Mark Shepard

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since Jan 02, 2013
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Recent posts by Mark Shepard

In addition to birch syrup, the inner bark can be made into a flour (which we haven't done in a long time). My favorite is birch leaves as a salad green. They also make a nice tea!

10 years ago
We get the pigs when they're just weaned. When we first get them we only feed them enough to keep a 30lb "weaner" alive. We put rings in their noses so they don't root up the pasture, then we turn them loose to find their own food. They eat mostly grass, but they graze through a "Silvopasture" system that has mulberries, cherries, apples, oaks, hickories, hazelnuts and chestnuts. They go get their own food, and their season finishes with hazelnuts and chestnuts. Pigs are the ultimate "cleanup crew" making sure every last nut and berry gets eaten! An added benefit of having the pigs clean up is that they eat any insect larvae that might be in the fruit/nuts and they eat diseased stuff too, so they're part of the pest and disease control regime... All that we're attempting to do is imitate Nature as best we can...

11 years ago
Just a quick reply on the whole Nuts as staples thing.... Nuts do have phytic acid as do grains and legumes. Grains and legumes are in almost EVERYTHING... bread, pasta, processed foods, etc and therefore the phytic acid coming from them is WAY more than you'll get out of eating lots of nuts. On top of this, the grains and legumes have very few actual mineral nutrients, therefore the phytic acid laden "empty carbohydrates" that you eat have a more damaging effect on your health because they're not providing you with as many nutrients... To switch from grains to nuts will provide you with more minerals to leach which is a health benefit above and beyond the fact that the nuts are coming from perennial plants, etc...
I never bothered to pay much attention to how many actual nuts I eat until last week when all you Permies people asked me, so I've been paying more close attention... I eat somewhere around 2 full handfulls of nuts per day when I'm just nibbling at them... Because of their fat content and the high vegetable content of my "meals" nuts probably represent 20-30% of my caloric intake.
11 years ago
Laura... The tree tubes I mentioned are amazingly disgusting... They are designed to last for years in intense UV... They are plastic. You will need to put them in a pile in an intersection in downtown Chicago and burn them some day... Or something...

They WORK against deer, mice and rabbits... They'll keep your trees alive... With a small number of trees in a DEER HEAVY area like you're in, they might be just the ticket... Gotta do what ya gotta do...

11 years ago
I tell you what... I'm going to stay out of this discussion, but.... The hazelnut nurseries from west of the Rockies do not have cultivars that will survive east of the rockies.... Of the two weblinks that were listed one produces the poorest quality nursery stock that has ever been grown, (but the genetics are GOOD!) and the other has nursery stock that survives but whos genetics have yet to prove themselves in any 3-rd party research plots... Forest Agriculture Enterprises LLC has nursery stock that is currently in variety trials in MN, WI, MI, IA, IL, and NY. It's the only nursery east of the rockies that has a controlled-cross breeding program, and also happens to be the nursery that is totally sold out 1 year in advance already...

For more info on hazelnuts east of the rockies I recommend checking out the Hazelnut Improvement Program.

11 years ago
These pics look BEAUTIFUL!.... Be sure to check out the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute... Jerome Osentowski has one of the most mature sites on the continent... 8000 ft!

11 years ago
Brenda... What I like most about your post is that instead of researching forever and thinking something to death you're sticking plants in the ground and giving them the chance! Accept your feedback from THEM, not from kooks like me on the internet! Rock on!
11 years ago
In the book Restoration Agricutlure we discuss this at length... in an earlier post about "Deer pressure" I also talk about some other strategies... Basically portable electric fencing is the way to go... OH... and don't plant an orchard.. plant a perennial food ecology!

11 years ago
Hey Jeff...
Read the book Restoration Agriculture: We started when we bought an annual crop farm. In the early years 100% of our income was from annuals... AS time went on and our system has matured, we have relied less and less on annuals... Out of 100 acres, we only grow 3 acres of annual cash crops now... If we weren't growing annual crops for cash-flow, we would have had to be grazing critters....

The agroforestry systems of Alleycropping and Silvopasture are described extensively in the book..
11 years ago
Xisca.... for the mathematical experiment on how many people can we feed in our system you'll have to refer to Restoration Agriculture: From calcultaions done by the University of IL, they've calculated that our system can produce over twice the human calories per acre than conventional corn. The nutrition per acre isn't even in the same discussion... A Restoration Agricutlure farm is only deficcient in Salt and Selenium... No wonder we crave salt.

The question about tree cover and open ground requires explanation also available in Restoration Ag. ( .. We are NOT growing a closed-canopy "food forest" there is actually WAY more total photosynthesis occurring in an open-canopy lightly wooded grassland (a savanna) than in a forest. SO.... actually 100% of our 100 acres is "open" and able to produce sun-loving vegetables and especially grasses in our case.

There is also ample shade. Enough to grow currants, gooseberries and enough shiiatake mushrooms to throw off your digestion for a month!

Probably 50% of our veggies are perennials: asparagus, dandylions, clover, lambsquarter, nettles, violets, purslane, basswood, birch.... The rest are annuals. What is amazing about annual veggies (and why they're heroically championed) is that you can grow a FARTLOAD! of nutrient dense annual veggies on a puny puny puny piece of ground... Most urban triple decker apartment back-yards can grow enough produce to provide enough vitamins and minerals to keep the residents alive. Annual veggies can be stuck in open "holes" in the canopy... sheet mulched here and there... allowed to re-seed etc... I planted arugula in our Kitchen garden in 1996. We harvested it until the hot weather sent it all to seed... I never planted arugula again in our "salad patch". It finally disappeared two years ago... Same thing with Cilantro... Things that we don't like all that much, like mustard greens, seem to be multiplying like crazy... We're no different than cattle... They'll overgraze their favorite forage until it's gone. The weeds will take over... We're FINALLY getting dandylions close to the house again.. for years we had overgrazed them....

Our diet matches what's available...
11 years ago