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The Problem is the Solution

 
author & gardener
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Bill Mollison said

The Problem is the solution. Everything, works both ways. It is only how we see things that makes them advantageous or not.


I've pondered that statement ever since I first read it. In fact, I have several problems that I'm puzzling over right now. But also I have one for which the solution makes sense, when I think of each part in terms of purpose. I'm not saying I've come up with THE solution, but I've come up with a solution that works for me.

Every year we grow a small patch of wheat. And every year we have vetch growing in it, and this year, wild lettuce.

wheat growing with vetch (black pods) and wild lettuce

Vetch is a nitrogen fixer, which is good, but the problem with it comes at wheat harvest. It tangles up and wraps around the scythe blade, which really hinders the scything rhythm. It's frustrating. The wild lettuce is edible and makes great salads. But it's something else that's in the way, and hence a problem.

This year I decided to go through the wheat and pull the vetch to save for seed. If it was greener, I could save it for hay, but most of it is gone to seed, which I could use in my pasture. Vetch pulls out easily and while it took some time, it wasn't hard work. While I was at it, I cut down the lettuce, because I decided to chop and dry the leaves for the goats this winter.

one wheelbarrow filled with dry vetch, the other with wild lettuce stalks

So by changing my thinking to see the advantages of the things that were problems, I got some pasture seed from the vetch and goat feed from the wild lettuce. Plus, the wheat will be easier to scythe. It was pleasant outdoor work, and I really felt like I gained a lot, rather than being frustrated with the obstacles in the wheat.

Your turn. I'd really love to hear others' experiences with turning problems into solutions.
 
pioneer
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I love how simple it is to harvest weeds as yields, if you just let yourself think the right way.
 
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While I was digging my newest reverse hugel bed, I surfaced lots of small rocks and gravel. Now, how do you get rid of that?
Rocks are now mulching our fig trees, in a rainbow shape on the shaddy area, so herbs can grow in between the rock patches and shade them further.
Gravel is to be used in a drainage we are planning in the social area of the garden.

Not only I've taken them away, they are even useful!
 
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For the first time, bull thistle and sow thistle decided to take over our Zone One.  I started in January trying to smother it with whatever I could find and not letting it go to seed.

When it turns yellow it is sometimes easy to pull up. As the months went by, for every one I pulled up or smothered I got 10 more.

I found sow thistle doesn't like being walked on so the ones I didn't pull up I walked on the plant.

I finally got a hoe with a pointed end after most of the bull thistle.

Anyway, now my solution is to pull everything up while it is small so I probably pull up 10 weeds or grass every day.  What I can't pull up I pull the seed heads off.
 
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Leigh Tate, nice turnaround!
Guess we’re wired to label everything we don’t like/expect to be there immediately as a problem that needs eradicating by a quick fix so things become how we expect them to be.
A very superficial way of creating the world we like to see, obsessively busy with finding shortcuts without ever considering the larger ramifications.
Modern life in a nutshell, not permaculturish at all. But examples!

Just back in from the garden after a rainy cold spring summer is finally here. I’ve had trouble recognizing my garden at times because of growth of grass in some newly developing beds/ pathways. It started to go to seed here and there. That would have caused more grass next year. I don’t have mulch ready now to weaken it so had to scythe it down. It became it’s own mulch.
The white dutch clover went out of control in the beds and pathways creeping everywhere. I chop and drop it or mulch it around plants i want to keep free from it. Instead of pulling it out completely i left enough creeping roots so it can recover and function as a nitrogen fixing groundcover plants the bees love. It’s a fun experiment!
I’ve just ate a wild carrot soup of it’s leaves instead of ripping it out and composting it.
 
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I love this story, thanks for it!

In many aspects, I have also found solutions in the problems. A nightmare of slugs so I couldn't grow anything was remedied by using old bath tubs to grow in. Slugs and other pests couldn't get past the lip of the tubs, and I also got the added benefit of warmer soil = longer season, and easier to tend and harvest. Another was summer drought, just one intense month. I finally took the time to rig up a complex watering system, which worked out better than I would have done if I hadn't had the drought problem. A better solution all together!

