I'll approach the problem purely as a physics/engineering problem and see where we end up...
In my garden the energy delivered from the sun to the surface of the earth is about:
1800 Kwh/M2 per year in the Great Basin Desert where days are often cloudless and haze free. It would be less in more cloudy areas. That is equal to 167 KWH per square foot per year. Since there are 860 food Calories per KWH that is equivalent to 140,000 Calories per square foot per year
Then we need to consider what portion of that light can be used.
1% Plant efficiency at converting sunlight to food.
50% Of the year the garden is not covered with snow.
50% Plants only use half of available light due to starting small.
75% Percentage of growing season or day when it's warm enough for photosynthesis.
I sure see a lot of misplaced greenhouses. And mis-built dwellings as well. Someone planted an apple tree right in front of the solar collectors of a family members house. Every year I cut the tree back so that it doesn't shade the panels. One of these years I might just have to chop it off all together, and say "Oops. It was sick...". But it is a Jonathan, and that's one of my favorite varieties of apples.
As far as I can tell, greenhouses are not separate from mother nature... They have their own populations of weeds, insects, fungi, mammals, and bacteria, etc... They have pests and predators which live in some semblance of balance with each other just like any ecosystem. The best greenhouse ecosystems that I have observed set aside about 15% of the greenhouse to insect habitat, tailored if possible to the needs of predatory wasps. What a joy in January to go into a greenhouse and see bees working the flowers, and to watch parasitic wasps laying eggs on the aphids.
The biggest problem I have with my greenhouse is being able to afford to keep it functioning... Heat does not come cheaply. Therefore, most of the winter, I treat it as a walk in cold-frame. During a sunny day it gets about 15 to 20 degrees F hotter than outside. At night or during cloudy days it is about the same temperature as outside. As a walk in cold-frame it gets me larger plants for transplanting into the garden in the spring, and gives me 2-4 weeks earlier harvests on some crops.
But then when it's time to start the crops that cannot tolerate even a little frost, I have to heat the greenhouse at night to keep it above freezing. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! It's still lots cheaper to grow my own tomato plants than to buy transplants, but the cost comes at the time of year when I can least afford out of pocket expenses.
In my very arid climate, the high humidity inside a greenhouse is a big bonus. I suppose that in wetter climates it can be a difficult to deal with.
When I plant things in the field, I might never even look at the plants again until harvest time... Things in the greenhouse require more attention, especially when planted into pots. I can take a day off, or a week off from tending the fields. The greenhouse requires daily attention when used as a hot-house. I gardened for 50 years without a greenhouse. I got along fine, but I'd sure be loathe to be without one if I had to move.
Then there are the malfunctions... Sure can be a pain if the door blows off at just the wrong time.
If the rain is falling onto the roof above the attic...
And if the water storage tank is located in the attic...
Then water will not have to be pumped at all if it flows directly from the roof to the tank.
I know there are lots of different types of roofs and attics, but it needed to be said....
Early Spring? Bwa! Did we even get a winter yet? We certainly missed the arctic blast that affected the eastern states.
I don't worry about freezing tree buds, or unseasonal temperatures... The plants always seem to work it out one way or the other. To help spread the risk around, I grow apples, and pears, and cherries, and peaches, and grapes, and berries, and walnuts, and hazels, and many other species of perennial and annual crops. If some fail due to weather, others will thrive because of that same weather. I can't predict the weather, but I can throw plenty of species at the fickleness problem.
I'd like to share a photo, and explain the reasoning behind my seed storage methods. Tonight I started germination testing on about 40 varieties of seed that I saved from my garden this fall. These are all varieties that I have developed specifically for my farm. I grow about 70 of my own annual varieties for around 45 species, but I only do germination testing on varieties that I share with others.
Here's what the kitchen table looked like when I was done getting the tests ready.
