songbird's roost

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by songbird, Sep 26, 2013.

  1. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    [editor's note: ok, i am almost done with my website conversion and will be going through these articles and updating image links. all images here are thumbnail versions - for larger images go to the referenced web-page and click on the link to that image (or just go to www.anthive.com and enjoy)... :smile:]

    site summary:

    mid-Michigan, USoA, climate zone 5, 1.84 acres (80,000sq ft), soil is clay with some sand, water table is fairly high most of the year with some dry spells during the summer, avg rainfall is 3 inches/month, but we may get most of it in one storm, full sun for most of the site, tree line and hedge to the north, to the east is the large drainage ditch which cuts through the property.

    this picture is from several years ago, but gives the general idea of how things are set up:
    [ed. note more recent now]
    [​IMG]

    the site was set up for a different purpose than gardening or permaculture as it was intended to be an artist studio and gallery. the crushed limestone was added to reduce mowing around the house (we were high albedo long before it became a topic of environmental conversations). many areas were intended to be left as grass fields, but eventually they had to be turned into gardens as the field mice population was huge. Ma liked gardens and working with cement so she picked different areas and just did her thing without really planning much of it at all.

    the artist left, stranding Ma out in the country and i ended up moving back in after several events with drunken or drugged people thinking they could drive cars through garage doors or chopping heads off 20 something scarecrows. now i help out and try to make improvements as i can, but i'm not the owner so i sometimes have to be patient.

    that means retrofitting and working around existing gardens and decorations. it also means that most gardens take much more work than they would otherwise (like the entire back area is pretty much flood bait (including the veggie gardens)):
    [​IMG]

    longer term changes i'd like to make are always brewing in my noodle.

    ok, for now this will have to be enough. descriptions of the different areas will have to be for another post or perhaps even a series of posts.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
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  2. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    haha,sounds like fun.
    Cant wait for the next installment!
     
  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    next bit

    we have two peas in this pod, but we are very different peas. Ma is neat, i don't mind a little chaos or clutter, i'll design and engineer, she'll just do it and hope it works. we still manage to laugh quite a bit and i have a challenge to not say some things and she has a challenge to just accept that i won't ever have a completely neat room. :)

    to give an example of how things can change and i can make some progress on educating Ma about diversity, ecology, soil science, etc. we'll nose around the N Central part of the site in this post and talk a bit about working in layers.

    to prove i can be neat and get a garden set up for very few weeds going from:
    [​IMG]

    to:
    [​IMG]
    or:
    [​IMG]

    yes, nice, dramatic, etc. but also very ecologically limited, a few plants (10 species, mixed varieties of some) and only a few insects, but most of the flowers were too small for the larger bees and no food for us.

    to change things my overall philosophy is ok with a bit of chaos or a few random weeds. plus i needed thicker cover to keep weeds from having such an easy time to get established. in addition, i needed a legume to get some nitrogen in the soil. i much prefer the way this is going now:
    [​IMG]

    many more plant species (birdsfoot trefoil, alfalfa, red clover, buckwheat) more insects now live there, frogs, toads, many bee species and also some food for us (strawberries, onions, turnips, beets, beans, dry beans, peas, edamame soybeans, squash, garlic). yes, there are the original species too along with plenty more weeds that try to find their way in, but they have a tougher time of it now where i have cover crops growing. i lost the battle this summer with a bad spell of heat/humidity and me working on another project as the lower part has been taken over by crab grasses, but that happened after the beans were mostly tall enough that i didn't care (Ma is more annoyed by it -- i'll get it cleaned up this next week after i get the dry beans harvested).

    the journey of getting from an abandoned farm field of mostly grasses to then transform it into a mostly monocultural small carnation was not that difficult because the farm field of mostly tall grasses was full of field mice and that meant trouble with this house. the walls were not sealed properly, we had many mice in the walls, my first winter here i trapped hundreds of mice along the outside foundation and it didn't matter, they'd keep coming. so something clearly had to be done.

    first get the foundation properly sealed (it's much better now, but i still have to check it each year in the fall). then change the field into a garden. till it, scatter seeds, water, weed, patience, two years later... bloom a full nice patch. except it was quickly going barren and the weeds were invading faster than i'd care to keep up with (a spot of horsetail took over almost half of the garden). not much incentive really. once having done something it was time to move on.

