Simon Forman

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since Jul 01, 2020
Permaculture fan (certified) and computer programmer. Looking for land to farm.
San Francisco
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Recent posts by Simon Forman

These pictures don't really do these corn kernels justice.  In the sun
they shine like gems.

The Painted Mountain Flour corn are mostly deep red-purple but you can
see a blue kernel just like the Hopi Blue, a firey orange kernel just
like Lorenzo's Flour corn, and a yellow kernel that looks "normal".
(85 days.)

Lorenzo's Flour corn looks like fire, brilliant deep orange.  (120 days.)

The Top Hat sweet corn "bred by Jonathan Spero of Oregon and pledged to
the Open Source Seed Initiative" are wrinkled like raisins and
translucent.  They have the most gem-like quality to them when the Sun
shines through them.  (80 days.)

The Hopi Blue corn seems calm and dignified compared to the intense warm
colors of the others, but then you catch sight of the touches of purple
and realise the Hopi Blue might just be the most beautiful.
(90-100 days.)
1 month ago
This is a goofy, speculative idea.

There are parcels of desert land available for a few thousand dollars
all-in in places like East of LA or West of Salt Lake.  In theory, if one
were to shell out and buy one of these parcels, what could you do with it?

The first thing you need in the desert is water.  Drilling a well is
expensive so let's try this instead:  Dig a hole, put a moisture-sealed
dome over it, put a dehumidifier at the bottom of the hole, and set up
solar panels to power it.

Now you've got electric power, a few gallons of potable water per day,
and some climate control.  Next, to grow crops you need soil. Enter the
compost worm: under ideal conditions it doubles in mass every forty
days or so, and it creates excellent soil.  They're also easy to raise.
To feed them you use algae and grass, particularly bamboo.

Algae, compost worms, and grass are all very fast-growing, and the system
as a whole produces fresh high-quality topsoil.  Eventually you add
chickens, fish or shrimp/crayfish etc., and (more) plants.

I figure a "unit" would consist of the above materials & machinery, along
with starter cultures of the flora & fauna.

Moisture condenser (dehumidifier)
Solar panels
Algae tanks & bubblers, etc.
Worm beds
Misc additional stuff like tubing, tools, etc.

You could plop down in the middle of the desert and start building topsoil.

What do you think?
2 months ago
I think it's a really hopeful sign, a good cross pollination.
Did it cool off at night?  I've spent a day or two in Redding and it made a good impression on me.

In re: the heat, 105 really is unreasonable :) but there are ways to cope.  The wofati design isn't just for cold weather, eh?  And reflective mylar can help, although of course it blocks light.

I'm afraid I was really naive when I comes to borrowing to buy land and this project was pretty much just a pipe dream.
2 months ago
Thanks for the encouragement, I really appreciate it.  Somehow it didn't occur to me that getting a mortgage would be the hard part.  They don't just hand those things out on the street corner?

I haven't given up hope yet but it's not looking good.  Even the sketchy lenders don't want to talk to me.  Heh.

I know what you mean in re: patience or machinery.  I've got a DVD of Geoff Lawton talking about using earthmovers to sculpt the land to harvest/hold water, which got me used to the idea.  In re: this 9779 Falcon's View parcel it seems like the patient way would work out with the growth of the pig herd.  With 44 acres you could develop the kitchen garden intensively and take your time with the "back lot".
Take the spare organic matter from forty of the acres and pile it on one acre, see what happens...
2 months ago
I drew some lines to visualize the ridges and valleys (what do you call tiny little valleys with seasonal creeks in them?)  And then I marked the flat (well, flatter) spots for possible pond locations.  (North is to the right.)

What do you think?
2 months ago
So if you look at the photos and video what do you see?

The Carr fire came through about two years ago.  It seems like the ground
cover and shrubs and bushes are doing great but pretty much all the
trees died.  (There are some manzanita on the video after all, I think.)

I see plentiful forage/grazing for chickens and Kunekune pigs (I'm gonna
call 'em "kukus" for short) and just heaps and heaps of wood ready to be
collected (w/o having to kill a tree or take it from the ground where
it's already decomposing and hosting critters and fungus and stuff.)  All
the little scraggly bits and the branches are perfect for hugelculture,
swales, and erosion control, and the trunks are good for construction
etc., and all of it it likely fit for burning.  (Another great reason to
cut the dead trees down.  They've had time to season, eh?)

Forgive me for repeating myself, but now that you've seen the site it
makes sense, right?

1) Walk the contours with an a-frame or water-bottle level.

2) Go through with a tree-trimmer and take all the branches from nearby
  dead trees and pile it along contours with a slight grade from the
  valleys to the ridges.

3) Set up electric fence to make long narrow paddocks with the branches
  as the uphill and downhill boundaries, so that the pigs tend to level
  out the ground.  Here you would do things like adding enough water to
  get the mud squishy and then coming through once or twice a day with a
  shovel and putting mud on the branches; feeding the pigs from the
  uphill side so they scrape the ground down, then eventually piling
  rocks and staking with more branches to firm up the emerging terrace.

