Rob Read

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since Jan 08, 2013
I grew up and live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. I am a poet, science fiction author, and permaculturist. I work at the Rotman Institute of Philosophy as an Administrative Assistant. I am a co-founder of the Carolinian Canada Forest Garden Guild, and co-owner of Artemisia's Forest Garden Nursery.
Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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Recent posts by Rob Read

I agree about hungry stock getting into this type of hedge, and in the case where that's your primary purpose, 75-100% osage orange or hawthorn is likely best. Also, some breeds of cattle are more browsers than grazers, and would go for even the super thorny stuff in theory. Goats would likely devour them. Sheep might do serious damage, especially when the trees are young.

Another hazard - I've heard that cattle that consume or try to consume Osage Orange fruit can choke on them and die.

All that said - based on what historians say, a lot of farmers in North America used to use these before barb-wire was invented and available, as their exclusive fences, especially if they lived somewhere with no trees available for wooden fences. They must have found solutions to these problems, and I'm sure we can too, if we desire this kind of fence.
5 months ago
There are scarce resources that I've found about traditional hedgelaying in North America, but this type of hedge is what was used, and likely from what I've heard even originated, in the USA in the Delaware region. Once there was a shortage of wood to make fences from after European settlement, people experimented with different techniques. By the way, a very good example of hedgelaying in action is in one of those historial farm documentaries put out by the BBC, though I can't recall which one or which episode.

I was recently talking to someone involved with trying to document and bring back this type of hedge in Ontario, Canada, and have a few details to share about this type of hedge in Eastern North America.

Species selection: here are some ideas that have a long history of working well:

For hedges intended to keep animals in (or out), and a long history as a primary species in the mix: hawthorn, osage orange. For a stock-proof fence, you'd likely want about 50% of these in the mix, because of their tendency to get thick and dense with thorns.

Others potentially good to keep animals in (or out): seabuckthorn, rose.

Others in the mix: hazels, chestnuts, serviceberries/juneberries, nanking cherry (careful - cherry leaves can apparently make some stock sick or dead from eating damp foliage), apples (especially thornier crabs), plums (again, thorny wilder ones), aronia, red ozier dogwood (might be a bit 'stringy' and leave places for stock to escape). Obviously this list is mostly targeted at species with multiple uses. There are other trees that were traditionally used. Note that with the most of these, you will be able to get crops most years, though likely not as much as if the the trees were allowed to grow to full size.

Worth experimenting with: autumn olive, elderberries, black locust - though I share the excitement about using black locust, I feel like it might be better served in a longer rotation where it is allowed to get larger, to take advantage of it's use as rot-proof posts, or very dense firewood on a 10-15 year coppice system. I would do testing before assuming it would work in this type of hedge, or find someone who has done it.

There are definitely other species appropriate, but I recommend trying to find out if someone else has used them successfully first, since this is a long-term project.

Starting one:

Documentaries often focus on the maintenance, or 'laying' of a hedge, not initial establishment. Here's the very basic technique I've had described to me:

Plant out the hedge with the trees fairly dense. Your first challenge will be protecting the young trees from rabbits, deers etc. I'm planning to use electric fence for this, but others will find different ways to solve that challenge. Unfortunately, I've not found definitive information about plant spacing as of yet, though the link at the bottom has some ideas on this. Maybe others can share their experience on that?
Let the trees grow up for a few years until they are about 4' tall, then do the hedgelaying technique shown in the video above, or other places.
Then let them grow up to about 4' again, and trim them to that annually.
An important note for long term health is every couple of years after that, add a couple of inches to the height you trim to. So, after a couple of years trim to 4'2", then a couple of years later, 4'4".

Don't take any of this as gospel, as I can't find my original notes at this time to confirm all details.

One of the only books I've found on the subject is a British book called Hedges and Hedgelaying by Murray Maclean. I've not read the whole book yet, but it's pretty good. More on the history and reasons why, but there are some technique things too. There are also plenty of websites, some with more info than others. This is one of the best I've found:

I'm planning a hedgerow of over 1000', but likely won't start it until next year or the year after. I'll have more to share after that, as I'll have had more conversations with the local researcher who has been working on hedges for years.
5 months ago
I'm likewise reassured to find this thread. I am in the same boat as others, except that I was ordering from Canada, so can't easily tell if my money-order was deposited or not (will have to contact my bank about this).

I couldn't hold in my mind anything but a personal disaster getting in the way of Carol's passion to share seeds, but at the same time, was likewise having a hard time with the lack of communication. It worked out well that I didn't get my over $200 order though - since my farm didn't have enough garden space for all that yet! This year I'll have much more prepared from the tarps I've got out over the winter.

