R Laurance

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since Jul 22, 2012
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hugelkultur forest garden chicken
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A Cascadian (USA) transplant flourishing in the southern fields and forests of south Sweden.
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Southern Sweden (USA zone= 7a)
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Recent posts by R Laurance

'Corpus Hypercubis'- S.Dali, 1954.
2 months ago
I agree, Kevin.

The same goes for my sites, albeit I'm a bit shy on the woodchips, using more straw, rotted woods and weed/grass cuttings mostly to give insects more habitat to feed the hens and give them an activity in searching. The small gaps are quite handy. Our wild cherries are actually quite open so it doesn't offer to much challenge to pick as long as I can maneuver a foot placement for the ladder. Hence, my need to build a good orchard ladder offering that ease of placement and maneuverability within the branches.

The bulb underplantings have, as you said, died back at the time of fruit/berry harvests, but in other underplantings I have also used strawberries as a cover crop. They too have already been harvested (by me or the hens) by the time of tree picking and though they may get a bit trampled they are very durable and prolific to the point of almost becoming a weed, which negates any abuse they may suffer. Strawberries are extremely easy to remove without digging if the desire or need to do so comes around.
2 years ago
I guess you could call this section of my forest menagerie a guild, or not... it is something that just happened.

When we bought this place (Southern Sweden) it was mostly an unpainted canvas in regards to plants and trees, aside from a small grove of wild sour cherries and a small grove of mature birch, oak, ash, linden and elm. Over the past 11 years since, we have planted many varieties of bushes and trees in addition to regular gardening herbs, veggies and flowers.

After spending a couple of years renovating the adobe house (making it liveable), we moved on to gardening when I stumbled upon info about permaculture. After 20 years of trying various styles and trends of gardening this really hit home for me. After much reading and viewing of YouTube videos, I became committed.

Focusing on the 'observation' aspect I had noticed that a small Elder (Sambucus nigra) bush was growing under and within inches from the trunk of the wild cherries. It was almost invisible as a separate entity when not richly decorated with flowers or berries. This was no doubt planted by a bird while sitting in the cherry tree above. Also under the cherry trees was a wonderfully thick patch of 'stinging' nettles and a number of raspberry plants, another possible start from the avian neighbors. Everything seemed to be growing really well, within what I would have considered a tight space for anything other than the cherries with their overarching canopy.

I cleared away most all of the weedy quackgrass (Elymus repens), and some of the brushy understorage of dead branches, planted some Turkish cap's lillies and Sweet flag, mostly for additional color through the summer season, fenced it in and made the area part of the forest habitat for our four Orpington hens and rooster. It offers great protection against the numerous raptors in the area. Nine years have passed and this area is fabulous. First picture following.

It yields an incredible abundance of cherries, elder flowers and elderberries and numerous raspberries annually. The hens eat the lower hanging elderberries and most of the raspberries and strawberries that have encroached upon the area, as well. They get treated with cherries as well, whenever I'm in this part of the garden. They love'em more than anything else, I think. That was the plan. I harvest most of the rest for wine production, as well as for pies, jams, cordials, drying and whatever other desserts fit our fancy.

A few years after this site became a thing, more cherry trees sprung up from roots nearby (approx.10m/30ft) and as I am always digging up other Elder tree saplings from the bird plantings, I decided to emulate that first natural guild. In the following two years I added to this new area; three currant bushes (Ribes rubrum), a jostaberry (Ribes x nidigrolaria) and then planted a 6m/20ft row of Autumn raspberries (Rubus -var.'Golden Queen') followed by a row of  Purple Chokeberries (Aronia prunifolia). Everything has been growing well and is quite fruitful. However,this summer the Jostaberry died at the end of its ripening berry crop, for unknown reasons. Fortunately, I started another plant from it two years ago, which seems to be thriving at the foot of a Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). This second guild group is the latter picture.

