Monday, October 31, 2011

The Rooster Crows

Been a while since I've posted anything. Haven't been in a writing mood.

But, I did want to pass on a chuckle: our rooster started crowing this morning. And it was pitiful... "oh oh ohhohhhhhh". Poor boy sounded like he was in pain! He'll probably have it down good in a few weeks, but it woke me up laughing this morning :-D

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tomato hornworms

Over the last few weeks, I've been finding tomato plants stripped bare of leaves and half eaten green tomatoes. The other day I discovered the culprit!

(Insert picture here, oh wait camera only taking blank pictures.)

The culprits were pretty easy to identify... and pick off of the plants. Of course, they are a delicacy to the chickens who fight greedily over these juicy treats. The destruction they've been doing to the tomatoes will now pay off nicely as a protein source in our chicken eggs!

(Insert another picture, this one a glass mixing bowl full of tomato hornworms)

Other good news is that almost half of the hornworms were carrying predatory wasp eggs!

That picture is as gross as it seems, but, those wasps will take care of all manner of pesky pests!

What else is going on? Picked two quarts of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and tomatilloes. Most of the bounty were tomatoes that I blanched and put in a freezer bag for making future goodies. And finally, I've started my next batch of black garlic. It should be ready October 17th.

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Egg!

Smallish, but, here it is!
Think it's Snowball's since she's older and was broodier with it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How to Make Black Garlic - Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm

The Process
The process is very simple, but does require diligence in keeping the temperature in the proper range (and patience waiting to get at those tasty treats!)
  1. Find a cooker that can cook at the (low) temperatures of between 130°-150° F. Make sure that it doesn't have an automatic shut-off timer. This was actually the most difficult step in the process... most cookers, even on the 'low' setting are at 180°-200° F. I found a small fryer that had a low temp of 180° F but had a bit of dial play between 'on' and 180°.
  2. Buy enough garlic that will just fit the container you put in the cooker. Make sure there is a bit of room between the container and the cooker.
  3. Do not  remove the 'skin'.
  4. Put the garlic and an oven thermometer in the container and wrap the container in aluminum foil. Make sure the thermometer head is visible. My cooker had a glass lid which made it very easy read the temperature without letting any heat out since I didn't have to take the lid off.
  5. Put the container in the cooker and turn the cooker on! Estimate where 130° F is on the cooker.
  6. Wait 40 days.
Lessons Learned
Since the temperature changes slowly (Newton's Law of Heating), keep a close eye on the temperature the first day or two. Be careful not to let it get too hot. If it gets too hot or cold, adjust the cooker in very small increments and remember that it takes several hours for the adjustment to be reflected in the temperature. When it got too hot for me, I took the container out of the cooker to let it cool for a couple minutes which helped the temperature adjust much more quickly - about an hour or so.

I would also recommend that the fermenting be done outside of the house. I put the cooker in the mud/laundry room. The garlic smell the first week or two can be intense. Needless to say, the vampires stayed at least a mile away from our house!

The cooker had absolutely no insulation. The next batch I think I'll put the cooker(s) in a box which I'll heavily insulate.

I'll also run electricity out to the shed and build a shelf for the new setup. Makes room and eliminates the smell from the house.

P.S. Here's how my first batch turned out!

Today's Workout - Interesting

On my non-weights workout days I will typically do 30-45 minutes on the elliptical machine. Today I had time for a 30 minute workout so I climbed on and got started. I normally take 5 to 10 minutes to warm-up before I increase the intensity to a heart rate between 132-140 bpm but today, it actually felt good and I kicked it all the way up to 132 bpm. About 15 minutes in, the muscle soreness wore off and I continued to increase my heart rate to 145 bpm. With 5 minutes left, I was feeling awesome so I took my heart rate all the way up to 166 bpm -- the point just below where I could feel it over-stressing my heart. Normally after a workout like that it takes a good nights sleep to recover. At this point (2 hours later), I feel excellent!

What I'm wondering is... did I get this burst of energy by eating 1/3 of a bulb of black garlic last night??

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Black Garlic is Done and...

Here's a picture of my first bulb out of the pot:

And, oh my, is it delicious! It has a fig-like texture, is molasses-sweet, and has an Asian food smell with just a tiny hint of garlic.

