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338 – Summer Overview of Wheaton Labs Part 3

In part 3, Paul, Jocelyn, Evan and Fred conclude the review of this year’s aestival adventures at Wheaton Laboratories. Here’s what happened in summer, 2015:

Wofati 0.8 received an attractive facing upgrade by Jesse Grimes. Internal partitions were reduced for improved lighting and circulation.

Free Cycles is donating 10 of their finest mounts as well as a nearby repair shop and tools to Wheaton Labs.

Despite a dry summer, minimal irrigation, and delayed planting, last year’s perennials and some of this year’s plantings yielded a harvest of potatoes, squash, daikon greens and roots and kale. Fred has been adding daikon to his kimchi fermentation and pickles it for nori rolls. Other challenges include late establishment of paddocks in early June, as well as deer and turkey pressure. Deer consume more heavily, but are fewer and less frequent visitors. Turkeys, though lighter consumers, arrive in flocks as often as twice an hour, according to Paul. Additionally, Turkeys perching on hugelkultur beds prefer to slide down their surfaces rather than employ their wings, dislodging seeds and soil that might otherwise have been fruitful. Their influence was particularly destructive prior to mulching time in early July when the ground was left uncovered to acquire sufficient warmth before application of mulch, which both insulates and protects the soil. One paddock was finished with tall fencing and has proved much less vulnerable to Turkey infestation. Turkeys have also been injuring themselves, sometimes fatally, upon impact with power lines and fences atop burms. There were jests regarding the use of palisades to harvest wayward turkeys passively. While fencing dissuades deer and turkeys, a perfusion of chipmunks and the occasional rabbit are still able to eat freely from many hugel beds. Once sand piles have been used up, perhaps a cat will be introduced. Paul notes that, given time, predators of such animals will be attracted by their growing numbers and thereby naturally help prevent their overpopulation.

To ensure year-round availability of maple syrup and apples, Paul is preparing to order sweet sap silver maples and “winter-keepers” apple seedlings from Saint Lawrence Nurseries. Paul prefers to grow fruit trees from seed, but plans to plant an initial generation of grafted seedlings that exclusively produce apples that store well over winter. This will increase the probability that successive generations of trees grown from the seeds of this 1st generation of seedlings will bear apples sharing similar winter-keeper traits. He also wishes to plant yellow transparent apple trees as they yield a July harvest of apples to be eaten fresh.

Fred’s living fence project near basecamp is mulched and ready for planting, but was delayed due to temporary unavailability of certain component species. All members of such a living barrier should be planted together so as to properly integrate each into the desired ecological and structural network. Seeds are expected to become available in March.

This October’s rocket mass heater Innovators’ Event saw the completion of 3 units appropriate for use in tiny houses. Two of these were created by Peter Van Den Berg: They are Mini Mouse and Fat Rabbit, whose situation is proposed in the Red Cabbin and soon-to-be communalized garage space, respectively. Both units are intended to burn at lower temperatures than larger rocket stoves, and could therefore support a broader variety of component materials, such as vermiculite board. The third, conceived of as a rocket hot-tub heater, is a modified, partially submergible pocket rocket created by Erica Wisner with some help from Peter. This unit can double as a tiny house heater for spaces such as The Love Shack. A newly salvaged redwood hot tub awaits warmer weather for water-retention treatment. Erica plans to add a solar or compost-powered preheating system for the tub in the future. A second of Erica’s experimental builds was a 2-inch system whose scale seemed supportable by most burn mechanics save insulation, which would have needed to be disproportionately thick for such a small stove. Also at the innovators event, a quartz cylinder was used in place of a steel barrel around the heat riser in hopes of revealing parts of the taurus of combusting flu gases. Evan explains that, unfortunately, this innovation merely revealed the soot of the initial burn as it adhered to the inner surface of the quartz, and a dull glow that was the upper extremity of the taurus, the majority of which exists in the insulated heat riser. A rocket cook station with white oven and griddle was successfully built outdoors but requires relocation to such shelter as Wofati 0.8 or Allerton Abbey. Tim Barker produced a second rocket oven. Finally, Earnie Wisner created a rocket kiln, with which he hopes to fire rocket stove components.

