Marco Banks

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since Jan 31, 2015
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hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
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We make our home in sunny So. Cal., where we've been able to transform our average suburban lot into a food forest with about 60 fruit and nut trees and dozens of veggies.  Our chickens add fertility and provide eggs and entertainment.  I teach, and so my backyard has become a classroom for my students who are deeply curious about growing their own food, yet have never had their hands in the soil.  All this is a natural expression and extension of my faith.  Life began in the garden.  It continues therein.
Los Angeles, CA
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Recent posts by Marco Banks

I've never flipped the sod over and I get 99.9% grass kill within 2 months.  I don't mow it either.  

2 or more layers of cardboard, covered with a foot of wood-chips.  The only thing that might come up is crab-grass, but if it pushes through all those wood chips, its easily yanked out.

Try to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes before you lay it down, or you'll be finding long strings of non-decomposed packing tape in your garden for years to come.
1 week ago
Yes, I've used them, and every time it's been fantastic.  Two thumbs up for ChipDrop.

Here in greater Los Angeles county, there are hundreds and hundreds of tree-trimmers, so the wait time is only a day or two before you get a confirmation.  Once, I logged in and requested chips, and I had a load delivered less than 4 hours later.  Crazy.  But supply far outweighs demand.  Those guys otherwise would be driving them to a landfill and paying to dump them.

As for the concern of sprayed trees, I don't know who would do that.  These are landscaping companies trimming trees from yards and along the street -- not trimming sprayed orchards.  Over the years, I've had at least 100 loads of wood chips delivered (perhaps as many as 150), and I've never once had reason to suspect that the chips and wood were anything but normal trees that we sent through a chipper.  I've never had a problem in my garden and orchard, and I put down 8 inches of wood chips every 6 months or so.
1 week ago
One of the principles of permaculture is accelerating succession.  By bringing in wood chips and other natural amendments, you are speeding up the timeline.  You don't have 1000 years to do what nature does over that time frame, so you've accelerated it using reasonable means.  Good for you.

A couple of other principles that come to mind are "obtain a yield" and "use and value renewables".  Manure, wood chips, pee . . . these fall into the realm of renewables, and they certainly help you boost your yield.  The last principle that comes to mind is "creatively use and value change".  The degree to which your involvement is active or passive is up to you, but I see nothing but positive in the "juicing" you describe.
1 week ago
Do you have any debt?  My first inclination is to live debt free.  Pay down any debt you might have and determine to never borrow again.

My second inclination is to donate the first 10% to a church or cause that you believe in, save at least 10% (an Index fund), and then enjoy the rest of that money one something that is life-giving and a good for you.  
4 weeks ago
Have you seen the going rate for a nice bear roast or ground bear burger?

Filets and tenderloin are going for $90 a pound.  Bear t-bone, rib-eye or NY steaks: $57 a pound.  Even ground bear (hamburger) goes for $24 a pound.

The going price for a black bear rug: about $2000 for a small one, $3K for a good-sized one.

When life gives you lemons, learn to tan bear hides.  And then get all value-added and start making authentic bear fur mittens, bear chili, bear tooth necklaces, bear jerky . . . the possibilities are endless.  All those tourists disembarking off their cruise ship in Fairbanks, Anchorage and elsewhere NEED something authentically Alaskan to spend their silly money on.  You'd be doing them a favor to sell them a slightly overpriced but totally authentic bear skin hat.

You're sitting on a gold mine --- you've just got to find a way to dig it out of the ground (or as the case may be, to turn it into ground . . . meat).
4 weeks ago
The Permaculture principle here is "Improve your land in order of greatest permanence."  

What does this mean?  Dig your swales and earthworks before you plant your trees . . . you want to put in the physical landscape that will last for decades/centuries BEFORE you plant the biological stuff that will last for years.

In applying this to your steep driveway, I would think that before you turn your attention on grading and surface fixes, you'll need to give serious attention to they hydrology of your site.  Water run-off appears to be the biggest problem, so until you engineer drainage and such, you'll constantly find your roadway washing out.

The second permie phrase that comes to mind is "The problem is the solution".  All that water!  It looks like an opportunity if you can channel it in some meaningful way to provide the moisture that feeds an orchard or pond.  
4 weeks ago
Wouldn't it be lovely if everywhere that there is currently a sign telling you to stand back, or a lady telling you to use the hand sanitizer, there would be information about building your immune system, and a tray of fresh, 100% organic, permaculture grown, nutrient dense veggies?

And a bowl of ranch dip, because, you know . . . mmmm, ranch.

Sanitizers by their very definition are designed to kill.  Is there anything we can do to PROMOTE life and immunity?  99.9% our our international response has been to create rules and structures like Paul experienced, but nobody is talking about actively taking measures to build our body's immune response systems.

Has anyone heard Dr. Fauci ever speak even once about strengthening our immune systems?  Even once?  Billions of dollars spent fighting this virus, yet no one talks about such a pragmatic step—everyone eating better, sleeping more, exercising, and cutting from our diet and our lives those things that compromise our micro-biome.  Like hand sanitizer.

Is there a permaculture response to this insanity?  Yes.  We build soil to grow nutrient dense food, we build immunity in our bodies and build resiliency within our ecosystems.

Good for you Paul.

pete eakle wrote:Our largest pomegranate tree (multi-trunk) grows vigorously and is over 10 ft. tall. It's one of several pomegranates in the same area.  It's a beautiful, healthy tree.  Each spring it puts on hundreds of red flowers.  But unfortunately, only a few of those flowers are female, which then turn into fruit.  Almost all its flowers are male (its easy to tell them apart).  And since only female flowers turn into fruit, this large healthy pomegranate tree produces only a few pieces of fruit each year.  I don't understand why it flowers in this way -- seems to be the same each year.  Any ideas?

I've never seen this before.  Everything that flowers on my tree turns into fruit (which means that I have to AGGRESSIVELY thin every spring).  What variety is your tree?  The most common pom tree in California is Wonderful -- that's what I've got.

I'd love to see a picture of the non-bearing flowers.  
1 month ago
Horse manure isn't as hot as chicken manure or other animal waste.  It'll have a higher concentration of undigested cellulose in it (compared to, for example, cattle manure) which will make it hold up a bit longer as a mulch or soil amendment.  It'll be fine to plant into by spring -- particularly if you're planting a heavy feeder like a cabbage or tomato.  I wouldn't plant leafy greens in it, but anything else should do fine.
1 month ago