Well, it’s been a while (as usual) but it has been pretty eventful, especially for winter when things are supposed to slow down. New experiences for sure with a little extra knowledge, and I guess that could be a positive side of every new experience.

Ever been bitten by a rabid bobcat?

Now I can say that I have been. I’m not sure if the knowledge I’ve gained will ever be useful or not, and I’m not even sure if it’s behind me yet. My hope would be that at this point in time I think the worst is over. I’m up and walking again, working more and more each day and gradually getting back into the swing of things.

Of course there were periods when I was fighting the infection where I wasn’t sure if I would ever walk again. Cat bite infections- even tame house cats are evidently very serious affairs, and my lack of awareness led to cellulitis which can do a lot of damage.

Even though I pride myself on natural remedies, and was boldly telling the doctors that I didn’t need their antibiotics, after about three days watching the infection spread, I got that prescription filled and was sorry when it ran out, but continued trying to treat what was left of the infection with my garlic and goldenseal…

Fast forward a week or so and I was going to another doctor to get a new prescription.He saw me three days in a row and was quite concerned about sepsis which can evidently kill you. Lab tests turned up a cat bite bacteria the prescribed antibiotics weren’t effective against, so add a new antibiotic to the regime .

Fast forward a bit as the infection was getting under control and I was going back for another prescription because I wanted ALL redness and swelling gone before I gave up those miracle pills.

I’m not saying natural antibiotics don’t work, the theory is that they should work even better, but in trauma experience Doctors certainly have an edge on us natural healers. I’m only used to dealing with small cuts and sprains-simple stuff, So maybe the lesson I learned is to not be so casual about treatment in really serious stuff.

A dose of golden seal powder here and there, or chewing on a garlic clove now and then needs to be replaced with serious overdoses of garlic and regimented ingestion of your natural antibiotic of choice, which brings us to the next item of business.

If you’re purchasing herbs to use in medical type treatments, use only trusted sources-Better yet, your own home grown and processed herbs will be more reliable than almost any store bought.

I certainly can’t advise anyone what to do about any treatments for anything, but I can certainly suggest not to take any cat bite lightly. The reality is a cat bite can lead to a life or death situation, not so much from the wound itself, but more from those microscopic critters that might get planted under the skin in a puncture wound- especially from a cat.

Picture update 2021

Well, I have no excuses for what is actually an incomplete coverage of all that has been going on this past year, but I did take sporadic photos and will try and fill in the actual progressions of the various projects.

Greenhouse koi project begins with 75 2&1/2″ fish
everything put together from odd buckets and cheap air and water pumps. The improvised biofilters performed quite well keeping the water pretty clean for the three or four months they were in this small pond
Here are the new babies-butterfly koi moved to their outside summer accommodations
To the right of the small preformed pond is a biofilter, the pond water spills into it, passes through sand and is pumped out to recirculate. It worked very well when it wasn’t leaking.
The waterfall for the bigger liner pond. It’s a rough looking first try, but served well through the summer.
Note the solar panels that power the waterfall, and the biofilter between the pond and the panels.The second biofilter is to the right of the panels at the top of the falls. The ornamentation of the area was an ongoing project through the summer.
This is closer to the fall and work on a second pond is started.The plan is to have the two ponds connected in the same filtration system. The second pond is slightly higher than the first and the system will have better filters and be easier to maintain.
These baby birds are being raised in a planter inside the greenhouse, some sort of wren I guess, and she came and went often enough to raise them to maturity even though the doors were often closed. Periodically she would show herself and sort of be asking to go out
This winter wheat volunteered in the garden, I don’t quite know how it got there, but I discovered it by the smell of it when I was cutting the grass, so I stopped cutting it and let it grow as much as it wanted, will be interesting to see if it comes back next year, I never did manage to catch it at the right time to harvest any,
This is the large “catfish pond last January. A drought of sorts started in late spring and the pond lost 80% of its water. Then an 18” rainfall in 3 hours filled it back to overflowing, but as the summer progressed, the pond emptied again.
This is a recent picture, note the ramp on the left allowing access with the backhoe to enlarge the pond a little and get some more clay for the dam itself.
Note the mound of clay in the upper left center of the picture. This builds up a partial low spot, and fills in that corner. It still needs some shaping and compaction but the weather has changed and we’re starting to get some rain. hopefully I’ll get a couple dry days when I can do a little more work with the backhoe.
This shows the connection between the existing swale that stopped about at the truck and the pond that is directly behind the camera Too bad this wasn’t done before that monster rain 🙂
Yes, The trellis needs a bit more work, but this year the grapevine automatically shaded the glass on the south side of the house. The only downside is failure to harvest in time will have swarms of bees etc. I ate as much as I could every day and finally gave a bunch away.

