Dams , 12/29/2018, Primer and Update

The red lines are general property boundaries, tan/yellow lines represent earthworks dams and swales, the blue areas are potential water stopped and held by the Earthworks according to general topography. These are the dams and ponds I’ll be referring to here. The general topography is going downhill from lower right to upper left, and the dams from right to left are upper dam,

middle dam,

and contour pond.  The pond just above the contour pond is really just a hole in the ground that doesn’t hold water, and i call it somewhat optimistically the ridge point pond. The very top pond is a potential gully dam , that may never actually be completed since it overlaps the property line and would require a joint cooperation  .


Another very nice rain, and fortunately the 2″ prediction didn’t turn into 8″, although at this point it hardly matters, the cold keeps the ground moisture from evaporating, and whatever falls at this point is just adding to the overall totals.

The middle  dam has been raised now, and the connecting swale nicely tied in. This will allow any future water that threatens this dam to be automatically diverted over to the contour pond.  This pond,  which  mostly has existed as a dry hole , finally started to fill with excess water from the main gully. My storages are really not totally keeping up with all the water falling, the dry days aren’t dry long enough to do any serious work with the backhoe, and the wet days are starting to defy my attempts at control, but the success of the connecting swale here means the next step is to focus in on the swale that extends beyond the contour pond. That is the next big opportunity in ground water storage and a safety valve to keep the contour pond from overflowing.

One of the lessons I have learned on a very experiential level is the old axiom  about how the desert  is a flood waiting to happen. When the ground is dry, the sun is hot,  and machinery can work easily, it is sometimes difficult to imagine the same area overflowing with water. Thirsty plants in the summertime do not automatically bring floods and chaos to mind.

But that is exactly the situation I find myself in. It is true that I have held back a great deal of erosion. When thinking about the large volumes of water that used to scour out the channel beside the drive there is a great feeling of accomplishment, but also a knowledge of more things that need doing.

Thinking about increased fertility in the gardens, and watching new spaces for gardens open  up beside the ponds fills my head with plans for the next growing season. But right now I need to look for places to put all this water that seems to be falling without end., My situation is not one of desperation since the reality of the extra water storage has made everything better overall, but now I find myself somewhat greedy.

Watching a two inch pipe steadily running water instead of flooding erosion is a nice step,  but now I find a new drive to harness even that  two inch flow of water.

PA Yeoman had lots of ideas about water, but probably the central theme was always “no runoff.”  Watching that 2 ” pipe I’m starting to understand. It’s not that I want to hoard all the water in the world, obviously that could never happen anyway. But when that 2 inch pipe leaves the fishpond, it has nutrients that could do wonders for a garden, and i find myself thinking about the next project.  Maybe this year I’ll finally get into setting up a garden down by the creek and take that water through a taro patch before I let it go.

Tying in new swales is also a way to harness that runoff, and it points to the idea that no matter how much you plan, a design is always going to evolve. The main idea is to make sure your design is not so hard and fast it gets overwhelmed with unexpected productivity.

I had thought about some sort of a final  reed bed  to do a filter /harvest  of nutrients before the water finally went to the creek. Of course it seemed far in the future at that time but here I am today watching water escape, anticipating more fun.

DSR update 12/25/2018

The double shoe box rocket is elevated off the floor about 18 inches, and instead of an exhaust on top- in front, it is channeled horizontally under a glass stove top from left to right.

Having the water tank inside the bell was an idea suggested at http://donkey32.proboards.com   that led me to my design, which in appearance is like a glass stove top, with an extended simple porcelain covered metal counter top.

This extended bell houses a naked 20 gallon water tank with two fittings, one for cold water at the bottom and one for hot at the top.

The top fitting connects directly into the hot water feed for my house system, and while in operation the hot water valve to the shower head in my tub is left open, and the cold water flow to the tank is shut off. This allows excess pressure to escape safely, and notifies me when the water is hot as steam starts to escape. Note that this is primarily proof of concept, and not yet ready for prime time water heating, it could easily have safety features added that would further ensure a more automatic type system.

note the new visions fry pan  “door” to the batch box, The lid I was using had broken into two pieces possibly from rough handling, possibly the lids are not as thermally  robust as the pans

Last night I was burning the third batch of wood in the firebox,low grade poplar and some mystery wood, likely not completely dry, when I started to hear the steam. That produced a luxurious long (10 min at 4-5 gal/min), very hot shower (mixing lots of cold water). I was concerned about stratification, and the possibility that all the water would not heat evenly, but the length and relatively constant heat of the shower indicated this was not an issue.