April Virginia...In reference to your posting.... I haven't had any problems with picking berries from these or our other areas in regards to understory plants. My planting scheme largely, is not to focus on getting every last berry/fruit. We have an abundance of everything with many trees and shrubs of the same and differing varieties to fulfill our needs and that of the other animal life. We now have an incredible diversity of wildlife in and around our property that I feel, is largely a result of our work to naturalize the place. In the last six years we have noted mink, martens, foxes, deer, neighbors cats (of course), hedgehogs, and approximately twelve or more bird species, most of which were not observed here during our first two or three years here. Additionally many of the bird species are nesting on the property in addition to hedgehogs, which is a plus for pest control. As I speak, I can attest to seeing hundreds of ripe black mulberries lying on the ground earlier today. Que sera sera. I've already dried two kilo, froze one kilo, made 10 pints of jam and one pie. Those trees, we have four, are so abundant with fruit even friends and relatives occasionally stop by to pick. However, it is tricky sometimes picking cherries from my old four-footed antique ladder. Moving it in and out and around the trees that continue to get taller where some cherries remain, just out of reach from me leaving more for the thrushes to feast on.

I guess it's time for me to start thinking about building that three footed orchard ladder similar to what my grandfather had back in the 1950's.

2 years ago
A few spoons from my woodpile of miscellaneous hardwoods cut down over the years.

3 years ago
I sowed seeds for Causasian Spinach three years ago and now have two plants flowering at about 2 meters high (south Sweden), alongside my compost bin. We have a different zone numbering system so that doesn't translate as easily. However, Daron, I am a native Oregonian and know your climate well. It is close to the same here in this region, though some winters may be colder here dipping down to about 2°-3° F for a few days, but have only experienced that once in the 20 years I've been here.  

In regards to more info from my personal observations thus far in growing the Causasian Spinach; I agree it could be a good perennial inclusian into the forest garden setting for an additional supply of greens and one that also fits into the climbing vine classification. I have only eaten it on two occasions... and a third tonight as I will be baking some spanakopita this evening using it along with New Zealand spinach as replacements for regular spinach. The taste to me is nothing special, just a green (no chlorophyll aftertaste, that's always good). However having grown and used New Zealand spinach in my food forest for the past six years, I prefer it to the Caucasian spinach, in taste and productivity, but encourage planting both for diversity's sake plus extra security with diverse edibles.

New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonoides in my opinion has both a better flavor, and is more productive. The leaves are much thicker than the Causasian spinach leaves, being nearly a succulent type of leaf whereas the Caucasian leaves are quite thin so in cooking requires much more for the same amount of volume. Leaf for leaf, the NZ spinach is about four times heavier (more water, no doubt). Wikipedia states that some places have classified the NZ spinach as an invasive plant. I can attest to that as being a possibility and I exploit that potential to keep it in my growing area. It produces one flower (one large seed) at every leaf node and is a sprawling grower quickly growing in all directions. It is a perrenial in its native habitat but here in Sweden it is only an annual, yet reseeds itself quite easily sprouting every Spring on its own, from the masses of previous year's seeds. In the gardening area where I keep it contained, to a degree, it starts growing from sprouts about the first of June, and unlike 'real' spinach it doesn't bolt with hotter days ... I guess with one seed at every leaf node one could say it is in a constant bolt, though. Whilst I am putting out and maintaining my regular annual garden veggies I note if and where the new plants are sprouting. If they are too close to an area that I feel they would overcrowd, I just pluck up the seedling. If there is ample space, I allow it to grow until it begins impinging on other favored plants at which time I either harvest the leaves for the freezer or add the plant to the compost pile as it makes abundant green biomass. It doesn't seem to continue growing from remaining bits of roots left in the soil. Additionally, the hens love it, so at times I have blocked off an area of the garden and invited them in for a week to scratch around and consume the greens. All in all, I don't feel that NZ spinach is cumbersome with maintenance work and tends to have a high yield of use in our permaculture system.

That being said, I would have to add that the Caucasian spinach might involve as much maintenance time overall; requiring more time in picking the same equivalent of food product, an annual removal of vines to compost, and as it tends to have masses of flowers/seeds that could be dispersed on the ground if they are of high viability then pulling up plants in unwanted places becomes the equivalent of weeding for the NZ spinach sprouts. I haven't noticed any great viability of the vine's seeds to date, though I have clipped off the flowers towards the end of the flowering stage. Nectar for little critters, up to that point!  

