John Hutter

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since Oct 11, 2016
Central Oregon Coast Range, valley side
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Recent posts by John Hutter

In spirit of novel A-frame-ish designs, my plan for the first serious build has been a green roofed A-frame ever since this video I saw last May

Well it's a flat topped A frame anyways.  

About the same frame as is filmed, except probably a bunch of on site milled siding instead of paneling, and the roof will be green.  

The only significant deviations from "traditional" lined green roofs I think, will be throwing down dollars for stainless steel flashing, sourcing quite a few loads of halfway rotten scrap dimensional lumber of 1.5" thickness to lay up and down the whole length of the roof, and then transplanting some of the horrible, the terrible, the awful, English Ivy along the sides of the house, where I will have made a fancy fertilized irrigated planting bed for them to make that whole thing a living surface in 4 or 5 years instead of 20.  

Once mature, the scrap dimensional lumber and English Ivy will have made a sturdy few inches of soil and vine, then the structure can officially be called Wofatish.   But it's not done, the next step is to begin working in some more soil into the ivy mat, and chucking all kinds of cool wet season growing seeds on it, and let grow what will.  

It seems that if the building is only that size, and it is also edged with a total darkness thicket of sword ferns, pruning that Ivy patch once a year would pretty much be a cinch.  

It'd be nice to have something sweet smelling or tasty or otherwise useful as a living surface right away, but English Ivy is the only A++ I know for the criteria of evergreen rain erosion control and vigorous climbing/root matting growth in marginal soil and water conditions.    

Hope to start on this before too many months go by, but Operation Paddy Terrace and the rest of life are going to have to happen first haha.
3 weeks ago
Though people who must have production this year cannot engage it, most anyone can devote small bits of land to maybe my favorite agricultural concept, Mark Shepard's S.T.U.N., also known as "Shear Total Utter Neglect."

If fatigued and wearing down, take a break if you can, a week of rest here and there in a year (and maybe simultaneously fasting and stretching a bit on very clean water, and god knows what else) might do wonders for the pained and fatigued body.  But it can't happen, because the work absolutely must get done.  Maybe there's some other agreement that can allow you to let you neglect it for a time, without ruining your finances, or causing reversion to biocidal agriculture.  

To my understanding, s.t.u.n. is a 5 year plan minimum, and may not make anything useful for quite a few years (or a 20 year experiment which may fail, if you are trying to start something like chestnuts :)

Step one: collect mostly perennial seeds, of all different types, of all different cultivars.  As many as you can, wanna say minimum 2 dozen species, better if 3 or 4 dozen and a few cultivars of each?

Step two: sow seeds.  Rake things, or chop and drop, in concentrated piles if you are really trying to reduce a specific plant's presence, or maybe kick dirt like Sepp if there is disturbed ground.

Step three: look for any of your sowed seeds growing neck in neck with the undesirable weeds, making it through the year and making seed if an annual, or perennials surviving the 3 months without rain (or whatever the choke point is in your locale.)  If they do, you are probably on to something!

Step four: save seed or dote on surviving perennials a bit.  Then repeat steps 2-5, unless you've got no survivors, then you need to revisit step one, or maybe let the area grow whatever it wants for a year or 3 and try again.

You might even see some things you've never read about before! Like celery regrowing from the same root system 3 years in a row now. Wait, what? perennial celery and beets that are going to seed each year?

Or, if tossing clumps of an annual seed head does not result in new plants next year, that plant is probably not currently fit for your site under stun (its definitely not fit for that precise spot.)

Also, s.t.u.n. will not get you a continuous and quickly harvestable patch of annual grain or legumes.  If that is your goal, you cannot stun.   It seems that to do grains and legumes for market, a person must have a mostly flat fertile field and mechanical harvesting, or else you have a good chance of working it to the bone.

