Friday, December 16, 2011

Joel Salatin on the Survival Podcast

Interview with Joel Salatin on the Survival Podcast

"You can't offer freedom without also allowing people the risk of making stupid choices" (16m25); "Joel: I mean, think about it, if a neighbor had a dog get loose, and bred all the neighbors' female dogs with some form of 2 headed frankendog thing, the neighbors would be up in arms and lynch that guy for letting his dog get loose and run rampant in the neighborhood impregnating everybody's dogs, but here we have a situation where Monsanto is doing exaclty this, and the courts are holding the people with the new frankendogs as patent infringments on the life form that Monsanto owns. Jack: They have to pay a stud fee to the neighbor that let the frankendog out!"(20m30); more on property rights, ancient/Biblical law, and the reason we should never have needed the EPA (22m30); things from Salatin's farm that are useful for the small homesteader including (1) you want to grow food for yourself, you need fertility, which means recycling your carbon onsite - have enough chickens to take care of your chicken scraps and use the manure, (2) produce as much produce as you can including season extension (24m30); 12 box CSA of mostly greens in Minneapolis from Oct1 - Apr1 in Minneapolis in 20'x30' greenhouse using heat sink technology (27m); (3) things like beehives, every house should have a solarium for heating and winter greens (28m); primary difference between rabbits and chickens are (a) rabbits eat 75% of what they need from pasturing on the lawn - more herbivorous, and (b) if they get out they're very hard to catch (31m); specs on portable rabbit pens so they can eat thru the bottom but not dig out - an acre of grass is worth $45k with rabbits (32m); use stacking principles to bring individual enterprise density down to a level that's not attractive to pathogens (36m45); why you shouldn't slaughter animals everyday: you should have some feeling of regret whenever you kill something, and Jack: regret has earned you the right to take the animals life (37m30); Chickens can get 15-20% of their food off the land and when uncrowded almost all of it, with pigs, they'll take up all the oak acorns from an acre and save $300-600 - using the edge, omnivores running in woods (43m); pigs fattened on acorns have olive-oil like lard (47m); still thinks the best way to get started as a farmer is to rent 20 acres and raise pastured broilers, nothing has as quick a turnaround, 8 wks as fast as a radish (53m20); our pasture's all whatever's growing - we haven't planted a seed in 50 years (54m); if arid cold, take your time off in the winter (56m); issues with "organic" including "the beginning of integrity is transparency" (57m); the problem with Jared Diamond's "Collapse" - none of the collapsed societies had herbivourous livestock, and more on how the herbivore is the key to ecological enhancement and nutrient density (1.03m); still raising turkeys with grapes, and using mycellium in wood chip mulch in the grapes and orchards so the turkeys can't scratch through it (1.06m); if it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly, first - let yourself be wrong and learn and enjoy! (1.10m)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Carol Deppe on Beans (Audio Interview)

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Why beans are important: beans and grain the two crops that can be stored a LONG time, over a year all we'd have are the grains and the grain legumes, the beans, peas, favas, garbanzos, lentils... (6m); On homescale, grains aren't so easy to handle and process, beans are and provide carbs and protein, you need to be able to grow storable crops, and carbs and proteins, and can be grown on only modestly fertile land (7m30); beans fiber, ruffage, digestion issues (10m15); preparation (11m); cut the plants instead of pull them to avoid getting rocks in the beans (15m45); full description for soaking and preparing (16m15); cook them for at least half an hour before adding any spices, esp salt and vinegar, until they're almost completely soft, then finish em, and don't add cold ingredients once you've started (18m); always add fat and something acidic like vinegar at the end (20m20); soaking NOT necessary for dried peas, lentils, cowpeas, can just toss in (25m); every variety has a different optimal time to soak and cook, so don't mix them (33m); garbanzos take about a day to soak and an hour to cook; trialing beans to know if they cook well (34m); all the different kinds of beans - tepary, cow pea (e.g. black-eyed pea), lentils, fava, garbanzos - there are lots of varieties, and green vs. dried vs. shelly, what we want in each kind of plant (38m20); why she grows beans on late or full-season corn only (water), usually a green bean or shelly not dry bean, nmatch the corn and bean varieites, corn should be sturdy and at least 6' tall (46m); timing of planting corn and beans together to get almost the same corn yield with fewer plants (49m); dealing with the harvest (~55m); storage and more recommendations for bean and pea varieties (61m20); overwinter favas, plant garbanzos in the spring and neither need water (63m30); threshing - the fan technique in DETAIL (65m30); more on storage (76m30); how much she puts away - tries to have about 50lb, often has 100lb with all the varieties and breeding projectes, tries to keep it to no more than 20lb of 5 different species, so doesn't do all the harvest and threshing work at once (79m); thumbnail sketch of bean breeding - the need for space has a lot to do with where you live, crosses don't show up in first generation, grow different varieties and you they won't cross, put two of same species on opposite sides of the garden, don't have to be perfect... "If I remove more junk than I create each generation, that's good enough" (81m30)

Still eating from the garden

Without having preserved any food this season, I ate lunch yesterday almost entirely from the garden: winter squash, kale, broccoli shoots, squash seeds. Last night we had plenty of cilantro as garnish from the seeds Davi scattered around in September. There are still little lettuces enduring frosts without cover. They haven't grown much in the last month or two.

Lessons learned this season:

(1) When you eat the leaves of a broccoli plant after harvesting the main head, it totally fails to put out side shoots.

(2) Crimson clover crop planted in mid-October grows about a half inch before it stops. It will pick up and get some more growth in the spring before it's chopped in, but is this enough to protect against soil erosion?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Farm productivity (point of clarity)

Sustainable farming has the capacity to be more productive per acre, but will generally be less productive per farmer. Resource (land) productivity goes up while labor productivity goes down.

What's the sense in pursuing any other way of farming when we have so many unemployed? It's asinine. And does sustainable, labor-intensive farming need to be miserable? That's the argument. I would guess no. I'll develop this more over at thesparrk.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Moses Pumpkin

My p-patch is a bright green meadow of ankle high cover crop right now, so it was easy to spot something amiss in it yesterday, from a good fifty feet away. A pale bump. I expected garbage, and found... a pumpkin!

A very pale green pumpkin, mostly pale, and embedded a good four inches in the soft damp earth, with little flattened fava plants under it. Where did it come from? The balcony of the townhouse next door? Chucked over the fence? I like to think someone saw my well-tended plot and thought I'd take good care of their little pumpkin, and tossed it over the fence.

Like a baby in a basket left outside my door, I took it home, brushed the dirt off, put with my other winter squash, the Sweet Meats. But what kind of pumpkin is it? It's flattish, and almost white. My best guesses so far, based on about 20 minutes of internet research: Valenciano (mixed reports whether flesh is orange or nearly white), or Flat White Boer (if the meat is deep orange).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My first compost pile

I've worked a lot with compost, but never bothered to make a pile. This is mostly because it's so easy to pick up a yard for $30 in my truck. That said, it's a skill I want to learn, and we have this soiled chicken bedding we need to do something with. So I started one 3 weeks ago and finished it a week and a half ago, after slaughtering the chickens. It is mostly a straw/chicken poop/food scraps mix from the chicken run, soiled straw that was left out in the wet, green matter from the yard, garden, old potting soil, and the feathers from our birds. It's a lump about 4 feet across at the base and 2.5 feet high, damp and covered with a tarp.

Yesterday at Tilth, Graham said a compost heap can finish in 2-3 months, even in the winter. We'll see how mine does. Will check the temp soon.

