looked at the photo again and still stick with the pokeweed ID. the branching, leaves and immature fruit all look exactly like the ones we have here which i know is pokeweed as they're growing in the exact same place the pokeweed was last year (the purple hanging fruits are a tell-tale sign yes?). some of those don't have the purple stem yet, some do. with that said, i reserve the right to be completely mistaken.
agree with Blake that, no matter what it is, unless it's diseased or has already seeded, it's good compost, as it most likely is taking up minerals that the topsoil needs (especially deep rooted plants).
top : pokeweed -- high value green manure, hack it now before it fruits (although the fruits are pretty cool looking). will grow back and the roots go way way deep so great dynamic accumulator.
middle : asian bittersweet -- "exotic invasive" - will get out of hand quickly without constant chopping. awesome chop & drop green manure plant imho. darn near impossible to get all the roots out unless it's really young. whereever you have this plant growing well, you'll most likely have mycorrhizal fungi in the soil and a good moisture balance. i would suggest that you try to prevent this from fruiting whenever possible, as it's super aggressive.
bottom : good question -- we have a ton of these as well. my current guess is that it's in the Eupatorium family (aka boneset aka snakeroot), but i'm not positive of that.
you seem to be much farther ahead than you may think. adding rock dust from the jump was a smart move.
but, the minerals from rock dust are not immediately bio-available for plants to use. they need the soil microorganisms to convert them and offer them as food for the roots. hence, the reason why your supplier included the compost to make brew. so depending on when you amended, your eggplants may not get the results. but any fall veggies will, and next spring's veggies will even more. in other words, with rock dust, your soil will improve over time, provided it has healthy biological activity.
so yes, make your tea and concentrate your application around the root zone of any current plantings, foliar spray the weak/bug bite ones (best to foliar spray around dawn/dusk as that is when the plant "pores" are most open to receive liquid nutrition).
i'm with Krystelle, i don't intentionally squash any bugs except for ticks (for obvious reasons). then again, i'm willing to sacrifice a plant or several to understand the overall balance (or lack thereof). if you haven't already, you could plant some companions that attract predatory wasps (yarrow is my personal favorite).
as for bokashi, yes, i use an EM type concentrate as a base, but you don't have to, considering you already make yogurt and have excess whey. i would consider adding some whey to your compost tea mixture before you aerate. and when you're ready, do a search for "newspaper bokashi", you may already have all the materials you need without having to purchase anything more.
one last idea to try: if you have a mugwort patch accessible, stick a shovel into the soil and see if there are any white stringy globs in there. if so, you've hit paydirt, cuz that's mycorrhiza. i've been digging up random patches of mugwort all spring and without fail, every one of them is full of myco networks underneath. scoop up some of that soil and white globs and add to your tea mixture. in this application, you wouldn't have to sift out the roots, but if you were to add that soil as a straight amendment, i would most definitely sift them out, otherwise you're going to spread the mugwort, and that plant is vicious once it gets going.
purely anecdotal so YMMV, but it's been working for me.
wish you good fortune with your experiments.
p.s. that uni soil test may not give you a micronutrient reading, which you are going to want to know, especially since you're doing the rock dust thing. if they don't, try Logan Labs or someone else who does an Albrecht style testing method. it's a little more expensive, but immensely more valuable.
i'm also having that issue....anything remotely in that same plant family as eggplant...tomatoes, potatoes, morning glory, shoo-fly plant, bindweed, etc...the leaves are getting munched...i noticed potato beetles on the potato plants but didn't see any specific bugs on the others, just holes...maybe they're japanese beetles?
been taking a 2 pronged approach to this:
1) we have a bunch of pyrethrum daisies growing wild in the field, so i've been transplanting small clumps of them near to the plants being munched. that seems to have helped so far. i have not used the flowers to make an insecticide, because pyrethium is a broad-spectrum insecticide and i do not want to be killing all the bugs, so the daisies have been placed more as a deterrent.