Also, I do not s.t.u.n. my tomatoes and squash, because I must have tomatoes and squash and I've had little luck sowing seeds, so they get doted on (there's the toilet for today!)  I had my first volunteer tomato this year, after 5 years of chucking split rotten tomatoes all over the place.  It was still a small yielding plant compared to the ones I doted on (by which I mean, started indoors in February HAHA) but I'm definitely saving those seeds and transplanting and doting on more than a few of those tomato plants next year.  I think transplanting annuals should be regarded as "for personal consumption only."  If you are trying to earn a living selling those things, there's a good chance your gonna work it to the bone.

Maybe there is somebody nearby who has a desirable s.t.u.n. polyculture growing on in conditions identical to yours.  Getting seeds and cuttings from such a site can jump your project forward a decade.

Well its never really "shear total utter neglect" but stun is short for seeking systems which produce with as little effort/input as possible.  Or it's the permaculture concept along the lines of "if you neglect it for years, it does not die."  You mostly neglect any specific area for most of the year, but your gonna have to show up to pick at least.

One last point on stun, you might end up with some plant you've never heard of before, making something like 10x as many calories per unit of work, as the plants you were messing with before.  Great success! Except nobody else has heard of this food either, and there is no demand for it.  Finding customers for novel things can be just as slow as sowing tree seeds of species that won't bear fruit for 10 years, if they survive.  Whereas the corn and beans will sell now.

Hope you find a way!

1 month ago
I had a dream 2 or 3 nights ago, in the dream I knew I was at Wheaton Labs, checking out an impressive ~10 ft  shear-walled trench cut into solid grey rock, it might have been about 15 ft across and twice as long.  I'm meandering around and checking out the stone in the walls as I'm lamenting letting go of all the progress I had made growing cool/cold wet season vegetables in Oregon's maritime air...there would be none of that going on here.  I exit the large rock trench and see plain white medium sized building, basically a box a short distance away, that says "Deutsch Bank" on the side.  Then I wake up and can't fall back asleep for like an hour, because the mind is compulsively mulling it over, like what the hell was with that?  Surely I haven't read about anything about Deutsche Bank in like, a few years...

So I won't be taking any action with regard to that dream, but finger crossed some major financial institution will be crossing over into some long term soil building investment haha.
1 month ago
I've got 3 massive foxgloves in the garden, because I thought I had found some comfrey while looking for mushrooms in a wilderness.  Turns out the plants are almost indistinguishable as a small basal rosette in early fall, but note the serrated leaf margins of foxglove!

I'm a fan of the universal edibility test.  Also note it takes a week to test a substance properly.  I've had a few tiny nibbles of some mushroom I couldn't identify that had me feeling kinda strange 24 hours later.   Pretty sure I had about 5 mm^2 of a gallerina cap one time.  It took a day and it wasn't noticeable if I was doing something, but if I stopped and focused on how I felt, I could kinda sense something was off, and I wouldn't call it good.

One time, I ate a panther amanita the size of my head.  Turns out if the conditions are just right, it can be virtually indistinguishable from a cocorra, a very yummy mushroom I had eaten 5 times before.  Be sure that the frosting is COTTONY and POOFY; a panther amanita can have frosting for a veil remnant the peels off in one nice piece, just like a cocorra, and everything else was just like a cocorra.  Although this is quite rare, the panther amanita is usually more tan than bright yellow, and the frosting veil remnant is usually in pieces and quite thin.  Fortunately, muscarine poisoning is not fatal.   That was a trip, funny I hardly cared I was barfing when I did 5 hours after ingestion.  Thanks for not killing me you purdy purdy amanita!  Yea, even if you are starving it's probably safer to just leave the amanitas alone.  My issue is that a cocorra is like eggier than eggs and became a favorite food on my first serving.

A nutritionist lady once told me to systematically test everything I eat, because all people are different and negative reactions and mild food allergies can be insidious.  The primary tell is the mucosal response in your throat after eating; this is your body trying to create a barrier between you and what you just ate (though it is possible for alliums, peppers, ginger, "HOT" things etc to induce a mucosal response after eating which is not a low degree allergic reaction slowly sucking the life out of you.)

This test suffers from the problem with the universal edibility test, in that it takes time and not many people have the patience to do something like make a meal of a single unseasoned plant.  Peanuts, cashews and walnuts failed this test, like really obviously for me.  Gosh darnit, why do peanuts and cashews taste so good then!?  Oh well, I've still got (roasted!) hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and brazil nuts...plenty of nuts really.