Every year I allow a number of plants; Lettuce, Asian celery, Red Orache, Carrots, Fennel, Chard, Arugula, NZ spinach and a few others to seed and I allow them to remain in the garden through the Winter... self-sowing. After seven years of doing this we have a diverse food forest including many regular annual vegetables that are allowed to grow where they found a niche. Looking for food now is always rewarding. Our asparagus seeds being eaten by birds have now been transported alongside the road near the house and possibly elsewhere unbeknownst to us... just as they have brought to us numerous other plants such as the seven elder trees that we now maintain for wine and kombucha making along with pies, marmalade and syrups.

We still do germinate and sow some annual veggies, plus potatoes and squashes and tomatoes, but we have many, many volunteer plants that gives us a wonderful abundance. Sometimes if asked by my wife if we have any coriander, I'll respond...'yes, I saw some yesterday in 'aisle 3- between the yellow onions and the black mulberry' or wherever else I may have noticed a plant growing. It's just a new way of 'shopping' ....

Wish you the best....

3 years ago
As it appears so early in the Spring, the leaves not fully grown or formed, my guess is just that, but with good insight and clarity.  It appears very much like the young leaves of a Tilia cordata, 'Lind' or 'skogslind' in Swedish and in English; Small leaf lime or Little Leaf Linden. It is very closely related to the American Linden also called 'basswood'.  It is a very easy to carve light-colored wood and was traditionally used in the carving of alterpieces and figurines throughout much of Europe.

I have a very large and old Linden next to my garden and utilize the young leaves in salads every year, while my wife enjoys collecting the flower-heads to dry and use in her herb teas.

Lind ,  Tilia cordata
3 years ago
My present work highlights some of the 'big time' ills of present day civilisation impacting the entire planet.

These two pics are good examples....                          The URL of my website is  http://www.laurance.se

6 years ago

Victor Johanson wrote:

Fiona Martin wrote:Excuse my ignorance, but what is a hugelbeet?

I've been told that hugel means hill, so hugelkulture is literally hill culture. Beet is bed, so hill-bed for hugelbeet.

Beet is the German for a bed in the sense of a garden bed or flower bed.... but a bed to sleep in is bett.

That word is a new one on me as well.... So I guess I've actually built several hugelbeet or whatever the plural conjugation would be in German.

Live and learn.... :D
10 years ago
I ordered some Robinia seeds from England the first part of January and when they arrived (mid February) I scarified 15 seeds (lightly rubbing them on 120 grit sandpaper), and then proceeded with what Cj Verde stated... poured hot water (less than boiling) over them and let them soak for 48 hours... then planted the swollen seeds.

They were planted into pots of damp seeding soil and placed into plastic bags which were tied with wire wraps. From there I placed them into the dark pantry on the floor, which stays around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I almost forgot about them... and when I checked first part of March, I had 14 little trees coming up. They were about 2" tall at the time I checked them. I immediately pulled them from the pantry and they've been sitting in the kitchen's south facing window since. They are now about 7" tall and have about five 4" branches, each having five to seven leaves and looking absolutely beautiful.

I'll probably continue growing them in deeper and bigger pots for the first year with partial wintering in the greenhouse before planting them in their final places the following early Spring. In addition to the wonderful permaculture aspects of these trees, they personally harken back to my childhood in Eastern Oregon when we had five very old black locusts towering over the front lawn. Gives me kind of a connection to that time and place.

Good luck with your future trees, Natty.
10 years ago
I generally eat the leaves of our Large-Leafed Linden (Tilia platyphyllos) during the early part of the growing season when the leaves are smaller and more tender. I personally like their flavor as others do, as well. Ours is a wonderful tree in size offering up lots of leaves for food and tea, our rabbits loved them as well, and lots of wood pruned off every two or three years. The wood, as osker mentioned, is a favored wood (easy carving) among wood carvers. Most wood workers that I know, tend to call this Basswood, though I still prefer to call it the Linden, mostly because here in Sweden the Swedish name for it is Lind. I believe it is called lime, in Great Britain. It is a tree that seems to coppice easily also.

My tree (approx. 30+ meters tall) is also the location of the owl house (middle of the tree in picture) I built that is the nesting box for our little Tawny Owl. Mating season should begin this month for her as she will begin hooting within a week or so.

11 years ago