.

Pictures show holes drilled, then spawn plunged in, then beeswax over it. It got dark before i finished. I got 4 logs done of "wide temp shitake". Looks like the bag will do 8 logs. I also have a bag of "warm weather shitake " and a bag of "brown button"mushrooms. I should get it finished this weekend.
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This is excellent. Thank you for posting your progress. Wise move putting so much thought and effort into water management and irrigation. It's ideal to complete projects quickly because life is short, but there is much to be said for tackling a plan in stages. It helps to relax between stages and gather insight from past work, to inform future work. Excited to see how your hugelkultur and mushroom logs perform.

You might enjoy this video:
WOODLANDERS EP4: WOODLAND MUSHROOM CULTIVATION
https://vimeo.com/209273918
 
wayne fajkus
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I'll take a look at that K. Thanks.

Tornado touched down about a mile from my property. My corn is flattened . Several mature ashe junipers got uprooted. My deer blind is tipped over and in pieces.

Good news is i should have more logs to inoculate.  I am pretty sure there are fallen limbs of oak.
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wayne fajkus
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I watched the mushroom video. Very similar to what i did. I will try totem poles on next batch, using button mushrooms. Seems like that method will keep things moist, especially with the location i am using. Down side of  dam, underneath the oak canopy.  The dam shades the morning sun, the canopy gives dappled light in afternoon.
 
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Wow. Takes a lot of force to mangle a large cedar like that. Appears to be a cedar anyway. I remember the tornado that flattened Jarrell a few years back. Hope yours was tamer. At least you have water!!! That entire project looks more awesome with each update.
 
wayne fajkus
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This one damaged about 200 houses. Only 2 are unhabitable. No injuries that i am aware of.
 
wayne fajkus
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Taking fallen cedar elms to the sheep. They like the leaves
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wayne fajkus
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Water is tea colored from the storm. Pics show the grasses coming in.

Bottom of terrace(hugel visible above it),  then sediment pond, then main pond
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K Manslon
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That's a shame about the tornado damage. Clever idea using the blow down as fodder. Probably a lot of free wood chips available from tree services cleaning up in your area. One can never have too many chips.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ow!  Sorry about all the damage.  You get a lot more of the severe weather up there than we do down here, though this area gets its share of tornados also.

 
wayne fajkus
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We have had a lot of rain for june. Probably averaging 1" a week. This is the first time i have been home while raining.

Pictures follow the flow. 2 swales full (they flow down to third swale that is not pictured)

Terrace (pulls water from third swale, from culvert under road.

Rock bed from sediment pond to main pond.

Rock pick up point that puts water back in ravine after exiting main pond.

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wayne fajkus
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I noticed that the diverted water coming down terrace is equal to the amount of water coming from the natural flow that was originally feeding the ravine. We ended up doubling the amount of water going into the pond. The doubling was not needed, but it redirected water that was flooding the shop.

Since the water is not needed, i am wondering about adding dams to the terrace. Whether it be rocks(gabion) or some other form. Dam it so it infiltrates the ground. Limit what goes into pond......
 
Rene Nijstad
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wayne fajkus wrote:I noticed that the diverted water coming down terrace is equal to the amount of water coming from the natural flow that was originally feeding the ravine. We ended up doubling the amount of water going into the pond. The doubling was not needed, but it redirected water that was flooding the shop.

Since the water is not needed, i am wondering about adding dams to the terrace. Whether it be rocks(gabion) or some other form. Dam it so it infiltrates the ground. Limit what goes into pond......



Wayne, I think it depends. Do you get an average amount of rain this season? I ask because as I understand the middle of the US gets way more than average rain this year. No idea if that's the same in your area though.

When we got here 5 years ago, we had quite a few thunderstorms lasting a couple of hours, dumping easily over 4 inches of water on us within 2 to 4 hours. We were also looking at places to install more dams back then. But in the next 4 years we never got that amount of water again. Strong thunderstorms yes, but just not as many... So I'm happy we did not invest in more dams. It would have been a waste of resources.

