I'm not sure exactly what you mean by fermented, but I've been making what my friends call "sumo strong" egg nog for about 4 years now and it's one of my favorite summer activities! Here's the recipe I use: https://github.com/seaofclouds/sumostrong/blob/master/views/eggnog.md and I usually try to make it around July / August so it's had about 6 months to cure before I open it up. A good thing to remember is that when you first make this recipe, it tastes like alcohol and milk. Not a great thing. But the longer you let it cure, the smoother and creamier the whole thing gets. After about 6 months, it hardly tastes like alcohol at all (which could be a good or bad thing).
Maybe I misunderstood what he was asking/looking for.
I wasn't so much expressing questions I currently have, but rather sharing a personal perspective about what prevented me from visiting. I think that linking to forum threads like the ones you have shown is great for people that are intimately familiar with the forums. But if you're new to the forums or have't spent 20-30 hours reading through old threads, these threads appear to be outdated information and scary places to ask "stupid" questions. I suspect having a simpler marketing page/home/something for what's happening at the labs and how to participate would be a great growth channel for getting more people out there.
I like a lot of these ideas, but I can also appreciate your apprehension about opening up the house again. What I wonder about is other ways of getting more people without offering more services.
I wish to move all of our ideas forward in a big, big way. It will take time and work and people. Mostly people. Good people. Great people. People, people, people. And the first step is to just get a lot more people coming through.
Personally, I'm entirely fascinated by what is going on at the labs, but it took me a long time to understand just what was going on, and how one could participate. A few months ago, I rolled through Missoula on a road trip and didn't stop by. I'm one of those people that probably should have come through, but didn't.
And I think the reason was kind of simple: I wasn't sure of what one could do at the labs, who to contact, or what was currently happening. Most of the information about activities at the labs is buried in > 1 year old forum threads that are mixed in with discussions of laundry detergent and land purchase discussions. The permies forums get used a lot, and the Labs activities have been going on a long time. That means information gets drowned out and appears outdated.
Since then, I've had more time to read more of the forums and understand that permies works quite differently than most online forums, especially with regard to long-living threads. But what I wonder about is how many other people think the way I do. People that would love to visit the labs, but don't have an understanding of the different programs offered, where the labs are exactly, or who to contact for questions.
What I'm thinking about is focusing more on marketing what's available. Something like the Wofati page http://richsoil.com/wofati.jsp rather than the labs forum https://permies.com/f/102/labs listing. Something that appears to be permanent rather than a forum posting which can appear temporal to those unexperienced with permies particulars. Something that could be linked from the home page of permies and richsoil. While I appreciate the "ask in the thread" model that is currently employed, I think the fear of asking a stupid question in public is a powerful one, and having a page of FAQs or a private communication channel for questions about how to move forward might help alleviate some of that. Something to bridge the gap between reading an old thread and sending money via paypal.
I know that personally I'd love to tell my friends to Google "Wheaton Labs" and get an overview of what you're trying to accomplish and how to participate. And I suspect that might help bring more people to the land.
I've been thinking about getting an electric saw for branching and cutting up rounds for the smaller sections of my trees, but one of my biggest hesitations is just how much plastic is in these saws. Has anyone had any frustrations with this aspect of the saws? I'm thinking of the plastic bumper spikes and plastic tool-less chain adjustment wheels. It seems to me that after a year or so of use, those are destined to be broken and chipped and unusable. All in all, I'm just a bit confused why the electric saws seem to be going this route (why would the engine change how you adjust the chain??) and it gives me pause for buying one. Any experience would be greatly appreciated!
I'm starting to love it too (just got this property during this winter). I grew up visiting Tahoe a ton, but never really spent much time in between Placerville and South Lake. Turns out there's a ton of great people there. I also just noticed you're in Scotts Valley — the house my parents & I own (where I spend the rest of my time and have been living the past two years) is up in Dunsmuir. Good luck with the trashberries, at least they make for good hiking snacks during the summertime!
I have blackberries all over my parents house, and I feel your pain. There just doesn't seem to be a way to actually get rid of these things if you don't want them. I've tried a few methods to re-use their organic material, and the two problems I keep coming back to are thorns and their impressive will to live. I don't know how many decades it takes for those thorns to break down, but no composting method has ever come close to killing them for me. And the only way I've found to kill vines without fire or chemicals has been to cut them down in the midst of a heat wave in summer. Of course, by then they have berries and seeds to grow new vines.
The two methods I've come down to:
1. Throw the cut vines into other blackberry vines where I'm okay with them growing.
2. Burn them up in the fire pit.
I recently became owner of a fairly large old cow camp in the High Sierras (6400'). One of my dreams in life is having a small Apple orchard, probably mostly for cider production. Of course I'd love all kinds of tree fruits, but one thing at a time. I'm trying to use this summer for observation, measurement, planning, and experimentation. One place I'm falling short is understanding the constraints around growing fruit trees, and how to tackle them with earthworks/etc. I met with the woman who leads up the Ag Extension office, and unfortunately it was fairly unproductive. She advises primarily from software that depends on extensive soil pit analysis (common in the foothills), and kind of refused to believe our situation was as it was (mostly she did not believe we had the soil depth we do). Her advice on the topic was "impossible." Which I kind of took to mean I'm on the right track.
Anyways, what I'm trying to understand are what are going to be the hardest challenges, and general advice on the topic (I'd appreciate any book recc's!). I refuse to believe that with the combination of rootstock, variety, earthworks, and good old fashioned trial & error I can't get a couple dozen trees living happily in the High Sierras. California just does not get that cold.
