M Broussard

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since Dec 21, 2020
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North Island, New Zealand
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Recent posts by M Broussard

Looks like I missed some updates on this thread!

Jay Angler wrote:The two permies who've admitted to making their own, to my recollection ... are Inge, who made hers years ago, and myself who faked it recently, used it and it worked.

I've made nalbinding needles, too! I posted few pictures of ones I've made on the first page of this thread, but I've made at least a dozen (possibly two dozen) each of bone and wooden ones. In terms of time, I find the wood ones to actually take longer to make, because finishing them takes longer than bone. My partner does the nalbinding, and has shown 10+ people how to do it themselves. For a new needle, bone is easier to nalbind with than wood for the first few hours, but once the wood is burnished sufficiently with use and lanolin, they're equivalent, provided you've used a high-quality wood. The issue I've had with maybe 5 wooden needles is that if I've carved them too thin, and chosen poorly for material, tugging on them in use causes the eye to tear out, destroying the needle.

The best wood needle I ever made was from ivy heartwood. It's difficult to work, but the tight, wavy, interlacing grain means that it creates a strong, sturdy finished product. I would avoid softwoods, and have personally had bad luck with cherry sapwood, oak, and scotch broom, which had their eyes rip out on me.

Freyda Black wrote:Can you recommend a video on making a needle from bone? There are literally scores of them on Youtube and I have watched many. I am sure you have experience with which method of cutting and shaping, and what tools to do that with, that will help me accomplish it with the minimum of pain! Or just share what tools you prefer for cutting and shaping.

Thank you again for your helpful posts.

For bone needles, starting from long leg bones makes the job easier. You can boil the bone just long enough to get the meat off it, but don’t use it for stock or put it in the slow-cooker, as this will weaken its structural integrity. Once cleaned of meat, put it in a vice and cut the caps off with a saw and push the marrow out with a rod. The caps and marrow make good stock.

Once you have that sorted, you can split the bone lengthwise with a wedge and hammer if you're really keen, or use a rotary tool to do all the subsequent cutting. Using saws, files, and hand tools means you’re not generating fine dust which is dangerous to inhale. If you do use a rotary tool, you’ll want a good, tight-fitting mask to protect your lungs from the bone dust. I usually cut out a rectangle first of the approximate dimensions I want my needle to be. Whether you're working with bone or wood, make sure to cut the needle blank out along the grain. If the bone is really thick (e.g. a cow femur can be more than double the thickness of my ideal nalbinding needle), I will then use a rotary tool to carefully cut the piece in half lengthwise and make two needle blanks. I then drill out the hole first before shaping the rest of the needle. This can be done with a barrel drum on a rotary tool, files, or 80 grit sandpaper.

Once you’ve got it to the shape you want, rounded off all the edges, and smoothed out the interior of the eye, go up a couple finenesses of metal file, sharpening stone or sandpaper until you’ve got the finish you’re happy with. I usually quit at 240 grit and let the use burnish the tool to a high gloss. Here’s a photo of my current stock. The five on the right are the ones that I use for darning and my partner uses for nalbinding. The six on the left are new ones for giving to people just learning how to nalbind.
1 week ago

Thom Bri wrote:Maybe phosphorous deficient? That can cause red/purple color. But it may also just be the variety.

Purpling of leaves in seedlings is a general sign of stress in tomato seedlings, and can be caused by a few different things. Apart from phosphorous, it could also be: too cold (nighttime lows should be over 14C/58F -- and a heat mat only protects the roots), to wet, or grow lights not providing the right lighting for the plants.

What to do about it? You may not need to do anything. I have this problem every year as I start my tomatoes in an unheated glasshouse or on a cold windowsill. Once they're a bit bigger and in the ground, they've always come right for me. That being said, making sure they're not getting to chilled at night will help them grow better regardless!
2 weeks ago


I had a friend who referred to tacos and tamales as "vitamin T" -- an essential part of the diet, and having grown up eating both, I definitely agree. Real Mexican food is very rare in NZ; you may find the odd place selling what they call nachos, but it is like they were trying to re-create the dish from a photograph: a bed of Doritos, topped with mince meat boiled in unseasoned tomato puree, sweet chili sauce, and with a dollop of cream cheese or mayonnaise on top. I avoid Mexican restaurants locally as I've been burned too many times -- the only exception is if the place has been recommended to me by my South American colleagues.

Producing Mexican food in NZ is a bit of a challenge as very few ingredients are readily available. In order to do it,  I grow anchos, poblanos, and jalapenos, make my own tortillas (you can buy gourmet 'wraps' in packs of 6, not economical at all!), save and freeze or dry my corn husks, render my own lard.  I ferment jalapenos or roccoto chilies to make hot sauce -- though a growing number of American expats are producing some very lovely (if dear) hot sauces. I've grown my own flint corn and nixtamalise it to make masa flour, or buy masa at eye-watering prices. Dry beans are expensive and imported from South America, but still cheaper than meat, so I buy in bulk and make tacos all summer, as well as growing some of my own now. Making tamales is reserved for my birthday and Christmas, but they freeze very, very well, so we make a big batch and spread them over a couple months.
2 weeks ago

Eino Kenttä wrote:By the way, on a related subject, do you know if it's possible to extract silk from any species of other moth families besides Bombycidae? I've wondered about Yponomeuta evonymella (bird-cherry ermine). It's native here, and does produce loads of silk, but no idea if it would work the same. Mulberries are marginally hardy in our climate, so it'd be cool if there was a wild moth with usable silk...

