Traditionally, coppicing and pollarding were done in a woodland where the whole area was managed as coppice or as coppice with standards (larger single-trunked trees for timber.) If you cut a single specimen in an open area, new growth will be shrubby, just as an oak growing in a field will be spreading and wide. It is the shade of other trees that makes for tall, straight trunks, reaching for the sun. Thus the redwoods from deep forest, with the first branch 50 feet up or more. For species that will regrow from a cut stump (not most conifers), coppicing prolongs the life of the tree. For example, English foresters figure that oaks live from 150 to 400 years as single-stem trees. Eventually, they age, get diseases, and fall. Coppiced oaks are known to live for a thousand years or more, since the wood is renewed.
Coppiced land was (and is) cut on a rotation that took into account the species, the climate, and the projected use for the wood. Dorothy Hartley, in her amazing book Made in England, has a wonderful account of how a crew would go and live in the woods by a hazel coppice at harvest time, making wigwam shelters and cutting the poles. The coppice wood was sorted by size--the smallest being saved for binding barrels, loads of wood, or other bent work, and then on up through broom and tool handles to hurdles (portable fence panels) and finally to poles for furniture or structures. Coppice wood of other species was used for firewood, or harvested at a specific size for special uses, like the hop poles used for trellising the long hop vines.
One essential in all this was that the whole coppice area be cut at once, and allowed to grow up at once, so that the product is straight poles that cut and stack easily and are usable without milling. You don't want the trees putting all their energy into crooked, twiggy, unusable branches. The woodlot can be divided up into several areas that are cut in different years, so you have a little wood every year. If the species is suitable, and the rotation is long enough for good-size poles, you can use them for framing a house.
Pollarding is the same procedure, carried on a few feet off the ground, leaving some of the trunk intact. It is more vulnerable to age than coppice, as the trunk can age and fail. It was used when it was desirable to keep the new growth off the gound, as with willow for basketry; when livestock or deer aren't fenced out and would eat the young shoots, preventing regrowth; when another forest crop was growing at ground level (ginseng???) ; or when the bushy top growth is desirable for shade.
The first I heard of coppice was in the Whole Earth Catalog or the related CoEvolution Quarterly in about 1981. Since then, I've seen quite a bit about it in publications out of the UK, and I think the UK has public-service pamphlets about it, as conservation volunteers over there are now helping perform tasks like hedging and coppicing that used to be part of the normal farm economy.
Late winter and early spring are bloom times here for lots of native wildflowers and shrubs. Madrones and manzanitas bloom very early and attract whatever insects are out. Among shrubs, rosemary, ceonothus, coyote brush are the favorites, In the garden, the best early nectar sources I have found are overwintered brassicas. If you grow kale, turnips, Asian greens, or arugula, these bolt at slightly different times and are outrageously full of bees and all manner of little fliers. You can see why--a bed full of them smells like honey even from a distance. For pest control in spring, I just throw around a bunch of old brassica and cilantro seed in fall.
High summer is more of an issue for insects in the west, because most of the landscape has dried up, except gardens. It really pays to plant food for parasitic wasps and other beneficials then. That list above is all good, and I would pay particular attention to tiny white or yellow flowers in flat or round umbels--alyssum, dill, fennel, cilantro, and overwintered carrot, parsley, celery, etc. Ammi is a really good one because it blooms late. I always include alyssum, because it attracts predators that target thrips, which can devastate tomatoes in dry weather. Here is an easy approach: https://www.quailseeds.com/store/c38/Seed_Collections_and_Kits.html#/
The Agroecology dept at UC Santa Cruz has done a lot of research on how to fight symphylans, which are tiny centipede-like critters in the soil that eat plant roots, sometimes with devastating results. They suggest that providing habitat for ground beetles--you know those lumbering black ones--makes the difference. They found that the beetles, which hunt at night, can go about 20 feet from their daytime hiding places. So they put little piles of old sunflower stalk, twigs, rock, etc, every 20 feet.