One I am still struggling with is Japanese knotweed.
Not going into the problems here, as it's such a positive thread, but if any of you have found good use of knotweed or gotten rid of it in a productive way, feel fre to share. No horror stories needed, I am well aware of what it is and what it does... let's keep up the good energy!
 
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I've started to think of my weeds as bonus harvests:
-Dandelion gets eaten, but I'm not as confident identifying other wild edibles yet.
-The invasive ficus trees that refuse to die make helpfully long sticks that I slash back and stack loosely over newly planted seeds to help keep critters out.
-Noxious weeds can go in the rot bucket to make liquid fertilizer until the fight is out of them. Then they go into regular compost.
-Most anything else goes into regular compost and really helps bulk it up. If I'm feeling lazy, I'll just pull it up and leave it as mulch where it is.
 
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Kate McRae wrote:I love this story, thanks for it!

In many aspects, I have also found solutions in the problems. A nightmare of slugs so I couldn't grow anything was remedied by using old bath tubs to grow in. Slugs and other pests couldn't get past the lip of the tubs, and I also got the added benefit of warmer soil = longer season, and easier to tend and harvest. Another was summer drought, just one intense month. I finally took the time to rig up a complex watering system, which worked out better than I would have done if I hadn't had the drought problem. A better solution all together!

One I am still struggling with is Japanese knotweed.
Not going into the problems here, as it's such a positive thread, but if any of you have found good use of knotweed or gotten rid of it in a productive way, feel fre to share. No horror stories needed, I am well aware of what it is and what it does... let's keep up the good energy!



Japanese Knotweed is very potent in the fight against Lyme disease.  I pay for it
 
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I am really trying to see the solutions inside problems.

On my, "I want to do" list, I want to build a TLUD (biochar kiln) specifically for turning English Ivy which is adding too much wind-load to nearby trees, into a useful soil amendment.

I am *way* more tolerant of weeds than I used to be, but I admit the tolerance extends more merrily to plants which qualify as "things chicken/ducks can eat" than more toxic ones.

I'm trying to figure out some good plants for paths in my gardens in my eco-system. Grass is just too pushy and tends to grow 3 to 4 feet tall here, but there has to be some plants I can walk on that are a little better behaved. I'll keep looking!
 
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Japanese knotweed: edible and delicious spring shoots. There's an entire chapter devoted to it in Stephen Barstow's book, "Around the World in 80 Plants," starting on page 150 [along with 79 other perennial edibles worth growing and eating!] Also has medicinal value and is a great source of biomass. Read more on pfaf.org: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Polygonum+japonicum
 
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Jay what about English chamomile.  It is supposed to be a great lawn substitute that you never have to mow.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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It really does make a difference how you perceive things. It was my daughter who changed my perspective. A couple years ago twords the end of summer I was looking at my garden with discussed.  There was still lots of veggies, but good luck finding them amongst the tall weeds, and flowers that were tall as me, and crowding everything.  My daughter walks up and says "I love the way your garden looks."  What?  Why?  It looks wild and free. A place you want to spend time in and explore.  You aren't trying to make it artificial and boring.  I looked at my garden with new eyes.  The veggie were still producing, and it really was beautiful in a wild way.  
 
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We sheet-mulched over our grass on an entire 1/4-acre, and what grew as a volunteer after suppressing the weeds is a combination of wild violets and geraniums, both native and beneficial to wildlife and both edible/medicinal for humans. It's a prettier ground cover than grass and requires no maintenance. When people visit our garden, their first observation is how lush it all looks.
 
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Hi Leigh,

I live in the Southeastern US, near Knoxville, Tennessee, my friend just purchased land in Parrotsville. I surely don't have any solutions yet to our wild and weedy, thorny grass problem. Right now we are just mowing it, and it grows back fiercely. We did hand-dig it out and made one little circle-about 2ft by 3ft to plant a few herbs and veggies in-a tomato plant and zucchini plant is growing there now but I'm not sure if we should plant seed-vetch or what on the 1/4 acre yard in the front.