    first i needed to fix the edge and the lower area that i used to collect water. the edge eroded and was full of weeds. the horsetail would send roots far up under the limestone:
    [​IMG]

    after getting that whole edge taken care of, setting up a small holding area for water when we had a heavier shower (diverting the water that used to go into and through the lowest area of that garden), etc. it now works like:
    [​IMG]

    which slowly releases water onto:
    [​IMG]

    it may not be a huge drop in elevation, or a large amount of water, but i still have squeezed in four layers of water projects, five retention areas and there's still room for a few more layers if i ever get back to fiddling (we talk about a real living pond going in some place, someday...) with it again.

    the garden itself still needs more fill so as i get materials available i bury them underneath and raise the topsoil as much as i can. bringing in more topsoil would be nice, but that is a topic for a whole different post.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    current events, harvest, bean varieties, bees

    we are about 2/3rds done with the harvest (tomatoes, beets, peppers, onions, garlic, cabbage) remaining to go are the various dry beans, whatever peas i can find, edamame soybeans and maybe turnips. 160+ qts of tomatoes, tomato juice or salsa put up, and the beets are going well, but we'll probably only have 40 qts of those pickled when done. Ma decided to do apple sauce. rainy day tomorrow in the forecast so we're both stocked up with things to keep us busy all day. i have plenty of picked beans to shell and she has a few bushels of apples. the worms will be feasting... :) i didn't put up any bean salad this year as we have so much still from last year.

    the past four years i've usually planted a variety of dried beans as i like having easily storable good quality protein. i started with soy beans and a mix of beans that are sold for making soup. that put my initial varieties at about fifteen and then i soon added a few dozen more along with about a dozen types of peas and pea pods.

    in previous years the many varieties stayed mostly true to type with only a few crosses showing up. this season, it looks like someone took a mixer to many patches. i am finding more cross-breeds, and this is not a problem at all, in fact i rather enjoy it as when i'm shelling each pod is like a present i don't know what will be in it. ok, so it's not quite that crazy mixed up out there, but already i've found at least a half dozen new crosses this season and i'm not very far into picking. each of these new crosses becomes a project for the next growing season if i can find the space for them. growing them in various soils and evaluating how they do.

    i suspect that the really nice patches of bee friendly cover crops and various herb gardens have been the main reason for so much mixing going on the past few years. i have noticed a large increase in bee populations and the many different species of bees. this is as desired, we are in the middle of a very limited bee food area (farm fields) so they along with the many birds around are a good signal that we've accomplished a part of what we are wanting to do (provide good healthy habitat for critters of all types (including ourselves)).

    i keep track of every patch planted, what is planted and the harvest weight after shelling/cleaning/sorting. to say the least, my room tends to get rather stacked up this time of the year. luckily, the big box stores don't mind if we take some boxes each time we visit, after some period of time those boxes may get broken down and shredded and fed to the worms. also, i keep all the plastic yogurt containers we use so that i can use them when sorting and bean counting. the same brand for many years means many dozen containers that all stack nicely together when i no longer need them for sorting/tracking...

    at some point i'll post a list of seeds/varieties for trading or sending out for evaluation as i know there are others who like to do such things too. why hog all the fun? :) which reminds me, i need to get a color chart...
     
  5. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Are those real 'saffron' crocuses in your first pic?.....big sigh, I have been waiting for a couple of years for a friend to remember to give me some bulbs.Paella here I come,eventually.
     
  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Mischief,

    no those are not saffron crocuses, i would like to grow them, but i think my last round of reading put them in a warmer and dryer climate than what we get here. perhaps a microclimate with rocks/piles and a reflecting pond or something similar would work, but i've not put that on my agenda... :) i have a flood control project to finish before i take on any other big projects.
     