The design inside takes the combustion gases exiting under the stove top into a very broad vertical opening that directs the hot gases forward into a circular motion around the whole vertical surface of the tank, with some small horizontal space over and under the tank. These gasses that are further cooled start to sink to the bottom as they circulate. The “stack” entrance is below the bottom of the tank in back of the system, so the exhaust comes in contact with about 270 degrees of the surface of the tank, with some minor contact top and bottom. Note that this stack is actually a powered exhaust by a very cheap, low wattage (about 10)fan. This provides a more or less guaranteed exhaust even at startup, and the exhaust is so cool (around 100F) that more robust (and expensive) equipment is not needed.

The test run last night reached temperatures on top of the port between 900 and 1000 F during the third batch of wood, with a very robust secondary burn at the port. Without testing equipment I have no way of knowing just how clean this is burning, but it appears that the system gets more efficient into the second and third batch of wood by the size of the secondary burn. Perhaps using insulated Fire brick at the port would get the port to temperature more quickly (it is currently standard , full fire brick), and adding ceramic fiber blanket over the stove top might also enhance the temperature build up by reducing convection and radiation losses there.


The Roof, update 12/23/2018

The roof is performing better in this new temporary state, and with strong winds and very heavy snow loads and lots of rain, it kept everything dry inside, although missing some fascia boards and gutters, I’m getting a fair amount of water accumulating around the foundation.

I could say I planned it this way to test my drains and bring them into good functionality, but the truth is that’s just a happy coincidence, because at the end of the gutters the water pours down and forms a lake right next to the lowest part of the earth around the foundation.

So with the heavy rains, the drains (after much modification, are finally handling  water infiltration very well, although not without some sleepless nights  sweeping water to the drain and chiseling deeper channels in the concrete floor- (I knew there was a reason I didn’t tile the greenhouse right away).

So now that the drains are really working, maybe it’s time to actually add some gutters and take all that water over to the actual planned destination, a pipe that goes under the driveway into the kitchen garden.

I have been upstairs rearranging, cleaning if you will, but really it’s just a warehouse, with space at a premium, and there’s only so much condensing and organizing a person can do before it’s time to let stuff go.

I’m inheriting a bunch of pretty nice stuff from my mom’s house, so it can replace the crap I was using, unfortunately it’s tough for me to throw away anything that’s still functional. So the skeletal additions to the roof  are waiting for clear floor space around the miter saw as well as enough floor space to install the rafters.

I do have some high hopes that I might actually start to move forward on this project in the near future, especially since the first cleaning steps are mostly inside out of the weather. That reminds me, it’s nice out and I left some crap by the door that needs to go somewhere else. Stay tuned.

more DSR pics (double Shoe-box Rocket

Note the opening to the left of the tank, exhaust gases travel counter clockwise around the tank once the insulated top is installed

Two water connections to the tank, hot through the upper pipe, cold through the pipe that exits the enclosure botom


I prefer to think of the junk you see as a parts depository, the stove pipe comes up in the center of a poured concrete 2′ wall from the basement, runs horizontally, then down to the ground

The wider area of the pipe after the angle pointing down houses a small fan,

Though it looks solid from the sides, there is actually quite a wide openiong for the exhaust to exit. This configuration keeps the fan dry, allows for a small amount of falling for the exhaust as it cools, and protects pretty well against strong wind


sThe tank enclosure has an insulated   top and sides, with just enough room to circulate exhaust around and over the tank to transfer as much heat as possible to the water.

The Roof

I have doubts that I will actually complete my roof this year. With summer heat and other projects the roof got put off and off until I got to the point where I had to do something so I could mount some new solar panels.

That something was to put down some plywood and fasten metal sheets down on top of it. So I can move and service these new monster panels .

The existing temporary  covering on the roof  had numerous leaks and actual open sky damage at times this past year and I knew I had to do something.

While the skeleton of the roof is mostly in place, the finished framework needs to be standardized with approximately 24 more rafters added before I can even think about actually finishing the roof .  But I did at least get the mish mosh of materials off the roof  and most of the metal in place so the  next time I go to add plywood to the roof it will be easier to remove and replace the metal once I add the plywood. The missing skeletal elements can be mostly added from inside.

I could rant on about the hardships of working with salvaged materials, but the fact is I’m happy to be able to do so much with so little.

Now if I get back home after heavy winds and rain and find the place is still dry and the panels are still on the roof, I will be a very happy camper!:-)

If it ain’t broke….  well, this was broke, out with the tarp, these first two roof sections are a bare beginning, with lots to do before they are in their final configuration, so you could say this is still temporary, but it definitely is moving toward a finished roof.

move the solar panels to the side ,slightly less power, but at least some continuity–these will be replaced with larger panels when this project is done.

new fascia board helps to stabilize rafters

When I look around from this vantage the trash really jumps out at me. But in that “mess” is water storage, structural elements, tools and actual garbage. I know, get busy!!