Straw mulch is also good. Grassy weedy areas can host ground beetles, but they are not pollinator hosts, since grasses are wind-pollinated (or self pollinating, like wheat) and provide no nectar for pest-eating wasps and beneficials. I have found that grasses are host to both fungal diseases and thrips in my area and more of a problem than a help. Instead, I provide hedgerows of currants or other berries, perennial herbs, etc, as well as piles of branches for beetle and gopher snake habitat.
Most perennials do die back in the winter--that is the adaptation that allows them to survive cold. Annuals just keep going and green until frost kills them, instead of taking refuge in their underground portion. Herbaceous perennials that are evergreen are very few, and usually in my experience are either from warm-winter areas or live as understory plants. Tiarella would be an example of an evergreen forest understory groundcover, which is sheltered from the worst winter winds and drying cold.
I used to collect wild lovage in Alaska, and dry it for use all winter. Good in pasta and meats as well as soup.
Aloes are perfect indoor plants, and most people I know never do take them outdoors, just leave them on the kitchen counter as first aid for burns. They are happy in a north window, so don't even need to have a premium sunny spot. I have seen them survive in the center of the room with no window at all, but survive is not thrive. In any case, they are easy. Another thing to know is that they like more water than cacti. They are native to the seashore fog belt. San Francisco has planted masses of them in the median strip on highway 1, and they grow so fast its scary.
I suspect that chard has the widest adaptability of all--it was easy for me in Alaska, and it is easy in California. It also has the biggest yield of meals or servings per sq ft of anything I've grown. Perennializes here with minimal water,as well. If you don't like the flavor of Swiss Chard, try the perpetual spinach types. They are more tender and mild-flavored. Chard is one of the only standard vegetables that is truly low-maintenance. Here, I put it in afternoon shade.
1.)First year - don't even try smaller annuals. Go with potatoes and sweet potatoes. Using a pitchfork, plunge it into the woodchips - pry it back and slip a potato in between the ground and the woodchips. The sweet potatoes did especially well.
2.) Bush beans. Just plant them an inch deep into the woodchips. For me, they grew right down through all the wood chips and we had a great harvest.
3.) Big vigorous plants like squash and watermelon.
This brings up another thing in Will Bonsall's book that I never see elsewhere--the difference between old-world and new-world crops. Or actually, between crops from places with the plow and those fromplaces with the digging stick and hoe.
The agriculture of the new world and parts of Africa was swidden cultivation, (used to be called slash and burn). It took place in newly-cleared forest clearings (And even in the places that were not forested, it was on small patches barely cultivated with a digging stick or hoe.) Fire or girdling the trees was used to provide a growing space, and the crops were growing on fungal-dominated forest soils with plenty of duff and twigs and/or wood ash. Soils tended twoard a more acidic ph. After a few years, it was allowed to go back to forest and a new patch was cleared, so there was always a forest soil with tree roots, or a perennial prairie soil with grass roots--not a cropland soil with primarily annuals.
The agriculture of the old world took place in permanent croplands clear-cultivated to a fine tilth with the plow. These received yearly applications of compost/animal manure/ lime and other amendments. Soils tended toward more neutral ph. Crops such as peas and cabbage were the staples. They evolved from maritime beach and riparian plants, which even in nature grow in disturbed soil are then replaced by more aggressive perennials.
So, Bonsall makes the point that on a new homestead, new world crops have an advantage: they have evolved for those fungally-dominated, barely-cultivated, wood-rich soils and will feel right at home. As indeed I experienced on my homestead in Alaska, where I started out new patches of garden by clearing as best I could and planting potatoes, sometimes under nothing but a pile of seaweed.
Mulching with wood chips recreates the swidden garden--fungally-dominated, rich in the breakdown products from wood, and with lots of surface litter.
I wish this distinction had been widely articulated years ago, because it is the rock that many garden methods crash on. They want to have a single method, when plants--in Nature and under our nurture as well--are adapted to different niches.
So the practical application is that tomatoes, squash, beans, and potatoes are happy to live in a bit of soil and a lot of duff, chips, tree roots, half-digested compost, etc. Cabbage, peas, spinach, carrots, lettuce maybe not. They might be happier in later seasons when more decomposition has taken place. Or with the ground cleared of woodchips around them.