Potato storage experiment

Bought 4 kinds of potatoes (~Nov 6) to store 2 kinds of ways. Bought em at the Farmer's market from Brent of Olsen farms in NE Washington, who specializes in meat and potatoes. I asked for good storage varieties, and he directed me to a few that he was willing to go $1/lb for. I bought 21 lbs. What I got and what they're good for:

- "All Red" - roasted, steamed, baked; antioxidants
- "Desiree" - all-purpose, mashed
- "Yukon Gold" - mashed, baked, steamed
- "Red Lasoda" - salads, mashed, baked

Where they're going: half in a bag in the woodshop, half in a box in the basement. While a true experiment would involve a box and bag in both places, I don't have the critical mass of potatoes to maintain proper moisture. I need at least 10 lbs per container, preferably more.

Carol Deppe on storing potatoes:
- the best-storing varieties can keep up to 10 months
- there's a science to storing them (p166), but
"most of us don't have two or three areas for storing different kinds of potatoes. We are happy enough to have one adequate storage area, and the eating and seed potatoes are placed in the same area...Nate and I store paper grocery bags of potatoes in our garage. It's an attached, unheated garage, an excellent and traditional place for good-enough storage of potatoes in many climes. The warmth from the house keeps anything in the garage from freezing. The garage isn't very airtight, so the humidity is usually relatively high and the garage sufficiently ventilated. We tuck the potatoes away in paper grocery bags with the tops rolled down, and without holes. (Paper bags breathe to some extent.) There is some light in the garage even when the garage door isn't rolled open. And it sometimes is. If the paper bags were left open, the potatoes would green up and develop glycoalkaloids. They would also dry out. A large paper grocery bag will hold about 10-15 pounds and still leave room enough to roll down the bag's top This amount per bag also seems to result in an optimal moisture level under our conditions. When we put 15-20 pounds in each bag, the bags seem to be a bit soggy, and potatoes sprout earlier and more vigorously. We have also used cardboard boxes (without holes in them) to store potatoes, but the cardboard itself becomes visibly soggy, and the potatoes sprout earlier and tend to mold and rot. Boxes might be preferable under drier storage conditions. If you use cardboard boxes, be aware that, if there are any opening and there is light in the storage area, the potatoes around the openings will green up and develop glycoalkaloids.

I keep a maximum-minimum thermometer-hygrometer in the potato-storage area. In fall when the area tends to be at a higher temperature than is optimal for potatoes, I open the garage door early in the morning to cool the garage. I also open it occasionally whenever the relative humidity in the garage is getting a bit too low and it's raining outside. Given this approach, we can keep some varieties of potatoes in prime eating condition through April, and can keep seed potatoes through June (though they sprout, of course). Without much attention the garage mostly stays between 45 F and 55 F, and between 90 and 98 percent relative humidity.

And a great list of all potato varieties at WSU.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new; first frost

Slaughtered our 4 old hens yesterday. It was emotional and strangely mechanical at the same time. More on this later.

Picked up 10 new hens, 6 New Hampshire Reds, 4 Barred Rock. Some of the chickens may be mixed with another variety, which CJ told me the name of, and which I promptly forgot. Black and white some striped something...

We've had our first couple frosts the last two mornings. This morning there was frost on the lettuce, which recovered just fine as it burned off. Bright, sunny day; delicious kale.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Carol Deppe describes her garden

Interview here.

I’ve gardened in many ways in different years and eras, and I talk about them all in The Resilient Gardener. Sometimes I’ve had a few raised beds of tomatoes and greens in the back yard and a bigger patch of potatoes, corn, beans, and squash at the home of a friend. These days, my farm partner Nate and I garden on a couple of acres of good soil a few miles from home, a real luxury. Much of what is going on is determined by the fact that it is just our second season on that land.

About one acre is tilled. It’s divided into six sections. One section we’re turning into permanent garden beds to grow a big variety of garden crops, everything from amaranth greens and garlic to lettuce and strawberries. The rest is field crops that get rotated around each year. The field crops are all in rows spaced at 3 ½’. (Or 7’ for the big squash.) The basic 3 ½’ spacing is what is needed to get our rototiller between the rows, that is, when the rototiller works. Which it doesn’t always. The acre of crops is as much as we want to tend by hand when the rototiller is uncooperative. In addition, it’s as much as we want to water. This kind of spacing means we need to water the most water needy crops only once per week in August, the most water-short month, and less the rest of the time. And with this spacing, the potatoes don’t have to be watered at all. And everything could at least survive a good while if it didn’t get watered at all, even in August.

The permanent beds are 4’ across, the biggest we can reach across comfortably, with aisles between them that are alternating 3½’ and 1½’. That space is a compromise. Nate, being 32, can tend and harvest a garden by bending over or squatting. So if the garden was just his, he would space the beds with aisles 1 ½’ wide. That way, he would have the most possible planting area for the total area that needs to be watered. And there would be as little aisle space that needs to be weeded as possible. I’m 64. My back and knees rebel against squatting or bending over for very long. I can hoe comfortably using the right kinds of tools that permit me to work standing upright with my back straight. I can also tend and harvest comfortably on my hands and knees, but that takes aisles 3 ½’ across. If we split the difference, I wouldn’t be able to harvest from any of the rows. With alternating aisle widths, and Nate tending and harvesting preferentially from the narrow aisles, we can both tend and harvest. And we have lots more bed space than if we used 3 ½’ aisles for everything.

We don’t put sides on our beds, incidentally. If we did that, we would have to tend all the space near the sides by hand, squatting or on hands and knees. With no sides on beds, the beds can mostly be tended by hoeing from a comfortable standing position, with a straight back. In The Resilient Gardener, I talk a good bit about the labor implications of various gardening styles and practices as well as what tools and methods to use if you have back problems. Most people garden in a way that strains or trashes their backs or knees. That is totally unnecessary if you match gardening styles and tools to your physical needs. When gardening bigger areas, this matching is especially important.

In our field, one major section is potatoes, 23 varieties. Yellows, blues, reds, whites, bakers, boilers, early varieties, late varieties. The number of varieties gives us some resilience with respect to diseases as well as potatoes that are great for every possible cooking method, and that have many different flavors. We choose varieties based primarily upon spectacular flavor, but also upon storage ability and yield and disease resistance when grown under our conditions. We grow our spuds organically, with no irrigation, and with only the modest levels of fertility of the sort that can be obtained simply by turning under a legume cover crop. Our spud patch should give us at least a thousand pounds of spuds, which will be prime eating quality through February, through April for certain varieties. Part of that long storage is appropriate choice of varieties. The rest of it is our method of storage, which is “sophisticated low tech.” We store the potatoes in our attached garage. That’s low tech. What is sophisticated is that we have figured out exactly what containers to use for optimum storage, and a maximum-minimum thermometer-hygrometer sits in the storage area. We occasionally open the garage door or the door to the house as needed in winter to control temperature or humidity.

Our potatoes don’t get irrigated. We grow them at 16” in the rows instead of the 8 – 12” so as to have one important staple crop that doesn’t require irrigation. That cuts down our water use and gardening labor. In addition, if the electricity failed and we couldn’t irrigate, our practice of growing potatoes without irrigation would really matter. Not irrigating also gives us especially clean, disease-free spuds. In addition, the flavors are much more intense than when the potatoes are irrigated. Water and fertility needs are very much affected by spacing. If we crowded the spuds more, we would need more fertile soil, probably imported fertilizer, and irrigation.

The tomatoes are at one end of the potato patch for purposes of rotation, since they are potato relatives. We water the tomato end.

About 1/6 of the garden is in legumes, but not in one section because we plant different species that are grown at different times of year, a common trick for spreading many kinds of risks and enhancing resilience. In addition, overwintering cool-season legumes don’t require watering. Staple crops that don’t require watering (or electricity) cuts the labor in good times and might be essential in bad times. So we plant ‘Iant’s Yellow’, in fall and overwinter them. Winter is our rainy season. ‘Iant’s Yellow’ is delicious as a dry bean (but not as a shelly). It usually overwinters well. It was an unusually cold winter, though. Most of our favas died out. These things happen. That’s why overwintered favas is just one of our beans and overwintering is just one of our patterns of growing beans.