Definitely making more of this!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

2011-07-29 Harvest - Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm

Several tomatoes, purple potatoes, and a small chocolate sweet pepper.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You and I are Silly Monkey People with Delusions of Grandeur Being Played Like Pawns in a Game of Chess

In a discussion at my friend CNu's blog, Subrealism, a regular commenter, nanakwame, posted a quote in a comment:
Human nature is not rational; there is intelligence only in what encompasses him.
- Heraclitus
Of course, I constantly laugh at the name we have given our species - Homo sapiens, or Wise Man. Especially given that supposed 'wisdom' of ours is full of egregious, gaping holes. In fact, these holes are so huge I would say that we are anything but wise or rational and that we are also likely barely 'conscious' too.

Here are a couple of my favorite Men in Black quotes:
Edgar/Bug: Y'know, I've noticed an infestation here. Everywhere I look, in fact. Nothing but undeveloped, unevolved, barely conscious pond scum, totally convinced of their own superiority as they scurry about their short, pointless lives.
Zap-Em Man: Well, yeah. Uh... don't you want to get rid of 'em?
Edgar/Bug: Ah... in the worst way.

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.

Anyway, CNu responded with:
lol, not only is human nature not rational, sophisticated governance ruthlessly exploits vulnerabilities in the configuration of human psychology and culture to maximize control exerted through and by what must now be considered (in the modern context) cognitive defects; Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose
Now, how exactly would an SMP aspiring to be rational start looking to find which governance systems might be in place controlling their lives? These control systems --
  • encourage emotionality over rationality
  • value beliefs and feelings over facts
  • 'feed'/encourage cognitive biases
  • stimulate the brain's dopaminergic systems
  • interfere with the brain's sertoninergic systems
  • organize hierarchically
  • isolate individuals
  • encourage SMPs to proselytize the system
Eliminate or reduce your exposure to these systems and constantly question what you think you 'know' to break free and learn to think for yourself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Video Update at Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm

My brother-in-law requested a picture of the chicken tractor, so while I was out moving it, I decided to take some videos of the farm with my phone.

The chickent tractor:

The burn pile with some very vigorous Chenopodium album:

A look out over the Zone 2 Area:

The Zone 1, Kitchen Garden:

Snowball (who was pure white when we bought her), the alpha hen, out exploring:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - How-To: Organic Shiitake Mushrooms

Milkwood Permaculture Farming and Living has a great little how-to on making your own shiitake mushroom log.

About two years ago I tried my hand at mushrooms after reading (and getting totally stoked over) Paul Stamets' Mycelium Running. I then got a copy of his heftier tome, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and attempted to spawn some oyster mushrooms. I procured some spores and substrate (spent coffee grounds) and followed the instructions. Within days, I could see the mushrooms building mycelia. Unfortunately, the moment they started to sprout fruiting bodies, some sort of mildew decimated the growing medium. I have to admit that it discouraged me a bit and haven't put much effort toward mushroom cultivation since.

But... with all my recent successes in the garden and with the chickens, I might be ready to give mycofarming (of the edible variety, those of you thinking of being snarky ;-) another try. Until the trees start to grow and fill in shaded areas, I'm going to need to create a shelter in the Zone 1 area so that I can keep an eye on the logs and have easy access for watering them. I think getting some spores to inoculate my hardwood mulch (since the soil out here is almost totally dead) is an excellent idea and is a great example of stacking functions by using mushrooms both for eating and as a keystone for building healthy soil.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How-To: Newspaper Origami - Seed Starter Pots

Found this useful and simple how-to video:

People at work recycle their newspapers, so I've been grabbing a few out of the bin to use both as a weed barrier for my lasagna mulching and now for seed starter pots!

Unfortunately, their claim for 'organic'  is specious unless they use organically sourced paper and inks in the newspaper.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Permaculture Video: Martin Gardner's A Forest Garden Year

Excellent video of Martin Gardner going through all four seasons in an permaculture forest garden. The focus is on permaculture gardening techniques and less on permaculture design principles. This makes the video a prime example of what to do and less so of why to do it.

Definitely a video I plan on revisiting!

Experiment Continuing: Black Garlic

The first couple of days had some intense garlic odors wafting through the house and around the yard. The smell is definitely getting milder now. The temperature has been tough to regulate with the cooker I chose with it getting a little too hot during the heat of the afternoon and a little too cool in the early morning. Hopefully the temps aren't going outside the prescribed range too long.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Experiment: Black Garlic

While  browsing the web, found something that sounded interesting:
Black garlic is a type of fermented garlic used as a food ingredient in Asian cuisine. It is made by fermenting whole bulbs of garlic at high temperature, a process that results in black cloves. The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or even tamarind.
Since I love garlic, I'm going to be growing a lot of garlic here. Although the garlic is hardly ready for harvesting, I still wanted to experiment to see if I could make it. So, made a quick trip to the closest Big-Box store where I found a cooker that heated at low enough temps to encourage fermenting without actually cooking the garlic. I also got about 3 pounds of garlic.

