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 ūüôā
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.

More about Machinery and Permaculture

Some might not call it appropriate technology,  but machinery may not be all bad when thinking about sustainability. The real test is the overall increased output over the life of the system.

It is easy to think that a dam will last 1000 years and therefore becomes worth the immense amount of energy it takes to build a good one. Of course who is going to be able to be around to make sure the dam does not become simply another earthwork to be undone by others in the next generation. The reality becomes one of making projects immensely valuable to new generations so they are respected for the prosperity they bring in the future, not just for the single generation that creates them.

Bill used to talk about creating food forests that were later destroyed by new owners who only wanted to raise cattle. Misuse like that can quickly ruin a dam and even¬† invasion by trees with taproots could¬† threaten it’s existence. Almost all dams are going to silt up, so at some point in their history they will need to be cleaned out to remain as water bodies, but this can be a positive productivity, generating fertile land for crops.

To the extent possible, it is good for the dam builder to take responsibility for creating sustainable plantings around and on the dam, and perhaps even guide the next generation of owners in the care and use of the dam for greatest reward. Silt ponds and other¬† installations can aid in keeping dam maintenance an easy process, but there is no crystal ball that can foresee every possible future assault on the dam’s integrity.

For me, my projects are never guaranteed to be perfect. Like most patterns, the pattern of building a dam with swales to control erosion and hydrate the landscape is one that often works exceedingly well, and as time goes on there will be more and more applications of these patterns as they demonstrate their value. This awarenmess in turn starts to act as a protection, insurance against the vagaries of human insanity.

So I’m willing to spend large amounts of money and material and even fossil energy to create these earthworks as another demonstration to help our public expectations of normal use¬† evolve / improve.

If it is normal or expected to have well hydrated, highly productive systems, and the mechanics of the systems are well known, then more and more will be built. If a few don’t survive there will be many more that do. So in a sense everything we do to restore more natural water systems is a gamble, but the odds are good enough that overall they will guarantee success and become a new standard in the mainstream.

That being said, I’m currently struggling with the hydraulics of my second hand backhoe. Struggling is perhaps not the right word, but lately it has not been totally smooth sailing. A lot of the work is simply my own ignorance of machines, and being imprecise with my maintenance.

I would encourage anyone trying to keep a used machine running to know as much as possible before turning the key. New machines may be properly set up with great dealer support, but old machines may have a history of misuse leading to more trouble. Sometimes it requires special skills to repair and then maintain past troubles, but there’s no reason it can’t be done. Just be ready to give the machine a rest now and then when something breaks and follow through on finding the cause and the correct upkeep that keeps it from breaking again (if possible).

My example is the power steering cylinder, and I have installed two new ones that have each failed in turn, which has prompted me to examine the state of the hydraulic fluid in the entire system. It has always seemed a milky color, and a friend told me that was normal, and that the cheapest tractor supply fluid was good enough.

After two new cylinders going bad one after the other in quick succession I finally got the idea that maybe the problem was the machine system, not the cylinder. Dedicating some time to study the issue¬† I’m convinced of the need to change the fluid- all 25 gallons of it, and put in a premium fluid without so much water contamination.

The next step will be to see if the stop leak product I saw advertised is really a good idea or not. In fact, this whole thing has me seriously thinking about devoting a day out of every five to renewing some system or another in preventive maintenance.

I guess I’m sort of doing that already, replacing seals and greasing fittings, but I know there is a lot more about the machine that I’m just praying I won’t have to deal with. The more rational approach would be to accept the fact that sooner or later I’m going to have to learn it anyway, and the proverb of the stitch in time saving nine is as true now as it was in Ben’s day.

Maybe it’s time for an engine oil change too!


Remember, if you’re not having fun, you’ve got the design wrong. I’m still having fun- mostly, so I must be doing some stuff right, and the dam is growing incrementally with each period it is running and not sitting idle waiting for a part. Overall the machine does so much work so quickly, that my only regret is that I can’t afford a bigger, newer machine to do even more work.







