Rebecca Norman

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since Aug 28, 2012
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trees food preservation solar greening the desert
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Rebecca has lived in Ladakh in the Himalayas since 1992. She's trying to Be Nice on Permies.
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Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Recent posts by Rebecca Norman

S Bengi wrote:Yes, sometimes you just have to give nature a bit of time for the buildup of pradatory insects to do their thing.

Yes, I really did find that after I'd had permanent coarse mulch in place for a couple of years, I would see many different kinds of small spiders, and the pest problems tended to be less extreme. The ecosystem was getting into balance.
4 days ago
In the high desert, at the school I lived and worked at for over 20 years and at the house I made, we use greywater. Since there are no rules preventing us, and our buildings are uphill from the green area, and trees always need irrigation anyway here, we just buried the outflow pipe deep enough to not (usually) freeze, and daylight at a canal going past trees, preferably willow trees. At the school we didn't try to control the type of laundry detergent or hair products etc that the residential teenage students used, and it seemed fine for the trees.

As Art Ludwig points out, the richest and most diverse soil ecosystem is right near the top. Greywater to a surface canal or mulch basin will break down much faster and easily than buried systems. That's my experience too. It's skanky and sometimes smelly right at the outlet especially if it pools there, but overall the system is pretty trouble free and unobjectionable. And certainly willow trees love it. Other trees too but the willows just love it for sure.
1 week ago

Mark Reed wrote:I don't understand the logic of allowing them to mature in order to capture them, when its fairly easy to prevent them from maturing at all. Only thing I can think of is a case where it isn't possible to prevent, so capture is the second best.

Craig (the OP) said that he thinks that allowing some air under the screen so that mature mosquitos can emerge from the water and fly around under the screen emits a smell that signals other free mosquitos to come and lay their eggs in the trap, rather than in any other water that might be around. That's the logic. Of course you try to prevent other water from standing around but there might be some anyway.
1 week ago
I'm very fond of my low tech India kadhais. I think they are carbon steel, as they temper up nicely and turn black. A kadhai has a rounded bottom and two handles. Nowadays non-stick and aluminum ones are more popular, but the little back-alley hardware stores still carry these steel ones. Some of those came with rough edges that I filed smooth.

Here's a photo of my newest one alongside my two older ones. The new one cost under USD $10 in 2024. (The black one on the lower right has a pool of oil in it, not a flat bottom)

When we accidentally strip the surface (eg by simmering a curry too long) a batch of popcorn works great to regrease it nicely.
1 week ago
Ugh, I spent a week a year for years pulling bittersweet. I would see those orange roots when I closed my eyes at night. It was trying to kill some of our beloved trees.

Persistence works.
1 week ago
I made a lot of broth from yak bones, the past two winters. We were slicing the meat and drying it, which left us with a lot of very hefty bones with bits of meat still clinging to them, as well as some gristly or fatty bits we chose not to dry.

First round, I simmered the bones for 12 to 24 hours with just water and maybe salt, but not vegetables or spices. This meant I could strain the broth out and pick the now tender meat off easily without it being mixed in with other stuff.

Second round, I simmered the now bare bones and as yet unmelted fat chunks with whole spices, garlic and onions, for another 12 to 24 hours. Now since there wasn't meat, I could strain it and discard the spent spices and alliums.

If I had time, I did a third round and added a tiny bit of vinegar or lemon juice. If I got the amount right, the resulting broth wasn't actually sour: all the acid had gone into dissolving bones and making broth out of them, and the bones got soft and seemed likely to break down pretty well in the compost.

Even for chicken bones, I found that simmering for at least 8 hours made much richer broth and softened the bones.

For fish heads and tails, 3 hours seemed sufficient.
1 week ago
I haven't grown or eaten those two particular fruits, but I've made lots of mixed preserves and I say, "Go for it!"

One possible way to get the fruit off of the pits (is that only the Nanking cherries that'll be a problem for?) is to wash them, crush them lightly between two plates if necessary to get some juice out, and then gently simmer them (in their own juice if possible) until they are very soft. Then either try pushing it through a food mill such as a mouli mill or a foley mill, or cool it and go in with your hands and try to pull the seeds out.

Two of my favorites have been:
"Black preserves": I simmered seedy tasty black grapes till soft, then ran through the food mill. The result was gorgeous black juice. I don't care for sugary jelly, so I thickened it with dried black mulberries, and canned it. The mulberries were sweet enough it didn't need any sugar at all. Yum! And gorgeous dark purple.

Mixed preserves with tropical flavor: Tart apricots or plums, banana, lemon juice and sugar. Some batches I've added ginger or vanilla, sometimes not. Great either way.
1 week ago
Ugh, miserable. I don't have advice for after you've gotten the rash already.

But washing with any kind of soap or detergent as soon as possible after exposure will help to prevent rashes in the future. It has worked for me, many times. No special soap needed, just any soap or detergent that can cut oil and wash it away.
3 weeks ago
I think daffodils are currently my favorite.

This photo was intended to show off how long my winter squash had lasted in storage :)
4 weeks ago
I bought one like what Joylynn posted. I live in the high desert so it worked well for me. Because it would blow around in the wind if kept outside, I often keep it hanging inside a south-facing window instead. If the things to dry are likely to sick to the mesh or are very small and powdery, I put them on trays inside the mesh hanging dryer. I sometimes put a fan blowing toward it if I think the weather is damp or the air movement might not be enough. It works great in my conditions.
4 weeks ago