Parker Maynard

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since Jan 08, 2012
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Recent posts by Parker Maynard

Microbe Wiki!? are you serious!?... I followed the "contaminated grass clipping" link down the rabbit hole which answered many questions I had brewing about this fungal decay/composting synergy we've been discussing. Specifically, which of the saprophytic fungi is the baddest mama-jamma in terms of breaking down lignans?

I like that Phanerochaete chrysosporium leaves behind the cellulose. The heavier woody branches in the pile help keep the pile aerated. After we screen the finished compost we'll toss these bits back in to help keep the pile breathing.

As I started composing this symphony of decomposing movements in my mind...fungal, then bacterial, aerobic and moist etc etc. I realized I was really looking to marry the benefits of leaf mold with the benefits of compost. Seems as though leaf mold is really good stuff in its own right. This thread was really helpful...

Just good ol leaves, broken down by the virtues of ubiquitous fungi yield a very pleasant product HIGH in minerals (but relatively low in nutrients N-P-K) that will increase the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of the soil, impart growth accelerating hormonal ques for plants called gibberellins, and improve soil structure among many other great things.

In terms of achieving this hybrid decomposition I think the key is in keeping the ratio of blended food waste and leaves at 3 to 1 or higher and keeping an approx 18” layer of white-rot fungi innoculated leaves over the blended compost pile.

Now, with regard to real life remediation of the persistent herbicides that may lie within the parent material for this compost, whether in the yard waste (mostly leaves) or the food waste...from the thread link above regarding PERSISTANT herbicides...

there are really only two decomposition pathways for this first step: (1) sunlight, which you mentioned in an earlier post, where the UV rays of the sun can break the bond and toss in an oxygen, which then makes it possible to reenter biochemical pathways and (2) cleavage by some oxidative enzyme excreted by a fungus. You already told of the counterproductive aspects of tilling and tilling and tilling, hoping to expose more soil contamination to UV rays. That's really wiping the slate clean before anyone can think of what kind of permaculture they can try to start.

Our plan is to use a manure spreader to cover 3-4 acres of pasture with this compost after running the sickle bar mower through it. After a period of exposure to UV rays (any recommendation as to the time of surface exposure?) we will use a 26” single shank sub-soiler to introduce some of the compost into the subsoil, more evenly distribute water using key-line principles, and begin the reclamation of our strip-mined soils. We'll initially grow grasses, legumes, and tillage radish/turnip here for forage and soil conditioning. THEN, incorporate the cattle and sheep bedding and manure into the composting process.

We have our initial soil tests results but it'll be another 2 months before we have finished compost to test. Penn State can provide this service but I don't know if they are able to test for persistent herbicides. Do you recommend a certain lab?

I'll keep you updated as we see progress.

A million Thank You's for helping me develop a recipe and method for this leaf mold-compost pile project. There's much DOING in front of me.
7 years ago
Thanks for explaining the method for propagating mushroom spawn culture. When you say:

Take a bowl of your media and microwave it with water for a good 6 or 8 minutes, enough for it to come to a good boil.

Is it best if I use the drier bagged leaves that have less likelihood of already being thoroughly colonized by bacteria/fungus? Also, is this microwaving process going to stink pretty bad and piss off/gross out my wife? If I wanted to pasteurize (?) more material than can be done in a bowl in the microwave without getting high-tech could I a) boil the media in a large pot over a fire outside or b) use a pressure cooker and quart mason jars?

With regard to the precautions you advised when inoculating the compost pile you wrote:

check the food waste that you are adding to the pile. If it has any vegetables that are rotting with liquefaction, like leafy vegetables that turn to green goo between your fingers, those are plant pathogens and you want to sterilize those to get rid of the pathogen. You wouldn't want your compost to spread any of them.

I'm assuming these pathogenic bacteria are the result of anaerobic conditions in the bins before we receive them. There is definitely a liquefied component to our food waste stock, maybe 5-10%. Some of it is kale and other greens we grow on the farm. "Cooking" this slop in the way you suggested the leaf media is out of the question. Could we treat the slop with lime to alter the pH outside of the range of these bacteria's survival? Any other suggestions for eradicating these pathogens?