My Ponds with Photos

I’m currently in the process of adding newer photos to update progressAt the top of the kitchen garden, this new pond is a salvage that I had to repair using plastic welding techniques.¬† I tried to create a clay based pond¬† in this place, but all last year it filled many times and never held water very long, even with lots of clay added to try and seal it. In general, I would never spend money on a Plastic prefabs, but when the price is low and I can repair it, the energy audit becomes much better! I’m also finding that for smaller ponds a liner of some sort is probably going to be the only way to go.

Low Gully Pond

Due to bad weather at the time of creation I was unable to finish  building this dam with the rented backhoe,The water actually started to fill the pond from the bottom, and that water came in as a blue green color, but run off filled it most of the way, and that water was heavy with sediment  then it took weeks of hand labor to get it the rest of the way to this height.

It¬† overflowed during excessive Spring rain events. but drastically receded during the summer last year because of irrigation water use and being emptied to keep the goldfish pond¬† filled. The dam¬† holds water very well and I’m waiting to see if the summer gets dry enough to bring down the water level so I can move in the backhoe and complete the construction.

I’ve already started to build up the first part of the dam wall, but it’s tough to compact clay right at the water line

In another month, if the water is not down, I will drain it and then finish building the dam. (it’s great¬† to swim in at this level) Once completed I plan to stock it with Koi.


PlanThis is an overview of the¬† half of the property(red boundary). Difference in elevation is about 100′ from lower right to upper left and the two ponds¬† at the bottom of the picture are all in the same gully that runs downhill from right to left. The small pond pictured just above those two

has never really held water yet, but it does show signs of improving it’s water retention.¬†¬† This may change over time with organic matter and better integration of the swale, but that requires completion of ¬† the Low Gully Dam.

At the very top of the plan drawing the pond touches a neighbors property and there needs to be some sort of written agreement to establish clear rights and responsibilities regarding it’s construction, use, and maintenance before beginning construction. At present the long connecting swale ends just before the pond location, and if no arrangement is reached that swale will be extended¬† up along the property line to collect more water that would otherwise flow off the property.

This picture was taken  at a very low water level, and believe it or not there are

catfish that survived the winter at this water level (only a couple feet deep). This year they are  over a foot long!


This “high gully dam” is in it’s second year. It overflowed once,

filled two or three times, but is still filling the “back country”. Dams are meant to hydrate the landscape, and the process generally takes about seven years. Currently this dam is the focus of most backhoe energy, while it may not be obvious in the picture, the dam has been holding back the flood with a wall thickness of only 2 feet or less at the top but as this picture¬† shows, the added mass will more than double the width of the dam wall, and the actual compaction will also be much better.

and a great deal of mass has been added to the dam wall, as well as clearing much more of the area to the left  and top of the picture  to prepare for further excavation.

Goldfish pond (not shown on plan), a bit murky after a rainA close in snapshot of the gold fish pond. This was created when the driveway was put in about 15 years ago, and has boasted hundreds of fish, all descended from a few 38 cent babies from Walmart. There have also been crayfish, herons, and one huge snapping turtle that have all visited the pond at different points. Needless to say I try to discourage the heron(s) and snapping turtles with varying degrees of success.

Last year the fish in this pond suffered with dry weather throught the fall and winter, and the fish population was cut in half. Some of my favorite older fish disappeared and many smaller ones as well. But this year they are making a comeback and water levels are doing pretty good, so with luck they will continue to increase populations again.



Taking away the pressure to “earn” a living puts me in a somewhat different mindset of what to do with my days. Watching projects unfold, keeping the rates of progress slow, making very careful observations as well as just mindlessly walking around in the early morning can guide and reveal and give perspective.

Often it is difficult to remove a set of existing features and substitute a different design/landscape, until the physical reality actually changes enough to be able to see the underlying hardscape, and what needs to be done to best achieve the desired ends.