OK, I think that’s enough for one night. Obviously there was a lot more going on last year, and with a little perseverance maybe I can actually bring the year into better focus with some further posts.

Random Photos

Cleaning panels I thought I’d take a picture–pond at top of picture is the middle/swimming pond, although no swimming today.
Greenhouse koi pond, about 60 fish, hungry and growing fast.
The catfish pond, so called because shortly after it started holding water I put in 25 small blue channel cats. somehow they have survived low water and algae, and there’s either a ton of babies from last year, or just a couple of originals (at about 20 inches long now) or some number in between
the rainfall this year has taken this from a low water quality algae/catfish pond to a possible swimming pond. also like to put the kayak in for a restful drift around on the water
Outside koi pond has clarified, fish inactive, some under flat rock which makes a cave for them on bottom of pond
2 or 3 of the bigger koi are out on the bottom getting some sun, but with the reflections the picture doesn’t show them very well.

New Rocket Stove (DSR 2)

I hate to say this, but I fell down on the job of taking pictures of the rebuild, so I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps with descriptions.

Empty hole in the overall build where the DSR used to be. The DSR2 has almost the same dimensions, although in order to fit in the riser in back, I moved the firebox forward in the opening and shortened it a bit
The existing clay/perlite lining was mostly removed on the back and right side, leaving the concrete in back and brick side wall

This shows the beginning sculpting of the back riser, and the first level packing of both left and right sides with the perlite clay mix behind the fire bricks.

Front view of same construction detail.

Fast forward to completion and clay is almost dry now after about three fires.

Again apologies for not following the construction more closely with pictures. The level separation between the firebox and the secondary burn chamber was made using a cast refractory cement slab, since the fire bricks were not really long enough without slanting them in or robbing more space from the firebox. The door and frame were welded up by a friend , just a few angle pieces and some flat stock. The glass is set in the frame in a bed of clay, with a woven fiberglass gasket running around the edge. I’ll try and get some more detail pics on the door frame later. The frame is held in place with a piece of steel rod welded to the back of the flat stock and embedded in the clay on both sides of the fire bricks

In the old DSR I used the glass stove top as the top of the secondary burn chamber, but in this one I actually lowered the whole construction several inches below the old level to make room for a space between the top of that chamber and the glass stove top. Again I used cast refractory cement slabs for that internal ceiling, and in this version of the stove the exhaust is on top instead of to the side.

Overall this unit is performing better in all ways. I still use the ceramic fiber blanket to push the heat over to the water tank most of the time, but when it is not in place, temperature checks show less intense heat in single spots, but greater heat overall. I have not had a lot of time to play with this version in terms of taking lots of measurements, but it is easily hitting 1000 plus degrees,

I also have started a burn technique after it hits the coaling stage of throwing in a couple small pieces of wood to help keep the after burner ignited, and I believe in this way I get a more complete burn during the coaling stage. Of course this falls under the heading of playing with the fire, so when I don’t have a lot of time, I just load a second half load or so of wood right on top of the coals, close the door and walk away.