  7. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    harvest continued

    the forecast for the next three days is for rain which meant i scrambled this week to get as much of the dry bean harvest picked and ready to go for shelling/sorting. there won't be any shortage of things to do even if i'm stuck inside. now i just have a few patches of odds and ends to harvest as they finish up. some i may pick a little green if we get breaks in the weather as they can dry on trays and that way they avoid getting moldy or even wet long enough to where they'll sprout in the pods.

    we have not had a hard frost here yet, a few light frosts have knocked back the buckwheat in places. we can still have fresh toasted tomato sandwiches for the next week or two at least. this is an unusual early fall to be this warm.

    a good day, goals met or exceeded, harvested goodies to keep me busy for a while and a stack of books for the times when i would rather do something else. i've always wanted to know more about Biosphere 2 and what happened. interesting reading catching up on that and learning more about the history and background of the various players.

    and i think i can finally come to a reasonable spot for a zone 1 garden, but i have no idea yet how long in the future it might be. negotiations/conversations continue...
     
  8. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    the largest project of the season is coming along ok at the moment. 100ft hand dug trench to hold two drain tubes was just cleaned out of slumped topsoil and clay/sand mix. i'm ready to get the two tubes put down after i check the slope one last time in the morning. then i can begin to backfill and start working on the berm (to divert flood waters coming in from the field to the south) that goes in over the drain tubes. who would ever think that your site would be set up that it needs both drain tubes and a berm in the exact same place? but here we are... hmmm.... :) swales? yes there will be a few of those.

    the springs and high water table have made most of this week an exercise in dancing in mud. often it was easier to use a hand trowel to move the mud than to use the shovel. i'm surprised i didn't get stuck, a few times it was close.

    the additional 50ft section further up will have to wait until next year. i gotta get back to the gardens and getting things ready for winter.

    other things are going well enough, the dry bean harvest continues as i shell some in the morning or evening, cherry tomatoes are still producing, pea pods coming along well, i gotta harvest some soon somehow...

    the mouse(s?) in the garage tried to eat an entire tomato that was ripening. i've not seen them go after any of the tomatoes before so they must be hungry for something different after eating the peanut butter off the traps... once we get the rolls of old carpeting out of the garage and in the berm there will be much less mousie troubles in the garage.
     
  9. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    digging is my favorite form of exercise. :) it must be as i'll be doing quite a bit of it yet up until the ground freezes or i finish what i need to get done. the chances of me finishing is pretty slim.

    the major drainage project is coming along well. the drain tubes are down, most of the trench is filled back in, water stops are in place if we get a heavy rain. now i am digging a second trench next to the first one to fill it in plus also to start building up the berm which will hold back the flood waters (if that happens). it is a temporary trench just to make sure the water has a place to go during the coming winter and spring months until i can get the rest of the area reshaped (stepped swales to capture some of the flood water, but not so much that it encourages mosquitoes or can't be mowed). if i didn't put this new trench in we'd be at risk for washing out the work i've just done.

    this morning i finished the last of the shelling of the dry beans previously harvested. there's a few stragglers out in the gardens that i might be able to get a few more beans from, but none of the larger patches remain to pick. now on to the more fun parts, sorting, weighing, pictures, descriptions, names.
     
  10. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    something a bit different

    last night i edited a few more pictures (my site host does not support pictures over 2M and i don't need that kind of size for these pictures anyways) and had a chance tonight to upload them... something a bit different from nattering on about digging. :)


    recent pictures on the flowers page:
    [ed. moved to another now...]

    [​IMG]


    birdies:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    sunflowers:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    peace...
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  11. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    temporary trench and berm

    today was the last day of digging on this project for a while:

    [​IMG]

    just in time for a few days of rains (started up a bit ago)...

    the long pile of dirt is the temporary berm. under that line of dirt is several drain tubes (3-5ft down) for the fenced gardens and the area above them. the berm will be added to as i get more time in the spring/summer next year so that it is at least a foot across on the top and then sloped down to the south (left). it has to be mowable.

    i figure i have roughly another 30-50 yards of dirt to move (all that water has to go out that grassy strip area instead of flowing through the back gardens, so i have to make that area lower and wider than just that small trench). part of moving all that dirt will be making two or three swales to hold a bit of the water back.

    i keep saying i'll get back to finishing up gardens and getting ready for winter, but that hasn't been how it worked out. instead i'd wander around and pick what was left to harvest or help Ma on projects.