I'll send a picture in another post
 
Jeanne Wallace
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Ajeet, your "wild and weedy, thorny grass problem" sounds like a delicious feast of happiness for grazing goats...
 
Leigh Tate
author & gardener
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ajeet khalsa wrote:I surely don't have any solutions yet to our wild and weedy, thorny grass problem. Right now we are just mowing it, and it grows back fiercely. . .  I'm not sure if we should plant seed-vetch or what on the 1/4 acre yard in the front.


Ajeet, I can relate! Uncultivated areas can be tough to make a start on, and I honestly don't have a solution to the problem either. I suggest you start a new thread in one of the growies forums. I think you'll have the best chance of getting answers there.

Jeanne Wallace wrote:Ajeet, your "wild and weedy, thorny grass problem" sounds like a delicious feast of happiness for grazing goats...


Jeanne, that's definitely a solution! It's exactly the kind of forage my goats love too.
 
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Movies are useful:

attitude.jpg
[Thumbnail for attitude.jpg]
 
Jay Angler
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I have a hose bib that's really hard to reach, so the end of the attached hose has a shut-off valve on it. But we have hard water, so eventually, those shut-offs tend to leak a bit. Alas, this is one of those situations, so I used it as "drip irrigation" for the potted plants within the hose's reach. If I move it once/day, the plants get enough water and none is wasted. Works for me!
 
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I once had that thought, “Whahh? The Problem is the Solution?”
So, thinking outside the box and along the edge where interesting things happen, I had to accept the reality of what is happening over what I wanted to happen.
I had an immense bloom of mushrooms in my wood chip walkways (see pic).
I broke my back clearing them and bagging them.
All the while and in between the swearing and aching back groaning, I heard the TBS mantra in the back of my tiny little mind, saying, “Do you really want to throw this much production away?”
So, I posted a pic and a question and I learned I can compost these mushrooms and bury them under deep sheet mulch this fall. Permies to the rescue! What was an eyesore is now something I can’t enough of in my urban lawn to food forest project, compostable material. Thank you all for helping a tropical permie learn temperate zone PC!
5190BC8F-8234-4C39-82CF-BFB5CD76FC56.jpeg
Walkway mushrooms
Walkway mushrooms
 
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Knotweed is a source of resveratrol and also eaten as a vegetable.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Kate McRae wrote:I love this story, thanks for it!

In many aspects, I have also found solutions in the problems. A nightmare of slugs so I couldn't grow anything was remedied by using old bath tubs to grow in. Slugs and other pests couldn't get past the lip of the tubs, and I also got the added benefit of warmer soil = longer season, and easier to tend and harvest. Another was summer drought, just one intense month. I finally took the time to rig up a complex watering system, which worked out better than I would have done if I hadn't had the drought problem. A better solution all together!

One I am still struggling with is Japanese knotweed.
Not going into the problems here, as it's such a positive thread, but if any of you have found good use of knotweed or gotten rid of it in a productive way, feel fre to share. No horror stories needed, I am well aware of what it is and what it does... let's keep up the good energy!



Japanese Knotweed is very potent in the fight against Lyme disease.  I pay for it



               HOW DO YOU USE IT AGAINST LYME DISEASE? I HAVE PROLIFIC TICKS ON MY NEW PROPERTY AND HAVE BEEN BITTEN 4 OR 5 TIMES, WOULD LIKE TO DO SOME NON-MEDICATION PREVENTION/REMEDY IN CASE ANY OF THEM HAD LYME'S TO PASS ALONG TO ME. i HAVE ACCESS TO JAPANESE KNOTWOOD, JUST DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE IT. MUCH THANKS FOR ANY INFO YOU CAN SHARE!
 
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The book "Healing Lyme" by Stephen Harrod Buhner.  Its pretty in-depth but there is a shortcut chapter that tells you what to use without going into the science.  I used it to make medicine for a friend of mine.  I traded elderberry syrup for the things that dont grow locally, including japanese knotweed.
 