We planted ‘Hannan Popbean’, a garbanzo, in early spring. It was unusually cool and wet, but they did fine. I’ve selected ‘Hannan’ to grow well when grown organically, to germinate cheerfully in cold mud, to be highly resistant to all the aphid-borne legume diseases that are rampant in the Willamette Valley, and to finish a crop in late July and without irrigation. We harvested the ‘Hannan’ yesterday. This year, there has been almost no summer heat, and everything is delayed. So the ‘Hannans’ took until mid-August. But they still did fine. The fact that they finish so early gives us resilience that we called upon this year.

Our vetch cover crop died out instead of growing last winter because of the unusual cold. So we’re short of fertility in the patch for summer-grown legumes. In addition, we didn’t get that area tilled during the short spring tilling window before an unusually wet spring ensued. (We got the ground tilled for the potatoes, garbs, and one corn planting, but didn’t have enough of a weather break for the rest.) So we got a late start planting the warm-season legumes. And it was already looking like a cool summer. This meant that any summer-grown beans might not mature until the rainy season. Common dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) tend to mold, rot, or split if they are asked to dry down in the rainy season. So we planted ‘Fast Lady Northern Southern Pea’ on all the land for summer grown legumes.

‘Fast Lady Northern Southern Pea’, our Northern- and maritime-adapted cowpea, is very fine in texture and delicious, and like other cowpeas, doesn’t need to be soaked before cooking. Cowpeas are much better at making their own nitrogen than P. vulgaris dry beans, so our cowpea should be less affected by the fertility problem. Also, cowpeas are less harmed by getting rained upon when drying down than common beans. Cowpeas are also more drought resistant and better at scrounging water. This summer we didn’t irrigate one section of the ‘Fast Lady’ at all. They didn’t seem to notice. And we can eat the shoots, leaves, green pods, and shelly beans during the summer as well as harvest the dry seed. It adds flexibility when your main staple crops give you good summer green crops as well. And I’ve harvested ‘Fast Lady’ right in the middle of the rainy season before, and it was fine. The drying pods shed rain very nicely instead of absorbing it. In addition, being a cowpea, we can save pure seed from ‘Fast Lady’ even if we are growing pole beans, since the cowpea and common beans are different species. And ‘Fast Lady’ is by far the easiest to thresh of any bean I have ever grown.

We did an early planting of ‘Magic Manna’, the early corn that provides our parching corn, savory corn gravy, sweetbreads, some flavors of cornbread, and cakes. I’m talking about fine-grained cakes, such as angle food cake or sponge cakes. Real cakes. True flour corns can give you a flour almost as fine in texture as commercial wheat flour. ‘Magic Manna’ is a flour corn that gives us four different colors of ears, each with different flavors and cooking characteristics, all from one patch. Red and pink ears make great parching corn and sweetbreads. Pancake ivory and white ears make great pancakes, sweetbreads, and cakes. And brown ears make a delicious gravy as well as savory (non-sweet) cornbreads. ‘Magic Manna’ is very early. I bred it by selecting for flavor and culinary characteristics starting with Dave Christianson’s variety ‘Painted Mountain’. I designed the genetics so that one variety could produce corns with several flavors and culinary niches all from one patch. ‘Magic Manna’ should also be a great ornamental corn.

Then there is a much later planting of a late flint corn. Usually I grow pole beans on late corn, but we put the corn in too late for that this year.

We planted our early flint sister varieties ‘Cascade Creamcap’, ‘Cascade Ruby-Gold’, and ‘Cascade Maple-Gold Polenta’ on the farm of a cooperating grower. It pollinates at the same time as ‘Magic Manna’, so we don’t grow both on our land. The Cascade sister lines are so designed genetically that they can be planted in adjacent patches and still allow for saving seed. The Cascade planting will give us all our polenta, johnny cakes, and five different colors of ears for five more different flavors of cornbread, all from a single patch. Corn is my basic grain staple. I’m gluten intolerant. With these corns, I can make cornbread that holds together well enough to make sandwiches, and that requires only corn, water, eggs, butter or fat or oil of some sort, salt, baking powder, and water. I’ve bred these Cascade lines to be the ultimate survival corns as well as to be spectacularly delicious.

The squash patch provides winter squash, summer squash, and dry squash.

Then there is a huge patch of brassicas, mostly kale but also cabbage, broccoli, and others. We plant those mostly in late July and eat them all fall and winter and spring. Nate and I both love kale. Nate also makes lots of sauerkraut.

The backyard is now heavily shaded by trees on neighboring properties. I gardened there when I first moved into the house. At this point, we garden on our leased land, and the back yard is duck pasture. My flock of 35 laying ducks (Anconas) provides all the eggs we want as well as some to sell to cover the feed bills. They also provide all our breeding stock as well as generate ducklings for sale to others in the area. The Anconas eat commercial chow and forage in summer, but in fall, winter, and spring they eat mostly cull and small potatoes and winter squash, and such goodies as worms, sowbugs, and slugs. Ducks are a better choice for free-range layers in the maritime Northwest than chickens. In our climate, they are the ultimate ecologically well-adapted livestock. Compared with chickens, ducks lay better (especially in winter), are happy outdoors year round, can scrounge a much larger portion of their feed, eat even big banana slugs, and are the best at yard and garden pest control. And they love our weather.

One of our friends is a melon grower. We trade potatoes for melons. We also sell potatoes to the duck egg customers. And starting in December this year, we plan to start selling seeds of some of the varieties I’ve been breeding for the last two decades. We forage wild cherries and serviceberries and sometimes hazelnuts. And we buy huge amounts of blueberries from a blueberry farm down the street.

Ideally, we would like to have a small farm with some sheep and maybe water buffalo for milk, meat, and draft, and a full orchard, and of course, a pond for the ducks in addition to land for our garden and seed crops. But resilience is about just doing something now, making a start, doing what you can with what you have. And what we can do at the moment is lease some good gardening land that isn’t too far from our home, and grow lots of food, and breed new varieties selected specifically for flavor and resilience. And we can just play around and try things and have fun.

Carol Deppe on Squash (Audio Interview)

3rd installment by Jim Phillips.


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Why you can only find bad squash in the market (market failure!) (8.30m); how to know when fully ripe - till they die back from freeze or powdery mildew, leave stem on (10m); squash species - pepos the best for us and Utah, need to cure, delicatas a couple weeks; maximas good long term storage need to cure at least a month, open your first Sweet Meat squash for Thxgiving (12m); Sweet Meat 15-24 lbs, can fit one in the oven (18.30m); 5x as much food on a 20lb Sweet Meat than a 20lb Hubbard, disadvantage is that it's a mid-season squash, does well in wet spring, happy to germinate in cold mud (20m); Pepos--Delicata's and Sugar Pie Pumpkins are recommended fall squashes--are useful for the month you're waiting on Sweet Meat (23.30m); importance of the F1 Sunshine hybrid for years that are bad for Sweet Meat - ripen earlier, do well with little water in the summer, also Katy Stokes Sugar Meat (26m); seeds from the hybrid Sunshine will grow something kinda like it - worth saving in case seed becomes unavailable (34m); where to get Carol's Sweet Meat and Katy Stokes, also Sunshine - Nichols Garden Nursery (or drop her an email at and she'll put you on the list for seed!) (39m); breeding (40m); drying summer squash as a staple, esp. costata romanesco, goldrush or goldbush zucchini, also immature summer squash that aren't going to mature (46m); up to half pound zucchinis are good fresh, over that, good to dry! dehydrator or rack (45.30m); keep going for more great details on using immature squash, stacking staples, drying, etc. (up to 57m); nutrition of squashes - not much protein, great carbs, lots of sugar, potatoes lots of protein less sugar (61m); can use as desserts, or... the squash is instead of the cornbread or potatoes - it's the carb (62m); need to change diet to accomodate these crops, e.g. to avoid having to many carbs - squash, a bit of protein, and a green vegetable (64m); recipes & uses (67m); more growing tips including starting indoors if season really short, making hills out of sod by digging a foot down, turning sod over, piling dirt back on, then manure so you have a really rich area in that limited spot, plant 3-4 seeds, and let vines trail out over unprepared ground, though won't get optimal production (71m); if big garden, make a trench 1.5ft long and put 3 seeds in 6" apart, 8' between the spots (at least 6' between rows), thin to one plant/spot for big squash, if smaller squash 6' between rows and plants at 4-5ft apart, maybe 2 plants/spot if you are good on water and fertility, then water when they need watering, weed when they need weeding, harvest (73m); really good detail on seed-saving and breeding (79m)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mark Shepard

Audio interview on "minilessons," including a bunch of info on other interesting social experiments in the Driftless Area.

