Victor Johanson

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since Oct 18, 2011
Fairbanks, Alaska
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Recent posts by Victor Johanson

Yeah, I had the neem oil burn leaves on my plants too, and insecticidal soap proved nonlethal. Give them some nicotine and observe immediate aphid annihilation.
1 month ago

Gordon Haverland wrote:I hadn't thought about Siberian larch.  And (so far, with no time spent) you seem to be the only known source of seed.  :-)  I will look to see what is around.

Someone mentioned some kind of tree being harvested near Ft.Nelson, BC that was useful for some purpose in building houses.  The only thing that came to mind was the native tamarack.

Thanks for the info.

Might have been white spruce in Ft. Nelson; it's what grows here. I think they also have lodgepole and jack pines, and also balsam and subalpine firs.

I'll save you some time :-) . Here are some L. sibirica seed sources:

Or you might just get seedlings:

They're really nice looking trees too; the needles are a lot longer than the tamarack's.
4 months ago
Steven Edholm has a fantastic tutorial on making lactofermented hot sauce over at SkillCult:

...and also one on making chili powder:

Steven's content is always a great fix for the information junkie, superbly filmed and precisely communicated. The SkillCult site is filled with obscure and valuable long-forgotten knowledge. Peruse and enjoy!
4 months ago
If you're interested in growing fenceposts there, you might consider Siberian larch rather than the native tamarack. It's much faster growing and more robust, and just as hardy and supposedly similarly rot-resistant. They're popular as ornamentals here in Fairbanks at nearly 65 degrees north, and I've never seen one with winter damage even at zone 1 temps. Two or three feet of growth a year isn't unusual. The native tamaracks here are stunted by comparison. I collected a bunch of seed in the fall from big local specimens that I'm getting ready to plant. Like you said, none of the native trees are suitable beside larch. Even the Siberians will probably take 20 years to get fencepost sized though, so get them in the ground!
4 months ago
Oh, I forgot about the bee larvae--those are very good. Sweet, mild, and rich. Old research indicated ridiculously high Vitamin D levels, although those results are considered questionable by some today.
4 months ago
I tried scorpions (not really a bug, per se) and silkworm cocoons in China. Had to brace myself to eat the former, but they were really good, like shrimp. The cocoons were more starchy, kind of like potatoes.
4 months ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:I have used a Brix meter for the last 30 years, I have never been able to get a separated reading for minerals (which would be those dissolved solids).
Since the refractometer was originally developed to read sugar content for the Brewing industry that's it's best, most reliable use.
If you want to try and read other things into that reading, be my guest, everyone's opinion has merit.
I use a spectrometer for determining most things, or a Gas Chromatograph, I do understand that very few people even have access to this sort of equipment.

No, you can't get a separated reading with a refractometer. As previously observed, it measures the sum of all dissolved solids, most of which will be sugars. Other means need to be used to differentiate and quantify the various components. But in general, a higher sugar content indicates a healthier plant, which will probably also have a higher mineral/vitamin content.
4 months ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:To all that are using Brix.
Brix measures the simple sugar content only, nothing else.

Is that true? I thought it was all dissolved solids. One online source states "Brix is actually a sum of the pounds of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, hormones, and other solids in one hundred pounds of plant juice." So while most of the measurement probably consists of the sugar content, there are other elements included--but we don't get a breakdown. Hydro/aquaponic produce may indeed have just as much sugar content (although generally it probably doesn't), but I'm skeptical that the vitamins/minerals/enzymes/etc measure up.

It's difficult to imagine that any system of directly feeding plants can even remotely approximate the complexity of a healthy soil. At this point we've only uncovered a fraction of everything that's going on. Feeding nutrient solutions seems pretty crude by comparison. I'm still a fan of soil.
5 months ago

Robin Dyer wrote:SCA fighters use rattan fighting sticks during practice.  I've seen many different sizes. Take a look at  There is probably a local group that could direct you to a source.

They're for sale as Kali/Escrima/Arnis sticks, used in Filipino martial arts. The thickest one I found online, marketed as "jumbo," is 1.5" diameter (but only 28" long). Maybe a 6' piece can be found that's perfectly straight, but rattan is a vine and the long pieces I've seen were all pretty wavy.

A blowgun staff would be pretty cool.
5 months ago

Glenn Ingram wrote:Another challenge here is to have the staff/blowgun be light enough to aim accurately as a blowgun without support yet strong enough to withstand contact as a staff.  Have you thought about ratan like what is used in Kali?  I know those are usually short sticks but I believe ratan has a relatively soft pith similar to elder that a drill bit could follow yet it is light and strong.  I don't know if it comes in large enough diameters though and you would obviously have to order it from overseas.  But it seems like an ideal material for your project being strong, light, and sort of hollow.

Rattan is fibrous to the core. As a bohemian 15 year old, I lived and worked at Good Vibes Malletworks, a commune in Maryland, where we fabricated marimba and vibraharp mallets for a bunch of the top jazz luminaries, and we used rattan for the handles. It came to us in thick bundles about 20 feet long, each cane a quarter inch in diameter. I still have a set of the Gary Burton model; at least at that size there is no pith, but Wikipedia says it gets up to an inch in diameter so maybe there is on bigger ones. I doubt it, though; it's actually a vining form of palm, and in all my Florida upbringing I never saw a hollow or pithy palm. An inch doesn't sound thick enough for the proposed application here either, and it's also pretty limber, so would present a bending hazard.

Lots of people online trying to find this's one I came across on a woodworking forum:

"I'm facing a related issue, though not to tolerances so fine as you face. In the course of my researches, I learnt how boat builders stay true while drilling a hole for a propeller drive shaft several metres through the keelboard. They don't move the drill, they move the job using a jig similar to a saw table fence. But instead of a circular saw blade there is a spinning auger perfectly parallel to both fence and table. Build yourself a jig like this and you will be able to turn out Gandalf pipes by the dozen."
5 months ago