Tony Gurnoe

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since Mar 15, 2012
Encinitas, California
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Recent posts by Tony Gurnoe

Hi I'm Tony Gurnoe. I'm almost 28, was born and raised in the north county of San Diego. I didn't grow up farming. I didn't even particularly get into gardening until my early adulthood, however since then I have been studying and working as hard as possible to get as good with food and medicine plants as I can. I spent the past several years first growing organic herbs and vegetables for a high end restaurant El Bizcocho before getting a job at the San Diego Botanic Garden taking care of all of their edible plantings including a fruit tree orchard of diverse specimens from around the world, a medicinal and culinary herb garden, an interactive children's vegetable garden, and I even helped create a "permaculture" demonstration garden on the premises to show off some sustainable gardening techniques.

It was a bittersweet day when I realized I don't have time to both work full-time at the botanic garden and run a farm, but that I could feasibly choose the farm. I've been working towards this for years and after my mother passed away last fall I realized that life is too short not to go for it. I started working four acres that was so poor and compacted to begin that our hardiest weeds were having a tough time. I'm more comfortable calling this venture permaculture-inspired or influenced than straight up permaculture. Frankly growers around here are not as hip to permaculture as you might expect. Paul may remember the talk he gave for the San Diego Horticultural Society (if I remember right). The S.D.H.S. is in theory our premiere horticultural group but it was so embarrassing for me that people first off didn't seem to know anything about permaculture, didn't appear to understand the concepts of how to reduce irrigation needs through permaculture, and then went on to ask Paul about whether some poison is ok or if it's all bad.

To cut to the chase: I'm looking to get an old but trusty tractor so I started a crowdsourcing campaign. In just over six months I've turned a dirt lot into a profitable organic garden, CSA program, and neighborhood resource. Up to now this venture has been entirely self-funded and I didn't originally intend to change that. Growth has been slow, steady, and constant, but I'm absolutely inundated with demand! I have a huge waiting list for my CSA program, I'll be in farmer's markets soon, and I'm in talks with a couple of chefs interested in adding local produce to their menu. My mission is to provide as many families with locally grown healthy food as possible and a tractor will help me to use my time more efficiently which means more food for the people and more money to reinvest into the farm and community.

Heres the link:

Sorry for the shameless self promotion. I wouldn't be asking for help if I wasn't sure I was accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks for your time and keep growing
6 years ago
My climate sounds quite similar to yours. I live about 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean at 33° N. I get about 10 inches of rain per year almost exclusively in the winter. We do have a very prominent marine influence including fog. Overcast mornings burning off to clear blue afternoons are common. Our average temperatures are similar although where I am stays slightly cooler and gets a little colder. High temperatures above 95°F are rare, frosts even moreso. The terrain here is full of hills and slopes so microclimates are abundant and vary dramatically. I'm only at maybe 150 feet or so in altitude and fruiting plants that require more than about 200 chill hours are unlikely to flower here. I do work at a botanic garden where we grow plants from similar climates around the world so I always enjoy discussing what grows where with people.
7 years ago
I'm not sure I really understand what you mean by "activate" a compost pile or biochar. If you're referring to inoculation I don't see what any of those three plants would offer that others wouldn't. It's worth mentioning that the beneficial microbes are the ones that cause the decay of this material rather than microbes coming in after the fact. Comfrey is famed as a biodynamic accumulator and biomass producer. The deep roots of the comfrey plant draw nutrients from deeper in the soil than many plants can access. When the leaves are chopped and used as mulch, which can be done several times in a growing season, they decompose quickly returning these nutrients to the topsoil besides all of the benefits of an organic mulch. Nettles are similar but they're especially adept at accumulating nitrogen in the form of proteins. Dry nettle leaves by weight contain some of the highest levels of protein of any edible leafy greens. This is part of why nettle leaves are so healthy for us to eat. As these proteins break down in the soil the nitrogen that was stored within is released for the plants' roots to take in. Yarrow is a great plant in its own right. It will grow in poor dry soil, has medicinal uses, and attracts beneficial insects.
7 years ago

yukkuri kame wrote:Wild mustard grows abundantly on that hillside wherever there is open soil... it seems to seed itself vigorously

Understatement of the thread . Benjamin most of San Diego is fairly well draining but we certainly do have our clay areas. I help take care of the orchard at my school in Oceanside and the soil is called "Diablo Clay," it is the heaviest clay I've ever seen around town. In Encinitas where I live the parent material is largely sandstone which has its own challenges. when I moved here to this house my back yard had just a few inches of mediocre topsoil before it became sandstone requiring a mattock. Even when broken up the soil has terrible fertility and holds water like a colander. Talk about needing organic matter.