Article about his New Forest Farm.

Energy Bulletin article.

Another audio/video interview at the sociocapitalist.

Two part youtube clip starts here.

In Chapter 6 of If a Tree Falls and Chapter 6 of Diet for a Hot Planet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soil tests

Gonna get one this winter, for both the new p-patch plot and Davi and Wojtek's garden. Carol Deppe says to get it from the folks at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, and buy the interpretive booklet, too. $50 total. Ask for an analysis for nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium. Also ask for an analysis of anything commonly known to be missing or present in toxic amounts in your region. Send in the sample 6 weeks or more before you need the results. Collect several soil samples from different parts of your land and pool them. Collect from below a sod cover. Exclude leaves and roots.

The University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab offers them for quite a bit cheaper, but without the guide.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brussels Sprouts and Books

An experiment. I read (in The Vegetable Garden Displayed, 1961, RHS) that Brussels Sprouts sometimes don't make sprouts if there's too much nitrogren (or organic matter?) in the soil, and that you can tear leaves off to stimulate sprout formation. Well, the sprouts in the garden aren't forming, so I tore off the lower 2/3 of leaves on two of the plants, and left the back plant alone. Experiment! We'll see if we get some sprouts.

[NOTE as of Nov17: I F*ed up. I mistook the green plants to be the Brussels Sprouts and the purple plants to be the Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I tore the leaves off broccoli plants. We are now starting to get little Brussels Sprouts on the purple Falstaff Brussels Sprouts plants. I'm sure we will see less yield from the broccoli early spring, which is a bummer.]

Also, the transplanted chard is taking. Lost a few of their bigger leaves, but new, firm ones coming up. The mustard has sprouted. The lettuce is thinned and about 8" across, some of it, but growing very slowly at this point.

Another good book my dad has: The New England Vegetable Garden: A complete handbook for year round gardening in the Northeast, Don Kerr, 1957. Amazon has a 1980 printing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Carol Deppe on Corn (Audio Interview)

Thanks Jim Phillips for being such a great interviewer!

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Topics in order:

why to grow it (7m); hand crank corn sheller; corn types and how to tell (11.30m); which types of corn to use for what: 2 basic types: flint and flour, dent is an intermediate corn, flint good for boiling or steaming, flour good for baking, pure flint makes great polenta - grind into coarse grind, toss in butter, 3 vol of water, a little salt, boil for 7min, leave for 45min, can bake with either flint corn (wet-batter), for tortillas, you need floury consistency, can make good corn bread out any with wet batter, dent is only good for wet-batter corn bread or tortillas, stays away from dent corn (14.30); within the basic categories, the colors are representative of the flavors! a red flint corn will taste a lot like another red flint corn, but not necessarily like a red flour corn (20m); "we are essentially eating the waste products of the animal industry" (21m); more on Italian-style polenta made with dent corns, work you don't have to do if using flint corn (24.30); the process of turning commodity corn into something that tastes good; flint corns the ultimate survival crop (26m); thoughts on grinders - hand versus electric (26.30m); how to get good binding in corn meal dough for bread (37m); info on keeping corn pure, including early corn won't cross-pollinate easily (43m); story of the Mandans and Hidatsu Native Americans first meeting (50m); parching corn (53m); parching corn & backpacking (60m)' her spring seed business, a cool 5-color, 5-tastes single corn for seed saving (68m); low yields of Native American corn but no fertilizer, spacing of industrial corn vs. sustainable corn (74m); industrial hybrids spaced 8" apart in rows 18" apart, tons of fertilizer, not practical (75.30m); Carol Deppe's spacing for early corn: rows 3.5 feet apart, thins from plants every 3-5" in-row, will thin to about 8-12" apart average, but if two nice plants just 5-6" apart next to wimpy-looking plants, will leave the pair and give them more space on the either side, low yields but still get more than any other grain; (76m); why not to thin at 2" inches high but rather 4", even better if she can let it get bigger without being crowded (if spaced far enough apart) (79m); how she breeds for max genetic heterogeneity for max adaptability in her seeds (81m)

NPR Interview with Betty Fussel on cooking corn perfectly.

Corn a major part of homemade chicken layer feeds. Another good article.

Other Tools: Quaker City Grain Mill, and more! Get a hand crank that you can attach to a bike or a motor.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Carol Deppe on Potatoes (Audio Interview)

Interview #1:

Listen to internet radio with Preparedness Radio on Blog Talk Radio

A real nice interview. Topics, in order:

the virtues of the potato; how to grow them on hard ground using a nutritious mulch; Irish families used to grow all the potatoes they needed on half an acre in beds; great details about potato rooting habits, hilling them up (the reason people don't usually plant deep is because it's cold down there); growing seed potatoes and rogueing for diseased plants; growing potato from seed, how and why to do it; the Great Irish Potato Famine; storing potatoes (57m) - in paper bags in attached garage, around 35-50 degrees in the winter, about 10 lbs. per bag with the tops rolled down, not sealed, kept dark, let's some air in but restricts it enough to keep the potatoes 9 months (still eating some in April), insulated rooms in unheated barns can work; ideally not below 40-50 degrees because cook funny, but ok if not sustained; trick for choosing seed potatoes (63m); more on taking care of potatoes, the importance of the dark, potatoes for poultry; don't wash them before storing; culling for storage; learn how to grow staples on a small scale, in a way that is scalable; seasons to plant and when to harvest (when the vines die down all by themselves + a couple weeks)

3 Things you want for harvesting potatoes:
- potatoes have to be big enough to eat
- for storage potatoes you want the plant to die back
- harvest them after you have cool weather so you can store them

A whole bunch of shows with Carol Deppe by this guy (Jim Phillips) here!

Another interview can be found on this page. An annoying show with lots of ads, but a couple items of interest:

Top 5 herbs: oregano, sage, winter savory, lovage, garlic. Lovage prefers part shade, celery-flavored, chop leaves and stem and can freeze; add to soups and stews

In a cool summer, an early season corn may be a full season corn, and a full season corn may never mature, or may rot.

Her ducks get a lot of their protein from free ranging; feeds them a little standard broiler chow in the summer; in the winter a lot of potatoes and winter squash, and they get a lot of slugs and earthworms in the NW in the winter.

In both interviews, Carol talks about the value of growing small numbers of staples to learn about them, so you could expand that operation quickly if you needed to.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

fall-->winter DONE

Transitioned the garden today. Took out the basil, peppers, tomatoes, squash, beans, and stunted spinach. Transplanted the first generation fordhook giant chard and kale into the front (west) bed and sowed some Green Wave mustard in a couple empty spots--we'll see if it takes. Covered newly exposed beds with compost (1/4-1/2 inch) and all purpose fertilizer and chopped it in. No deep digging or forking this time--just working the top few inches of the bed. Dug trenches for garlic, planted early (Chinese Pink), mid (Music), and late (Western Rose) varieties, 3x 48" long rows for each type, planted 3-4" apart in rows 18" apart. Took up a lot of space. Used all the bigger cloved variety but still have a head of Chinese Pink left. Will eat. Broadcast crimson clover and faba beans over the rest of the cleared part, and chopped it all in with the rake. Wa-lah!


