George Bastion

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since Feb 25, 2019
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Recent posts by George Bastion

Hey all!

So a few years ago I built some long langstroth hives - basically a long deep box that could hold about 30 frames. A year into using the hives, the wood got so warped/the rabbets were cut crookedly enough/the gaps between frames had been propolized enough that standard langstroth frames would no longer fit into the hive and those in it were stuck, which was terribly inconvenient. So, I had the bright idea to convert them into Tanzanian style top bar hive and do away with frames.

Now, being a frame beekeeper, I was used to leveling my hives side to side (I do not use foundation so need to level them side to side to keep the bees building comb straight). I never worried about leveling them front to back because the frame created a natural boundary for the bees. Well, I made the mistake of doing the same for these hives as top bar hives on a fairly steep slope front to back, meaning the bees started bulding their comb in the upper back corner of the hive, attaching it to the back wall and moving forward as they built. So basically the first 10 or 12 top bars have comb primarily attached to the side! No problem, I thought. I'll just cut the combs off the side. Well, I did this with the first comb I came to, and it being the newest, softest comb, you can guess what happened. I got it successfully cut off and a few seconds later, the whole thing collapsed. The bees were mad. I was mad. It was a massive pain trying to attach a fallen piece of comb to a top bar with a rubber band.

I have since leveled the hives front to back, but even if the bees fix their comb-building (which they probably won't, as they are prone to build next the prior comb), I have AT LEAST 12 top bars where the large pieces of comb (since it is a deep) is attached entirely to the back wall of the hive!

My plan is to give the bees some time to harden up the comb they have already built, hope they build comb in the middle of the top bar now that the hives are level, and then go back on a cool weekend day and use a long bread knife to cut the combs off the wall, using rubber bands to support the free-hanging comb if needed. Given the pickle I am in, does this sound like the right plan to any experienced top-bar beekeepers out there? If not, how would you fix this without dooming the hive? Should I just leave them alone, hope the bee inspector doesn't need to inspector my hive, and go back in to fix the comb in the fall once the colony is smaller?
3 years ago
Very fair point. Context matters, and indeed, what is "natural" for a bee colony will change based on environment. The conditions he researched apply mainly to temperate and cold weather climates in line with North America and Europe. Not so much desert or anything like that.
4 years ago
Whenever I hear talk of natural beekeeping, I instantly think of the amazing research done by Dr. tom Seeley at Cornell University. He studied the conditions found in natural beehives, and developed a beekeeping methodology aimed at replicating these natural conditions.

In my view, that is the definition of natural beekeeping. Stuff like not using chemical treatments or preventing swarms, to me, is a given, since there is no one preventing swarms or throwing chemicals in the hive in the wild.

Here's a great article. I intend to start trying to bee keep more like this. He even has recommendations for people who like the more conventional box hives - keep your bees in one deep super (box cavity around 42 liters), and if you want to harvest honey, use a queen excluder and a shallow super above that. Less honey? Yes. More in line with natural conditions of the wild hive? Also yes.
4 years ago
Functional Analysis of a PawPaw Tree (Kudos to Clemson and North Carolina State extension articles, which provided much of this info)

Intrinsic Characteristics

1. Trees started from seed will produce fruit in 5-8 years, and grafted cuttings can produce fruit in as little as 3-4 years.

2. 20’ tall and less broad at full maturity

3. 5-10 feet spacing; closer for thicket to mimic natural conditions, further for separate trees.

4. Requires other cultivars present to bear fruit. Plant in groups with at least 3 different varieties.

5. Grow best in fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-7). Thrives in river bottoms.


1. Water. Plan to provide ample water to pawpaw trees, especially during the establishment year, either manually, or as a byproduct of site.

2. Training. To train the tree to grow as a single stem, remove suckers that sprout during the early years. Or, leave suckers on the tree to train the tree as a hedge or screen plant.

3. Shade. Young trees are very sensitive to sunlight and should be kept shaded until they are at least 1.5 feet tall. Can get full sun in mature years.


1. Highly nutritious fruit. Skin and seeds of fruit not edible.

2. Leaves, bark, and twigs produce anti-cancer and insecticidal compounds called acetogenins. Lab tests have show effectiveness against certain cancer cells. Can be used to create tonic.

3. Bark is very fibrous and good for cordage and rope, while wood is light and good for carving – flutes, spoons, etc.

Comments/More Specific Observations: The best time to plant pawpaws is while the tree is not actively growing- early spring or fall. the taproot is easily damaged during transplanting, which will often result in tree death. As a result, saplings grown in containers have a higher transplant survival rate. You can collect wild fruit, save the seed, and start saplings from these seeds. To save pawpaw seeds, collect ripe fruit, remove all pulp from the seed, and place in a cold, moist spot for 90-120 days. Do not let the seeds dry out before planting.

To mimic the understory conditions that the pawpaw needs for its establishment years you could plant on the north side of a fence where the pawpaw will be shaded while its young but receive full sunlight as it matures and grows above the fence line. Another option is to establish a quick growing nitrogen fixing tree or shrub on the south side of where you plan on planting your pawpaw. Get this tree established the year before so it can provide adequate shade for your newly planted pawpaw tree. Choosing nitrogen-fixing species gives you a quick growing tree that will properly shade your pawpaw as well as providing fertility for the tree. The shade tree can then be cut down a few years later once your paw paw is established and the danger of sunburnt leaves and shoots is no longer a threat. A third option is to plant quick growing annual legumes on the south side of the pawpaw while also building a simple bean or pea trellis over the top of the paw paw to provide quick shade, nitrogen fixation, as well as a crop from your leguminous shade-giving plants as you wait for your pawpaws to mature. Also, planting in a site that is as humid as possible is ideal for the pawpaw.