Silk is generally extracted from the cocoons moths wind around themselves to pupate -- the species that do this wind a continuous strand around themselves; when you reel silk you unwind this strand continuously and get a single extremely long strand which can be spun into a fine thread when combined with those from other pupae. Yponomeuta evonymella has a hard pupae with no silk, so this is not an option -- the silk the larvae spin to protect themselves is quite dirty with frass, but you might be able to take the lot, wash it, degum it and see if you can spin it like you would a silk cap or hanky.

There are a heap of other moth species with silk cocoons that have been used to make silk over the centuries -- here's a non-exhaustive list to start with.
3 months ago

Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:Maybe I'm somewhat chaotic, but often I just throw everything in the pannier.

Love this Inge! I do the same.

I'm also a bicycle forager, as cycling is my primary mode of transportation. I always carry a pair of secateurs, bungee cords, and a folding pruning saw in my pannier just in case. I always ride with my backpack, so there's always a bit of extra storage space available for harvesting things. I'll often pop avocados, persimmons, walnuts, and other hard-skinned things directly into the pannier. However, if I know I'm going to be collecting something that is a bit more fragile, shouldn't get wet or really gathers dust (persimmons, acorns, mushrooms, bamboo shoots) etc, I'll bring some cloth bags to put in my panniers and backpack so that they don't get completely covered in dirt (my panniers always have dirt in the bottom from transporting plants, haha)
4 months ago
We had another windstorm, and the result was a huge pile of avocados! Haven't seen this many from this tree since last year. Maybe whoever was harvesting them other than me went on holiday for the summer.

I harvested a tote bag of small bamboo shoots also (not pictured), but found these honking massive (for this locality) shoots from the other side of the gully!

Going to trial drying the several litres of shoots I got yesterday; wish I had a pressure canner as these are low-salt-low acid things and taking up a bit of freezer space at the moment. Hopefully they'll be amazing dried -- our solar dehydrator is chugging along now that we've finally got some sun. Very keen to see what these big bamboo shoots look like on the inside -- I'm excited!
4 months ago
It's late spring here now, and that means avocado and bamboo shoots! A wind storm knocked a bunch of avocados on the ground, which meant I got a few this time. Other people have been harvesting this tree mostly -- times are tough and more folks are taking advantage of the abundant free citrus and avocado of winter and spring.

Bamboo is invasive here and in many of the local gulleys. Harvesting the shoots is therefore doing the environment a service as well as filling up the pantry. These shoots are not as large as the ones typically harvested in SE Asian countries, but they are big enough to have a worthwhile amount of material inside. All these filled up half a stockpot with prepared shoots. The bits just a little too old and tough for human use can be fed out to grass-eating animals or composted.

WARNING: bamboo shoots contain toxic levels of cyanogenic glycosides -- some species contain more than stonefruit kernels (meaning that you can get cyanide poisoning from eating raw shoots!). They need to be heated for an extended period of time to neutralise the toxin -- please do your homework here and do not eat raw shoots!

Prepared, the bamboo shoots are delicious, and don't have some of the lead contamination issues of material harvested in SE Asia.
5 months ago

Emily Sorensen wrote:...have people ever used big stones with indentations as a type of combination stove / cooking pot?

Absolutely, they have! Many of the nordic countries have a tradition of carving soapstone into bowls and pots. The making of such fire-capable soapstone vessels also occurred in the eastern US, Canada, Africa, and possibly many other regions steatite/soapstone naturally occurs! These pots have been used by various cultures directly over fires, and have also had hot rocks put into them for indirect cooking -- practice varies by region, time, and probably by the situation/individual.
7 months ago
Kate -- don't know if you've tried your mill already, but I have a photo and gif of my bicycle-powered flour mill in another thread. It works great! Heaps faster than manual milling, but you do need to take care that you're not running it so fast it overheats -- it's possible to damage your mill.

Best of luck!
7 months ago
Rufaro -- The growing white spots on your tomatoes look like the work of leaf miners. They are insects that burrow inside the leaf and eat tunnels between the skin on either side, turning it from green to white. You can see them in your photo as little black squiggles in the white space. Because they are inside the leaf, they are protected from sprays, but I have had good luck pinching the leaf and squishing the larvae while it's inside. No sprays needed!

Good luck with your tomatoes, and sorry that your flowers got eaten. I've had the same thing happen with trays of seedlings (though it was slugs rather than rats) and know how frustrating it is!
9 months ago