From a 4' x 4'section, harvested ~16 lightly packed cups of basil, enough (according the joy of cooking) to make pesto for 8 pounds of pasta. This is after harvesting quite a bit of basil throughout the last month+.

The garlic took up a lot of space. Also, an oops: added a full dose of fertilizer even though Solomon says not to do that with rich soil, and I think our soil's rich.

Time: 2 hours, 3 people


per Steve Solomon (adjust a little for Seattle):

September - Mid-October
Amend the top few inches of soil with lots of compost. Plant cloves root down, 1 inch deep, 3-4 inches in row, rows 18 inches apart (at least). If soil's rich, don't use fertilizer. If poor, use 2/3 strength.

Early February
Side dress with bloodmeal, 2-3 tablespoons every 5 feet, close to plants.

April 1
Side dress with fertilizer, clost to plants


Thursday, October 13, 2011

fall to winter: making the transition

Entropy is at work in the summer garden, but not fast enough? Timing is puzzling at this juncture, as I want to both (a) get the most out of the fading basil, beans, tomatoes, and peppers, as well as harvest early fall crops like cauliflower and broccoli, and (b) get a green manure in the ground while it can still get a some growth in before winter.

According to Steve Solomon, the strategy is to take them all out in October and sow with green manures--favas, crimson clover, field peas. Anytime in October is not too late, according to Steve Solomon, though my hunch is mid-month is better. He also states that a good Spring garden DEPENDS upon having the beds worked the previous fall. "For heat-loving vegetables no edible succession is possible; follow them with an overwintering green manure."

Steve Solomon also recommends getting garlic in by mid-September, but he seems to be the only one. Most say mid-October.

But what about late Fall crops? Do we harvest Brussels sprouts in November, and leave the ground bare? I suppose I can leave the stalks and leaves standing, or cut them down and leave them protecting the soil. Solomon mentions areas of the garden with little but cabbage family stumps and remains of winter crops by March, which he scatters with garden pea seed. He chops in the garden peas when they're flowering in mid-May, to prep the ground for summer heat-lovers. He pulls them by hand. "Peas leave the soil in magnificent, fine-textured condition, ready to rake out and sow seeds in, or ready to accept transplants." (p106)

1) spring garden goes in March-April-sometimes May preceded by mowing then tilling in cover crop; matures before things get hot
2) summer garden goes in May-midJune; must finish at or before first frost to be sown to green manures
3) fall/winter garden mostly June-July, some salad greens in September; sown where spring garden was
4) cover crops sown in October, or whenever else ground is bare for a bit
* simple rotation + winter green manure over about half the area

Oregon Tilth's planting and harvest chart:

Territorial's planting chart:

Dave Holmgren

David Holmgren - Holistic approaches to food production during energy descent from Feasta on Vimeo.

Eliot Coleman on late season lettuce

The season of the year affects plant growth because of light, temperature, day length, etc.

The maturity time of lettuce is doubled and tripled for plantings from September through February. To harvest lettuce every week from early November through April, the following (under cover) planting schedule is necessary:

Sept 1-10: sow every 3.5 days
Sept 10-18: 2 days
Sept 18-Oct 10: 3.5 days
Oct 10-Nov 15: 7 days
Nov 15-Dec 15: 10 days

Can be speeded up if transplants grown under lights for 3 weeks. Outdoor production has similar variables. In Maine, lettuce sown in a cool greenhouse March 1 and transplanted outside April 21 was ready for sale May 25, whereas lettuce sown April 1 in the same greenhouse was transplanted outside May 1 and ready for sale June 2.

(New Organic Grower p47)

fall broccoli

ate my first last night. DiCiccio, so will keep producing for a bit, hopefully, despite the short days.

Sepp Holzer

Sepp Holzer - Aquaculture Synergy of Land and Water from cuntrol kuntoni on Vimeo.

"Farming with Nature: A Case Study in Temperate Permaculture"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

winter ideas

Neighbor up the street transplanted a bunch of kale and collards about the first week of September. The plants seem to be doing fine getting big before winter. The whole yard's planted out in them. You need a lot of plants to provide consistent greens when days are short.

There are a number of plots in the Danny Woo garden full of mustards. A great idea, to plant big fields of winter-hardy mustards to last through the winter, too. They also seemed to be growing marigolds (edible?), large radishes (winter daikon?), spinach, and chives. (My spinach planted late summer never really took off.)

So, winter salads of mustard, kale, and shredded daikon radish and ground-stored carrots? Sounds tasty.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dave Holmgren's quarter acre permaculture retrofit

Article about suburban permaculture from his website.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


My first cauliflower, a gorgeous one:

Note: Just last week this was the size of a tennis ball, and its companion is already a little past perfect -- starting to look raggedy as the blossoms open, I think. Cauliflower doesn't seem to have much of a window for harvest.

Chard and kale chuggin along. Lettuce growing much slower. Squash vines looking bad and the squash looking pale. When to harvest? The tomatoes are no longer ripening. The brussels sprouts are big and healthy along with all the other brassicas, but no little bundles at the bases of the leaves yet. The newer-sown spinach never really grew much. The radishes are small and hairy and spicy.

I've saved seed from one of the custardy yellow tomatoes, but figure I'll re-up on seeds next year and keep better track of them.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The weather took a drastic turn last week -- getting chilly, and the days growing suddenly short, and then a bunch of rain on Friday night. The tomatoes have virtually stopped ripening, and the squash leaves have gone gray.

I harvested the last romaine interplanted among the winter brassicas yesterday. Full and gorgeous! And the green deer tongue is delicious, as well. All the lettuce is good. In general, we've been harvesting lots of greens including chard and kale, though the spinach is bolting.

We're also harvesting tons and tons of tomatoes, and somehow we're managing to eat them all. Elana is a salsa machine, with her salsa machine.

My squash have done poorly -- a few small fruits on the vines. I'm pretty sure they're overcrowded. Next year I'll plant them farther apart and see if that fixes it.

A lot of garden projects right now. Been working on that new coop and am almost done. Some fun artistic use of natural forms for the gate and the food canopy outside. The perimeter is pretty patchy in places, but should hold.

Also, scored a p-patch! After at least 2 years on the waitlist. Want to use it to learn about growing staples -- corn, wheat, potatoes, maybe beans and winter squash. Though my other idea for winter squash is a hugelkultur bed contouring above the garden at Davi and Wojtek's place.

Friday, September 9, 2011

lettuce harvest etc.

Have been harvesting the interplanted lettuce over the last couple of days - a new red fire, a buttercrunch, and a romaine. The romaine are small but I don't get the feeling they'll get much bigger without turning bitter.

The tomatoes are ripening, finally. There are a few squash on the vine but the first fat sweet meat has shriveled and many of the small ones are yellowing and shriveling. One big one shows promise. I don't think they have nearly enough root room -- next year, a couple big squash with plenty of room.

The chard is still bumpin, as is the kale. The basil looks fantastic. Time to pinch off the tops and get the first small harvest!

Ordered 1.5 lbs of garlic yesterday - an early-season, a mid-season, and a late-season. Should be enough for 60-90 heads!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

mid-August, basil

Planted 32 basil starts this evening, which had been growing leggy and tough for months in their flats at the SYGW farm. Yellowed leaves and few of them, woody stems, totally rootbound. I tore at their roots to loosen them up, then mixed compost and fertilizer into the bed (~18 sq ft), dug long trenches, dug holes, stirred in some more fertilizer, and buried the plants as deep as I could with the leaves still sticking out. Watered them in thoroughly then watered again with diluted fish emulsion, ~4 tbsp in two gallons.

Fertilized most of the leafy green stuff with fish emulsion as well, and the brassica starts and tomatoes with Solomon's dry mix sprinkled around the edges of each plant and chopped in a bit.

One of the brassicas turned out to be a mutant:

So I replaced it with a seedling that's been growing in its soil block on the front porch for a while.