Apart from that, indeed your biggest potential storage of water is not in expensive dams, but in the ground. So the fact that you have this terrace already helps, because it slows the speed of the flow and allows more time for infiltration because of that.

I think maybe you could look above your current water system, if there are more spots to slow/stop the water flows. If you can make more water infiltrate the ground above your dam it might feed underground flows to keep your dam full...

Just some ideas...
 
wayne fajkus
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I am surprised we got that storm. It was 4"+. We should be hitting our dry season. It has been wet this year.  Luckily it has been spaced out.

I reseeded again in the bare spots. Hope this moisture helps it sprout. I never really tried planting grass in the heat of summer though. Not expecting much. September/october is when i generally plant grasses.

The storm had major lightning. Lost my television, the cable box, and a pool pump. Crazy year considering the close tornado a few weeks back.

This earthworks project is on the high part of my 16 acres. The upper swale is maybe 20ft from property line. The sediment pond is maybe 20 yards from property line. The sediment pond catches all the water from both sides of the paved road at the propery line via a culvert under the road. I get it all.
 
wayne fajkus
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Water plantings update.  These are the generous gift from tyler ludens. Everything is growing. These 2 are the most impressive. First one is duck weed. I see this as an asset. Scooping up a net full for the chickens and turkeys. Right now i am transferring it to cattle and horse troughs to build up inventory.

Second pic is water weed. Great habitat. As a kid i didnt have to bring bait to local ponds, just a garden rake. Scoop this up and you have tadpoles, crawdads, and minnows. This is probably a 4ft circle and is the established bed. This started as maybe a quart of plants originally. Every few days i pull out a clump and throw it in a different area of the pond. The last time i pulled a clump i had tadpoles, so its doing its job.

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wayne fajkus
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Water clarity has suffered from surface water from rains.  Its a tea color but still much clearer than my other ponds.

I did see mosquito larvae in the pond. I am currently catching minnows from my original pond and relocating them. This is an example of one overnight trapping. A cylindrical wire mesh trap with a funnel on each end. $5 from the local sporting goods store (academy). No bait,  i just throw it in.
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wayne fajkus
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Plantings have really taken off. What caught my attention was the difference in growth from sbove the terrace and below the terrace. Plants below the terrace are probably 4x bigger. The power of water!

2 pics. First one shows the terrace and you can see above(left) and below terrace(right). Second pic is from low side. First plants are below terrace, the above terrace are behind it.
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wayne fajkus
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I bought 15 pounds of crawdads that will be here tomorrow. Raising crawdads is so confusing.  All info is based on rice fields that are drained and filled.

So far the main pond is growing well. Water weed in one big patch. Every few days i scoop out a portion with a hoe and relocate it to another area. When i first added it, the wind carried it to one corner. Its starting to root in the other areas.

I have 4 or 5 lilly pads planted. Duck weed, duck plant  irises, water cress, a few thrush. A hundred or more minnows. Plenty of naturally occuring frogs and tadpoles.

I am hoping there is enough for the crawdads to eat without decimating the plants. But i read that crawfads burrough in holes for the summer where they hatch eggs and come out during fall rains.  What i don't know, because interweb info is based on raising crawdads in rice fields that are drained and flooded,  is if they stay underground even if there is water. I may go a year or 2 without adding real fish. See if the crawdads can be something to harvest. Live crawdads get bigger every year in my area. Crawdads boils as fundraisers, specialties in restaurants when in season,etc. Specialty crawdad cookers are popping up on the shelves of local stores. Not sure that my small pond can produce a lot, but interested to try. It may be that this is a test and the next pond is built specifically for them.
 
wayne fajkus
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I added crawdads today. I am not sure where updates on this will be posted. The specific thread is here:

https://permies.com/t/117714/Info-raising-crawdads

They were chilled and slow moving but quickly livened up.

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Got a New Homestead? Here is What You Need to Know to Before You Start a Homestead
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