Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just a thought: Wet / Dry Swales for Oregon

I've been wondering about swales for permaculture in Oregon.
In the wet season it seems like drainage would be really important so they don't flood and overflow.
In the dry season it would be nice to take the best advantage of the few rain events that occur.
This makes me wonder if there wouldn't be some way to get better drainage in the winter and better water retention in the summer.
Perhaps in the fall, pull away much of the soil at the bottom of the swale -- say, up the sides some.
Then in the spring, replenish the trough with soil and heavy compost then mulch.
Plant annuals and enjoy.
This would preclude perennial plantings where this technique is employed, so maybe only do this in the middle (lengthwise) section and use perennial plantings at the edges.

Maybe a mixture of evergreen shrubs which can use the winter water and deciduous trees for the summer.
But maybe I'm thinking too much of the water as a problem.
Maybe the key is to find the right plantings for the climate of the Willamette Valley.
Wetter areas supported Oregon ash, Douglas-fir, bigleaf maple, black cottonwood, and an understory of poison-oak, hazel, and Indian plum -- maybe we'll skip the poison-oak.

Another question, what would happen is part of the swale valley were significantly deeper than the rest? I guess the problem is that if the slope is more than 1% or so along the bottom you might get too much erosion and it would just fill up. So unless it was a very long run it would not allow much depth variation. Hmm.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Musings on rocket stoves

In reading The Urban Homestead, I have been getting interested in taking a closer look at rocket stoves (more at wikipedia).

I wonder if there is a way to make a combination rocket stove / solar oven. So you could use a small amount of fuel if clouds (or timing) make solar unavailable. Or use both to obtain high heat. You could use a parabolic trough to bring in heated air into the intake of the rocket stove. You could also use a fresnel lens to goose the heat at the rocket's output.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crazy Idea: a month as a lookavore

A locavore is someone who eats foods produced "locally" (e.g., within 200 miles). But what would you call someone who obtains their calories only from operations they have seen and inspected with their own eyes?
  • Lookavore
  • Inspectavore
  • Connectavore
It would take a little thought to put together the "rules of the game".
What constitutes having seen and inspected a place?
How much of the process must be witnessed?
What exceptions can be made? (Maybe flavorings, spices, herbs, salt, ...)

As a stunt, it should only count if you have done the inspection since the beginning of the ordeal, which would make the beginning quite an adventure.

For practical purposes, it might be kinder and gentler to allow a degree or two of separation:
buying food directly from someone who has seen the operation and represents it as something you can support (and is presumably willing in principle to allow you to inspect it for yourself if you wish). Or trading with a neighbor who went through the process themselves.

Ultimately the goal could be to have a robust web of trust where everything desired could be had from some source that someone known to you could personally vouch for.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Real Dirt on No Till Soil

I just read an interesting essay on the benefits of no tillage agriculture: Uncovering The Real Dirt On No-Till, by Drs. Jill Clapperton and Megan Ryan.

When we are standing on the ground, we are really standing on the roof top of another world. Living in the soil are plant roots, viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, mites, nematodes, worms, ants, maggots and other insects and insect larvae (grubs), and larger animals. Indeed, the volume of living organisms below ground is often far greater than that above ground. Together with climate, these organisms are responsible for the decay of organic matter and cycling of both macro- and micro-nutrients back into forms that plants can use.

I am getting increasingly interested in learning more about soil biology. There is some interesting looking stuff in the references....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Awesome product: Rain-X

On a recent trip to Oregon I applied Rain-X to our windshield for the return trip and what a difference it made. It causes the water to bead up rather than puddle and at speeds of over 40 mph or so the drops slide up the windshield, merging to make larger drops, that fly off the top and leave a clear path behind. It means you do not need to use your windshield wipers at all.

This is such an amazing product, I am amazed more people haven't discovered it.

[And no, I don't have any stake in the company.]

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just had some fun checking out the Pacific NW based Ed Hume Seeds Garden Site which I found in the resource section of Self-sufficient Life and how to live it, by John Seymour.

Housing trade offs

While considering the purchase of our next home I am perplexed by the myriad trade offs. Being in town. Access to nature. Updating old homes. Building new with the latest technology. Decisions, decisions.