Strategies (broad or narrow in approach) that we are currently utilizing, hope to utilize, or that I find to be potent in theory or demonstration.



That looks different.


Let’s go check it out.



J brought his infrared thermal imager to the scene and, as you would expect, there is a “warm” spot in the area that is not frozen. There is a relative difference of about 9 degrees F. in that area compared to its surrounding.

Here’s a theory. A little over two years ago, I started the groundwork for our orchard. We dug about 570 linear feet of on-contour berms and swales upslope of this little pond. Already, it looks so different with shrubs, trees, and perennial grasses, plants, and weeds growing there. It is, also, functioning differently, in that; water captured in the swales percolates into the soil much more quickly.

I’ve been observing this pond, almost daily, for four winters. I’ve never seen this “hole” in the ice before this year. I’m seeing the phenomenon every time the pond freezes this winter. We were informed that there were no springs on this property. This man-made pond captures runoff from the upper slopes. We fully expected that there was a seep here as the pond never dried up. It got low but never dry in the time that I’ve been here. Downslope from this pond is Rattlesnake Run.

I’m suspecting that this feature in the ice represents the emergence of an active spring where there had only been a low flow seep feeding the pond. That would be a nice surprise after such a dry fall season. If this is indeed a spring, if it is really “new;” Could it be related to the swales that I dug two years ago?

Swales capture water from the rainfall as well as run off from the slope above them. I have understood that when you build swales there is potential for new springs to emerge lower on the slope. The following well-written explanation comes from

 The purpose of a swale is to harvest water passively. Over time, this will establish a permanent growing system, storing moisture in the soil for long-term food and water security. They also help deal with storm water run-off, and reduce erosion by slowing down the flow of water. As water flows downward, the berm interrupts and collects it in the level bottom.  Water fills up the swale, the mound passively soaks it up, and forms an underground water lens of moist soil. This hydrates the soil and sub-soils below and boosts the effectiveness of horticulture and agroforestry. As the water percolates downward, it eventually hits the bedrock and moves horizontally, accumulating at the bottom of the lower slopes. Over time, this creates new springs, recharging aquifers and creating a natural water resource. 


The website goes into more detail about building a swale. The site, also, describes many other practical applications of permaculture design. It is definitely worth a visit. I’ll, certainly, be going back.


Standing on pond ice, south of “spring” looking upslope toward orchard (top and upper left corner of pic) on 1/9/2017

As for the hole in the ice, we’ll keep watching. ..maybe some of us more closely than others!


I’m interested in alternative theories! Send me a note!

Categories: Orchard, Soil, Strategies, Water | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Orchard Update

We’ve had around 2′ of snow and, then, warmer weather. As the thaw continued, we had about 1.25″ of rain. Water is flowing. The swales in the orchard seem to capture and absorb the water effectively. None of the berms are overflowing or come near it. There are a few drainage sites that I dug last year that continue to function in part. I will consider clearing them should I find the swales are getting too full. This photo shows the 1/2 acre orchard which has four swales and berms running on contour, generally, west to east. The slope faces south. The pond is downslope from and south east of the orchard. It is interesting to see the pattern of the snow/thaw on the slope.


The next four photos show each swale and berm from top of the slope, north to lower on the slope, south. The trees you see planted in the swale are alnus glutinosa or common alder. They love the moisture and excel at fixing nitrogen in the soil.





This is the very full pond.


And a full rainy day view from east to west, bamboo, pond and woodlot, and orchard.


At this point, I’m happy with the swales and berms in this orchard. It is clearly a moist place especially on the south end and we’ll see how the trees tolerate the conditions. The only plants we’ve lost so far have been a few seaberries on the first berm at the top of the slope. I, also, lost some alders. They were not rooted well enough when the swales were flooding the first year. I’ve ordered some more currants, gooseberries, replacement seaberries, and raspberries to tuck in where there seems to be some extra space.




Categories: Climate, Orchard, Strategies, Water | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Chickens in the house (literally)!




I think it began with beetles in the orchard. This past summer, the new trees and shrubs that I planted were getting trashed by a heavy onslaught of japanese beetles. They seemed, especially, to enjoy my plum trees. I tried to gather the beetles from the leaves in a bucket every morning. It was a frustrating task. I had little hope of helping my trees as most of the bugs dropped to the ground and not in my bucket or flew away. However, I sure did enjoy dumping the gathered beetles into the chicken run to see the chickens eating them with great, GREAT enthusiasm. I needed chickens in the orchard!



That meant making a mobile coop and getting a new flock of chickens. The four hens that I had weren’t going to do it.



Well, what kind of birds would I want in the orchard? I wanted good foragers. I loved the idea of having chickens raise their own young. I needed good mothers. I wanted them to be hardy and very healthy. I checked in with Harvey Ussery, who wrote The Small Scale Poultry Flock. He gave me some information on Icelandic chickens. They seemed like they would be a good fit. They were beautiful to boot! I joined a Facebook page, found a breeder, and bought some eggs and an incubator.


There was a question looming. Do I vaccinate or not? I did some research. There were groups of people saying “Absolutely!” and others that said “Never!” There were, thankfully, many people sharing some very useful information. Yes, I was concerned about disease and, particularly, Mareks. We have poultry farms nearby and I suspect that I have had Mareks disease rear its ugly deadly head in my own flock. I’ve decided to follow a plan for breeding resistance against disease. This plan, also, provides a strategy for maintaining the genetic diversity needed for keeping a healthy flock.





I used a Hova-Bator Incubator and an egg turner. They worked beautifully to provide the right amount of heat, movement, ventilation, and humidity. I did add a piece of aquarium tubing to inject water for humidity without opening the lid. That worked well. I rigged up a candler with a bright LED reading lamp. I was amazed at how clearly I was able to see the viability of the egg, or lack thereof, with candling. At 9 days, we found 2 non-fertile eggs that did not develop at all and 3 that stopped developing and died. We ended up with 18 hatched chicks, one failed after hatch; so, 17.




Since, it is winter and we do not have electric to the barn yet; I made a brooder in a spare bedroom with old screen windows and doors, heat lamps, a tarp, and bedding. We made waterers with PVC pipe and watering nipples. The chickens went right to these waterers. I like them because they are easy to fill and stay clean.



They are growing very fast. We have about a week or so and, then, we will be looking to get them in their coop. We’ll put it behind the house with access to electricity for the rest of the winter as they may still need heat lamps when the temperature gets too cold. I’m wishing for good health but am prepared for challenges. I’m envisioning putting these ladies and gentlemen to work in the orchard come spring!








WOW! LOOKIN’ SO FLY! (he-he-he)

Categories: Infrastructure, Orchard, Poultry, Strategies | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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