Low-cost, knock-down, outdoor shower house

Here is some information about the progress we are making with our outdoor shower house projects. With campers coming to our Stelle (Il) and Bending Oak (Youngstown, OH) projects this summer we want to have a way that they can take a warm shower using current sunlight (scrap wood) to heat the water. (More on solar vs. wood burning hot shower water systems below.)

The goals for our shower houses are 5-fold;
     1. Non-permanent and portable
     2. Knock-down for winter storage
     3. Inexpensive (easily available or recycled materials)
     4. Easy to assemble/duplicate
     5. Attractive (Has to have a welcoming factor)

Prototype #1

The first concept we came up with that cost the least turned out to be more of a job to construct than first imagined, may not hold up in a hard wind, and frankly, looks a bit tacky (to me). But the price is right at $65.

Low-cost outdoor shower house made with T-posts and a tarp

Prototype #1 – Tarp and T-posts

Continue reading “Low-cost, knock-down, outdoor shower house”

Rainwater Harvesting – Bending Oak Project in Ohio

Erik Peterson – Permaculture Teacher/Designer/Builder

Hey permies! In this blog post, we’re going to get the skinny on rainwater harvesting…

Bill asked if I could share with you all the process of designing and installing the rainwater catchment system we constructed for the Youngstown, Ohio permaculture project that Bill and Becky have been leading, known as Bending Oak. So herein we will explore the nuts and bolts of our own install, and give you the essential information that you will need to consider in designing a rainwater harvesting system of your own.

Besides teaching and designing with Bill and Becky, and co-running my farm, Fern Hollow Farm, my business, Wood & Stone, LLC (also on FB) has been involved in the Bending Oak project by tending to the fruit and nut orchards, finishing the construction of the shipping container barn, installing native wetland plants around the newly installed pond, and more. Now that the rain catchment system is in place, we’re one big step closer towards off grid, self-sufficiency! So let’s dive in…

Continue reading “Rainwater Harvesting – Bending Oak Project in Ohio”

Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade

3 Miles of Swales Cut in 5-Hours

We are making early progress on our 320-acre Missouri permaculture-farm project (Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm).  Last fall, a local dozer operator was brought in to dig the first swales.  It was a small dozer but it did a respectable job and did the work in a relatively short period of time compared to an excavator. See the blog post with video here.

Before we brought the dozer back in this spring, Kevin, a long-time farmer in the area who is also Jordan’s lead farmer on this project, suggested that we simply try the 135hp farm tractor with it’s 9-foot tilting scraper blade (it’s just over 6′ wide when fully angled at 45 degrees) to see what kind of swales it would cut. It certainly seemed worth trying though I’d never seen it done before.

Adam and I headed out early one morning with the laser level and marked off about a mile of swales with white-wire flags.  When Kevin arrived later in the morning with the tractor all he had to do was adjust the angle of the blade, drop it down, and start running.  He ran three passes on every swale we had marked and did it all in about 60 minutes! Continue reading “Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade”

Bulldozer Digging Swales

The Design

We have been invited by a family in Southern Missouri to assist with the design of a 320-acre farm.  They want to transition the land into a permaculture landscape capable of producing a wide range of perennial foods (nuts, vegetables, herbs, fruit, etc.) as well as livestock (beef and goats).

 

Over generations, rain has slowly degraded this sloping landscape with a loss of nutrients and topsoil. It is not uncommon for a million gallons of water to wash off this landscape with a 1-inch rain. Continue reading “Bulldozer Digging Swales”

Old Greenhouse into Multi-Purpose Structure

Originally constructed as an industrial sized greenhouse, this structure has been exposed and empty for the last 30 years. Located in the CSC apple orchard, it had been a popular roosting site for our orchard turkeys. Unfortunately for them we were determined to get some use out of the Buckminster Fuller inspired geodesic frame.

IMG_6445 Continue reading “Old Greenhouse into Multi-Purpose Structure”

How To Build a Worm Tower

Update by Bill Wilson – March 2018

Worm towers are just one of many techniques that permaculture designers might use to totally transform their home or piece of property.  Join us sometime for a deep and inspiring look into Permaculture.
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The empty insides of an installed worm tower.