    we've had two carloads of apples in the garage lately to process. making apple sauce, apple crisp and giving most of the results away. we're down to about six bushels left to go. i love the smell of cooking apples... good thing. :)

    so now that the temporary digging is in place i can finally put my feeties down and really get those gardens put up and planted for winter.

    no, i don't mind digging, i do it a shovel at a time. it is good physical therapy for my back and i need the exercise.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  12. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    So the water comes from the left side of the shot to the right? Looks like pretty sandy soil. I'd enjoy digging a lot more if I didn't have clay with a generous smattering of rock…

    Apple sauce…. mmmmmm….. I'm too tropical to grow them myself but the organic ones I get at the growers market (they come from just a bit further south up a mountain) are crisp and sweet. We are just starting to move into apricot season.
     
  13. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Eco:

    correct, the picture is facing due west, the flow i'm redirecting comes from the south.

    the wider watershed flow is from the southwest and we are smack in the middle of it.

    before they started farming that field again we didn't mind the water coming through as it was clean. now that they are farming it again we don't want the dirt or the pollution from *cides getting into our veggie gardens.

    the top layer is nice soil (if it weren't polluted) and moves easily, anything deeper than 10 inches and it is clay with a little sand, very hard compacted and takes a great deal of force to get through when dry and is a quagmire when wet. luckily i didn't have to dig that deep for most of the ~200ft on this part of the project. the first trench was much more work in both time and effort. this part was gravy in comparison. no rocks, but some of the subsoil is sandy and compacted enough to be close to sandstone.


    i love a good apricot spread. :) do you put much of them up or eat most of them fresh? i hope you have a plentiful harvest.
     
  14. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    The apricots I also have to buy - they rarely last more than a few days before the kids eat them all. Sometimes I hide them behind the pumpkin and the beetroot so I can manage to get a few myself. Never enough to preserve. I do have a tropical nectarine tree which fruited heavily for the first time this year (in its 4th year) but the fruit fly got to it. I've pruned it back HARD so it is small enough for me to cover with a lace curtain next season. Then I might be able to bottle nectarines…

    Pity you are smack up against conventional ag. Maybe you can infect them with some 'greenness'.
     
  15. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i've not grown much fruit here, too busy with other things for a few years yet i think. good luck with the lace. any chance to start working on predator habitat around that area? do you have hummingbirds and other small birds around?


    as of yet, i know all the farmers who have fields around us and only one is even slightly interested in conservation or other methods (the field to the NW, kitty corner and least impact on us), the rest are pretty set in their ways. i can only provide clean habitat for critters and hope that the next generation is more gentle. my attempts at talking to the neighbor who farms the field to the south, after several years and repeated efforts has always come up nil. i asked him to put in a ditch, nowhere. i asked him to stop filling in the ditch i'd dug by hand, nowhere. instead he'd come out and dig it out after the rains came and already flooded the field. i'm a kid to them, what do i know?

    a farmer up the road is having trouble with one of his fields. he's already spent a lot of money to fix it and gotten nowhere. he's planning on spending a lot more and will still get nowhere. he didn't listen to me when we talked about it. he'd rather spend tens of thousands more. i doubt he'll listen to me next time we talk. when some people get ideas in their heads they're gonna do it no matter what. that he could solve the problem for a few hundred to a few thousand didn't sink in, just because it was someone younger who wasn't a farmer speaking... gah!
     
  16. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    No there is a distinct lack of small birds - largely because every home in the street (mine included) features small bird predators as house guests - cats and dogs. My cat specialises in mice and rats though, have never seen him kill a bird - but he's probably scaring them away. And there are old mango trees in many backyards that are allowed to drop fruit and keep the fruit fly population up. They are a real issue for the Qld gardener. Exclusion netting or bags are the only real solution. Baits and traps reduce the numbers a bit, but unless everyone in flying distance is practicing good plant hygiene and trapping as well you are fighting a loosing battle.

    Oh well - on the bright side sounds like they'll go broke soon enough and you can pick up some conveniently located ag land close to home!
     