Sometimes the original plans need to be totally abandoned, but more often it is a slight detour, postponement, moderate redesign, always of course with the idea of cooperating with the existing natural predisposition.

I’m going to guess that much of this “indecision” at the beginning has to do with my lack of experience, and as I become more adept I will see through existing features and guess the underlying reality more quickly, although, I think even with great experience there is still a responsibility to be alert to any changes that may be needed to make a better design.

Anyway, this morning as I walked around, I noticed many different things about ongoing projects, things that have no special meaning at this time, but may become important later on.  Do the two older beeches in an area get to stay? I had never noticed them until I opened up an area already choked with debris. Pulling out and chipping dead branches and clearing areas below a terrace allowed a more thoughtful penetration into the types of trees that actually populated that area destined to become a food forest.

How many times since clearing that area have I walked through there and not noticed that what I thought were poplar trees were actually beech trees with younger poplar saplings distracting my vision from the actual canopy.

What about some of the tall oaks in an area to be cleared, could they be pollarded and left to grow> Maybe I should finish untangling that wire that has been blocking access and stalling forward progress in a specific area (I did).

Often, without any specific idea of what I “want” to do in a day, the morning walk turns up tasks equally or more important than any plans I might have made, sort of like seeing ripe fruit ready to be harvested. Some jobs are “ripe” at a given time and can be completed easily, with great advantage. Other jobs are ongoing and call for a bit of attention to keep them from stalling out totally.

I have known for several days the next big job is for the backhoe, continuing a swale to a point where I can plant a couple pecan trees sitting in the wings. So while I see other things the backhoe might work on, I really need to get the path to the swale ready so the backhoe can get there.

That is the advantage of having a backhoe as a personal tool, I can take the time to do the preparation jobs well, and not create more work  by simply rushing the backhoe in and cleaning up the bigger mess later. I really like the idea of not being hurried, and my temperament resonates with that. Others might find it too slow or boring,  but I get a satisfaction out of watching jobs grow organically.


Also of course, with an older second hand machine, the ability to be careful and not push too hard can save lots of time and repairs later. Yes, I’m talking about the backhoe, although the same might be said for my own body. No sense in pushing it to break, tomorrow is another day and another morning.

But I digress. Some may prefer the evenings to inspect and admire the achievements of the day, and I do enjoy that aspect of this work, but the time that I enjoy most is mornings, when the day is new, and everything presents itself with the ability for fresh perspective and new understandings.



More Rain

20th May, 2018


I hear about deserts that get all their rain in a few short (but often powerful) episodes, and three days later it’s impossible to believe there was ever¬† water in dried river beds and barren landscapes.

Here in VA we had another 24 hour period with around 4 inches of rain, but fortunately everything held, even the very flimsy repair at the site of the last dam breach. We certainly have more rain overall than a desert, and it can be very lush and green most of the time, but occasionally we do get into droughts where rain is scarce over a period of several months. This means that just like in the deserts, careful water management can go a long way to insuring continued growth of crops.

Both new dams are very full, and the 6″ overflow pipe protected the lower gully dam from further washing out. Installing that pipe was a hasty repair after the first 4 inch episode washed out about 1/2 yard of material in the dam wall.

These dams are not the final stage of the water design, in fact, they are not even completed themselves. The full dam construction and the connected swales will really put the ground hydration into full speed. there will still be water flowing from the land into the creek, but it will have to travel a lot more slowly and service many more features before it moves on.

More contour ponds, more irrigation, and generally larger volumes of water being held back to use at later times when the air stream decides to dry up for long periods.

June 3, 2018


Well, we just had about another three inches of rain over the last week, and some of the extra repairs done to the lower gully dam have been paying off. With the new backhoe purchase I have been able to start building up the lower gully dam some more, including a better repair on the washed out section that has raised the water level another few inches, and at one point after the rain stopped this morning, the level rose all the way to the overflow pipe which I had raised up another 5 or 6 inches, along with more clay filled and compacted in on top of the initial repair.

