Arkady Schneider

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since Mar 02, 2020
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Recent posts by Arkady Schneider

Has anyone had the fruits of an M-111 apple tree? Not a palatable apple grafted onto M-111 rootstock, but just the plain old fruits of that M-111 itself?

I was looking at tree I have whose graft didn't take, and while I have other plans for the tree, curiosity impells me to ask.
3 weeks ago
Does anyone else suspect the grape cuttings may have been taken too early here? I'm a novice in this area myself, but that's the first thing I wondered. Have the grapes had enough time to go dormant up there?

Also, you might consider a bottom heat propagation set-up (after researching whether grapes respond well, I suppose). If you've got a seed warming mat, you could put a bucket of water on top of it and stick your cuttings in the water (or into floating cups of growing medium within the bucket). The difference in temperature should help to speed up root development.
3 weeks ago
Thanks Bruce! It seems to be holding up well. If we lived in a place with strong winds, I think it'd be a different story. Still, someone with more expertise could slap together something more windproof with the same materials.

This morning we had a mild frost, but the coldest it got in there overnight was 39 degrees. As I write, it's 79 in there and 55 without.
3 weeks ago
I'm digging back into Erazim Kohak's "The Embers and the Stars" this winter. Paul, looking at your bio and your other recent post, I wonder if you'd like this one as well.

A beautiful meditation on technology, country life, and the ways we can encounter theology through nature.
4 weeks ago
Thanks Pete! I hadn't thought about inoculating the logs, but I really like that idea! I've been lamenting the fact that those logs (sycamore and maple, I think) are going to rot away so quickly, but I might as well take advantage of that reality. In fact, they sprung up a few times with some kind of bracket fungus. Since we made our move, we've gotten really into mushrooms, so I'm definitely interested in this. Thanks for the suggestion! I'll look around for what would grow well on them.

Thanks for the tip on the fence too. Given how wild our region area is, wouldn't put it past a fox to try something in daylight. Having all that decomposing food lying around doesn't help, I suppose.
4 weeks ago
I think hedgerows are great, and there seems to be no end to what you can put in them.

I like this combination myself: Autumn Olive, Willow, Hazelnut, Mulberry, Black Locust, Spicebush, and Blackberry. The Mulberry and Black Locust might need to be coppiced/pollarded. And how about Comfrey along the edges as a root barrier to help keep things in their place?

Acanthus grass is another option I've seen used as a living fence.

George Washington advocated the use of Honey Locust for a living wall and hedgerow, but that is one mean plant to tangle with.
4 weeks ago
We seem to have survived our first summer as fledgling "homesteaders", having quit city life and made for the hills. There are a thousand projects underway now, but particularly I thought I'd share a little here about the chicken-compost-silage-wormery-greenhouse-nursery arrangement I designed this summer, as well as some ideas about where to take it from here.

It is the epitome of a work in progress (fool's errand?), so I'd love to hear suggestions for improvement, or miserable disasters you see brewing around the corner.

The coop is elevated on locust poles. It's mildly drafty but generally dry. Right now, we've got 8 chickens (layers) from the same clutch, and we'll add meat birds and more layers this spring.

I've shamelessly stolen from Sean at Edible Acres for the general plan, and I think I saw something somewhere about compost under walkways in a Colorado permaculture greenhouse, which I've borrowed as well. Even still, I think I may have incorporated some original elements as well.

Here's the gist:

The birds spend their days picking through three different piles of decomposing vegetable matter. Food scraps, fresh clippings, shredded leaves go into the "youngest" pile.

There's no electric fence, but their wings are clipped and they don't seem interested in flying the enclosure (fences stand about 4-6 feet tall). Along the fence, I'm working on growing thorny plants. I've transplanted several black raspberries, some prickly pear, and will be growing stinging nettle. Of these, only the prickly pear grows on the inside of the fence. We're in a very rural setting, and I hope that the mean old plants might suggest to raccoons and snakes that they should move along. The raspberries, cactus, and nettle will also make their way onto our plates.

Two seedling Texas redbuds were planted in the run. Back when we lived in the Republic, these trees were always loaded down with seedpods in the fall, so I'm hoping that when these mature they'll provide another supplemental source of feed. There isn't much out there on the subject, but I've seen some indications that Redbud seeds can supplement chicken feed. Eastern Redubds grow in abundance around here, but I think the Texas variety produces a heavier crop. We’ll see.

Before I let the birds out each morning, I'll throw a handful of whole corn onto each pile to encourage scratching. As the piles decompose, I move each one down the line to the pile I keep under this cattle pannel arch. This is the pile I put their evening meal onto (fermented feed). I've also transplanted yellow dock around the skirts of this pile hoping that the roots will draw up some of what is leeched out. My chickens go wild for dock, so I keep it fenced in. As it grows, they can reach the more mature leaves. I'm trying the same with dandelion.

