Ben Zumeta

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since Oct 02, 2014
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NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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Recent posts by Ben Zumeta

I have planted as many deciduous trees and shrubs as I could fit along the south and west of my smallish pond (20,000gal) for summer and afternoon shade. I am particularly excited about the PNW crab apples that can handle wet feet and be grafted to any apple we want, and vine maples for their foliage. These also handle wet feet so their roots will be consuming pond nutrients from the pond’s edge. I also have some big leaf maples planted to the west and south of the pond, which have wonderfully bright green foliage this time of year. They are also great ecological stewards, supporting twice their own biomass in other plant species on their trunks when established . This in turn provides them more water storage and nutrients seeping through the moss, which they root into from their trunks. That was a tangent, but my main point would be deciduous trees and shrubs to the south and west for summer shade to reduce temperature and oxygen fluctuations and evaporation.

We have our first of many Ring of Fire biochar kiln burns tomorrow, and at 400gal of char per burn we hope to accumulate enough to create a biochar based filter with a cascade back to the pond for aeration, using a solar powered pump. My main apprehensions are the possible adverse effects of part time aeration (we would not use are backup diesel generator to power the pump during the dark and rainy season), and the degree of evaporation in the summer from moving the water and increasing its surface area exposed to sun. I have also considered just placing “socks” of biochar out in the pond instead for simplicity.
3 days ago
My brother’s neighborhood in Seattle has a lot of serviceberries planted along parking strips, and they look quite nice in spring bloom. Serviceberries are just okay in flavor to me, but they are popular with birds I always like to see. I think a consideration that led them to these smallish trees/large shrubs might be how the roots will interact with the pavement of the street long term. I love big oaks and maples, but they will tear up the road. I wish we could just prioritize the tree over cars’ alignment, but alas trees have yet to gain suffrage or form a superpac to lobby for themselves..  
3 days ago
Married and cherubically hairless here, but I did find the best way to meet someone was to go out and do something you love, ideally serving something you love bigger than yourself. That will be where your bigfoot will find you, and it will be a beautiful story.
Its usually the anthropogenic concentration of calories and nutrients that attract bears to human food and things like suet or seed feeders. Even if a bear does go for our sunflower patch or fruit tree, or vineyard, they would not generally associate it with humans the way they would a cooler or cabinet full of peanut butter covered in our scent. The latter makes them associate humans with that concentrated food source. Sunflowers would probably be no more attractive than their seeds in the pantry or seed cabinet, which they can undoubtedly smell from outside the house. I understand brown bears are not easy to deal with, but many more calorically concentrated and human scented food sources are likely around to concern oneself with first.
6 days ago
Very pretty, and looks like it could get in an scape sauce out of a pot or bowl effectively as well!
6 days ago
I bet its possible, but difficult and will require planning, and much more doable in summer. Very good reasons exist for why vegetarian cultures tend to be equatorial, with meat and dairy being more necessary and integral in human diets closer to the poles. Animals evolved with plants in beneficial feedback loops that essentially make us eukaryotic endothermic ambulators the ecosystems’ energy and nutrient storage and transport devices. The harsher the winters, the more important this is to the ecosystem’s, and therefore human cultures’, function.
1 week ago
Thanks Denise, root fires are a real!
1 week ago
On a modification of the moat idea, I have a 4ft wide gravel path atop a base that I channeled to take roof runoff towards the zone 1 kitchen garden, where woodchip filled pathways between hugel beds absorbs the water. I would like to get a large enough pond dug above the house to flood that, and run rooftop sprinklers in the event of fire.
1 week ago

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:

Ben Zumeta wrote:One thing to look at when managing pH is your calcium:magnesium ratio. We have moderately acidic soils here in my soil, but an excess of magnesium. Therefore I avoid dolomite, which has both calcium and magnesium in abundance. I go with oyster shell instead.

Ben, did you pay for soil testing to determine this? I'm wondering if it's worth it. (My soil tends toward alkaline, so a different problem from the OP. But my root veg production indicates something is out of kilter, and I don't know what.)

This Cal:Mag imbalance is pretty much regionally ubiquitous in our mineral soils according to geologist and gardening friends. We had an extensive soil test and the info from a forestry survey from the seller in 2019. This is also born out in the weed profile and how plants respond to organic nutrient and mineral additions to top dressings and compost teas. I aim for lots of calcium (oyster shell, fish bone meal, shredded dandelion and dock), and minimal magnesium. I am moving away from any bagged additives, but I think some concentrated calcium can be worth it (wear a dust mask and eye protection!).
1 week ago
One thing to look at when managing pH is your calcium:magnesium ratio. We have moderately acidic soils here in my soil, but an excess of magnesium. Therefore I avoid dolomite, which has both calcium and magnesium in abundance. I go with oyster shell instead.
1 week ago