Notice that every batch of seed is in a glass jar. I used to have problems with mice and/or insects eating my seeds. That hasn't been a problem since I started storing seeds in glass. The animals would often get into seeds stored in paper or plastic. In order to kill insects that are on the seed during or after harvest, I put the bottles of seed in the freezer as soon as possible after the seed is harvested, dried, and cleaned. If freezer space is limited, each jar only spends a couple days in the freezer. I haven't noticed any harm to the seeds. I hear that some tropical seeds are damaged by drying/freezing, but I don't grow those kinds of plants.
I have a large population of pea weevils in my garden. The eggs/larva get harvested with the peas, and they eat the seed from the inside out. So it is important to me to get the peas dried and into the freezer as soon as possible. Often times I will do an initial freeze even if the seed hasn't been threshed or winnowed. The seed has to be dry enough that it isn't damaged by freezing. A good way to test if seed is sufficiently dry is to hit it with a hammer. If it mushes then it's not dry enough. If it shatters then it is sufficiently dry.
I also like glass jars because they are hermetically sealed. No moisture is entering into them during storage to damage the seed.
One disadvantage of storing seed in glass is that sometimes I can be ham-fisted and drop a jar in just the right way to break it. That works out to about one jar per year. On average that's much less than what I previously lost to animals.
I suppose that my strategy for seed storage can be summarized as:
Dry seeds well.
Freeze to kill insects.
Store seeds in glass.
Keep in a coolish place out of direct sunlight.
Interesting question.... Let's start by doing some quick and dirty calculations... Most of the industrialized-produce in my grocery stores come from the Central Valley of California, so call it 800 miles away. Big trucks get about 7 MPG, and carry about 40,000 pounds of vegetables. That works out to 1.9 teaspoons of fuel per pound of vegetables: Less than a penny per pound. If I take 250 pounds of vegetables 10 miles to market in a truck that gets 15 MPG, and have to pay to drive the empty truck home that works out to 5 teaspoons of fuel per pound of vegetables. So on a pound by pound basis it takes me twice as much fuel to get a pound of vegetables to market. That's a rough estimate. Some days I take 1000 pounds of food to market. On those days I'd only use half the fuel per pound that industrialized agriculture uses.
Many people stop my my fields to pick up vegetables on their way home from work. That doesn't cost any extra fuel.
My market is local only and producer only, so if we catch anyone bringing in produce that they didn't grow, or that is from more than 50 miles away they get thrown to the wolves.
If you were washing the vegetables on a bench that is about 3 feet tall, you could capture the water and filter out the soil at that height. That would give you plenty of slope to disperse the wash-water through hoses. Put the washing station on a small mound of soil or a deck for better drainage and dryer feet, and that would give you even more slope.
Let's check the math... We'll use peanut oil as a near substitute for diesel. My jar of peanut oil claims 120 Calories per tablespoon. With 67 Tablespoons per liter that equals. 8,000 Calories. That's close to the 8.7 million calories, claimed by the Yahoo answers page. But why do the two numbers look so different? The standard for human food is Calories. But the diesel was reported as calories. There are 1000 calories in a Calorie... So that liter of diesel contains enough energy to keep a person alive for about 4 days.
It takes me about 6 liters of diesel to till an acre. That's equivalent to 24 days worth of food. That is a heck of a bargain if you ask me... I couldn't accomplish that much work by hand in a month, or even in an entire growing season.
I have a wheel hoe and a rototiller. First thing in the spring the wheel hoe is the way to go for convenience and simplicity. Later in the season as the weeds mature and the soil starts to resemble terra-cotta a tiller is the only way to cultivate. Sorry for bringing up tilling in this forum.... But the same sorts of trade offs apply to things like building swales. We use machines because they are really really effective at doing what they do.
klorinth McCoy wrote:There are some stands of poplar, maple, and oak near us.
What else am I missing?
What's different about your place than in the stands? Topography? Soil? Sheltered from wind? Alluvial deposits of silt/gravel? Change in slope to capture more/less sediment/water? Aspect of the slope? Established 150 years ago by someone that kept them watered for the first couple decades?
