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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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¬† .

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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.

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!

TWT

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.

ūüėČ

 

 

 

 

 

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.