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Sher Miller Lehman

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since Mar 28, 2011
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Recent posts by Sher Miller Lehman

A bit of advice. You can take it or not. Start slow. Don't try to do everything the first year. Expecting to grow most your own food the first year, especially since you are starting with sand and weeds, is too much. You will get further along in the long run if you do small steps first. I speak from experience lol.
1 month ago
Thank you Redhawk for writing such a fascinating thread
2 years ago

Al Freeman wrote:What to do with a stinky dish rag or sponge:  NUKE it in the microwave for about 10 seconds on high and then toss it in the wash.  Microwaves kill all the "wee-beasties" that make it smell bad.

I live on a small farm with NO dishwasher and septic (although I use a composting toilet).  I put a few drops of detergent into a sink filled with a couple inches of HOT water, soak my dirty dishes there until it cools down to where it doesn't hurt my hands to dip them in and then, I use a plastic scrub brush on a handle to give them each a good 'once-over'.  Next, they go into another sink a couple inches full of HOT water.  I grab them out of the HOT rinse water with baby-bottle tongs ($1 at the Dollar Store) and let them air dry in a wire basket thingy on the counter top next to my kitchen sink.

I rarely use a dishrag for dishes, but I do use one for wiping counters, cleaning up spills and so on. When they start smelling "ripe" I pop them into Mr. Microwave, then into my cloths washer and that's that.

Hope this helps someone.

Nope! It takes three full minutes in a microwave to kill germs on a sponge. It still won't be completely sanitary. You need an autoclave for that.
4 years ago
The key to growing food in containers is to realize that growing in pots is really growing hydroponically. Therefore, make sure they drain well, and feed them often very weakly, like you would have a nutrient solution in a hydroponics system. Weekly feeding with water soluble nutrients is ideal.

Keep in mind if you over feed nitrogen you will invite pests to feast. As long as the photoperiod is not an issue one can induce flowers and fruit. Offer a flowering solution to the plants BEFORE, just before flower formation. Once you fruits have been pollinated start with a fruit nutrient solution. Remember you are giving a nutrient solution for the NEXT stage of development, moving things along. Natural farming is a perfect fit for this. I've gotten better results sometimes in a container than in the ground at the same time.

I'm a Cho certified Natural Farming instructor. If you have questions hit me up.
4 years ago
As a microbiologist I also have a thing about germs and the worse thing you can use is a sponge. They are almost impossible to sanitize. Running them through the dishwasher will only infect all the dishes.

I started using yellow automotive microfiber cloths when my DH, an engineer was doing a project at a dairy. They used them to keep the milkers hands clean cuz they're both spongy and scrubby. He used them to keep grease dirt and chemicals off his hands. I found they are perfect for the kitchen and last forever. I find them in auto supply stores.

Add just a drop or two of soap to the rag for direct contact with the dirt and use next to no soap. It foams up like a sponge yet they are great at scrubbing. Only once in a while so I need something stronger for scrubbing. And they dry out completely between uses to keep germs down, even in a tropical rainforest.

My method is to use first to dry dishes, one time, then use for one day as a washcloth. The second day I keep it around to wipe up spills instead of disposable (yuk) paper towels. Once they get too stained (the don't wear out), like from cast iron skillets, they go into the cleaning rag pile. I also use them with a Swiffer type mop, dry for dusting and wet for mopping.

You can even grab them to use as a hotpad. My husband even used them when he was welding.

I wish they were bio-degradable but they last so damn long they get a pass in my book. And I think they would give your hubby the scrubby sponge-like experience he seems to need.  My 2 cents.
4 years ago
Correction: surprisingly NEEM CAKE...
4 years ago
Glad to hear you're growing tea Kerry Rodgers. University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Has papers on growing tea. Google CTAHR pubs.
Remember to keep watered, at least 80 inches per year, evenly spaced, feed lightly and regularly (every inch of rain but no more than once a week is my method), and keep trimmed into a nice tabletop, waist high.
Remember it takes on the taste of its environment, anything growing close. Surprisingly been cake does not give it a bad taste. It's a light fertilizer and will keep out chewing insects and aphids/scales (= ants). The more you use it the better it works against pests. If you get mites use wettable sulfur.
And teach yourself how to process the leaves. Use your nose and mouth to test how it progresses. And don't process tea when not in a good mood. It shows it the cup!
Good luck and have fun.
4 years ago
Charleston is growing commodity tea, tea so processed people need sugar and milk to choke it down. Most of the wave of current new growers/experimenters are looking at specialty tea, high quality, usually hand processed. It's like comparing cafo beef in a can to organic home grown grass fed steak.
Seriously, if you think loose leaf tea is expensive, compare the cost by weight of actual tea in a tea bag. Understand that loose leaf tea also can be brewed at least twice (no, dipping a weak tea bag and getting a little color in the second cup is NOT a second brew). Some varieties of tea, particularly oolong and puer, can be brewed multiple times, like 3-10 or even more times. Each brew lifts of a different layer of taste and aroma. This increases the good tea's value.
Tea bags are often filled with tea dust, and are known to be laden with chemicals. I encourage you to try REAL (whole, loose leaf) tea.  
4 years ago

