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!

Listen to internet radio with Preparedness Radio on Blog Talk Radio

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.