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338 – Summer Overview of Wheaton Labs Part 3

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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,"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

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