I am fortunate to live in a mountainous region. Makes it simple to see that subtle changes in all sorts of conditions can make dramatic changes in what ecosystems (or species) can survive in certain areas... I'm one of those guys that is constantly planting trees in the desert and in the steppe, knowing full well, that 99% of what I plant will not survive the first few years, and even those that do survive are unlikely to thrive. I just keep planting. This winter a friend wanted a small tabletop Christmas tree, so I harvested a twig from a tree that I planted as a child. In 45 years the tree has barely gotten taller than it's steward, but it brings joy every time I visit. Of the hundreds of trees that we planted that day when I was a child I am only able to find 6 of them nowadays. 5 of the 6 are within a few feet of each other where a fortuitous combination of soil, weather, slope, and whatever else combined to allow them to survive.
I raised the level of my greenhouse about 9 inches this fall, so it needed more soil in it. I figured I'd fill up the hole with grass clippings and fall leaves. They were run through the lawnmower so they were the perfect texture for composting. They composted extremely well.
It's a very drafty greenhouse. Keeps the wind out, but leaks like a sieve. I thought that I was going to die every time I went in the greenhouse. The mold, and the slime, and the mycellia, and the must, and the odors, and the gasses were overwhelming. And that was without disturbing the pile. Even with a dust mask on, and the doors wide open, it was unbearable to turn the pile. The heat released was minimal, even though it was a hot pile, there is just too little heat released over too long a time to make any difference. I'd never invite that kind of danger into my house. I had to strip naked on the back porch before entering the house after visiting the greenhouse. It was that bad!
Your mileage may vary. I think compost piles are a disgusting thing to do to organic material. I prefer to just throw refuse towards it's final resting spot and never think about it again. That turning and watching and moving rotting plant matter is for chickens, not primates. But if you like the smell... and don't have family....
Think of a battery as a swimming pool. You can take water out and put water in at the same time. If you put multiple hoses into the pool it fills faster. If you put bigger hoses into the pool it fills faster. You can take water out through a small hose, or lots of small hoses, or through a huge hose, but when it's dry you gotta wait while it fills up enough to use again.
I measured the power consumption of the blender by using a 'Watt Meter'. It plugs into the wall, then I plug the appliance into the meter. Alternatively the blender has a tag on it that says 120V @ 3 amp. Watts equals voltage times amps, so that equals 360 watts. To use that number in an example... Assuming that 70 Watts/day get stored in the battery divided by 360 watt hours = an average of 0.19 hours per day that a blender could be used, or 12 minutes per day. Or if the blender was only used once per week it could run for 12 X 7= 84 minutes per week. (Presuming the battery is big enough.)
I intentionally avoided introducing voltage into my math... But in simplest terms there are 12 Volt appliances that are most often used in RV and automotive applications, and for solar systems, and remote cabins. Then there are 120V systems that are typically used in grid-tied conditions. There are pricey converters to switch between voltages.
10 Watts times 8 hours per day of sunlight = 80 watt-hours.... plus or minus depending on season, location, and weather.
Perhaps subtract about 15% for inefficiencies in charging the battery, so we end up with around 70 watt-hours/day to work with.
So on average, that would allow running one 10 watt appliance for 7 hours per day.
My blender requires 230 watts, so it could be operated for 18 minutes per day.
My cell phone charger uses 4 watts, so it could be used 17 hours per day.
Two panels would charge one battery twice as fast.
I was an early adopter of the CSA model. It was very stressful to me so I stopped doing it.
To me, the disadvantages of CSA are:
#1 and most troubling. I hated being in debt. I really hated being in debt. I really really really hated being in debt. Owing my families a basket of vegetables every week for 20 weeks really sucked. Didn't matter how sick I was, or what the weather was doing, or what the crops were doing, or what familial obligations I had, or whether the help showed up. I was in debt for one basket of vegetables per week. That sucked. I much prefer the freedom of a farmer's market. I can pick as much or as little as I like.