I was quite nervous for the tomato and potato test, in that giving up those foods would be more difficult for me than giving up bacon.  They are like the primary output of muh site that can satisfy the savory food craving (as a ~90% vegan meals individual.)  Oh thank god, no after eating mucous from the often reported negative nightshades.
2 months ago
I'm a big fan of the the box fan, with a air filter duck taped to it, which is then set into the heavy duty cardboard box, which has a series of 1x2"s fed through it at various levels, which hold some 1/4" plywood trays (because scrap) and the plywood trays hold the 16"x24" Silpat nonstick silicon mats.

The parts to make one of these are about $30 and an hour of time if you have the wood laying around.  The Silpat mats are expensive at $30 each, and that was 5 years ago...  However, I've used them repeatedly every year, and they appear brand new (when washed...) and will probably last most of a lifetime (if you treat them nice and don't bake with them and they see no direct sunlight.)

The nonstick mats save a great amount of time if you relegate your dehydrating to leathers only. A person can de-pit half a lug of peaches, toss them in a pot with some tapioca flour and/or honey, use an immersion blender to puree, heat to pasteurize, ladle cooled fruit puree onto silicon mats, spatula into mostly uniform layer over mat, and slide into cardboard box fan dehydrator, peel and turn over the leather when just dry enough usually the second evening....that all takes something like 1/3 the hands on time required to do all the slicing and arranging of individual pieces for drying, in my experience.  Once I went fruit leather on silpat, I never dried a fruit any other way (and starting making tomato sauce with rehydrated tomato leather.  At $20 per hour my silpat mats have bought themselves a few times already.  The fruit leather done like this keeps a nice color and tastes super yum.

I should have found way of storing it in glass by now, but I still plastic bag the leather and put it in the freezer.  It seems like there's no avoiding it here; peach and tomato leather kept for more than 3 months sealed but at room temperature lose a significant amount of delicious, and the freezer seems keep all the flavor for a year.  And if you roll that leather up into a tight cigar, you can pack a lot of it away in a small amount of freezer space.  

There's no heater, so I only run this dehydrator if day time highs are 90f+.  Otherwise it take more than 3 days, loses more color.  A person could probably set it up in a greenhouse or car and get it to finish real fast, or do it without the fan.   Although a box fan only needs a few kWh to get it done at outdoor ambient temperature here, and I found a box fan, so I'm box fanning it.

Happy dehydrating
2 months ago
I've found myself leaving out the "Rocket" part and calling it a "mass heater" when introducing the idea to people.

I am also a fan of the word radiant, except "radiant mass heater" might be too many syllables.  3 is good, but hard to pull off if a person is concerned about making the name very descriptive.

3 months ago
I purchased a zoom h1 microphone for $80 a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised with the result when I bugged the frog pond

Although it looks like this model is no more, and now the low end Zoom model is the "h1n" for $120.  The h1 is quite a mic for $80, this next one is probably as good.
3 months ago
Another thing to consider here is an older and often neglected name for the smaller native American cousin of the erect blackberry, which is the Dew Berry

I'm pretty sure erect blackberries work the same way and it's why they can be setting juicy fruit climates where most un-irrigated plants have turned in for the year due to lack of water; these plants have a greater capacity for drinking moisture from night air.   In fact, as they are ripening, you can see and feel the condensation on the berries in the morning, when such condensation is not visible on other plants.   For one thing the color black causes this, that is increased black body radiation which results in a cooler and more actively condensing berry come dawn. Also the old-rubbing-fur-on-a-glass-rod trick would suggest the surface of the berry has an electrical charge, as they strongly attract things like wind born dandelion seeds.   I want to guess this also increases the condensation rate.  I like blackberries and physics haha.

Shaded areas tend to be more humid, and the edges of high canopy and open meadow tends to create temperature differences come evening, which creates gentle air flows.  And tends to create dew and nice dew berries!

