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Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Looks like my upload is slowing down, but I currently have the video scheduled for 25 minutes from now. Hopefully won't have to bump it back another 15 minutes, but it's rural internet, so it's anyone's guess...

Did finally get out and do a tour of the garden. If I wasn't filming it, I didn't really look at it for the past week. Lots of stuff really starting to take off. Got a few pictures, but want to grab a few more in the morning to upload when a video isn't taking up all of my bandwidth. I'm way past due for a photo dump.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Video is uploading and is scheduled to go live at 8pm Pacific (2 hours from now) unless the upload doesn't finish by then.

Phew.

Somebody get me a drink...

Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Tomorrow's video is probably going to be late. Interruptions from the landowner and weather delays keeping me from finishing filming. What I've already recorded has been edited, but I still need to get a handful of shots. Getting up early so I can give it another go tomorrow and hope that leaves me enough time to upload it. But it's going to be a good one, so I don't want to cut corners on it. See you all tomorrow. Hopefully. Maybe Friday if things really go off the rails. By noon tomorrow I should know one way or the other whether it'll be late, and if so, I might have an idea of how late.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Achira, runner beans, and Florida betony planted. Lots more filming to get done today, but here's the teaser for this week's video:

Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

This. This is the insanity of our weather. There's no acclimating to this.

I need a day off, so I guess it's going to be today.

I've gotta film what I'm planting for this week's video, which always makes it take 4 times as long, which would have me working through the heat of the day. Just not doing it today. Maybe I'll get adventurous and go catch more frogs at some point, but I think I'm just going to hide from the sun and wait for it to be 10-20 degrees cooler the rest of the week. 🙄

I wrote my script this morning. It should be a significantly shorter video. The filming might be a little extra work, but the editing should be a breeze compared to the last couple of videos.

Also hit a couple more milestones yesterday. Definitely not going to hit my goal of 300 subscribers this month, but I anticipated that my growth would stall going down to every other week. C'est la vie. There's no way I can go back to a video a week with this work load, so that's just the way it is for now.

Anyway. I'll have more when the sun goes away.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

The focus today has been on getting my achira bed prepped. The rhizomes I've been storing are sprouting like crazy. I sorted through them and split a couple of the larger ones that I got from my friend. With what I'll be putting in the ground The Calculator is telling me that it'll account for 8% of my diet. Wow. I have twice as many sunchokes planted and they only account for 4% of my diet. Achira is starting to seem like an all around winner. I did taste a small piece when I got them from my friend, but it's been long enough now that I couldn't describe it. I remember really enjoying it, so that bodes well for it being a large percentage of my diet. There isn't a lot of nutritional data available for achira, so I don't know what the upper limit as far a what percentage of the diet is tolerable. If I can manage to get 10 propagules from each plant that'll just about cover an entire person's  caloric intake for a year. And I'd already planned on using them in my living terrace design to stabilize and build biomass on the uphill side of the terrace. It's looking like wins all around.

People might think I'm crazy for doing a "root" polyculture, but my plan is to use the achira as a living trellis for my runner beans and florida betony as a ground cover (Florida betony is a larger version of the more coveted crosnes, a tuberous mint, which is native to Florida.) The achira I have has longer skinnier rhizomes than the varieties I often see people in Australia planting. It seems like the runner beans set tubers a little deeper than the achira, or at least have a very vertical growth pattern compared to achira's horizontal growth pattern. I think that will help them avoid competing. And because the betony is so small and skinny, I suspect that i'll be happy filling in any of the nooks and crannies not filled by the other two. The runner beans will fix nitrogen which will help balance out a system that will realistically produce more the more you can feed it. It'll produce a ton of biomass that will help insulate the tubers that I overwinter in the ground. And because the tubers are all dug in the fall to early spring, this can just be the one spot in the garden that I dig for tubers and don't have to worry about disturbing tree roots or anything. There will be some competition for the same nutrients and water, but designing that as a matter of fact means this is the only real part of the garden that I'll need to give regular feeding and irrigation, meaning I don't constantly have to run around tending to things. We'll see. It very well may be too much root competition and I may severely limit my yields. Or if not yields, everything may just be smaller in response to the competition. I don't know that that's a problem for me. A little more work on the back end probably.

On the subject of sunchokes, of the 32 I planted, 31 have sprouted. That includes one of the two stems that I planted that had a bit of intact root but no tubers. The other hasn't done anything, but I was really shocked that just sticking a stem in the ground was enough to get a plan sprouting up. It's much smaller than the others. I wonder if the stem had just enough energy to produce a small tuber after I planted it?

