Rebecca Norman

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since Aug 28, 2012
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trees food preservation solar greening the desert
Rebecca has lived in Ladakh in the Himalayas since 1992. She's a bit of a crabby, grumpy character but is trying to Be Nice on Permies.
Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Recent posts by Rebecca Norman

Nancy Reading wrote:Four perennial veg with dinner tonight:
Left to right:
Taunton Deane perennial kale, Asparagus, Good King Henry, Turkish Rocket flower shoots.

Thank you! I've been trying to find photos of the edible Good King Henry "shoots" for years, and this is the first time I've seen it.
4 hours ago
"Broad beans" is simply the British English term for fava beans, so keep googling happily.

There are a couple of issues with fava beans, though. Some individuals have a bad reaction to them. Fava beans are grown near me but I've decided not to use them often, in case any of my guests turn out to have a problem.
4 hours ago

Melissa Ferrin wrote:I find women in the developing world don't really suffer through "the change"?

It's entirely possible that people in the US have messed up hormones, but I also think that women in the developing world might not talk about menopause symptoms for other reasons.

Here in India, there has traditionally been no public talk of menstruation or menopause. Women talk about these with only a couple of female close relatives or friends, and have no way of knowing about what is normal for larger numbers of people, or what is uncommon but still normal. Okay, at least now there's some education and knowledge available about menstruation, but I've never seen info about menopause.

A local friend of mine was surprised when I mentioned hot flashes due to menopause. She described hers in and was amazed, had never heard anybody else mention this symptom, and had no idea it was related to menopause. She's a school teacher. I assume most women here have similar lack of information about menopause.
2 days ago

Dian Hong wrote:What kinds of sawdust work best?

Fine sawdust of almost any type.

Even the allelopathic  juglone in walnut sawdust should decompose adequately in the composting process, so it won't harm the growth of plants that the compost is used on. So use any wood's sawdust. The finer the better.

Where I am it's hard to get sawdust and I usually can only get something coarser, like shavings, or small shavings. Based on what I read in The Humanure Handbook (Yay!!! 10/10 definitely recommend!), I've been trying to keep the coarse sawdust damp for as long as possible before using it. That seems to help it break down. I'm in an extremely dry climate so excess moisture is not a problem here.

Recently, I've been collecting coffee grounds from the cafes in the nearby touristy town. I was dumping them in the worm bin (which is separate from my composting toilet). Then I decided to mix some in with the coarse sawdust that had been sitting moist for many months and not changing color or evidently breaking down. It was maybe 2 or 3 kg (5-7 lbs) of dry espresso grounds mixed into about 50 liters of damp coarse sawdust/shavings. Just one day after mixing the coffee grounds in, the damp material was palpably warm to my hands. Yay! I hope I've finally found a way to break down the shavings a bit before using them as cover material in the toilet.

My toilet is not a bucket system. The region where i live in the Himalayas, composting toilets are traditional (though Jenkins would call them mouldering toilets). So when I built my house I designed it with a double-chamber composting toilet at the back. The ground floor, which is the two manure chambers built of stone with mud mortar, is separated from the wall of the house by a two foot gap (where I store the sacks of sawdust or autumn leaves). The upstairs, where the user goes, is attached to the upstairs of the house. I've put an exhaust fan pulling air out of the manure chambers, so smell doesn't come up into the user's room or the house. We used the first chamber for 2.5 years and then switched over to the second chamber. Another year later, I emptied the first chamber. There was a lot of dried out toilet paper on top, and a lot of intact wood shavings throughout, though no recognizable poop or poopy smell anywhere. So after that I have been trying to cap the manure pile in the closed-off chamber by dumping down on top: a large sack of crumbled leaves, a bucket of water once in a while, and used coffee grounds collected from town. And for cover material for the currently used chamber, I'm trying to get finer sawdust, and since that's difficult, I'm trying to break down the coarse sawdust/shavings before use by keeping them damp and now maybe by mixing in coffee grounds.

