My talented 'Executive Assistant' Janet is making some dandelion balsamic vinegar. She says all you do is fill a jar with blossoms, push them down some. Cover completely with balsamic vinegar (or whatever vinegar you desire). You can cap it or cover with a towel/cloth/rubber band. Store in a dark cabinet for about a month. The top might get a little funky but it is easily removed. It will be ready at the same time as the chard.
I have a pound of Valencia I'll be putting in over the next couple of days. Peanuts will do well in the heat, humidity and sand.
If not sand, loose soil is needed. Peanuts have an interesting method of protecting the seeds after the flowers have pollinated. They peg. A shoot grows down from each flower to penetrate the soil. If the soil is too hard or firm, the peg can not penetrate deeply. The sun and bugs can do damage to the pods. You can get a good idea of how many peanuts you'll have by counting the pegs. A good Valencia can develop 10-20 pegs with 2-4 peanuts per pod, 50 peanuts per plant is good performance. 1 pound in, 50 pounds out. I'll be happy to get 20 pounds out.
Water. Everything needs water. From seed to peg, the plant needs water. By the time it has pegged, the plant can get by with less water as the roots will be fully developed
Lime. I have no idea how much, but everyone around here spread lime before they plant.
Organic inputs must be derived from organic sources. A certifying agency worth its salt would revoke certification for a farm using manure from cows fed with corn that was not also certified organic. There are ways around the NOP rules. There are certifying agencies that will allow non-certified-organic compost to be used when certified organic compost is not available or affordable if actions are taken to clean it up. I was told over the phone by a certifying agent that they allow compost to be used from any source as long as it was spread out to aerate for at least a week prior to planting.
Like that's going to solve anything.
There are gaps between the NOP rules and actual practices in the field. To close the gaps, testing of the crops is a requirement. Circumventing the testing is still possible if an area of the field is operated strictly and the crops grown on that section is submitted to the certifying agency for testing. Then there is the farm with some of the land certified organic and some operated without certification. What keeps that farmer from putting a Certified Organic sticker on produce grown on the icky field? Can a produce distributor add a sticker? How about the market? The watchful eyes of the certifying agency are not omnipresent. With a premium price attached to certified organic produce there is an incentive to cheat. The only way to have faith in your food is to get to know the farmer and determine if his ethics and passion suit your demands.
Don't take this as an accusation that all organic growers are crooks. Most of them follow the rules, and when they do, some decent food is the result. However, NOP rules for Certified Organic crops dictate only the inputs. The methods used do not necessarily promote stewardship of the earth. Certified Organic can still be grown in monoculture row crops with all the tilling, bare earth, dusting and spraying found with conventional chemical agriculture. It still relies on the grower supplementing the field fertility with inputs, controlling pests and disease with foliar sprays, and mechanical weeding. Except for the label and contents on the package, the methods can be identical on a large scale. For those following the rules, at least the chemicals have been taken out of the equation.
I've said before that organic growing is a stepping stone permaculture. With inputs in place, the methods are the next step. The methods replace the need for inputs. Enriching the soil with organic matter supports the life in the soil that enhances fertility. Soil microbes do the work of chelating nutrients-changing the molecules into a form the plants can use. Soil fungi hold the soil together, reducing runoff and erosion which drain away the nutrients. Soil carbon holds onto nutrients, keeping them available for the microbes and plants. Bring on the worms, the soil is loose and aerated, allowing the plants to grow impressive root systems that can reach deeper for the nutrients they need. Deep mulch retains soil moisture, blocks weeds, and shades the microbes from the damaging sun. Polyculture promotes insect biodiversity and retards the ability of the bad bugs to reproduce to destructive population levels. Everything works together. You won't need the constant irrigation. You won't need to feed the plants. You won't need to spend endless days weeding. You won't need to till. You won't need to spray for bugs. You won't need to fertilize.
Humanure AKA night soil. This has been used for centuries. If you are not selling your crops, go for it. Get the book. Urine is an available option, read up on it before you use it.
Peas, beans, peanuts, clover, vetch will all add nitrogen. Peas are about the best dinner vegetable there is.
Grass clippings are awesome. Add them to compost, mulch the growing areas. There is a thread about making liquid fertilizer from weeds. I've gone further with an article on Liquid Grass Clipping Fertilizer which I am employing with excellent results. This is a fast, cheap source of nitrogen, as well as some phosphorus and a bunch of potassium.