Cl Robinson
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We thought we had a problem.  The sheep pen was covered with vines and weeds.  Turns out the sheep love everything except beautyberry and poke.  They have eaten all the invasive species including cogon grass!  Saves on the amount of hay they eat as they would rather have the vines and weeds.  Also gets an area cleaned from overgrowth, fertilized and the hay seeds can now germinate and grow so we wont have to buy hay next year. Sheep are awesome!

English ivy makes laundry detergent.  Boil the leaves.  I am hoping the sheep like it also as the next pen they go into has an overgrowth.
 
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Wild lettuce is also a great medicinal plant. Enough that many of us buy seed to grow our own since it does not grow wild for us.
 
Carmen Rose
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Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
Cl Robinson
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Carmen Rose,

You are quite welcome.  I hope you are able to get some relief.  O'possums, guineas, turkeys, quail, bats, frogs and toads all eat ticks.  I have heard chickens do also, but I have not seen it.  Good luck to you and feel free to reach out to me if you get bogged down in the book.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:I am really trying to see the solutions inside problems.

On my, "I want to do" list, I want to build a TLUD (biochar kiln) specifically for turning English Ivy which is adding too much wind-load to nearby trees, into a useful soil amendment.

I am *way* more tolerant of weeds than I used to be, but I admit the tolerance extends more merrily to plants which qualify as "things chicken/ducks can eat" than more toxic ones.

I'm trying to figure out some good plants for paths in my gardens in my eco-system. Grass is just too pushy and tends to grow 3 to 4 feet tall here, but there has to be some plants I can walk on that are a little better behaved. I'll keep looking!



Plants for paths : there are lots ! Look up "ground covers" and you'll see which ones can be walked on, (or walkable groundcovers) that suit your path (sun/shade), garden (soil...), and your wishes . Creeping thyme and some other thymes, some sedums & sempervivums, Portulaca in frost-free regions, Scotch moss (Sagina subulata) if moist enough, many things with "creeping" in the name... also one called "Herniaria glabra" that's supposed to be very hardwearing but I don't know it personally.

Don't have a "problem is the solution in mind to share right now, but isn't it lovely when we find them ?
 
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Japanese knotweed provides biomass, shades the creek and pond, provides a home for the tree frogs, and a protected area for nesting birds. I harvest the young shoots which make excellent pickles, or puree and use them in any recipe you would use rhubarb. Makes excellent thickener when cooked and can combine with apples or other fruit for pies. When they grow a bit taller I cut the stalks halfway down and put them on the dry parts of my property where their large leaves and water-filled stalks provide shade and moist mulch. (They won't grow in dry areas from the stalks or leaves--only if you have the roots along they might try to root in wet areas.) These cuttings eventually dry up and I crumble them into the soil to add biomass plus whatever nutrients they have pulled up from their former riverside location. I only cut down the knotweed that is shading the native willows and other trees and plants, and then I leave some lower in height to shade the roots of the other trees. During the heat of summer I can go into my maze of 8-ft high tunnels of knotweed and experience about 10 degrees cooler temperatures, and know that it is helping the salmon who need the river cooler. Otherwise there would just be sun-baked rocks along the shore of the river instead of the knotweed providing shade and moisture from its leaves which helps the ferns and an abundance of native plants to survive. In the summer and fall when it is flowering, the bees love it, and a local merchant even sells knotweed honey. When the stalks dry in the fall, I collect them and use the 8-ft poles around the perimeter of my garden. I break others into foot-long pieces and make garden paths. Just before winter I collect the brown, starting-to-decay dry stalks and break them into small pieces and add them to build up my garden soil for texture and mulch. The rest I or the winter storms eventually knock down at the shoreline, where they decay and add nutrients into all the rock crevasses to feed the other native plants. As an added bonus, Japanese knotweed root contains resveratrol and helps with the symptoms of Lyme disease.
 
Leigh Tate
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920
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I merged your stuff with the following thread. I hope that is okay by you.
 
