Brian Jeffrey

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since Aug 19, 2012
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dog forest garden foraging trees bike homestead
One day I was born, since then who can really know.
Rutland VT
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Recent posts by Brian Jeffrey

  I eat tons of nettle leaves in spring.  To harvest I like to use a colander with a handle and scissors.  Using the colander to catch the trimmings, I will try to cut just the top few leaves and top node with as little stem as possible.  

    I have a little “trick move” where I open the scissors wide, straddle the stem below the area I want, then slide the scissors up to make an almost bouquet of the plant material I want, and snip! This saves me from snipping the leaves from the stem in the kitchen, and getting stung.  

    Once in the kitchen I like to use nettle like spinach or kale.  I’ll cook the whole leaves a bit to take the sting out, then chop as needed.  Nettle Sagg Paneer is my go to recipe.  Nettle does not cook into anything I’d call smooth like spinach, but the texture is not bad either.  
4 months ago
  I love using hand tools around the yard.  It is so quiet and close compared to battery or as tools.  HOWEVER with all the use my wooden handle has been drying up and splitting along the grain.  Ive tried soaking it in watered down glue, wrapping it with P-cord. . .nothing seems to keep the handle secure anymore.

    Is there a point where a handle just cant be salvaged, how does one go about making a new wooden handle for an old blade, its got about a 2" tang. I love my sickle, but dont love blood blisters.

- Pancake
5 months ago
Hi Permies, happy July!  The veggie garden is starting to kick into high gear lately.  The lettuce bed is still producing abundantly despite slugs and snails being prevalent over the whole garden area.  There is always a little leaf damage, but it never is so bad I wouldn't eat it.  I have already eaten more from just this one lettuce patch so far than all the greens last year. 

And a fun slugs eye view :)

     The two all star beds this year have a healthy mix of greens, squashes, and tomatoes.  Both these beds were planted with starts, not direct seeded, except for the tomatoes, they were volunteers.  The mix of vining squash with taller tomatoes and greens gives a wonderfully picturesque image of a veggie polyculture.  

The onion and lettuce bed has been transitioning to an onion and cherry tomato bed.  There is an army of volunteers coming up fast from last year.  I am happy enough to let them grow, with a little thinning.  The lettuce is hanging on in the shade under it all.  Nice big leaves for sandwiches :)

The other beds are still a mix of peas and direct sown greens.  Along with the kale and spinach, a layer of clover grew.  With the intense competition it has dwarfed all the plants, essentially giving me a long term source of baby kale and spinach for fresh raw eating.  The clover is a nice bonus in flavor and vitamins. 

Overall everything is going much better than I had hoped for this year.  The garden has been providing food, entertainment, and therapy.  I'll leave you all with a portrait photo of a couple garden residents. 

Thanks for reading Permies!
6 months ago
PawPaw update . . . . .

    It seems like every time I look at the pawpaw, it is bigger.  Even with its growth, the light sensitivity is high.  The pallets let some sun on a bit of the top leaves and it bleached them with a straight line from the pallet shadow.  Looking back this plantie has come a long way.

   From its first leaves and shade pallets late May,

    Then in mid June,

   And today :)  ,


   Thanks for reading Permies!!!
6 months ago
I think everyone's ideas of the base principles is great!  It's always helpful to hear other people describe the same simple idea in their own words.  

    I would describe the fundamentals in two frameworks.

          1- Like the OP had said, zones and sectors.  What I would call myself " observations, effort, and using natural energies (sun/wind/slope)"   Permaculture design usually deals with a dwelling as the focal point of the design.  Daily effort to maintain the property is most intense closest to the house (generally), and decreases in quality and quantity as you increase distance from the home.  While working or moving through any part of the yard, it is important to constantly be letting your eyes wander and be curious as to what is going on big and small.  Daydreaming and thinking about the property, having lots of observational data to guide and inspire design is crucial.  With a grasp of the effort flow and the data to describe its needs, designing to use the available solar heat, or wind drying alley, or wet low area etc . . . will be almost as self directing as a math equation calculating a result.

         2 - Use knowledge of biology/ecology/geology/other experiences to tap into nature's already functioning workflow.  This second permaculture principle is the mindset of a personal competition to tap into as many free natural workforces and resources as possible.  Don't dig and turn and amend soil with shovels and chemicals.  Disturb the top inch or two of soil and plant with deep taprooted annuals to dig and compost the area for you.  Worms and other underground dwellers will burrow around eating and dropping their own packets of bio activated fertilizers.  Or for another example, use sacrificial plants as living traps to concentrate pests for easy removal.  Use yard cuttings and treefall debris as mulch rather than purchase it.  Propagate plants from cuttings around the local area.  

    I think that with these two principles a person can attain the tools and mindset needed to apply permaculture to anything they want.  
6 months ago
 I would second and third that the plants will figure it out amongst themselves for the most part.  It sounds like you are planting a lot of things, which will give your food forest/savanna a lot of opportunity to find its own niches.  

    I am curious how much pruning you are intending to do?  If you are willing to coppice or do hard pruning, you can designate areas to be rotating meadow disturbance areas to produce a big crop of berries until the overstory recovers. It does not have to be huge, cutting back two trees will allow light to hit several trees/shrubs behind them.