I excitedly prepared the cooker and the garlic as my recipe indicated and started on my 40 day journey! When I left for work, everything looked fine at 140°. Later in the day discovered that the kitchen had an intense garlic smell so moved it out to the mud/utility room. After work, I went out to check on it and was greeted with the most intense garlic smell I've ever known. Wunderbar!
With 39 days left, it's a little warm at 150°

My Most Recent Metabolic Screening Results

Over the last 6 months - a year, I've been changing my habits.

The changes:
  • To the 3 days of weight lifting, I've added 2 days of cardio
  • I consume 1 tablespoon of Omega 3 fatty acids daily.
  • I consume 4000 I.U. of Vitamin D during the winter and slowly adjust with my exposure to the sun
  • I consume 1200 mg of Calcium
  • I have a standing desk at work
  • I've significantly reduced my gluten intake
  • I've replaced my consumption of diet cola for tea sweetened with stevia
The qualitative results:
  • I've gotten sick only once, wherein I recovered fully in 3 days, and happened after a two week lapse in taking my Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, and Calcium supplements.
  • I've been snoring less, and not at all the last week.
  • I feel really good, aware, and much better rested.
The quantitative results:
2010 Results
2011 Results
2010 Category
2011 Category
Total Cholesterol
High Risk
Total/HDL ratio
Systolic blood pressure
Pre-hypertensive, almost Stage 1 Hypertension
Pre-hypertensive, just above Normal
Diastolic blood pressure
Obese, had a strong pear-shaped figure
Obese, however, I'm very muscular and only appear Overweight
Waist Circumference
High Risk
Moderate Risk

I've clearly had significant improvements both with cholesterol and blood pressure. My continued cardio program along with my standing desk should continue lowering my blood pressure.

As for my weight/BMI... the progress has been very slow. Some recent studies have linked potato, processed foods, and alcohol as the biggest culprits in American diets to cause weight gain. The processed foods are being eliminated as I have taken to cooking dinner from scratch. The potato I'm just now starting to eliminate as best I can. Not sure about wanting to eliminate alcohol - I do really enjoy a beer (or maybe two) a few evenings after work a week. On the positive side, eating an extra serving of fresh fruit lead to weight loss. In addition to making dinner, I've also been buying and eating more fresh fruit. Hope it helps!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"it’s quite bizarre we’ve based almost our whole agriculture on annual plants"

Transition Culture | Cereals, agroforestry and droughts: an interview with Martin Crawford

Last week I cycled round to Martin Crawford’s house to interview him.  Martin runs the Agroforestry Research Trust, is one of the world’s authorities on the subject, and recently published ‘Creating a Forest Garden‘.  I had wanted to ask him about the drought in the southeast and the implications for the future of farming.  On the day I visited Martin though it was pouring with rain, but as you’ll see, that made little difference to his thoughts on the matter.  I have included a couple of films about his work as well, mixed in with the interview.

So Martin, the thing that inspired me to think I wanted to come around and talk to you was the drought situation in East Anglia and the southeast, which has been very much in the news in the last few weeks – although it does seem to be slightly superseded by events, as we sit here with the rain pouring down outside!  But I wondered firstly what your thoughts are on that and also what that tells us about farming as it’s currently practiced in that part of the country.

Yeah, it’s very easy to look outside and see it’s pouring with rain and think, “Oh, it’s actually fine now”.  And it’s even pouring with rain in the east of the country sometimes too now.  But it’s not all fine – the damage has been done.  Yields from arable crops in the East of the country, (which is where the main arable crops like wheat are grown in this country), are going to be down by at least 25% and maybe more, because the damage has been done.  It can’t be recovered – it’s too late for that now.  It’s not all fine now and it really shows that a spring like this, which seems to be becoming the norm…..for the last four years we’ve had pretty dry springs – not as dry as this one but it seems to be becoming a pattern.  Whether that continues or not, it’s impossible to say.

