The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Furnishing the summer living room


Map gardenI'm lavishing a lot of love on the greywater wetland because (with the addition of a porch allowing access to the back door) that spot will likely become a summer living area.  I figured I should put in a bit of time to plan out the elements I wanted to include rather than tossing them together willy-nilly.

I started out by making a mostly-to-scale map on graph paper, then cut out a summer dining area, a laundry nook, and a bathtub.  I tossed in some fruiting shrubs, too, since I have some on the way that can go here just as well as in the blueberry patch.  A bit of moving pieces around resulted in the diagram to the left.

I decided to start with the laundry nook, which I'm envisioning as a cobbled area right next to the greywater wetland.  That way we won't have to mow around the wringer washer any more, and I'll be able to just pour the water onto the stones to run into the wetland with our dishwater.  The result turned out so pretty that I may be forced to paint our rusting wringer to fit in.

Putting down bricks

I'm well aware I did several things wrong with my brick-laying, but I suspect the results will be just fine.  I didn't have enough rocks to go around, so I used the best-looking hand-made bricks from the old chimney even though they'll probably crumble with age.  I also didn't lay Planting cattailsdown any sand underneath, although I did have a pretty even bed of bare soil to work with.  Still, adding big stones from the old house around the edges will probably hold it all together, and I like the idea of a bumpy, ancient-looking surface.

The next step was to add some wetland plants to the damp spot where dishwater enters the swamp.  B.J. did an excellent job finding cattails and horsetails in the woods from my vague directions, but the other plants weren't yet showing above the ground.  I'll add more species later, to the pond as well as the swampy ground.


There's lots more fun to be had with my greywater wetland, but for now I'll close with a photo showing the night's dishwater running out into the swamp.  Yes, it was already dark so I had to use the flash, but you can see that the cattails will probably thrive with daily inundations of high-nutrient water.

The Avian Aqua Miser allows you to fill your chicken waterer and forget it.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I love the bricks! We made a loose brick walkway to our house in the same way- be prepared for uneven settling. It is always best to tamp the ground as well. Two 2x2s screwed on a good sized round of firewood will do wonders in helping it to stay even longer. But you really should have a base of sand. I really regret not doing it for our walk.

You might consider putting some sand on top of the bricks, and sweeping it around with an old broom to settle into the cracks. It will really lock the bricks into place, and as sand, will still let water down. You will still get the ancient bumpy look, but the footing will be better.

I know you get a lot of rain, so just one more pool probably won't add too much of a mosquito problem...

All in all, it looks nice from the pictures and map. Enjoy greywatering!

Comment by Eric in Japan Sat Feb 23 08:57:00 2013

Eric --- I actually did dust bits of clayey dirt between the bricks when I was done. Not sure if that'll be better or worse than nothing....

I'm prepared for a very irregular surface, but if I stub my toe and howl I'll be sure to remember you told me so. :-) But I like your method of tamping the ground --- I'll do that next time. (I suspect there will be a next time for the bathtub.)

Comment by anna Sat Feb 23 09:45:55 2013

We have a lot of paved streets here. A lot of the water- sewage- and electricity lines are buried underground here, and paving is much easier to open and cloase than asphalt. The usual way to lay pavement is to compact a layer of rubble (with a plate or roller compactor), put some sand on top and lay the paving on that and tamp it down with the compactor. Built like that is stays stable even with heavy rains and traffic.

BTW, have you seen this walipini greenhouse? If you have a south-facing slope this would be a nice way to use that.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Feb 24 07:05:22 2013
Roland --- I've read about pit greenhouses and been intrigued (although they wouldn't really fit our property because of our high groundwater). I always mean to do the math on sun angles at our location, though, to see how quickly you'd stop getting sun at the bottom of the pit. It seems like it would work better the closer you are to the equator.
Comment by anna Sun Feb 24 10:37:57 2013

If you make a one-sided pit (where the transparent cover actually goes down to ground level on one side) in a hillside, you should be able to solve the sun angle problem.

And if you use the soil that you'd have to dig out to create the pit to make the top side of the pit greenhouse higher and create side walls, you might be able to avoid the water table issue by reducing the depth you need to cut into the hill.

Of course the method that the people who wrote "Paradise lot" used (re-using insulating foam for the non-transparent sides of the greenhouse) works similarly for an aboveground greenhouse. The only difference is that you'd have to add thermal mass to your aboveground greenhouse yourself. That's where all those IBC's come in handy.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Feb 24 13:11:40 2013

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