Yes, Will Bonsall refers to the research done at a university in Quebec on ramial. It's pretty exciting; the very parts of the tree that have been burnt in the past as useless turn out the be the important ones for soil-building. Makes sense. A tree falls only once in a long time, but twigs, branches, and leaves fall constantly, so the soil biome is best adapted to them.
Another exciting bit of research involves lichens and "old man's beard" on trees. It has been supposed by most people that they are sapping the tree. A bunch of researchers finally followed specific tree growth and mapped lichen density long enough to notice that the trees with usnea and lace lichen actually grew faster than those in the same neighborhood without lichens. So, they put buckets out under the trees and found out that the lichens act as a nutrient net, to capture dust and mineral particles, bits of shed cells, etc etc out of the wind. When it rains, those nutrients drip into the root zone of the tree. The rainwater they captured from trees with a lot of lichen on them was nutrient soup.....and the trees were getting a natural "fertigation." (fertilizer irrigation) The lichens are nutrient-dense in their own right as well, and deer seem to prefer them as food. Since the majority of lichens occur on twigs rather than trunk wood, it is probably a part of the mix in ramial chips, along with the cambium, the surface-dwelling fungi and bacteria, the leaves, etc. Altogether a richer mix than the cellulose/lignin makeup of the trunk.
Will Bonsall has written a great book that shows wood chips and compost in a whole-farm system that has been providing virtually all the food for his family for decades in Maine. He buys virtually no inputs, but uses lots of compost, and urine/humanure as appropriate. Leaves, grass, and wood chips supplemented with garden waste are the backbone of his system, which is more labor-intensive than just mulching, but also very very productive, and doable for one guy at farm scale. will bonsallHe is veganic, but I'm not and I have found his book very useful, especially as it shows different strategies for specific crops instead of a one-size-fits-all "method". I am amazed that at this late date someone has made a big-deal method out of wood chips. They've been part of gardening since chippers were invented. Always someone ready to trademark something and make a buck on it, I guess.....
Perennial arugula is the hands-down favorite for honeybees in my garden. I have lots of flowers and herbs, and even lemon balm (whose Latin name, melissa, means honeybee) can't compare. You can hear them buzzing from clear across the garden. If you want to grow it as a bee plant, and you also want fresh leaves for use, I suggest having a patch of it and dividing it into two or three sections. Keep one part sheared back for producing bigger, more tender leaves for salad. Leave one to go to flower. With three you could have one in use, one recovering, and one flowering. Or, if you don't want to cozy up to the bees, have the patches in three separate places.
I think that dehydration after long cooking was one of the strategies that indigenous people used for these inulin-containing crops. But I'd never heard of the spring harvest idea. Thanks for the post, they both sound very do-able.
My main use of sunchokes is as a decoy. They are gophers' favorite food, so I have them on the edge of the garden to keep gophers from coming any further.
Sunchokes are great, and easy. If you can digest them. Some people have the enzyme that enables you to digest the unusual starches in them, some don't.
Native people who used camas as a staple usually put it through some sort of process to make digestion easier. (And camas is a great possibility for a staple food if you have a seasonal wetland on your property.)
Does anyone know if the same sort of strategy can be used for sunchokes, or how to do it?
About miner's lettuce: Thanks for the info.....I have seen the other plants in the Claytonia genus, like Siberian Beauty and Candyflower as perennials, but not C. perfoliata. The issue in California is not the winter, but surviving the summer. I'm realizing I've never seen it go perennial and survive the summer because I've never watered it, or seen it in an area with enough soil moisture to live past June. They are shallow-rooted, and around here they always reseed and die in May or June. So many California "annuals," actually could live longer if water were available.
With that information, I will add it to our perennial vegetables page, and lovage as well. Perennial Vegetables
Thanks for getting this topic going. I want to note that miner's lettuce is not perennial. Often it self-sows from dropped seed, but none of the individual plants live more than a year. It is a great salad green, and if you have a shady, moist fertile spot under trees you could manage a patch that self-sows. Adapted to growing in cold winter soils--it will sprout and grow in soil just above freezing. Eliott Coleman's used it in Maine for unheated winter hoophouse production of salad greens. The flavor is good enough to sell to restaurants, rare for a wild green.