A framing carpenter visited the labs and attested that, based on his experience with green wood framing, longitudinal shrinkage of lumber, contrary to what many believe, may not be as high as 3% (as some claim), and may be as minute as 0.25%. Green boards can, however, be expected to shrink up to 7% in dimensions perpendicular to the grain.

Paul seeks to employ dedicated professionals for 3 positions: The first is a natural builder. In fact, Paul would prefer 3 natural builders. The second is resort manager, who would be responsible for organizing classes and accommodating guests, students and other visitors. The third is an educator who might ultimately teach PDC’s and who might expect to generate sufficient income to pay for his/her own college education. Paul has arranged a financial model for each position to ensure stability for employees’ initial and long-term engagement.

Bill, the dowser, hazarded 2 attempts to locate water sources, unsuccessfully. He will return in the spring to continue searching.

3 game cams positioned about the premises have captured deer, mountain lions, bear, moose, elk, wild turkey and coyote.

Prices have reduced for 2 DVD collections: The 4-disk Rocket Mass Heater collection as well as the World Domination Gardenning Part 3 collection are each currently $24.50 for digital download and $49.50 for hard copies.

10,000 decks of 2nd edition permaculture playing cards have recently arrived from the printers with more vivid card backs and minor content updates made to 7 or 8 cards. They are currently available on Amazon.com in time for Christmas. Lamentably, pirated decks have been illegally and independently selling reprints. These decks can be identified by the inclusion of a card bearing advertisements for the pirate printer. While Paul can squander neither time nor money for a lawsuit that would likely yield petty returns, if any, he asks that anyone who discovers a pirated deck issue some form of complaint. On a happier note, Evan has devised a permaculture pie party game specifically for the permaculture decks.

A clogged drain at the Fisher Price House became a lesson in permaculture sensibilities for Paul when cultural conditioning suggested the use of chemical solvents, at least until he recalled Jocelyn’s introducing him to the “drain zip tool,”a long, flexible, spined instrument that is fed into a drain and physically dislodges and retrieves obstructions faster, cheaper, more effectively, more easily and much more ecologically than chemicals could. We are reminded how simpler solutions are elegantly superior in practically every sense.

Concurrent with the innovators’ event, work was drawing to a close on the construction of volcano road when a temporary impass was reached in the form of an unusually resilient protrusion of bedrock above contour, inconveniently located at the downhill convexity of a steeply winding ascent. Neither removal nor fracture of the rock seemed plausible, even with Rex, the 14-ton excavator. Tim Barker had refurbished the Milenium Falcon, a smaller 6-ton Kensworth, which could perform the task of transporting looser material from down the hill up to raise the ground level adjacent to the protruding rock. 2 individuals who were capable operators of the Millennium Falcon were daunted by the grade of the ascent and the age of the machine. Josh braved the ascent and Evan finished construction of the road with some creative problem-solving on Paul’s part, all without incident beyond a broken drive shaft and certainly not without peril.

Meanwhile, as the road neared completion, a battery explosion on one of the bad boy buggies required chemical clean-up with large quantities of baking soda, to which Fred, Randall and Tim applied themselves expeditiously. Apparently the sole employee responsible for monthly battery maintenance was negligent. Although no one was injured by the explosion, Peter cut himself badly in an unrelated incident that required an evening trip to the hospital and a characteristically American overload of paperwork, a wait of 4 hours, and a bill for $1,000 in exchange for 4 stitches.

Polenta is being used in place of salt for application to icy surfaces. Not only does it provide comparable traction as would salt, but also encourages wild turkey to peck and scratch at the ice, helping it to melt faster.

Jesse is keeping a video log for his ant village, for each installment of which he earns appreciable returns via Patreon.

In hopes of mass-planting of black locust from seed, Paul has introduced the seeds into bird feed to be distributed about the premises. Hopefully, birds’ digestive process will scarify the seeds just enough to trigger their sprouting wherever they fall.

