Dan Grubbs

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since Nov 30, 2012
I'm a 25-year PR professional working in the corporate sector while starting a new small farm of 15 acres using regenerative techniques. PDC in spring of 2015 with certificate from PRI.
northwest Missouri, USA
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Recent posts by Dan Grubbs

Industrial agriculture has long held the view of "competition is bad" in fields and pastures when it comes to growing things. Unscientifically, I would say this bias is the result to being poorly informed about soil function. If the content of a gardening book was written more than 10 years ago (not the copyright date, but when the content was written), it's a good chance it was written without the more recently knowledge of soil function focused in it's biological community. As scientific understanding goes, it's pretty recent. I bring up industrial agriculture because as has already been pointed out, much literature that is published is based on the understandings of agriculture at scale. Since they are in the business of selling seed and agrochemicals, they will be hard pressed to publish content that could prove contrary to the practices of the advocates of large-scale industrial agriculture.

Roberto's reference to Dr. Engham is a good one and I recommend everyone become familiar with her writings and presentations. What I think I understand is that the idea of competition in a growing environment is grossly over estimated and the positive impact of a diverse biological community in the growing ecosystem far outweighs any negative impact of competition -- a net positive effect. Remember, a diversity of plants attract a diversity of microbial life in the soil which can make available a larger palette of nutrients. A diversity of plants also attract a diversity of beneficial insects, some of which will be predatory to pests.

Are there examples of large sections of monocultures in nature? Technically we can point to a minority of examples, but it's not the natural norm and what we are seeking in permaculture is to work with the natural norm, not the exception. Remember, the principle of the edge in permaculture. We usually find more life and productivity on the edge between two systems. Why? In my opinion the edge of two systems are where we find the greatest biological diversity.

Now, is our western thinking of clean rows and right angles and spotless spaces impacting our view when it comes to gardens? I believe those things dramatically impact our garden management decisions. However, I believe we need to redefine many of our notions of what constitutes a good garden plot or bed. To some it may look like a mess or even chaotic. But, beauty can also be found in a bed of healthy plants doing well and being productive though there may be scattered among them plants that were not originally desired.
2 days ago
The creek flow is one factor, you will also want to understand your head distance. That's essentially the vertical distance you want to lift the water.

I believe these three videos will be informative for you.

1 - 

2 - 

3 - 

2 days ago
Looks kinda like milkweed to me, though my varieties up here in NW Missouri have a bit longer leaves, but not as long as a dock.
4 days ago
I agree with Nick in that I believe the better question isn’t about making one’s property self-sufficient. The better question is about making the people of a homestead self-sufficient. If we’re talking about surviving independently and not being assimilated into some type of collective, which I believe is more aligned with the independent mentality, then I offer an alternative approach to the survivalist scenario.

This alternative is needed when either a civilian force or a government force is, at some point, going to come for your land and operation. The timing of this depends on the duration of the SHtF scenario and your proximity to population centers. No, contrary to what tens of thousands of survivalists believe, you will not be able to out gun or defend your property should a motivated force leadership decides they want your operation. Even if several well-armed families band together and train properly, regional authorities or even a civilian force will only attempt to take your property with superior firepower. Yes, you may encounter a scouting group, but once the larger force or authority learns of your resources, they will come with force enough to take what they want. Dying does not constitute successful defense of your property.

You could possibly make yourself and your family indispensable in some way. But, growing food and managing animals is not an indispensable set of skills. I know that may bristle some feathers here at Permies. But, those skills will already be in the attacking force or within the collective supporting them. Yes, these are good skillsets to have, but you are not indispensable as one farmer. You need to find something else. Even then, however, you are at the mercy of the warlord or local government leader. That seems to me to be contrary to the independent objective we’re discussing.

My thinking is that to truly survive and not be subject to some power or force is to be mobile. One writer refers to it as going gypsy. I’m not referring to bugging out. Bugging out is usually to get you to a planned destination, which then you are again subject to the external force, no matter how well trained your family is. Your food supply has to be mobile. Since you can only carry very little food and water, your ability to forage is key. These are some of the best skills you can acquire on your homestead now, more important than than say, auto mechanic. You don’t have the ability to preserve food on the go, so you need skills at foraging and scrounging. In addition to foraging, in my opinion, goats are one of the best mobile options for fresh food supply (dairy, meat). I think goats are better choices than small cattle or sheep, which are both more difficult to move clandestinely and more picky about their feed. Goats are good foragers and can be better managed in a mobile situation as you have to move from place to place to avoid external forces. Goats eating leaves from trees are theoretically going to provide more mineral nutrients than purely grass-fed grazers – arguably.

Once the external force has either exhausted the resources of your property or lost interest they may leave it. You may have an opportunity to return. However, your risk of discovery is pretty high once you plant yourself back there. Going gypsy means that your value system is not based in your land but in the people of your family or mobile group. Where you are on any given day serves as either a resource or as cover; it is not your home. Your home is defined by the people you’re with, not a physical location. Choosing when to move is based on external threats and resource availability and your family or group’s ambulatory nature. Going gypsy is on foot. Vehicles are loud, require fuel and maintenance, and most require some kind of roadway and are easily spotted. Your homestead is whatever you can carry or lead.

Not everyone will be cut out for gypsy survival. Some will submit themselves to some authority or new collective. Some will resist an external force and may or may not survive. Some will be in a remote enough area where they may not ever encounter an external force. For the rest of us, I believe only by evasion will independent individualists survive. In my opinion, mobility is the way to survive a widespread SHtF scenario.

