Monthly Archives: August 2014

Designing a Pond for a Bioshelter


a panoramic view of the pond

As part of my internship this summer, I was able to help design a pond that was part of an aquaponic system. The pond is housed inside a bioshelter that I helped to construct.

I have had the privilege of interning with Keith Zaltzberg from the Regenerative Design Group.  While working with him on the design of the pond, he taught me a very valuable lesson when working with a client. “Design first, and budget later.” Basically, when you are designing for a client, don’t feel restricted by monetary confinement. Have the design be pure of your concept, and then later you can adapt it to fit the needs and budget of your client.

For this design, the pond had to meet a few requirements. It couldn’t overreach the 5’x6′ restriction, the client wanted to have a seating area next to the pond, and the pond had to sit next to two large water containers in order to be apart of the filtration system. All and all, it is a fairly simple design, because of the size, and simplicity of the task.

initial design of the pond

The main idea was to achieve the client’s wish of having a seating area inside the bioshelter where she could host guests, drink coffee, or even enjoy a meal. The concept of my design was to accent the curve of the 2′ diameter table which would be placed in the corner of the bioshelter. I thought that the aesthetics of a concave circle would look really sharp from where one would sit. Also, I thought it would be easily accessible, as well as ease of walking around it. All and all, I was very happy with my design.

Keith was very helpful in explaining to me how to conventionally design a pond. He explained to me that most ponds should be designed in a peanut shape. That is the shape that is usually found in nature, and what we would try to mimic with our design. Keith also explained that now due to budgeting, we were going to look for a pre-cast pond.

After many long hours of internet searching, I was unable to find a pond that could fit our parameters. We needed a pond that would fit our 5’x6′ dimensions, and that could hold 250 to 400 gallons of water. You wouldn’t believe how many “pond” websites there are out there (many of them in Great Britain). Most ponds where either way too big or way too small. Nothing fit our needs.

After our search, we decided to dig our pond, constructing one from scratch using a polyurethane liner. Keith made up an estimate for a hand dug, hand constructed pond, and gave the estimate to the client. The estimate was too high, so we had to go back another search of a less expensive pre-cast pond.

The next day, Keith found a pre-cast pond in Greenfield that was $150, could hold 150 gallons of water, and was 5’x2′ which fit our dimension requirements. It was smaller than our original design, but in the end, it met our budget, met our space requirements, and would hold enough water that was needed.

Next was 4 hours of manual labor, which is something that I’m pretty good at!

started digging

started digging

Finished Digging

Finished Digging

All Finished

All Finished

It was a long search, but we finally finished. Next we’re off the constructing the aquaponics system!

Froggy Pond Farm’s Bioshelter

The Bio Shelter I helped build

The bioshelter I helped build for my internship this summer…

I helped build a bioshelter at Froggy Pond Farm in Greenfield, Ma. I was very fortunate to work under the guidance of both Keith Zaltzberg and Sebastian (Bas) Gutwein with the Regenerative Design Group. This was an extremely interesting learning process, because I was able to use the knowledge that I immediately learned this spring from my permaculture design class at GCC, and put it to practical use.

What is a “Bioshelter” you ask? A bioshelter is like a very intensive greenhouse that has many different functions to keep the temperature inside even hotter than an average greenhouse. This is especially more beneficial for the cold winter months. A bioshelter is able accomplish these feats because of it’s many interesting and thoughtful design factors.

To start off, the bioshelter at Froggy Pond Farm was built from lumber that was hewn on the property, and then milled on site. The exterior was designed using the board and batten technique which will help the structure expand and contract between the hot and cold months. The bioshelter is divided into two main rooms. The Large room (below)

a panoramic view from inside the Bio Shelter (still under construction).

A panoramic view from inside the Bioshelter (still under construction).

is the main south facing room that will house all of the living plants and fish. Unlike old school greenhouses, the bioshelter’s north facing wall is completely covered, so that it looses less heat in the winter. The second room behind this wall is going to house chickens! But I’m getting off track here, let’s next talk about how the bioshelter is designed to stay warm in the winter.

Nancee Bershoff

Nancee Bershoff, property owner

The bioshelter is designed to keep heat in, and also generate its own sources of heat. It does this in two ways, by relying on passive solar and biothermal heating. The passive solar comes in through the south facing glazed roof, where the sun light is intensified. It is always much warmer inside the bioshelter than outside. Next is one of the key factors of the bioshelter, the sunlight enters and warms up the two large 225 gallon water containers. These water containers, and the 150 gallon pond below them, absorb all of the suns energy during the day, and that heat is stored inside the water. As day turns to night and the inside gets colder, the water slowly dissipates heat though out the night, and this in turn keeps the bioshelter warm. This design is especially helpful in the colder winter months.

The bioshelter also generates it’s own biothermal heat. There is a compost pile under the floor boards inside by the south facing raised bed. As organic matter decomposes, it gives off heat. The compost pile was designed on the other side away from the the water tanks, to help balance out the heat distribution.

But wait, there’s more! There is a “thermal battery” designed within the bioshelter. As heat rises inside the structure, the heat will be sucked up through a vented pipe powered by a small fan. Hot air will then be transferred through the pipe and into the gravel floor of the bioshelter. This too will help keep the structure warmer through the cold winter months.

And finally, back to the chickens. The idea of housing chickens in a bioshelter is also one of generating heat (as well as providing eggs!). As the chickens run around, they emit body heat. This might seem like very little heat, but the more chickens you have, the more it adds up. Raising the temp of the bioshelter even 1 degree can be extremely beneficial when it is below freezing outside. Plus, the bioshelter will make a lovely home for chickens during the winter.

