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What a great common sense post.

Tri-Pod

My Sweety, Karen, is the go to gal for our beloved family Vet, Doc Henderson. Whenever they need a critter bottle-fed or socialized his office calls up. Her giant Heart just won’t let her say no. A while back I introduced you all to Tri-Pod, the poor fella that somebody trapped because he had an injured leg. Unfortunately they didn’t bring him to Doc until he had been in the trap for a week. Consequently he got a double whammy, freak out from being locked up in a tiny trap for way to long and then strangers amputating his front leg. He was one seriously anti-social cat when we got him, in fact Doc had him pegged for a feral cat he was so freaky.

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It has taken 2 months but Tri-Pod has finally started to come around. He is really very loving and craves attention but there is still a lot of freaky things going on in his head. Thats OK though if someone locked me up in a cage just barely big enough to turn around in then chopped my arm off I’d be purdy freaky too!

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Back to Work

Today is Sunday but this post isn’t a lament about the end of the weekend, just a continuation of my pondering on the role of work in my life. Is fulfillment found in the absence of work? Are relationships fostered and strengthened by sloth? Does retirement mean mean the end of productivity?

Currently I am employed as a representative for a Labor Union, did I choose this profession? No, work like this chooses you. The men and women who early in life actively seek positions representing for the rights of others are, in my opinion, the scary ones that often give organizations like Unions a bad name. SQUIRREL What I am trying to get at is that even in a position where your labor serves others daily I have found that the sense of accomplishment/fulfillment generally only endures approximately 3 days. In the field it’s said that a dozen atta-boys are wiped out by a single fuck-up, it’s the same when you’re trying to help people. All it takes is one unreasonable person in self denial to wipe out a months good work.

I have been very happily married for over 25 years, and that doesn’t mean that everything has been wine and roses. Like any couple Karen and I have had our ups and downs but in retrospect the downs have usually begun and been fostered by a lack of effort on one or both of our parts. A good relationship must have a basis in consideration and respect, both of which can easily be taken for granted. The effort a couple put into maintaining a happy, health relationship can take many forms but in my experience the benefits are long lasting and the payback far outpaces the input.

One of the wonderful things about being in a Labor Union is that your career and the relationships developed during that career don’t evaporate when you retire. To one extent or another most Unions have retiree’s clubs with functions that allow members, retired or not, to come together, socialize, relive, and share. This interaction of the past, present, and future is something that is sadly missing in modern America. SQUIRREL Over the years I have noticed that the retirees that do the best and live the longest are the ones that keep on working. Not necessarily for wages but in some endeavor that gives them a reason to get up in the morning and feel like they’re needed. That could be taking care of their grandkids, volunteering in the community, being a campsite host, or pursuing a hobby.

The unifying concept I am trying to express is that the most satisfying labor you can perform isn’t necessarily for wages. Work performed for the benefit of others, either directly such as volunteering at local charity, or indirectly such as trying to make this world a little better by trying to practice a sustainable lifestyle, is much more lastingly satisfying than just making money. There are a lucky few where these two types of labor coincide but unfortunately that is more the exception rather than the rule.

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To much shit goin on so here’s a recap of my greywater system.

I am jonesing a bit because I’m going to be tied up most of the day this Saturday which is going to severely impede on my weekly dose of chicken and orchard communing. Rather than breaking my cycle of blogging I have put together this recap of what I have accomplished so far on the Orchard side.

I have a 1/2 acre lot on the East side of the Las Vegas Valley (Nevada), water is expensive here so the previous owner just turned off the irrigation system about 6 years ago, since acquiring the property about 3 years ago I have been exploring different ways to utilize the land, cut down on dust, and not bankrupt myself with water bills.

For various reasons I kept coming back to fruit trees. A little research led me to a system of high density orchard keeping called “backyard orchard culture” and low and behold the University of Nevada has an experimental orchard here that has been testing those practices in our valley since 1995! That was huge, now I knew it could be done and more importantly what to do do and what not to do.
I put my orchard in 4 N-S rows 9′ apart. The 2 Eastern most rows have 7 trees each spaced 4′ apart and the 2 western most rows have 4 trees each again spaced 4′ apart.