  17. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    oh, too bad about the fruit flies. yes, kitty cats can deter some smaller birds. we have ferals that wander through at times. i let them be as they get some of the chipmunks.

    re: the flooded land. actually, i have thought of that route if he spends all that money and still gets flooded. i wouldn't mind making an offer for the field, but i think he'd be likely to ask too much to try to recoup the lost expenses. also, it has been land in his family for a long time so i kinda doubt he'd consider it. still, if the chance comes i'd give it a try. ag land is expensive around here and rarely available if you don't know the people. i missed out on land to the north and the field to the east and south of us simply because i didn't know it was on the market and i was down south looking for land in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina at the time. oops.
     
  18. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    When the bank repossess it however….

    I rationalise that the cat fits into the permaculture ethos because - he provides cheap night time heating (no electric blanket needed - just put the cat under the doona), he performs a useful function on pest control (mice/rats and he keeps the rather destructive scrub turkeys out of the garden) and he keeps me sane! Nothing like patting a cat to bring your blood pressure down.
     
  19. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    he's not too likely to go broke, he's got more than the one field... *sigh* :)

    i'm not against keeping pets, i just have limits here to avoid certain things. worms are ok, they don't have fur. i like cats and dogs that other folks have, but ethically i just can't bring myself to support yet even more carnivores in a world that is struggling as it is to feed too many meat eaters as it is.

    in another thread in another place someone asked about taxes, they're not hideous out here it's about $1,100/yr, but when your income is very low that is still a big enough chunk. when most of those taxes are examined they are school related. i have no idea what the ag-land tax rates are, but i do know that in order to be considered a farm you have to be above so many acres (i think it's 10). :(
     
  20. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    small changes

    under the win some lose some category, i was working on putting up gardens earlier in the week and Ma was working on redoing a garden nearby, i mentioned i still had the tulip beds to clean up (as i know she hates whenever there is any left material on the surface of the soil if it isn't uniform mulch it can be scraped bare and all that organic good stuff can be carted off and put on a weed pile) from the bean cover crop stems and leaves left over. she said that it was ok if i left them alone. this is a change years in the making, so the happy dance was large, but it was mostly internal as i didn't want to scare anyone who might have been watching.

    it took several years before i could get the annual burning to stop so the gradual adoptation of permaculture and organic methods into her thinking is working, it just takes time and patience and repeated explanations, and of course, most important of all, actual results she can see and experience. that i am willing to work to bury things to help improve the soil and that she sees the results as the soil improves through the years helps quite a bit.

    this means that the tulip beds will have some cover this winter, to protect the surface of pretty light sandy soil, the worms will have food, the ladybugs will have places to hide, and perhaps i won't have aphids next season. for the first time ever i had aphids on the tulips. the tulip beds are somewhat isolated from wild patches so it can take a while for ladybugs to get into them when the season starts. a refuge along one edge is wanted and hoped for but as of yet not designed or installed.

    another win some aspect that recovers a previously lost area (covered this spring to smother weeds that she didn't like) is that we peeled up that carpeting and returned the soil to the air and elements. it will soon be sprouting weeds again, it's low, i wanted to leave it for frog and toad habitat, the grass and weed seeds flow in from the uphill grassy area. a filter strip would be nice along the top edge, but the whole thing gets run through with the mower so stopping the spread of seeds is impossible. some year the whole remaining lawn area (about 5% of the space left here that isn't gardens or decorations already) will be converted to gardens (if i stay here) and the grass and weed seed issue will be converted to mulch and cover crop issues. i'm ready at any point to do this conversion, but Ma does not want to give up her mower and pointless weeding along the edges time... i think my comment along the lines of (as she likes frogs and toads) "if you want frogs and toads around you have to have spaces that they like left for them." alas, the mosquito control poisons and other efforts to reduce any standing water have decimated frog and toad populations. our spot here is one of the few within the surrouding area that even thinks about such things... at least the forest down the road is there, but they even scatter mosquito poisons through there each spring by airplane... arg! ok, i better write about something else before i really get ranting. heh...

    under the lose some part, a nearby small mint patch was covered over. less wild space, less good bug habitat, less bee flowers. :( we have plenty of other wild spaces and always have flowers around, so that is not a major loss, but as it was close to the tulip beds it was kinda my refuge space for bugs that area.

    well, time to get out and get more gardens taken care of and planted for the winter. as i've not put in winter wheat or winter rye this late before i am not even sure it will sprout and grow, but i have the seeds so in they go.
     

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