5 days ago

Ron Metz wrote:Dan, thanks for the links. So why are there two Dexter cattle breed associations? I was under the impression dexters are a heritage breed with relatively low numbers of animals. Another question, we have a healthy coyote population. Do Dexter cows have strong maternal instincts? Will individual cows or the herd work together to protect the calves from coyotes?

Hi Ron,

I'm only guessing here, but one association is for the U.S. only and the other association is for all of North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico).

Regarding the question about being heritage breed, Dexters are included in the Livestock Conservancy list of heritage breeds in the "recovering" category. Here's their list of heritage cattle.

According to the Canadian Dexter association: "Dexter cows have good herding instincts and are very protective of their calves against predators; the whole herd will come to the aid of a cow and her calf. Cows will not intrude when a cow is calving and are very watchful at a distance, while the cow has her calf with great ease and the calf quickly get on its’ feet to nurse." I would guess this is going to be variable by degree on a case-by-case basis with many factors impacting what will actually happen in each case.

Having written that, I would have a LGD with the herd anyway.

Hope that was helpful.
6 days ago
I can't speak for other parts of the world, or even other parts of the country other than the central Midwest. However, it's my observation that Dexter cows are growing in popularity. This isn't specific to the OP's question, but in Missouri, where the Dexter association is located, there are shows that are now including a Dexter class. What does this have to do with beef, or dairy, for the matter? Well, Dexters are getting exposed to more and more cattlemen with positive impact. Will they be the breed to replace Angus or Hereford for large-scale operations? I can't imagine that. But, for smaller operators who are wanting to diversify their income streams and direct market beef, it's an ideal breed. High yield per carcass, very efficient forage to meat ratio. They are good foragers and reportedly less picky about forage. Smart direct marketers are often touting the smaller cuts to health-conscious consumers. I can attest to the superior flavor. One of our local feed store owners claims it is the best beef she's ever eaten. Of course flavor is dependent on a lot of factors, but she's not the first person I've heard make that remark.

For home or on-farm slaughter, Dexters are gonna be hard to beat for a host of reasons, including ease of handling, docility, size of animal. If you're raising for your own kitchen, then the associations and genetics will much less important. But, I've provided the following links to several of the Dexter associations for further learning. Warning: Dexter breeders are passionate people and will argue with each other at the drop of a genetics report.

American Dexter Cattle Association

Purebred Dexter Cattle Association of North America

Missouri Dexter Breeders Association

1 week ago
I would be wary of the slick surface of the porcelain in high winds during a storm. If shallow rooted trees can be pulled out of the ground by winds, I would think the root ball would simply rotate right out of the tub with there being little to no friction holding it in place.
1 week ago
Drift Smoke Smoke that has drifted from its point of origin and lost its original billowing form. Drift smoke can fill in canyons under stable air masses and make it difficult to see spot fires.

Thermal Belts In mountainous regions, the middle third of the slopes that remain active with fire during evening hours. This is due to down-canyon "falling" winds that pool cooler air in canyon bottoms but leave the middle part of the slope active.

Here is the glossary of fire fighting terms from which I grabbed these two possible answer to your inquiry: http://forestry.alaska.gov/fire/glossary

Here's more information about how public health officials talk about smoke: https://www3.epa.gov/ttnamti1/files/ambient/smoke/wildgd.pdf

Here is a more extensive glossary of fire fighting terms: http://www.salmonarmmuseum.org/docs/2003_fire_glossary.pdf
The entry for "smoke" has several sub entries that may also have the term for which you're looking.
1 month ago
Be mindful of raising the temperature too high when using power sharpening tools. I think for this tool it isn't as critical as a knife edge, but raising temp and cooling down improperly can be a challenge for steel edge tools. When using a power tool to sharpen, one could change the properties of the steel which can alter the hardness or brittleness of the steel. I prefer hand files for cutting tools such as spades, shovels, hoes, etc. I would also use a hand file on a hand sickle to create a primary edge and a stone to create the cutting edge. Just some additional info for your consideration.
1 month ago
GOOD edge tools have had temperature management used in their creation. There's not only the heating, but how the steel is cooled once heated, both are factors with various tools. I agree with William in that a bench grinder can be a challenge when using them to shape or sharpen edge tools. Most people trying to hone an edge on a cutting tool with a bench grinder would raise the temperature of the steel too high. This will actually change the structure of the steel and may cause the edge to fail, or even the entire tool to fail. However, some cheap tools have been frequently sharpened on bench grinders to the satisfaction of the user. I confess to putting a new primary bevel on my garden hoe with a bench grinder, but to shape and sharpen the cutting edge I use a file. For gross tools, such as a hoe or spade, I've seen people use a grinder to hone the cutting edge. It doesn't last long due to what the tools are used for. The issue would be safety in my mind. Putting a cutting tool in motion while in use and it fail could eject shards or pieces of the tool when it comes in contact with something else. A file is just fine to put a sufficient cutting edge on gross tools. For fine tools, such as axes, large knives, a kukri, a machete, etc., I would favor a puck stone to hone the edge. For finer knives, I would use the wet stones.

You'll discover there are some very strong opinions on knife sharpening. It's a deep hole with turbulent waters if you decide to jump in. You've been warned.
1 month ago