In such a dry spring, the value and resilience of perennial plants is very obvious, so in my forest garden for example where everything is perennial it has been looking lush this spring and not drought affected at all.  I haven’t watered anything in there and it’s been absolutely fine.  So I haven’t been one of the people complaining about lack of rain all the time – it’s people who are wanting to grow lots of annual vegetables or farmers growing annual plants that have been screaming about the weather because if you’re sowing annual plants in spring, you’ve got to have water – they’re not going to grow without it, and put their roots down and so on.

In terms of looking at the future – if we’re going to grow more of our own food as a country and as a region, this is going to have a significant impact.  And on a larger, world-wide scale, it’s actually quite bizarre in some ways.  If you look at it in an ecological way, it’s quite bizarre we’ve based almost our whole agriculture on annual plants because if you look in nature, annual plants are rare.  You only get them if there’s been a soil disturbance, and then for a short time because they’ve been taken over by perennials.  So in a sense our whole agriculture is quite unnatural, based on annual plants, and very prone to any kind of climate extremes – whether it’s drought or water-logging from extreme events or whatever.

Unfortunately, because of climate change,  those extreme events are going to get more and more frequent – all extreme events, not just droughts.  Annual crops are going to get more and more susceptible to crop failures as time goes on, certainly in the next few decades.  And that could have quite serious effects.  In terms of grain stores in the world – grain stores are lower than they’ve ever been because there are increasing failures of harvest in some of the big grain producing countries.


Read the whole article.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Unexpected Finds In The Garden

Quick update this morning with some tasty treats growing in the garden.

First, I found this 2' patch of Chenopodium album growing out in the polyculture area of the garden:
Big patch of Goosefoot/Lamb's Quarters - sauteed in garlic and butter, yum!
I think the fern-like plants growing with them are a member of the Daucus family since they have a very carrot-y smell when I pull them up.The roots aren't very extensive though. When they flower, if they're umbels, that should better verify my guess.

On the way back through the raised beds, I found these:
Baby green peppers
The tomatillos also look like they're close to fruiting. And finally, my first planted purple potatoes are starting to die back. Blue mashed potatoes may be on my dinner plate soon!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Chicken Tractor Is Done!

Admittedly, it took a while building it part time and still having to deal with rain. The work was easy but it was time consuming and tedious, especially tying down the wire chicken netting to the cattle panels. But the chickens are definitely happy in their much more spacious new home -- they're running and even flying around a bit!
In their new home. You'd think they'd want some space!
Oops, forgot the tarp earlier
Chenopodium album volunteer in my garden bed
And a quick note: while weeding my beds I found some Chenopodium album growing. Lamb's Quarters is a very nutritious "weed". Letting it grow out and may make something tasty with it!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Chicken Tractor In Progress

Had a busy Saturday putting together our new chicken tractor. The chicks are just a few weeks from being full grown and the dog kennel is getting a bit cramped. They've been pecking each other more than I'd like, so the chicken tractor should give them much more room. Here are the pics:
Raised beds and the house

Dog kennel in the background

Friday, June 3, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Baby Bunny Pics!

Here they are as promised:
The bunnies are doing just fine eating the formula and a couple of them have even pooped and peed.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Planting Slowing Down

The reasons are two-fold: most of the plants have been planted, woohoo! and, at the moment, I'm still trying to resolve the drain right-of-way issue with the County Drainage Board. Although the right-of-way issue won't affect much of the property, it does interfere with some of my plan. In particular, it interferes with the placement of a Korean Pine windbreak. Still, I've marked out where the trees outside the 75' zone will go.

The five chicks are still doing fairly well. The two Brahmans have a few feathers missing as does one of the Rhode Island Reds. While goofing around with the girls, I made a crow sound ("caw") and one of the Brahmans tried to respond -- and not a single sound came out! We all had a chuckle as it would do this every time we made the noise. Which got me to thinking, Ostrich (his name) is probably a rooster. He started out being one of the smallest chicks and is already bigger than all the rest. The chicks are definitely starting to mature - they have most of their adult feathers now although Ostrich still has tufts of fluff. And, every so often we'll hear one cluck instead of the cute little chirp.

I'm figuring the pecking and missing feathers is due to space stress so I'm planning on making two chicken tractors instead of just one. We haven't taken the birds (in dog kennels) outside just yet since the dog is still a threat. In fact, the escape artist was found out of her harness and was begging for treats this morning.