Finally, Winter bounties are being posted for projects to complete over the next few months, including: Paddock and fence construction; insulation of the Red Cabin; construction of 2 additional rocket mass heater cores; overhaul of the electric tractor (which may bring as much as $2,400); construction of skidable woodsheds, 3-log benches, signs, etc. Many more paid projects are listed at Permies, as well. Paul reminds would-be helpers that bunks are available should you need a place to sleep during your stay.

Relevant Threads

Turkeys at Wheaton Labs
all about the glorious maple tree
all rocket mass heaters at wheaton labs

Credit: Brian Walker

You can discuss this podcast on this thread at Permies.

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This post comes from the RichSoil.com Permaculture Blog.

337 – Summer Overview of Wheaton Labs Part 2

Paul, Jocelyn, Evan the ant and Fred the gapper keep talking of on what was been going on at Wheaton Labs this summer.

They speak of the food they ate from the gardens at the labs. The largest harvest they got was of Sunchokes. The sunchokes had some issues with digestion but all agree they will try some more ways of cooking them. The nice thing of the sunchokes is that some grew from last year’s plants that seemed dead after a really hot season, but instead they grew back. Those plants adapted to the land.

Paul tries to focus on the projects that were undertaken during the free PDC, or even just before while prepping for it. The RMH in the house was filled with the gravel and now works fine. Another project Paul had suggested was to build a swale down from the willow bank and the showers, and on the downhill some willows could have been planted. This project was not implemented.

One big problem has been the berm shed down at the house. The berm shed is a 100 feet long and 10 wide, not a Wofati but similar. Paul is a bit annoyed for the fact that the person that started the project had said it would take only four days to build instead it’s still there to be finished. Paul puts it clearly saying the berm shed has become a pain in the ass.

Two problems came up with this project one was a design flaw that is on Paul, focusing on the weight distribution, the second problem was related to the work load gathering the wood. All the logs had to be imported from the labs. The project though has proved to be significant, costing only for now 93 dollars in material, that is really very little for such a big structure. The important will be when building a new one up at the labs to collect all the logs, and have them ready. This way it could really take only four days to build.

Paul asks Evan and Fred how Allerton Abbey is working after the work that has been done on its structure. Wofati 0.7 is Allerton Abbey and Jesse the ant worked on one of the walls that were rebuilt as a strawbale wall. Now the whole structure is nearly airtight, Evan says maybe only through door some air still flows through. A few changes were made at the RMH of Wofati 0.7 it is not anymore mass heater but just a rocket heater. There were issues with mass heating so during the innovators event the RMH was modified as a rocket heater with a double barrel as heater instead of one.Paul says the real test for the Wofati will be next year, but already this winter Evan says they will run some tests for ten day to collect data, and see how the temperature is doing inside.

Another big project Evan the ant followed in person was the junk pole fence. Paul explains that anyone that has a forest that may have a thick growth of small threes all close together, that may die or be a forest fire fuel. Instead of doing what almost everyone does, cut and burn after some time all the cut trees, Paul decided to use the junk poles for a fence. And Evan built the fence that fences nearly an acre using one quarter of junk poles, pulling down costs. They discuss the importance of the structure, having used at base camp a distance between posts of twenty feet, Evan at his plot has used ten-twelve feet and Kai the ant has taken them closer. The difference lies in the necessity to have a more stable thickness in the horizontal poles that are used. If we take it up to twenty feet the risk is that it is too thick on one side and too thin on the other, so the structure is not so strong.

One great project for 2016 Paul has in mind is to program a dog week for April-May. The dog week idea is to have people that are passionate about dogs to pass by at the labs and implement a project that will help dog lovers come out at the labs. Paul and Jocelyn both recall the fact that many times they have had problems with people that come by to the labs with dogs. One can have a dog that doesn’t want to be tied, or someone that is scared about dogs, etc. So they have come up with the idea of creating a space where those that have dogs can camp and have some paddocks were the dogs can be left and are secure.
The idea is to have a system of maybe even four paddocks that are used to keep the dogs in, one paddock after the other get used. The paddocks should have trees, shrubs for shadow, a skiddable structure that can be used to keep sawdust so to avoid collecting the dog shit but covering it. After one paddock is to full you just shift the dogs around.
So next year Paul says we will have dog week were people that are passionate about dogs can come and help build maybe the first paddock or why not all the paddocks. Paul says that James could be great for this project having dogs and being a great worker (Hey James if you read this summary write an email to Paul!)

