Curve Balls.

It can be difficult sometimes to really see a clear choice when real life decisions about  critical issues are somewhat nebulous. How do we make decisions when there is often no black and white answer? This is not just a question about life management, but also one that relates to Permaculture Design.

In Permaculture, we often think of our designs as if they were works of art. Each work is unique, each has strengths and weaknesses,  and each one is an ongoing process of design, observation and adjustment.

Even when all the main decisions are spot on, there is always a new development coming around the corner. Often in well executed designs those developments  have wonderful outcomes as nature steps in and makes supportive connections we could never anticipate. The designed system is not only productive and sustainable, but beautiful intrinsically.

But sometimes we miscalculate, or don’t see complications that end up taking us backward in time and energy. These things happen, and it is rare that anyone gets it all right the first time around. Our “mistakes” though can become great teaching aids.

Our lives can be thought of like a design also. We make decisions sometimes with incomplete data. Things are not always clear black and white, and all possible outcomes cannot be known in advance. So the wheel spins around and we pick the best option we know, and if it turns out it needs adjustment, we make a change the next time around.

The point here is that we live our lives or we hide from them. We go out there and build a design or we spend our time theorizing and afraid to take action.

What’s the worst that can happen? We make a terrible mistake, learn from it, and try a different approach next time. Just keep the three basic ethics as general guides.

Earth Care

People Care

Return of Surplus

Those ethics don’t work just for Permaculture, they work pretty good for living also.


Winter Finally Here?

I’ll believe it when I see it. A month ago I would’ve expected at least one or two nights of killing frosts, but here we are, and one or two nights of a touch of frost on the car, but tomatoes still growing in the garden.

Whether this has anything to do with climate change or is just a quirky temperature swing is tough to say. Maybe as the poles melt and the oceans become bigger, deeper, they will start to shift the axis of the planet and we may be in the sub tropics here in VA–the hot subtropics.

We are definitely in a drought however, and my ram pump is still sending it’s steady trickle of water into the goldfish pond, but heaven only knows how many goldfish survived the heron. I haven’t seen one of my favorites almost all summer, and now I expect I won’t know till spring when they start feeding again just how much damage was done.

The sweet potatoes are still green, and the coldest temps predicted are about 36 for the next week, but even then the temps start going back up, so who knows when a frost might come.

I had planted the sweet potatoes in the garlic bed, and wanted to plant garlic when I dig up the SP but at this rate I won’t have garlic in the ground till december –oh well, such is life. Maybe it’s time to assume that the sweet potatoes won’t actually produce much more at this point and just go ahead with the garlic, and let it get started in this mild weather.

For now though I guess I’ll just sit back and marvel at our good fortune.





Summer is Back Also

With temps rising to the 80s again this week and another spell of dry weather it’s starting to feel like summer again. Maybe it’s not in the 90’s and cools off more at night, but that just makes it even nicer than summer. The growing season gets a nice little boost and last minute projects get a reprieve before the colder weather moves in.

It was pointed out to me that this is a bit early for this expected step back toward summer, but to me things are strange enough otherwise that this variation doesn’t mean anything. Maybe the winter will be longer, colder, or end sooner, but prediction at this stage is premature.

So I think I should plant those fall lettuces, do a little harvesting, start some herbs drying, and in general just enjoy the day.


After the Climax what’s next with the Roof?

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t really such a thrill when that last rafter  locked itself in place, but it certainly started the wrap up of work on the roof and upstairs in general for this season.

As you know if you’ve read earlier posts, I  have dozens of different areas to work in, each one of them having some sort of crisis or other at different times. Gardens were planted more or less on time, but I couldn’t give them near enough time. I managed to build a few new raised beds, but there was still lots more that could have been done. Starting a few new perennials in the food forests and gardens are ongoing projects.

Hand work on the dams was a main time consumer for a while,  sorting through clay, rocks, wood and getting the clay onto the top of the dam.   Both expanding the swale systems and fortifying the dams remain primary concerns. Preparation of areas for the backhoe, clearing brush and trees, surveying swale lines, and  cleaning away debris from other areas all remain as projects to complete before the fall.

So even with the urgency of a better roof system, the Main Frame Water Design is  still the project that is most on my mind and the limiting factor on how much more time can go into the upstairs and the roof. The water design requires time to mature, and incomplete dams invite setbacks, so if the roof rafters being fitted in place was exciting, getting all the dams up to height, with swale systems planted and functional will be an ecstasy  that goes on for a long time.

Looking at the back of the building where the water collection was, reminds me of the many more roof elements that have yet to be completed and that I will need to get a new collection system installed before the winter. Right now the rain barrel at the lower greenhouse supplies most of the water, temporarily taking pressure off the cistern, and there is a backup pump at the spring which can supply water to the cistern, but, having the house back functioning as the primary collector is really ideal

As my energy starts going back toward the water design  most of the roof will still rely  on temporary elements and those elements will need some ongoing attention.  With fiberglass panels that are deteriorating rapidly, a tarp with many tears and holes, and Tyvek as the current covering, they will all need to either be replaced or reinforced over time, and while this last mild rain only produced a couple leaks, I know for sure that the first really strong wind could expose large areas to the rain.

Then there are the finer points of roof construction, the eaves and gutters and all those  things that really make a roof permanent and maintenance free.

Yes, I’m happy about being able to make the step to a better roof structure, but overall the roof remains on the list as one of many works in progress. Once a good permanent structure is in place, the roof can disappear altogether as an energy drain .