Now comes the Greywater part. I’m cheap and hate wasting anything so I got to thinking about greywater, my laundry area is on the back porch and had been just dumping in the backyard because I hadn’t tied it into the septic system yet. I had to install a surge tank which collects the water from the washing machine and allows it to be released in a slightly slower manner into the drip system.

 

The drip system came from Irrigray and is designed to handle greywater, it came  with a filter, 5/8″ poly distribution line, and 150′ of 1/2″ dripperline with 4 gallon per hour drippers built into it every 12″. My orchard area has a slight N-S fall to it so I ran the dripperline 1′ north of each line of trees, these lines are run E-W and therefore end up being spaced 4′ apart.

To cover the drip lines I hauled in enough ground up tree trimmings from the tree service companies to cover the entire orchard area to a depth of 6″. The system has been operating now for 4 months. I can go anywhere in the orchard and pull back the mulch, even dead center between twosets of lines, and the soil is moist and full of worms. The filter is a 400 micron filter and it is claimed you only need to clean it twice a year, I have cleaned it twice now and neither time did it need it.
I am currently using ECO brand laundry detergent, it is supposed to be Bio-Compatible rather than Bio-Degradable. From what I have read the difference between the terms is that bio-degradable just means that the substance will break down into it’s component parts,whatever they are, when exposed to the elements and bio-compatible breaks down into environmentally friendly components. The main reason though that I chose this brand as opposed to Oasis, which is the main one you find recommended on the web, is that my local Costco carries it.

Isn’t that a nice picture? This is a view looking down into my surge tank, on the right you can see the black ABS drain pipe coming from the washing machine. The white 3/4″ PVC just below the drain pipe is connected to an automatic sprinkler valve. My son, who lives in the house at The Fruity Chicken, currently doesn’t do enough laundry to supply the water needs of the orchard. Rather than install a parallel irrigation system I ran this line to supplement the greywater, currently this valve is set to run for 2 minutes once a day.

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Closing a few loops

My best friend’s son Cody had his first successful hatch today and I think he’s hooked. My recurring chore of hauling mulch went off without a hitch with the one exception that John wasn’t there to discuss whats going on with my pluots or to see my super duper silenced air gun. This weeks load of mulch went into the chicken coop, I had filled the bottom of the henhouse to a depth of 10″ about 3 months ago. In that time the depth had shrunk to about 4″ due to the girls scratching it out under the sides and natural composting action. The mulch had also reduced in particle size from large shreds down to pieces 1/2″ and smaller.

My Sweety Karen came out to practice her Photography skills at The Fruity Chicken Orchard/Chicken Ranch today while I puttered around. She did a much better job with her Olympus than I do with my I-Phone.

I finally got around to setting up my compost bins on the west side of the henhouse. The idea is that I can go out once a week or so and rake up the girls feeding area and dump it all in the bins. Just cleaning up the accumulated mulch, chicken poo, and dried up vegetable scraps filled up one of the bins. Every ten shovel fills or so that got dumped in were followed by two bucketful’s of vile smelling water from the duckpond. All indications are that this compost pile should heat up rather quickly so that in a week, maybe two, I should be able to turn it into the second bin and start refilling the first.

That vile smelling duckpond is also on my radar, I know that it is full of valuable nutrients just waiting to transformed into something useful. The first level that will be implemented in this system is the introduction of duckweed into the pond. For a couple bucks I got a plastic baggy of water and a little bit of green stuff. Truthfully I felt that I got ripped off till I dumped it into a bucket that I had half filled with water from my Koi pond. That stuff goes everywhere, in addition to the bucket I now have several plastic shoe boxes with it in it. I read that it doubles in anywhere fro 24 hours to 10 days, we’ll see. I do know that the little bit that I put into the Koi pond seems to have multiplied several fold overnight.

Over at The Soulsby Farm Blog they had an interesting article on rain gardens, now we don’t get a lot of rain out here in Vegas but the article did make me think that I could do something similar in the outflow from the duckpond. The same drip irrigation system that refills the chicken waterers twice a day also refills the pond and creates a small amount of out flow. The challenge will be finding appropriate plants that will be able to tolerate our scorching heat while having wet feet. If anyone has suggestions please let me know.