About the location:
There are a few meadows on the property, with a 20 acre primary meadow I'd like to experiment with (well, a small chunk of it). There is one full-time creek that meanders through the meadow and a half dozen seasonal creeks that flow as long as there's snow to melt above. The meadow is sandwiched between a cliff face that goes up about 1000' in elevation and a smaller hill that's on our property that rises about 300' from the meadow floor. The meadow sweeps gently downhill along about a mile toward a larger creek bordering our property. The soil is slightly acidic, with about 8-10' of fairly rock free uncompacted soil until you hit a clay layer (see attachment). As you get closer to the hill it gets more and more rocky until it's too difficult to dig with hand tools. Areas of the meadow turn into a skunk cabbage bog around some of the seasonal creeks, but it seems like a good chunk of it sees decent drainage throughout the year. During the summers the whole meadow explodes with daisies, lupin, and hundreds of other flowers I can't identify.
Unfortunately, I don't have good data on temperature in the area yet. I'm setting up some temperature sensors / weather stations, but it'll be a year or two before I get a good picture. USDA maps claim the area is 7a/7b, but I would suspect the reality is something a little lower. In the winter, the meadow fills in with about 5' of snow (with a couple 10' drifts) blowing off the mountain adjacent. The temperature usually hovers around mid 40s during the day and close/below freezing at night. A _really_ cold storm in the Sierras is usually around 8-10˚F, usually in January/February. But we haven't had one of those in at least 5 years as The Blob wreaks its havoc on our cold fronts. We are also on the Western slope, so tend to get warmer storms as the mountain wave action pushes the air higher and higher toward the Crest. Summers are mild with occasional thunderstorms. While there's usually snow on the ground into May/June, Spring usually hits mid-march with a lot of snow, but warm daytime temps (50-60˚), and storm temps above freezing or just barely below. Freezing temps usually return by late October / November. That being said, weather is weather… and in high elevations things can get wacky.
From my own research, it seems to me the big challenges of growing fruit trees up here will be:
Deer / Bears
Cold air sinks
Lower number of growing degree days
So… now what I'm trying to get a handle on are the things I'm missing or underestimating. Do Apples warrant building sunscoops and placing boulders for warmth? How bad and late of a frost does it take to wreck a crop of cold hearty apples? What kind of rootstocks and varieties should I look into (eating & cider)? I will likely be experimenting with all these things, but with the long lead times for apples I'm feeling a little less confident on my usual guess & check method here.
I'd also appreciate just about any advice or thoughts you might have on growies given the conditions. I won't be able to keep animals (winter access is via snowshoe/snowmobile and will not be a full time residence for the near future). But I would like to grow just about anything I can and maybe a few things I can't in the meantime.
PS — I'd just like to add how useful and enjoyable this forum has been for me. I've had a casual interest in permaculture for a few years, and after reading Sepp Holtzer's Permaculture last year I've been hooked, and now spend far too much time reading ancient threads here. I hope to lurk less and share more once I get some progress on some of my projects!
1. The type of system you use will have a dramatic effect on the texture of the overall product. Flow through systems produce the best texture, allowing for a 100% aerobic environment, while plastic bin systems often lean toward anaerobic environments.
2. The materials you use to vermicompost also have a significant effect on the texture of the overall product. Most commercial producers prefer horse, cow, or pig manure to produce their vermicompost, and those materials will always make the best castings (in terms of texture and effectiveness). Food waste is often toward the "low end" of materials.
That being said, a plastic bin system fed with food scraps will still make excellent vermicompost! But might require some extra post-processing to get the nice crumbly texture you're used to from commercial growers. I'd suggest drying out the castings, and optionally screening them depending on how much you care about the texture. To dry them, spread out the castings in a shallow tub and break them up every couple of days with a hand fork. You don't want the castings to get dry, so you want this to be a slow process. You're just looking to remove excess moisture. Once they reach a wetness somewhere around a lightly damp sponge, you can screen them. To do this, staple on some 1/4" hardware cloth onto a square frame and dump some castings on top. Shake back and forth, and the vermicompost that falls through the hardware cloth will be a nice, uniform texture.
You won't see any negative effects from using clayey castings, but the effectiveness of the vermicompost will definitely improve if you allow them to dry out and reach a more aerobic environment.
You might also look into removing excess moisture from your bin system. The worms can tolerate a very wet environment, but the best castings come from an entirely aerobic environment. It might be as simple as removing the lid and replacing it with cloth, or drilling some more drainage holes (especially toward the bottom), or just adding more bedding (more bedding never hurts!).
Do you have any windows open when your dog does this? A lot of the time my dog goes to the door, she just wants to smell what's going on out there. She'll go outside for 10-15 seconds and come back in. The other times, it's usually that she wants me to go outside with her — she wants to go hang out in the yard, but also wants to keep an eye on me, so if I don't go, she'll choose to stay inside and keep an eye on me.
I like to think about grass clippings in a few ways:
1. Grass that's been cut when it's brown. Dead grass will have a very high C:N ratio since most of the Nitrogen has been moved into the root system while the grass was going dormant.
2. Grass that's been cut and left to dry out over a long period of time. This will probably have a very high C:N ratio since most of the Nitrogen has been broken down by bacteria & fungi and released back into the ground (probably via rain) as available nutrients.
3. Grass that's been cut and dried fairly quickly. This will have a fairly low C:N ratio, but not as low as its non-dried counterpart. When plants dry out, the bacteria living inside/on them tend to die off and release their Nitrogen into the atmosphere.
Sadly, no alchemy. It just gets washed away, blown away, and evaporated into the air.