Thekla McDaniels wrote:Thanks!

A friend asked me about phosphorous

Got any ideas for it?  All I know is bones and bone meal.  I figure there must be some in whey, more in milk, but I think too much whey can throw things off, and I don't have enough extra milk to pour it out...

Are egg shells a good source of phosphorous, or just calcium?

Eggshells offer calcium. Phosphorous comes from bone. To see a natural farming instructions to make water soluable calcium phosphate there should be a paper I co-wrote at University of Hawaii CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources).
4 years ago
Grow Tea in a Hugelkultur
As a commercial tea grower from Hawaii let me say there is no special reason why tea, Camellia sinensis cannot be grown in a huglekultur.  I know some of the people involved in Mississippi. They looked at  buying my tea garden in Hawaii. From my perspective their motivation is money over quality. I sold my tea farm in Hawaii because I could not afford the taxes, labor cost, taxes and fees, and did I mention taxes? The small farmer is indeed under attack. But back to tea, and I will try to be brief. If you have more questions I will be happy to answer from my moonrisetea email at Can I put my email here??
Tea is a subtropical understory tree that grows as a shrub, small tree. They are grown as a waist high hedge with a flat “table” to force new shoot growth, which becomes tea. The old leaves are tough, dry, and tasteless or extremely bitter.  If you let the bush grow wild you will get very little leaf that can be harvested. And what is good leaf will be hard to harvest and take a lot of time. Don’t be afraid. Tea has been nibbled by human fingers for 5000 years. The more you nibble at it the happier the tea and the healthier the bush. It has a wonderful relationship with human hands.
They need 80 inches of rain per year or need to be irrigated. If a tea bush gets dry the leaves will not show any signs of wilting. The first indication there is not enough moisture is a dead bush. I always grow them with something that easily wilts as an early warning system.
Tastes like what it grows with. Be careful. It tastes like the air and the soil and the smell of the place, and most especially any plants in close proximity.
As an understory tree it likes a little shade but can grow in full sun. The more shade it gets (keep in mind there is a lower limit if you want it to grow) then the more chlorophyll will be produced as well as the chemicals that give tea its aroma and flavor. Shade is often offered seasonally. Some of the best tea is grown in colder climates in full sun and covered with shade for a couple of weeks before harvest.
Different cultivars have varying degrees of frost-hardiness. This seems to be the main issue in North America is finding the right frost tolerant variety for the right micro-clime.
They prefer very acid soil, similar to blueberries. Our friends in Mississippi are interested in the science. As a published research scientist I have experience with both real science and real farming. Academia really has no choice but to follow big-ag. Like artists, we scientists must have a patron. As a scientist I want to have repeat-able scientific knowledge to back me up but personally prefer to throw out “rules” and observe what works on-the-ground/in-the-dirt as it were. In this case it is good to understand the science behind the importance of pH.
Under scientifically controlled conditions, necessary to make scientifically valid observations, different minerals and nutrients are bio-available at different pH levels. For each crop you are trying to find the “sweet spot” of nutrient availability which differs for each crop. For tea that sweet spot is way over on acid side. When grown in acidic soil tea does best because the “food” it likes is most available in that range. HOWEVER…
However, in my personal experience, if you have active, MICROBE-DENSE soil with high levels of BIO-AVAILABLE minerals and nutrients (compost completely digested, not fresh) then pH is not as important as an issue. Not only can you bend the rules, you can do so very successfully. If your soil is just okay or just good, better work with pH. I have trained with Master Cho in Natural Farming and have seen the value of microbial load in any growing system I have seen it used, plant or animal.
Keep in mind when placing your tea bushes that they can live for hundreds of years. Some are over 1000 years old and still produce. The average age of a commercial bush worldwide is 65 years if memory serves.
My advice always is- Go for it! What do you have to lose? Everything is an experiment. Life is an adventure!
4 years ago