The long weekend ended on a good note:
Is it even possible? Can it be? Yes! Clear skies!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Last night we got another 8 inches of rain:
Luckily, where I planned a pond
Yes, 8 inches in one day. That's on top of the 4 inches we got Tuesday and the 2 inches we got Sunday. Of course, this all comes with severe weather and the spotting of two tornadoes Sunday and Wednesday in small towns just west of our home. One thing not obvious is that the grass is about three inches tall and the entire property is covered in water, just below the top of the grass.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And This is News?: Fungi Reduce Need for Fertilizer in Agriculture

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2011) — The next agricultural revolution may be sparked by fungi, helping to greatly increase food-production for the growing needs of the planet without the need for massive amounts of fertilizers according to research presented May 23 at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.
It's great that the word is getting out, but Paul Stamets has been saying this for years. Mycelium Running is an excellent overview of all the wonderful things that fungi do for us. Get a copy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Officially a Farm!

Bought 6 chicks tonight. Three Brahmans, two Rhode Island Reds, and one white (not sure breed). Not completely sure of the sex, but the seller was fairly sure the Rhode Island Reds and the white one are hens. He was guessing about the Brahmans but we took the three with the smallest combs.
Making New Friends - Feeding from My Hand
For now, we're keeping them in a portable dog kennel. I'm planning on building a chicken tractor where I can move them every day. They'll eat the grass and bugs while fertilizing the soil!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Biggest Planting Yet

First, a couple pictures...

Would've had more pictures, but this crazy unending flooding rain...

Saturday middle daughter and stepdaughter helped me plant eighty-nine (!) Hybiscus syriacus. They were a huge help, I dug the holes and they put the plants in the ground all only in 7 hours! That freed up enough time for me to plant an ounce of Chenopodium bonus-henricus seeds and put in soil, mulch, and Red Thumb Fingerling seed potatoes into one of the beds just before the torrential downpour started.

Previous attempts to grow Actinidia arguta failed as the leaves would turn black and the plant would die. I think I've identified the reason: ammonia fertilizer. The plants I put in a couple weeks ago had a couple leaves turn black and the field next to the fence was recently tilled and fertilized. Going to keep an eye on the plants over the next few days but not sure what else I can do for them.

Sunday was a day of rest as the steady, drizzly rain continued. Have 30 Pinus koriaensis and 30 Corylus x. hybrids to map out and plant this week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Downshifting and Intensive Gardening: Reduce the Learning Curve Now from a Cliff to Simply Steep Later

Another golden nugget from the Archdruid:
More generally, it amazes me how many people seem to think they can downshift in a blink from a modern American lifestyle, with all its comforts and privileges, to the close-to-subsistence lifestyle most of us will be leading in the middle future. It’s reminiscent of those old-fashioned survivalists whose idea of being ready to feed themselves once the rubble stops bouncing is a nitrogen-packed tin of garden seeds, a random assortment of tools, and a manual on how to garden, which they read halfway through on a slow afternoon ten years ago. Those who adopted that approach have been very lucky that their doomsteads have never had to function as anything more serious than deer camps, because if they’d tried to feed themselves that way, death by starvation would have been the inevitable result. Growing food in an intensive organic garden is a skilled craft requiring several years of hard and careful work to master, and if you hope to rely on it for even a small part of your food, you need to get through the steep part of the learning curve as soon as possible.
Get started. Now. Any small progress will get you ahead of the curve and reduce those pangs of hunger right when you need it.

Green Wizardry - LESS

Archdruid John Michael Greer hits the nail on the head again with Hair Shirts, Hypocrisy, and Wilkins Micawber:
What comes to mind at this point, rather, is an acronym – LESS – that stands for "Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation."
The last point, "stimulation", being the most critical for pointing out why we are where we are: dopamine hegemony. I want to make clear that the problem isn't simply stimulation, rather, stimulation for stimulation's sake only. I use many of the technologies that the Archdruid refers to for the purpose of stimulation... however, I use it to awaken my understanding of my (mostly hidden) desires and of the world. I use it as I say in "About Me" to transform myself from asleep and incidental to awake and intentional. This is a far cry from how and why most people experience stimulation:
A mind that’s constantly flooded with noise from television, video games, or what have you, is a mind that never has the time or space to think its own thoughts, and in a nation that’s trying not to notice that it’s sold its own grandchildren down the river, that’s probably the point of the exercise. Be that as it may, recovering the ability to think one’s own thoughts, to clear one’s mind of media-driven chatter, manufactured imagery, and all the other thoughtstopping clutter we use to numb ourselves to the increasingly unwelcome realities of life in a failing civilization, is an indispensable tool for surviving the challenges ahead, and one that I’ll be talking about at more length in a future post.
Once dopamine hegemony is recognized as the primary driver in our society, the next step is recognizing our overwhelming, predictable irrationality and managing the impact of our human cognitive errors.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Lots of Progress, Even More to Do!