Nancee Bershoff, the owner of Froggy Pond Farm, was inspired when she payed a visit to Eric Toensmeier’s bioshelter in Holyoke, Ma. Nancee witnessed Eric growing avocados in Western Massachusetts, and Nancee said to herself, “I want to do this too!” I am very proud to have helped Nancee this summer in her dream of growing avocados in Massachusetts, and one day that will be my dream too!

Froggy Pond Farm

Froggy Pond Farm

Just Roots – Mulling it Over

My time at the Just Roots farm has been filled with learning and internal reflection. There are times when you get to work by yourself and that’s when the real work takes place. As I am working with my hands, my mind is endlessly asking questions and searching for what makes me tick. I think everyone at one point in their life will look down at the earth and question their whole existence on this ever turning sphere. As a kid growing up in a small suburban town, I spent most of the day exploring the woods and climbing trees. I became to appreciate the landscapes I knew so well, becoming a familiar face to the surrounding wildlife and people who were on the same endeavors.

The times I ever felt a spiritual essence was when I would gaze at a starry night sky under the tallest of pines I could find. I never thought that in my local town I would find the same kind of connection with nature, people and myself. This feeling is hard to explain, and maybe there is just no explanation. Its the most primitive kind of work I’ve ever done, in terms of strictly using your hands and nature running its course. I have become the harvester, the gatherer that everyone has embedded deep within psyche thanks to our ancestors.

I wonder if they were capable of asking the same questions I ask myself out there in the field. Did all this time alone gathering food aid in the development of the Explorer? The Inventor? The Philosopher? The Crusader for spirituality? Farming is a lifestyle that will be a part of my life for many years to come. Without this opportunity to work at Just Roots, my life would be much different now. Thank you to all the people who were a part of getting me there, to give me the direction I need to better my life, the very thing I forgot how to do. My time here is far from over. You’ll be hearing more from me in days to come.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature. -“ Joseph Campbell



Just Roots – Just around the river bend

I consider Just Roots a social justice organization. Our mission is to connect communities with easy access to local produce. All of our produce at Just Roots is purely organic, health and wholesome. I have never been apart of something like this before and its exciting to see the development take place. Just Roots is just about to wrap up its second season and its well on its way to another successful year.

One of the many things we do for outreach is our CSA distribution. People are able to purchase shares within the farm and in return receive produce that normally would cost much more if bought from the market. About two weeks ago we held our CSA at the Sloan Center right at GCC!

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We also take part in the Farmers Market at the Greenfield Town Common. Its amazing to see the transition the produce takes place. From the earth to a display shelf. People are very interested and supportive of what takes place at the farm.


Just this past Thursday, Just Roots and other organizations including Greenfield’s Market (the co-op) donated a lot of food to prepare a meal for the residents at the Winslow House (affordable housing). It was a great turnout and I was encouraging to see people come back for more food, all prepared by volunteers and local produce.


There is so much more we want to do! Maybe you can be apart of this progressive and healthy movement!

Just Roots – Quick Intro

Hi Everyone!

So much has been going on here at the Just Roots farm, its hard to figure out where to begin. Might as well begin with the average day here. My colleagues and I begin the morning around 6 am. On Tuesday and Wednesdays, we are harvesting mostly for the CSA distribution and Thursday and Fridays we are harvesting for the Farmers Market here in Greenfield.

We harvest everything from Kale, Eggplant, Watermelon, Peppers, Squash, Cucumber, Scallions, Tomatoes, Beets, Onions; the list is endless. After gathering all the produce, we prepare them for market which consists of cleaning, trimming roots, and packing.

The rest of the day is usually spent with me dying behind a lawnmower, just kidding. Our afternoons vary from priority, so much to do and it seems there is never enough time. We transplant, weed, and generally if we have time harvest something from the next days list. I am beginning to realize how much work it takes to make a farm successful.

Fall is on its way and Winter is just around the corner. I imagine the next few months we will focus on getting the winter harvest gathered, greenhouses tucked away, and other various tasks.

Cant wait to see what the future has in store!

Heres a bunch of pictures to give ya’ll a little idea of what we do here.

Victory from the rockbags!!!

Victory of the rockbags!!!/Crew mane


Heres our wash station, Hi Aaron and Wankaman!

Produce ready for distributing.

Produce ready for distributing.



Got Garlick?

Got Garlick?

Yes I do in fact capture reptiles on the side

Yes I do in fact capture reptiles on the side


Just Roots – The Journey of Purpose

Hey everyone!

My name is Nate Rogers. Over the past few months I have been interning at the Just Roots farm located right here in Greenfield Mass. I am new to this whole blog process, so bare with me as I learn the ropes. These blogs will be about my daily experiences, goals, and events that take place at the farm. To start off, I’ll share with you how I got involved with Just Roots.

While incarcerated, an opportunity arose where a few selected people would be able to work on a local farm a couple days a week and receive college credit from Greenfield Community College. The hiring process was based on a written essay and a formal interview. Out of several, myself and one other person were chosen to come work at the Just Roots program. I could hardly wait to start the journey into the farming life.

Before I ever even heard of Just Roots, my days were filled with anxiety and little hope for my future. Its been several weeks since I walked out of those jail doors and I can confidently say that I am more grounded in life then ever before. Just Roots has given me a purpose and drive in life that was once missing. I am eager to share with you all how my life has gradually changed through working at the farm.

(Here is me harvesting some Dino Kale earlier this year, and yes I am wearing a bee helmet.)

Them buggers after my soul!

Them buggers after my soul!

(This is me and my friend Juan acting triumphant over all the kale and broccoli we just planted. There is so much more to plant!)