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Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

 
pollinator
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Mathew Trotter wrote:
I'm accidentally running a bit of an experiment that I hadn't consciously intended to. I started pulling thistles at one end of the garden and dropping them as mulch, figuring anything that didn't survive the root disturbance qualified as part of my thinning for that area. The next area I pulled the thistles but did not drop them as mulch there, but rather in the front of the "terrace" instead. My concern was that they were a little too effective as mulch and were smothering an excessive number of the smaller seedlings. Then the final area is everything that hasn't been weeded yet. Some patches of thistle have really started to senesce, while others look relatively healthy.



When I first came here I made a small garden about 20 x 30 feet and I didn't have any fences. There was a giant patch of thistles across the road. I put on my gloves and harvested them for mulch between the rows. An unexpected result was less damage from the rabbits so I went and got more thistles and piled them all around the perimeter. Over a few years I ended up exterminating that thistle patch. Maybe they could help with the rodents in your garden? I'm not sure what kind of thistle those were but they were large plants that make a purple flower.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:Wow, that stonehenge video was great - not seen it before.
Nice to see things growing - so you get most growth spring and autumn, between the dry and cold seasons?
Hopefully the critters will leave you some beans!  I had the same problem a couple years ago with my broad (fava) beans, the crows had almost every one as it germinated. I think I got two survivors out of the whole seed packet, and those didn't make it to maturity. Yes, if only they knew the meaning of sharing it wouldn't matter.



Things grow well through the rainy season... September-ish through May-ish, depending on the year. Things grow just fine through the winter, you just have to pick species and varieties that can handle the cold... though the last two seasons have been especially mild. It's rare that we drop below 20ish Fahrenheit (-6ish Celsius.) The coldest I've witnessed here in my lifetime was around -14 Celsius. That was a freak winter. One of the local seed suppliers actually has a turnip that's a result of the 5% or so if their crop that survived that year. We get snow once or twice a year, but we skip years. It's probably as common, or more common, that we get freezing rain. And I find that it's the constant freezing and thawing that plants tend to struggle with more than outright cold. This is the first year that I'm trying mustard over winter, but all of the brassicas do well. Cabbages don't tend to head up until spring unless you can start them mid-summer-ish. My lettuce handles the cold just fine... I lost maybe 25% the first year, but what survived passed on its cold hardiness.

Things certainly slow down as the days get shorter, but if you can get things to a good eating size before growth slows to a crawl, pretty much everything gets through the winter just fine. Granted, there aren't really a lot of high-calorie things that can be grown this time of year. I haven't done much work with parsnips, but they're one of the few things that should work this time of year and provide more than 300 calories/pound. Salsify/scorzonera are also in that club. You can produce a lot of biomass, but most of the calories are coming from animal products and whatever grains/legumes/tubers/nuts/fruits/etc. you grew over the summer (if you can get stuff through the drought.)

It's way easier this time of year and moving into the colder months, though. There's no shortage of moisture. Most of the pests and diseases die, migrate, or hibernate for the winter. Few new weeds will germinate in the cold. Everything tastes sweeter (because sugar is a natural antifreeze.) Probably the only bad thing about it is that you have to go out in the rain to harvest (or carefully plan your harvests around the rain.)

So yeah. Most of the critters should be gone or holed up for the winter soon. There are always exceptions, like deer, but they usually maintain a respectable distance unless they're desperate.
 
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It does sound like our winter is very similar to yours (give or take a bit of daylight due to lattitude) Our temperatures are very similar, just light frosts occasionally for about three months, although penetrating -12 Celsius every 5 years or so. Constant wet, yes. It may be that the extra light is a benefit for you growing things. I would say that growth slows right down here.
I agree that the wet also puts me off harvesting. We've still got a reasonable amount of daylight at the moment (pretty dark from 6.30pm to 7.30 am, changing by an hour tonight) but goes to only about 7 hours in midwinter. One of the reasons I'm less keen on roots is it all gets so muddy when harvesting, although they survive in the soil fine (except for really tender stuff like oca, as I found last year).
You may have posted this already but.. do you sow roots in later summer to grow, go dormant and regrow in spring, or sow in spring to go dormant in the dry and then regrow in autumn? I'm just trying to work out how we can learn from each other here. Our summer remains cool (rarely above 15 Celsius) and wet; spring being the dry period when we can have between the end of March and End of June fairly dry, sometimes very little or no rain, so summer is still our best growing season. Apart from the dark, the other problem in the winter is wind, which gives an additional windchill and destroys soft leaves (lashing sleet is not pleasant).
 