Not much at the garden right now. Big chard leaves, kale (the two plants that remain which used to be infested are doing very well), green beans, and a succulent Romaine on the verge of being ready. NOTE: Romaines take ~60 days to mature, butterheads ~50, Green Deer Tongue ~50, and New Red Fire ~30, according to Territorial. There are also lots of jalapenos and the Anaheim peppers are coming on. Pruned a couple of the tomato plants yesterday to try to spur the fruit to ripen. It takes a lot of time when they're this big.

Also watered everything in very deeply keeping a sprinkler moving around the last couple days.

Time: ~2.5 hrs (incl. tomatoes)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Plant

Awesome design for a building/business/living system. Incorporate humanure and you've got a production engine. More here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

More fall crops

Took out the last of the beets and carrots this morning. The beets are a bit hairy but otherwise good, the orange carrots (Nantes) are still crisp and delicious but the purple carrots have started getting a little funny...softish, with an off flavor. Planted out transplants, started with the others 3+ weeks ago: 3 DiCiccio broccoli transplants, 3 cauliflower (Cloud hybrid), and 2 pairs of kale planted right next to each other, interplanted with lettuce and purslane starts.

In front of the growing patch of winter brassicas and lettuces, I added a row of spinach and a row of mixed lettuce in furrows, with radish seeds sprinkled between the rows. I also took out half the mesclun patch and planted 4 chard (Perpetual) plants, about a foot apart.

Scattered lupine seeds over the empty spot in front of the peppers and raked/watered them in.

I'm generally planting in depressions right now. That's how Robert does it and it doesn't seem to hurt, and for transplants and seeds trying to get started mid-summer, it just makes a lot of sense.

Harvested a small bucket of carrots, a fat bunch of medium-sized beets, 3 giant leaves of Fordhook giant chard, a head of New Red Fire lettuce, and a head of Jericho Romaine lettuce.

Time: 1.5 hrs

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

Took a lot of the spring stuff out Monday night, including the peas, broccoli, and the last mustard standing. The snap peas still had flowers but probably few prospects of producing, the other peas were old and full of pea weevils (the reason Carol Deppe doesn't grow peas for drying). The broccoli was still sending out sideshoots, but they were getting more and more pitiful (skinny and small and woody); they were massive plants!

I planted 3 Brussels Sprouts (Falstaff), 3 Overwintering Broccoli (Purple Sprouting) and 2-3 each of the four lettuces we've been growing all year (New Red Fire, Jericho Romaine, Green Deer Tongue, and Buttercrunch). These were sprouted in the little soil blocks, and I planted each in a 1/3 toilet paper tube collar, pushed it down over them with my palm.

I also untangled the beans, breaking quite a few leaves and shoots off, and got them started up a trellis, taken from the old peas. And we have our first ripe tomatoes! Don't know which ones yet, photo courtesy of Wojtek.

Harvesting lettuce again, and radishes, carrots, beets, and chard, and kale/lettuce from the greens patch, which is STILL GOING and is so bunched together that the lettuce hasn't bolted but is getting a little bitter. The kale leaves -- the ones not covered in aphids -- are young and tender. Throwing nasturtium and cilantro flowers in the salads. Yesterday I discovered some sort of little wasp among my greens and freed it! A parasitic wasp! I think. First I've seen.

Compost Tea

Jim Zamzow's Gardening Tip#11 from Zamzows Lawn, Garden, and Pet on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Old-timers talk about farming

Highlights include a great seed-starting setup, bird and bat houses, general thriftiness, canning, and the fact that they once raised all their own meat. A bit more info here, including the size of their farm -- 3.5 acres -- and their 150 hens that lay 12 dozen eggs every day in the spring, but only 5 dozen by the fall. Their favorite breed is the Americauna "because they are good layers, docile, and their blue-green eggs are beautiful as well as healthful (they are supposed to be lower in cholesterol)." Earl is 71, and credits the success of his farm to rabbit, chicken, and horse manure, and the lack of gophers to the owl houses he installed.

Guide to building birdhouses.

The Future of Farming in Vermont - on ThoughtCast from thoughtcast on Vimeo.

Rice in thePacific NW?

I can find no information about growing rice (outside of containers) in the Pacific Northwest. I realize we're not a wet summer climate, and Vermont is, but what about Fukuoka-style rice farming with only a briefly-flooded field?


Agroinnovations interview with Ben Falk, growing rice in Vermont
Bruce on temperate rice in Vermont (article)
Larry Korn on Fukuoka's method (video)

soil blocks - 3 days later

Seeds mostly all sprouted, except the chard and basil (starting). The lettuce already reaching toward the light, so I moved the trays out onto the deck for the day. Nice and overcast, hoping it stays that way so they don't get dried and fried by a wicked afternoon sun. Stuck them in a slightly sheltered corner of the deck, protected from direct rain and late afternoon sun, just in case.

Monday, July 11, 2011

fall/winter garden planning

It's on!

Seeds started in 3/4" soil blocks yesterday (all Territorial):

Broccoli "Purple Sprouting"
Brussels Sprouts "Falstaff"
Cauliflower "Cloud hybrid"
Broccoli "Di Ciccio"
Spinach "Savoy"
Lettuce, Loose Leaf "New Red Fire"
Lettuce, Butterhead "Buttercrunch"
Lettuce "Green Deer Tongue"
Lettuce, Romaine "Jericho"
Chard "Perpetual"
Chard "Fordhook Giant"
Kale "Red Russian"

The kale in the garden has nasty aphids. Trying to figure out what to do about that.

A quick sketch of what to do in July by NWedible

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

vision - Driftless Area, WI

The Driftless Area is gorgeous.

The Kickapoo River Valley from Ontario through Wauzeka, and all the side canyons.

Viroqua is an awesome little town, with two local and sustainable restaurants on the main drag, a stocked, quality food co-op, a bookstore with the best selection of homesteading/ organic farming/ permaculture books I've seen, and a Waldorf school that has brought hundreds of families to the region to stay. El and I realized we're a consumer demographic.

The land is gorgeous, circumvented by the glaciers that flattened the rest of the midwest. Industrial agriculture never got a foothold because the land is just too rumpled, too full of nooks and valleys, the farms too broken up. So it was poor for a while, until the Organic Valley Cooperative turned it into the organic dairy hub of the world. The Kickapoo River is the windiest river in the states, snaking around through its ancient floodplain taking its sweet time to meet up with the Wisconsin then dump into the Mississippi. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve formed after a bungled government flood-control intervention left La Farge with an unfinished dam and a lot of relocated families and ire in the community. It is co-managed with the Ho-Chunk Indian tribe.

Each farm has its domain. As an example of an ideal local property, take this:

* 221 acres.
* 3 homes, a big barn, a few other outbuildings, and the original sandstone settler's cottage that needs some fixing up.
* 2 ponds full of fish.
* Several springs.
* An entire miniature watershed following a side canyon of the river canyon and its three little headwater canyons.
* A pasture up top, garden space all around the homes and ponds, a pasture in the canyon, and a pasture down in the river's hundred-year floodplain.
* Lots of woods everywhere else.
* $800,000.

We saw this place on the side of the road and drove in to check it out. Found the listing later: 15287 Turfan Rd., Gays Mills, WI.
"221 acres of natural beauty. This property has 57 acres along the Kickapoo River, 2 very large ponds with fish, 167 wooded acres in the MFL, and 3 homes, a 34x56รข€™ pole building and barn used for entertaining all immaculately cared for. The newest home/chalet has over 3000 sq ft (4BR, 2.75 bath) and overlooks the largest pond. Excellent retirement home or family retreat. This property has it all. Rentals properties could be sold for $150,000 reducing overall investment."
The questions remain: what to do with this land? How to make it pay? How to avoid isolation?

