Laine MacTague

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since Mar 12, 2013
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Recent posts by Laine MacTague

I love the flow created by paths mounds & terraces there Zach. I find the shapes soothing. Cover seems to be coming in well; do you have an idea how much water was run through the upslope irrigation system during initial establishment? Where is this project?

Speaking of upslope, that's something I've been wondering about re ponds / Krater gardens: I was thinking of Sepp's spring terrace design & it occurred to me that even in arid environments, a pond established at the bottom of well-managed slope might pick up water from underground flow from upslope, which would help to stabilize the above-ground water level. Nifty.

Another question: when you say the hugelkultur in the bottom didn't have time to pick up water - are you referring to the mounds around the pond (I'm guessing they are hugelkulur mounds), or was wood actually buried under the pond area?
6 years ago
Hi Luke - your post caught my eye so I thought I'd try answering some of your questions - I would take these answers as thoughts on the subject, rather than edicts, btw...

"Are crater gardens meant to ever fill up with water completely like this?"
By whom? I won't speak to what Sepp wants out of them, but I thought I'd let you know that before the Central Valley of California was flattened by Green Revolutionists, it was pocked all over with such things. In the natural world, they are called vernal pools. They are basically a tragically endangered habitat that provides for a very unique variety of native plants. We can emulate them ("crater gardens" ), and put plants of our own choosing in place of the natives. As such, an "artificial vernal pool" would certainly hold water for a time, and would exhibit concentric rings of different plant species, the rings shaped by the differing water needs of the plants used.

An interesting idea might be to dig a REALLY DEEP hole, then fill a lot of it with wood, then top it with soil. So, you have a concave hugelkultur bed. I think this might be of use in very dry environments.

"I have read that earthworks are all supposed to be somewhat leaky, that there isn't really such thing as a completely water tight natural pond. Is this the case?"
"supposed" is really a matter of who wants what. However, the short answer is yes, this is the case. Even if you did manage to completely seal the UNDERSIDE of a pond, it would be tricky to completely seal the top!

"Or should I really expect to be able to create something natural at the bottom of the crater garden that will hold water year round?"
In a Med environment, where for most of the year, evaporation is greater by far than precipitation, creating a pond (small year-round body of water) is difficult and uses up a lot of water. But ponds are pleasant; one possibility is to seal a small portion of the very bottom of a depression; you could end up with a "vernal pool" of sorts, that had a lot of space that was seasonally flooded, with a small area in the middle that always stayed wet. Again, though; maintaining water exposed to air in a Med environment can be water-expensive.

"This year I decided to bury the liner of a hot tub to the very bottom of the crater garden/retention basin. It is in the middle and holds about 300 gallons of water. In this way I'm hoping to keep a water ecosystem year round at the bottom of the garden so that when the entire garden floods again the following winter I will have an ecosystem in place ready to colonize the new water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Then in the summer when the majority of the crater garden is dry I'm planning to use it as a sun trap and fill it with annuals such as melons/sunflowers, etc?"
This sounds like a pretty cool idea, to me - clever way to deal with the mosquito issue, & a small water area like that, with depth & not as much breadth, will cost you less water to maintain in the dry season. Really, yes, I am excited about this idea.

" Did you listen to Paul's podcast about the earthworks in San Diego? It sounds like this pond eventually drained out during the summer as well. If anyone reading this is familiar with that project I'm curious to know if they intend to find a way to keep water in that space year round, or if the best thing to do is to let the water just gently leak out?"
I was in the workshop, but I can't recall if the desire was that the pond portion hold water all year. I - yes, it WAS; I recall we spoke a lot about sealing, and there was tractor work compacting the inside. As I mentioned, though; keeping water exposed to air in habitats where evap > precip is fundamentally wasteful (er, unless you are going to set up a water-based food system the production of which justifies the water use...) - Personally, I don't remember getting the impression that there was a plan to make seriously productive use of the standing water; I think it was mostly a matter of how we most all of us love to have water bodies around. I may be remembering this wrong, however. Also personally, just for the sake of sharing a slightly different perspective on the installation, I would have wanted a pond, too, and expected that I might have to give that up, and also, I would have preferred the pond to be more central to the property, rather than right by the road. So I would have put the swale in off the road, & the pond at the end of the swale. I see a few benefits to this: If it worked out as a pond, it would be visible from several points on the property. It would draw in animals to the center of the property as well - I like animals! The center of the property was also a shallow ridge, so I would have created a situation that soaks more water into the soil, right on the potentially driest portion of the property (that I could get the water to; elevation is an issue... as is where the pond is placed relative to other structures - in case the wall blows out!).
but I digress. I also think that as time passes, the clay in the base of the pond as is may soak, swell, & settle more, & biotic material will be growing & rotting in the water... I think it will be better sealed in a few years than it is now; it may well end up holding water a lot longer, with minimal input. Finally, when it comes to conserving water in such a dry environment, letting it soak through the pond wall into the surrounding soil is great.