Anyway. It's supposed to be miserable the rest of the weekend and then get super cold over the following few days. Ugh. Weather. I'm glad for the cooler weather though. Makes it a lot easier to get things done. This humidity is killing me.

It's looking like pictures might have to wait until Monday. I still have a fair amount I need to get done this weekend so I can plan out and work on my video for this week. I finally decided which of the million ideas I have to work on this week, so it's just a matter of scripting everything out and getting the work done. But I also actively have runner beans sprouting right now and I need to get them in the ground before they get too much bigger.

I also realized that this is going to be like the best hummingbird garden ever. I had one that would land on the fence and watch me work last year before buzzing off to enjoy the flowers.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Last night's dinner. Frog legs, favas, and slaw, plus friend brought bread and gazpacho. As of 5am the camas is still cooking. That 24-48 hour cook time is no joke. Admittedly I have no idea what I'm looking for, but the characteristic sweetness that's been described isn't there yet. Sampled one small one after pressure cooking for 8 hours and again at 14 hours. No sweetness. But the texture is wholly unexpected for a vegetable. It kind of reminds me of the glutinous rice dough used for mochi, but a bit more... sticky/gummy. I was really joking the pressure cooker would actually shave off a lot of the cooking time, but it's starting to seem doubtful. I'll check them again at 8am and see if they're ready for breakfast. I suppose that would still be a savings of 6-30 hours, but I'm doubtful that they'll even be done by then. Hopefully we actually get wood heat in this year. That's clearly the superior way to cook them. (I also hear that long cooking like this was the traditional way to prepare sunchokes and I'm excited to experiment with them and see how long cooking affects them.)

At any rate, I'll try to slow down long enough to take some pictures today, for my sake if no one else's.

We've been in the 80s with lows in the upper 40s. On Wednesday the low will dip down to 39 with a high of 60. That still makes this year more predictable than last year, if insanely drier. Glad I have some irrigation this year, as much as I prefer not to use it. My systems just aren't mature enough to get the garden through an extended drought like this yet. Still, irrigating once a week is far more reasonable than the 3-7+ times a week I see other people doing. That's way too much work that I'd much rather just design around. In time, I hope that even extended droughts like this one won't require irrigation, but there's too much at stake this year too leave it to chance.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Asked my friend if they wanted frog legs for dinner and they said yes. Went back down to the creek and snagged 5 more. A little slower today, but as eager to bite, but my technique was better, so I landed the majority of the bites I got. Only a couple of them were really a good eating size, but with how invasive they are, I don't feel too bad about harvesting a bunch of smaller ones. On the way back up I accidentally stumbled into a giant patch of camas, so it looks like I'll get to try that for the first time. Ideally they'd get a 24-48 hour steam/bake, but I was hoping to have them for dinner. Cultivariable, once again coming to my rescue, suggested that 8 hours in a pressure cooker could often do a suffucient job. We're now at about 6 hours, so in a couple more we'll know if they're dinner or breakfast.

Also picked the first round of favas for shelling. Didn't get as many as I was hoping for. A lot of there, just not quite big enough yet. Well, there were big ones, but all of them were on plants earmarked for seed saving, so I'm leaving them alone for the time being. Honestly, I'll probably only harvest dry beans from those plants, but I may harvest some fresh water I get a good idea about what kind of yield they're going to produce.

Also picked a bunch of greens for a slaw. Mostly annual and perennial kale, with a little bit of mustard thrown in, which I've never tried before. Chives are flowering like crazy, so though I'd usually add some onion to my slaw, I opted to pop in a healthy handful of chive flowers as my allium of choice and for a little visual interest. And I threw in the last few of my overwintered carrots that hadn't started to flower; they weren't in "grate" shape, but only a couple were woody and had to be tossed. Now that they're shredded and mixed into the slaw you can't tell how terrible they looked. For the dressing I just massage the greens with a bit of salt, as though making a sauerkraut or similar, then mix in oil, vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar for this, but white vinegar is all I have on hand until I make a batch), and just a touch of sugar. Not strictly necessary, but I find a little something sweet really balances the flavor. Some chopped apple would probably be an excellent alternative, and I'm making a mental note to try that in the next batch.

I'm contemplating going back out and grabbing some dandelion and pea shoots for the slaw. I was also feeling radish, but I was slow getting them in the ground so they haven't sized up yet. They're getting close though. Next time. Next time radish. Or apple. Or both.

