James Colbert

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since Jan 02, 2012
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Recent posts by James Colbert

So it has been one year to the day since building these beds. Here is an update. I am sorry for the poor audio. Basically, I have not watered this bed for an entire year and it is growing great. The only water it has received came from mother nature and the little water I added when planting new starts or seeds. This bed has been an amazing success and I have plans to expand and make it even better.  Growing in the bed are tomatoes, chard, purple mustard, purple and orange sweet potatoes, morning glories, and a little baby Moringa. Stay tuned for Future updates.

8 months ago
Hey everyone its been a while since I have posted but I have moved to a new home with a big front yard and an open minded landlord/friend. We plan on gardening the entire front yard but for now I am experimenting with one garden bed under my bedroom window. The bed is an attempt to dry garden (no supplemental irrigation) in Sacramento Ca. It is hot and dry up to 9 months out of the year so this is a good challenge. I combined subterranean hugelkulture with a thick "Back to Eden" style blanket of wood chip mulch. I also employed a few other experimental techniques. Check out the videos below and let me know what you think. It is still a work in progress but I am pretty happy so far.

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1 year ago
I have added biochar to my wormbin in the past but it never made up all of the bedding. I found that it helped control odors and prevented the bedding from getting too hot when i added a lot of nitrogen rich material like ground flour to help speed up population growth. I got the idea from a youtube video in which the author experimented with adding biochar to the worms feed. He found that adding biochar at a ratio of 50/50 biochar to feed resulted in the fastest consumption. The theory was that the biochar acted as a microbial reef and since composting worms eat microorganisms that have consumed food scraps the protective environment for the microbes resulted in more microbes and more feed for the worms. It worked well for me and seemed to allow me to feed more in a shorter period of time but breaking up the biochar can be a headache.
2 years ago
Building on the idea of soil building and possible dry farming... what if I used an auger to bore holes through the hardpan replicating soil ripping like key line plowing. This would allow for deeper water and root infiltration. It also opens the possibility of injecting beneficial micro organisms (compost tea) directly into and under the hard pan increasing microbial soil building and clay/ mineral fluctuation as discussed by elaine ingham https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2H60ritjag. This would also be a great breeding ground for Alabama jumpers which would feed on the wood chips and create burrows up to 12 feet deep http://alabamajumpers.com/alabama-jumpers-yard-and-garden-compost-worms/. These should be kept out of established natural areas but should be safe and very helpful in garden beds. They also make really good fish bait as they are true to their name and love to "jump."
2 years ago
Thanks for all the replies guys. I should have made a note that I live in Sacramento which is known as the city of trees. Even though we live ina dry climate we have a lot of trees and I can get as many wood chips as I want. I figured that I would have to top off the wood chips regularly maybe twice a year but since I have a near unlimited supply and once established that would be almost all of the regular maintenance required of the system it didn't seem like that much of a chore. I could get logs as well but wood chips are more available and they will drop them off at your farm/garden for free. I was planning to have the beds be about 4 feet wide and the pits up to 3 feet deep and wide. That should be enough for fruit trees and nitrogen fixers that are chopped and dropped. I figure by the time the trees are very large the wood chips will be converted to soil. I could even add some coffee grounds or brewers grains to help them compost faster as I can get those for free in large quantities as well. My goal is a garden that can take care of itself beyond a little maintenance here and there.
2 years ago
From what I have seen tomatoes, greens, and cucurbits (melons, squash, cucumber, etc) will reseed relatively easily. I have also heard of people growing garlic, potato and sweet potato like perinials as well but have not done it myself.
2 years ago
Hey Sam. In my experience unless you rotate your chickens they will completely decimate any ground cover growing in an area the size of most people's backyards. Have you considered a deep mulched wood chips. A deep mulch of a foot or more will protect the soil and provide food for your chickens as it will attract a lot of bugs especially if you add a nitrogen source like spent brewers grains or coffee grounds, both of these you should be able to get for free. As for plant matter you could try patches of comfrey, clover or even moringa trees that you keep low by regularly chopping and dropping for the chickens to consume. Paulownia trees might also work in this situation and some can be left to grow for shade and hawk protection. Also consider a black soldier fly bin that will feed high protein larvae to your birds when filled with food wastes or even more spent brewers grains. You could divide up your yard depending on the size to allow for plant regrowth. Hope that helps.
2 years ago
I have been mulling over this idea for awhile. A few years back I was able to grow watermelons that produced seed without watering them but once or twice in Mediterranean Sacramento California by digging a mulch pit and planting seeds around the edge of the hole. The hole was a foot and a half deep and about as wide filled with grass leaves and any other organic matter I could find. This planting was in a relatively open field with no real protection from the wind or sun. The watermelons were small but they did produce seeds. My goal was to produce "Rambo" resilient seed stock. The success of this method got me thinking about dry farming using a similar method on a larger scale. Instead of singular holes I invision long trenches filled with wood chips alternating with beds for growing fruit trees, shrubs, other edible plants and support species. The wood chips would act as a below grade reservoir of moisture for the plants growing in the adjacent beds as well as act as pathways. The whole deal would be covered with a deep mulch of wood chips a foot deep or more. Below is a simple drawing of the whole system. My hope is that this would allow for a healthy dry farmed crop in drought stricken Sacramento and our extended 9 month dry season. The ditches would of course be deeper than the original mulch pit I described. There is a rough picture below of the idea. Tell me how I'm crazy lol...
2 years ago
I have been eating a cyclic ketogenic diet ( high fat low carb) off and on for over a year. It has had a huge positive impact on my mood and energy. That being said one thing that I have learned is that it is best employed on a base of a large amount of leafy green vegetables. We now know too that bacteria in the colon can convert indigestible fiber into short chain fatty acids which are readily converted into ketones. This is how ruminants generate a lot of their energy. They do it far more efficiently than we do but it makes me think that changes in our microbiome may explain our inability to extract large volumes of energy from "indigestible" fiber. Indigenous populations tend to have a more diverse microbiome so my hypotheses is that they are able to extract more energy from indigestible fiber than modern populations can. Long term consumption of large amounts of varied plant matter may reverse this trend to some extent.

As a side not the short chain fatty acid butyrate can be found in relatively high amounts in grass fed butter.

It should also be noted that ketones have a protective effect on our neurology and the brain actually uses ketones more efficiently than glucose. Ketones metabolism is also associated with less free radical formation which means less inflammation and cellular aging.
3 years ago