I did leave out some of the finer details in my haste to get this working. Once again I seemed to only have time to coast a few days on passive solar heat while rushing to implement the new build to restore a more comfortable temperature.

The stumbling block in the top chamber is not yet in place, and I kept the secondary air supply at the bottom of the heat riser, although I think the design showed that was no longer necessary. Truth be told I haven’t had a lot of time to revisit the details of the design and was going mostly by memory and expediency. There are a couple refinements I might like to add, but I’m quite pleased in general with this latest iteration.

Photo update 11/14 /02020 (pt 1)

These koi are growing out in this small patio pond, while their bigger pond is under construction
great fun sculpting the earth, trying to get all sharp rocks and roots out of the way
this pond gets a liner, previous excavations in this area showed the clay was not good enough to have a reliable mud bottom pond.
The first rock-in was underway when rain flooded behind the liner and totally screwed up everything, the second attempt will have extra experience to build on and a built in siphon hose to drain water if necessary
Although aqua blox are the preferred structure for a wetland filter because they allow a faster transfer rate, these septic lines should handle the lower flow I’ll be using, but the question is whether these filters will be adequate to keep the water clear.
the septic pipes are first covered with coarse rock, then the finer gravel sand mixture from the creek. Water from the pond flows in and covers the sand continuously, making this filter act as a skimmer. Notice the white PVC access pipe that contains two submersible pumps.
this second wetland filter has water pumped up from the first filter, sent to the water chamber underneath , The water then filters up through the gravel, and acts as the source for the waterfall/ stream that oxygenates the water and feeds it back to the pond.
The skimmer/first wetland filter is slightly left of center beneath the solar panels. The second filter is top right center. Note the black liner to the right that will be the waterfall stream bed coming back to the pond
Top sees a small cold frame(lettuces anyone?) on the upper wetland filter, coming across to the waterfall bed. Working with the big rocks is no fun alone, so I’ve settled on a method where the big rocks are outside the liner, making it easier to manage.

While the rain complicated the koi pond, washing lots of mud into water that had finally started to clear, the rains filled and clarified the upper “catfish” pond. It’s especially true that larger ponds require less maintenance.

Note that these ponds are mostly unavoidable when doing erosion control . A pond lined with sedimentary rock in many places like this might be expected to empty as fast as it fills, but what actually happens is the back country around the dam starts to fill with water, and slowly the dam will start to hold water longer and longer.at higher and higher levels.

The catfish pond reached a new high over a week ago, but still not full
here’s another perspective from a couple weeks ago
And another image looking straight across the dam
This is looking down from the spillway area on the ramp leading down into the pond before this last big rain.
With another monster rain the pond finally fills. The water foreground to the right is actually the spillway, and will eventually feed a swale that runs all the way to the northern boundary, that then feeds another swale that runs back to the main garden at a lower level.
This shot is taken from a new garden that was created by the pond clearing. When full the pond practically touches it. Most of the time this shallow area next to the garden will be dry. Still, with the water table this high, the soil and plants should do very well.
another perspective of the full pond.

Stay tuned for part 2

photo update 07 2020

Usually I pick a theme and possibly support it with pictures, This post is going to just show pictures with brief descriptions, and maybe a theme will develop

exceptionally warm weather early, the bananas were suckered into coming up early, and then were hit by several hard frosts, still, they managed to thrive. I transplanted about three backhoe buckets of roots this spring down to the middle swale and those bananas are also thriving. I like banana leaves for mulch applications to control weeds.

Now, if you look close there is a wire cage (lower left), protecting a slew of hot peppers just put in where bananas used to be.

Backhoe, front loader bucket needed welding, seems like with machines there’s always something. This is not the only repair this year, but the backhoe got some good use when I was digging swales , pulling stumps, planting trees. I don’t mind a little TLC for all the work it does.

