Alder Burns

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

It has been some years since I worked with solar, and I maxed out on a small 2 KW off grid cabin system.  But I do know that now there are things called micro-inverters, which is basically a little inverter that sits on the back of each panel, or perhaps a small group of panels.  If they are relatively inexpensive it might save a good bit on wiring since you will be moving AC from the panel area to the other stuff, rather than DC which requires fat expensive cables to move it any distance.  If you have to run the DC a long way it might even be worth it to sell the inverter you have and get the small ones.    I also know that another very important difference between grid-tie and off-grid is that the system must have some kind of automatic shutdown or disconnect in case the grid has an outage.  That way power line workers won't get shocked by power coming back into the system from your solar when they think there is no power in the area!
1 day ago
The ultimate cheap greenhouse, which I built two or three of on different homesteads in Georgia, cost me nothing but a few staples, a bit of tape, and a couple of hours' worth of burning a candle.
      The frame was green saplings, wire-tied to metal stakes pounded into the ground, and bent to overlap one another as arches overhead....8 or 10 feet tall, and wired together, along with several horizontal poles.
      The cover was two layers of plastic, made of mattress and furniture bags from the mattress and furniture store dumpsters.  These goods are shipped in huge plastic bags, which can be cut open into large square or rectangular pieces.  These can be "welded" together by folding the edges of two pieces together and passing them through a candle flame, thus making any size plastic desired.  Small holes can be patched with clear plastic packing tape.  Two such pieces were put up over the frame and weighed down with logs on either side, and some excess at one end gathered together and tucked into the frame and weighed down in cold, or opened up on a warm day, with the other end stapled to the door of the cabin, or in one case the opening of a large wall tent. Some scrounged baler twine going from log to log over the top of the plastic helped keep it tight and less likely to be thrashed in a wind.  By pulling the plastic down in warm weather and folding it up out of the sun, I could get two or sometimes three winters' use out of it.  Not only did I start many seedlings and winter potted plants on benches inside of this, but I could grow larger plants right in the ground. 
5 days ago
I think the "sweetpotatoblessings" site is using old information.  Steele Plant Company does not offer Sumor this year, and unfortunately being in California takes the SC Foundation off the table for me.  Another white or nearly white variety could work as long as it's not sweet.  But information on them is limited.  Right now I'm perusing Sand Hill Preservation Center's list.  They seem to have the largest selection of sweet potato varieties available mailorder anywhere, bar none.  I've used it to get my three standby orange varieties started (by looking through and picking out ten likely candidates, and then growing these out and evaluating them in my system, including the ease of propagating them from one year to the next whether by vines or by tubers).  But no Sumor!
1 week ago
A few years ago I grew a wonderful white sweet potato variety named "Sumor".  It was extremely vigorous and produced a large amount of white-fleshed potatoes that were not very sweet and could be used much as one would white potatoes. Since I preferred the more common orange-fleshed sweet varieties, I eventually quit growing it, even though it outproduced the others.  Now I'm living with a partner who is allergic to white potatoes, but can eat sweet potatoes and we are thinking that white sweet potaotoes that are not too sweet (like this "Sumor") would be ideal to try.  But I cannot find it anywhere online.   Just wondering if anyone is familiar with it, has some slips to share, or knows about any other varieties of white or nearly white sweet potatoes that are NOT sweet?
1 week ago
I would mulch the plants with them fresh and not composted.  I think composting will reduce the acidifying properties.
1 week ago
Coffee grounds are a unique resource...they are after all a seed and therefore rich in nutrients, and because they are boiled or steamed to extract the coffee, they start out in a semi-sterile condition.  This combination makes them an ideal substrate for certain edible mushrooms.  And, as mentioned above, black soldier flies....which are wonderful feed for poultry and fish!  So there are at least two possible yields (both of which would be much more worth pursuing if the grounds are available in quantity!) before letting the residue from these processes go to compost.  As a compost or soil amendment, I've read that they encourage acidity in the soil....probably more so in an uncomposted state....this can be a problem or a benefit depending on what your native soil is like.  I have alkaline soil and so coffee grounds when I get them in any quantity (Starbucks, for instance, often bags their grounds and offers them for free) I use them around acid loving plants like blueberries.
1 week ago
Bermudagrass is a traditional, common, and vigorous pasture grass for your region.  It's only drawback is the seeds are quite small, and it is just as common or more so to start it from "sprigs" or small sections of the running rhizomes.  As long as you plant these in a cleared field in the sun it should establish with decent moisture, and will tolerate extreme drought once established.  It will turn brown and go dormant in a hard freeze, but animals will still eat it, and excess summer growth can be cut for hay.  Some farmers drill in a winter pasture crop like rye or clover into the bermuda sod and these grow up through it in the winter and spring, to be replaced by the bermuda in the summer from the roots.
1 week ago
I take a different tack and get a good bit of motivation to save from....I think of the price of a favorite food or drink.  Crabs are an example...the large Dungeness crabs average around $8-$10 each in season here.  So when I'm contemplating a $100 purchase I automatically think  "would I rather have this, or ten crabs?" Or a hundred cans of sardines? Or 25 bottles of good beer?  Etc.
1 week ago
I clip acorns in half with a good heavy-duty pair of hand pruners (Fiskars brand is my favorite). This is because they are still moist inside when they drop, and many already contain grubs, which will eat up much of the acorn if they are left whole and many of the rest will mold.  These are white oak group acorns (blue and valley oak), which germinate quickly and are perishable.  They are more comparable to chestnuts than they are to other tree nuts, more starchy than oily.  I know that Native people here preferred the black oak, which stores longer and easier, in a whole state. (it is more tannic, and requres more leaching....and doesn't grow near here)  Clipped in half, the grubs crawl out and collect in the bottom of the buckets I put them in (where they can be separated and fed to the chickens), and then the halves are spread in the sun to dry down hard for long storage.
2 weeks ago
I did this for years and years when I had a plastic greenhouse, and it was a delight to shower out there among the plants in the warmth of the afternoon.  I think the plants enjoyed it too.
     Even better than a hot shower in the greenhouse is a hot tub!  A friend of mine has this, and fires it up on the coldest nights with a woodstove.  The added benefit is he leaves the hot water in the tub overnight to help heat the greenhouse.
2 weeks ago