Projects 2013

I’ll title this post “Projects 2013”, although several of these have been underway for a few years.  Due to the large number of blog posts here, the only way I can keep things straight is to come up with a unique blog title.

These are some of the projects I’m working on this year:

Pond Expansion

I’ve two ponds now, both man-made. Dug by machines, but it’s still a lot of work. This year I’m expanding the lower pond, which also is giving me a lot of needed dirt to be used elsewhere (hugelkultur beds and road work).

forest pond

Some helpful creature deposited some cattail seeds in this a year or so back.

cattails forest pond

I haven’t measured this, it’s about 100′ across I’d guess.  Deeper is better then wider (less evaporation). I can make this deeper if needed in two ways, pile up more dirt around the banks, which I have plenty of, or scoop out the bottom this summer when things dry out (probably).  The pond is not sealed, so it will undoubtedly leak.

The reason for the pond is it’s a magnet for wildlife. It was actually supposed to be a burn pit, but flooded, so I decided to expand it. It’s not done, will probably work on it all summer, off and on.


Hugelkultur is a planting technique that helps change grow problems areas into productive areas. You can grow anything, trees, flowers, bushes or vegetables.  I stumbled across this concept while research my soil problems.

Bad soil can be dealt with in various ways. Hugelculture is only one way to deal with this, there are others, including sheet mulching and adding amendments.

The hugelkultur forum is the place you can start to learn about hugelkultur.

The concept is simple: dig a trench and save the soil.  The trench can be shallow or deep, even as much as 4′ – 5′ feet deep if you have a lot of material to bury, and as long as you like. Some hugelkultur trenches are over a kilometer in length.

Lay down logs, limbs, sticks and organic materials in the trench. No rhyme or reason to how, just lay them down. Avoid cypress, peppertrees and aromatic type trees is all you need to know.  I have tons of pine trees and they’re ok to bury.

Bury the whole thing with the dirt you saved, making a mound.  The mound can be as high as 7′ feet (it will settle).

If you are making tall mounds, pile your woody materials fairly high (4′ -5′ feet above ground level).  Cover with soil and pack down.  This is fairly labor intensive, so recruit, cajole or draft the help you need with cases of beer, threats or whips, whatever works for you.

You will need to seed the new mounds to establish a root system to help hold the soil in place.  The underlying woody material will naturally fertilize your mound and provide the necessary oxygen space required for the growing root system.

Hugelkultur beds will not need to be watered after the first year in most cases (ever). They will naturally retain moisture and can also be used to help with soil erosion. There are many various applications for using hugelkulture that I like.  I have tons of slash to dispose of, but burning this isn’t what I really want to do. Carbon sequestering is another advantage of hugelkultur, burying woody materials or even bio-char works well for this.

Below is a video of some small hugelkultur beds:

Check out this forum thread for pictures of some large-scale hugelkultur beds being built.

I’m really interested in this technique for several other reason. I’ve got really crappy soil, and I’ve got tons of woody material (burn piles) that I can’t keep up with (the land cleanup here is horrendous).  While this land grows trees quite well, it does not grow anything else.

Here’s what I’m dealing with near the house – clearly hard pan with decomposed granite:

post hole dirt


Here’s a pictures of the soil I ran into when building my french drains – nothing is going to grow on this except dust and blisters:

I had to add several hundred yards of soil (some years ago), but this wasn’t all that good either:


This is the same spot a few years later, and I’m still not happy with it, but I did get some things to grow (fruit trees are transplants of course):

I did manage to score some good topsoil for the greenhouse, which you can see in the background, but the rest of the soil shown here is still fairly poor (nothing was planted other then the trees, it’s just wild grass growing).

I actually hate grass, it’s really a useless ornament as far as I’m concerned. Can’t eat it and it takes a ton of water in most places I’ve lived to keep alive. I made a deal with my spouse – you mow it, I’ll plant it. There is grass in the front yard, but I don’t have to take care of it.

I do have 100 potted trees ready to go into the ground somewhere.  The small ones won’t be planted this year, just the larger ones (deer are a major problem here). Every tree will get it’s own steel reinforced cage with 1,000,000 volt death-ray-land-mine-shock cage. Did I say deer are a problem here?

100 trees ready for planting

We’ve had some marginal success with mounds of dirt and planted trees (the ones the deer didn’t kill):

Here’s a future home of a hugelkultur bed (one of many to be done):

The brush pile you see will be buried. I have over 100 of these piles now, and could easily generate 1000 more.  This land was BADLY raped by the logging company that came and raped the land. Nothing would grow here that didn’t survive the machines, slash and compaction. Several thousand hours of hand-picking has now transformed the land into a regenerating forest.

I expect to build a number of hugelkultur beds (very soon) as my primary approach to rehabilitation of the land and getting things to grow. So far, about a dozen sites have been identified. Most will get planted with the potted trees you saw, and others will be in the garden area where I can keep the large four-legged rodents at bay.

I should try and find some pictures of the god-awful mess I inherited and post them here. When I saw the land, I felt that I could make a difference. I’m sure I have, but it’s been quite hard.

