Peter Ellis

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since Apr 04, 2013
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Recent posts by Peter Ellis

Pokeweed is one we get quite a bit of. Tremendous amount of biomass. For me it goes into the compost or dropped as mulch. I know some view it as a pretty good edible, but I choose not to eat it.
In 2020 American fireweed showed up on our site in abundance. Another that's purportedly edible, we tried it, not impressed ;) Tried it with our rabbits and poultry, they also seemed unimpressed. So it's another mulch plant.
In the weeds I hate category, smilax (catbrier, greenbrier). Nasty thorns, vicious tripping hazard, climbs trees and can pull them down if smother them. Young shoots are edible and taste pretty good, steamed for 15 minutes they're quite pleasant to eat, but not so much as to make up for the negatives.
2 months ago

Greg Martin wrote:Not sure if this one is closely related or not, but Baker Creek has a pink flowered buckwheat that they list as perennial:  Rose Red Soba
It's certainly beautiful and as I post this they still have it in stock.

Planted a package of that last year in SW MI and got nothing for it. Not a thing. Total disappointment.
2 months ago
Congratulations! Best of luck with your projects.  Yes, there's nowhere near enough information about developing forest gardens within existing forests. I've been told not to expect so much help (none! ;) ) when I've mentioned that all the models seem to be about building from grass land into food forest. The people telling me this all have many models for their work, because they're starting with no forest. Which is all to say that I feel your pain ;)

My wife and I moved on to twenty acres (a little under ten hectares?) of wooded land about four years ago. I feel there are two things that must be understood when you're working with an existing forest to develop a forest garden. The first is that you are years ahead of people starting from open land. Your soil is already forest soil, made for perennials, the primary plants of a forest garden. You won't have to spend years developing the proper soil. Nature has done that for you. The second is before you start planting or changing anything, get a good inventory of what you already have. Our site has been forested for about one hundred years, no real estimate of how long it was cleared prior to that, but our region's natural state is primarily hardwood forest. What we have now is predominantly oak and maple, with some evergreen conifers (white pine?), black cherry, beech for our overstory trees. Understory includes blueberry and witch hazel, herbaceous layer has nettles, chickweed, watercress, wintergreen, ferns, assorted mosses.

The inventory of what is already growing will tell you a few things: our blueberries are evidence of an acidic soil, the ferns, mosses, watercress, all speak to how wet our soil is. That we have native or naturalized blueberries says we should do well with varietals, if we choose to add them. Beech trees produce a good quality nut, and I am working in our forest to favor the beech trees we have.

We also have existing grapes, again presumably native, and I have collected cuttings and am attempting to grow some of these in locations of our choice. Working with what we have ;)

Development of guild systems in already extant forest is much more a matter of adding in to what is already there than of picking what pieces to assemble.
One technique to work with in developing a forest garden within an existing forest is Selective Clearing.  What I mean by this is determining a location that will be accessible and suited to your active cultivation, something in Permaculture Zones 1-3, that you will be able to visit on a regular basis and provide care and attention, and then picking a spot to create a clearing. On our site, we have some areas that are largely sassafras trees. These have their useful qualities, but we have them in excess. Clearing a small area, as much as a 30x30 meter square, won't damage our sassafras population, but will provide a clearing, and an edge effect, in which to plant a variety of productive plants that will thrive in the edge environment. By having this in a frequently visited zone you will be able to give the new plantings the attention they need to become established and thrive.

2 months ago
I am very sorry to hear that you have run into these issues. I'm not acquainted with Canada's laws on these things, but I was trained as a real estate paralegal and appraiser in the States, and down here, I have some qualifications. Part of what you have discovered is that when land is available at a surprisingly low price, there's generally a reason. Such as restrictions on what you are allowed to do on the land.

The realtor's job is to make a sale, not to know the legal restrictions on the property, nor to explain them to the prospective buyer. They're not supposed to engage in fraud, and from your description of this particular purchase, that might be an issue.

How much of the information you have shared here about the restrictions have you confirmed directly with the regulatory authorities? The notion of needing a permit for each individual tree to be cut sounds unreasonable and I wonder if there's some misunderstanding. It could actually be the law, but considering how much extra work that can make for the people responsible for issuing permits and enforcing...

Before I even looked at property in person, when my wife and I were searching for our homestead site, I did hours of due diligence research checking the zoning laws for the municipality. making sure we would be allowed to build on the land and operate our homestead as we wanted. There were many properties that were initially appealing, but rapidly scratched off the list due to zoning, or proximity to toxic areas (there was this one property, fantastic price on a hundred acres with a really good location and... formerly a paper mill, superfund site, interim owner lost it between taxes and bankruptcy filing because clean up requirements ... no, no no, no!). Wetland designation was another concern - I can work with wetlands for my purposes, but I can't work with regulated wetlands for my purposes ;)

Again, I am sorry tht you are in this situation. I hope that people will take notice that it is extremely important to research any piece of land you may want to purchase and get assurances from the appropriate regulatory agencies that you will be allowed to do what you need to do, rather than relying upon second hand information, especially from soneone who has a commission riding on the sale.
2 months ago

Ben Reilly wrote:Just wanted to give a quick update. The branch I chose above is too thin to support the rake head I was going to put on it. If anyone is planning on going this route, I probably would pick branches that don't go down to less than an inch think. Mine tapered to maybe 5/8" thick.