There is a whole forum dedicated to composting. Compost offers nutrients. You'll find leaf mold to be an important part of your methods for carbon, fungi, and minerals. I wrote an article on leaf mold starting from my posts on Permies.com.
I picked up a hand crank apple peeler a few years back when I had a couple hundred pounds of apples to deal with. Peels, cores, slices just by turning the handle.
Turns out the handle could be removed. This end of the shaft was secured to a cordless drill...
Peelings were hitting the ceiling.
If you use styrofoam be sure to cover it with a solid panel to prevent access by the hens. If they can get to it, they'll peck at it. If they peck at it, they'll break pieces off. Once they see a small nibble size piece...IT'S ON!
The chickens will peck and eat the styrofoam relentlessly. Having no nutritional value, it won't do them any good. The bits will be ground up in their gizzard to some degree and pass through without issue in small amounts. I don't know what large amounts will do, but I would not want to find out.
Some shots from around the place. Had 5 trees taken down around power lines, the house, and the well.
Added a shot of the neighbor's place to see what happens after a couple of years of being left alone.
Along with the seed swap, have you considered a book swap?
Lots of people have lots of books they've read and shelved. Rather than leave them on the shelf, bring em in, swap em with someone else.
Adds another dimension to the event.
I considered Scubblyas a distribution method for E-books, but the nature of the books demands print. The series is akin to the style of the Foxfire books. People hold on to them like family heirlooms. With quality content, people will hold on to these with equal tenacity. Because of the need for quality, The project must not be rushed. It will take time to put together.
Yup, you're crazy. In my experience, crazy is an essential aspect of being an entrepreneur.
What you are essentially talking about is mob grazing. Check out Alan Savory's work.
I've thought about this, called it Chicken Tilling, but it never occurred to employ the birds as an enterprise. On a small scale, with a movable tractor covering a small area, the chickens will clear away every bit of green, stir up the soil, and blend in their droppings. I've contained chickens in tall grass. Some areas they will clear down to soil. Other places can be left matted or growing. Perhaps the population density was not high enough for complete razing. Take the chickens away, stuff grows like wildfire. I can see the benefit of the idea when used in the right settings. Brushy, woody locations would not seem to be ideal, but I don't have an example of this working or not.
Seems to me if this were done on a large scale, containment and security would be a key issue. Each location will have different hazards, be they predators, humans, or contaminants. The right fence would be needed, as well as overhead protection. For mobility, lightweight, easy to erect/remove, and enough durability to warrant the cost. Plastic screen kinda fits this, but unwelcome entry is way too easy. Perhaps chain link with posts set in concrete buckets? Transportation would best be done at night. If you have to gather the chickens, nighttime is the easy time. They always go home at night. Being they have a preference for the same roost every night, the coop would be the transportation. Leave it in place for the duration of the job. With the same housing in place at all times, you'd have to make the trip to lock it at night, open it up back up in the morning. At least it will deter easy theft.
Chickens don't eat evenly. They'll take the low hanging fruit first, then work their way to the least desirable weeds and stems. I think nutrition might require supplemental feeding. This has the advantage of directing the birds to a particular area that needs further scratching. I've noticed that anywhere I toss some scratch grains or pieces of bread, the chickens will work that area over looking for that least morsel. Putting that behavior to work for you may be possible. Add compost, the chickens will spread it. Follow up with feed so the girls work that compost into the soil. The top inch or two will be well blended.
The charge for the service would depend on the area being Chicken Tilled, how extensive the job needs to be, and the travel costs twice per day. Downtime will need a place for the birds to hang out on their days off.
If you can put this together, I think there may be a market, if the price is right. How big that market would be, and if it could support the investment I can not guess at.
I've been to meetings like this.
In a particular coaching workshop I was asked what I would say when my (hypothetical) wife came home complaining about how hard her day was.
My response: "Too bad. Now get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!"
Boss said I missed the point of the exercise.
It is the answers to the tough questions that show the ability of the plan to hold up under scrutiny.
The 7% interest rate is not far from historical bank rates over the past 38 years. A $50,000 mortgage at 7% with a 15 year term would see a payment of $449.41/month coming back into the fund. If the prospective farmer can get a better rate from a bank, then by all means, go for it. This is not a bank, so bank rates are not the norm. Private investment capital carries a premium as banks are not always willing to get involved. This figure leaves ample room for better offers from outside investors, as well as bank refinancing. The Farmland Fund includes tracking the progress of the farmer, giving them a chance to prove their worth and attract refinancing offers. If a farm is refinanced, the fund is replenished and can take on another proposal.