In case Carol reads this, or if Joseph is in touch again with her: all my best wishes during whatever she is going through. Through hard lessons in my own personal life in 2017, I learned the hard way that resilience is harder to experience your way through than any book (even Carol's excellent ones) can ever prepare you for.

I'm curious to hear people's experience, as I have some seed in the fridge I'm planning to plant soon. There's a video YouTube of Jonathan Bates crushing the corky shell off a bunch of seeds at the same time by squishing them between two cutting boards.

Freshness of seed is pretty important.
3 years ago
Hi Sky,

I don't know what your base price per unit is currently is on your website (still can't access it from my location for some reason) - but if kickstarter supporters got a bit of a savings on buying EPA approved ones, I'm sure you'd have no problem. I'd support the kickstarter to get a bit of a price deal - plus the value of EPA approval, which it sounds like for some states is mandatory.

You are so far along with the proof of concept, and already selling non-EPA approved units - and you could add stretch goals for the 2.0 model's R&D.
4 years ago
Sky: this innovation sounds really great. Congratulations on bringing this to fruition. I've taken a rocket mass heater workshop with Ernie and Erica, and have a friend who has expertise - so have always considered making my own as the best option. That said, the new place we just got has a lovely interior I'm not too eager to mess with (as in, trying to preserve it's century home feel), so we've been leaning towards wood stove. Your rocket heater sounds like a good middle ground for this particular situation. We can always make our own custom rocket mass heater for the future greenhouse or other structures made on site (where we can also be more confident on the structure of the floor supporting the weight.)

That said - I can't get the URL to work. I'm hoping this means the site is crashing due to oodles of interest in your product!

Also - I'll need information on shipping this to Canada, and whether you guys will offer that, and thought I might as well ask here so others can see the answer. Will you offer shipping to Canada? (I understand that you wouldn't be able to guarantee your units are compliant with Canada's building code, but if you could, that would be great too.)

4 years ago
Based on my experience with Stachys affinis (Chinese Artichokes), they will keep well in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for at least several weeks, and likely a month. You might want to put in a damp paper towel/newspaper to keep them a bit moist. Humid and cool/cold is what you are looking for - trying to keep them dormant. If they are already sprouting when they arrive, I would agree with the advice of potting them up. I did mine one per pot, so they would form little clusters, that could them be spread around the place.

I started most of mine in little peat pots last year, planning to plant them out in the ground when they are bigger. They're still in peat pots now, outdoors, planted under ground level, and under glass/screen to protect from rodents. No action yet that I've noticed this spring, so hoping they survived the winter.

Good luck.

4 years ago
That's really interesting. I wonder if mycorrhizal fungi contribute to something that's always been a bit of a puzzle to me. In Gaea's Garden, Toby talks about apple trees being planted near black walnuts in a guild, although many other sources say apples are negatively effected by juglone. Apparently this is related to the mulberry planted in between the apple and the black walnut acting as a buffer - maybe it's related to mycorrhizal fungi that favor mulberry roots that help create that buffer.

Just a speculation.
4 years ago
Awesome thread! I've learned a lot.

One thing I'll add, though it may be obvious, is dehydrating the mushrooms first before blending might make them easier to powder. Alternately, they might just go leathery and hard to blend.

I don't have direct experience with this, but another idea would be to make the mushrooms into a thick mush (add a bit of water and blend), then dehydrate on a tray, then powder them afterwards. This technique works very well with garlic scapes (no added water required) to make them into a delicious powder.

I'm wondering about just adding them to a tea (once they are powdered). Would that work?

Also - is turkey tail considered something that should be taken strictly therapeutically when someone is suffering from cancer, or could it work as something to take regularly for general good health (like chaga)?
4 years ago
This is a question for Peter McCoy, author of Radical Mycology, who is visiting the forum this week.

Without wanting to go TOO tangential to permaculture, I'm interested about your take on how important mushrooms were to ancient cultures. I've read here and there about how important certain mushrooms have been to world's religions, but don't know much about their more mundane (and more important?) use as food stuffs and medicines.

To give some context, the most recent place I heard about mushrooms as an inspiration was in Robert Graves' The Greek Myths - he mentions consumption of, I think, Fly Agaric, as a religious practice in ancient Greece. There are also theories, many of them arising in the 1960s and 70s, about how important 'holy' mushrooms were to proto-Christian groups like the Essenes (John Allegro wrote books about this), the Vikings (there are theories their berzerkers took mushrooms just before battle), and I'm pretty sure there are references in ancient Indian texts too to use of psychedelics.

Anyway - my question is more on what we know about everyday use of mushrooms in ancient cultures. Feel free to answer in any way that makes sense, as this is a really open question.
4 years ago