This is the middle pond after a heavy rain, note the limestone gravel at the back of the dam, any water running down the gully gets filtered through that limestone, and this year the water has been much clearer.The muddy water was temporary, due to 5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.

This is a snake I’ve been watching for several years down in the gully ponds, and he started foraging up to my little ponds near the house. When I found out what he was doing I was trying to figure out what to do, little goldfish were disappearing rapidly, how soon would he start to look at the koi? The problem solved itself, he got caught in a stray piece of chicken wire and died For the time being the koi are safe, but how soon will other critters come by to threaten them?

This was the little Koi pond back in April,
Here’s the pond in June, Elephant ear tarot, tumeric,lemon grass, sage,lemon sage, banana, lemon verbena, ….. There’s even a place for marshy plants that like their feet wet, bulrushes, snake plants and most recently some horsetail starts.
cruciferous aren’t fond of the heat, but i’m still harvesting kale, broccoli, and I think there’s some cabbage in those overstacked plants.
This is the biggest pond, and the highest. Not as much rainfall this year, so after building it about 6 feet higher and a good deal wider as well, the dam is cracking a little–from the dry conditions, The arch of black pipe there is meant to be an irrigation pipe, and when the dam fills, it will send water anywhere it needs to go. When the pond finally does fill the green vegetation lower left corner will be underwater, and at its peak even the vegetation upper left, and several feet of the vegetation on the right side will also be underwater.

This pond also has some new mulberry trees planted on both sides, and to the left of the water level is a long area partially shaded where a new garden is taking shape. several tomatoes and peppers are planted to start conditioning the soil, but also a blueberry, grape vine, and kiwi have been started to be part of the perennial crops there. Even the top of the dam, which is clay, got a few mounds of topsoil and watermelons are planted there in full sun.

It is a Wardrobe!

Bill Mollison described a class he was teaching and a stranger who lingered on after the meeting . The stranger said you know what you’ve done, you’ve arranged all the elements of life in good order in a wardrobe or closet.

Bill seemed to like that description about how Permaculture made good order out of all the different elements of life on earth. Others might say it is a toolbox . One may use hundreds of different tools and tricks along the way, and the result hoped for is improvement of our lives and the health of the earth as a whole.

So Permaculture to me is much more than a simple wardrobe, it is also the design that knows when and how to put different elements in the wardrobe together so that they work together in a way that benefits us and life on the planet.

To that end, Permaculture continues to collect those methods and tools that will help the earth continue to sustain us as a species.

Big Developments

It has been some time since any substantial developments and I’d like to talk a little about the psychological side of this work/ fun. Many of these techniques are as yet unfamiliar here in the states, so implementing them is more a question of trust or belief, or possibly just being able to grasp the theory and take it to the level of practice.

No matter how reasonable any theory may sound I still have that element of “show me”. I need to have my hands or attention in it to really understand any new principle, and when it comes to water management there is a great deal of faith involved when investing thousands of dollars in a system, not to mention time and energy, in order to get things started and working.

Even after systems are up and running it can often take years before any visible results are observed. With this in mind I went ahead and hired a forest mulcher to facilitate the next part of my water management system.

For those unfamiliar with clear cuts, around here there is a massive pulp wood industry, that relies on fast growing pines and miscellaneous deciduous trees. For me , unfamiliar with this industry, I thought I would have to start planting trees on a property with nothing but briars everywhere., but here in this climate trees regrow almost immediately, some from seeds or low sprouts, but often from the stumps left behind.

This means several sprouts from each stump and other seeds all competing for light, shooting up fast and tall and thin.So these trees are efficiently harvesting light, sequestering carbon, but producing little in the way of useful lumber or fruit.. Also, removing 20-40 years growth when the trees were cut does not improve the soil quality as much as if the tree had simply fallen and rotted into the ground. So soils around here would not be that good for regular orchards or quality tree systems.