Most of the forest that I have seen in the West is actually much like this, badly abused. No American has ever even seen a “natural forest” except in very remote locations that have managed to remain untouched by predatory humans. Almost everything you see is third and fourth generation “regrowth”, a sad caricature of what was once growing there.

I actually have several hundred more “projects” I’ll be doing, some this year, some in the years to come, I’m usually just too busy to mention them or too tired.  Caretaking land is a lot of work, if it’s land that has been badly abused, or if you intend to “do” something with it (such as live there or raise food), then you’re going to have to work at it.  I don’t mind, getting “dirty” is just part of homesteading and it’s a lot more fun then sitting in traffic.



admin at survivalacres dot com

9 thoughts on “Projects 2013

  • May 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I was delighted to see your “Projects 2013” post with pictures and hope you will continue, especially with what works and what doesn’t in your area.

    As for sealing your ponds against leaks, you need to raise some pigs (or at least rent a few from your neighbors):

    Sodium bentonite would be a lot more expensive:

    Sepp Holzer’s “abundant ponds” ideas might help you out:

    Ha, I so agree with you about grass. I hate lawns and wish HOA Nazis would see the beauty and benefits of natural meadows.

    Great “rats with hooves” fencing you’ve got there. At least you’ll always have venison on the menu, lol.

    • May 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks! A single pig I’ve considered… but it’s a meat product I tend to avoid.

      The problem with any livestock is feed. If you don’t raise the feed yourself, you have to buy it…

      Betonite clay can be bought by the pallet (a couple of thousands lbs per pallet). Not going to seal anything until I’m done disrupting the soil (digging!).

      I will check out the other links!

  • May 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I don’t mind, getting “dirty” is just part of homesteading and it’s a lot more fun then sitting in traffic.

    Much better. Thanks for sharing your photos and info with us. Not many working as hard as us, (we too are in the PNW), we’ve always said that work ethic is going to do us in. When you take a look around you can see what our favorite pastimes are, George Carlin said it well, “eating and shopping”.

    Been following your site for years, longer even than NBL and you have always conveyed that we’re fucked, but you still fight or work should I say, thank you.

    • May 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Sorry I didn’t reply sooner.

      It’s okay to say we’re still fucked, right? Doesn’t change anything as far as I’m concerned.

      When you consider that there is NO WAY the vast majority of humanity can survive what is unfolding, then it’s only right to say how fucked we are. It’s the simple truth. It’s not popular, but that’s not relevant.

      I struggle to “survive” because I believe that this is what give us meaning. I’m not a survivalist as I’ve often said, but I try “anyway”, despite the knowledge that we’re toast. Why? Because I believe that we should. Life struggles to survive. Threatened life struggles even harder. Humans won’t simply “give up”, no matter what the science or the “facts” say, they’ll keep trying (some of us at least), because we want to see our kind go on. Or we could just go on eating and shopping, ignorantly unaware of the crises now unfolding.

      I don’t agree with Drumwright that we should just give in and give up. It’s not what we do. It’s not what he will do if faced with hunger. It’s not what anybody will do.

      We may be fucked, but so fucking what? We try ANYWAY, because we must. We really have no choice. The very idea that we have a “choice” to “not try and survive” is absurd. If the choice is “live” or “die”, we will always choose “live”, even if we are fucked. ALL life chooses to live, and struggles to survive — even if it hopeless.

  • May 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Great Post.

    Important reminder about Hugelkultur: It is preferable to use rotting wood or small diameter wood pieces. Large chunks of wood have a carbon to nitrogen ratio that is too large; thus, if you use large diameter pieces, the first couple years the microbes will actually be pulling nitrogen from the soil to help aid the breakdown of the wood and crop yields will be smaller.

    I have seen numbers up to 3 inches diameter as the max size wood to achieve a desirable C:N ratio.

    I want a tractor for my place!

    • May 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      That was my first ‘investment’ (tractor). Absolutely essential if you have a lot of work or limited help!

  • May 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I wanted to mention that in reference to some thoughts you expressed in your last post Admin, I think everything you have done regarding your thoughts and information at your blog are things you really needed to do. It was a necesary process in your evolution to who you are now. I think this venue is a good outlet for your ideas and concerns about the vast changes we see going on. Where it goes from here of course is up to you, but there are those, like myself that do value all that you have shared of your own thinking through the years.

    In looking at the photo of your pond, my brother who lives in Northern Cal has similiar ponds, and he planted cat tails and other reed like water vegetation at the ponds edge and over time they completely took over the ponds to the extent that he had to drain them to dig out these plants. They are nice to look at but in time can turn a nice pond into basically just a marsh setting.

    • May 17, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you for the comments!

      I’m ok with a marsh. I don’t need or expect to need the water. The wildlife is the only reason I’m doing this. The depth “might” become great enough to prevent the cattails from getting too thick, but only time will tell.

      A pond is great for wildlife (which I can eat, ie., my “other goal”). Not going to raise cattle (can’t raise the feed I need here). Going to eat what shows up! I don’t eat much meat, but protein is a necessary part of our diet.

      • May 17, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        I just want to mention that cattails also are a source of food. almost all of it is edible. the root can be eaten, the cattail part can be used to make like a flour. check it out. they are worth having.

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