Lisa Brunette

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since Apr 29, 2020
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Recent posts by Lisa Brunette

This is awesome, Melissa! Thanks for sharing. I've been struggling with blueberries, mainly because of my very-neutral soil Ph, but this confirms my native plantings will help support. It's a great list.

(I blog about my native plant permaculture experiment here: http://www.catintheflock.com)
1 week ago
It took us 2 years, but we sheet-mulched most of a 1/4-acre suburban plot, and this spring (year 3) we planted herbs, vegetables, and annual flowers from seed for the first time, with zero additional soil amendments.

I wanted to have a baseline for the "least amount of outside inputs and work possible." We used cardboard to smother the grass, with a layer of organic mulch over the top, in some areas leaf litter, and in other areas tree bark chips.

All of the native plants, many of them food plants, are thriving. But the perennial/annual seed-starting has been a real mixed bag. Details here: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/08/information-is-good-even-if-the-results-are-not-spring-2020-growing-season-report-card.html

Just want to share our results for others who might be just starting out on the permaculture journey! Next steps: improving long-term soil health, better growing conditions for the seeds next spring.
3 weeks ago
Here's an update on how our bamboo arch experiment went: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/08/tragedy-strikes-the-squash-tunnel.html

Bamboo is a useful resource in the garden, but we're not convinced it's the best material for a squash tunnel, at least not in the storm-prone Midwest.

3 weeks ago
I would not recommend day lilies as a perennial vegetable, due to the high chances of ingesting one that can make you very sick. Toxic alkaloids are often used in cultivation, and it's just too risky a thing to chance, in my opinion. I've covered this in detail here: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/07/why-you-should-ditch-the-daylilies.html
1 month ago
Hi! I'm experimenting with growing asparagus in a mound set into a rain garden. At year 1 here, it seems to be flourishing. Anyone else try anything similar? I'm in Zone 6, which with climate change is slowly morphing to zone 7. I haven't had to water the asparagus even once myself. We get 40 inches of rain annually, and my rain garden is an outlet from two sources: 1) rain barrel overflow and 2) outlet for a French drain meant to relieve water seepage into our basement between our home and a neighboring building, only a few feet away.

Interested to hear other experiences.
1 month ago
I'm excited to learn more about perennial food plants - it's great to know there's enough content for a whole book about them. I've started growing horseradish, rhubarb, and asparagus and wonder what else there might be.
1 month ago
Hello! I've read this thread with great interest. I didn't realize we could save money by purchasing stove pellets in place of Feline Pine or other brands of pine cat litter pellets. Question: Are the stove pellets larger? Do they contain more sawdust particulates than the kitty pine litter? I don't want to get something that isn't formulated for cats and might cause respiratory problems.

The reason I came to this discussion was actually because I was looking for information on using spent pine pellet sawdust as mulch. We remove the feces each day, but the urinated-upon, broken-down pine sawdust seemed like a great source of acidic matter for our blueberries. The blueberries - and everything around them - are inclined to agree. I don't compost this. Instead, my husband and I dump the pine sawdust into an empty flower pot, along with his coffee grounds, and when the flower pot is full, we spread the pine sawdust/coffee ground mixture around the garden.

I just want to make sure we're not causing ourselves or the water supply any problems by doing this. The cat is healthy, the pine sawdust is free of feces, and there isn't even a smell once it's distributed. It rains here frequently, and that helps break it down. Any insights? Searching around on this topic seems to bring up a lot of alarm about toxoplasmosis from cat poop, but I don't think that's a serious issue here since the feces is removed.
1 month ago
Howdy, permies! I never got any response at all to the below, and for all I know, 'Cloudpiler Hatfield' has moved on from Permies since his original post, but I just want to give a total shout-out thanks to him for the plumber's tape idea and to Permies.com in general for being so awesomely useful. The plumber's tape solution for cedar-apple rust appears to have worked, and if so, it will save me the trouble and eaten cost of having to rip out a row of perfectly good cedar trees.

I wrote up my experience as a blog post here: https://www.catintheflock.com/2020/07/are-these-galls-really-so-galling.html


You can also see in the attached photo how the cedar rust appears on the leaves below the tape (those came in before I applied it) but none on the leaves above the tape.



Lisa Brunette wrote:

Cloudpiler Hatfield wrote:Our Eastern Red Cedar (Missouri) is just about hated by everybody in my neighborhood because of the Cedar/Apple Fungus.  If you grow apple trees in the conventional way (factory orchard) you cannot have cedars around because of this fungus.  If, however, you grow with a diversity of species (food forest) intermediary trees buffer the apples and the fungus doesn't affect them so much.  The spore zone is important and buffer trees like cherry and mulberry really help. 