Fruit is extremely perishable and is amazingly delicious when it is perfectly ripe. It can be used much like you would use a banana. For longer-term storage you can freeze the fruit and make ice cream out of it.

Requires pollination, mostly by flies. Flower smells somewhat like rotting flesh to attract these creatures. A way to mimic these conditions is to put rotting meat near paw-paws to attract the pollinators.

4 years ago
EDIT: My post is describing why it's not so simple as those who chose and who do not. I'm not offering my opinion either way.

Because babies, people with auto-immune conditions, and other sub-populations cannot get vaccinated - sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently due to medical conditions.

Those people are put into greater risk and harm, not because they chose to not get vaccinated, but because they could not. An otherwise healthy individual who does not get vaccinated can get the disease and pass it on to one of these vulnerable individuals, who are now infected because of the choices of said otherwise healthy individual.

It;s a messy topic because it isn't just about those who chose and those who do not. There are those who can not choose, and who are put at greater risk by others' choices.
4 years ago
Respectfully, I don't think I unilaterally declared that anyone should do anything. I asked if we, collectively, should decide for ourselves if we should us certain words. There's a difference in saying "you should" and asking "should we." I also never said anyone was understanding the word wrong. I pointed out how I understood and asked others how they felt, and affirmed their agency in choosing to use the words in question if they wish.

I don't think this justifies implying I am declaring from on high what folks should do, or that I am not being nice. If I am wrong, and my conduct is inappropriate, I am open to hearing about how I am wrong and having a discussion. If I am correct in my understanding of my own conduct, and this discussion makes anyone uncomfortable for other reasons, well, I have no control over that. Absent any personal attack, If a person is offended when someone expresses their opinion that these words evoke an ongoing legacy of indigenous genocide and abuse of land, then it is their responsibility, not mine, to examine why those feelings emerge.

I'll emphasize again that I am only proposing that those of us who feel this way and are interested in it come up with new ways of communicating our choices and lifestyles differently. Those who want to keep using these words are free to do so.

I like the idea of creating a more descriptive word. Something that explicitly applied to permaculture applied in the way we are discussing. Something that captures the small scale, long-term, and place-based nature of this kind of lifestyle. And infuses a sense of community into the description.

I was thinking about combining permaculture and villager, but then I got pillager lol.
4 years ago
And you should be able to call yourself a homesteader if you like Su.
4 years ago
In Urbanization without Cities, Murray Bookchin spent a lot of time tracing the development of cities and urbanization from an anthropological perspective, and the benefits they've had for humans.

Before cities, the concept of multiple ethnic and tribal groups living at relative peace within the same space, and ultimately identifying with their geographic community across religious, ethnic, and racial lines may not have developed. Cities were a natural stepping stone to breaking out of more parochial ways of thinking about human relationships and developing a concept of common humanity.

He also traced how cities have evolved into mega-cities or metropolises, how the civic ties of the city have given way to the centralized bureaucracy and impersonal scale of the metropolis.

But there is no reason cities cannot be re-imagined to be part of a sustainable, ecological society. Rural and urban do not have to be in tension. both can be different life-ways working to achieve the same goal - ecological, regenerative systems and the provision of human needs as part of this. It's a matter of returning to a human scale, or taking back direct control of the cities we live in, and re-imagining the relationship between cities and countryside. The countryside is often treated as the breadbasket for the city, a resource to be extracted for urban dwellers. Conversely, the city is often treated as the problem by country folk, who blame the city itself for this dynamic rather than the underlying logic on which cities are built. Change the logic, change the city.

Havana, Cuba grows most the food its people produce within the city. There are ways of bringing both country living and urban life into the fold of regenerative permaculture.
4 years ago
Words are immensely important. When you die, your words will remain. Your words and how people understand them shape their thoughts of you and everything or everyone you are associated with.

Also, I am not suggesting self-identified homesteaders be pushed out or persecuted in any way, so no need to call for them to be left alone.

I am proposing that those of us who are concerned with the historical baggage around terms like pioneer and homesteader come up with a new way of talking about who we are and what we do. I want to be able to talk about my goals and activities typically called "homesteading" without invoking the legacies of the indigenous genocide that continues today, which I and many other associate with those words.  
4 years ago
Thanks everyone. A lot of good fodder for thought.

I definitely agree that homesteading doesn't mean the same thing today as it did when the term originally was popularized in the U.S. But I also agree words have history and meaning - and the point of this thread is to consider whether these are the best words to describe what we in the permaculture community are doing when we do things typically considered "homesteading." Personally, I see no reason why a word can't be chosen that doesn't have the same historical baggage or murky legacy.

Permasteader actually sounds pretty good to me as a descriptor for permaculture applied on a small scale, long-term basis, primarily for the purposes of local-sufficiency. Emphasizing local sufficiency, rather than self-sufficiency could also differentiate the two, since I think community is an important component of permaculture.

Which leads me to say I agree Michael - that's partially why I recoil at the word homesteading. The Wikipedia page for homesteading says "Pursued in different ways around the world—and in different historical eras—homesteading is generally differentiated from rural village or commune living by isolation (either socially or physically) of the homestead. " Now, Wiki isn't some super authoritative source, but I think this reinforces what you are saying. Homesteading, as opposed to, say, village living, is an attempt at so-called self-sufficiency - building independence from others. But village or communal living is about building community interdependence and resiliency, which includes meeting the needs of the self, but extends beyond that.

Maybe instead of redefining homesteading, permasteading can apply to the same sort of life-style but done in the context of community resiliency, not self-sufficiency, and specifically practicing permaculture. Not all homesteaders are permaculturists after all.

4 years ago