Alder Burns

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since Feb 25, 2012
Homesteader, organic gardener, permaculture educator.
northern California
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Recent posts by Alder Burns

I think that in climates that experience more frost, tagasaste will be a disappointment.  I had a few and they all gradually died out.  I'm technically in a Mediterranean climate in inland California but I regularly get winter lows to 20F (-7C).  My main N-fixing trees that are thriving are black locust(Robinia), "mimosa" as Americans call it (Alibizia julibrissin), blackwood acacia (A. melanoxylon) and Casuarina cunninghamiana. Of these I would have to say the Albizia is the only one vigorous enough so far to be cutting any for forage or to consider coppicing, which is surprising since it is not native to a Mediterranean climate.  All of them are under drip irrigation though, so if I shut this off perhaps one of the others would edge into place of preference.
3 days ago
In a climate that is usually amenable to the plants in question, but where the occasional freeze might otherwise kill them, consider a simple overhead sprinkler.  Left running all night or for the duration of the freezing weather, it will form ice all over the plant.  As long as water is in the process of turning into ice, the temperature of the whole thing won't go much below 32F/0C.  I have attached a sprinkler to the top of a tall bamboo pole to go up and over full size fruit trees this is also a good thing to try for blossom protection on deciduous fruit.  The main danger is that in sever cold, the ice may get so heavy as to bend or break the branches, and if there are several consecutive nights of cold, the ground might get soggy from the excess water....which is also a problem for many kinds of trees.
1 month ago
Don't forget events and groups that are allied to permaculture but don't use the name.  Most states have some kind of organic grower's group, for instance....this is where my partner first laid eyes on me.  Think about environmental organizations, activism around threatened areas or other issues of concern, and just other fun social festivals come to mind.  Of course all of this assumes pre-or-post covid world, but there is also a surprising amount going on on line as well.  It has many dangers and drawbacks, but I met one awesome girlfriend on a dating website, too
1 month ago
Why not pluck the birds and clean them, so as to harvest the liver, and then age the rest of the bird?  At least with other animals like sheep and cows you clean the innards out right away and then age the rest of the animal in the cold as desired.
1 month ago
I have proven to myself again and again the hard way that it is nearly impossible in many cases to "tuck in" desirable plants into any kind of existing forest or shrubland and expect them to succeed.  What's already there is already established and will overwhelm the new plants more than likely, competing for water on drier sites and sunlight everywhere.  Most common food plants, including fruit and nut trees, need some direct sun to thrive.  In addition, new plants will often need supplemental water during dry spells, if you have them, and fencing against animals.  I have found it far better to think, and to work, in patches....clearings large enough to let sunlight hit the ground.  Make them large enough to hold several mature trees of your choice, as well as infill shrubs, perennials, etc.  That way you can fence the entire area and direct irrigation to it, etc. rather than keeping track of a bunch of scattered small plants.  An excellent way to do this is to just plant gardens in these patches...annual veggies, grains, etc. and then plant your perennials and trees among these.  The new plants will benefit hugely from the additional attention primarily directed at the annuals, and when they fill in enough to shade the annuals out, you move on and start a new patch somewhere else and keep going till you have as much food forest as you want.  This is working with succession, rather than against it.
1 month ago
I also live in CA and have lots of oak leaves.  I also try to avoid the work involved in deliberate composting and try to minimize the amount of time I spend handling stuff like this.  And they must be taken up for fire suppression, along with the pine needles which are the other main item.  Some end up under the sheep in their night pens, but that only needs so many.  Every year I completely dig out one of my 30 foot raised beds, setting the soil off to the side.  This allows me to look at the mesh and plastic in the bottom and be sure that no rodents, tree roots, or bermuda runners have encroached, and then I begin to refill the bed, layer by layer, and add in all the leaves, as well as any other garden cleanup stuff.  I cut up cardboard and put it in there too.  When a layer of this stuff is six or eight inches deep, I pour urine on it for a couple of weeks, then add a layer of the soil back, and start again.  By spring planting time the bed is topped up to the brim and all the rakings and garden prunings and sheep manure and humanure and livestock slaughter scrap and everything else compostable is down in there.  As time goes on it all composts, down there while I'm irrigating stuff over top, and since I have three such beds it will be three years before it's dug out again, at which time all the stuff has become fluffy soil.  This process gradually increases the volume of the soil in the beds, but that is fine since I've been slowly adding more beds elsewhere!  I long ago gave up trying to mulch on the surface of the soil, like I did when I lived in the South.  The stuff never breaks down, it's a fire hazard, and it seems to make an instant habitat for large numbers of earwigs, millipedes, pillbugs, and slugs.  My conclusion is that in the dry West, mulch really belongs below the soil, not on top of it.  Compost happens by default, without direct attention.