They all pass to discussing the great importance of skiddable structures at the labs. Up until now, there are ten skiddable structures, from pig shed’s, beehive’s, showers, tool sheds, etc. The skiddable structure is perfect for changing minds, you may think a structure is best in one spot but with a skiddable if you understand something is wrong you just turn it around, or move it.

They speak briefly of forest fires and how they have to be managed, especially in a region like Missoula. Some people that were at the labs really freaked out for the forest fires in these years. It has to be said that it is really a normal recurrent event in this region. But one thing that is clear is that a correct management of forests can reduce the effect of forest fires. Paul discusses the importance of recharging the humidity in the land and how this is going to be important up at the labs.

Next on to the solar leviathan that has been deployed at the labs and is working fine up with the ants at Wofati 0.8. Paul sees the differences between the leviathan and the voltswagon and sees where maybe the voltswagon could be upgraded with a stronger inverter.

Paul recalls the great weeks they had with the permies staff group and coderanch group at the labs. Burra that attended both events seemed to really have enjoyed it all. Paul notices the difference between the permies group wanting to stay at the labs and get their hands dirty in projects and stuff and the coderanch group more tourist focused, all went well and they visited a lot of places. The winner of all the events was the rafting experience, awesome!

Relevant Threads

solar cart; solar trailer; solarbago
wildfires and permaculture
wood fence

You can discuss this podcast on this thread at Permies.

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This post comes from the RichSoil.com Permaculture Blog.

336 – Summer Overview of Wheaton Labs Part 1

Part one of a three part podcast. Paul is joined by Jocelyn, Evan the ant and Fred the gapper. Over the summer Jack Spirko asked Paul to do a once a week update on what was going on at Wheaton Labs. Paul kept good notes and all the folks present have been at the lab since April/May. Paul says that there are four spots left in the ant village and several people have said that they are sending their money to be part of the ant program. This podcast will contain all the updates that Paul would provide as part of Jacks expert council. Paul went out to test the hot water on the shower shack . Currently, Paul reports that there is not hot water yet. The tubing did need to be turned and readjusted. A person added a road kill racoon to the compost pile. Adding the racoon to the pile did not help the compost. As the pile cooled the racoon did not compost properly. When they opened the pile up the smell was horrible and very messy. Through the summer the showers never got scalding hot. The summer before, the pile did make hot scalding water. This pile only got warm and only made the water luke warm. When the pile gets rebuilt this year, Paul thinks it needs to be redone and rebuilt. Moving the location of the pile may also be in order. Some of the untreated wood has developed some mold. During the PDC people preferred to use the larger of the showers. The larger shower might help with the mold and dry out quicker.

Next was the skiddable shed. Willow Candy Warehouse collects material that comes out of your butt and aged for two years and then this is fed to a willow tree. There are two of these now. Paul is happy with the final product. It is doing its job and working great. Evan worked on this and it was his first experience with shaked roofs.

Planting seeds. Fred planted a ton of seeds in June. June is supposed to be the wet month. Most of the seeds germinated but the rain never came. Because of the dryness, there was lots of dust. All those seeds got two inches tall and then died. Some seeds did survive. There were some showers in July and they did do some watering with a fire truck. Once the hugelkultur gets started they hope to not have to water. With the hugel collecting water over the winter next season should be easier.

The new dump trailer needs a new hydraulic ram. There is a problem with the fittings. Because of this, the trailer is not getting much use. Paul is considering renting a new dozer. Paul paid the money in May but he has yet to see the dozer. Volcano road has been constructed by Evan. Base camp is about 20 acres. Three acres could be used before the road was built, now there is better access to the rest of the property. It took Evan a few weeks to construct this road. Paul rented a little excavator to help build the road. Being tired of equipment breaking down, Paul rented a newer machine. The people Paul rented from took advantage of him. Paul’s advice is that if you rent, rent from a group of people who are reputable. The road has four parts. Submarine section is the part that Paul built with Rex. The Turkey leg got built next. This is where the turkeys like to roost and hang out. Evan was amazed at how they fly and how many turkeys there were. Raspberry Leg goes past Raspberry rock and then Caldero Leg is last. There has been raspberries planted around the rock. The whole area is rock and Evan learned that some rock is much harder than other rock. Paul thinks that building roads in rock takes ten to twenty times longer to build a road than in softer material. Paul is happy with Evan’s work and building it by eye is an amazing accomplishment. At the end of Turkey Leg, there are some cliff outcroppings that made it pretty difficult. Evan also learned that some trees do need to come down when they are in the way. Jocelyn confirms that they are not clear cutting and the site will benefit greatly from this road. This is where the ant village will be developed.