Mathew Trotter
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Mark Reed wrote:
When I first came here I made a small garden about 20 x 30 feet and I didn't have any fences. There was a giant patch of thistles across the road. I put on my gloves and harvested them for mulch between the rows. An unexpected result was less damage from the rabbits so I went and got more thistles and piled them all around the perimeter. Over a few years I ended up exterminating that thistle patch. Maybe they could help with the rodents in your garden? I'm not sure what kind of thistle those were but they were large plants that make a purple flower.



I was definitely using the thistles as a defensive mulch through the dry season. I don't know if they were were especially effective... thistles are ubiquitous, so I think most of the wildlife has figured out how to work around them. Now that we're in the set season they don't stay rigid and sharp... they disintegrate into a soggy mess.

Thoroughly dried blackberry canes might be more effective this time of year, the only problem being that they're just as effective against the humans managing the space as they are the wildlife.

Bad smells and tastes are generally effective against mammals, but it's challenging to get anything to stick around in the rain.

There's an old native saying... possibly Hidatsa in origin... something about planting for the worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor, and the self, or something to that effect. Ultimately, I think quantity is a better solution than any fancy tricks... I'm just in that nebulous state where I can't quite grow the quantity that I'd like to get.
 
Mathew Trotter
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I have a variety of mustard that I didn't know I had. Must've also been from the sprouting mix I inherited from my friend. It blended in with the turnips so well that it's only now that it's getting larger leaves with clearly identifiable wavy leaf margins that they're starting to stand out. I don't know that I like the flavor as much as my red mustard, but it does seem to have thicker and thus probably hardier leaves.
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Mathew Trotter
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Nancy Reading wrote:It does sound like our winter is very similar to yours (give or take a bit of daylight due to lattitude) Our temperatures are very similar, just light frosts occasionally for about three months, although penetrating -12 Celsius every 5 years or so. Constant wet, yes. It may be that the extra light is a benefit for you growing things. I would say that growth slows right down here...



I have a couple of local planting calendars that I use as a jumping off point for when to plant things, though I'm leaning more and more towards throwing seeds on the ground throughout the year and letting them sort themselves out. I'll see if I can remember to post the calendars when I have them in front of me

I'm far from a master of when and how to grow root crops. I'm finding that without irrigation, spring planted carrots reach a certain point and then go into stasis while they wait out the drought and then get up to a good eating size for fall/winter. The stuff that gets planted as the fall rains return doesn't really size up until we get into spring. There's kind of a mixed bag there. Obviously they want to flower, though I tend to remove any that flower excessively early. Some of them also tend towards getting woody when they go to flower, but I found that was a relatively small percentage... I just cut into them with a knife and if I get any resistance, that one goes to the chickens. Overall, I've found that the majority hold well in the ground throughout the season. A few split or get attacked by pests. Those are the one's I exclude from my breeding program.

Mud is definitely a nightmare with roots and did discourage me from eating them on many an occasion. A good stiff brush and a bucket of water does a decent job, though it's certainly not a quick or pleasant task. I'd get the majority of the mud off that way and then peel them and rinse in fresh water. Much better, now that we have running water, is to set the sprayer on the hose to the "jet" setting and that allows you to blast the mud off pretty quick and allows you to return all the nutrients and other good stuff to the garden.

The plus side is that roots/tubers tend to improve soil quickly, so mud tends to be less of an issue in successive seasons. I can't believe how clean the turnips are coming out this year.
 
Mark Reed
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Mathew Trotter wrote:

Mark Reed wrote:
There's an old native saying... possibly Hidatsa in origin... something about planting for the worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor, and the self, or something to that effect. Ultimately, I think quantity is a better solution than any fancy tricks... I'm just in that nebulous state where I can't quite grow the quantity that I'd like to get.



The worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor and the self with get nothing at all if the rabbit, the squirrel, the coon and the deer aren't first fenced out, trapped or shot dead.  What did the Hidatsa do about that?

 
Mathew Trotter
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Barn cat status achieved. More pics after he's acclimated.
IMG_20211031_145822.jpg
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Mathew Trotter
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I'm still alive. Been struggling with nutrient deficiencies over the winter, but this is the first season that the property has really revegetated in a significant way and I've had all the greens I could ever hope for. Camas and cattails are really starting to get established, and say are native berries and hazels. The actual garden has been a mixed bag. Chickens got in and really set things back and allowed weedy grasses to establish dominance in the beds. As I get in to chop and drop it all and get a release of sunlight, things really take off. But it's also been unseasonably cold and wet, like it was the season before last, or even worse (which I'll happily take over the 6 month right we had last year.) Things have been slow to develop, but there are still some truly exceptional plants that have outcompeted the weeds and are producing well and will make excellent additions to the landraces I'm building. With the exception of the grasses achieving dominance in the beds because of the chickens, broadcasting an adjustment of seeds has definitely been the way to go. Did another sowing in late winter/early spring and topped with a little bit of chicken compost to try to help things germinate in amongst the weeds, and then followed up with a good dousing of nettle tea/urine. Be nice if more of the energy was going to things I can actually eat, but the fact that the grass measured 3 feet tall this past week is a sign that fertility is moving in the right direction, as far as I'm concerned. Currently clearing small holes in amongst the weeds to make room for corn and the soil is so much better than it was 6+ months ago when all that waved to grow in it was thistles.

