Calvin Mars

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since Oct 05, 2012
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Recent posts by Calvin Mars

Have to say I do enjoy this thread.

I just bought a small farmling, a forested plot twenty minutes from a small town just under seven acres. It wasn't too expensive. I spent the last three years trolling through land for sale sites, checking things out, looking at maps, trying to find the right location to fit into my life. The quick of it, is that with a about 15K down, I was able to work out a mortgage that is close to $150 a month for a spot about an hour and a half from Washington DC. I live in Richmond and do a lot of my work in the DC area, so was looking for that halfway stop where I could cut my travel in half, and have a camp/garden spot. I knew that if it wasn't part of my natural flow, I wouldn't do anything with it. This thread is inspiring me to keep track of my investment costs and returns over time with the intent of sharing this info with folks. There certainly seems to be an informational need for it. Not that I'm an expert, but I'm not afraid of trying different things. Although I'm not in it 100%, I now have a toe in playing with the idea of spending some of my life time, off grid getting close to nature and people.

I'm not short term income motivated at the moment because my job works for me right now. I'm really just setting us up for our old person life as a long term project for fun and trade. We've been having a good time harvesting some of our products and giving them away or trading them for foodstuffs and other items. A lot of my local farmers that are in it all the way enjoy getting presents of weird strawberries, carrot seeds, passionflower herb, comfrey herb, persimmons, elder flowers, etc. We're constantly getting hooked up with things like chicken coops, goat cheese, mushrooms, beans, plants, etc. Not being money obsessed has reinforced the idea for me that when I give, I receive. Still, I do find the economy of it fascinating and will be making an effort to track progress and build models that can be replicated for value or profit. I would really like to emphasize that there is a lot of value in trade, much more so than when a product is abstracted by money through a transaction.

One thing that I've learned is that land ownership is not necessary to get started. There are a lot of folks out there that have land that are very receptive to having someone else work projects. For example, one farmer that I know has given me access to some areas so that I can work some sea buckthorn and elder breeding patches. I built a strawberry tower in someone else's yard, planted an Asian pear in a neighbor's lawn, started a few blueberries across the street, etc.... The sharing and resulting relationships open doors to value.

One thing that I've discovered is that there seem to be a lot of folks that are highly motivated to help, simply because they love the idea of being able to camp out in a food forest.

Anyway, thanks for all the posts. May your projects enrich your life and the lives of others.
4 years ago

Diego has a valid question. There's nothing wrong with being motivated by profit. I certainly am. Being only motivated by profit is questionable, but is that really the point of the original question?

Due to the amount of discussion generated, it's clear that this question is on a lot of folks minds whether they be of the money is bad camp or the money is good camp. I did find a few examples of folks that have the appearance of being profitable in these responses, but I certainly did have to dig for them.

I will give you an example of a yes answer to this question.

One of my friends is profitable using permaculture techniques. He doesn't realize it's permaculture, may not have heard the term, and didn't sign up for the religion. He is, however, engaged in a completely natural farming system that synergizes on the connecting of different systems together. He doesn't use chemicals, he doesn't till, and he co-exists and harvests from the natural forest system around him. A lot of his income is derived from foraging choice edibles that local restaurants pay big money for. He spends a lot of his time nudging the forest to provide for him, what he is looking for. He also generates income from free range chickens, that feed themselves, by selling to a wholesaler.

Every year he makes more money than the last. I didn't ask him how much, because that would be rude. My observations are that things are going well, though. Anyone who pays folks to lug around giant rocks to certain areas because he thinks they're cool has to have a bit of financial slack. Did I mention that he's happy and isn't stressed out at all? I know for a fact that he is profitable.

Myself, I see this as a freedom, fun, and survival thing. I make a very good living selling technology to large customers, but I have absolutely zero faith in our financial system. I'd rather buy a fruit tree than put the money in a 401K. I do both, because it makes good financial sense to hedge bets by playing different games. I don't feel bad about trying to make as much as I can as fast as I can make it. It doesn't consume my life, I rather enjoy it.

Large concentrations of wealth have the power to move mountains. Sure, we can make giant swales on huge properties with shovels, but that takes a lot of time. Building eco-systems is all about time. If you can compress the effort in the beginning, systems can get off the ground a lot faster. Can you rent an earth mover without money? Stop being so judgmental about money and the desire to be profitable. It's OK. It's what we do with the money that matters. If you can't stand the money that you have because it's so terrible, get rid of it by signing some paychecks for folks that need it.

If you have lofty goals of feeding good food to good people while saving the environment, I would encourage you to make as much money as you possibly can and put it all back into your intentions. Money is a resource, just like water, sunlight, and organic material. Don't get worked up about it. it's just a spell on a piece of paper. If you understand what it is, and it's place in the world around you, it has no power over you and will do your bidding.

Don't get me wrong. I highly respect folks that reject money. One of my friends lives in the woods, making his living by foraging what he needs. He doesn't need money. I aspire to have that type of freedom.

