Tristan Vitali

pollinator
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since Sep 02, 2012
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south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Recent posts by Tristan Vitali

I'm amazed how few of us are doing 100% herbal medicine. Know I am, as well as my mother who's approaching 70 years old now. A few herbs I can't or haven't grown here (yet), but most of my medicine comes right from my own gardens, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Most medicinal herbs are great for companion planting with your food producing annuals and perennials, too, so it's worth taking the time to figure out what works for you, then figuring out where it fits into your planting schemes.

Actually kinda disappointed to see such a low 100% count on that poll. Maybe it's just that a lot of us haven't seen the poll yet - know I have quite a buildup of dailyish emails in my inbox that I'll never get through. This time of year is just too busy
1 week ago

Acid Razzor wrote:I live in Virginia with clay like concrete ...so adding new better soil and hoping the crabgrass will hold it together is probably the best I can do now.



This sounds an awful lot like throwing money at a problem and expecting it to go away. I know from personal experience that the only real workable solution is elbow grease, brow sweat, mixes of annuals and perennials, and constant maintenance, leading to (very) slow and steady progress.

#1 - clay like concrete means it's baking out in the sun. Cover it at all times, even if you've mixed in organic matter, clay does this
#2 - clay like concrete also means it's going to hold water (and nutrient!) like a champ, but ONLY if you keep it cool and shaded
#3 - tillage makes clay very sad - best to build on top (season after season, multiple times a year if you can) by adding organic matter and letting "natural tillage" (worms, bacteria, firefly larva, etc) do the work for you
#4 - tillage destroys mycorrhiza which is imperative to have intact in heavy clay for two important reasons:
 a) roots have a hard time in heavy clay and mycorrhizal networks help extend plants' root systems dramatically
 b) fungal strands like mycorrhiza will exude compounds that help create a more crumbly soil structure (yes, even in nearly pure, heavy clay)
#5 - "mulch" vs "compost" is a major confusion for the average person and too many would be backyard gardeners buy in "mulch" (mulch hay, bark mulch, wood chips, etc) and till it into their soil, often resulting in nitrogen lock-up as the organic matter (carbon) is being composted... mulch, with very few exceptions, ALWAYS goes ON TOP of the soil, not under it

Research and understanding, combined with patience and diligence, always go a lot farther than throwing money at a problem. Quick fixes usually fail, fast fixes cost a small fortune and cheap fixes take a longer time to work.

Oh - we all need to try to remember, no matter how difficult it is at times, that weeds are both an indicator of
 a) soil nutrient densities and structure
 and b) nature's band-aid for disturbed / improperly occupied soil
Read the weeds and either help them do their job or try to do it for them. Running just off this list from the old farmer's almanac, https://www.almanac.com/what-weeds-tell-you-about-your-soil
Too many dandelions, lambsquarters / magenta spreen and yellow dock this year in my annual garden beds is showing we still lack calcium availability, are up to decent levels of nitrogen now, and that last year's excessive rains definitely compacted the soils a bit much. Finding more deposits of moss, too, helping reinforce that compaction indicator. Presence of both wood sorrel and pearly everlasting shows the pH is still a bit too low, but they're slowly fading over the years.

All this means I obviously need to do some liming, but I'll need to ensure I'm using either hi-cal lime or gypsum due to they heavy clay I'm working with and the issues with magnesium binding (Mg binds up clay, trapping P, K, etc so it's unavailable to plants). Both of these are "specialty" and therefore a bit more pricey, especially gypsum. Trying to budget a run to Fedco to pick up some hi-cal lime (a "fast fix"), but with money tight, it's going to be a while and I wont be bringing much home. The "cheap fix" is that I've been side-dressing a lot of my plantings this year with comfrey leaves and will need to collect up piles of maple leaves this fall for the winter mulch (both comfrey and maples are calcium accumulators)

....well, now I feel like I need to go post in the "you know you're a permie when" thread. It's like our daily confessional around here
1 month ago

Marge Mogelnicki wrote:Mary, I recienyly read that the plant/herb cleavers  has silica we can use.



Horsetail might be even bigger on that front, but any of the nutrient accumulators are big in my book. They're usually either highly medicinal like cleavers and horsetail or a great nutritive tonic like nettle and dandelion. Great to have all these things growing - the most common weeds are generally the most beneficial!

The hard part is the "in moderation" - sometimes the weeds go completely insane and take over beds you were hoping to grow something else in, leaving you no choice but to pull and dig and sift trying to get them out. Coltsfoot, dandelion, bedstraw and horsetail are my biggest problems here on nearly pure clay....then once the soil's actually somewhat "happy" due to sheet mulching with duck bedding, the grasses start in. Can be maddening in the spring when you want to direct seed some things, but it's great seeing the progression from one weed type to the next as your soil improves and mother nature tells you what's still lacking.
1 month ago

Jay Angler wrote:I went out to chop and drop the comfrey. I knew I would have to chop and drop my way *to* the comfrey because it's cleavers season, which was a job in itself.

Alas, as I worked my way towards my goal, I kept seeing brigades of bees all over the comfrey flowers. Yep, you know you're a permie when you delay your chop and drop goal so the bees can have a feast!



I do mine in patches, always leaving one or two patches in flower for them, and always hit them at sunset so the bees have already gone in for the night. The hummingbirds, too, would curse my name if I didn't make sure a patch or two flowering.

