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Rick Valley

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since Mar 12, 2012
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Recent posts by Rick Valley

I have a small asparagus bed- originally 4 crowns- on a low berm about 10 ft from the street, and there are also some roses and perennials there. After 8 years or so things seemed to be slowing down, despite mulching with bagged manure. This year the first shoots were very skinny, and my first picking was 2 of pencil caliber.
In desperation I gave the area a "golden shower", which, considering the location right by the street, was administered by gallon jug. WOW! everywhere I "fertigated", up popped bigger spears. second picking was X3 considering weight, and they seemed to be spreading in the thick mulch. As a kid a couple miles S. of Lake Ontario I picked wild asparagus on the sandy ridges from past lake levels and brought 'em home to Mum, so besides mulch I have added sand at times, which I got at the coast. So far I haven't seen any 1 inch caliper spears, but I am being careful to leave the biggest and merely thin, and the bed does seem to be building energy and spreading. My "gardener snakes" seem to be living in the mulch and maybe keeping the slugs down, because there's been little slug damage: so far this year only one spear has been damaged. The slug was detained for interrogation, but maintained silence, and so was released to the driveway but could not find shelter before a bird found him/her.
Here's a hack I didn't mention before: dirt is necessary for humus formation, and I've been told that humus is more stable than plain rot, which can off-gas nutrients like nitrogen. Ever just watch a truckload of autumn leaves melt down to almost nothing? Well- dirt is necessary, but what's really necessary is clay ions. Now trying to get a good dispersal of clay in a pile is a bit tedious, because it clumps.  But- How about a clay slip (as opposed to slipping in wet clay)  So I mine clay when/where it's available, put it in covered buckets and keep it moist. When the time comes I put the clay in a plastic bucket, put the drywall mixing paddle in my half-inch heavy-duty drill and make mud! (being careful about electric shock around water, rubber boots and gloves) Or if I am feely burly bad, and the clay is good and wet I take my drywall  "potato masher" (which looks just like that but is a 2-hand size tool and a real workout.) When you have achieved a fair "clay slip" mix, as the ceramicists use, you'll have something that coats all the regular compost stock and you will like the results. Currently I live in a valley that was covered with beaver dams and meandering rivers, subject to frequent volcanic ash-falls and so finding good useful mineral soil here is dam easy. You can also get good ideas on working with clay from natural builders, who use clay frequently.
2 weeks ago
In my garden this last season Dogbane was supporting a diverse population of flies, bees and wasps- before you go eeyew!, I'm talking tiny, 1/4 inch and smaller species known for eating pests (usually in the larval stage: watch "The Alien") So I'm keeping it around. You can tell the difference between Flies/Dipterans ("two wings) because unlike the Hymenopterans ("membrane-winged") they can fly backwards, due to the missing wings being modified into little "drumsticks" that balance things out with a counter-beat. Most of them were flashing black and yellow warning colors, even if they were "flying liars", or is that "lying fliers"? The seeds for dogbane are like tiny milkweed seeds- a close relative, and also have silk "parachutes" even though the pods are very skinny.
2 months ago
I'm a black locust fanatic. I'm also someone who has been conscious of Ukraine as a country since I was in 5th grade when my best friend's dad was an Ukrainian immigrant. And I played a lot of Risk (the conquer the world board game) It originated in Ukraine, and rather realistically the Ukraine territory in the game is the eastern door to Europe. NOW: check out any combat video from the war that shows the common landscape of fields separated by "forest strips": I have seen very little footage of these strips that does not include Black Locust. It's not native, and they love it. They actually have named cultivars for honey production. (I eat the flowers in salad, and I'm NOT DEAD YET!) I am about to build a grape trellis for a Swenson's Red grape in front of my west-facing living-room window and get the grape up above the window. It's easy to split locust. I've heard boat builders like it, and I have built huts of paja reque with locust posts that lasted pretty damn well considering the size of the posts and leaving the sapwood on (not nearly as rot resistant)
2 months ago
I may have to go out there, the sun is shining. I have a hard time deciding what the best & easiest veggie is, and bang for energy buck matters too, I think. But I have a bunch that merely need 1) disturbance of the soil 2) to be allowed to set seed. And they are about 75% of my garden and they even move into my small lawn areas. OK, I live in a cool Mediterranean climate, so it figures I would go with Mediterranean crops, eh? So: Radicchio chicory, Parsnip (a Roman staple, eh?) Italian mustard, and Collards (well, isn't there a Rome in Georgia?) Bonus points: all of these have flowers which are awesome attractive for beneficial insects. I can go out there right now and harvest any of these, and all I did was disturb the soil by pulling weeds I don't want, and water in the dry spells. OK. Sun's out for awhile yet, the snow melted and dinnertime is nigh, I'ma out to harvest, then make dinner.