My last questions regard the inoculation process...
The first phase of composting is to stockpile the parent material in a proper ratio. This starts with a base layer of woody tree trimmings, wood chips, and course leaf material laid 2-3 feet thick on the ground in a long wind row. The next four days we are receiving the food waste, 10-15 tons a day and laying it on the base material about 18" thick. Each day covering the material with another 1-2 feet of pure hardwood leaves. The next week we repeat the same process on the same pile resulting in a pile approx. 7 feet tall and 12 feet wide. We blend the pile with a backhoe at this point and put an 18" layer of leaves over the pile. During the blending we are busting up clods of leaves and adding moisture if necessary. I'd like to inoculate with spawn at this phase. I'm also thinking we could lay 6-8" perforated pipe through the pile with the ends open to the air and cover the rest of the pile with tarps. Will the darkness provided by the tarps give the spawn a leg up in colonizing the pile? Will the excess heat from the tarp make it harder for the fungus to grow? These are questions I will address with ongoing research. I'm asking these questions based on the assumption you like hypothesizing about this kind of thing. Thanks again for sharing your passion and insight.
7 years ago
I'm 29, i don't have earth shattering wisdom for you but I AM purchasing my first tractor with a high lift from a friend. I'm finally ready for it. I'm so happy I didn't get a machine when I wanted one. I started as a gardener getting excited about every little drama, the cucumber beetle orgies, fuhgin quackgrass, the horn worms! No fumes, no noise, working with a hand tools, shovels, digging forks, carts, and wheel barrels. I think Plato said that no one is really ready for Socrates' teachings until they are age thirty and I'm not sure if anybody should have a machine til then either. Instead of ripping up ground I've been reading Fukuoka, and Mollison, jacke, Jeavons, Coleman, Holtzer, Muir, and manuals on organic gardening. Oh and the people i have met:) while making the connections between permaculture practices and civil rights, freedom, spirituality, and FUN! Now, I feel connected to these people and their ideas through a shared mission. I have children and a deep impetus for helping future earthlings to get to experience what we have had the great fortune to experience. So now I have a machine to help build our formerly strip-mined soils with lots of compost generated from many tons of food waste and leaves. So at nearly thirty years old, I'm happy to have realized that the work of building the soil with patience starts with building up our life experience.
7 years ago
Your ONLY concern would be if you're Organic certified, which I'm assuming your garden isn't. The conventional past of your new friend is just that, the past. In your organic garden bed, it will soon metabolize and slough off the remnants of chemical fertilizer it received and it will be grow naturally and happily. Congrats man!
7 years ago
Hello, interesting thread...First thing, why are the few books I've seen on this topic $100+. I've been fascinated with the idea of mycoremediation for years so my instinct has always been to "get the book" but the couple I've found from various sellers are through the roof. Any suggestions for reading material?

Some friends and I recently started a non-profit soil building co-op. Our main project is recieving and composting food waste from a high volume source and hauler...about 40 tons per week. Leaves from deciduous hardwoods make up 98 percent of our carbon source and we mix it 3 to 1 with the food waste which is primarily produce. Conventionally grown produce. We are concerned that the pesticide/herbicides used to grow this produce parent material will persist through the composting process. My first inclination was fungus. Any suggestions on how we could start innoculating a pile and what species we should use to get this research going?

Thanks for sharing your passion and especially the bit about lignins and cellulose.

7 years ago
So what I'm picking up from Dale's post is that the cereals will ripen best in swaths where they can receive as much sun as possible, not in and amongst a grove of trees. This makes sense to me in terms of ease of harvest as well. As for the low growing clover, I've only grown alsike clover as a living mulch for annual veggies and I like it. cheaper than dutch white clover but grows a little taller I hear.
I like the idea of a swale to the north of the grains bordered by a planting of alders (7-10 ft intervals?). The alders would still serve to improve the soils by way of N fixing, leaves dropping,improving soil drainage, and windbreak but would not shade the grain crop.
2 things about black locust...I've seen huge stands that spread like crazy by way of underground runners AND really prolific seed. The upside is that the wood is great fence post material, very rot resistant. Also, black locust has nasty spines all over it, great for a security fence.

Lastly, how do they compare as food sources for native animals, as nectary plants, forage?
7 years ago
I've been reading Edible Food Forests by Dave Jacke and Eric T...the book recommends alder as a quick growing nursery tree that will help provide protection to leeward trees/crops. I like your idea of working cereal grains in with this nitrogen fixing tree/ shrub.

First thought, maybe after harvesting grain and mowing/scything the grain stalks I would consider mulching heavily with leaves or planting clover or buckwheat (something that will germinate and fill in quickly). Then, before the cover crop flowers, fence in the area with electro net and pasture a group of tiller chickens in the area. They should prepare the area well for the fall sowing of wheat before the leaves fall.
Second thought, I've read that alder is a great wood to propagate mushrooms. I'd consider coppicing the tree into a shrub to keep it short as not to let it shade your grains and to provide you with lots of mushroom growing medium...thanks for putting your ideas out there.
7 years ago
Ken... you pretty much described the exact process, from table to dish station/waste bin, that occurs at the restaurant I work at. The only difference for the servers when collecting scraps is that they scrape the leftovers into the bucket at the foot of the garbage can instead of into the garbage can. I do get the occasional straw, fork, or ramekin in the food scrap bucket.