At Quail Seeds, we have miner's lettuce seed from wild stands (domestication would cause genetic changes toward dependence). We also have seeds for several perennial vegetables--perpetual spinach, perennial arugula, perennial scallions, 2 kinds of sorrel, rhubarb, erba stella, and Caucasus Mountain Spinach, which is an exciting one--mild-flavored perennial vine hardy down to zone 3. Quail Seeds
What my kids did with their Halloween candy was play poker and dice for it. After several months as hoarded wealth and use as poker chips, the bag of loot eventually got ratty enough that they threw it out themselves, mostly uneaten.
As adults, none of my kids particularly like sweets. One reason--sweets don't stand for adulthood or freedom or anything, they are just a flavor. Having and eating sweets isn't a victory for their own autonomy over their controlling parents. If my parents had confiscated my Halloween candy--one of the few things in a kids' lives that is given to them directly and not just provided by the parents--I'm quite positive that I would be resenting it still, at 67.
Fussing over something that happens once a year seems like such a waste of energy--like those awful magazine articles on how to have a fat-free Thanksgiving, when the problem isn't what you eat on Thanksgiving, it's what you do the rest of the year, day in day out. Our poor puritan culture will never be in tune with the seasons or the harvest cycles or anything else natural until we learn to incorporate both celebration and austerity; feasting and fasting in their proper places.
Granted that candy isn't my adult idea of feasting, but for most kids, trick or treating is the one time in the year when they can experience the thrill of the forager and be little hunter-gatherers. I think we mess with that at our peril.
I'm not qualified to comment on the earthworks, etc. But as a seedsperson, I would say that if the soil is as depleted as you say, then alfalfa (lucerne) might not be your best choice. I would recommend trefoil, or rose clover, alsike clover, whatever poor-soil legume does well in your climate. The local feed store or ag agent is a good resource for this. No, they aren't permaculturists, but they don't have to be for the information you want--what leguminous forage plants and grasses grow easily and well in local soils and climate. Start with that. Your ag agent or farm supply will also know planting times and frost dates. That kind of information doesnt change depending on what theory you subscribe to. These guys can be very helpful, if you have the humility to listen to their experience. You don't have to do everything they do to benefit by their knowledge.
Is there some part of the conversation I missed? This is being posed as a binary choice, so perhaps the part I missed is that seeds of both sow thistle and wild lettuce were sown in that pot and are thus the only likely choices.
If that is not the case, then I would still caution that while those are very possible--even probable--solutions, it is a dangerous habit to ask is "It A or B?" when you haven't actually eliminated the possibility of it being Z, S, or Q.
Can you tell us what caused you to narrow it down to those choices?
I have not seen that pink blush at the base of the stem in wild lettuce around my place. I would say that of the things named so far, it looks the most like dandelion. But there is no way that anyone could be sure from a fuzzy photo without flowers or information about other parts of the plant. If we knew whether the sap is clear or opaque white, that would at least place it in (or out) of the lettuce/sow thistle/dandelion group. Without that piece of information, it could be a primula for all we know. They often have that blush at the base and serrated leaves. I'd recommend taking it to your cooperative extension agent or a local wild foods teacher if you really want to know for sure. And they will look at the sap and root first thing. Leaves alone just arent that unique. Once you know a plant well, you automatically note things like texture, vein pattern, and other subtle clues that add up to recognition, in the same way that your friends' facial features do. But for an unknown plant it's important to know more than just the leaf shape of one wilted specimen in a fuzzy photo.
I'm not at all sure it's either one. There are plenty of other, unrelated things it could be, and I would want to see a better example before I'd eat it or encourage anyone to. I do have some questions that could help nail it down:
1) can you get a photo from a bit further away? The camera might shoot a clearer picture if it werent so close, and also we could get a sense of the plant's general stance.