I didn't like all the food that got wasted. It's not like I was growing exotic foods with funky tastes. I was growing standard foods for my area. I wasn't overwhelming people with too much food. The widow lady ate everything in the basket every week and wanted more while some families with lots of big kids couldn't be bothered. Often when I took a basket of food to someone, I'd see last week's basket sitting there spoiling. It makes a farmer feel bad. I much prefer the freedom of a farmer's market or a farm stand. People can buy the foods they like in quantities that they are likely to eat.
Taking a basket to someone? Tsk. Tsk. The contract stated that they needed to pick up their baskets on Wednesday evening in town. Right like that's going to happen reliably!!! So I ended up delivering baskets, after dark, and the day of the week that I worked harder than any other day. And I still had to tend to the irrigation. Call me grumpy if you like. That eventually helped pushed me over the edge. People being unreliable about keeping their end of the bargain, and me not being callus enough to say "sorry about your luck" that you didn't pick up your basket.
I hated the crop failures... I know that is also part of the contract, but two years in a row every brassica crop of every species failed. That was too much to bear. I couldn't feel good about offering to grow food for people if I couldn't reliably grow food for people. That put my reputation at stake. It called into question my integrity. I prefer the farmer's market. If the cabbage fails one year I just don't take cabbage to market.
Supposedly, the up-front payment model helps the farmer buy seed in the spring. These days, I avoid the need to buy seed by growing my own seeds. I get better quality seed by growing my own, and it gets localized to my growing conditions and habits.
Excuse me for being skeptical... I'll nominate an entire people instead of individuals. My people have been raising cattle, and deer, and fish, and sheep, and horses, and turkeys, and gamebirds, and asparagus, and honeybees, and onions, and sunroots, and fruits, and nuts on desert adapted permaculture land for 150 years. During all that time, we have observed what is currently there, and taken actions to make it a more productive food production system. Someone that doesn't know the desert would come out here and say "That's just the native land", but it's not the native land. Eight generations of my family and my neighbor's families have been caring for the land and finding ways to make it more productive. Some folks may have rediscovered "permaculture" in recent decades, but we never abandoned it.
Based on the climate in Whangarei, it seems to me like you would want whatever solar gain you could get, even in the summer. The shading recommendations that work in the Northern usa are likely to be wrong for Northern New Zealand. In that type of climate, I would think that you'd get a better return on investment with insulation than by trying to capture solar.
On a dome, I'd use non-window collectors on the roof so that heat could be admitted to the house whenever it's desired. That would allow them to face the sun directly, rather than taking whatever happens to find a window.
Tys Sniffen wrote:AND, to move away from this idea - anyone have any examples of fire water heating with a BIG firebox, rather than a small rocket stove set up? I'd like to feed my fire by the wheelbarrow load, not the armload or handful. the smaller my firebox, the more work I have to do with a machete.
Dayna Williams wrote:Does anyone know more about Apricots as a permaculture food source or natural medicine?
I am not qualified to address the medicinal properties of apricots. I eat the seeds of apples because I believe it is healthy to do so. I remember how intensely bitter they were when I first started eating them. Today they taste sweet.
That aside, I'll tell an anecdotal story about my father...
There is an apricot tree that has been growing on the hill above the farm where my daddy and I lived as children. As near as we can figure, the apricot got planted by my daddy or one of his friends when they were children. They used to climb up the hill, and take apricots with them to eat, and to throw at each other. One of those germinated and has thrived. When I was a child it was a small tree. Today it is a grove of apricots. It has survived for more than 50 years, in the desert, without irrigation, and without swales, on about 14" of rain per year. If I ever get around to planting fruit trees in the deep desert, apricots will be the first to go in.
A couple decades ago one of my neighbors went to Asia and retrieved hundreds of apricot seeds from their native land. I volunteer at the orchard where they are being grown. What an exciting project to me... To be working with such genetically diverse apricots.
It fits better with my lifestyle and way of looking at the world to modify the genetics of my plants rather than to try and change the soil... Therefore I choose to grow Chantenay type carrots. Short fat things that thrive in the compact heavy clay soil and are easy to dig. I grow parsnips like that also: Shaped like a turnip and easy as can be to dig, even when the soil is too hard to use a digging fork.