It interests me how many riparian species coppice well (Riparia is the Roman Goddess of rivers) Could it be that beavers selected for species that regrow? Anyway, my favorite alder is Italian- they do fine on dryland sites or on a river bank and they coppice well, and tolerate urban soils which often have abundant lime (from concrete) Maples that are great for coppice include Vine Maple and Big Leaf Maple. Osage Orange is in the Mulberry Family and is horribly spiny, but one badass tough drought tolerant coppice tree with mega-hard wood, that powered Comanche military dominance because it makes awesome bows, good for hunting buffalo or invading Spaniards, which originated the mongrel common name "Bodark" from from French "Bois D'Arc" or "bow wood" in "Merakin" Now I'ma have to see if there's a You Tube of the song "Choctaw Bingo"... with the line "Like an Ol' Bodark Fence Post You Could Hang A Pipe Rail Gate From" If you've never heard it, it is my Favorite Country song. It has been proposed that the Osage Orange fruit was a dispersal mechanism which appealed to the tastes of some now-extinct mega fauna.
So ANYTHING cellulosic can burn, but woods that have elite properties can really make you some bank ($) and the scrap can be firewood, is how I feel about it. When I am living with wood heat, I get paid to cut my firewood: How's that work you say? When I lived in Portland I heated my place with trimmings off of Cherry Laurel hedges, very good Hardwood, and in pieces that don't need splitting.
2 months ago
I vote for plants with big leaves, that suppress weedy grasses, so another vote for Rhubarb, and I think Hostas could do it too. (and they're good edible flowers) Daylilies (more edible flowers) Are you too cold there for Artichokes?(they do have a limited life span, but they're good pioneers) Yucca do some of them American standards. Iris, incl, Spurias, (I have a Ukrainian one that's a deep brown, 4ft, tall, the Hummers like it) Thimble Berry is a good shrubbery if it's hardy for ya, and there's other big leaf Rubus that aren't nasty spiny and would really like any partial shade from a tree if there is such handy. Hydrangea would grow there, but  it's not of much use beyond floral arrangements.
2 months ago
California Black Walnut is a separate species to Eastern Black Walnut. I have them in a row on the east boundary of my lot. Someone speculated that it was used for rootstock for English Walnut (of which there some N. of my place on the same line) And the English walnut blighted off or otherwise croaked. Elsewhere I have seen huge Black Walnuts that were probably planted by folks from Missouri or whatever, but many f them have had disease problems in recent years,
2 months ago
I just figured out why the damn hybrid plum isn't bearing: the ROOTSTOCK took over and it isn't evident except the bloom time is different! At this point, the variety is miserably sick, failing beyond help. so i will have some really good firewood and some place to plant new things afterward.
2 months ago
I have had my first cuppa (7 AM) and it is gray out there. I expect to be in it. This weekend is First Sunday, and as a member of the Oregon Country Fair Vegmanec (VEGetation MANagement and ECology crew I will be working on First Sunday. We had a heavy snow/ice event a week+ ago, and rumor is the ashes got thrashed, it's pure chaos. I'll have my big saw. (not petrol powered- Powered by Breakfast and a field lunch.) After that I will drive up to Ferguson Road and find the Long Tom Grange where a Watershed Council fearless leader will be talking, with substantial hor dervishes he says. I'ma ask him if he is aware that the oldest hard-date archaeology in the Willamette Valley was found at Fair: a Camas Oven of basalt hunks, buried over 5 feet down in the silt. Since then the river took it, but the PHD's got a thermoluminescence date of over 5K BP. Then back to Eugene and a warm welcome from Lily Graycat who will be wondering if I forgot her because supper is LATE ALREADY!!!