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You know how great it is when two things that you love come together, like, say, chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese’s peanut butter cup?

It’s even better when two things you hate come together to solve a problem.

Problem 1:  Green June Beetles. Chomp chomp chomp.

Problem 2:  milkweed in the hayfield. (Yes, I know, milkweed is a wonderful plant, they feed the monarch butterfly’s and a host of other critters. I just don’t really want them in the hay, but tolerate them rather than spray them with poison.)

Well this year, you can imagine my fiendish glee and evil laughter when I saw the milkweed in the hayfield being chewed to pieces by none other than the Green June Beetle!  Woohoo!  I realize they are probably just snacking on the way to my fruit trees and veg garden, but I am thrilled to see them keeping the milkweed in check!
535D2A50-22D5-4B9E-A9E0-3E535A09E7A3.jpeg
Chomp
Chomp
C7D2FE16-606C-4DB6-A956-2E265EAB7CFE.jpeg
Chomp
Chomp
4CC4B130-9008-4B25-951F-5856EC00E691.jpeg
Chomp
Chomp
 
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Yes...been having a problem with the garden club and community seed bank project I run getting  gardeners to participate in seed saving techniques that maintain true to type characteristics for heirloom varieties ....they are just not that interested in preventing crossing ... actually is the solution... after finding Joseph Lofthouse's Landrace Gardening... awesome !!!
 
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I have a thought that I haven't tried out yet. We live about one mile from our shop, (store) which is a nice distance to walk on a good day, a better distance to cycle if you have to carry something, and cruel to the car if you need to drive.  I started off commuting by pedal cycle.  However the hills would defeat me.  There are two short stretches where I just had to get off and walk.  We generally live in a hilly area, Skye was glaciated in the last ice age so we have fjords (though we call them lochs) and U-shaped valleys.  There is about 60m height difference between the shop and the house.  Then I kept getting punctures (our environment seems particularly unkind to rubbers) and it just seemed easier to walk, taking the car if I was exceptionally late or needed to carry a heavier load.
I have dreamed of an electric vehicle for some time.  I'd really like to convert an end of life petrol vehicle, but the cost of the motor and batteries puts me off. My "problem is the solution" involves making sure it has regenerative braking and to fit a large tank in the boot.  This I will fill with water at the house, and release into a stream at the shop.  Thereby storing some of the gravity on the way downhill to get back up to the house with a lighter vehicle.  If I had a big enough tank I could do it for free, since water falls readily from the skye here (!), but I think this would probably not be feasible.  It would certainly cut the battery required significantly though.   One day......
 
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Cl Robinson wrote:Carmen Rose,

You are quite welcome.  I hope you are able to get some relief.  O'possums, guineas, turkeys, quail, bats, frogs and toads all eat ticks.  I have heard chickens do also, but I have not seen it.  Good luck to you and feel free to reach out to me if you get bogged down in the book.



Yes, that is true.  We had a tick infestation following stock feed being brought in from tick areas.  Our Guineas cleaned them up and happy to report we and the cats are tick free.
Lyme disease is one issue with ticks, the other is anaphylaxis to red meat.  There was a study on why there was a cluster in Sydney's ( Australia) lower north shore.  It revealed that the unfortunate victims had been bitten by ticks and the bite/ injected enzymes caused an immune response to red meat because the ticks had been on other animals prior.

The new treatment for ticks just in case some have missed it is "Dab don't Grab" or "Freeze, not Squeeze" Because of the risk of squeezing the contents (toxins) of the tick into the person, it is now recommended that a freezing solution such as wart kill which is a nitrogen based product and instantly freezes the adult tick killing it.  It can then be removed with a blade, scraping it between the body and your skin.  Just check that the head is cleanly removed and after that clean and cover. https://www.tiara.org.au/news/freeze-dont-squeeze-world-to-adopt-our-tick-removal-method-by-lisa-offord-in-the-august-2019-edition-of-pittwater-life-magazine
 
moose poop looks like football shaped elk poop. About the size of this tiny ad:
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