Won't be making regular posts yet. My energy has been so limited, I've had to restrict the type and amount of energy I'm spending on online activities just so I can get my work done. Discovered by accident that I was deficient in vitamin B1, at least according to the symptoms I was experiencing. Was able to get a big bag of nutritional yeast to supplement my B vitamins, and my symptoms are starting to even out.

This year looks promising in most regards. The library in one of the nearby-ish towns reopened their seed library and hosted a plant swap. Was able to catch a ride with a friend and picked up 60+ packets of seeds to add to my landraces. Was also able to get Egyptian walking onions, a new variety of hosta, and a variety of medicinal herbs.

Have pollinated my almond this year and actually got about half a dozen nuts to set... and then the asshole deer came and ate them. They're lucky I don't have anything high enough of a caliber to turn that problem into a solution. But was able to get a couple gopher traps, since that was a major issue this past season, and I think we'll be seeing if gopher is palatable.

Lots of other things, but I'm gonna leave it at that for now. I'll post some of the pictures I've taken so far this season as well.
IMG_20220312_115020.jpg
One of the batches of biochar I've made this spring
One of the batches of biochar I've made this spring
IMG_20220329_112605.jpg
The size of the cotyledons on the daikons grown from my saved seed
The size of the cotyledons on the daikons grown from my saved seed
IMG_20220329_140811.jpg
Some greens I've been foraging
Some greens I've been foraging
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The size of the dandelion flowers
The size of the dandelion flowers
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The first radish of the season
The first radish of the season
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Mostly tomatoes and some tomatillos and peppers. My Lofthouse tomatoes germinated in 3 days
Mostly tomatoes and some tomatillos and peppers. My Lofthouse tomatoes germinated in 3 days
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Hawk decimated my flock, but the surviving bird was smart enough to avoid predation and subsist/lay these amazing eggs on forage alone
Hawk decimated my flock, but the surviving bird was smart enough to avoid predation and subsist/lay these amazing eggs on forage alone
IMG_20220425_163655.jpg
Been having lots of soup. Half a pound of foraged greens and some quail in this batch.
Been having lots of soup. Half a pound of foraged greens and some quail in this batch.
IMG_20220426_121502.jpg
New section of beds coming along
New section of beds coming along
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Another soup with morels, potatoes, and fresh herbs
Another soup with morels, potatoes, and fresh herbs
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First nasturtium popping up
First nasturtium popping up
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Sunchokes finally coming up, and the healthiest they've looked so far
Sunchokes finally coming up, and the healthiest they've looked so far
IMG_20220428_114726.jpg
No shortage of mulch this year
No shortage of mulch this year
IMG_20220506_073851.jpg
Lofthouse tomatoes getting big
Lofthouse tomatoes getting big
IMG_20220506_114743.jpg
Quick nibble in the garden
Quick nibble in the garden
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Finally mastered sourdough
Finally mastered sourdough
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Sourdough mastered me
Sourdough mastered me
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Corn planting day
Corn planting day
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Taro starting to sprout. Hoping that ends up being a good crop.
Taro starting to sprout. Hoping that ends up being a good crop.
IMG_20220513_093826.jpg
3 foot grasses in the garden beds
3 foot grasses in the garden beds
IMG_20220511_172450.jpg
Covering the new beds I've been working on so they don't get completely pummeled by the insane amount of rain we've had
Covering the new beds I've been working on so they don't get completely pummeled by the insane amount of rain we've had
IMG_20220501_135128.jpg
Some of the new bed planted and given a scatter mulch with the start of since new terraces below
Some of the new bed planted and given a scatter mulch with the start of since new terraces below
IMG_20220423_175900.jpg
Took way longer than anticipated, but did end up getting the IBCs. A whopping 15 of them.
Took way longer than anticipated, but did end up getting the IBCs. A whopping 15 of them.
 
Nancy Reading
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Great to see you back Mathew, I was worried about you! Glad that you've identified the health problem and hope that all rebalances for you. I heard it had been a bit wet this spring on the west side. Hopefully all that mulch will keep it in the ground and you'll end up with a bumper crop of food (not slugs!)
 
Mathew Trotter
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Last night I almost posted that I didn't plan to live past November, but at least for tonight, I'm on top of the world.