These repairs are still being done in part by hand, but the backhoe is able to at least move the replacement material closer and fill the wheelbarrow so I only have to move the wheelbarrow a short distance and spread the clay and compact it.  The real repairs and finish of the dam will come when the water levels start to recede.

Even though I can start to work on adding enough clay to drive the backhoe on top of the dam, there still needs to be more compacted clay added below the current water level to really create the dam as a stable feature in the landscape.

Justifying the use of heavy equipment in a sustainable system requires the creation of productive systems that will last a thousand years or more. Over the lifespan of a dam like these, a week or so of machine labor can translate into thousands of years of increased fertility and decreased erosion,  These dams and swales will do what a climax forest would ordinarily do with the large volume of water held both in the bodies of the trees and the soil that carpets the forest floor.

With careful management over time these systems can help create stable ecosystems that are productive for our needs and stabilize the climate of the Earth.


I caught the backhoe problem before it did damage, but there is a challenge now with the pins, hardened steel rods about 1&3/4 inches in diameter, that are like axles allowing the bucket to pivot, and the retaining welds have broken allowing the pins to slip.

Looking for replacements, nothing close by, and today I’ll make a quick trip to talk with a local expert to try and understand better why the welds were used instead of the normal retaining clips and bolts, and whether it will be wise to go back to the original equipment configuration. I don’t mind investing money if it means a more functional machine.

Anyway, today is for garden plants, grape trellises, and buying a chipper. here goes another day in paradise.

New, Used Backhoe

Finally a morning where things are a bit quieter, no deeds to do or promises I have to keep. So of course I was out on the backhoe. started going around exhausting a tube of grease on the fittings, and I think I know why the new tube isn’t quite working yet, but I went ahead and did a bit of work anyway, starting it up and pulling a few small stumps, testing the power,¬† and generally getting some preliminary work done on the high dam. The clean up stage always takes the most time, saving topsoil, sorting out bigger rocks, etc etc.

Then as a change of pace I went to the lower green house where the figs are complaining about the more intense sunlight outside (leaves turning white), but figs are whiners anyway, drama queens that drop their leaves at the slightest change. I gave them a big drink of water, and told them to suck it up and make me some figs.

most of them are going to stay outside once I have the new mini climate set up for them. With a pond in front, and heat retaining wall behind them they should enjoy their new location.

I noticed there are lots of raspberries on the vines I planted two years ago, of course I may be away when they actually ripen.

I put some walmart goldfish in the lotus pond last night, they were dying in their tank at walmart, so if they survive it will be a miracle, but at least they will die free.

I’m also going around putting in tomatoes and peppers and have plans for multiple varieties of squash and cucumbers. I’m also close to having the potato beds ready for planting.

Just another day in paradise.

More big advancements?

I do apologize for the lack of pictures in recent posts, hoping to rectify the snafu in software soon.


Well, I bought a new , used, backhoe, so in theory things should start to move ion a more orderly fashion. The rental routine can be a nightmare with machinery consuming every second of the day, sometimes with split second decision making that ends up being counter productive.


To be able to move a couple piles of dirt and then take time to sort out rocks and debris before actrually using the soil (especially clay for the dam) is an invaluable time and quality saver. Bigger rocks are not optimum in the clay for the dam, and branches etc can be downright subversive. I have barely used the backhoe an hour or two and have already opened up areas for further hand work.


Of course the challenge will be to not try and get too perfect. Hand work is time consuming, and perfection can be the enemy of “good enough”.

Another new development is a working chipper, however this chipper has a 10 horse power motor, only slightly more powerful than the previous chipper, so I am considering a 20 hp chipper that promises to make very quick work of almost everything I can feed into it. the challenge will likely be to keep a perspective and not put too much too fast into it and possibly damage it with inadvertent rocks and the like.