Right now I'm hiding in front of the fan and waiting for the heat to dissipate so I can get back outside for the last few things and finish prepping dinner and cleaning up

Oh, and cleaning the frogs? Gross. Not terrible... honestly probably one of better animals I've taken apart... but gross. "Just bonk them on the head to dispatch them," they said. Fast forward to an eyeball shooting out of its skull and hitting me in the face. And the legs. They. Just. Kept. Twitching.

But yeah. Definitely faster and easier than any other animal I've worked with, but something about it being an amphibian really ups the squick factor. Unless I discover that the flavor is worse than I remember, I imagine that's one thing I'll be stocking the freezer with. That and whatever roosters I end up with that don't make the cut as breeders.
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Jan White wrote:My soup peas this year have been really slow to germinate, too. They all seem to be coming up, just really slowly. I even soaked them before planting.

Do you germinate your carrots in place or do the Carol Deppe germinate in a jar of soil thing?



Yeah. They were so slow that now it's hard to pick them out from the weeds. They're in there, but it's looking like I'm getting less than 50% germination. Soaked mine too. The winter peas are doing great... started snacking on the shoots last night because they're coming in so thick. At this rate, I might be eating the winter peas and hanging onto whatever soup peas make it to maturity so I can replant them next year and hopefully get a better turnout. They're literally the only ones though. Winter peas, pop beans, and lentils are all doing fine, and so are the shelling and snow peas I've got on the other side of the garden. Super weird.

I germinate my carrots in place using the board method... which I think I originally got from James Prigioni? Surface sow the seed and then cover with a board. I water at planting and maybe once more before germination if it starts getting dry. But the board prevents evaporation and the pressure seems to help with germination. Just check under the board every day and lift it once the seeds start to sprout. I got germination in 9 days this go round. I usually get germination in 7-10 days, instead of the 2 to 3 weeks that most sources suggest. Prior to last year I was pretty haphazard with my carrots, and was happy to get surprise carrots in the fall from whatever seeds didn't germinate in the spring, but the consistency of the board method is hard to complain about.
Jan White
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

My soup peas this year have been really slow to germinate, too. They all seem to be coming up, just really slowly. I even soaked them before planting.

Do you germinate your carrots in place or do the Carol Deppe germinate in a jar of soil thing?
Mathew Trotter
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Well, I had most of an update written up the other day, but had something come up in the middle of writing and never finished it.

It's been a busy week, as you may have noticed from the relative lack of updates. I knew that this month and next month would be busy, but man...

I didn't realize until last night that it was Thursday, and I honestly couldn't account for where the week had gone. I got some scything done in and around the west field contour rows to keep the thistles from flowering. If I can keep things mulched and scythed I'll slowly start making some headway in that battle. It's already starting to green up around the contour rows where it's remained mostly bare for the past couple of years. It's nice to see it start filling in.

Did a bunch of scything for the landowner and got a few loads of mulch. I still have a couple loads in the septic field drying... that definitely reduced the work of hauling it, just by reducing the moisture level that little bit. At this point I'm piling on the mulch thicker and thicker and I'd be struggling to keep the garden sufficiently mulched if I was actually caught up enough in the garden to use it.

One of the days I was just too sore to push myself to get work done in the garden so I went "fishing." Once I got down to the creek I was that it was completely overrun by invasive bullfrogs, which I'm sure is part of the reason I haven't seen any fish. They produce 10 times more eggs than the native frogs, which they eat, as well as eating fish, reptiles, ducklings, and anything else that will fit in their mouth. They're so damaging to the local ecosystem that they're legal to catch year round, without limits, and with no license required. And you're required to kill any that you catch. Luckily they're aggressive predators that will eat anything... which makes them relatively easy to catch. I ended up making it home with 4. I had 2 others in my bucket, but the lid wasn't secure so those two managed to pop the lid loose and escape before I noticed. I hooked a couple others, but they managed to wriggle off of my line before I could grab them. Eventually they got wise to the fact that there was something suspicious with my bait and stopped biting so I called it a day, but now that I've figured out an effective strategy, I should be able to go down once a week or see and clean house, getting plenty of meat to store in the freezer. I've only had frog legs once, but all I remember is that the service in the restaurant sucked. My memories of the frog legs themselves are neutral, so I can't imagine having an issue making them a regular part of my diet. The supply certainly isn't running out soon, and if it does, I'm doing the local ecosystem a favor. The bigger dent I can put in the population, the better.