Paul did a free PDC for Ants, Gappers(Greater than 4 weeks) and Deep Roots people. For the other folks is was $400 or $600 depending on when they signed up. During the PDC people got turns working the excavator and tractor. Paul bought a new kubota tractor (55 hp). The John Deer would not give service on site but Kubota would for up to three years. The Kubota did need some bolts replaced do to normal wear and tare.

Evans Ant Village plot. A debris hut can be built in a day and a half and a person can survive through the winter in this hut. The downside is that it will spring leaks and it will need constant repair. You will also have lots of critters living with you. Even if the walls are three feet thick it will look cool but have lots of mice living in the walls. The second Ant is Jesse. Evans structure is missing two of the four insulated walls. Evan is waiting for the earth to settle. Jesse built his with floating walls so that when things settle the walls don’t crack. Evan may follow Jesse’s example. Fred has a plot and a subplot. He is building a plot with many paddocks. Each area has its own name and serves a different purpose.

He has lots of ducks and a nice garden. He grew lots of sunflowers and plans to replant the seed. Paul saw some raised beds and small hugel beds. Using the excavator he built taller hugel beds. Fred has been gone for a few weeks touring the northwest. Paul is getting ready to order some seed and plans to do some frost seeding soon. Jim was the last Ant to show up. He came in October. or maybe late September. Jim had a friend come help him and he bought lumber that he brought with him and he built his house very quickly. There is a wood burning something in there for heat too. Jesse has all four walls up. Josh has his poles up. Paul has extended the Ant Village deadline by one year. Paul wanted to do the contest with at least six people. The group agreed that they would not have six shelters built by winter so Paul made the executive decision to extend the deadline to September 10, 2017. Each Ant will need to pony up $400 each to get the year extension and any new Ants need to pony up $1200.

During the PDC a guest came by and he was an expert in Botany. He did not teach but he did visit. The herb class was excited to meet Thomas Elpel. Paul missed several of the presentations but of the ones he did see he thought they were really good. Dave Hunter came and spoke about mason bees. Morgan Bowen was at the PDC as well. There is a boneyard at base camp and there is a boneyard at the lab as well. Paul wants plantings done to hide the boneyard. The boneyard can be seen from Sherwood Road and Paul thinks he wants it to hide the boneyard with plantings.

Both wofatis have been cleaned up and they are much nicer than they were in the past. Evan saw the pictures before and after. Paul thinks they look twenty times better now. Keeping the job site tidy during construction makes it much cleaner looking. The tracks come off the excavator because the part that holds the track in place has been warn down from use. Michael Buyer is the props guy from Penn and Teller and he was at the lab. He signed up for the old gapper program. He was driving from one show to another show and he stopped by. When Michael came by Paul asked him to make the change RMH and Pauls design worked great. Using a single duct through the bench the RMH was kind of finicky. Pauls idea was that the RMH would cause smokeback and Paul wanted the exhaust ducting to go around and down and then back up and it has worked fantastically. Ernie and Erica did not think this would work. Pauls design is now working awesomely. Mike Buyer made this change and did a great job to make it look awesome. Jocelyn enjoyed visiting with Mike because he and his wife share many common beliefs with her in the healing power of food and keeping traditions alive.

Relevant Threads

wofati 0.8
allerton abbey – the first wofati
all of the rocket mass heaters at wheaton labs

Credit: Kevin Murphy

You can discuss this podcast on this thread at Permies.

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This post comes from the RichSoil.com Permaculture Blog.