With the influx of cash, I’m also feeling free to purchase things like reinforcing wire for trellises for the garden and gather in supplies that will be useful for longer periods of time. Bill talked about the concept of unused money as a pollutant, and in a very real way, this sort of goes to the axiom that the love of money is the root of evil. Money can be useful when put to use, or it can be a distractant, keeping us from really using it for good purpose, and hoarding it as if it were the actual stuff of life.

At any rate, one more day of travel for yard sales and supplies today, and then settle in for a week of application of these wonderful new tools and supplies.




Planting and more

Anyone following these posts understands there are more jobs here than any one person could hope to do. This can lead to a condition of inaction, uncertain of what to do next. But there is a way out of this frustration, and it amounts to simply chosing something and doing it until it’s not fun anymore.

I went out looking for backhoes earlier in the week and after looking at an older one that needed repair just to move it,¬† I finally decided that rentals will beat out buying a machine that will consume time just in repairs. Whatever the economics of money may be, the economics of my time require that I not get involved in the mechanics of the machines. It’s enough to operate them without having to repair them as well.

The other thing that became apparent is the idea that the bigger machines are going to be difficult to maneuver in many of the tight spaces, and as the ponds get finished off, more and more the jobs will be digging holes for plants, loading a pickup with gravel or mulch, and simple grading which can easily be done with a smaller machine.

But right now the task in front of me is planting. I found some tarot- colacasia- yesterday and it now has a home in the shallow end of the garden pond. I also bought four packs of tomatoes and herbs, and this morning set out about 10 plants, with some distraction from cutting grass and using the clippings to mulch the strawberries which seem to be making a recovery after all the weeds and neglect they suffered last year.

Last week I put in about 24 plants, two different types of lettuce and three types of kale. I also am adding mulch to the potato beds I started last year, with the anticipation that I’ll cut the trees nearby and keep a watering system handy. With more light, nutrient, and regular water, those beds will be a nice addition to the pond area.

In a week or so it will be time to put in my favorite crop- peppers- and I’m certainly looking forward to being better organized for the harvest. I don’t know if I’ll get the solar dehydrator going this year, but it’s good to remember how much of last years crop got neglected for want of an efficient processing system.

The biggest news is I bought a nice used pickup truck. Doesn’t need any repairs, will haul material easily, and strong enough to pull my trailers around. There have been so many times I have had to put projects on hold, trying to borrow a truck or get help doing simple chores. The boat for instance is now mobile again, not a permanent fixture because I have no easy way to haul it.

I’ve also contracted a man to bring some gravel and stone for the driveways, all getting ready to make the place more accessible to students and visitors. So I guess after thinking about all the steps moving forward in so many areas, all of which just happened (after lots of serious consideration) I guess things are not as difficult as they might seem.

Somehow there is an element of timing, and not wasting time worrying about things that aren’t ready to be done allows me to do the things that are front and center and anxious to move to completion. Maybe that’s part of the Permaculture lesson, picking the battles you can win and not worry about those that need to wait.


The daily grind

August 24th

For whatever reason I woke in the middle of the night and¬† never got back to sleep. So after much tossing and turning the light finally inspired me to get up–that plus Lucky whining at me.

So most of the day was tedious, although I was able to get a few things under control. The rain yesterday only seemed to leak in one place, not an obvious solution, but next time it rains I’ll pay attention to it. I continued painting the fiberglass panels, which are¬† as bad as fiberglass insulation in many ways, with dust that sticks to the skin and is like hundreds of little needles. The paint seems to lessen that to almost nothing. Painting also will lengthen the life, waterproof,¬† and strengthen the light weight panels.

Although I’m weaning away from the panels on the roof, they are actually quite useful and a quick coat of latex paint will not only help make them more waterproof, but will bind up the fiberglass dust and make them easier to handle.

The idea is that these are a resource that may be useful in future if they are maintained well now. They go on quickly, providing some structure and waterproofing and have proven invaluable in past temporary applications.

At any rate, the paint has been lying around for years now and needs to be used up, so this seems like a good way to do it.