4 months ago
I've got a not very encouraging report for forest gardeners in the Coast Range rain forests.

I have buried a lot of wood.  One time a grand fir just shy of 4 ft in diameter at breast height came down.  Me and my buddy could barely deadlift the biggest rounds end over end, but we got them into position  (mostly.)  That's 1 of about 12 buried trees on a hectare, but it was the biggest one.

The point, is that large hugelkultur tends to result in an explosion of wildlife.  Most noticeably here, mushrooms, pill hugs, brown slugs, small rodents, robins, juncos, spotted towhees.   The garter snake expansion didn't get rolling until the third year.  Long ago you'd see them a few times per year, this year was more like a dozen sightings.  There are a few ~4"  minus rock piles, but I see them around the hugel beds mostly

Okay so, brief good news, in the 4th year pill bugs and brown slugs didn't quite decimate all the spring seed planting like they did in the 3rd year.  There were even more snakes.  The ecosystem is progressing!  It's working!!!

Then the progress is lost, this year was much worse for brown slugs.  Among other factors I'm sure, this Redtail hawk starts hanging around the property.  6 robins flock to harass it for hours, but it doesn't flinch against their bluff dives.  I digress.  

Bad news, I have since seen the hawk fly off with a big juicy garter snake, and the brown slugs (and pill bugs but I mostly see slime trails) probably ate 95% percent of planted seeds which made it to seedling this year.  There was literally, hundreds of baby dill plants....I scatted a lot of seed, not one survived the onslaught.  It's hard out there for a dill and garter snake.

I guess it should be mentioned that there were lots of baby brassicas they didn't get around to eating, or weren't as interested in.  Except I wish they'd eat the brassicas before the beans and potatoes and herbs, but apparently that's not how brown slugs and pill bugs work.  Or it was just that most of the brassicas happened to not be in the chosen path of destruction.  4/6 potato planting areas hardly took any pest damage.  But again, seriously, 9 out of like 200 bean plants made it, planted in a few meandering lines, and most the 9 plants were chewed down to a nub.  They just didn't die, and now that the ground has finally dried out significantly, the new growth isn't being eaten.

To save a potato variety I really did not want to buy again, I resorted to going out at night, some times pulling 10 slugs off one plant, and stomping them.  That song from Office Space is playing in my head (the one where they stomp the machine. I digress)

I did just see a blue tailed skink running around a bed today.  That's a new sighting, and the leopard slugs are on the increase, there's probably hope, but beware the plague of slugs.  It's likely immanent in this environment, and apparently it's not like aphids, where it seems to stabalize in a year or two with losses hovering around 5-10%.  Apparently it can take 5+ years for predator populations to BEGIN to significantly reduce a brown slug population if you really let it ride.  Brown slug growth was definitely exponential; I saw maybe 5 total in year 1, then maybe 40 year 2, and then year 3, holy duck, I've never seen so many slugs.  Just wait, they're still getting warmed up.

Or I got unlucky and got the wrong predator.   Or it's the right predator, and it has the wrong hunting habits.  Cut a perch for an owl 30 feet up an oak tree in the middle of the big beds, and then you get a gosh darned hawk eating the snakes instead of rodents, meanwhile the slugs continue their rampage.    Tough break.

4 months ago
Well it is pretty darn repulsive to the average westerner, but really it's mostly a cultural thing a person can get over.  Or for me, it took about 5 bites, despite the very real nauseous knot in my stomach near Iquitos for the first time I ate a locust.  Wait this is like, some kind of extra savory potato chip? Where's the goo and cartilage crunch I was so grossed out by in my head?  Turns out it was just in my head...although I'm sure preparing and cooking them correctly has a lot to do with it, and there's probably some types that don't taste very good.  However, if they are grazed on desirable fruit and nut tree foliage, it seems they'd be pretty choice.  

Turning bugs into duck eggs would best to my palate, but the swarm event seems likely to overwhelm any available bird grazing.  So if a locust swarm ever encroaches in my area, I'm going to get some processing facilities ready and go jellyfishing

Sorry about the losses!  But your well established perennials will be back
5 months ago