2) does it have milky sap?
3) what is the root like?
Granted. And a summer kitchen on a screened porch is an excellent thing. But then how many outbuildings are you going to build, each with its own roof, foundation, walls, and for some, heat? We run our business from a tiny cabin, and live in a trailer next to it, and believe me, the reasons why you'd rather not go from building to building instead of room to room are legion, starting with two stoves to heat an area that one could handle easily, and going on to larger environmental footprint, not to mention putting on your shoes and getting wet and muddy just to go check something on the stove. Then there is the trek to the shed every time we need supplies, and to the shop if we need a tool. Rooms/porches that can be closed off, and a shop building on its own, would be ideal I think.
But the specifics were not my point. I would just say that if you have the luxury of building from scratch, build around the actual patterns of family life, rather than letting a concept, and interesting shape, or a theory shape your daily life forever after.
I have lived most of my adult life in tiny cabins, boats (commercial fishing, not yachts) and travel trailers, so tiny living spaces are something I know well. I raised 3 kids in one. And I would say, beware the concept house, whether it is a geodesic dome or a "tiny home".
How about you start with "I need a house for my family and it needs to fit the patterns of our lives, and be small and frugal." Then your family's needs are central and the size is one criterion among many. It can rightfully take it's place alongside shelter from wind, access to water, septic layout, summer/winter sun patterns, the need for a home office, desire to age in place, privacy for teens, a writing desk, or solar heat--one aspect of your needs and desires. With very small designs, the cabinetry and special stoves, etc. that I see in the tiny home books add tremendously to the cost--whether in money or in your own time. Lloyd Kahn actually addresses this in his tiny homes book, under the heading "why are such small homes so expensive?" The answer he gives is that the systems--electrical, plumbing, heat, etc are expensive no matter what, and square footage, within reason, is the cheapest thing to add.
If you are living a rural life, and trying to do a lot of things for yourself, you will need space to do things in and space to store the tools you need. Not just carpenter or mechanic tools, but books, craft supplies, cloth& sewing supplies, electronic gear, musical instruments. In most climates, to live the homestead life, you need a workshop of some sort, and a kitchen that can handle serious amounts of food processing. It doesnt take much space to eat and sleep, true. But to wash and butcher and can and freeze and store a sizable amount of food and food-processing equipment does. (A pressure canner and cases of jars takes a large closet. Crocks for fermentation take even more room.) I was lucky that I lived on a beach and could fillet fish or butcher deer outside and wash down with salt water. But will your tiny home have a sink that can handle that?
I notice that when I read about satisfied tiny home dwellers they are often in places like Portland, with a vibrant urban culture. Lots of spaces outside of your own home to hang out, meet friends, do projects. Food from the grocery store, and some fresh stuff from the garden for salads and stir-fry. With that situation, a small space is a good fit. If your vision includes more self-sufficiency than that, you'll need space to work, to create, and to store things.
I have noticed that the "tiny home" name seems to mesmerize people. Folks lived in small spaces before; they were just small. Often they were poor. No big deal. Now they have a name and have been marketed aggressively. So--beware, just as you would beware of anything that's been marketed and become chic. Perhaps living in a very small space will fulfill your needs. Perhaps not. My point is, what are your needs?.
I notice that the only variable being mentioned is the soil. There must be many other variables we could find that come into it, if we look. Air humidity and climate come to mind. Where I live, the summers are very dry. In nature, the soil surface is not damp enough for decomposition, and when people water enough to imitate the nutrient cycling of moister regions, they often get problems with symphylans and other root-eating organisms that are normally controlled by dryness. I find the teas and brews to be a big help during the summer.
Yes, but in my experience the comments on garden watchdog are only as knowlegable as the people who post them, and so issues like open-pollination hybrids, and testing are rarely understood or addressed. Most comments I've seen about companies only adress how timely there order fulfillment is and whether the plants grew well, not either genetic or testing issues.
Yes, there is a new testing protocol that has brought the price way down. I have not submitted samples to different labs to see how accurate it is--the only way to find out.