I also was busy taking inventory and cleaning up outside, and did some studying of the inner roof structure, planning the next phase of the roof stabilization. It is easier to do repairs and fasten things where they belong now than it is in the middle of a snow storm.

Anyway, I did figure out how to proceed with the rain gutter installation, and tomorrow morning I’ll be setting up 3 or 4 sections of the roof with gutters going to the cistern. There are also several panels in the roof now that need to be moved around a bit. The work I did the other day means that the sections are all level with each other and panels can overlap from one section to the next.¬† While I was arranging the flat boards as rafters the panels got moved around a bit also, so some were out of place anyway and a couple good winds could cause some problems.

In the cleanup I was not only bringing order to chaos, but getting rid of stuff, and the next trip to town I’ll have several boxes of stuff for the dump. I also was able to empty several of the big plastic containers and make a little more floor space here and there.

August 25, 2017

A little better sleep last night, I discovered the reason I was having trouble sleeping was because it was getting too cold, and in recent cleanups I had removed all the winter blankets to air them out. About midnight I went into the spare room and found a light summer blanket and slept till 5.

Cutting up trees around the upper pond, cleaning left over debris away from the edge and moving it all to the high water mark after the dam is finished this fall. Listening to one of the Permaculture course videos I was reminded that regulations in this over regulated world can have lots of ways around them.

On a small scale, pond dams can often be classified as erosion control devices, ponds can also be used in irrigation management and it is all true.  This upper dam may in fact never hold water all the way through the seasons, but it certainly helps control erosion.

The fish pond likewise started out as a driveway crossing, and the fact that it  holds water is a happy accident.

Anyway, wearing a jacket and leather gloves was a great way to work since it avoids so many cuts. And I made a pretty good dent in many of the chain saw cuts that needed to be made.

One of the first things I did on the house was get out another gallon of mistinted paint and paint more of the fiberglass panels. The first color was a dark pink, this made it much whiter. I’ve heard Seattle grey is the uniform color they make from all the old paint that is recycled there. I will likely add another gallon or two of whatever else I can find. There’s still lots of panels to paint, and I’m also painting those that are not in use.

I’ve been working on repairing the wheel of a lawn mower I just got back, and after two days using a wire brush and penetrating oil at periodic intervals the nut finally broke free with no damage to the wheel or the nut. A couple of really big washers to help stabilize the broken metal on the mower body, a few bits of tinkering to flatten and straighten the torn bits, and I was able to use one of the remaining holes to mount the wheel.

I started out filling the gas tank with diesel fuel accidentally, so had to dump that out and then refill with gasoline. I didn’t worry about getting all of the diesel out because that simply acts as a carburetor cleaner – or at least that’s what my uncle told me. He said during the gasoline rationing in world war 2 they use to regularly mix their gas with diesel to stretch their ration. He said except for the extra smoke it worked just fine.

Anyway, once I got the mower started I didn’t want to stop it, so I spent the next half hour cutting paths through the tall grass. If the wheel is still in good shape there’s a meadow to cut that is starting to see some volunteer trees moving in.

I was up on the ladder and the roof, and will go up once more to see if I can get those boards cut right on the first section so I can install a fascia board. We have at least two more days forecast as even cooler weather, perfect for that sort of work. I also found the section of gutter that adapts to the downspout, so at some point I’ll be ready to power through the details and install it, but for now I’m content taking my time making small steps getting ready.

There’s also always a bit or two that needs to be carried to the trash or put in the right place. The object is to continue to create space and get rid of junk.

August 26, 2017

Last night before dusk I went ahead and cut the secondary rafters to allow the placement of a fascia board, quite a lovely sight to see the ends tied together in a more professional manner, and the next step will be extending the fascia on at least three more sides.