It's seems like there's some agreement, and maybe even legal restraints against feeding post-consumer waste to pigs. Seems like a good rule of thumb to me, I'd probably extend that to all mammals and save the post-consumer scraps for chickens and composting, Vermicomposting is probably a good choice but I have heard of worms disliking overly greasy/oily substances in their living environment (I think it disrupted their reproductive processes) but dilluted with hay, leaves, sawdust, or woodchips I'm sure even the greasiest scraps could make good worm bedding/food.

As for food additives, thanks for the tid-bit on 'Salad Fresh'. I eat alot of salad at work - it's free for employees and I can make my own in whatever way I feel. It's conventinally grown lettuce and no doubt has the citric acid based product in it. I wanna look into how ingesting alot of this product could affect my health.

Ken wrote:

It all boils down to your level of tolerance for the amounts of chemicals being brought to your land. In this day and age, it is tough to get away from synthesized contaminants. In a Certified Organic operation, restaurant waste would not be suitable. If your operation uses feed purchased off the shelf, restaurant food waste can save you money and give the critters some diversity in their diet.

I think this is an area where the emerging sustainable farming community needs to do some soul searching. There seems to be a sort of fixation (asphixiation maybe?) on the idea of organic. Sure, the term implies something being grown without the intentional addition of chemical ferts/pesticides/and herbicides but it doesn't rule out monocroping, foolish soil tillage techniques, and more to the point, the infiltration of the growing environment by ambient and adjacent pollution sources. The world is a sullied place, it's the bed we've made and by choosing not to lay in it and saying "not in my back yard" when it comes to collecting and using the fallout from the chemical agriculture model (modern wastes i.e. restaurant food scraps) we are sort of castrating the real rehabilitative potential of the sustainable farming movement. I'm not attacking the 'all-organic or nothing' types out there I'm just making the point that we may be at a point in the Earth-human relationship where we have to take a triage approach to reclaiming these materials for the good of the land and the future health of humanity.

Hey Walter, I only have chickens so far but I think pigs will be next on the farm. It's great to hear how you're feeding with the dairy by-products. I have two cheesehouses in a 10 mile radius, I'll definately be feeling them out for some of these materials. Just curious, what animals are you training with the bread, and what are you training them to do?
8 years ago
Definately, I think chickens due to their HIGHLY acidic digestive juices and quick metabolic rate are good little digesters for restaurant waste. I can understand not wanting to feed the post consumer stuff to pigs as well, were just to close genetically and physiologically? the pathogens are more likely, if at all, to be a problem with any mammal. I'm finding now that I'm bringing home too many food scraps for the chickens to eat. they generally pick out what they like and then go munch on winter rye coming up in the garden beds.

I like the idea of spreading the scraps onto the first few layers of my hugel beds as I begin to build them. I haven't read Sepp's book but I'm thinking something like - In the spring, start with a base of semi-rotten logs (from the swamp the beavers created over the last few years on our back acre) then smaller water-logged twiggy stuff, 4 to 6 inch layer of food scraps, then old hay, manure, a little more twiggy stuff, food scraps, hay, manure, garden soil and a skin of hay/cut weeds...let the hugels drop over the rest of the summer til late July/August. Sow buckwheat in July/August then chop and drop on the bed or chop n save seed in Octoberish. Then plant winter rye (or wheat). Chop that crop the following spring and plant some potatoes or another annual crop in the hugel in the spring of year two.

Alotta labor in there I know, but I think a good safe way to incorporate massive ammounts of restaurant food waste into the farm fertility cycle.

Oh and what about bones? i sorta gather them in a bucket (mostly chicken wing bones and pork ribs) as I walk throught the chicken yard. Biochar? I dunno it seems like it could be a kind of an homage to the great chicken spirit to spread the ashes of her unfortunate corporate farm kept descendants into a system that honors chickens and their purpose in SAVING THE WORLD! But then again, Biodynamics recommends using the ashes of certain pest insects to deter them from ever coming back. Wait, I think I just answered my own question...BONE SAUCE! for protecting newly planted trees. Remember this?>>>

8 years ago
Maximizing bugs sounds like a great idea, and fun. I guess your thread is called "Feeding chickens healthily and as naturally as possible," fettuccini alfredo probably doesnt meet the criteria. I definately recommmend, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. He spoke at the Mother Earth News Fair about how he feeds his chickens lotsa greens, he even grows grasses in trays in the greenhouse during the winter. He also manages a worm farm in the floor of his greenhouse. The worms work horse manure into compost and provide his birds with protien and I guess a lot of vitamin B. There's stuff in there about Black Soldier Fly Larvae and my favorite - splaying open roadkill in the chicken pasture. Apparently the resulting hm hm fly larvae make some really nutritous natural feed.
8 years ago