"In a small pond like this that isn't regularly fed by a stream what would you recommend to keep the water alive/oxygenated? A small solar bubbler/fountain? Reeds/aquatic plants? "
All good ideas. The problem with a solar fountain is it doesn't work at night, so you need one that can run via battery at night. Likewise, plants tend to release less oxygen at night, so free O2 can drop seriously at night. Of course, if you are low on fish et. al., this may not be a problem...

Really just scratching the surface here; I hope a few bits of this are helpful...

6 years ago
Personally, I only need a place Thu, Fri, & Sat nights.
6 years ago

John Paul Smajda wrote:
I'd be down for $45 a night. Just to be clear, which house are you talking about specifically??

Actually, this one
works out to about 38/night minimum, for 10 ppl 3 nights.

This one
Looks to be around 45-50 at this point.
6 years ago

Susan Cousineau wrote:... The second house (417074) claims a rate of $166.50/night if 4+ nights are booked, but it only sleeps 6 as opposed to 10 for the first listing.

Update - This one's (above) gone. It looks like Susan, M, & I would make 3 ppl for the one M listed. I'd be happy to get 5 more ppl & draw straws or whatever for beds - I'm more interested in being close to the conference, and spending minimally on accommodations, & I tend to sleep better on the floor in my bag, anyway. It sounds like a really nice house, with a lot of amenities (which likely none of us will have time to use). I explained to the manager about who we are & what we are there for - she thinks the owner would even be okay w 10 ppl in the house, considering the likelihood that we will make such light use of it. I think we might be able to negotiate that into a lower price for, say, 8 ppl. As it is, it looks to be working out to be about 45 / night / person, about 3 mi from the conference.

I would like to hear (asap) from more people interested in this. Are there any?
6 years ago

Craig Dobbelyu wrote:

Neo tried. You can see him trying, really hard. That is exactly what he got. A try. Are you sitting at your computer reading this? TRY to stand up..... Oops, nope, you actually stood up. You DID it. TRY...

See the difference? It starts in your mind. Reeves made it pretty clear that he was only going to try. We pretty much knew the outcome before he left the ground. I suggest that if he had considered whether to DO or NOT DO the jump, and chosen to DO it, we would also have been able to tell, before he left the ground, that he would make it.

I suggest that what that chick Yoda was telling Anakin's kid was to change his attitude, because Yoda knew that all that stood between success & failure for Luke was himself. The last 2 lines of the exchange make it very clear: "I don't believe it!" "That, is why you fail."
6 years ago

paul wheaton wrote:So maybe Yoda is a bit like what Morpheus says about the Oracle: she tells you stuff to nudge you onto a particular path. It doesn't mean that what she says is THE TRUTH.

Yoda is a CHICK?!
I learn so much here.
6 years ago
A desertified landscape is not necessarily devoid of nutrients. Depleted, certainly, but not devoid. Then:
You ship in cattle. You have just added tons of nutrients to the system. If their bellies were full, they will start adding nutrients to the soil immediately. As well as water - they are big, ugly, smelly, hairy water bags.
They walk around on the dead flat ground. Now, instead of a solid shallow crust smoothed by laminar runoff flow, you have a pockmarked soil which will be compressed some at lower levels but now has no smooth hard crust. The wind that used to blow ANY debris across & out of the area now blows seeds, little rodent turds, etc. into the little pits made by hooves. The pits get seeds, shit, & water. Now when it rains, things sprout. The animals are gone, so plants grow, breaking up that compacted soil with their roots. Bring back the animals now & you are screwed. Leave them away, and you get a fairly good growth from the area. Then bring them back when there are a ton of nutrients in the "teenage" plants, and some but not all of the plants have gone to seed. The soil is now softer, because rain was able to stick & soak a bit, and roots grew, & plants started to cover the ground. The animals eat more, shit more, break up more soil, but some of the soil has a bit of memory & spring, where plant roots are beginning to promote that. The animals knock seeds to the ground. You get them off. Then it looks a bit like the slide Savory showed where grass had been trampled & partially eaten, in front of the section where it had been left. Now the soil will hold even more of the next rain, the plants themselves are dropping seed in the area, the winds don't take debris away, the soil holds even more water.... So it goes.

You may get away without extra feed even in the first run because the animals are there for a VERY short time. In fact, you can start the process with a soil imprinter - just a machine with big heavy wheels that make pockmarks in the soil surface.
I found a house a few blocks away that sleeps six, apparently, at about $14 a night. Although, it is described as a 2 br, so that's sharing rooms, I'm sure. That's the low end I've found thus far - prices go up, but there seem to be several reasonable options, & it doesn't seem hard to find places under 40 / night. For a shower & a kitch, & possibly even a short walk to the conference each day, that seems pretty reasonable to me.

I can't afford to hold one of these places on my own, so let me know if you're interested, & we can get together & make it happen.

6 years ago
Julia found the house they're renting @ That's as far as I've got so far. I probably won't get to it until Thu or Fri - feel free to jump ahead of me if you have time!
6 years ago