Alder Burns

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since Feb 25, 2012
northern California
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Recent posts by Alder Burns

I agree with the idea of tackling an area this size with cardboard plus a cover mulch, but would add two more suggestions...1. Flatten or press to the ground, rather than cut, as much of the stuff as you can.  I have done this with a 55 gallon barrel, either empty or partially filled with something for extra weight.  This is because the new sprouts that will come up from the roots of some things will have sharp spiky points that can poke up through the layers.  The coarse grasses are particularly likely to do this.  But if you press the stuff down the old growing points will often continue to grow along sideways under there till they die out.  If you can gather the materials on site and can accomplish the flattening/cutting and layering it on fairly quickly, I would actually wait till during the growing season when everything is growing actively and you will get better control.  Provided you handle the barrel with gloves, this should give you less contact with the poison ivy than any kind of hand-chopping.  2.  For the areas with the worst stump, especially those not flush with the ground or stuff that won't flatten easily, consider getting some big pieces of scrap carpet and lay these down on it, in overlapping layers.  Leave them for a year or two, and then move on to the next section.  This stuff won't break down nearly as fast as cardboard and so will continue to smother the stuff for as long as you leave it there.
1 week ago
Based on my 25 years living in Georgia, most magnolias are by nature wetland trees. Especially sweetbay and southern magnolia (M. grandiflora).  They can survive when planted on uplands but there is always a risk that in a drought they will get stressed and unhappy.  So I would be prepared to irrigate if you try this, especially for the first few years.  The other deciduous species, like cucumber tree, as well as the early-blooming Asian magnolias, are more native to upland soils.  But only sweetbay is aromatic as you say.  I've never heard of any of them being repellent to insects.  Also, I'm not sure this can happen with sweetbay, but it definitely happens with southern magnolia....they dry fallen leaves are very resistant to decay and hang around a long time.  I have seen them breeding mosquitoes from rainwater puddled up in them!
2 weeks ago
We're cleaning out and decluttering in comtemplation of eventually living in a smaller space, and so some good things just have to go.  Offering our old collection of PC Activists...a complete run from winter 2004-summer 2017, a total of 49 issues. Additional14 miscellaneous issues going back as far as 1992.  Plus 6 miscellaneous issues of Permaculture magazine (UK)   Then a set of Communities magazine, complete from winter 2006-summer 2010 plus 5 miscellaneous issues (total of 21).  Asking $20 for ALL, most of which will be for shipping (within USA only).  PM me for details.
1 month ago
There are at least two species of lupin that produce seeds large and abundant enough for use as food.  One is from the Mediterranean and the other from the Andes, I believe.  They are popular crops in some parts of the world (Australia comes to mind first). Apparently the seeds need fairly extensive processing to render them edible....a leaching process, or fermentation into tempeh.  But they are very high in protein and might be a good crop in the right climate.  I have planted some with a view to their being a winter/early spring crop for me, comparable to peas or fava beans; but they are not up yet
1 month ago
I've been using an EGO for the last few years and I absolutely love it!  It starts instantly and more struggling with yanking a pull cord on a recalcitrant engine!  Quiet!  No more blue smoke everywhere!  Less fire danger from hot muffler! It can do anything that I could do with my small Stihl, with a lot less hassle. I've sucessfully dealt with two-foot thick logs with it (by cutting in, and then splitting off some sections, and then cutting further, etc.)    
     That said, I've always lived in the South or California when I've burned wood, so the quantity I need in a year is moderate, and I've always been able to get it long hauling trips.  The EGO will run for 20 or 30 minutes of pretty steady cutting on a battery, and then it needs to recharge for about that long or a bit longer.  On the farm this works very well because I can move the wood around, etc. while the battery is charging.  If I had a second battery I could cut more or less continuously.  But I couldn't drive out at a distance and cut more than the battery's worth.  With my small car, that's about good, too.  If I had a pickup truck, I'd probably need 3 or more batteries to fill it.
   The only other drawback I can think of is the relatively narrow and flimsy bar and chain.  I end up replacing both on a yearly basis.
2 months ago
I would recommend visiting a place called Tamera.  I have never been myself but have met a couple people who have and bring back good reports.  It's a fairly large permaculture-oriented intentional community, where they do "all the things"....water catchment, alternative buildings and energy, community dynamics, teaching, etc.  They have some very alternative spiritual and social beliefs but huge lessons in land management can still be learned.
2 months ago
Not sure if it's voided the warranty or not, but here's a few of mine: 1.  I built a wooden box, open at the back at an angle, that my Mantis electric tiller sits up on.  Taped the switch closed, in the on position, so I must plug and unplug it as a switch.  With it running atop the box, I feed handfuls of barley and wheat heads into the open side and let them spin around and out the bottom.  A hacked threshing machine!  It may take two or three passes but then I have separated grains ready for winnowing (and, in the case of the barley, polishing...for which I use a Vita-Mix blender set on medium for just the right amount of time!) 2. I took the metal blade out of the electric lawn mower, and drilled four holes in the edges of the plastic fan wheel behind the blade, and tied strands of heavy weed-eater string into them.  Presto...a string mower that I can use in fire season without the risk of hitting a rock and producing a dangerous spark!
2 months ago
For years when I lived near Americus, GA (which I think is a zone 8a or 8b....I remember occasional freezes in the teens) I grew a Meyer lemon and a satsuma mandarin orange up against the south wall of a cement block building.  I had the area nearly covered in big chunks of concrete scraps (urbanite) with the idea that this would absorb solar heat, and I also kept four metal stakes around the trees (they never got over five or six feet tall) and in a hard freeze I would throw a piece of plastic or cloth over these, making a tent over the trees.  As I recall I would do this on any night supposedly below about 25.  I don't know if it made that much difference, but they thrived and produced, and after I left that farm, and then visited afterward, they had obviously frozen to the ground and were resprouting....likely enough because they had gone uncovered in the intervening winters.
2 months ago
Be sure to try the Jelly or Pindo palm, Butia capitata.  It is slow growing but easily hard throughout zone 8 and possibly colder, and will produce an abundance of fruit when mature.  Big clusters of orange berries, the size of a muscadine grape or larger, each with a single pit.  Sort of pineapple tasting.  Makes good wine  The tree needs no pollinator, is tough to drought and storm, and is evergreen and beautiful.
3 months ago
Depending on where you are, carob and mesquite might be possibilities.  Both like dry climates, and might not thrive in rainy humid areas.
3 months ago