It would be slow, but that's okay because you don't want to get too big
before the rains come and test your bramble-terraces.  You're also
growing things in there that help stabilize them: vines and bushes and
new trees...

I had visions of making aircrete terraces and pools all over, but this
seems more ecologically sound, and much much cheaper and easier.
2 months ago
"State record hogs"?  Are there really so many pigs up there?

I appreciate the heads up, I can deal with heat and cold.  And yeah,
caching water pretty much all over is part of the plan.  Eventually it
will look like rice paddies from the air, separated by ranks of bushes
and trees.  I saw footage of the fire tornado that loomed over Redding. I
can't overstate the respect I have for fire.  When I was up in Middletown
it was like living in a ready-to-go pyre.

It might not happen at all: it turns out most banks don't want to lend a
mortgage on land with no buildings on it.  It seems like a Catch-22.  I'm
checking out a few sketchy mortgage lenders now but the plan might be

To me it seems a no-brainer: I found a previous record that showed that
it appraised for ~$350k before the house burned down, it's only $80k now,
so just build a new house and you're golden, eh?  Even if you make a
conventional home instead of an aircrete dome or something like that it
wouldn't be that expensive would it?  Or am I just naive?

I looked it up on the Shasta County GIS system and the majority of the
land is "CbF — Chaix sandy loam, 50 to 70 percent", which means:

> The Chaix series consists of well-drained soils underlain by weathered
granodiorite. These soils are on mountainous uplands. Slopes are 5 to 75
percent. The vegetation is mostly ponderosa pine, incense cedar, black
oak, canyon live oak, bear clover, manzanita, ceanothus, and annual
grasses. Elevation ranges from 1,200 to 3,000 feet. The annual rainfall
is 35 to 50 inches, and the average annual air temperature is 56° to
58°F. The frost-free season ranges from 175 to 225 days.

> In a representative profile the surface layer is about 8 inches of
light-gray and very pale brown sandy loam. The subsoil is 16 inches of
very pale brown, heavy, sandy loam. The substratum is 10 inches of
variegated very pale brown and white light sandy loam. Reaction is medium
acid throughout the profile. Weathered granodiorite is at a depth of 34

> Permeability is moderately rapid in the subsoil. Effective rooting
depth is 20 to.40 inches. Available water holding capacity is 3 to 5

> The Chaix soils are used for timber production and grazing, improved
dry pasture, and watershed.

Now "granodiorite" is a rock similar to granite (I looked it up on the
wikipedia) and according to this it's just a yard or so below the soil

So that's something to think about.

FWIW, the manzanita is one of my very favorite trees (along with the
madrone) but I didn't see any in the photos and video of the land that
are available.  I should just go ahead and post the link here:

I figure you can sell manzanita wood online as-is.  I recall the guy who
sells tumbleweeds.  Popular in Japan and Hollywood (for Westerns).

2 months ago
I'm either a madman or a genius, or both: I put a deposit down on three
Kunekune piglets.  Two gilts and a boar piglet, suitable for breeding.

If we don't get the parcel we're looking at I'll find someplace else to
raise them.  When they are still young it's not unthinkable to treat them
like (messy) pets and keep them indoors.  So far all sources I've found
on the web agree that they do not soil their own bed, and there's
actually quite a lot of good grazing and foraging area right around where
I live in SF at the moment.  That would be fun: three pigs on leash,
strolling to the local overgrown field to eat lunch.  Kunekune's don't
really have necks though.  They're round. I think even a harness would
just slip off.  (My mom's dog is like that: he's a weird
sort-of-corgi-shaped little fella and he's just conical from the
shoulders to his snout.  More than once he has slipped his collar or
harness by simply standing still.  You keep walking and the thing just
slides off of him.)

Anyhow, three half-grown piglets aren't going to make a dent in forty
acres, which fits in with Year One being mostly about observation (and
laying in the kitchen garden and building a little house.)  Apparently
it's a good idea to let the sows wait until after their first year to
have their first litter, so there won't be more pigs for at least a year
and a half to two years.  But then I can expect 8-12 new "kukus".  That
means three years before we can expect big things from the pigs in terms
of changing large regions of the land.

Three years is enough time to learn a lot about these guys and their
effects on the existing flora and fauna, and also plenty of time to get
small trees established.  (Everyone also agrees that Kunekune pigs don't
bother bushes and small trees.)  Then again, maybe I'm underestimating
what three pigs can do?
2 months ago
Ah, thanks!  I think the place I'm hoping to get is just under 1800', so hopefully it doesn't get too much snow.  I was looking up climate information and apparently the lows are are around 32°F, which, if true, is good news.

(I grew up in San Francisco where the weather has no particular relation to the time of year, and "seasons" were just something I saw on TV.  Then I spent a year in Colorado, up in the mountains, and got to know and appreciate Winter.  It was pretty obvious why every cold-weather culture seems to have a big holiday in the middle of Winter: you need it to stay sane until Spring, eh? :-)  Then I spent some time in Montreal, and learned that what I thought was a cold Winter in CO was just Tuesday in Quebec. So yeah, 32°F? No problem.)

2 months ago