2) also, imho, insect damage to a plant is a sign of a weak plant. i've noticed certain plants of the same family in the same proximity not have any damage at all. they are also the ones with the most vigor. without a broad spectrum soil test, it's impossible to tell what you're lacking as it could be a micronutrient (something besides NPK). in this case, i've been doing compost tea brews using nettle, cattails & mugwort & other vigorous weeds fermented with probiotics and adding a little superthrive (a micronutrient additive). make sure you aerate the brew before you add and dilute your mixture (following Steve Solomon's advice, i do weak mixtures of 8-10:1 more regularly vs. a strong mixture less frequently).
i personally take the approach that the problems and answers to any insect/disease problem lie in the soil and that the soil is so complex with so many interactions that it's best to take a holistic approach to feeding it instead of trying to add specific minerals/nutrients like a chemist.
hopefully, some of the expert gardeners will chime in and add their wisdom.
make a tea out of some and spray the lower leaves.
make a slurry out of some more and pour around the ring.
make a mulch out of even more and dump around.
(you may want to mulch around the crown with rocks to prevent rot from setting in).
grass may not be hurting but it's probably not helping (other than to cover bare soil).
you could always transplant some nettle to let it overtake the grass eventually so that you could chop & drop.
horsetail is also a great fungicide if you have some of that instead.
sorry i misread on the drainage. that makes sense as i remember seeing gravel on the floor of the greenhouse in your homegrown food summit presentation.
nice idea on the sealant & inner fill.
thanks a bunch for answering my questions.
we have a porch in which your concept would work perfectly.
interesting factoid: When skunk cabbage leaves decompose, they don't dry up and crumble; they dissolve. With few fibers, they consist mainly of water and air, as do the spathe and flowers, and disintegrate into these elements. Harder fibers are only found beneath the ground in the roots.
we've been experimenting with harvesting cabbage leaves and mixing with shredded leaf mulch to make a compost. no cabbages were harmed in this experiment. results TBD.
you mentioned in the welcome post that the beds do not drain to the ground. are they similar to a wicking bed (holds water in the bottom with a drainage hole ~2" from the bottom)? where does any excess moisture drain?
do the concrete blocks in your beds wick moisture? i like the simplicity of using blocks but from what i've observed those blocks accumulate moisture when in contact with moist ground and my concern is in keeping any moisture away from wood framing (rot, termites, etc.) if the blocks are also connected to the foundation.
have a few questions regarding roof slope to maximize solar gain in winter/minimize in summer:
--- are there are any hard & fast rules re: figuring out the optimal angle? i realize everyone is different depending upon latitude and individual site parameters, but how does one determine what that angle is?
--- slope & building codes: i think that most building codes (based on IBC) require a roof slope to be 4 inches per foot. this may or may not be optimal for solar gain depending upon individual parameters. any creative ideas on how to design in case that it is not?
hi Ross, you mean the dreaded black knot, yes? it's been decimating the plums & cherries around here as well.
from what i've read, the only way to mitigate the spread of it is to bury the infected wood is it travels by air. don't burn it!
i didn't know that it spread to apples, but what i've been using on the apples for the cedar apple rust is a trick learned from Michael Phelps, nettle tea foliar spray.
it seems to be working so far to improve the trees' vigor, but this year will be the tell.
i'm going to try it on the cherry sucker from the tree i had to cut down this month due to black knot.
got nettles? if so, stick some in a 5 gal bucket and drop some sugar/molasses in it with water, seal the lid and let her ferment for a bit. i've been using a paint strainer to strain the brew. i also spray on the ground around the trunk.
as always, try a small section first to make sure the brew's not harmful instead of helpful.
or you're not the only one, trust me. i had an "organic lawn care" guy come out and visit us who urged me to spray herbicide because my property was contributing to the area seed bank and causing his crews headaches
as far as "exotic invasives" go, i actually don't mind it in certain places, it looks like miniature bamboo and makes a ton of biomass in short order. supposedly, it changes soil chemistry in the forest inhibiting tree regeneration, but there is a recent study out saying that is tree species dependent. the real problem in tree regeneration is the deer.
