Lisa Sampson

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since Nov 18, 2020
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I am farm kid who moved to the city now I want the farm back.
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Rural North Texas
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Recent posts by Lisa Sampson

Blake Lenoir wrote: Thanks for the hackberry advice. Which types of trees and shrubs provide more shade and cover and are not as dramatic as the hackberries? Thanks for the wake up call!

There have been far too many books written on native plants so I won't regurgitate them but I will point out that lots of things we treat as "shrubs" are really meant to be small trees.  That's why they grow oddly, get so many diseases, and then die well before they should.  Viburnums in particular spring to mind since they grow slowly but they'll get quite large if given time.  Crab apples and lots of dogwoods get into that same shorter tree range.  Willows also run the gamut from medium-sized shrubs to large trees.  

Hollys are shorter trees/large shrubs as are the crab apples and dogwoods.  Yaupon in particular will get into the 20' range if left to do its own thing.  There are a lot of species around.  They're really important to birds in particular and there's a lot to pick from.  There are about 200 different ones that are native to North America.  Most get pruned into fiddly hedges until they finally die but they're almost all small trees if they're not butchered.  

Here's one that did not get butchered -

The trick is finding one with the growth habit you want and that likes your conditions.  

Fully grown witch hazel -

Fully grown Indian Hawthorne
2 years ago
It takes a lot of sun for trees to set fruit and if the grapevines were shading them out, it may be a few years before they set fruit.  They've literally been starving for however long the grapevines have been shading them.  I'd suggest giving them a light feeding and clearing their area so that they can get max sun.  Grape vines will have also consumed a lot of the water and nutrients that the plums needed, not just the sun. While you wait there are a couple of tests you can do, as well.  

I don't know if your plums are self-fertile.  I do know that not all plums are self-fertile.  They may not be fruiting because they need a pollinator.  I would suggest conducting a test.  Try getting some flowers from a different kind of plum tree and then attempt to hand fertilize some blooms on your plums.  If that gets them to set fruit in places where you hand fertilized, then you need to plant another plum to provide fertilization.  If you do need another variety, the general rule is to plant it within 50 feet of the trees you want it to fertilize.  Since your plums are grown in a "thicket" and not a tree, you may be dealing with just one plant (all connected at the roots), and that one plant might not be able to fertilize itself.

If it doesn't, it might be a nutrient deficiency with phosphorus being the most common.  Bat guano or sea bird poop, if they're available, can be good for this but a simple soil test, prior to the application of the poo, should be able to diagnose that or whatever else is missing.

It might be that it wasn't cold enough long enough for them to get their chilling requirement to set fruit.  It's not uncommon for plums to need 200-300 hours of continuous time below 45F but above freezing.  
2 years ago
How sandy are we talking? Sand dunes sandy or bad soil sandy?  I'm going to assume bad soil sandy but let me know.  If you have enough soil for them to root in, birch trees might take hold if there's water available.  I'm also assuming you don't want a monoculture since that's been a huge problem for China.  One disease wiped out decades of plantings because they planted the same exact thing for 20+ years.  

What's actually growing in your area now?  Look at fence rows and vacant lots to see what's doing fine "in the wild" with similar conditions.  Talk to your county's agricultural extension office.  They should be able to point you to places where you can get suitable native plants.  

Don't be afraid to use some mechanical means of managing soil.   Low tight fences around smaller plots help reduce wind-driven evaporation and block blowing sand.  I also seem to recall that a lot of burlap bags were used to bury organics around the plantings, forcing the plants to grow toward the nutrients.

Look at some of the beach area natives for those super sandy spots.  It might not handle the cold weather but it will take the heat and sand so you can treat them like annuals.  Even if the plant itself dies at the end of the growing season, the roots should persist through the winter.  

Don't underestimate native vines like Railroad Vine, either.  Vines, when allowed to go across the ground can cover space quickly.  There's a reason that a lot of landscapers use jasmine for erosion control.  You don't have to plant jasmine but don't overlook native vines from your area.  That might be a wild grape or native honeysuckle.  Native honeysuckle isn't nearly as invasive as its Asian cousins.  

Also, check out the local sages and mints.  Sages (Salvias) and Mints (from bee balm to pennyroyal) are some seriously tough plants.  I've yet to see a place they won't grow if you find the right varieties.  Antarctica maybe but I wouldn't be surprised to find some that figured out how to grow under the ice.  
2 years ago
With the price of lumber being what its been, I've seen people doing raised beds with those.
2 years ago
I live in a pretty rural area and I notice that I have a lot more of them when my grass is really long - like 12 inches or more.  Not sure how the HOA/townies would react to that idea....  

It's rural here and the neighbors sort of frown on letting grass get that tall since it's a fire hazard in the summer but that's when I see them.  Personally, I like to let some of the native grasses I have set seed before I mow even if the neighbors don't like it.  Some of the prairie grasses get pretty tall before they go to seed.  I don't know if you can put some prairie grasses into the landscape as decorative so that they don't have to be cut back.  

I'd also say that they seem to need a water source because I see more of them when there's water in the creek, too.  
2 years ago
On your specific build, I'd say skip the "apartment" stackables and get the full-size stackables.  The full-size ones are just so much better made that for the few inches you save, you'll be better off in the long term.   That end wall where the picture is should either be storage or glass.  It looks like you have space to do floor-to-ceiling storage there.  Storage is going to be your key to living in a tiny space without going insane.  Without you saying, it looks like you'll be on-grid but I'd suggest preparing for power outages if you're in a rural or remote area.  That means some oil lamps or candles, and alternative heat sources like a propane heater.   The heat might be uncomfortable but there are ways to work around it and it won't bust your pipes.   We came through Snowmageddon in a 2 season RV that never froze despite the outside temps hitting -9F for a few days because we were prepared.  