How to Use
Above is the empty worm tower as it was installed into the ground at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, IL.  We then put in some wet straw for bedding, a handful of composting worms (red wigglers) and a days worth of kitchen scraps. For the next couple of weeks we added our daily kitchen scraps until it was full.  Thereafter, the contents would slowing sink down as the worms enjoyed their feast, turning scraps into pure worm castings.  About once a week there would be enough room to add another days worth of kitchen scraps.  If someone had 7 towers they could top-off one per day.

Continue reading “How To Build a Worm Tower”

Chickens for the Orchard (Part 3)

Part 3:  8-13 Weeks of Age (As Adventurers)
Part 2:  4-8 Weeks of Age (As Kids)
Part 1:  0-4 Weeks of Age (As Chicks)                                                                                                                                                       

Original Objective: Raise some chickens for food and to also help with insect, grass and weed control in our 2-acre organic community orchard…!!!
New Objective:  Keep our birds alive so that we will have some sort of chicken harvest.  Ouch!

Over the last 5 weeks we have been stretched to learn more about the habits and characteristics of these inquisitive and entertaining birds.  They have been doing a fine job of keeping the orchard grass under control (we have only mowed once this year) and as a result, the amount that we have paid for chicken feed is significantly less than if they were confined to a small area.  This was working really well.
  Continue reading “Chickens for the Orchard (Part 3)”

Chickens for the Orchard (Part 2)

Part 3:    8-13 Weeks of Age (As Adventurers)
Part 2:  4-8 Weeks of Age (As Kids)
Part 1:    0-4 Weeks of Age (As Chicks)             

 This is where we ended in the first blog post of 3 weeks ago.  We had just moved the 4-week old chicks to the orchard to begin the process of weaning them from ‘chick’ feed and encouraging them to eat the grass, weeds, and bugs in the orchard for daily sustenance.  
 
 
 From the moment the chickens hit the grass, they were eating everything they could peck at and swallow. They seemed to visibly grow almost daily even though the amount of feed we were giving them did not increased since we brought them to the orchard.  Each day they are getting more and more of their food and nutrition from the orchard floor.  We’ve even seen them catch flying insects.
 
Continue reading “Chickens for the Orchard (Part 2)”

Chickens for the Orchard (Part 1)

Part 3:    8-13 Weeks of Age (As Adventurers)
Part 2:    4-8 Weeks of Age (As Kids)
Part 1:    0-4 Weeks of Age (As Chicks)   

Objective: Raise some chickens for food and to also help with insect, grass and weed control in our 2-acre organic community orchard…!!!

As most of you know, in permaculture design we attempt to:

  1. garner the greatest amount or number of yields
  2. from the minimum amount of work 
  3. while creating no waste (at least minimal)
  4. and restoring the environment.

Let’s see what additional benefits we can obtain from this project other than just the insect, grass and weed-removal help from 100 chickens.  This will be our chicken saga as it reveals itself in real time.   We’re always learning too and raising this many chickens at once, and in this way, is stretching us some.  

We will take the experience we do have, plus apply permaculture design principles, while adding in good-ole common sense (with help from some great books, friends  and the internet) to work creatively and see what we might come up with.

It all starts with an order of 100 chicks (multi-heritage breeds from McMurry) that Hayden and Cameron (our two work/study intern students) selected.  All were delivered through the U.S. mail.  All survived!  Hayden created a safe and warm habitat from a yard-storage container, a heat lamp, and some old boards and fencing.  This structure lasted almost 2 weeks before they outgrew it.  During this time we worked on a more permanent home/coop.

  Continue reading “Chickens for the Orchard (Part 1)”

Building a Jean Pain Style Compost Pile

This past Sunday the Chicagoland Permaculture Meetup and Living Off The Grid Meetup joined forces to build a compost pile that would provide heat for the grow beds of a greenhouse.  

Some of the last loads of compost to go on the pile
Continue reading “Building a Jean Pain Style Compost Pile”