this year, i'm going to try to mow it down just before it goes to seed, so at least the seeds produced eventually won't be so vigorous. and keep sowing perennial ground covers. one thing i realized about "invasives" is that it's a long long long battle if you wish to eradicate them. reading sun tzu in this case is helpful.
if it's glechoma hederacea (you still be able to tell, as it's flowering now, look at pic at link), eat it!
the other ones are also edible, but i would do more research first, as they are more medicinal and good for some body types, and not so good for others.
as far as a permaculture problem/solution to your lawn, if you consider it a salad and/or wildflower meadow, you could wrap your head around it better. e.g. take some patches and cultivate, then spread some wildflower mixtures in them, then let them grow wild and do their thing. i'm also a big fan of chamomille and yarrow, it's hard to find big seed bags of them, but if you start with small packets and let them go to seed, they will spread sooner or later.
personally, i wish i could get rid of my grass altogether, but that's me.
been musing on your question as we also have a huge stiltgrass infestation.
i've been raking back the dead growth and sowing some perennial clover into the bare soil with some camelina since both germinate quickly. not sure how successful this is going to be. stiltgrass has a really shallow root system, so yes i'm pulling some topsoil but not much at all.
in our area, stiltgrass dies back early in fall, so i was thinking that that technique might work best then, as it would give the clover more of a head start. if i remember correctly though, raking back the dead stiltgrass at that time caused more topsoil loss.
what cover crops have you tried and when did you sow them?
p.s. i'm also wondering if mulching with it is contributing to the problem due to seed spreading. might it be better to bury the dead stiltgrass deep in a hugel/pit/raised bed?
could you please elaborate on how you insulated the exterior walls? is it correct to understand that you added a layer each of (1) pro-clima (2) rpxul, then (3) drywall over the existing plaster wall? if so, how much thickness did this add to the wall? also, could you also explain what you mean by hot-mudded?
it's also amazing how those past cultures could design and construct something so grand without the benefits of giant metal machines and the hydrocarbons that power them.
a practical question for ya, Zach: if one had a crater and wanted to run pigs on the bottom to vibrate it into a vernal pool (sepp-style), how could one run fencing to make a pig pit? would a horizontal fence running along the top surface (ground level) work? wondering if some mesh combined with some properly-spaced electric strands would be enough...having escaped pigs running around the neighborhood would not be an attractive option in this case.
thanks for sharing that. i love those dreams that inspire one to step back, reflect & question fundamental assumptions.
i helped my neighbor get his old tractor started today. here was the drill : take a small gas powered generator down the hill to power an electric heater to warm up the engine block. he refused my offer to carry it down and insisted to stick it on the front end loader of his new 30 hp kabota. we got it down there, dowsed it with some ether but the genny refused to stay running. so load it back on the new tractor, back up the hill, take it off and put a 5500 watt gas powered genny on the loader and back down the hill. that one ran okay, so we left it for a few hours running, came back to a warm block and got the old tractor running again. billowing loud black smoke into the deep blue sky with lime green antifreeze dripping onto the white snow. then loaded the giant genny back onto the loader and tractor back up the hill.
as we drove back down his asphalt driveway mission accomplished, he said: now we can imagine what the pioneers felt like. and imagine, they didn't have the benefit of hydrocarbons, i responded. he scoffed, for even with his ginormous solar setup that would make any permie awestruck, he's still a child of the petrol age (as we all are) and old enough to not have to change his ways.
not knocking him in the slightest though because he spent the better part of 2 days helping me (more like, teaching me) how to replumb our water delivery system after the well pump exploded and pipes burst. but reflecting back on it now after watching a few Dick Pronneke vids on youboob, i realized that no matter the technology available at the time, the two of us could have accomplished any task that we set out to do simply because we committed to helping each other out to the end no matter what.
been noodling myself on how to construct earthworks without the benefits of hydrocarbons. the only way i can think of so far is through well-planned design and extreme patience in order to allow nature its time to become an ally. if you consider the relative permanence of earthworks on a long enough timeline, perhaps it's worthwhile sometimes to tune in to earth time and allow the scale to develop as it should.
