Dave Aiken

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since Mar 21, 2012
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Recent posts by Dave Aiken

E. Mark wrote:Our home has a sump pump in the basement because of a high water table. As a result, the pump is sending a lot of water out through a pipe with an outlet about 30 feet from our house, near the edge of our property. My wife doesn't want that water to go to waste. She is interested in making a pond by the outlet where the water comes out of the pipe. As a test, she dug up a little area, and found that it fills up quickly with the water that our sump pump expels.

Is a pond a good use for this ground water? I'm concerned that the water might contain a lot of pesticides from our neighbors' lawns or other contaminants. That might make it risky to add fish, but if we don't add fish, a lot of mosquitoes could breed there. If you think a pond is feasible, how could we design an ecosystem that makes use of this water?

What other uses would you recommend for the water that our sump pump puts out?

Thank you.

If you know what kind of pump you have (or if you can read the serial number), using the pump capacity (i.e., gallons per minute), the lift (in feet) from the sump to where the water discharges, timing the pump cycles (how often does it kick on and how long does it run each time), you can calculate how much water your sump is producing. I did this when I had a sump pump that seemed to run all the time. I could have easily kept a pond full most of the year. My sump dried out in August/September.

If you're really worried about WQ, you can take some water samples from the sump, but for a pond I don't think I'd bother. Your sump is probably at least 8 feet below grade. The soil is doing a lot of filtering between your sump and your neigbors. Are you in a suburb or in more rural area with neighbors?
7 years ago

Jason Nicoll wrote:...The system I prefer is finding the longest, highest site for a top swale and linked dam system with food forest and then sub-soil rip the land below at a slight angle towards the peaks. Then charge local farmers a monthly rate per head of livestock to feed off the land and control their grazing with electric fencing on a chicken/pig/cow tractoring system to make revenue. This should help towards gaining an income whilst improving the nutrients of the land and keeping development and land sale options open.

Sounds like a good plan - I wish I had taken my PDC before I purchased this land. It's a little short on grazing space. It would be great for a few hogs or goats raised in timber, but that's a very niche market, and there would be a few potential management issues to work around. Finding land with the right topography for larger-scale earthworks and grazing of inter swale space would be great. My place's niche would be more for resale to somebody interested in a resilient homestead with a large stream, lots of timber, and good potential for agroforestry. I'm not sure how I could generate short-term income.

Keep us posted.
7 years ago

Jason Nicoll wrote:Thanks for the great advice and encouragement. I feel I am pretty close to getting the right piece of land and can't wait to sit down, take stock and start to see the design. The next challenge is going to be finding a competent bulldozer/digger operator.

Hoping for an update from you, Jason. I'm in a similar, but slightly different situation. I have property that we MAY build a home on ourselves in 2-3 years. But I'd put the odds at about 50/50 not knowing what direction my career may take after finishing a PhD program. I have done some small things on the property:

1. I had a foresters write a management plan to get that perspective
2. I planted some fruit and nut trees along 2 fence/property lines.
3. I've done a little selective clearing of low quality timber and started a few oaks and hickories.

My dilemma is the uncertainty - I'm not ready to build for fear of having to sell. But I've contemplated getting all the main frame in for a permaculture system that that when the time comes, it's ready for a house with productivity already underway, or it's turnkey for somebody else to do the same. I've found that this uncertainty has slowed my design/implementation, but I'm thinking that your idea is the way to proceed. While the somewhat "unmanicured" appearance of a permaculture system may be a turnoff to some buyers, to the "right" buyers it may be worth a premium. Or better yet, we build on it ourselves and it's already producing food and fuel for us.
7 years ago

Ryan Absher wrote:On today's episode of The Survival Podcast (http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/wop-four), Jack mentioned something that a recent guest of
his had.

He called it a "Comfrey Tractor", and it was basically a potted comfrey plant with holes drilled in the bottom of the pot. He would place it somewhere for
a few weeks and water it. The roots would grow through the holes and into the ground. He would then twist the pot, breaking off the roots in the ground.
Of course new plants would spring up from the roots left in the ground. Then it's on to the next spot.

I thought this was pretty interesting.

Jack just did an MSB video where he discussed how to build a comfrey tractor: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/wir-005
7 years ago
I'm working on my Geoff Lawton PDC Design activity. I've established my sectors, and laid out my zones, but realized that the Design Manual states that sectors will influence the shape of your zones. That is not really the case with my zones. For starters, I'm retrofitting an existing farmstead for a friend, so the biggest driver of zone shape is the presence of existing infrastructure and trees. I understand how slope and orientation affect the shape of zones, but don't necessarily have a great handle on the influence of sectors (winds, sun, views, noise, odors, etc) on zone shape.

Any insight, or links to good examples, would be much appreciated.

7 years ago
Good tips, Michael. Thank you.

So the next question is, assuming they're black cherry, should they stay or should they go? My plan was to plant a sugar maple or perhaps a shellbark hickory, with some berry producers nearby (aronia and/or service berry). My goal is human edible fruits/nuts. The black cherry is not great for either. The lumber value is high, but I'll never harvest the timber for that purpose. If a tree must be removed, or if one is wind damaged, for example, I may use the lumber for something, but that's not my goal.

7 years ago
Ian, thanks very much for your response. Given my location, I think they are two immature black cherry trees. They are very close, so I'll probably keep one. That's a pretty desirable species in these parts. If you scroll down on this page and click the upper-left photo (in the 3x3 group of images, I think it's pretty conclusive. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/forestry/iowa_trees/trees/black_cherry.html

Thanks again.
7 years ago
OK, guys. Gold star to anybody that can identify these two young trees. I have a couple of guesses, but since there are no leaves this time of year and they're young, it's very tough because the bark isn't fully developed. I had my saw at the ready, but since I was pretty unsure, I spared them for now. I have largely cleared some rough canopy trees from this area to make room for some new tree plantings this spring. But I'd kick myself if I removed something I later found to be quite desirable...been there, done that. Rather not repeat that mistake.

Bark is dark with white spots. This may change as the trees mature (unless I drop them, per my plan)

Branches are alternate:

7 years ago

Jeff Marchand wrote:...The problem with livestock in the bush is they eat all the seedlings. If we killed all our children then before too long we would be extinct as the old geezers die off. Same with the forest. You need to let some seedlings grow up to replace the old trees that die, or you harvest for firewood. It does nt have to be livestock either my maple bush has been over grazed by white tail deer, who prefer leaves from maple seedling to ash or hickory leaves. So guess what the new growth is almost entirely ash and hickory. Neither species will give my grandkids maple syrup

Good point, but I wouldn't propose letting livestock run roughshod over the entire area. But I have no issue with sheltering a few hogs in a small area, and moving them every few weeks. My understory is chock full of undesirable species, so they'd actually be doing some work for me (and the forest). I can see, however, that you may have to stop doing this after a few years if you managed to get more desirable young trees going (vs. the undesirables I have now).
7 years ago
Thanks for your thoughts, Brad. Funny thing was, this guy wasn't selling anything. He is a state agency employee, offering woodland management suggestions as part of his normal job duties. And the agency he's with is one that holds Aldo Leopold in high regard.

Like I said, he had very helpful information, too, but it's just too bad that concepts like chop and drop, integration of livestock with woodlands, and plant guilds under newly planted trees are lost on conventional foresters. He and I were speaking two different languages. As far as the use of Roundup goes. Well, that's pretty common in mainstream forestry, unfortunately. Quick and easy, I guess.
7 years ago