This makes me even more curious why Baker Creek, which pours so much money into color printing, events, concerts, and costumes, still has no mention of testing for GMO contamination. All you see are claims of "pure" seed--which has no legal meaning whatsoever. Contrast this with Uprising Seeds policy of testing every batch of corn and discarding any that do not come back as 0% comtamination. Or with FedCo's policy of testing. Or with all the companies that identify which seeds are certified Organic, which at least theoretically excludes GMOs.
Great idea to put a fairly complete overview up rather than a disjointed bunch of opinions--it is really helpful when you have a topic where there are a lot of basics people are going to have to learn.
One thing I wanted to clarify: I have read numerous places that gypsum, being the sulfate form of calcium doesn't raise the ph. It is generally recommended for those situations where your soil is already alkaline enough due to other alkaline minerals, but there isn't enough calcium. In my case, there is already a lot of potassium and magnesium in the native soil and the ph is about 7, so my testing service recommended gypsum rather than calcium carbonate or cal-mag or any of the other, ph-raising options. Is there disagreement on this? Should we look further for more info?? Since I am currently adding gypsum per their recommendation, this is of real import to me, so I'd like to be sure.
You can buy forage radish for cheaper than named daikon varieties. It won't be as perfect as far as getting a big juicy root from each plant, but you will get way more seeds for the same amount of money, so it is better for larger plantings and opening up the soil. Bountiful Gardens carries both a named-variety daikon (350 seeds) and a generic forage radish for cover cropping and soil building (2500 seeds)---as well as an oilseed radish for pressing your own non-GMO vegetable oil. (Canola is a radish relative, thoroughly contaminated by GMO pollen. Oilseed radish is not.) All have deep roots.
I would think twice about ordering radishes from Johnny's because while they are high-quality, most of what they have is hybrids.....you won't be able to save seeds from those. Bountiful Gardens is cheaper, with no hybrids or GMOs, and non-profit.
They wont make big roots if you plant in spring, usually. They are a day-length-sensitive crop that responds to lengthening days by using whatever root they have as fuel to send up a flowering stalk and make seed. If you want roots you have to plant later in the summer or fall.
The standard of the industry has always been Haws, in England. Perfectly balanced (the handle is for tipping it to pour--you hold it by the strut) with the rose (sprinkler head) pointing upward so that the water falls like a gentle rain. These are available in galvanized steel and in plastic, and each comes with both a sprinkler rose and a right-angle spout for watering pots. Worth every penny. I've used one for years. https://www.bountifulgardens.org/products/SHA-9270%20%20PLASTIC
Yes, rigidity is key. Successful structures have some mechanism to 1)distribute the stresses, and 2) lock the structure together. That's why the single hoops so often fail--they wiggle around, allowing the structure to distort and sag to accumulate. And they expose each individual member to the full amount of stress, rather than reinforcing one another and distributing--dissipating--the stress. (Also, the shorter, more acute curve is in itself an unevenly distributed stress.)
Any rectangle can shift, but a triangle can't. The beauty of groin-vault structures is that the main members form triangles right from the start, so no extra bracing is needed. Even without a ridgepole, if the poles are merely taped where they cross, they still cannot shift the way stand-alone hoops do. It is a single, rigid structure rather than a collection of single poles. Ever try to break a bundle of little twigs? Same thing: United they stand. Divided, they crimp and crush and fail. For a cheap, fast, short-term solution, and you are going to use pvc pipe anyway, the diagonal design wins hands down. I've built small ones in a a few minutes with willow branches that lasted for years.
For the long term, and with money or time to spend, a gable or shed roof, wood-frame structure seems like the best choice to me. I've always wanted a wood-frame greenhouse with a rigid-panel roof because bit by bit you can shift over to glass as you are able. And you can collect rainwater from the roof.
One thing to be aware of is that subterranean clover, which is a popular suggestion for dryland nitrogen fixing, has seeds that are dangerous to quail and other native birds. It has enough phyto-hormones that it prevents reproduction. I would suggest native clovers and grasses instead, or cowpeas, which are heat-adapted and attract lots of pollinators in a addition to fixing nitrogen.