By the end of the day, each pile has been completely knocked down. When the chickens turn in each evening, I'll spend 15 minutes rebuilding each pile. I had wondered whether this complete cycle of destruction and rebuilding would keep the bacteria from heating things up sufficiently, but the stuff is still steaming away well into the evenings.

At this rate, a pile moves through the three spots over the course of about 5 weeks, though I expect this to slow down soon. After it has broken down in the last pile, I'll put it under the walkways in the hoop houses to become worm castings for springtime garden use. One of the three hoop houses has red worms working the stuff over, and I'm debating moving some into the others in the spring too. I intend to get some residual heat from the decomposition of the compost through the winter to bump up the temps in the hoop houses. I understand vermicompost to be typically cooler, so I'm trialing both kinds this winter in separate hoop houses.

The bottles you may see strewn about in the pictures are filled with water for the purposes of passive solar heating. It’ll be marginal, perhaps, but I guess not negligible.

The hoop houses are also situated within the chicken enclosure to help keep the pest pressure down.

The birds also help to keep the pest pressure down on vegetable seedlings. This summer when we started seeds, I set their trays onto these hardware cloth "platforms" hanging in the greenhouse cattle pannel or the exposed one above the compost (shaded with a sheet). The seedlings went totally unmolested by pests thanks to their elevation and the chickens.

Along these lines, I'm also keeping bags of silage, covered together under a tarp, among them. I haven't seen much on silage for chickens, nor much on small-scale silage, so we'll see how it goes. In short, contractor trash bags are filled with densely packed lawn clippings (about 30 lbs each), to be distributed bag-by-bag two or three times a week starting in December. We'll see how it goes.

I'm holding out hope that I'll be able to optimize things to the degree that I'm eventually feeding birds for free using things grown on site (redbud, yellow dock, comfrey, nettle, and possibly a stand of poplars and paulownia trees coppiced for fodder), as well as scraps and other resources harnessed from local waste streams (yet to be established). I considered working BSFL into the system too, but I can't see how the economics work out, especially if I can't breed and overwinter them here.

We're going to get bees this spring. The more I see how well the chickens keep pests at bay, the more I'm thinking about situating the beehives (3 of them) in the run as well, along the run's perimeter facing outward. This also means we're keeping them behind a fence and close enough to the doghouse to dissuade nighttime predators. My cursory research suggests that, surprisingly, bees and chickens can coexist peaceably.

I want to also raise some tree seedlings in air-pruning boxes in here, again situated such that the chickens will keep varmints from bothering them.

So, with this context in mind, I'm hoping to invite ideas, suggestions, and critiques from the creative folks around here. Do you see any missed opportunities in this "system"? Are there any more key "functions" to stack into this set-up? Can you see any low-hanging fruit that we could add here that would particularly leverage things?

We're cheapskates, so while it's convenient that there's a Venn Diagram out there where stinginess overlaps with principles of sustainable agriculture, we're also just plain "limited" when it comes to projects with price tags.

For what it’s worth, I’m aiming to feature this work-in-progress in my next post here, where I’m trying to capture my plans for our developing homestead and synthesize other half-baked ideas about living the way we’re trying to live. I had hoped to work out some kinks and brainstorm with y’all before I did.

Many thanks!
4 weeks ago
I'm no expert, but I'm learning a lot these days about mushrooms. I'd venture to guess that this is Paxillus. To my knowledge, these are all (or mostly all) toxic.
4 weeks ago
Thanks folks, this is helpful!

I'll share pictures of my setup soon.

Melville: Like most of what I've got going on around here, it's stolen shamelessly from Sean! Mine is a little different than his: I'm using some salvaged plastic food-grade pallets lined with landscaping fabric on the bottom and sitting on concrete blocks for air circulation. I wanted to save my hardware cloth (I'll still need some over top) and find some use for these pallets.

Once I've got some dirt in them, I'll add some pictures.

I don't see why this wouldn't work, but I'm taking it to your wisdom because I'm often wrong about what I think is plainly right. I've set up some raised air pruning beds, and I'm thinking I'd like to just drop my seeds in there now. It seems to me that those needing stratification will naturally stratify through the winter (Zone 6b) and come up in the spring according to the dictates of their natures.

I'm trying out some Wisteria and Japanese Maple to intersperse throughout the property for aesthetic purposes. I'm also doing Royal Empress trees in the hope that my yet-cursory hunch that there's a significant niche market for such trees should be confirmed. (I welcome anything you have to say about Royal Empress, too). And then the Mulberries, because, of course, they're delectable.

Anyway: at least some of these need to stratify. What's stopping me from planting the seeds now, and letting nature do the stratifying?

The air pruning beds are covered and contained within the chicken yard, so birds and rodents aren't of great concern.

As always, abundant thanks.