You don't have to own land to be a farmer. Doesn't matter who the owner of the land is, if you are it's steward.
When I first started farming I rented land. I later came to realize that was not a good financial decision. In my community, and I expect in much of the world, land is a burden to it's owners. They have to care for it, and maintain the fences, and guard against erosion, and maintain fire-breaks, and put down noxious weeds, and mow, and remove hazards, and hunt the wild bores, and pacify the neighbors, and etc, etc, etc.
In my experience land is basically free for the use of anyone that wants to take care of a neglected property, and can convince the purported owner that you would be a good steward of the land. I am constantly turning down offers to be the steward over new pieces of land. I've already got as many stewardships as I can effectively manage. People with a neglected fruit tree in their yards are typically delighted if someone offers to pick the fruit, "so that it won't go to waste." Perhaps offer to prune the tree each spring in exchange for the fruit.
Additionally, around here there is a lot of "commons" land. Thing like streets, and parks, and BLM land, and nature reserves, and etc... There is a lot of food growing on them: things like asparagus, herbs, plums, apples, apricots, nuts, etc. Those lands are often easy targets for guerrilla gardening: slip some Egyptian onions into a planter bed, sow asparagus along ditchbanks, plant a food bearing tree, graft a real pear onto a barren decorative tree, seed-bombing, etc. Guerrilla gardening is a low risk activity that enhances food security for generations.
I apologize in advance that my knowledge on this topic focuses on the Great Basin Desert in the Rocky Mountains. I've tasted a lot of plants growing in the desert, but classify most of them as inedible, even if other people have eaten them in the past. Seeds seem to be the most edible to me. Roots, stems, leaves, and bulbs not so much. I daydream about domesticating some of them, but I'm currently focused on adapting already domesticated crops to my environment. Seems like a better return on investment right now.
There are two types of desert plants: Drought tolerant, and drought avoidant. The drought tolerant plants are the classic cacti, succulents, and orchids. They store water during good times for use when it's dry. There are two types of drought avoidant plants. Some grow during the fall, winter, and early spring when there is more available moisture. They tend to be very frost tolerant, or they may be biennials or perennials that wither away during the summer except for a root or bulb. Plants in this category are things like Onions, Anemone, Bearded Iris, Hyacinth. Ranunculus, Gladiolus, Daffodil, Tulip, Sego Lily, Biscuit Root, Balsam Root. Another type of drought avoidant plants, the ephemerals, burst from the ground to quickly complete their life cycles when moisture is available from a deluge. Their seeds might lay dormant for years in the soil until conditions are right. Tepary beans are a domesticated crop that uses this strategy. California poppy is the poster child of this sort of growth pattern. Other examples are trillium and chickweed.
The desert adapted cactus and succulents tend to grow best in xeric conditions. West Virginia can't provide xeric conditions. You might average around 70% relative humidity, and get dew or frost 2/3 of the nights during the year. Out here in the desert relative humidity averages closer to 20%, and dew or frost occur perhaps once a month. It' common out here to go a month or two without rain. In West Virginia it's unusual to go without rain for more than a couple days. The desert has brilliant sunlight very frequently, which aids in drying things out if they ever do get wet. West Virginia is perpetually overcast. Cacti tend to rely on the environment to provide protection from micro-organisms (molds, slimes, mildews, etc), so they are quite susceptible to disease when grown in damper climates. You can do things to mitigate the effects of the moisture: For example, many people that grow cactus outside their native ranges plant them under cover to protect them from rain. It's also common to grow them in deep beds of coarse sand, containing no more than 30% compost. Planting on slopes facing the sun may help. Wide spacing may help. Also cactus and succulents tend to rely on the environment for weed suppression, so they don't compete well with other types of vegetation. Armoring the beds where they grow with pebbles can help suppress weeds. Once established the yuccas can hold their own against weeds. If you have sandy soil, cactus and succulents might do well for you in spite of the moisture. But if you have clay soil I'd expect it to be a constant struggle for them.