We're all entitled to our own views as to what motivates us and how we make our way in this world. I would love to see this thread continue with some answers to the original question. I would like to find more examples of successful permaculture based businesses, so I can learn from them. The video about the dude that converted a traditional orchard into a permaculture system, was rather inspiring, for instance. The other video with the seed company fella with the amazing water works, was fascinating.

It's OK to think money is bad. It's OK to this that money is good. Let's not get lost in trivial things and get excited about awesomeness instead of being offended that certain folks might not completely share our world view. There's so much grooviness to agree on.

Big hugs.
5 years ago

I'm growing mushrooms in my irrigation ditches now. I would imagine large, chunky wood inoculated with mushrooms would slow water down in a high erosion system. Here's a video of me picking up my logs but getting carried away interviewing my source. At the end of the video there are a couple of video pans of the new logs in the ditches. It is winter, so it's a little scrubby looking, but the view is better. I never water my plants, so passive water management using created land features is really important to me. It's all about keeping the water level and/or slowing it down with obstruction. Slow water is better than fast water.

I'm not a huge survey the land and make sure it's on contour guy. I'm a play with a shovel in the rain kind of guy. If you watch the water close enough and play with it while it's flowing, you'll know what to do.

I'm sure you could plant something like cat tails as well, but it would be a good idea to build in your water slowing land features before thinking about adding plants. Think like a beaver. When you have wood (or rocks) getting in the way of water flow, litter, branches, sticks, silt, soil etc. will catch. Plantings would be more likely to survive in this case.

Good luck.
5 years ago
I don't sell anything yet, but I can wax eloquent about mulberries and gojis all day long. I have started trading sugarless mulberry jam for mushroom logs though.

As I convert my quarter acre lot into something akin to a mini food forest, my philosophy with weed trees is that I leave them be until they get in my way. Because of this I have 13 mulberry trees that I didn't plant. After about three years they start to bear. I eat the young leaves as well.

Instead of pruning I'm using a technique in which I use twine to train branches to stay more horizontally in picking range. Once the trees get large enough I start running vines up the trees. It takes a little work, but I'm starting to realize my fantasy jungle. The volunteer mulberries have created enough shade for me to crank up my mushroom production.

I've started experimenting with Pakistani mulberry. Four inch long berries... No joke. Eventually, I'll try grafting some of the Pakistani's to the wild trees for a bit of fun.

I've been spitting goji seeds in new beds and have started getting sprouts. The dried berries from stores have seeds that usually will sprout. The mature plants propagate like willows it seems. When you've nibbled off all of the berries and leaves, chop a branch and jam it into the ground. There's a good chance you'll get a new plant.

Mulberries and gojis are great. Very successful and weedy, and I mean weedy in a good way.
5 years ago
I just picked up ten packs of ground cherry seeds. So excited. I've been throwing them around and have even been starting them normally in containers that I, gasp, water...
5 years ago

Chris Dean wrote:

Calvin Mars wrote:If you hand scatter seeds, ants will most likely take most of them.

My problem was pill bugs (aka sowbugs or woodlice). They ate ALL seedlings as they came up. I didn't even have time to respond to them. I had to scatter Sluggo plus around the seeds I planted this year and had better success. Perhaps the same precautions can be taken for places with lots of ants.

Wow, that's fascinating. Did you witness this yourself? I'm not sure if it's true, but I heard that pill bugs might eat the eggs of stink bugs of the harlequin variety. I keep trying to catch them in the act.
6 years ago
You can get away with direct contact with soil when growing mushrooms if you have an aggressive species such as oyster. The trick is to make sure your log is fully colonized by mycelium before you bury it. It's not 100% that this will work, because nature isn't like that. If you bury a bunch of wood and it retains moisture, you're pretty much guaranteed to have some kind of mushroom show up.
6 years ago
If you hand scatter seeds, ants will most likely take most of them. Mr. Holtzer, I would imagine, has a great wealth in seeds, he can afford that sort of inefficient method. His time if more valuable than his seed. After cycling a few of my plants through multiple generations throwing them around makes sense for me because I have grocery bags full of them. If you spend $2 on a packet, you'll probably want to be a little more careful with them.

If you watered seeds that you scattered right away they might get a head start against the ants. You could use seed balls. I'm experimenting with scattering seeds with a mint mulch. Ants hate mint and I have a lot of it.

I'm a big fan of scattering. Whatever you end up with is going to be suited for your environment and you're selecting things that will self seed on their own most likely.

Have fun!
6 years ago
Morel mushrooms!
6 years ago
I highly encourage you to try muscadine varieties. They are completely pest resistant and taste really really good. They have leathery skins which are fine if you think of them as a replacement for bubblegum. Most modern cultivated varieties are super big wimps, being tragically susceptible to black rot. Hats off to folks that are cavorting with wild grapes.

Grapes are very easy to root from cuttings.

I have my grapes growing outside on a fence, mixed with thornless blackberries, and kiwi. I've even trained some of my neighbors to throw the seeds in strategic spots if they're going to cop a nibble (which is encouraged.)
6 years ago