I have also found that if I attach a piece of plumber's tape (about four inches worth) to the top of the tree, the tree does not develop the fungus.  Plumber's tape is made primarily of lead, zinc and aluminum.  The rain causes the tape to slowly, ever so slowly, rust and the oxidized compound is slowly distributed over the central trunk and the top branches.  Because of the nature and shape of the tree, this same "rust" gets dusted all over the rest of the tree.  Result - just enough anti-fungal action to stop the Cedar/Apple fungus. 

By the way, this also accounts for why this particular fungus is never found infesting cedar house siding, even though it ought to be a suitable substrate.  I have put this to the test.  I've made thin sheets of cedar siding with our local red cedar and inoculated it with the fungus.  It grew very vigorously on the siding.  Then I added a window frame (aluminum, zinc, titanium, trace lead) and voila!  The fungus died and I could not get it to come back with further inoculation.  Just enough of the element rust finds its way into the wood to prevent fungal growth. 

I have not been able to detect any heavy metal depositing in the soil around the trees (or the house for that matter).  This is a good thing, because I don't want to contaminate my soil.

The visual break that our young cedars provide is truly beautiful.  Our oaks and hickories all lose their leaves in the fall and the scene become somewhat gloomy.  We really don't see much by way of greeting card snow here and the landscape can look pretty gray.  The cedars a bushy and green until they get about thirty feet tall.  Then they thin out at the bottom branches and become a little more open.  Before that time, however, if you trim and shear, an almost Christmas tree shape can be maintained for many years.  Our zone 1 is bordered in lovely trees and that's a good thing here where evergreens are rare.

Also, and this is important to me also, the cedar is the center of several guilds I have set up involving vibrunum and vaccinium species.  My blueberries languish everywhere else on the place except as part of a cedar guild.  The same goes for my huckleberries, lingonberries and serviceberries.  They'll all grow in other guilds, but not like they do in the cedar guilds.



I'm also in Missouri and read this post with great interest. We put in 9 juniper Taylors and 2 true native red cedars for the winter evergreen screen, color, and food for birds. We also have fruit trees. Our AK black apple is rust-resistant, but the Rome beauty is not, of course. I didn't realize rust could attack serviceberries, but apparently it can. I'm trying out your plumbing tape fix. So far it appears to be working! I think it even stopped the rust in its tracks, as it had already started in on the Rome beauty, but this year's new growth does not have rust, and the first fruit does not, either. I'll report back next year to see if the fix really fixed it. If the original poster quoted here is still around, I'd be interested to know if you ever have to update with new plumbing tape. Also, what is the quality of the soil where you have the cedar/blueberry guild? My cedars are in an old rock driveway, where they are doing great, but I'm not sure that will work for blueberries since they often edge wet areas in the wild.

1 month ago
Good idea! We're dicing the fat with a knife before adding to the crockpot, as we don't own a grinder, but maybe it's time to invest in one.

Gray Henon wrote:We've rendered the lard off of our home grown hogs for years.  We run it through the grinder before rendering.  Makes for a quick and complete process!

1 month ago
Jordan, thanks for the knowledge bomb. We haven't had to clean the fat and haven't had any problems with it being dirty, unpalatable, or going rancid, but we've only used grassfed beef fat and not any other animals.


Chicken fat absolutely disgusts me, so I have never dreamed of rendering it. One thing the article doesn't mention is cleaning the fat, probably because beef isn't normally strong enough to need it. Simply take a large pot of water, put the rendered fat in it, and boil it. The roiling of the water causes it to disolve the nasty salts and whatnot in the fat. Let the fat solidify into a cake (may require cold), and remove. You would be surprised at how disgusting the water can become afterwards. You may even want to repeat the process if the fat needs it. This step is important not just to make it palatable, but it also helps prevent it from going rancid over time, and also to prevent it from being corrosive to metals if used on them.

It also makes a difference where the fat comes from on the animal. The caul fat, or most fat inside the body cavity around the kidney area can be good enough to use straight most of the time (on deer), but the fat under the skin is utterly disgusting, as in "don't render it in the house" disgusting. The lower legs contain the neatsfoot type oils, which do not solidify at cold temperatures. So you might try cleaning the chicken fat if you have a good supply of it. It may make it good enough to use.

1 month ago