I'm always delighted to see bryophytes growing in the desert. They dry up and wait around for moisture, then grow like crazy for a few weeks, then wait a while longer. They do well in West Virginia.
There are wide genetic differences between various types of cacti and succulents, so some are more tolerant of moisture than others. Opuntia humifusa, the Eastern Pricklypear, is a native to eastern North America.
The CSA model supposedly helps the farmer first thing in the spring by providing cash to buy seeds. I totally bypass the necessity of buying seed by growing my own. My seed bill for the past several growing seasons has been exactly zero!!! I am not expecting to spend anything on seeds this year either. My crops thrive, both because the seeds become locally-adapted to my weather and habits, and because they are fresh well-grown seeds full of vigor.
Tom: Excellent! Great way to stay connected with your schooling.
20 CSA shares maxed out my abilities, land, and tools: 3/4 acres, a helper on CSA day, and someone that weeded one day per week. With another full-time farmer, and two more part time helpers, and double the land I could have handled a second (20) basket day, or a farmer's market. I have to irrigate, and I commute to the farm. Both of those eat up resources and time that other farmers could devote to growing.
The thing that has consistently caused me the most trouble is equipment failure... The tractor breaks the day before the most time-critical plantings of the year. The rototiller motor dies while the weeds are growing most vigorously. The truck gets a flat an hour before market. The irrigation system is unavailable or a riser breaks off. My leg wimped out on me... Staff get a boyfriend and run off into the sunset... I mention this because I would be much more effective as a farmer if I had duplicates of all of these things, so that if the tractor breaks I could just go get on the other tractor, and worry about getting the broken tractor out of the field during the week, instead of having the planting schedule severely disrupted. No big deal if one staff member disappears if there are others already doing the same job. Part of the reason I hated the CSA model so much is that I could never take a sick day or vacation. With a farm stand or at the farmer's market if I am too sick or tired to harvest I don't have to. If it is raining cats and dogs for the entire harvest day I can cut back on what I take to the farmer's market. A CSA requires that I work all day in the cold wet rain. A partner in a CSA would be nice, better yet two or three farms cooperating together. Many of the CSAs that I have watched fail have done so because the partners can't work together effectively, so they break up and the CSA dies.
Tom Kozak wrote:a second question - what about first (and last) planting dates? how would I calculate them for myself? anyone have an opinion?(i will of course also ask local farmers/gardeners)
I have an opinion, and I wanted to share it in my previous post, but self-censored. Since you asked directly this time I'll go ahead and offer it. I think that you don't have enough experience with growing in Sudbury to be able to successfully fulfill your end of the contract as a CSA market farmer: Especially not to 60 shareholders. As an alternative, I suggest growing for a year, and keeping meticulous notes, and sell the produce at a farmer's market, or to the grocery stores, or at a road-side stand. Then after you have proven that you can successfully choose varieties, and plant them at the right time, and keep them weeded, and get them harvested at the proper times, and have demonstrated that you have the ability to supply the necessary variety and quantity, then offer a CSA the second year. I wouldn't want to buy a CSA share from a farmer that doesn't know when to plant his crops, or that has to look up yields from a web site.
I've watched so many CSAs crash and burn that I feel inclined to offer a word of caution to both farmers and eaters. The marketing hype sounds magical, but pulling it off successfully is rare.
My approach to debt is one of determining which systems I want to devote my life to. Do I want to dedicate my life to a system that enriches debt-predators, or do I want to build a system in which bankers are marginalized? I sure know the pain of being enslaved to debt. No big deal when times are good, but in my life, times have never stayed good for a whole decade. There are plenty of family problems, and health problems, and financial problems, and social problems, and other problems. Adding the necessity of paying off a debt onto the top of any of those problems is not something that I will ever again consent to in my lifetime, regardless of how much I want something that I can't afford to pay for today.