What usually dooms the hoophouses and row covers I've seen is that the hoops are parallel, and go straight across the bed like a covered wagon. That means that each section of plastic is rectangular, and starts to bag, hold water or snow, and fail. The hoophouses, tunnels, and grow-domes that I've had success with in Alaska and here in Northern CA are built with supports that cross, looking like a series of XXX's from above. That means two things:
One is that you have made a groin vault, just like a Gothic cathedral. It is an extremely strong structure, with the stresses well-distributed and conducted to the ground.
Two is that each section of plastic is now a triangle. It has a smaller surface area, and the inevitable stretch and sag forms a trough leading to the ground rather than a bag up in the air with no exit for water or snow. It sheds rain or snow very efficiently. Moreover, the triangles are stronger than squares, and the hoops support one another. The longer diagonal run means that the poles are not bent so abruptly and are under less stress.
To do it this way, the poles need to be longer than if you are just going straight across the bed (or area to be covered by the greenhouse). You place your poles so that they cross diagonally instead. Each pair of poles then makes an X as seen from above. The next set is placed right next to the first, so that they make V's when seen from the side. When all are placed, you can hitch each crossing-point together with a rope that is staked at each end of the the tunnel, for more wind-resistance and strength, or you can lash a pole up there as a ridgepole. If you don't want to do the ridgepole or rope to stabilize, then just tie the places where the poles cross with strong cord or black electricians tape so they don't shift. You'll want to make sure they are crossing at the center of the space, so it's worth marking the centerline and using a plumb bob to find the proper place to cross, to distribute the stresses evenly.
I have had this style of greenhouse survive winds in excess of 60 knots, when my neighbor's with parallel hoops was torn to bits. His was reinforced with lumber purlins. Mine was not--didn't need it. And they are beautiful structures.
In summer, you can take the cover off to save it from UV damage and use the supports to grow pole beans, with lettuce underneath.
Ants ARE a problem in beds. Gardeners have known this for centuries. While theory may say that they aerate and so on, experience over many generations says let earthworms and beetles do the aerating, and keep ants out of your beds.
The picture of them milking their slave aphids shows one reason: those aphids didn't get there by accident. The ants carry them to your garden plants. I have even had them carry aphids to my flats of seedlings inside a school classroom where there was no window or outside door. They had to carry the aphids through a crack in the foundation and up a wall.
The other problem is that ants are full of formic acid (the acid is named after the Latin name for ant.) Imagine if someone had an old car battery that they decided to empty in your garden bed and you have some idea of what an ant nest can do to your crops. I had to deal with this last summer, and can tell you that what it does to plants is not pretty. We eventually got them out, with digging, water, diatom dust, and perseverance, but for months afterwards the plants were yellow and stunted by the acid. (The plants in question were planted after we had removed the nest) I don't know how long the effect would have lasted; eventually I figured out it was due to formic acid and gave that area a big dose of dolomite to balance the ph.
The brown seed coat is typical of the smaller, less-selected varieties that are used for green manure crops and livestock food. (thus the name horse bean.) The dark brown color is caused by strong-tasting tannins in the skin. They have been bred out of the garden varieties that were meant for eating by humans, like Windsor, D'Aquadulce, etc. The trade-off is that the the smaller-seeded cover crop varieties are more cold-hardy
Steve Solomon, when he had Territorial Seeds, bred a a small-seeded, cold-hardy horse bean selected for lighter, more palatable skins. The idea was to have a homesteader self-sufficiency crop that could take advantage of abundant winter water and use the farm or garden space during the off-season. The variety is called Sweet Lorane, after the town when he lived (and a Country Joe and the Fish song of the late sixties). Unfortunately, he moved to New Zealand, nobody continued to select the variety, and it quickly reverted back to the dark, tannic skins. It was still available, but no longer so tasty.
