Chris Holcombe

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since Feb 22, 2011
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forest garden fungi food preservation
Portland - Zone 8b
Zone 8b Portland
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Recent posts by Chris Holcombe

If it’s scab I heard on the permaculture orchard YouTube channel you can spray 5:1 diluted whey on the leaves and fruit and it’ll take care of that.
2 weeks ago
I generally migrate the new figs outside over the course of 2 weeks starting from 2hrs of sun and adding half to one hour of sun per day. That should keep it from getting sun burned. Hopefully that helps.
1 month ago
They're Japanese/European hybrids I believe. The Marron is castanea sativa. The silver leaf is more of a Japanese heavy hybrid castanea crenata. They don't seem to mind our dry summers at all. Most of my trees shut down once the dry really starts setting in but the chestnuts, figs and olives just continue growing like it's nothing. Pretty cool!
1 month ago
I cleaned up my splitting wedge today. I didn’t realize this was a potentially dangerous situation until I read this post. It wasn’t too badly mushroomed but I documented the cleanup anyways :-)
1 month ago
I grow quite a few figs. A few varieties are in the ground and the rest are in pots being trialed. Desert king, ronde de bordeaux, takoma violet and black spanish are in the ground. I’m trialing malta black, kadota, lsu purple, alma and violet de bordeaux. All of them are common type figs except for desert king. That’s a san pedro type that overwinters a breba crop on last years wood. The downside of this is every pruning cut reduces your next crop. The main crop on desert king needs the fig wasp to pollinate it or they fall off. The breba crop on it is really good though.

Characteristics I’m looking for are early fruit, common type so I can prune them any way I want and excellent taste. The bordeaux varieties supposedly have an interesting complex taste that I’m looking forward to trying. I generally go for the berry type figs but I haven’t had a fig I don’t like.

I’ll know more in a few weeks when the trial ones fruit and more next year when they’re a little stronger. I’m struggling to keep them watered though the heat wave and they’re dropping their fruit sometimes.

Varieties that might do well for you Steve are malta black and ronde/violet de bordeaux. They’re early and I think they have a closed eye. I don’t know for sure yet because I haven’t had any ripen so far. I just rooted them last year so they’re young. If you want more varieties to try I’d check out Ross in Philadelphia. He has a YouTube channel and a google spreadsheet where he details the characteristics of many varieties.

There’s a lot of varieties available. You can root them pretty easily by cuttings. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a variety that does well in your climate.
1 month ago
I tried taking cuttings a week ago. So far they’re proving fairly drought tolerant. They’ve barely showed any signs of wilting yet. I’m hoping that’s a good indication that they’re putting out roots. I’m using Clonex spray on them and some potting soil with a bunch of coco coir mixed in. I’ve noticed that if I mix coco coir into my potting soil it doesn’t develop fungus as easily.
1 month ago
I planted two grafted chestnut trees in Jan 2019. One silverleaf and one Marron Di Val Di Susa. I have to admit I’m surprised how fast they’re growing this year. The marron already has probably 7ft of growth this year. Is this normal for young chestnut trees? It’s growing so fast that it grew around the metal wire tag I had on it. I used some pliers to pull it out and place it a lot higher up. Each tree is surrounded by goumi bushes. I’ve also fertilized them a few times in the spring with diluted urine. Anyways I’m just impressed at this growth speed. It’s far higher than anything else in my food forest
1 month ago
I’m giving yams a try this year and cassava. I’ve never heard of anyone in the PNW trying cassava so I don’t have high hopes but it was a $2 experiment. I’m also growing oca. They seem reasonably happy with the conditions here.
1 month ago
Here’s my recipe. I usually start it on Saturday and finish it Sunday morning.

Sourdough recipe
Makes 2 loaves

⁃ 525g water
⁃ 250g starter
⁃ 700g whole wheat flour
⁃ 20g sea salt
- 20g wheat gluten (optional)

1. Pour the water into a large bowl.
2. Add the ripe starter to the water and mix thoroughly with a whisk or by hand until the floating cloud of starter is mixed completely into the water
3. Add the flour to the leavened water and mix with the dough bowl scraper or other spatula. Form a shaggy dough ball.

1. Let it rest (autolyse stage) about an hour. This stage can be extended without worry up to four hours at 75 degrees F.
2. After autolyse, add the salt to the bread dough. Use your hands to pinch and stretch the dough gently until the salt is mixed into the dough.

1. Using your wet hands pull the dough from under the dough ball up and stretch it gently as you pull it over the dough ball top. Release. Repeat this process as you give the bowl quarter turns until the dough is stretched and pulled from each quarter of the bowl.
2. Over the next 2 1/2 hours repeat the stretch and fold every 30 minutes. Whole wheat flour can be VERY resistant to this technique. If you prefer use the SLAP and FOLD technique.
3. The dough should become an elastic resilient dough that passes the window pane test. BUT whole wheat flour may need more time in the stretch and fold(Or slap and fold) to build gluten sufficient to pass this test.

1. Divide the dough in half.
2. Place a tea towel in 2 bowls that will be used for bulk rise.
3. Lightly flour the tea towel.
4. Place one dough ball in each bowl seam side up. Light flour the seam side and then fold the towel on top of the dough to cover.
5. Let rise between 3-4hrs.
6. Place bowls in the refrigerator overnight once they have risen.

Baking Instructions:
1. Set a baking stone (if you have one) on your oven bottom rack. Set your dutch oven with its lid on next rack up (lower third of oven). PREHEAT oven to 450 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes.
2. Keep the formed loaf in your bowl in the fridge until you actually need to place it in your preheated dutch oven. Cold dough will aide the oven spring. (which means the loaves will rise better).
3. Place high heat safe parchment paper over the bowl. Turn the bowl upside down so the dough falls gently onto the parchment paper. I usually use a dinner plate to aid in flipping.

1. FOR OPTIMAL RISE: Score the loaf with your lame knife or a razor blade or sharp knife. Scoring helps the dough rise better if you score the loaf at least an inch deep. And use cross cuts (The pound sign works well)

2. Now pick up the scored loaf with the edges of the parchment paper, if using, and gently and carefully place it into your VERY hot dutch oven.
3. Put the lid on the dutch oven and return it covered to your preheated oven.
4. Bake 30 minutes at 450 degrees.
5. Now REMOVE the lid. Steam should come out. Hopefully the bread is a light golden color with a nice rise and set crust. Bake an additional 10 minutes UNCOVERED or until the loaf thumps hollowly and the surface gets dark(Caramelized darker than you are used to maybe) and the scored areas look shiny.
6. Remove the dutch oven. Place the finished loaf on a cooling rack. Do NOT cut it for at least an hour to set the crumb.
7. Return the dutch oven (with it's lid on) to the oven at 450 degrees F and preheat for 15 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining loaf.
8. To tell if your bread is properly done. It should sound hollow when thumped. The crust should look shiny and Caramelized at the scored sections. Whole wheat loafs are dense. The crumb may be open or closed depending on how you handled it.