1 month ago
I have done it several times with a small glass still sold as laboratory equipment.  There are several websites out there giving detailed instructions on distillation...the ones I like are out of New Zealand where it is legal.  I think that glass, copper, or stainless can work...but not iron or aluminum.  One advantage of glass is that you can see and supervise what's happening in there.  The biggest issues, in my understanding, are making sure to throw out the first bit that comes off, this is high in methanol and poisonous....having an accurate thermometer helps decide the cutoff point for this, and the other danger is the extreme flammability of the distilled creates a vapor above it like gasoline.  Since you're using a flame or heat source to run the still, it's vital to direct this well off to the side, preferably behind some kind of barrier from the flame or heat.  With this in mind, I've done it on a propane camp stove many times.  It is a good way to convert "bad" wine or other homebrew, and a basic wash to make it can be made out of anything sweet.  I have thrown yeast onto dissolved candy, bananas, dried fruit, or whatever....and by the time it comes out of the still and sits on charcoal for a while it all tastes like tequila no matter the source!
1 month ago
I've been making tempeh frequently for many years (maybe around 1986!?)  I've basically followed the directions in the old "Book of Tempeh" from the '70's and pretty similar to what you do.  Usually I just trample on the soaked, briefly cooked beans in a bucket barefoot to separate the hulls and break the beans in half, and then slurry them off with repeated rinsings.  I often pre-ferment mine then, in a pot with water to cover and set somewhere warm for 24-48 hours more....sometimes I add a bit of kefir, homemade wine, or sauerkraut juice to this as s starter.  This prefermentation naturally acidifies the stuff so you don't need to add vinegar, and it can improve it's nutrition also.  Then I boil this up for 45m to an hour and proceed as you show.  For an incubator I have small brooder heater in a cardboard box with some racks rigged over it....this has the advantage of a thermostat so I can basically set it and leave it till I think to check it.  I have done pots of hot water in coolers and ovens and moving tempeh closer and further from woodstoves and things like that too.  Been getting my starter from direct from Indonesia...prices are good and several kinds available, but I also do my own starter and usually get several generations before it begins to degrade.   Lately been playing with making it out of fava beans, since these grow easier in my climate....
2 months ago
Years ago when I lived in an offgrid cabin in the backwoods of Georgia I made a shower with a 50 foot coil of black plastic irrigation hose, laid on the cabin roof under a piece of clear plastic.  A tank on a hill provided pressure to this, and to a cold water hose that ran directly to the shower head, where a simple hose "Y" enabled me to mix hot and cold as needed.  The shower itself was inside a greenhouse/shadehouse....covered with plastic in the winter and attached to the back door of the cabin which usually stood open, enabling heat from the woodstove to heat the greenhouse at night and on cloudy days.  The plastic was taken down and replaced with shade cloth for summer.  This basically enabled hot showers in the afternoon in all but the most hard freezing or cold cloudy other words all spring-summer-fall and probably half the time in the winter.  In hard freezes I would shut this all off and go to plan B...a pot of water on the wood stove!
2 months ago
If you have clear-grained logs and want the most rot-resistant parts for outdoor use, try to split off the heartwood from the sapwood.  This will be more easily done if you first split the log at least into quarters.  The heartwood is the dark red, highly aromatic center of the log, and this will last much longer in any outdoor use, including ground contact, than the whitish outer sapwood.
3 months ago