1 week ago
I had a very similar issue with the land of my new house that I have been in since 2018. When I put soil in the jar with water like you did, I could only see two layers and couldn't decide if the lower one was silt or clay. The soil was extremely dense and slow-draining, initially.

Also I poured a little vinegar on the soil and it sizzled like crazy, so evidently the soil is very very alkaline, not helped by lots of bits of uncured cement throughout left from construction.

Anyway, I got access to a couple of pickup loads of dry cow dung each year and just buried it in the garden beds as early in spring as I could, watered it, and then mixed it up with a shovel later. After planting I tried to mulch everything heavily and leave the mulch permanently though it wasn't always possible on each bed.

Now after 2 or 3 years of doing that, the soil is great and I'm no longer very concerned about the exact composition and pH of the soil. I got some sulfur to mix in the soil and did mix it in some beds last year, but it seems to be completely undissolved (bright yellow balls float up from the soil) but the soil is so improved by the cow dung and mulch that I'm not concerned. Due to a road problem I couldn't get any cow dung this spring but the garden beds are still very rich in organic matter so I think it'll be fine.
1 week ago
The fava bean genus is different from al those you listed, but they cause weird intolerance issues in some people already so I'm not sure that would be a good direction for you.
1 week ago
Hi Asim,
Welcome to Permies!

Well, thick natural mulch does a lot to conserve what water there is. There is a strong cultural preference for bare soil in this region (I mean North India, but I'm sure your side of Punjab has the same preference), but if you can manage to keep thick natural mulch you'll find it really conserves moisture in the soil and over a year or two it improves the soil amazingly. But you'll have to deal with neighbours and family disapproving, arguing, and even objecting to mulch with various superstitions about what they think it attracts.

Can you do rainwater collection from the roof of any buildings on the property? Some in a tank for convenient use, and the rest as ground water recharge. There's been a lot of work about ground water recharge in India, but I didn't pay much attention because I live north of the Himalayas where there's hardly any rain or snow.

But ugh! Have you been getting this horrible heat wave I've been hearing about, 45C already in April in the plains? Best of luck!
Wow, I came back to this thread after 4 years because I thought "Hey I tried infusing rosemary in vinegar before and it didn't work, so I want to learn how to do it better."

No I didn't refrigerate it, the time the fresh rosemary looked yucky in vinegar after a few weeks. From this thread I've learned some tactics:

1 Definitely strain the herbs out, in which case it doesn't matter how they look.

2 Refrigerate while infusing, and maybe the rosemary will keep its looks.

3 Try dried herbs instead of fresh, especially if I want to keep some in the bottle for looks.

I will try infusing the vinegar in a wide mouth jar with fresh herbs in the fridge, and then straining it and putting into ornamental jars with optional dried herbs for looks and shelf-stability.

The time I did it before was commercial white vinegar with rosemary, intended as a hair rinse. Now I'm thinking of making some for salad dressing, though. I also have a batch of homemade barley vinegar going now, made from local barley wine.

For salad dressing, which herbs do you think go nicest in an infused vinegar?
2 weeks ago
Yes! My oldest tree, planted from seed in 2018, produced about 20 to 25 fruit in 2021, now in April 2022 has bloomed much more prolifically. One of the other peach trees from seed a year younger than the oldest bloomed this year too. The oldest tree is sometimes fed by greywater so I think its soil is much richer than the others, and I suspect that's why the others that are only one year younger may take an extra year to produce fruit.

So exciting!
2 weeks ago
We made the raised beds in my greenhouse out of roundish stone from on site, with mortar made of mud (mix of onsite sandy soil and clayey stuff that was brought in). It's 3 years old now, holding in watered soil on one side. I sit on it and occasionally step on it or even walk on it. A good 3 months of winter the greenhouse is below freezing at night and above during the day. I expect some of the stones to roll out at some point and I'll have to put them back, but it hasn't happened yet.

It was made more or less as Amy described the triangle cross-section earlier.

I'm sorry the poor photo quality is from cropping the background of some other photo to focus on this wall.
4 weeks ago