I imagine something like seven families going in on it. That's 30+ acres per family for $115,000 each. 20% down on a 15-year loan, so a $4900 mortgage. $900 per family. Add to that cooperative fees for tools, land management, facility maintenance, and such, and each family might pay between $1100 and $1500 per month, depending on whether we're paying or installing power systems individually or collectively and so on. My thought is that each family would need to come up with this amount regularly. People could establish ventures to make the land pay -- for example, we might collectively own and operate an inn or bed & breakfast while also using the barn as a venue for weddings, concerts, or retreats, meanwhile having it all in the midst of a working farm. We could potentially all earn all of our income on-site, but we wouldn't have to. We would just need to make the minimum payment every month, and could do so with an outside job. Key notions: Economic resilience. Pooling resources. Diversifying revenue streams. Having a powerful tangible asset. Creating value. Generating Surplus. Hard work. Communication. Cooperation. Success. Setting an example. Participating in the resilient communities network/ movement.

A final thought on how to do it: run it as a business? As a cooperative business? As a nonprofit organization? As a land trust? Research this. A good legal model for striking the right balance between cooperation and independence, with clear but flexible boundaries. More on this here.

More resources:

Center for Regenerative Society in the Driftless Area
Driftless Folk School
The Driftless Food and Farm Project
Driftless Area Initiative
Whole Trees Architecture
The Wormfarm: A working farm in the Driftless Area with artist residencies.

Peach Disease

Discovered this grossness on our peach tree:

As far as I can tell from googling, it's got perennial canker, also called Valsa canker, Cytospora canker, Leucostoma canker, and peach canker. Leucostoma cincta or persoonii -- not sure which, not sure it matters.
Canker eradication. During the pruning operation, remove all cankers on small branches or limbs, making a thinning cut at least 4 inches (10 cm) beneath the edge of the cankered zone. On large scaffold limbs or the trunk, it is possible to surgically remove cankers during the late spring or early summer, when the wounds will heal most rapidly. Although this is a time consuming procedure, it is particularly useful for eradicating canker from young orchards in the early stages of disease development, before it has a chance to spread. It should not be practiced when cankers affect more than half of the branch diameter.

Surgery should be performed during dry weather, preferably when no rain is forecast for at least 3 days. Using a sharp knife, remove all diseased bark around each canker, plus a 3/4- to 1-inch (2-2.5 cm) margin of healthy tissue around the edges; it is not necessary to dig into the hardwood, but there should be no brown inner bark that remains. To heal properly, the finished cut should have a smooth margin and be slightly rounded at the top and bottom ends. It is not necessary or helpful to cover these cuts with a wound dressing.
Gotta do some serious surgery. It's really widespread on the tree. Lots of oozing.

summer garden

Started thinking about the garden in the days before coming back from our trip to WI. Couldn't wait to see it. Come home to find it in pretty good shape.

Chard is harvestable and being harvested. The one remaining deer tongue lettuce has not bolted! I can't imagine it's very good at this point. I want it to bolt so I can save the seed. The spinach is all gone, the mizuna, and the new lettuces are coming in nicely but still have 2-4 weeks till maturity, I'd guess. The dill and cilantro are doing great. Mike's been pinching the flower stalks off the cilantro and says its still good. The mesclun patch could really be torn out and re-seeded. Ah, for time!

The tomato plants are big and healthy and desperately in need of caging. Wojtek bought the 6" wire mesh so now we really have to get on it. The peppers are little but look good. My squash seeds have sprouted and the one transplant at the garden is doing really well. The beans that languished in their mudballs for weeks/months on the deck and at the garden have really gotten twiny! They are searching for a trellis and wanting to grow!

DISAPPOINTMENTS: All the luffa plants look terrible. None have grown and most have yellowed and died. Even the one in the big pot here has not grown, nor has the squash next to it, though the squash seeds have come up in the other pot. I wonder if this is because of having their roots disturbed? Supposedly they don't like it, but I did fuss with most of the roots a bit because they were potbound. The basil plants looked great at first glance when I got back. Twenty-five or so had survived and most were big. On closer glance, they were absolutely covered in thrips and aphids, which they must have contracted from my un-dealt with diseased houseplants. I tossed all the basil plants into the yard waste bin, and several pest-ridden houseplants with them. With the other pest-ridden houseplants, I went on a cut and cure binge, pruning them down and spritzing them thoroughly with neem oil. Fingers crossed.

The broccoli looks amazing. All the main crowns were harvested while I was away, but there are side shoots galore. The peas, too, are really putting out. The tall ones need to fatten still, but the shorter ones are snow peas. I am going to stir-fry with broccoli, snow peas, and the one remaining bok choy for the house meal on Thursday.

NOTE: Before I left for the trip, on June 10 I believe, I planted the beans in the back of the East bed, and hilled up a part of the bed for squash, transplanting the healthiest of my starts and seeding the rest. I also planted the big pots at home in the backyard, up against the chicken run and the South side of the house, with luffa and squash. I don't remember which squahs seeds I planted where, but I've got Oregon Sweet Meat and something Buttersomething.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

break in the flow

The greens are about done.

Even the perpetual greens patch has gone stemmy. The mizuna and rabe has gotten tougher and bitter. The spinach is bolting and the deer tongue lettuce is starting to. Yesterday I pulled one of the last lettuces up. It was full of little slugs, fugitives from the loss of habitat. I think keeping a clean garden with no weeds and compost instead of layered mulch helps keep the slug population down, perhaps a lot. There were also a couple spiders in the lettuce, also fugitives of habitat loss. I made sure they escaped to go back to their good work. I stepped on the slugs. Sorry dudes. Conditional love.

The new seedlings are coming along in the garden, but it will be at least 2-3 weeks before even the chard is harvestable.

The broccoli's coming out.

The beets are fattening.

The peas, finally, are flowering.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

the greens perpetuate

"Perpetual greens" is what is says on our garden map. That is the mission! We failed at first by planting all our lettuce and greens at once, but now we're popping/seeding lettuces in as we pluck the first ones out. Today I went down and direct seeded a bunch of lettuce in the old lettuce rows. Only three lettuces remain in the ground from the orginals. In each spot I seeded, I first scooped out a bit of soil, threw down a handful of compost, pressed it firmly but not hard to restore capillarity, tossed 8 or so lttle seeds loosely onto each spot, came back with a heavy sprinkle of compost, pressed it down lightly, and watered.

I also planted the beans, which have been growing dutifully out of their mudballs for weeks now, sitting outside on a tray. I planted them with two sprouting next to each other. We will see how they do.

Still no flowers on the peas, though they're four feet tall or more. Too much nitrogen? Mike thinks so.

I fertilized with fish emulsion today, 4 tbsp in 2 gallons of water, mostly doused the little lettuces and beans, and gave a bit to the other new plantings, including the chard, bok choi, tomatoes, and peppers.

I "up-blocked" the little basils on Tuesday night. There are now thirty or so 2" cubes with the little basil cubes stuck in them. Some of them had a long root that had hopped to the little block next door, which I had to cut. The stems of some of them have shriveled, though not fatally. I have been waiting too long to upblock. I think the right time to do it must be within a couple days after they sprout, though the roots seem to reach the edge of the block and tell the plant to just freeze and wait until there's more soil. I added more peat moss and compost, measured in handfuls and guessed, a bit more moss than compost. The new cubes hold together really well. Their sides are sheer, they're hard.

Time: ~ 2 hours (including basil up-blocking)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The summer garden is in!

Woke up this morning anxious to get the tomatoes and peppers in the ground, as they are growing more rootbound by the day. Gathered up materials, went to the garden and broadcast Steve Solomon's all-purpose fertilizer at about 70-80% Steve Solomon's recommended amount, about a quarter inch of compost, raked and chopped it in, and planted:

9 tomatoes - 2 Yellow Pear, 2 Red Siberian, 1 Sungold, 1 unknown but healthy, 1 unkown and left outside in a pot since April but REALLY robust and healthy looking, and a couple other cherries...?