Had another very productive weekend. Mostly because I received two large shipments: one with 25 Arctostaphylus uva-ursi and another with 10 Rheum rhabarbarum, 5 Actinidia arguta, and 96 Hibiscus syriacus. Yes. 96.

My dog is a mouser! Go Layla!
I started Saturday digging 25 holes for the A. uva-ursi. It is a low-growing woody ground cover and has a prominent importance in my plan as I build around this and other trees and shrubs into several mini-guilds. Around noon or so, the rain changed over from a pleasant (but mud making) drizzle into thunderstorms.

Looking south as the storms come in from the southwest - our prevailing weather pattern.
I didn't mind the rain but the thunder and lightning told me to get out of the weather. So, I took the opportunity to run into town for supplies! (And a nice break :-)

Fresh and steaming hardwood mulch. I love that smell...
Wood for more raised beds
 By the time I got back home, a light rain was coming down, but the thunder and lightning had moved on. I quickly got incredibly muddy as I dug out all 25 holes for the A. uva-ursi. It was getting late by the time I finished digging so I took a few pictures of the plants since they were all coming out in full spring glory!

Lonicera caerulea edulis - in pots for later planting, just not sure where...
Helianthus tuberosus - they survived the wind!
Elaegnus umbellata - all 30 planted two weeks ago are in leaf!
Fragaria x ananassa - transplanted from Granny's last week and doing great!
Allium sativum "Giant" - saying "Hello World!"
Solanum tuberosum "Purple Majesty" - looking forward to purple mashed taters!
Solanum lycopersicum and Capsicum anuum - not sure those stakes will be stable enough for the maters. Hmm.
Hibiscus syriacus - all 96. Really.
Sunday started off a bit foggy, but turned into a nicely-cool partly-cloudy day -- perfect for planting. In each hole, I planted one bearberry, two strawberries, two onion seeds (not sets), and three asparagus seeds which I covered with a layer of musky-smelling mulch. (Looking forward to seeing how the bearberry and strawberries work out being the dominant ground cover.) I put rhubarb roots in ten of the holes. As the day progressed, I noticed the roots starting to dry out even with frequent rewaterings so I tried speeding things up a bit. Of course, my body resoundingly said, "no." Still, I got all the holes planted. Phew.

This week is going to be daunting as I plant all of those Rose of Sharon for our north and west hedgerow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Weekend Update

Ok, it's been a week since the last update. Mostly because I haven't done anything... it took me all week to recover!

On Saturday, we finally had a break from the rain and I was able to mow. It's not that I mind mowing, it's that I dislike that it's a requirement and wasteful of time and fuel. However, until I accumulate the soil amendments and am able to start my mini guilds, it's a necessary evil. The best answer is to nurture the land so that it can heal itself over time. I also don't like relying on external inputs. Any oil disruptions and the mowing is no longer a doable task and the weeds will choke out all the plants I've put in so far.

Also on Saturday, I got about a dozen small strawberry plants that have overrun my original practice beds out at Granny's farm. Strawberries make for an excellent groundcover. In the process of digging one of them up, I discovered a tiny (about the size of a dime) Calvatia gigantea preparing to burst above the surface. I didn't have my phone nearby, so, sorry, no picture. I did use this as an opportunity to "seed" my current mulch pile with the mycelia though!

While digging up the strawberries, I noticed a couple of other plants with markers. One was extremely faded but I could barely make out "Chrysanthemum cinquefolium". Not quite sure why I used that name. I did a quick web lookup when I remembered it was Pyrethrum which is classified as either Tanacetum (or Chrysanthemum) cinerariifolium. The other marker was completely faded, but I brought it home anyway. In another keyhole bed at Granny's, I noticed where I had dug up all my Helianthus tuberosus that I clearly didn't get all of them! Six healthy plants were sprouting.

3 Yacon in the back and fig in the front
I finished Saturday up transplanting some Polymnia edulis and a Ficus carica "Chicago Hardy"  into some containers since they don't like our cold winters.

New hoop houses holding up just fine in the strong winds!