Zero interest was considered, as well as lower interest rates. The primary reason for the 7% rate is to account for inflation. Without growth in the fund, purchasing power will be reduced over time, taking with it the ability to offer opportunity.
Interest on a $50,000 loan at 7% would be around $3500/year. There are some expenses associated with operating the fund: bank fees, legal fees, registering and renewing the LLC, maintaining the website. See the Plan, Section 4.1: Accountability. Full disclosure of where the money comes from and goes to is a critical element. I do not draw income from the fund, donations to it, or interest on loans. In the event the fund becomes active enough that a staff is required, the interest serves as the income source required to pay the staff.
The fundraising plan for the Farmwhisperer Farmland Fund (Details) includes a collaborative book project. The book is intended as a reader-a collection of articles, essays, stories and papers dealing with a particular subject matter. The first book of the series will be focused on projects suitable for a Natural Growing Farm and Homestead. This covers permaculture, certified organic, all natural, and wild harvested foods, be they plant, animal, fungi, livestock or fish, from growing, to harvest, to processing, to marketing. The scope of the first edition includes renewable energy, structures, habitats and shelters. There is a great deal of lattitude for the writers.
You are invited to write an article or paper, 1000-2000 words, pertaining to a specific area in which your have competent knowledge and experience. If, in your opinion, your paper falls within the scope of the subject, feel free to submit it. The best 100 papers will be selected. The paper will be non-fiction, with a length of 1000-2000 words. Photos may be included. For the sake of keeping publishing costs down, they will be printed in greyscale. This will be original work. If it has been previously published, in print or electronically, it will not be accepted without written permission of the copyright holder.
The finished book will be offered on Kickstarter in order to raise the estimated $15000 required to produce the first printing.
The collaborative effort extends past content to include promotion. As an incentive to promote the book, after the first 500 copies are sold, $5 from the sale of each copy will be paid to the writers. For 100 writers, this works out to $.05US/writer/copy sold, starting with the 501st copy. This compensation will be paid in $50 increments or annually.
If your paper is not selected, do not despair. There will be other editions with other topics.
I've been working on this idea since September, with lots of hair pulling, research, and more coffee than I would have thought possible. Already burned out 1 laptop. After many late nights, the pieces are starting to fall into place.
It is my intention to establish a fund to be used to purchase or finance properties which will be developed into natural growing farms.
This is a bold statement, and one for which Posterity demands a thorough explanation. The plan has several features which are mutually supportive, but each feature and the overall plan can still function independently. There is opportunity for anyone interested to earn money, from spare cash to residual income to a decent living to investment income. How fast this idea takes off and the scope that can be reached is a matter of people getting the word out and contributing time, effort, and ideas. How far the project goes is dependent on persistence.
I keep a quote on the margin of my website, www.farmwhisperer.com...
"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
There are people everywhere who have the dream of owning a small piece of land and earning a living from it by growing vegetables, raising livestock, and operating a small farm. There are variations, of course, as many as there are people. There are those who would gravitate towards bees or chickens or grass fed beef. Others with a desire for healing or culinary herbs. Vegetables show great promise, with a ready market found in the growing demand for local goods. Still others simply want a place to raise a family in a wholesome, natural setting with good food and clean air.
The biggest obstacle in getting started is often getting the land. Downpayment, closing costs, and deposits on utilities all slurp up cash like a sponge. Once the land is in place, there is the constant burden of the mortgage and finding a means of putting the farm on a paying basis. In addition, the propective new farmer must uproot his family, incur the costs of moving, and somehow scrape up the capital to invest in the farm operation. That's with banks, having taken a beating in the last housing bubble, demanding excessive documentation, a long and strict credit history, and are uninterested in financing farm operations when things are good. All the while, a weak economy combined with few employment options create difficulties in making the leap of faith required to give it a go. Nonetheless, the Dream persists.
For such a project to succeed it must be viable over the long term, highly detailed with contingencies to minimize failure, and set up from the start to be a stand alone enterprise, independent of outside influence. Encumbrances must be removed, and where that is not possible, identified and mitigated. Raising capital can be best served by openly presenting the facts of where it comes from and how it is used. The people involved will require screening, perhaps training, and continuous access to new ideas and methods. The property in question will need to be examined, with the plan for the operation highly scrutinized, with progress tracked. Incentives can be put in place to enhance results, provide opportunity, and duplicate successes.