"I have learned patience. Learned to take my time and do the job right by figuring it out first. No sense to rush it and go off half-cocked. There's plenty of time out here." - d.p.
can't thank you enough for this.
our neighbors are vets -- one horses, one small animals.
been preaching the herbs to them, they are open but skeptical.
the book & video might just help soften them a bit.
there's got to be something cool someone could do with that tree nonetheless -- treehouse?
could wintergreen grow under there, maybe?
don't know much these so just throwing out potential ideas to turn a problem into a solution.
ahh, the map is much help. for the next step, you could overlay a contour map over this and your property and see how the contours correspond with the water flows, both natural & man-made. (water moves perpendicular to contour in nature) my guess is that the swamp is the lowest elevation around. the drainage ditch may not necessarily create the problem (i/o/w swamp would be there even if road wasn't there), but it definitely exacerbates it.
is the neighbor whose land includes the swamp having issues with it? is there any structures sited in/around or is it otherwise causing a problem for them? if so, you might be able to talk them into a hugel-type remediation (similar to the swoosh-type above) to mitigate the drainage.
if not, then as RS noted, building a hugel that close to the road parallel to it risks creating a mushy road, especially considering you have multiple vehicles going up & down when the earth underneath it is moist. you'll get a stream going down the tire track closest to the drainage ditch. i know this, cuz i have one. another thing to consider is that if you do something experimental and it creates the aforementioned condition, you're going to have a bunch of angry neighbors calling you up and you're gonna spend even more time and fuel than you are now maintaining the road.
how about this alternative to consider: spend your efforts slow/spread/soaking the water before it leaves your property (the kite not the tail). start thinking in the area above where the map shows, especially if its at a higher elevation. divert as much of that runoff that you can before it gets to the driveway. is your orchard on the lower right of the kite in the drawing? what's residing in the lower left of the kite? which way is south?
you could alternatively plant some clover into that drainage ditch along your tail, cut and harvest it, and use it to mulch your plantings in the kite. clover is also good bee forage.
matthew, i was out on my 1/2 mile long driveway digging drainage strips with a pickaxe today thinking the exact same thing about the hugel potential. we actually have the problem to which RScott refers : a natural-made swale mound has formed parallel to the driveway making the road super soft & mushy.
as i noodled on what to do with future excavated material and all the brush behind it that needs to be whacked, i envisioned these hugel-mounds running ~45 degrees perpendicular to the driveway that are shaped like the Nike swoosh. height of the mound is lowest nearest the edge and highest at the swoosh/hook. drainage trenches are cut across the driveway and filled with gravel to drain towards the mound. driveway would be sloped ever so slightly towards the mounds.
i think this might work if you had a downward slope away from driveway (as RS noted) or could create one using the box scraper/dozer blade to skim off a wedge of soil that goes deeper the farther you are from the driveway. the swoosh of the mound would allow more water to collect while still channelling far enough away from the driveway to avoid mushy road syndrome.
as someone who lives in a 200+ year old house who is struggling with repairing the damage done by 20th century construction "technologies", i for one am finding these discussions immensely valuable. before we got this place, we had investigated just buying a chunk of land and building a house from scratch using natural building techniques, but concluded that it would be too frustrating fighting with building inspectors over restrictive construction codes.
although i can not say for certain, i would be willing to wager a big bag of rockwool that there are many lurkers here that are in similar situations. therefore, if these types of discussions do not properly belong in the "natural building" forum, i would like to kindly ask TPPTB to consider creating an additional subforum so that these discussions can continue, as there are many very wise and experienced people that have gathered here and it would be a shame for them not to have to an opportunity to share their knowledge and bounce off ideas & suggestions with the rest of us passionate novices.
hi Jay, thanks for clarifying this. one of those things that initially looked appealing, but raised a bunch of intuitive redflags once i read that it made the wood "unstructural". i actually found it on a tangent when reading about torrefaction as a process to create "wood pellets 2.0" . this however is a subject that belongs in another post in another section. will perhaps post a topic once i listen to a webinar on it next week.
