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.

Summertime

and the living is easy. Catfish jumping and the Kale is high.

Kale, cabbage, broccoli that is
I had purposely drained this pond almost down to this level, back when every next rain was washing over the top of the dam, now with the heat I wonder if the drain was a good idea, the water looks pretty bad as a stagnant pond, and I might rather have the high water, TWT

The grapes aren’t quite at the point of shielding the glass enough or cooling the air enough, so I put up the sheet again this year to keep the sun out of the greenhouse, maybe next year with a better trellis and more growth of the vines.

At the back of the pond, all of this was under water, and water that had soaked into this “bank” is now coming back out as a steady trickle into the pond, but water levels are still receding
The octagon has been accumulating trash, but I started to put new boards on the little deck there for better access, and maybe as I progress with that job I’ll also get some of the mess out of there

All in all, it’s a little drier weather wise, but the middle pond is almost overflowing, clean water, cool in the heat, and swimming there is like a dream come true. no car journeys or preparation, just go down and jump in, I saw a painted turtle there today.

The extreme heat is a bit sudden after so many beautiful mild days, but inside the basement level is quite cool, and I expect with the added protection from the sun over the greenhouse glass it will stay cool through the summer, especially with temps that drop into the 60s at night allowing the house to open and any accumulated heat to dissipate. I had hoped to have the earth tube installed by now, but it wouldn’t start to work well until the top can be sealed from the outside air, so it is still a project to be done, but since the house already works pretty well, it isn’t critical.

As would be expected, most of the fruit trees and bushes have grown and appear to have better yields, and so far this year I’ve added about three blueberry bushes, a Japanese plum tree, an apple tree, and a grape vine, so with little steps I really can see things moving to better yields.

The Good ,The Bad, and The Ugly

A couple days ago as I started misc tasks around the house, one of my trips past the fish tank I noticed all the Koi had died during the night.

I have had fish die before, but never so many so suddenly; and obviously, the buck had to stop with me, since there is no one else taking responsibility. I like to be casual with my projects, expecting everything to work out without getting too anal retentive about things, but I need to remember there are some things that need scrupulous care, and my normal “it can wait” attitude needs a little adjustment with some things, especially living systems that depend on artificial support.

Perhaps the issue will turn out to be some rare disease that I had no control over, but right now I’m operating under the assumption that the issue was warming water with warming temps in the greenhouse, and an algae bloom that consumed all the oxygen overnight. Something I was well aware of in theory, but really didn’t understand the practical implications.

The day before everything seemed fine, but I had noticed some murkiness to the water. The fish were doing their normal feeding, competing at the surface for the pellets as I dropped them in the water. The sudden deaths took me completely by surprise, and the shock was even greater when I started looking at replacements on ebay. The money loss was likely in the neighborhood of a couple hundred dollars.

And it all could have been avoided if I had just a little more experience and/or caution. I believe a water replacement of about 1/3 the day before would have avoided the disaster. An air pump would have avoided the disaster. A better filter would have avoided the disaster.

The fact is I got complacent and didn’t do everything I could have done to ensure their survival, and the only consolation is that these are still early days in my fish raising adventures, so I at least will have this failure to learn from. Going into the more expensive Koi I will be inspired to be more serious in protecting them.

March picture updates

The garden always seems to be in a state of redesign. This new keyhole bed will be an experiment in heavy cardboard mulch with several inches of pine needles on top. It is about 1/3 completed here
These young Koi are getting used to coming to me for food.
this solar panel is proving an easy way to power the filter pump for the Koi/ Plans are to add three more panels mounted on the wall just over the glass where the panels will get good winter sun without being in the way.
dumping a pot of tumeric roots. these were separated and put into about 8 separate pots.
The supervisor, quick look busy
excavating what I can from the upper pond area. When the pond is allowed to fill most of the area in the frame will be under water at least part of the year
The middle dam is above the projected water level already, but recent excavation here is turning up too much sedimentary rock to be useful to continue to build the freeboard here. I did go ahead and seed the back slope with clover, but as the different areas come under control, one of the later jobs will be to plant willows or bamboo and find better clay to finish the construction.
last years bananas filled this area with lush green above the roof level, but this year the plants get moved to an area where they will not interfere with the productivity of an area so close to the front door. There are already grapes started here, and in a year or two a trellis will equally shade the windows while allowing other bushes to grow underneath. As big as these plants were, I will be using the backhoe to dig up the roots and transplant them.
The middle pond is fed from surface run off and has an underground flow coming in from the bottom giving it the turquoise color
The back area of the pond is currently being made ready for development, but will probably have to wait till after the rains have stopped and things are a bit drier. For now I have turned off the drain to the middle pond and it is filling. from this point through the summer I will be alternately sending any extra water either to the goldfish pond below when it needs it, or to the contour pond across the driveway.

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.

 

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.

Spring in full Swing

Here we are approaching the last frost (assuming there might still be one or two left) and I am just barely ready to start planting.

A few nominal efforts to weed the strawberries, and I am more convinced than ever to start replanting them using a sheet mulch and fresh weed free soil on top, as if it were a brand new garden.

It is time to seriously consider the next backhoe rental or purchase, and also time to get really busy clearing the path for swale development.

The goldfish managed to survive in the main goldfish pond in greatly reduced numbers. perhaps losing as many as two thirds of their numbers.

In the upper pond their are about 5 of the 25 catfish I stocked last year. To bew honest however I’m surprised any fish survived in the green yellow mud puddle the upper pond had dwindled down to by the end of the summer.

The real issue with fish survival I believe was the lack of rain through the fall. To be sure the heron took a toll during the summer, but the main killer was simply the climate.

This year there will be several new gardens starting in different places, and some of the planting sites from last year will be developed further and become more productive, but the main focus will still be the ongoing water main frame development.

I continue to read and reread the masters, Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison for hints as to how to proceed, and at present continue to return to the idea that the main frame is a priority in the macro sense, while the close in gardens are the priority in the micro development.

I have started to put in some more perennials blueberry, yellow raspberry, mulberry, etc trying to over stack my plantings with diversity.  The kitchen garden structure also got a fair amount of attention this winter with clearing out some of the remaining trees and briars.

I purchased my first thornless blackberry plant which will be going in at the bottom of the garden and I’m anxious to see how well the native blackberry presence indicates success with the more productive cultivars.

So many different projects call for attention, with so many aspects of ongoing development depending on the water main frame and how well it does its job. I’m fairly confident, but as with so many things, the key will be patience and timing.

 

I’ll Be Back

Yes, the heron has returned.

I surprised the heron last night–or it surprised me, or neither surprised either, depending on how one perceives it. But the heron  was at the fish pond and the fish went into hiding again.

I’m hoping the problem was that i had moved both scarecrows back a bit further from the pond. last night i moved one of the scarecrows right to the spot I saw the heron flying up from, and it had not returned this morning, although I did see it at the upper gully pond.

I have decided to let the upper gully pond be a fishing ground for the bird as much as possible. The bird will need to have someplace to hunt, and if the pressure is too extreme it may start to directly challenge the scarecrows rather than avoid  them. It is unreasonable to expect the heron to leave forever, and guiding it away from a more valuable area to another place is always going to be more effective in the long term than simply trying to deny access altogether.

It is possible to set  up complete exclusion zones,  but one of the goals should also be to balance energy with payoff.

I know that my goldfish pond is out of balance, and I have been willing to sacrifice some energy through the summer to creating and moving scarecrows around. But I’m not willing to extend that energy to the other ponds, and with luck the heron may decide that looking for catfish is easier than taking a chance looking for goldfish.