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stephen lowe

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since Jul 05, 2017
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Recent posts by stephen lowe

I'm sorry to hear about the troubles. Hopefully you can find a path forward.

The first thing I thought once you mentioned willingness and ability to farm crops was hemp. Here is a link to the Maine department of Ag page on hemp, you can start applying for 2020 permits on Jan 1 and it is a $600 fee plus $50 per acre for the permit.Industrial Hemp in Maine

I know people doing this in several states and it seems to be a bit different in each state but one thing that might appeal to you is that in some places the end customer will come harvest the crop for you. In fact, depending on how developed the processing capacity in your state is it's possible that your customer will give you the seeds/starts on credit AND do the harvesting for you. Obviously that is a lower profit way to go but it is also lower risk and for the time being the margins seem to work out for competent and careful farmers. The certified seed that my friend is using in Kentucky cost him between 50c and 3$ each, approx 1000 seeds per acre (500-3000$/acre), expected revenue approaching 6 figures/acre (this is with him harvesting, drying, and doing some processing to remove excess leaf and stem). Seems improbable to me but even at 20% of their projections there is profit there.

Feel free to send me a purple moosage if you have any more specific questions but it appears that most places the best way to start is to contact the ag department and ask about the possibility. And if it's something they would consider at your property then see if they (or someone else in the community/some hemp advocacy organization) can point you in the direction of a processor who would be your customer. The biggest national company is called Hemp Inc. and they have processing in at least North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon and in theory could purchase material from anywhere in the nation, but the specific logistics of it all can get a little odd. Seems to be a puzzle that each land owner/producer has to solve for themselves
4 days ago
I wanted to mention flat rate as well. Not the ideal solution for every item you might ship but there are sweet spots in size/weight around each flat rate size option that make them super useful
1 week ago
There's these things people call 'micro clusters'. My limited understanding is that it is basically a relatively weak electrical bond between water molecules. It's supposedly related to surface tension and supposedly builds up as water sits in mass. Running over rapids reduces it, supposedly flowform and other water structuring tech reduces it, schaubergers vortexes presumably reduced it, and rain water falling from the sky is already lacking these masses. The concept is that these electrically bonded masses of water stick together, are harder for microbiology/roots to access, have a tendency to slide deep into the soil profile all together, and are generally just less accessible to flora than water that is less bonded to itself. that's one theory that seems scientific.
there's also the possibility that the electric activity in the atmosphere that tends to accompany rain storms has some positive effect on plant growth.
Or maybe it's just that the faerie folk like it best and their dancing foot steps are the only fertilizer any of us truly need
3 weeks ago
I really like to stew greens in a mixture of broth and vinneagar for a long time until they are pretty much a mush. That can then be eaten as a side or on top of a grain. It's basically an old southern style collard green but I do it with just about any green. It takes longer than you think but you can also just water it down and turn it into a soup if you get tired of waiting.
2 months ago

Creighton Samuels wrote:

It's a beautiful island in all the photos, which are undoubtedly in summertime.  Notably, however, there are no visible trees so this island is very likely inside the Arctic circle.  If a trained builder of rocket mass heaters were to move there, and a suitable fuel source is actually available in this region of Ireland, that builder would have access to a large portion of Ireland in order to offer his/her professional services; as the island is only 3 miles from the Irish "mainland", 5 miles from an airport and connected by a daily ferry.

Since it's only 3 miles from shore, why did it take so long for the island to get a broadband internet service?

None of Ireland is in the arctic circle. They probably just cut all the trees down long long ago to graze more and never planted new ones. As to why they don't have highspeed internet, I could probably go about 10 miles here on the US mainland to find a lack of highspeed internet, so I'm guessing it's just a rural place that hasn't had a need to justify the investment.
2 months ago

paul wheaton wrote:I wish to strongly discourage the thing where people make a trench and put the hugelkultur in the trench.  

I wish to strongly encourage hugelkultur beds to be at least six feet tall.   Preferentially 7 feet tall or taller.

I wish to strongly encourage hugelkultur beds to have very steep sides.  75 degrees to 80 degrees.

I wish to strongly encourage hugelkultur beds to be at least 20 feet long.

I wish to strongly encourage wood + soil + wood + soil + wood + soil + wood + soil + mulch.   I see too much of wood-on-wood - and I wish to discourage that.

I wish to discourage the use of "nails" in hugelkultur.  The stick ends up wicking water out of the hugelkultur.

I think the video is fun - but there are a lot of things in it that I wish they expressed differently.

I understand your reasoning on all of those encouragements except for the trench one. Why do you think that they are less than desirable? Seems like a good technique, especially for very dry places.
2 months ago
I heard an interesting talk with a researcher at UC Berkley who is doing a project on the viability of urban greens (weeds) as a food source. One of the most interesting things about the whole talk to me was that they found 0 examples of leaf samples taken from all over the oakland/berkley area (including alongside busy roads) where any dangerous contaminants were present in the leaves after a simple sink washing. Most plants won't move heavy metals up into their leaves. One plant that will is tobacco, and if you're concerned about things like lead you can use tobacco (which you then remove and either compost and spread around timber trees) to pull some of those metals out of the dirt. You could also probably just screen the dirt to get the biggest junk out and then spread it around some ornamentals or in a forested area
2 months ago
After taking a two day workshop with mark at last years ACRES conference there are a few things that I took away. One of them was that he has a dramatically different approach to the economics of farming than your average farmer. He talked at length about how one of his big leaps came when he began to think of his 'job' as property/real estate development as opposed to food production. This thinking allowed him to approach financing differently and it's something that I think turns off a lot of farmers (especially multigenerational farmers with a deep cultural identity as food producers) and it also involves taking on a lot of debt. The other thing about his style is that it is not really geared toward a single farm taking it's products to market, it is intimately connected (in it's profitability) to his connection to the organic valley co-op. The lifestyle benefits are almost entirely because he is part of a cooperative that frees him from having to do much marketing for his main crops and plug them into a commodity scale supply chain. This is what frees up his time as much or more than the diverse nature of his farm. The third thing is that it is being adopted on more and more farms around the country and the world. He works with a company called restoration agriculture design that does everything from planning consultation through to full installation of a system like his. He relayed stories and pictures of a large number of farms that RAD had helped establish, the thing is most farmers aren't nearly as evangelical as he is. If you think about how many farms do you 'hear' anything about that you don't live right near or see at a local farmers market? Farmers, by and large, are busy people who aren't seeking publicity or proselytizing outside of their circle of fellow farmer friends.
2 months ago
you might try searching around for spoiled grass hay (make sure it's grass unless it's certified organic), grass hay is usually untreated with anything because it's just not profitable. You will have to contend with weed seeds with the hay but it will be chemical free and have more nutritive value than straw would.
2 months ago
I'll toss another vote in for hugelkultur. They don't have to be huge to be effetive, but you will need some dirt/compost/clay to layer with it, otherwise you will just have mounded dry branches. If you do go the hugelkultur route you're gonna want to remember to irrigate pretty well the first year, especially with your dry climate, but after a winter snow melt it should become a great resource.
2 months ago