Since the¬† work needs to be completed on this water collecting feature, I’m already thinking about how to cut the angles for the rain gutters.¬† With non traditional designs like this one all the fittings need to be custom made. I have some experience with this from cutting rain gutters for the octagon, and expect these to be reasonably straightforward, and likely I can manufacture the critical cuts and joining on the ground, and have only one or two angles to assemble from the ladder. I can already hear the next batch of rainwater running down the spout into the cistern.

After the trip to town I’ll be looking forward to cutting grass, fitting fascia boards, cutting trees, clearing debris, and cutting and fitting gutter angles. But for right now I think it’s time to walk around and find rain gutters and hangers so I know if I need to buy anything.

August 31, 2017

A lot has happened since I last wrote. Fascia and gutters on 6 sides, general cleanup and work on pond sites.

Today however was a real dooser  although it started out very straight forward clearing more debris from the high pond expansion area, then little bits and pieces of cleanup, visit to a friend, then decided to cut the grass around the walnut tree at my neighbors house.

After most of the critical grass under the tree had been cut things got ugly and ended up with me being chased a considerable distance by ground nesting yellow jackets and leaving the lawn mower there running.

The first thing I did immediately after getting back to the house was take a couple eye dropperfuls of echinacea extract internally. Then I showered and decided more decisive therapeutic action might be required.

I remembered hearing that sometimes being stung over and over can cause¬† more severe reactions each time and with the recent history of a similar incident a couple weeks before I was somewhat nervous that something more serious might happen. So I gathered up my blender and a load of fresh plantain leaves and headed back to my neighbor’s house.

We mixed in a bit of water and liquified the plantain leaves, then he went over my back and arms and with bandaids secured the plantain poultices in place. I think he counted 10 bandaids after most of the stings were covered. One sting in the middle of my head and another on my eyebrow were deliberately left without bandaids.I noticed on the way back home that the lawn mower had finally run out of gas, but no way I was going after it yet.

I did stop and look a bit to try and see where the swarm seemed to be, but left my hat on the ground where it fell off when I was running, about 15 feet away from the nest. That was still closer than I wanted to get. They get a visit tonight after dark and I’ll get the mower and if possible pour a couple gallons of urine on the nest. I may¬† wait however for the next rain storm to make sure they are not flying.

Later I¬† noticed that where I was stung on my eyebrow was very sore, so I put some of the leftover poultice we prepared in my hand and held it on my eyebrow for 15-30 minutes and notice now as I write that most of the ache/pain has gone from it. There’s also a spot on top of my head that could probably do with a bit more poultice as well.

September 1, 2017

Well, all the owies have turned into itchies or gone away completely, and this morning I took my first hot shower since I shut down the rocket stove in the Spring.

The outside temps were cool this morning, and with most of the heat going into the water there should be no problem with overheating inside now. Plus I decided some hot water might relax some of the tension generated by all the recent work and stings my body has been through.

The rocket stove performed perfectly up to specs. It has been two years in this configuration, although each year I think I want to add some insulation to the heat riser, clean and do a visual inspection inside the barrel. For now it seems to be in good condition, and the only thing I might do is rebuild the fire box.

Repairs and maintenance are easy on the clay portions of the stove, and I keep a bucket of fresh sifted clay nearby just for the odd occasion when the mood strikes and I decide to smooth a surface or repair a crack. Right now there are some non critical cracks around the fire box because it originally was built with a glass front.

Even though the glass was from a fireplace enclosure, it was not up to the heat generated in the stove, and quickly shattered. I had replaced the glass with fire brick, and did a quick patch around the edges with clay, but those repairs are a bit under the weather now and showing signs of wear.

The fire box takes the most abuse of any part of the stove, and while not the hottest part of the stove, temps there can reach 700 degrees F.

The copper coil that heats the water really does need to be upgraded, but I will save that project for a more peaceful time when I can give it my full attention.

I am still toying with the idea of waiting for next year to rent the back hoe again.

If I do that it will mean some sort of intermediate work on the low gully dam to bring the whole length high enough to push excess water out the spillway. Seems like it may be time to do some observation and thinking about possibilities.

No time like the present!