    If you are interested in a little more refined pruning and training, why not prune some trees to be smaller, or very open and leggy? Does each tree “have” to be grown as big as possible?  You could have fun and train a cherry tree into a weird spiral, or prune some of the sand cherries and plums into a bush height.  You’ll still get food, and the variety of forms will add to the beauty.  
6 months ago
From Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden" page 132 dynamic accumulator table.  Comfrey accumulates nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and silicon.  

A 2010 comfrey fact sheet  There is good nutrient tables in the article.

"Comfrey  provides  a  low  fibre,  high  protein  and  high  mineral  feed  which  can  effectively  replace  some  costly  concentrates in the poultry diet.
The protein : fibre ratio of comfrey is around 1.5:1.0 as against young lucernes which run around 1.0:1.5. The additional vitamin A provided by comfrey can cause a yellowing of the flesh in meat birds, similar to the premium ‘corn fed’ birds available commercially. "

I try to search from just .org and .edu sites for data related inquiries.  The search terms I used to find the comfrey info sheet was "comfrey leaf protein content"  I also saw some good links searching "comfrey leaf nutritional assays"  Google search algorithms sometimes need help to tease out useful links.  I try to think of using odd and unusual words to expand the search area.  Almost like playing the game scattergories.  

I would also like to note its role as a bee and insect attractant.   Insane amounts of flying bugs and bees visit my comfrey plants.  
7 months ago
Some lovely radishes.  And a yard flower bouquet.

7 months ago
Food forest update.  Almost everything is alive and well.  After marking the tree spots in the yard with stones, I wanted to add in some more shrub/tree plants like hardy kiwis and an apricot.  My total order list ended up at 24 woody perennials.   You can see most of them all in the garden plan.

And the first of three packages :)  

The trees were put into the ground the first week of may.  Next year I am hoping to plant the third week of May instead.  A cold snap a week after planting killed two of the three Pawpaws and defoliated the bush cherry.  The bush cherry came back with a vengeance thankfully.  The Asian pear had it's root mass snapped off from the stem 80%, I tried to tape and plant it, but the tree never survived.  The Sour cherry and one female Kiwi (not on map) had their leaves wilt and die last week.  The total death toll so far is 5.  Not too bad for my first try at bare root plantings.  

Pear break . . . . .

Bush Cherry regrown like a champ!

I have learned the importance of shade for young pawpaws just fast enough to not kill the remaining one.  The tiny leaves were yellowing and drooping.  So I took two pallets and made a shade lean to around the sapling.  The south facing pallet has the wood slats oriented vertically so the sun can shine onto the tree evenly over the day.  And the western facing pallet is oriented horizontally to take the sting out of the harsh late afternoon sun.    

Now the leaves are big and green and happy.  I let them out in the "full sun" today since its very overcast and diffused light.  Ill put the pallet lean to back after sunset.  

 The medlar tree has really taken off.  It was the first to leaf out and has grown a nice bouquet of soft green leaves.  It is a little island in a lawn patch, but the forest garden cover crops and mulching will slowly creep over the lawn and engulf the medlar tree.

 The mulberry tree is looking like it will have six main branches to be coppiced.  I will use wire to train the branches into a even spread this winter.  Around the mulberry I have a mint patch next to a comfrey patch planted.  The mulberry being in the center of the food forest, I want the best and most tenacious cover crops to help keep the weeding down while growing copious mulch and tasty herbs.  Along with the black locusts this central area will be a slowly beating metronome of coppice

While the mulberry is young and small, I am having fun planting lettuce transplants and Daikon radish seeds.  As well as some tomato volunteers transplanted from the raised beds.  I made a big lettuce heart (insert sappy music riff)  

    I am more attached and in love with this forest garden than I thought would be possible.  I find myself sitting and walking around it it awestruck everyday.   The little chunks of lawn that I am planting are starting to add up to a lot of area.   Ill end with a big family photo shot of the whole planting from the convenient 2nd story window in the house.  

Thanks for reading permies!

7 months ago

George Edgar wrote:I tried the cardboard and wood chips.  As stated elsewhere, that is only good for one year at best.  Being old and decrepit, I just let the weeds grow.  But, recently, someone suggested I put down carpet.  It lets the water through and kills the weeds.  I was told I could get free carpet from carpet installers who pull out old carpet when installing new carpet.  This sounds intriguing.  So, what do others think of this idea?  I am still trying to think through all of the ramifications.  Thank you.

Seeds over the carpet can sprout and grow into/through it.  If the carpet is under a lot of mulch or maybe buried a bit, I would guess there would be less of an issue.  Not to say carpet is not useful, it DOES stop running roots from punching up through.

The paths between these beds all have a 3/4" carpet between them.  Some areas got seeded and others are still fairly clear of growth.

Edit:  Also, to the OP, on using cardboard. I think it is as safe as any commercially produced product.   I have found that everything but staples and tape rot away nicely.  I exclusively use brown undyed cardboard, as the colors/gloss maybe could possibly have heavy metals in them (? better safe than sorry?).