Landowner was barely back for a week after being gone for 7 months and already gave me covid. Again. At least this is a cakewalk compared to the last time. Not fun, but not especially terrible.

A few days in I lost my appetite and stopped eating. I realized that I hadn't fasted for a while; certainly not in the 5 years that I've been out here. Before that I had, on occasion, fasted and found that it helped reestablish and sane an healthy relationship with food. There's a dissonance that happens when I stop enjoying food and start seeing it strictly as fuel, and in my current situation, that induced a lot of added stress. I knew from experience that fasting gives me a break from fueling myself, and when I return to it, I actually enjoy it again.

I thought about what had been stopping me from fasting in my current situation and recognized a lot of fear around scarcity and having the energy to do what feels like necessary work. I reasoned that I'd have the same amount of food whether I fasted or not, and actually, I'd have more food tomorrow if I didn't eat food today. Since I had already started fasting as a side effect of covid I decided to continue for as long as felt appropriate.

I'm now going into day 5.

You may know from some of the latest research that fasting reduces inflammation, induces autophagy, and causes the body to switch to burning ketones as its primary source of fuel, which has a whole cascade of other positive effects (it's still the early days of published research and many still think it's controversial, but I've fasted periodically for almost 20 years now without ill effect... just not with the consistency I ought to.)

Today, the pain in my joints that I've mostly been able to ignore was actually genuinely gone. And so is the brain fog that I've had for months or years at this point.

The landowner habitually steamrolls people in arguments and then declares victory, not because he's right, but because no one will keep arguing with him. Nearly three years of shitty food and his shitty behavior have worn me down to the point where fighting back wasn't even an option. I mean, best case was me screaming my head off like a psychopath. But today I felt sharp and level-headed. And when he decided to be a bigot about black and queer folks being represented in media while we were enjoying the company of a mutual friend who happens to be queer themself. It felt like I was back in my college days the way I shot down each and every one of his shitty rebuttals one after the other. With an audience to boot.

Eventually he grew quiet. And then the subject changed. He participated for a few more minutes before scampering off with his tail between his legs to go play video games alone while my friend and I continued to talk.

This is literally the first time in 5 years, and maybe ever, that I've seen him put in his place instead of being allowed to just bully everyone. And all it took was 4 days of fasting. Should've done this sooner...

My plan is to break my fast on Saturday with 7 pounds of greens... if I can manage to pick that many between now and then. Between the weird weather and getting overly inundated with weeds, a lot of my greens are still pretty small. I've mostly been having wild greens, which I'd prefer anyway, but it's been exhausting just to pick half a pound of teeny tiny little chicories each day on top of everything else. I was also hoping to pick a pound a day for a week leading up to breaking my fast, but haven't felt well enough to be out hunching over to pick weeds in what has finally been a decent amount of sun. I'll juice all the greens and use them as base for a soup with beans and rice. I'm hoping such a big shot of nutrient dense food will be what I need to really jump start things.

I also need to revise a previous statement I made about not being able to get enough calories a day from kale. If you can get down the juice of 9 pounds worth of kale without anything added, you could actually get 2000 calories. I was envisioning eating the kale, but once you remove the fiber, it's a whole other ball game.

There's one main section of the garden that's a clusterfuck that I was going to attempt to weed and make productive, but I think at this point its only real value is in producing seeds of all the things that are mixed in with the weeds but not sizing up because they're in so much shade. I mentioned the grass was 3 feet tall the last time I measured, right? The one time I wish attempts to improve fertility weren't so successful. Now that I'm thinking a little sharper, I think I've got a game plan for the rest of the stuff I was going to plant in that area.

Anyway. No pictures this time since I haven't been taking that many. Still probably won't be posting much, just happen to be wired from what feels like the first victory I've had in 5 years. Plus the fasting. Ketones will do that to you...

Gonna try to pass out and hope I'm well enough to pick a good mess of greens in the morning.
 
Nancy Reading
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I also need to revise a previous statement I made about not being able to get enough calories a day from kale. If you can get down the juice of 9 pounds worth of kale without anything added, you could actually get 2000 calories. I was envisioning eating the kale, but once you remove the fiber, it's a whole other ball game.



Off on a tangent here, but you may find it of interest if you have a lot of greens to go through. Have you ever looked into "leafu" or leaf curd?  I had a go at making some a few years ago (see my blog here. It was interesting and reasonably successful for a first attempt, but I've not tried to make it again, not having a real need. It's particularly useful for people who struggle with protein on a vegetable based diet, since it concentrates the protein in leafy green veg, like kale, nettles, tree leaves etc. Just a thought for you.
 
Why does your bag say "bombs"? The reason I ask is that my bag says "tiny ads" and it has stuff like this:
Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now FREE for a while
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