A few times a year I take a scathing inventory of myself in order to answer the question, "What actions am I involved in today that support systems that are not in harmony with my beliefs". A year ago I determined that I shouldn't be buying tomatillo salsa from the grocery store... Because I have the ability to grow all of the ingredients on my farm. Therefore, I consider it my duty to make my own tomatillo salsa so that I don't support the system of monoculture-mega-ag that produces salsa for the grocery store. Sure, it's only a few dollars that are denied to the intermediation culture, but a few dollars repeated hundreds of times adds up.
I wonder if you should be asking different questions... My basic strategy for what went into baskets was that if I had 50 members then each member got 1/50th of the harvest. So perhaps the question you should be asking is how many plants would I need to feed one family, and then multiply that by the number of members you are feeding... In my experience with my climate and habits as a farmer an acre (0.4 hectares) of land can support about 25 CSA shares.
I was an early adopter of the CSA model, but I abandoned it because I hated being in debt to the buyers, and I hated having crop failures, and I didn't like people wasting the gorgeous food that I grew for them, and I hated people being unreliable and not picking up their boxes. For emphasis, I hated the crop failures. Two years in a row all of the brassica family crops failed. That really hurt my ego and damaged my sense of self-worth as a farmer. No big deal at the farmer's market, I just say "I don't have brassicas today", but in the CSA it really sucked.
In my CSA, having a variety of crops available every week was more important than how many pounds of food I provided. So I used methods and varieties that would allow me to offer extended seasons on each crop. So I'd plant small early saladette tomatoes, just to get tomatoes into the baskets, and then stop picking those when the larger tomatoes ripened. Planning the crops so that they can ripen over extended periods was vital to me. Take carrots for example: A well grown carrot at the end of the season in September weighs up to two pounds, but ten weeks earlier it might take 20 carrots to make a pound. My strategy with crops like carrots that don't perish from week-to-week, but just get a little bigger, was to say things like: "There are 10 weeks left in the season, and I have 10 rows of carrots, so I can pick one row per week until the end of the season." Crops that fall into this category are things like beets, onions, and greens. With carrots, if I want to provide 8 carrots per week, for 18 weeks, for 50 members, then I need to grow 7200 plants. Spaced at one inch per plant that's 600 row-feet of carrots. If the lettuce season is 4 weeks long, and I want to include one head of lettuce in the baskets per week, then I'd want to plant 4 X 50 heads of lettuce. Perhaps the first two weeks since the heads are smaller I'd want to include 2 heads of lettuce per week, so my total planting would be 6 X 50 = 300 heads of lettuce.
Other crops are perishable on the vine: They are things like radishes, broccoli, green beans, shelling peas, sweet corn, and berries. In a week a zucchini can go from a flower to a 8 pound fruit. But people don't want 8 pound fruits, they want 8 ounce fruits. So to get small zucchini into the baskets you need to pick several times per week, but then you gotta decide if you are having multiple pickup days, or if you are going to refrigerate the produce for a once a week pickup, or sell the mid-week produce via other means. With things like summer squash, I used to plant 3 weeks earlier than anyone would ever plant summer squash around here, and then at the normal summer squash planting time, and then about 3 weeks and 6 weeks later. That gave me plants at all different stages of maturity and perhaps some would still be producing on any particular week. Perhaps the first planting gets frozen. No big deal. One of the other plantings will probably succeed. One zucchini plant will feed a family, so perhaps you would want to plant 50 early zucchini plants and 50 late zucchini plants to extend the harvest.
If well spaced, in a field with sufficient nutrients and water, corn produces 2 cobs per plant, so 300 corn plants would provide about a dozen ears of corn to each family. If you want them to have 4 weeks worth of corn, then plant successive crops, of about 300 seeds of the same variety, when the previous crop is about 3" tall. Or plant crops on the same day which have different days to maturity. Basing things on days-to-maturity is sometimes iffy because that data tends to be unreliable.
