Rebecca Norman

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since Aug 28, 2012
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food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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Rebecca Norman currently moderates these forums:
Rebecca has lived in Ladakh in the Himalayas since 1992. She's a bit of a crabby, grumpy character but is trying to Be Nice on Permies.
Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Recent posts by Rebecca Norman

The aminopyralid class of herbicides is very persistent even through the composting process, and even through the digestive system of ruminants. Most of the other herbicides largely break down within weeks or months, either in the presence of sunlight or with the biological processes in the soil. If you can find out what was used there, you could decide: if it's something that breaks down in a few months, then maybe it's worth applying compost and mulch and giving it a go with the wildflowers.
19 hours ago

Angela Wilcox wrote:We have an abundance of broom sedge growing in the field. Can broom sedge be used as cover material in a humanure hacienda?

Yes, I think that sounds like what I saw recommended in the Humanure Handbook. Maybe you'd want to harvest it and dry it for a while, or harvest a year's supply while it is dormant, so that it is a carbon-heavy item rather than green, when it might still be a nitrogen-heavy item? But then maybe seeds would be an issue? I don't know.
19 hours ago
Fuel or starter in a wood stove. Instead of starting a fire with paper, you can keep a can of oil near the woodstove, dunk the ends of kindling in oil, and then you'll find they light even without paper. I've seen it often here where I've lived for 26 years: rural families here don't buy or subscribe to newspapers, so starting fires with paper was never a thing, really, in the past.
1 week ago
In my two potted lemon trees, whenever they start yellowing a bit, I tuck one serving of used coffee grounds under the mulch on the pot and they green right up. It never causes fertilizer burn (as happens with even the most diluted urine I've tried, or with small chunks of cow manure I've stuffed under there).

I don't remember the details, but I think Dale Hodgins on this forum had a whole long thread about the (great) progress of a new garden that he and his friends fertilized exclusively with used coffee grounds, last summer or the year before.

In practice, used coffee grounds don't seem to harm plants and do seem to help. Of course excessive amounts might be harmful, but that's true of everything!
1 week ago
In my region almost nothing would grow without irrigation, and the unirrigated areas of desert are extremely barren. So I'm all for flood irrigation, the traditional irrigation here. But my own personal garden has been small and not positioned on a stream or canal, so for years I hauled water for it. Now I've got a little more space and a hose, as well as a canal I can access. I have absolutely become devoted to mulch, but it works fine when you're pouring water onto the mulch from a container or hose. But it is a but tricky with flood irrigation, which can float the mulch off into a corner. I"m not sure how I'll deal with that.
1 week ago
Since those things still have green leaves on them, they might be "green" enough and not require any manure. If they are chopped up and piled, and once in a while turned and mixed, you'll get to see if they are breaking down. If they seem to be too dry or too "brown" and not breaking down, you can add some urine sometimes. Might be easier to source than manure; you can keep a can or plastic container in the bathroom and discreetly carry it out if you can't pee on location :)

If they were sprayed with any weird preservatives they might take a long time to compost. Luckily I don't think the items you listed are in the grass family, so they shouldn't have any aminopyralids in them, which is the one scary family of persistent herbicides that can cause long term trouble in compost. But I have no idea about florists' practices. Can you ask the florist who supplied them?

2 weeks ago
I've just been pulling it repeatedly. It does seem to reduce it year by year.

-- I don't think it has male and female plants. If I'm late on pulling it, then ALL of the plants set thorny seeds. There don't seem to be any seedless male plants.

-- It's important to pull it ALL early in the season, before it sets seed. Here the ideal time is June. The taproot usually comes right up with it. If I miss some and have to come back later when it has started to set seeds, there are two problems. One is, you can't really pull it with bare hands after it sets seed, and the other is, the seeds may fall off while you're pulling it.

-- I never go barefoot outdoors here (because my feet get painful cracks if I do) but goathead thorn seeds have a clever tactic of sticking to the bottom of shoes, or any item you might set on the ground outdoors, and then they come indoors, leap off, and wait to get under your bare foot. Like nothing else!

-- Around here they grow in empty desert, especially if there has been a little rain, so I don't think I can grow competitors. I'll just keep pulling it, a couple of rounds per season. If I've ever been tempted to think of round-up, it was not for goathead, because it comes up so easily when pulled early enough in the season. Round-up would only kill the plant whose leaves it coats, which pulling does as well; if there are already seeds on the plant, I don't think round-up would kill the seeds; and I don't think goathead thorns are perennial so I think if you get the taproot up, you've done it.
2 weeks ago
Haha, I was once one of those inconsiderate donor neighbors! I was living temporarily in Nepal, in a house with a big wild untended backyard. The neighbor had a nice big buffalo living in his backyard. I've always composted all my kitchen waste, and can't stand to mix it into garbage, but this situation was temporary, so I was just dumping my kitchen waste in a hidden corner of the yard. One day I had the bright idea to pitch it over the fence for the buffalo. But I forgot that there were bones and stuff in my bin that day. So the next day, the neighbor waved at me over the fence and just said "Thanks, nice, you can give your vegetable scraps to my buffalo, but please don't include meat or bones." I was suitably embarrassed, but after that I followed his instructions.

My point is you could just thank your neighbors straightforwardly but give them instructions. It worked on me, it might work on them.
2 weeks ago
When I used to have to print address stickers, I'd put all the addresses in MS Word, set the document to 3 columns, check that none are cut in half at column breaks, and then print them on sticker paper and cut them by hand.

2 weeks ago