A friend suggested 20 years ago that I should walk around with a sharp machete cutting off extra sprouts to make the remaining trees stronger, At the time I didn’t know about Permaculture, had no extra money to install special dams or swales, and spent all my energy off the land just trying to pay the mortgage.

It is into this tall thin jungle of trees I went on different occasions trying to build ponds and swales with a backhoe. Yes, it can be done, but it is tedious and time consuming. So after surveyors marked my property line, yesterday I had a forest mulcher come through and clear a path about 8 feet wide that outlined the boundary and then followed various contours around the land scape.

Recent windfalls financed this project, and this is the big development.It is quite unusual to see a landscape change so dramatically over the space of a few hours. The boundary line painted by the surveyors now has a sight line hundreds of feet long, and actually seeing the contour paths cleared gives many new insights into the actual “lay of the land”.

Of course keeping my backhoe running through this next phase will actually allow the project to become functional, but overall just having the paths cleared to give the backhoe freer access should make the project move much faster with better results.

One unexpected outcome was the nature of the soil left behind. I expected wood chips, but the mulcher did more than that, it also mixed up the top soil and left behind a rich resource of garden soil that will soon be installed in my gardens and likely create many new ones as well.

It’s like turning a corner, or moving to the next level of productivity, what an exciting time!

Managing Hot Water

Talking with a weekend friend the other day who is starting to contemplate country life full time, she mentioned it had occurred to her in the shower the other day just how nice a hot water shower can be. In fact, she continued, she believed it to be an essential element for survival.

I added to her declaration that the shower needed to be at least under 45 lbs of pressure or I could never be satisfied. But I said this after a summer of almost entirely cold showers with no hot water at all. This was mostly by choice, but the best hot water heater I had during the summer would have also heated the house, which would have just added to the cooling issues of summertime.

When I first came here 18 years ago I had a gas hot water heater in my RV, and that was ok sometimes, but in winter, with freezing pipes; often that hot shower–or any running water at all, was unavailable. Still, even back then I understood how valuable hot water could be, and have spent a fair amount of time over the years making sure I could cover that need.

For several years now I have been heating water with wood. It started with a small Appalachian style coal(wood) burner water heater attached with a thermosiphon to an old water tank. Fire it up and maybe add wood a couple times and then close the pressure relief, turn on the 12 volt pump and shower as long as I wanted.

I also used to play with 2-300 feet of black poly pipe in the sun to avoid lighting fires in summer. Now that I am in this house (I use the term loosely), the ease of that little stove or even the poly pipe in the glass covered box are unavailable. And my aspirations have moved further on.

I still am heating water with wood, but now it is a sophisticated rocket stove, and every year there’s a new type to play with. It started with copper coils on a 55 gallon barrel, and now it is a 20 gallon tank inside a brick and clay “bell”, extracting heat from the DSR.

I’m actually quite proud of all the different ways I have played with producing hot water, and the latest toy should be arriving soon, an evacuated tube solar water heater. True to form I will not be following recommended procedures, and perhaps I will waste a little time reinventing the wheel, or perhaps I will find a way to make do with much less than the recommended equipment.

I have already found I can get by with smaller pumps and less energy and still enjoy similar results with many of the much more elaborate and expensive solutions.The new solar project will be a similar process, finding out the extent of it’s capabilities and then making use of them

When I built the house I did anticipate the possible use for radiant water pipes in the floor, although with my limited budget I had no idea how I might generate that much hot water, or even how I might get it through the pipes. Today my budget is less restricted, but continuing in the use of renewable resources puts a whole different spin on things than just buying a new propane hot water heater complete with expensive automatic controllers and pumps.

For the time being the solar collectors I’m playing with are more an experiment than a completed plan, but they do seem to have enough promise to invest in, and then fully explore their potential here.

One of the keys to Permaculture Design is to have several backups for every important system, and since hot water is one of those systems I continue to investigate and establish multiple ways to generate hot water.