Then there are the crops that are a one time harvest all at once: In my garden they are things like grains, dry beans, soup peas, sunroots, melons, flour corn, and winter squash. Winter squash in my garden produce about 2 fruits per vine. So if I want my members to have two winter squash I would plant 50 seeds. My strain of sunroots produce about 13 pounds of tubers per plant, but that's way too much for one family, so perhaps 1/3 of a sunroot per family would be about right. Around 17 plants. Dry beans in my garden produce anywhere from 40 to 140 ml per foot of row depending on variety. If 90 ml per foot is the average, then I'd need to grow 11 row-feet to provide one liter of dry beans to one member. So 550 row feet would take care of 50 members.
I guess that's a long winded way of saying perhaps it isn't pounds of produce that is the important number to be looking at, but rather numbers of plants. In a food forest setting, the fruit and nut bearing trees get harvested and the produce is divided equally among the shareholders. It might be a single apple per shareholder one year, and a bushel the next.
Did I mention enough times that crop failures really really suck in a CSA? I know it's part of the contract, but that doesn't take away the hurt.
I built my water-level with a 5 gallon bucket on one end, clear tubing on the other, and garden hose in the middle. That allows me to use it without a helper and to use as short or as long of lengths of garden hose as I want.
I have had the most success by placing swales just above breaklines or just below keylines as shown in the following drawing... At my place the keyline-swale is best placed far enough below the keyline that the swales don't fill completely with gravel during the first storm: I prefer to let the gravel settle out on the gentler slope just above the swale. Swales on steep slopes in my climate in the desert require a lot of maintenance that I am not able to provide. Build the highest elevation swales first in order to keep as much water as high in the landscape as possible for as long as possible. It seems to me like the higher elevation swales give the best return on investment.
I'm not growing in sterile conditions. Dirty fruits work fine... The logs I'm planting them into are dirty... My hands are dirty... My tools are dirty... The air around the workbench is dirty... They are incubated in a dusty dirty garden full of dirty animals and bugs... The irrigation water is dirty.... For millions of years, mushrooms have been doing a great job growing better-quicker-faster than micro-organisms. All I have to do is get out of their way and let them do what they were born to do: Thrive in spite of the dirt.
These days, my mushrooms are grown only outdoors in non-sterile conditions. I tried the sterile conditions route, but it's just too fussy for me: to get the water right, and the times, and the pH, and the temperatures, and especially the humidity out here in the desert. I am too busy farming to be paying attention to whether or not the spawn has run through a jar of grain. The sterile route requires all types of equipment and materials that I really don't want to pay for. I don't feel like giving a crop that much attention. Sure. my non-sterile outdoor grows might be weedy, and the yield might not be what a commercial lab could produce, but they grow themselves without much care from me.
I need a method of growing where I plant the logs and forget about them until it is time to harvest. That's my basic philosophy towards growing vegetables. That's why food forests appeal so much to me. Non-sterile mushroom growing outdoors works really well for my lifestyle and philosophy towards the world around me. I chop up oyster mushroom butts and use them to inoculate fresh logs, or I make up a spore emulsion and pour it into holes drilled in logs. Easy and straight forward is my motto for growing mushrooms. Today I'm planting hybrid mushrooms by mixing up the spores from 3 different strains, and planting them into the same log. (Gray oyster, golden oyster, and a wild strain.) The most vigorous will survive and thrive, so I'll end up selecting for mushrooms that do well in my climate.
Here's what some of my oyster mushroom logs looked like about a week ago. For fruiting I had to soak them in water and move them into a closed up damp greenhouse. There wasn't enough humidity/moisture this year for them to fruit outdoors.
Water exerts a pressure of around 0.4 psi per foot of depth. So if the level of the water in the tank is ten feet above the shower outlet, it would come out at a pressure of 4 psi. Normal household water pressure is closer to 60 psi. So 4 psi would seem like a weak dribble. That could be used to wash dishes or flush a toilet. You could still shower in it, but you'd want the shower head to be mounted in the ceiling, and not in the wall.