Enter Alan Adesse, longtime farmer and one of the original organic seed pioneers. He decided to revive Sweet Lorane, and started re-selecting for palatability at his farm in Oregon. The newly re-selected, less-tannic, beans are once again available. Bountiful Gardens carries them in packets. Southern exposure carries larger amounts but I don't know if they are the re-selected strain. I believe Alan is continuing to select for ever-more-tasty beans that retain the cold-hardiness of the the cover crop types. A fine example of on-farm breeding for crops that the big companies and universities are not interested in.
It looks like an ornamental variety called Emerald Tassels. There are a few of these green ornamental types around, along with a pink variety called Coral Fountains and the red old favorite Love Lies Bleeding. They are edible but not particularly choice for either seed or greens, unlike the varieties that have been selected over many years--centuries in many cases--for the edibility of their seeds (in North America) or leaves (in Asia). If you have pigweed in your garden you can see what the ancestor of the grain varieties was like.
If it is chicken feed you want, I would suggest planting one of the high-yielding grain types developed by Native American farmers over many many centuries of careful selection. Or, if you want to do some selective breeding, a couple of them. It is hard to imagine attaining a comparable level of excellence in your lifetime if you start from scratch and try to reinvent the wheel. Though you might get some really interesting crosses. You could pick out one of your crosses that suits your needs, but it would then have to be stabilized and you would have to grow no others--as crops or weeds--to keep it from reverting. With an outcrosser like amaranth, you would also need a good-sized breeding population, to avoid inbreeding depression. An interesting experiment, and good to do--but probably not giving your poultry as many calories in the short run.
I would like to mention that it is a misconception that a landrace is an unselected hodge-podge. (when many people say landrace, they really mean genepool) Landrace varieties, whether in North America, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, were (and are) very carefully selected and bred for the traits that are important to the people growing them. For example, Guatemalan peasant farmers in one region have carefully kept separate a white corn with large ears used for one purpose and a brown corn with small ears used for another. They grow them in the same fields, but by manipulating pollination times and planting regimes, and by rigorous selection, they have kept those lines from mixing. With a wind-pollinated species, this is an accomplishment that requires constant vigilance and sophisticated farming skills to maintain. These are landrace varieties--not uniform in the same traits as modern hybrids, but highly selected and rigorously maintained nonetheless. It takes many, many generations to reach the level of quality and adaptation that traditional landrace varieties have attained.
University of California Davis has lots of information about grape-growing on their website. They provided the research that fueled such rapid growth in the CA wine industry, so there is a lot there. They put out a book on cover cropping in vineyards that is really interesting, especially the part about when to use nitrogen-fixers and when you don't want that much nitrogen (it will make leaf and shoot growth at the expense of fruit.)
As I scan these forums, I notice that people seldom seem to think of their university extension service, or the USDA. A lot of mistakes can be avoided if you make use of the research and experience available. You don't have t agree with their whole program or their goals to use the results of painstaking research and documentation!
I find that skullcap, because it is a tonic nervine rather than just a sedative, helps the brain to normalize its activity appropriately, which results in not only falling asleep but in a more restful sleep. It is extremely helpful in breaking mental "loops" as well.
In addition, many have found relief from cannabis tea or tincture. A very high CBD strain will help relax muscles and decrease anxiety. (The more common THC, which is the cannabinoid that gets people high, can cause anxiety in some people. CBD is non-psychoactive. It is the one that is currently being used for epilepsy and other serious conditions.)
Good point. There are a few different species I've heard of with that name. However, they were all closely-related: genus Artemesia. I would think that if mugwort was the only name given, and the person was supposed to be expert, it would be one of the artemesias, all of which are strong, bitter herbs. If it were some other genus I'd think that the the person would have mentioned the possibility of confusion, or given some kind of second name, since the artemesias are so very widespread and well-known.
You did say, didn't you, that the walk was with an herbalist? If I were engaged to lead an herbalism walk, I would talk about the herbs we saw and their benefits, without feeling it necessary to say that they are always used as teas or tinctures, not eaten wholesale. If, on the other hand, it were a wild foods walk, then any wild greens that were discussed could be assumed to be food. Something intended as tea, like pine needles, would be identified as such.
I'm still not sure that even young, mugwort would be palatable as greens, though. a picture would be very interesting.