what i'm finding fascinating is how fire + wood react with each other in so many different ways to result in so many different compositions on the scale between preservation & decomposition. as you note, wood + water as well. it's all a delicate balance between the five elements. something that those builders in the past very well understood obviously, before petrochemicals made us all lazy and forgetful. Venice alone blows me away when thinking about how the entire city sits on top of waterlogged timber (sidenote: i wonder if the brackishness of the water there is a major contributor to wood preservation in this case).
do you have experience with beech, either to preserve as a building material and/or as a preservative for other woods? i ask this for 2 reasons: (1) it's used for cutting boards as it has antimicrobial properties, (2) around here, it's quickly becoming the dominant species in the woods due its resilience against deer penetration and because the forest is moving into climax (beech/maple over oak/hickory). obviously, if one were to work with nature vs. trying to fight it back, it would be wise to find productive uses for beech, especially since it coppices/suckers so profusely.
i was initially thinking that phragmites could work as phytoremediator, which could also produce (a) biomass for fuel in the distillation process and (b) raw material for alcohol production. both/either of these could help close the loop and reduce the amount of inputs needed in production.
hi John, true, but the 3 alternatives are even more nutritious per calorie but yes, i agree, better to grab the low-hanging fruit first, which is a feat in and of itself. so much of what we choose to eat now are empty calories : more engineered to satisfy cravings, rather than to sustain the bio-machines that we call our bodies so that they can operate to maximum potential. hence, the "need" for a bloated healthcare industry to deal with the fallout. this is such an enormous topic with so many interrelated variables, it's really difficult for most everyone to wrap their minds around fully, especially when one realizes that much of the west's economic output (GDP) derives from creating & sustaining unhealthy environments.
there is another huge factor that i'm willing to wager that Cassie's dad understands at least intuitively -- much of the soils that are used for agriculture are depleted of nutrients. sure, cover cropping with clover, etc. may help to reintroduce nitrogen, but that is only one element out of dozens that are missing. someone with a large tract of land has 2 choices essentially : spray with chemical fertilizer or remineralize using natural processes. both require outside inputs and investment in time, energy & large equipment. one is a proven easy fix that will more or less guarantee an immediate yield, but has numerous long-term consequences (salt accumulation, bacteria/fungal dieoff, etc.) which further destroy the land for future generations. the other is unproven in the conventional practical sense, and may have to sacrifice yield for one or multiple seasons for rehabilitation.
perhaps this is also where the "permaculture" mindset can interject into conventional farming : developing and trial testing radical alternative methods to speed up natural succession in mineralization that can be used by mainstream farmers to eventually wean themselves off the addiction to chemicals. i read somewhere once (maybe in the forums here) about someone saying that it is folly to try to convince a conventional farmer to rethink everything that they have been doing for decades but that it might be reasonable to encourage them to dedicate 5% of their land as an experiment. if it works over a given time period, do 5% more. i would add to that it might be more of a convincing argument to color the proposal in economic terms (large risk on a small amount of capital (land) to achieve a long-term return at lower cost) and appealing to common ground (the realization that the soils are depleted).
i'm quite sure that none of this is news to everyone reading here, so the above is written simply in an effort to help construct a bridge between the "permie" mindset and that of conventional farmers on the ground.
i'm assuming special kilns are required though, so it's more a consumer product over a DIY project. also, according to the link, torrefied wood is not to be used for structural purposes.
personally prefer the old-school charring methods Jay has linked, but thought it'd be worthwhile to include the above to learn more about the processes involved.
have a old chimney filled with creasote to clean out, so also gonna experiment with the technique you've been discussing at some point.
perhaps there's another way to approach this : shift the focus from quantity to quality (aka nutrient density).
if the average person get the same amount (or more or much more) of nutrients in 1/2 the calories, what would the average person choose?
of course, that would require no less than a full scale revolution in the dietary habits of an entire society.
for example --
amaranth over wheat
chestnuts over corn
nettles over spinach
chokeberries over blueberries
sea buckthorn over cranberries
venison over cattle
mushrooms over just about everything
but since to your pop, this is all a fantasy anyhow, it may not hurt to try it out.
maybe you could serve him a cup of nettle tea to soften him up a bit ;~)