Diane Kistner

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since Sep 06, 2018
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Athens, GA Zone 8a
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Recent posts by Diane Kistner

Are you anywhere near Athens, GA? I'm in Zone 8b, a pocket of Athens that's rated as such, but most of Athens is 8a. We had to have a bunch of diseased pines felled on the cheap, and we basically left most of them where they fell to rot down. We've got about 3/4 acre. We are renting, but the landlord is a friend and is giving me carte blanche to do whatever I think is best to improve the land.

I am a short seventysomething woman working by myself to develop this land. I have no heavy equipment; all I have is Mother Nature, who is actually pretty awesome in what she can do if you are patient. I started seven years ago eradicating English ivy that had climbed up into all the pines and sweetgums and undermined them. I had poison ivy, too, with twisting trunks of vines as big as a weightlifter's arms. I'm not poisoning anything now, but the poison ivy I did take triclopyr to in the first year or two, because otherwise it would have been hopeless. Now I am extremely vigilant with the ivies and pull them up whenever they try to reassert themselves. I did eliminate some wild muscadines that were not producing and choking out other things, but for the most part I've let the other stuff grow.

Pine sawyers were killing all the pines. I could hear them chewing up the trees from the inside. Bone-chilling sound! Awful! The trees were dangerous. I got somebody not insured to fell many. (When he dropped one that almost took off my neighbor's roof, we quit.) We have termites, too, but I let them do their work because they are not near the house. I'm keeping any felled wood away from the house. Plus, fortunately, my landlord has a termite inspection done every year.

I have dumped tons of wood chips and leaves on the ground. Passiflora incarnata vines come up everywhere, almost like they are invasives, but I figure they are healing the land. I pull them up in the areas I'm working on turning into "edibles" areas. I've plugged in any number of fruit trees (figs do extremely well here; half my plums and pears have died but half are making it), and I'm essentially fighting to keep the deer off of them until they are more mature, and then the guilds will go in.

Those pines, believe it or not, actually do rot down eventually. Periodically I go out with an axe and chop at them for as long as I am able to do it, and that seems to help. I've got piles that I've put black tarps over to knock back the vines (Passiflora, greenbriar now mostly) and I know there are voles and possums and other critters who take advantage of those spaces. I cut up a lot of the pine logs and turned them on end to make deer obstacles inside of the old chainlink fence on the property (this is an almost rural suburb), and I've definitely got insects drilling into them and helping rot them down.

This is all I can manage to do, but the birds must really love it because they come in droves. I've got mountain mint growing in clumps here and there, and I have never seen so many different pollinators in one place in my life! I've been able to watch the waves of this and that and the other insect come in and then be brought into balance by predators. One year the Joro spiders were everywhere...this year, not so much! Somebody is eating them for dinner....

As things rot, the soil improves. You know we have red Georgia clay. This lot had been scraped of all its topsoil so it was hard concrete-like clay pretty much, but slowly the soil is improving. I'm still working on nurturing the ecosystem, trying to bring things in balance. But this year, for the first year, after I deer-fenced a 48'x52' vegetable garden area, I have gotten more food than we can process and eat. There's still a ways to go, but when I look back and see what's been accomplished, I am heartened. The thrips and Japanese beetles ate all my fruit this year, but the trees themselves are healthy and I know it's just a matter of time before the lacewings start decimating the thrips. I used to have aphids everywhere, and they aren't a problem here anymore. The ants have moved further away from the house. I told them I was fine with them as long as they went off into the power easement and left my stuff alone!

2 weeks ago

Blaine Clark wrote:Here's a bit of a surprise for most, Creeping Charlie, that scourge of some lawns, is a mint too, and it adds a different flavor to salads and cooking. I need to excrement - I mean experimint *experiment* with it a lot more. I know, my puns are terrible!

The rest you posted is very good advice. I do have Jerusalem artichokes growing for inulin and am looking into fermenting some to avoid the gas problem.

But I wanted to talk about Creeping Charlie. I've got a ton of it growing everyday, so much I'm just letting it be ground cover. The pollinators absolutely adore it, and it does look pretty. I'll have to try it in salads and cooking! I knew it has some medicinal benefits, but I can't remember what. Being that it's a mint (which I did not know), I wonder if it will help keep snakes away from the chicken coop.... Please do share whatever you find out about using it, because it's probably the most abundant thing I grow.

Glad to know cooking horseradish helps with the heat. I assume it still has its beneficial properties for arthritic pain when cooked?

I liked your puns, btw. It made me laugh.

2 months ago
What effect does horseradish have on your stomach? This sounds like something I'd like to try, but I suffer from GERD pretty badly due to a hernia. I was thinking of maybe planting some horseradish in my yard, but I wasn't aware it could do this. Now I may have to!

2 months ago

craig howard wrote:Right it's just a curtain screen material.
Here's a pic of a piece I cut off:
mosquitoscreen by vwfatmobile, on Flickr

I wonder if something like this would work?


2 months ago
Hi, Barbie! Hi, Barbie! Hi, Barbie! Hi, Barbie!
6 months ago

Kevin Goheen wrote:So I know your post is about chamomile, which I love, but might I recommend a weed that is so pleasant and even provides fruits: The Maypop/Passionfruit. Maypop is a true passionfruit, and the leaves are actually used as a substitute for Prozac by some. Leaves and fruits are a win.

I have Maypop growing rampantly in my new garden area (cleared of dead pines last year) and came here to find out if it has any benefits for healing the soil or being used for compost. Can you elaborate on how the leaves are used as a Prozac substitute? Infusion, tincture, eaten as greens?

I was looking into chamomile, too, and bought one of those bulk packs of Stash chamomile teas. Glad to hear they make a good eye-pain compress.

8 months ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:I'd make it's back face the glass so you can open the door to get stuff out. All you'd need is a glassed box, doesn't have to be spiffy, and a way to make it vent into the bottom of the dehydrator. Holes drilled in the bottom and it sits on the top of the glass box output would easily be enough. Glass box has similar holes drilled in it's bottom to let air in, and in it's top to let air out.

Ah! I can see it...and that's a great suggestion to have the back face the collector. I have some old windows and boards, so maybe I can cobble this thing together! Thanks!
10 months ago

Jay Angler wrote:The biggest pain/time user, is often making the trays, and the trays look nice. About what size are they, and how big is the gap between them? There seems to be two types also.

The trays are 12"x16" with about an inch between them. Half are like oven trays and the other half are a mesh.

As far as a fan is concerned, I was wondering if I could somehow press into service one of those woodstove-type fans that run off the heat of sitting on the stove. I can't visualize how I would rig it, though. Maybe I should just try, like you say, staggering the trays every other one and just sit it outside and see what happens and go from there.

Should I plan to put this inside a box that I could leave outside? Maybe something angled toward the sun that this could sit inside of?We do have a good bit of humidity here.

I was looking at this build, which helped me visualize the whole convection thing. I'm pretty dyslexic.

10 months ago

William Bronson wrote:
This is basically the same idea I had for converting a file cabinet into a solar dehydrator,  but your starting point is much better.

I was thinking I could maybe put this inside an old filing cabinet we have, but it wouldn't fit. Great minds think alike!
10 months ago

Pearl Sutton wrote:Yes, you absolutely can.
Give us some good pictures so we can see how it's made, and we can give you better advice about holes etc.


Okay, here are some photos. Essentially, the fan blows through the sides across the trays. It has rubber feet, a glass front door, and the rest of the body is stainless.

10 months ago