J.C. there are a lot of people with horses around here so horse manure is abundant to the point of being free. I'm not sure if it's too much of a drive for you but in Escondido there is a button mushroom farm called Mountain Medow Mushrooms and they make their spent mushroom compost available for free if you load and haul it yourself. This past winter my brother and I made two bed that are part terrace, part raised bed in the hillside in our back yard. We had to dig down to break up the sandstone I mentioned so it wasn't much more work to throw some wood down in the bottom in the process. The beds were nothing special, several inches of branches and twigs from our property (not as broken down as I would have liked), several more inches of semi-decomposed compost from our pile, and finally several more inches of the mushroom compost from their farm. I set up drip irrigation on them and had the best crop of tomatoes ever! I live with my family and the 4 of us combined with our 4 closest neighboring houses haven't been able to keep up with all of the tomatoes we're growing.

Anyway I was born and raised here so it's always fun to ramble about local gardening. Best of luck with your property!
8 years ago
Planting fruit trees in hugel trenches sounds like a pretty bad idea to me. A lot of the fruit trees that grow well around here do not like to have the soil remain wet right around their trunk. Some of the most devastating fruit tree diseases in San Diego are encouraged by this scenario. What I would recommend alternatively is to plant your trees in a row in between massive hugel trenches. This way the immediate crown has the opportunity to drain and dry but the feeder roots will go wild in the moist and nutrient rich humus. The importance of this is depends on the trees you're planting, and your soil texture/EC. You mention lots of granite which suggests to me that your soil is probably decomposed granite. DG drains fantastically so I may be alarming you over nothing but it's worth consideration. Do you know what you'll be planting? You're in Avocado country but they take a loooot of water. Some good alternatives might be:

Any kind of citrus
Southern highbush blueberries (they take a lot of organic matter amending and water- hugel bed might be an ideal location)

This list is getting long, it all depends on your tastes and irrigation choices.
8 years ago
Use a sticky product like tanglefoot on the trunk of the fruit trees to exclude ants. Do know that the ants will eventually form a dead ant bridge across the sticky stuff and you may need to occasionally stir or refresh it depending on the severity of the infestation. Do this in addition to what leila said and you're likely to find the situation becoming more moderate.
8 years ago
You'll need a starter and I'll warn you it's a very long fermentation but I'm glad to share.

This recipe makes about 1 gallon of Shoyu:
-7 cups dry soybeans
-6.5 cups whole soft wheat berries
-starter culture
-3.5 cups sea salt
-1 gallon of water.

Soak the beans overnight. Cook the beans until they crush very easily between two fingers (a pressure cooker cuts the time way down). Meanwhile roast the wheat berries, slight charring is good for flavor. Grind it coarsely, I use an old Samap stone mill. Drain beans and toss with the wheat. Allow to cool to body temperature. Mix in starter and move to a broad shallow container, or several. Make furrows in the mix, to avoid hotspots as the mold (yes it's mold) creates its own heat. Cover with plastic or clean cloth right on the surface. Incubate at 85 degrees checking the temperature and stirring it regularly. After a couple of days it will be covered in mycelium, this mix is called Koji. In a container with plenty of headroom combine a gallon of drinking water with 3.5 C of salt and mix until dissolved. Stir in the koji. This is now called Moromi. Cover with a close fitting lid and stir the moromi daily for the first week. The fermentation should occur around 77 degrees (I live in a great climate for this). After the first week use a piece of cloth secured rather than a lid and stir weekly for 6 months to a year. When the moromi has finished fermenting it is put in mesh and pressed. the liquid that runs out is your shoyu. Keep it in a bottle in a cool dark place because the soy sauce is still alive and has no artificial preservatives. There is a series of books titled the Book of Tofu, Book of Tempeh, Book of Miso, etc. and they have some great information.
8 years ago
The fruit on the spike of the first plant definitely looks like yucca pods. It could be Yucca elata possibly.

Try to get us some more detailed photos of the foliage from the other two. The second looks like it could possibly be yerba santa? And I agree that the third looks like an Eriogonum.
8 years ago
I'm a lifelong vegetarian and soy has been an important part of my diet since I was young. I only get sick with a cold once a decade even as a student. My dad, who eats soy (and other beans) as his primary source of protein is the healthiest 65 year old I have personally ever met. I even have an electric soymilk maker but only really use it for making tofu. Other soy based foods I make at home include okara which is a byproduct of making soymilk, tempeh a cultured bean patty, miso and soy sauce. My tempeh, soy sauce, and miso are all living foods rich in beneficial microbes. I buy good quality dry beans in bulk for these products but grow edamame at home. None of this is in any way industrial, I try to use rural methods intentionally. I've used ocean water to make my tofu on several occasions but our water quality concerns me too much to do it regularly. I'm not sure why people seem to think soy and Morningstar junk are one in the same and can be used synonymously. I'm lucky because San Diego Soy Dairy where I live makes the best firm tofu I've ever been able to find commercially.
8 years ago

Daniel Morse wrote:Why should I avoid Borax?

Personally I try to avoid using too much of anything that is mined from the earth. Borax is a plant nutrient so it is not bad in all situations. However it is needed in very small amounts and if used regularly in cleaning it can easily lead to a buildup in the soil and eventual plant toxicity.

Edit: It's more correct to say boron is a plant nutrient and that Borax contains boron. Btw it's not very hard to make your own soap which eliminates the "what is this strange chemical and is it dangerous?" dilemma.
8 years ago