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.