Saturday night through Sunday afternoon visited us with rain. Again. After it cleared up, I followed the advice of my friend Tony and built two 4' x 4' hoop houses, not with PVC like my first attempt, but with 8' (x 4' 6") lengths of cattle panels. The panels were $1/ft so the price was about the same as using the PVC but the heavy gauge wire made it much sturdier. Another improvement I made was to wrap the bottom of the plastic around 4' long pieces of wood trim and put it on the inside of the bed. Of course, this was all done in 25 mph winds so my two youngest helped me keep the plastic from flying away like a giant kite. One small problem with using the cattle panels is that the metal poked through the plastic in a couple places pretty easily. The holes were small so I think this type works much better. After finishing the hoops, I planted 6 tomato plants and 3 peppers in each raised bed. I still have 36 'maters left to plant. Hmm.

Six tomatoes and one of the three peppers - all happy out of the wind.
All this digging and rolling around on the ground makes for a dirty boy!

Not sure why it's not visible, but my hands, arms, head, and face were just as dirty as my pants.

I don't know how my oldest daughter took this picture, but I really do have normal length legs.

Plan for this week: mark and plant the potted fruit trees. I also haven't received shipping confirmation for my 85 other trees, so they'll be a priority if they come in.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Busy Weekend!

Sunday started out with rain but cleared up by 10 AM. I planted the remaining 13 Elaeagnus umbellata. I then measured out and marked the 10 locations for the Caragana arborescens. Then, I moved the Actinidia arguta from the 12" spacing to 12' spacing. Next I planted the 10 Caragana arborescens. Dirty from head to toe, tired and achy, crisped by the sun (even after multiple SPF50 applications), and after 10 hours of "I've got to get this finished today!", I cleansed myself in a nice, long, hot shower. Ahhhhh....
Some of this weekend's casualties... not counting worms
I still have 5 regular fruit trees to plant, but they're happy in pots at the moment. I also got 6 trees in small pots last week, but with 4 of them, the stems were snapped in shipping. I also got notice last week that my 25 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi shipped, so those should be arriving soon.
The Plan as currently planted
If each of these trees in the plan were shrunk to 1/8" and scaled down, it would be easy to see just how empty the field still looks. I can sorta make out each tree from the colored ribbons on the bamboo pole markers as well as the mulch around their base.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Garden - Playing in the Dirt!

Had a busy day yesterday...

Measured out 10' markers on all four sides of the planting area. That took about 4 hours. Next, using the markers, I measured and marked the 20 spots to plant the Elaeagnus umbellata. Getting tired, I took a short trip into town and picked up some topsoil, 1 cu. ft. of mulch, and several colors of ribbon (to better see and identify my trees). Finished up by unpacking the 20 trees, amending the soil with inoculant and finally planting 7 of them! Worked 11 hours total for the day and am very sore this morning.
Actinidia arguta
Planted hardy kiwi - misread 15" but should be 15'. Oops. Put two female plants on each side of the male. I like that arrangement :-)

Bamboo stakes marking 10' intervals western perimeter
In the foreground, potted Lonicera caerulea, Vaccinium corymbosum and Ribes uva-crispa. Just beyond is the compost pile and beyond that is the new mulch pile.

I'll post pictures of the planted trees later.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Weeds Mowed

Standing at the compost pile looking to the southwest
I took advantage of the few hours of no rain to mow down the 5' to 7' tall weeds. Mowing is not a permaculture practice, but it is still an available option for getting things done fast. And that is where I am. Gradual work to rebuild the soil by starting on areas near the house and moving outward as the land allows is the best way to go. With the mowing approach, I expect to run into many difficulties such as continued mowing to suppress the weeds, extra work to build the soil, and, as I've learned with my practice beds, grass competition. However, this high effort work is a tradeoff I'm willing to make in order to get the forest garden started. With rising gas prices, possible food supply disruptions and double digit food price inflation, keeping my family fed is my top priority.

Next up: mark where the trees goes. The continuous rain over the next few days should make that fun!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Planting To Seriously Get Underway

Yesterday I got my first big shipment in: 20 Elaeagnus umbellata. Need to hurry up and finish mowing down the tall weeds in the planting area and then need to measure out where they go based on the plan. Of course, typical spring Indiana weather (cold and wet) is making that difficult. Have several other orders shipping this week, so gotta get busy!

