helen atthowe

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since Feb 25, 2011
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Recent posts by helen atthowe

I have planned this course so that any level of gardener can attend  and learn.  Those with more experience will have more "ah ha" moments, but the material will be accessible to everyone. I will be covering very advanced soil and ecology concepts, but I do so with lots of practical gardening and farming stories and examples. This usually makes it real for people and then the science is not so scary. Plus there are walk-about sessions every day where we will go outside and talk about the concepts we are learning in the real world. For preparation, I will  send "pre-homework reading" to all people signed up for the class a month ahead of the class.
I am finishing up a book that will be the text for the course as soon as I finish it.
Gardener and farmer friends are proofreading my main "soil revolution" chapter now and I am very excited by their responses and how the science and practical gardening/farming stories in the chapter are coming together and working!
We will learn together as we discuss!
Helen Atthowe
Woodleaf Farm
4 months ago
We just finished a video about a 3-year project creating a forest garden in a 1 acre field of our 35-year CCOF organic certified peach, pear, apples, and other tree fruit orchard.

Here's the link:

 
3 years ago
Paul presents with enthusiasm and lots of humor in a way that is hands-on and accessible to everyone. He always makes you think!

Helen
I gave up farming because I had farmed commercially for 17 years on this piece of land in MT mostly by myself. I was ready to work with others and move back closer to the natual farming I learned when I was in my 20s.  I  sold my farm to a couple who are farming it organically using some of the  reduced tillage techniques I developed.  I am now consulting and helping others with their farms and stewardship projects as well as designing and creating a small forest garden that gives me great joy.  There's a time and place for everything!

Helen
10 years ago
Comfry and purslane were our chickens' favorites when I raised them. I love the idea of  mulberries as chicken feed! I just read in article in Mother Earth News Issue No. 239 page 101 where a poultry expert  recommends grains (like wheat and whole corn) instead of commercial feed, but cautions that if confined (rather than free-range) pullets will turn cannibalistic when they start to lay if not fed a high enough protein diet. Confined chickens make no sense to me, but does anyone have experience with this happening in confinement?

Helen
10 years ago
Great ideas! I recently returned from some revegetation projects in Panama that were doing wonderful things with living, fruiting fences. I have had good success with natives Ribes aureum and Prunus americana.  The wild plum is a great barrier to most larger wildlife and livestock as it suckers better than anything I have ever grown. I fill in the first year gaps with native perennial sunflower, Helianthus maximillani. One native I have only grown as an ornamental, but that also suckers well and might make a good barrier is silverberry, Eleagnus commutata. Anyone have any experience with this wonderful nitrogen-fixing plant as a living fence?

Helen
10 years ago
I just read in Mother Earth News Issue No. 239 page 30 that the quickest breeds to start laying are Cherry Eggers, Indian Rivers, ISA Browns, Pearl Leghorns, and Golden Comets. Pearl Leghorns also ranked high as producing well in free range (rather than confinement) conditions. Any one else have experience with breeds  that start laying quick and do well free-range?

Helen
10 years ago
Hi Salkeela,

If I had avoided projects because they were mad I would not have done 50% of the things on my farm the past 20 years - some of which became very profitable and all of which were fun!

I would plant out your wonderful apples in their final location now, but here's a thought. You can plant them much closer together, When we did apple seedling trials they were planted 3-5' apart. That gave us the ability to cut out the ones that showed less desirable traits (disease, weak growth, etc..) and make room for the others. Also the closer they are planted, the easier they are to keep mulched for weed management. I used weed mat on a 600' native plant hedgerow 10 years ago and had great sucess managing the aggressive pasture grasses that came in, but it did provide a place for voles to overwinter and they esp. liked the wild plums and elderberry. I would use a thick paper mulch were I to do it again, like Ecocover, which at my place did not break down the first season even with irrigation. Ecocover is hard to get a hold of, but maybe ther are other  thick paper mulches that last a season available now?

Good luck with your project! I'm glad you are keeping a photographic record. I think that is key so we all get to learn from each others projects.
Helen
10 years ago
I just read all the comments in this thread and have a few of my own. First, I think Dave answered all the questions very well and completely (I love the idea of using Malus fusca for seedling rootstock! They are at least as drought tolerant and tough as the Russian Antonovika - though maybe not so cold hardy).

When I worked in an apple and fruit breading progam at the University of Arkansas, most of the fruit off of seedlings from crosses made 5-10 years before fruiting were pretty poor quality. But, once in awhile there was a good one and we selected it for some characteristic that might be useful, such as early to bear fruit, pest resistance, fruit quality, fruiting habit. On the other hand, when I was in  graduate school at Rutgers University, I made 4 apricot crosses (crossing a great named variety with an OK tasting variety from Romania that blooms 2 weeks later and hence can beat late spring frosts). I got 4 seeds and 4 trees which I dug up and moved twice and replanted in Montana a third time 17 years ago. all 4 crosses produced excellent quality fruit that fruit regularly in Montana. But 2 trees are large and vigorous and 2 trees are small and bushy. It seems to depend on the variation, genetic plasticity, in the species you're working with. There is lots of variation in apple!

As far as taproots go, seedlings produce better taproots, but there are many examples of taproot trees doing well when tranplanted from deep containers such as "ray leach cells" or tublings. When I worked in mineland restoration, we had good to great success with oaks and conifers using 1" wide and 10" long ray leach tubes. Many of the trees planted 20 years ago are now doing well in harsh sites with no care at all after planting. Seeds are fun to work with, but the risk of getting a terrible tasting fruit is pretty high. If you have lots of room for lots of seedling, go for it.

Helen
10 years ago