11 peppers - 2 Anaheim, 4 Jalapeno, 2 Hot Thai Chili, 2 Sweet Jimmy Nardelo's

Mixed a quarter cup of fertilizer into the bottom of the hole in which each tomato was planted and half as much for the peppers, and sunk a portion of each plant's stem below soil level. Elana helped at first, harvested a bunch of greens including 3 heads of lettuce, and went home. Then Wojtek woke up, came out, and helped plant as Davi made us mochas and cappuccinos. The soil was warm and it was a joy to work it with bare hands. The garden is lush and incredible. Little tiny Broccoli heads have appeared down in the middle of the luscious, leafy plants. There are still no flowers on the peas, though the vines are getting toward 3 feet at least. Strange.

Been researching building heavy-duty tomato cages and trellises for gourds and such. Talked with my dad about it a bit--a certifiable expert--then came across this great article in Mother Earth News recommended the exact same method as dad but with detailed instructions. A 150' roll of 5' wide concrete reinforcing 6" mesh costs $98 at Lowes and would make 14 tomato cages and 3 ten foot trellis with 30+ feet to spare.

Time in the garden this morning: 1.5 hours

Friday, May 27, 2011


Tomatoes are spending too much time in their pots. The ones in 2" pots in particular are wrapped up tight and have been, I think, for a while. I'm not sure how the ones in the 4" pots are doing yet, but I think maybe ot so good. The one's I potted in with compost into the bigger 6" pots should be fine, but that's only a handful. It's been hard staying on top of all these little plants.

Made my first soil blocks with Eliot Coleman's mix last weekend. Too much sand, I think. Heavy, and don't stay together well. Put the little lettuces in them nonetheless and stuck them outside under cover of the awning. I think the rain would destroy them, but the temp's just fine.

The spring greens harvest coming out of the garden is epic. Neither I nor Mike nor Wojtek and Davi should have to buy lettuce or salad greens for the next couple weeks. It's a race now to eat it all before it bolts or gets bitter.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Walt's Organic Fertilizer run

On May 6, picked up:

20 lb. cottonseed meal $31.80
10 lb. colloidal (soft rock) phosphate $10.20
4 lb. kelp (meal?) $14.00
4 lb. blood meal $8
4 lb. greensand $7
1 oz. water soluble kelp (use at 1 tsp/quart)

oh, and 2 packets of squash seed $6

Subtotal: $83.10
Tax: $7.89
TOTAL: $90.99

She also gave me the rundown on Ag vs. Dolomite lime. Dolomite has a higher magnesium content, which apparently can cause soil problems; apply once ever 4 years only. Both come in powder and pelleted forms.

In-planting and harvesting

Poked around the garden today with Wotjek. Planted rows of radishes between the existing lettuce rows, figuring they'll come up as the old lettuce comes out and the new lettuce goes in. Will they have enough light between the rows to come up? We'll see, I've been harvesting the outer leaves of the lettuce and mustard, which clears some space.

Planted little lettuce sprouts (literally tiny little sprouts) at the heads of the lettuce rows where we've been harvesting radishes. Will up-pot the rest of the lettuce sprouts into 2" soil blocks and keep them so when the rest of the lettuce comes out of the ground they'll be ready to pop right in.

Planted 4 chard plants, one randomly, one in the inside space around the rabe.

Planted 4 bok choy plants around the strawberries.

Harvested the first two lettuce heads--new red fire. Took every other one out so we can see how big the rest get. The green deer tongue is small but bunchy; I tried a leaf and it's real bitter. Over the top already? I wonder how big they're supposed to get.

No flowers on the pea vines yet.

Mixed up a container of Eliot Coleman's 3-part fertilizer (greensand, colloidal phosphate, blood meal) and a tub of blocking mix. Wet some of it in a separate tub to soak to use for 2" soil blocks tomorrow.

Time: 3 hrs

Friday, May 20, 2011

Soil Blocks

Elliot Coleman's soil block mix (follow the steps in the order given):
30 parts brown peat
1/8 part lime
20 parts coarse sand or perlite
3/4 part base fertilizer - equal parts colloidal (soft rock) phosphate, greensand, and blood meal
10 parts soil
20 parts compost
The lime is combined with the peat because most acid. Then sand or perlite added. Then the base fertilizer mixed in...all to distribute uniformly as possible. Add soil and compost and mix a final time.

...Mini-block recipe (no blood meal; peat & compost finely strained thru 1/4" inch mesh):
16 parts brown peat
1/4 part colloidal phosphate
1/4 part greensand (leave out if unavailable; do not substitute dried seaweed product)
4 parts compost (well-decomposed)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy tomatoes & peppers

And it looks like they'll be able to start spending nights out at the end of the week.

Harvested a ton of Mizuna and purple mustard again yesterday, as well as bundle of Broccoli rabe. Also picked some of the outer leaves off the Romaine lettuceheads, which should be mature in a week or two if they're not already. That little patch of mesclun mix is incredibly abundant, though the patch I first cut isn't quite harvestable again yet. The slugs have started to appear, little ones making little holes and hiding in the greens. Also harvested three plump little radishes. They're going fast. Note to self: plant more radishes, and stagger the plantings. The staggering part is definitely true for all the greens, too.

The lettuce seeds in the mini-cubes are starting to come up. None of the others are yet.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring harvest, more seeds

Popped out 80 little mini-blocks today to start 10 new red fire lettuces, 10 jericho romaine lettuces, 10 purslane, 10 corn salad, and 40 sweet basil. Used Miracle Gro MC mix again, and sprinkled coco coir on top of the seeds. Uppoted a handful of the larger tomatoes in 2 quart pots (?) to make sure they don't get rootbound before planting, since the weather's looking like planting won't take place for at least another week if not two. Also uppotted one of the Luffas and one of the squash. I've been leaving the transplants out all day and some of the night on the warmer nights, but bringing them in when it gets cold at night.

The garden looks lush. The mesclun mix has been very harvestable for a week, and comes back almost as quick as you can cut it. I think our little 2x4 plot will keep the four of us in greens for a while. The first harvest was almost all mizuna, which is getting tall a lot quick than everything else. Cutting a couple inches above the ground has given the leaf lettuces and bok choys a chance to get started. We also have four lush mizuna plants, so there's not much diversity to the harvest yet. The big purple mustards need to be harvested more than they are. The succulent little radishes are getting plucked out of the ground before they're really getting a chance to mature, but they are good! The lettuces and spinach will be ready in a week or two, I think.

We're getting regular harvests off the four rabe plants, and the broccoli's healthy but not even starting to flower yet. The peas aren't flowering yet either, but they're climbing. The carrots and beets are healthy little dudes, but small. The kale is starting to get growing, I've thinned to one plant per cluster now, and we have six planted in two rows across the four foot bed. Finally, the two cilantros and the dill haven't grown much but they've sturdied up and greened up and I think they're about to get going.

Very, very satisfying. Sunny, gorgeous morning, shirtless on the deck. Homework be damned.

Time: ~1.5 hrs

To Do:
- Rake the piled, dead clover back over the bed. Don't dig in because the decay process might bind up nitrogen, which the tomatoes are going to want when they go in the ground.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 1 Garden Update

Fertilized everything with liquid fish emulsion yesterday and spread compost around the strawberries. The raab is harvestable, though I don't want to harvest too much lest I stunt its growth into the season--just picking the buds before the flowers open. The radishes will be ready in a week or two. The carrots and beets have had their first round of thinning, just to keep them from "bumping." The mesclun mix can be harvested with scissors in the next week or two as well, especially I think if we get more sun. The soil looks wonderful.

Yesterday when the sun was shining I chopped up the rest of the clover on the summer bed, leaving it on top to dry as best as possible. We had pulled and piled a bunch of it already, so I raked all that aside into a pile, and in a couple weeks will rake it back over the bed and dig it into the soil.

The starts are big and lush--at least all those that were started in potting soil as opposed to seed starter mix. They spent their first day on teh deck yesterday, some in sun and most under the shade of the picnic table.