The Plan (click to see full-size)

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Evidence That Sitting Is Killing Us

From the New York Times Magazine: Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?
Hamilton’s most recent work has examined how rapidly inactivity can cause harm. In studies of rats who were forced to be inactive, for example, he discovered that the leg muscles responsible for standing almost immediately lost more than 75 percent of their ability to remove harmful lipo-proteins from the blood. To show that the ill effects of sitting could have a rapid onset in humans too, Hamilton recruited 14 young, fit and thin volunteers and recorded a 40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose in the subjects — after 24 hours of being sedentary.

Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

Another study, published last year in the journal Circulation, looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent. The study author David Dunstan wanted to analyze whether the people who sat watching television had other unhealthful habits that caused them to die sooner. But after crunching the numbers, he reported that “age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension, waist circumference, body-mass index, glucose tolerance status and leisure-time exercise did not significantly modify the associations between television viewing and all-cause . . . mortality.”

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.” 
So, get up and move it, move it!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm - Lesson Learned Today: Wind Protection

Wind Protection an Absolute Must

Today we've had brutal sustained winds between 25 and 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. Not only that, but the wind has been from the east-north east -- the prevailing wind is usually from the west-south west. I have plans for Pinus koraiensis to block the winds out of the west but nothing for the east. Ugh.

So far I've lost the covering on the hoop house. I'm going to take a look around at the plants later to see what's made it and what's not.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Extended sitting, regardless of fitness, diet, leads to 54% increase in heart disease


PURPOSE: Although moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is related to premature mortality, the relationship between sedentary behaviors and mortality has not been fully explored and may represent a different paradigm than that associated with lack of exercise. We prospectively examined sitting time and mortality in a representative sample of 17,013 Canadians 18-90 yr of age.
METHODS: Evaluation of daily sitting time (almost none of the time, one fourth of the time, half of the time, three fourths of the time, almost all of the time), leisure time physical activity, smoking status, and alcohol consumption was conducted at baseline. Participants were followed prospectively for an average of 12.0 yr for the ascertainment of mortality status.
RESULTS: There were 1832 deaths (759 of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 547 of cancer) during 204,732 person-yr of follow-up. After adjustment for potential confounders, there was a progressively higher risk of mortality across higher levels of sitting time from all causes (hazard ratios (HR): 1.00, 1.00, 1.11, 1.36, 1.54; P for trend <0.0001) and CVD (HR:1.00, 1.01, 1.22, 1.47, 1.54; P for trend <0.0001) but not cancer. Similar results were obtained when stratified by sex, age, smoking status, and body mass index. Age-adjusted all-cause mortality rates per 10,000 person-yr of follow-up were 87, 86, 105, 130, and 161 (P for trend <0.0001) in physically inactive participants and 75, 69, 76, 98, 105 (P for trend = 0.008) in active participants across sitting time categories.
CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate a dose-response association between sitting time and mortality from all causes and CVD, independent of leisure time physical activity. In addition to the promotion of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and a healthy weight, physicians should discourage sitting for extended periods.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Permaculture Skill Levels

I'm a novice. Sometimes I come across as if I know what I'm doing, but I don't really. I think it's all a part of my hands-on learning style (that suits me well with my engineering day job), my desire to solve interesting puzzles, my strong ego that's relaxed enough to willingly make mistakes, and my deep need to leave a legacy for my children.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Hoop House at Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm

Built the raised bed and planted with blue potatoes too!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Planting (so far) at Asberry Acres Permaculture Forest Farm

 Black gold! Mostly finished compost in the front, not quite finished behind. New compost is in two big trash cans just to the right, outside the picture.

A few of the Narcissus spp. planted last Sunday already peeking out!

Our 2009 xmas tree. Was sitting in compost for the last year at our last place waiting for a permanent home.
That stand of trees in the distance is over a half mile away. That's the closest thing we have to woods.

Dinosaur Tree - Metasequoia glyptostroboides. It's tiny now...

Portulaca grandiflora for ground cover and pretty flowers. Hopefully will fill in nicely around the daffodils.

Hemerocallis fulva -- naturalizing daylilies. These can be found everywhere along country roads in Indiana. A very pretty edible.

Forgot I had some Helianthus tuberosus dug up from last year that I was going to send to some friends. The tubers decided it was their time to sprout! Sorry guys, I'll get some to you when I dig them up in the Fall. Also had a bunch more (different varieties) ordered for planting this Spring.

Feels really good to see my plan coming to life!