There is no One Size Fits All formula. Properties are as diverse as people. End use of the funds, while contractualized, will be dependent on the situation presented. Properties can be leased, mortgaged, rent to own, owner financed, refinanced, or retained as a subsidiary enterprise and repurposed. Properties may be bare land to be used for farming, include structures to be used by the farm, include a home to be occupied by the owner(s), or a complex of land and structures to be put to several tasks which may or may not include housing. The project is not without risk. Non-performing projects will be examined for the best possible solution. Foreclosure and subsequent liquidation are viable options. Neither the fund nor the sponsored farms are immune to failure. Risk will be contained inasmuch as possible. Precarious situations brought to light, openly disclosed and discussed.
This is not a get rich quick scheme. It's not even a get rich slow scheme. Nobody gets involved in farming because of it's fast track to wealth. While I stand a chance of earning an honest living one day, I'm giving up neither my day job nor my own aspirations of building a business growing vegetables. I appreciate your patience while I assemble the details, to be published here as free time allows.
Details of the plan may be found in the Farmland Fund Plan Index Comments, suggestions, and critical opinion is welcome.
I've experimented with just about every published gardening method. Early on I discounted Patricia Lanza's Lasagna Gardening technique as being a novel means of composting. After much trial and developing my own methods as best I can, I end up with, of all things, a method which is consistent with Lasagna Gardening. It's easy, effective, simple, and most importantly for me, it is VERY productive. If you've not tried it, get out there and get your hands dirty.
My response to your questions
1. Is the goal to build the soil below and above the ground or just above?
The ultimate goal is a deep, rich soil bed. If you only put effort into the surface, the nutrients will leach into the soil below. Worms will thrive, they will do the job of tilling for you. As roots from your plants grow, they will reach deep into the soil where they will break it up more with each crop, then decay, adding their organic material directly into the ground.
2. If the goal is to build the soil below the ground too, would tilling the ground before setting the sheet mulch help the process?
It can, but if you are not adding material before tilling, there will be some degree of resettling, making your effort vain. If you skip the step, the roots and worms will do this job, and do it better.
3. Is adding plant matter from plants grown in the beds enough to maintain the fertility of the beds or must more outside input be brought in to keep it going?
If you put back in what was taken out, there is no net gain. There will be the same level of biological activity, although the diversity of the lifeforms will change as a result of your efforts. If you want to increase the activity, add more life supporting organic material from many different sources.
4. Why is the cardboard/newspaper important? Could it not be substituted with leaves for example?
I use leaves. I can't say enough good things about leaves. Leaves are the best thing in the history of the known universe. Add them, then add some more. I smother a new bed with a foot of leaves and let them rot down. If left untouched, you'll have a layer of leaf mold under a top layer of undecomposed leaves. Only good comes from this. As the leaves decay they will allow some grass and weeds to penetrate. What I observe is an entirely different variety of species than in the pathways between beds treated this way. It's night and day over a distance of a few inches. The lignin in the leaves are decomposed by fungi ONLY, so this method establishes the foundation for nutrient distribution within the soil.
A Thank You card is always appropriate. Tipping emergency services is not appropriate, although probably appreciated. If tipping emergency responders were the expectation, it may result in people not calling for help when it is needed. A non-monetary thank you gift would go over well: home baked cookies or a couple loaves of freshly baked bread dropped off at the station along with the card.
For your carbon , you'll want a source that is high in cellulose rather than high in lignin. Bacteria can break down cellulose rapidly. Only fungi can break down lignin, and its a slow process.
Cellulose materials include hay, straw, dried grasses. Lignin materials are woody- wood chips, leaves, sawdust.
A compost heap will heat up fast and stay hot if the mix is right, but this will kill off the fungi in the hot parts of the pile. It takes a while for the fungi to repopulate and finish off the ligning.
If it's speed you want, let the bacteria do their thing, keep the wood out of the heap.
You can't save them all, so save the ones you can.
There may be an opportunity to hold a workshop some weekend. Tour the place, make some tea with the sun, perhaps enjoy a light lunch from the garden, show them how to propagate plants from cuttings and take them home.