The theme of this post ties into my overall purpose in writing this blog. Now keep in mind that this a personal purpose not some bigger than the sum of its parts, gonna change the world kinda purpose. Am I a great writer like Sara over at A Scribe’s Tale? or an amazingly talented Artist/Photographer like my sister Lorri over at The Eff Stop? The answer to both questions is an obvious NO! What I am good at is putting concepts together. Thats what I am doing on my Blog. Stealing other peoples ideas, twisting them about, then talking about how I think these ideas are going to work in my situation, and finally documenting the success or failure of my efforts. Yeah I sometimes am trying to entertain, brag, stimulate, or maybe irritate readers. My core philosophy is to keep focused on the things I have control of and to make things better one little thing at a time.

In summation if you have ideas or are doing things that might help in my situation, please comment and let me know about it. Or you can just like my post, you can be sure I’ll surf on over and glean something useful to plagiarize.

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What now?

What are my plans for The Fruity Chicken this week? Your guess is as good as mine. At my day job our membership ratified the 3 agreements that we have been working on for the past 3 months and that has left me just blehhhhhh. I was looking at my orchard today and found myself just kinda blanking out, I’ve lost 3 plums that just kinda burned up. So maybe I should try to erect some kind of shade structure? but is that just going to be a short term crutch for a tree that may not thrive anyway. I’ll get some pictures and post them this weekend and maybe someone will have some advice. I did chase a bunch of the teenagers out of the juvenile pen so that they can start mixing with the big girls. Again I’ll get some pictures and maybe someone can help me identify what breed these hens are. Saturday is mulch day, my henhouse needs a refill and my compost bins need to be set up. My wife Karen got a line on a dozen Barnevelder and a dozen Basque hatching eggs, I can only assume that means I have yet to reach critical mass on chicken density. That reminds me I need to get an accurate count so we have a baseline for our “when will Karen snap” contest. Wow I’m feeling a bit better already now that I have some projects lined out for this weekend. Life truly is about work, but work isn’t always something your required to do. In a healthy life it is all about working towards goals or working to maintain achievements. 

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Where the Wild Things Are

My incredibly talented sister Lorri, who’s awesome work was first seen in the blogosphere in my classic post “My eye, Your Eye”, finally jumped into blogging with both feet. Her first post ever made “Freshly Pressed” status on WordPress! Check her stuff out, you won’t be disappointed!

Max

the eff stop

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I’m easily distracted by any photo op.

After riding the rails to Denver, Karen and I caught a cab to the Car Rental lot in Denver near the airport. As she inspected the car I caught a glimpse of a bunny face-off in the small patch of grass separating the lot exit from the street. I dropped my luggage and grabbed my camera – I no longer cared about what kind of car we would rent, or mileage, or color, or insurance, or anything else. My whole world revolved around capturing the images of those bunnies. The scuffle was short and I missed a chance to get the loser flipping backwards – but the victor hung out with me for a few shots.

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Karen apparently turned around to ask me a question and discovered I was no where near the car – I heard her mutter something like “Where’d she…

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How important is Mulch?

My plan for tomorrow is to go pickup a load of mulch from the UNCE orchard, am I going to do it? I hope so. It has been a hectic week at work and I keep finding myself slipping into rationalizing sitting on my ass all day reading instead of spreading mulch in the 100 degree sunny day predicted for tomorrow.

The reality is that it needs to be done. Mulch is a key component of all of the individual projects that collectively make up whatever it is that I’m trying to create.

The Backyard Orchard Culture philosophy that I am trying to follow not only stress’s mulch’s importance but the 17 year history of the UNCE expiremental Orchard has proven that it is vital for an orchards success in my area.

I have seen with my own eyes that my greywater irrigation system does not work properly without mulch, transpiration and evaporation prevent the flow of moisture between my dripperlines and that isn’t even considering the perceived need to sub-surface irrigate with greywater to isolate potential pathogens.

Finally my chickens are pushing the limit of capacity in my neighborhood so I need to keep them as unobtrusive as possible and I have found that a deep litter system, really just mulching your chicken coop, really cuts down on the flies and all but eliminates any odor issues.

So am I gonna get my butt up and go visit John at the orchard, BS about guns, find out what type of Iron Chelate I need to get to treat the chlorosis I got happening , and load up the truck with mulch? Yup I probably will…..I’ll let you know tomorrow.

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