I've stored my catch live for the past couple of days. Butchering animals is still something I have to psych myself up for, and since I've had leftovers that I'm working through I haven't been in a hurry to do the deed. I had a whole story about not eating meat for 7 years when I moved to town for college and realized where most people's meat came from after I childhood growing up mostly on wild game and farm raised meat. When I decided to start eating meat again I bought a goat and butchered it, because I didn't see how I could justify eating meat if I couldn't look an animal in the eyes and take its life. The full story is way longer than I want to get into now, but suffice it to say that it hasn't gotten easier, and I'm glad that it hasn't. I think if more people had that connection to their food it would dramatically change the world. I also think people would eat less meat.

At any rate, I think I'm having a friend over for dinner, so I might see if they're up for frog legs. If so, I'll probably head back down to the creek at some point and catch a few more and then finally get the job done.

What else?

I chopped and dropped all of the weeds in one of my fava rows, topped with an extra layer of mulch, and then interplanted a mix of summer squash. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I think I still have a few seeds left from my home grown squash that I need to sprinkle throughout. It's not much variety for starting a landrace, but it's at least the start of one. In between the squash planting I buried little caches of food scraps and coffee grounds. I had enough to do about half of the row, so I'll be creating more little caches as I have stuff to bury. I imagine frog guts will make great fertilizer.

Picked my first harvest of chamomile last night. That once harvest was probably almost as much as I got all of last year and it's just going to keep producing.

I don't know if I mentioned that I went nursery hopping with a friend last weekend? We brought home a blueberry, wintergreen, roman chamomile, bloody dock, a parfinka pomegranate, and a tea bush. Man, I can't believe how good wintergreen is... I thought the lack of sweetness might make it unejoyable, but I'm looking forward to having lots more in the future.

My inaugural achira has finally sprouted up, and so now that I know it'll survive there I'm clearing ground to plant the rest of my rhizomes. Once they're in the ground I'll interplant with runner beans. It's going to be a whole lot of red flowers. (Actually, I'm growing a mix of 5-ish different runner beans this year and I'm not sure if they all have red flowers... we'll see.) I have them planted in 3/4-ish of a circle with the opening on the north side with the idea that the dense foliage will create kind of a living gazebo where I can go hide in the shade during the heat of the day. I'm planning to put in florida betony as a ground cover... that might be a little too much root competition, but the idea is that since all three species form tubers/rhizomes, it makes sense to only put things here that will be dug.

Also started building one of the two trellises for my mashua. I waffled on where to put it. I originally wanted to put them along the driveway as a type of living fence, but we've already been so dry this year, and mashua yield is dependent on how much water it receives, I decided to move them closer so that I'd have the option to water if I needed to. I currently have 4 mashua tubers which I hope to propagate by cutting to fill in the trellises. I should be able to fit in about 9 plants on each trellis with an estimated yield of 225 pounds for 18 total plants. I'm imagining that the cuttings will underperform relative to planting whole tubers, so we'll see what the actual yields are. And with as hot as our summers have been, I'm worried about mashua performing during the heat of August. I've decided to interplant with malabar spinach, which I've never grown before, but which I'm hoping will explode with the heat as the mashua starts to struggle, hopefully overtaking the mashua and shading it a bit, and then getting cut back as it starts cooling off to allow the mashua to continue growing. We'll see if that's an effective strategy.

I was rereading a section of one of Steve Solomon's books and noticed a paragraph where he states that a 3% south facing slope is the equivalent of being 100 miles further south. Well, most of our property is more than 3% slope and roughly south facing. Decided to see if I could get more concrete numbers for how different things affect temperature. Between the south facing slope and being a box canyon at the edge of a valley, and thus being subjected to temperature inversion, plus the effect of the nearby ocean and wind patterns... I figured that probably adds up to being about half a USDA zone warmer than the surrounding areas. Which confirms the casual observation I've made that we seem to be a little further ahead than the surrounding areas. I'm hoping I can convince a software engineer buddy of mine to rig up a custom weather station for me so I can start tracking things like soil moisture, rain fall, air and soil temperatures, and historical freezes. That's the only way I'm going to be able to tell for sure what's actually happening here, but my hunch is that we're closer to 9a than 8b.

Anyway. That's a way longer update than I intended to write, but I suppose that's what happens when I take a few days off and then try to sum up an entire week at once. I'm sure there's plenty that I'm forgetting. Haven't been taking a lot of photos this week, but at some point I'll nab a bunch and do a photo dump so I can keep track of what's happening when. The contour rows are definitely starting to look good, and I'll be able to grab some photos that show how the hugelpath is performing.
Andrew Sackville-West
Post     Subject: Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

Mathew Trotter wrote:Baby potatoes. That is all.



Wooo!