You know you're a permie when planting a simple garden bed requires juggling 6 to 8 seed packs as you carefully interplant a polyculture modeled on a forest ecosystem.

And you know you're a permie when your succession planting to follow the garlics, tomatoes, peppers and onions has started before the corn has even had a chance to sprout.

Also, you know you're a permie when part of your garden and landscape design is to put cat attracting catnip on your hugleculture beds because you know your tomatoes, cabbages and sweet potatoes are going to attract mice

...oh, and you really know you're a permie when you have trouble settling on which examples of yourself "complicating things beyond reason" to build soil, enhance biological activity, save yourself work and maintenance later, and reduce future heartache to share on a permies thread ;)
1 month ago
Chickens do that now and then - our too many to easily get an accurate count hens went through a dry patch during their normal peak laying season this year, which was really odd to us. They laid more than normal during the mild winter we had, but then mostly stopped in late march and are only picking up again this last week. With 50+ laying hens, we'd see maybe 5 to 10 eggs in a day for nearly two months. This isn't the first time, but it always catches us off guard.

There's what's referred to sometimes as a "hard moult" where the birds don't just put on some new feathers, they seem to just keep replacing feathers until they're all new and fresh. What triggers it and how to recognize it when it starts is still a mystery to us. Some will say that a higher protein feed during moult will speed things up and get you more eggs during the rough patch, but we haven't had any success there.

And yes, 2+ years means less eggs for most breeds...just the way it works, especially with the higher production breeds. We try to add chicks to the flock each summer, and cull older birds each fall, so our flock is in a continual renewal. Easier said than done, but it mostly works

Hope that helps
1 month ago
Was great to meet those I was able to meet today, and a big thanks again to Matt for organizing this. Hope everyone made it home safe!
1 month ago

Matt McSpadden wrote:21 people signed up so far if you count the presenters themselves (18 otherwise). Over half way full, so if you have not registered and you are planning to come, please do so soon.

I have taken Lisa Steele out of the lineup. I could not get a hold of her after the initial response. I am talking with Dan Kaplan from Heartstone Farm for a presentation on grass fed beef. He has said he is willing, but I have not heard back about details yet.



To me, grass fed beef is a trade up. Definite goal of mine (someday) on my small acreage

Still trying to confirm my "second" right now, which I did put in for...if all else fails, I'll be the weird guy with a scraggly beard that shows up alone ;)  That would mean an extra seat available, however - will let you know.
2 months ago

Matt McSpadden wrote:
I'd hate to try to find another presenter this late in the game, and I would be afraid that both would show up. On the other hand, I don't want to rely on someone that I cannot confirm is coming, and end up with an empty slot.

Matt McSpadden wrote:
Do you think I should wait longer to hear back?

Do you think I should assume she won't be there and try to get a different presenter?



You can try waiting but if there's someone else you had in mind but thought might be a little weird, I bet that might be a lot of fun for us whackadoodle permies... chickens are sort of the bread and butter of presentations and us permies are generally not averse to exotic flavors and strange combinations

Can't help you on the facebook / instagram account thing. I, too, don't use them or any social media outside this forum.
2 months ago
I'm definitely (tentatively) there  Will be nice to escape the swarms of black flies for an afternoon! Might wrangle in my cousin who moved up here recently, too, but we'll see.
4 months ago

Alden Banniettis wrote:The elevations are terrible, Mark.  It is pretty flat land.  Water never ends up on the road because the town's ditch is pretty deep.  Oddly, the western half of the lot does not drain into their ditch even though they are right next to each other.  

Mark Beard wrote:You wouldn’t need a liner or sand or any of that if you have as much clay as you say .  Woukd still cost more in time and equipment to do a pond of any size. If the elevations are suitable to drain to the road like you said, then that’s a good plan…. BUT if you wanted, you could use the excavator to dig a small pond before at some point along the ditch if you wanted… just dig deeper and wider in that one spot, create a little frog pond 🤷🏼‍♂️



I'm down the road a ways - howland / enfield area - and know of the clay you speak. It will definitely do without liners, etc. Dig a hole and you have a pond. Trick is to never, NEVER say "I'm digging a pond"...you're just getting clay for some other project

Topsoil goes to huglekultures - clay goes to an elevated "pad" for your guest house / cabin. If the pile got left behind somewhere for too long and grew trees in the forest, well...that happens. Best intentions and all that.

But really, dig a friggin pond man

Perpetually wet area shortly after buying my land:


DIY excavation in action - the material dug from this "pond", which went to the new cabin pad above it and the huglekultures across the driveway, took apx 1 week as I learned to use the machine:


And here's the hole in the ground, with no liner, with edibles galore, terracing on the north slope "kratergarten" style. Note that I have yet to line the grassy "beach" area with plastic and get a load of sand delivered - money is always tight.


We have so many frogs in there it's deafening for 3 months of the year now. And between frogs and other things like newts breeding in there all through the spring and summer (even saw tadpoles in the mid-fall this last year!), the mosquito population went DOWN, not up. Oh, and a painted turtle lady showed up on my driveway this year heading for that pond. The crayfish in there - well, I don't know how they showed up. Must have hitched a ride on a blue heron

4 months ago