I also recommend a shed or other outdoor area to store things that don't necessarily need to be temperature controlled - bikes, sports equipment, out-of-season clothes, and out-of-season bedding. Space bags and plastic bins are your friends here.    Toss in a dryer sheet, vacuum them up, bin them up and they'll be ready when the seasons change.  

Not so much a specific suggestion but a tiny house living in general.  Try to leave yourself space to build on or attach another container, etc. so that you don't have to start from ground 0 if your needs change.  That might mean doing something a bit different with the roofline to accommodate a potential future build or installing storage that you can relocate if you add on to the existing building.  That said, glass is your friend.  Yes, drywall is cheaper but being able to see out makes things feel bigger.  Having a good outdoor space that's at least 2-3 seasons if not 4 (depending on your location) is also quite helpful.  In all but the coldest part of winter, I prefer to cook outside whenever I can.  

A single person in 380 square feet is doable if you're very disciplined about making your bed, folding it back up, putting everything away as soon as you're done with it, and generally being extremely tidy.  There is a rigor to living in that small area that few people talk about.

You also need to be extremely disciplined with your possessions.  Everything needs to have a reason and a place or it should be jettisoned.  If something new comes in, it's because something old is going out.   You'll want to squeeze in storage space where ever you can.  You'll also want to be sure that you can do all the basics inside (cooking, laundry, eating, etc.) so that when the weather's bad, you don't have get out into it for basic needs.  

Add another adult person and things will get crowded quickly since the space is already filled with your items.  That's going to mean reaching an agreement with who's going to get rid of what items in order to merge households.  Bring in a baby - with the crib, playpen, diapers, etc., or a toddler with their toys and now you don't fit in 380 sq feet so well.  There are two things that ruin most couples faster than anything I know of - fights about money and the home being a constant mess.  

2 years ago

Scott Obar wrote:

William Kellogg wrote:
American Guinea hogs are very docile and easy to handle. They also will eat the venomous snakes...

Is that a fact? How do they keep from getting bit and harmed by the venom?

Generally, it works because they kill the snake and then devour it.  Pigs will try to eat and then digest almost anything - they're almost as bad as hyenas or bull sharks.    The feral hogs here in Texas will eat just about anything including rotting road kill of their own kind and it doesn't seem to hurt them at all.  Since they're feral, I can't imagine that they're that different from their stay-at-home brethren.  
2 years ago
Don't plant Hackberrys.  They're not long-lived and not worth the hassle.  By the time, they get big enough to provide a bit of shade, they're nearly dead and have the nasty habit of falling over and taking out other trees with them because the roots seem to die before the rest of the tree.

At least here in Texas, Hackberrys getting 30' tall or so.   I think what you want is probably lower growing.  Talk to your county agricultural office and see what's native in your area.   You might even be able to create enough of an area to get some sort of wildlife exemption if done properly.  

Lots of native shrubs/short trees like Hollys, Witch Hazel, Madrone, Hawthorne, Viburnums,  Willows, Buddelia, Choke Cherry, Ninebark, etc.  It just depends on what's native in your area.  This is where the County Agri office can help you out.  They can also help you, in a lot of cases, to source the plants as well since they'll either be familiar with local growers or be able to point you to something like the master gardener program where there will be people who do know the local growers.  

If you need big shade trees quickly, look at cottonwoods, ashes, or locusts.  If you're OK with thorns, I really recommend the locust trees.  They're minimally trashy, The seed pods are a favorite of wildlife.  The shade isn't dense enough to shade out other plants.  

For fruit trees, a lot will depend on how well you can meet the chilling requirements of most of the trees.  Apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries, all grow here depending on the variety and location.

Nut trees  - chestnut , hickory, pecan, fiberts(hazelnuts), black walnuts but for wild life that includes most oaks, sweetgums, pine and whole host of other trees that produce nuts.  

Fruit vines are probably a safer bet - blackberry,  various wild grapes.  mayhaws, but even pricky pear cactus pears are edible (and delicious) if you have the fortitude to harvest them and burn the spines off.  
2 years ago

Skandi Rogers wrote:We don't get too many fruits that are worth picking really

Cloudberries are lovely but way to rare to pick, they should be photographed and left alone.

You might try propagating a plant or two so that you can have your own.  You need not pick the berries but layering or other relatively non-invasive techniques might work.    My economics professor once pointed out that the entire reason that whales are endangered and chickens are not all revolved around ownership of the animal in question.  None of us own a whale so as the saying goes when it's no one's it's everyone's so people still hunt whales.  However, if someone came into your yard to hunt your chickens, they're your property and you have legal recourse against the hunter of chickens as well as rights to protect them as your property.  

If you have your own, you can always "rewild" a portion of the offspring.  

I forgot to add pricky pear cactus pears - OMG the syrup and jam you can make with them.  Its absolutely worth the thorns - just as much as the blackberries.  (I used to get into trouble for stopping on the way home from school in the blackberry bramble - school clothes torn and purple from eating my way through the bramble)  Pick with tongs, into a bucket and get fire or torch to burn the spines off.  Peel and enjoy.  
2 years ago