I'll just have to try again once the garden settles down briefly. :) Appreciate everyone's replies in here.

I might suggest that you're planning on an oversized head for your rake ;) 5/8 at the tips going into the head ought to be a pretty good size. You don't want that business end of a wooden rake to be very heavy, it's on the far end of a long lever arm and you'll start feeling every ounce as you work with it ;)
2 months ago
I recommend that you have a look at some of Curtis Buchanan's videos on YouTube. He gives some explanations about how drawknives work and how they should be set up.
Your drawknife has the handles coming straight out off the ends, which makes it very difficult to work with efficiently on a shaving horse, It's also much deeper front to back through the blade than it needs to be. You want to be able to make curved cuts, which that deep blade just won't allow.

I might also suggest that on your shaving horse, you shape the dumb head some more. Right now it's just a log shaped cylinder, and some of that material on the top at the front will eventually get in your way when you are working, and it isn't doing anything useful by being there.  If you give it an arched profile from the back down toward the gripping jaw, it will be more versatile. The curve should look almost like a parrot's upper beak.
2 months ago
Axes are remarkably misunderstood tools ;) People think of them as crude, but in the right hands, the right axe and properly tuned, they are remarkably precise tools. I have multiple axes, but none of the bearded variety. My large hewing axe allows for gripping the haft behind the head, as you can with a bearded axe, but it is not a bearded axe. Rather more like an oversize Kent pattern.

A good sharp hewing axe (single bevel), whether or not it's a bearded variety, can be used as an axe, a plane or a chisel. You can achieve remarkably flat and clean surfaces, with just the one tool.
One of the "secrets" of bearded axes is not just the length of the edge, but the curve along it. That curve allows for a longer slicing cut, and so better precision and control.

These designs are efficient in their use of iron, but they're also made for carpentry work, not tree felling, or splitting logs. They're kind of delicate ;)
2 months ago
Lots of thoughts. For one, get on YouTube and look up Spoon Club and "Barn the Spoon". Both will show you wonders ;)

I find holding the piece in my hand much easier than trying to work on a piece held by a clamp, when I'm spoon carving. You need to shift around and account for different grain constantly, making holding it in my hand infinitely more practical. The slojd style knife with a flat scandinavian grind, like the Mora 106, is made for carving the outsides of spoons - everything but the interior of the bowl. The hook knife does that part and better than any other tool. With a gouge, you Must clamp the work, not hand hold it. With the hook knife it's easy to hand hold the work and so adjust angles and get around the bowl in a smooth fashion. With really sharp knives, you get a finish from the tools that does not need sanding.

Here's the first in a series of videos that explain and demonstrate the knife techniques used for carving wooden spoons using knives, the carver is Jogge Sundquist and he knows his craft, he's been at it all his life ;)

A shaving horse is a fantastic tool to have for all sorts of green woodworking (or just woodworking, period) purposes, but for spoon carving, if you need something to hold the piece other than your hand, the spoon mule is the right tool for the job ;)

Absolutely true that the bowl of a spoon is nowhere near so deep as we think it is ;)

Many wooden spoons have incredible amounts of "crank" - that's the angle between the handle and the bowl. Cooking spoons tend to have little or none, while "eaters" can get very extreme.

There's an interesting tradeoff that happens at the "neck" of a spoon, where the handle flows into the bowl. For comfort in your hand, the neck wants to be narrow, but with wooden spoons, a narrow neck will often mean a broken spoon if there isn't something to compensate for getting so narrow.  This is why at that point many wooden spoons become deeper - the handle has been broad and flat, the neck becomes narrow, but deep and the keel formed there will often flow into the bottom of the bowl of the spoon. The result is a spoon that is both comfortable and sturdy.

2 months ago
Curtis Buchanon could become a very good friend of yours ;) He has a number of videos on YouTube detailing the construction of a couple of different chair designs. In the process, he introduces us to the tools, including the "tapered reamer" and explains its use and construction. If you like green woodworking, Curtis will help you ;) Peter Follansbee's blog might be useful to you as well, with a wide variety of insights into making useful things from trees ;)

Paul Sellers on youtube has quite a number of videos that address making your own tools. I forget whether he deals with a tapered reamer or not. Pask makes has a couple of videos where he makes both a tapered reamer and a tapering plane. The tapering plane makes the male part of the tapered mortise and tenon joint, the reamer makes the female part.

Mike Abbott has a couple of books on green wood working and Mike is one of the leaders of the renaissance of this craft.
Peter Follansbee and J. Alexander have a book, "Make a Joint Stool from a Tree"
J. Alexander's book "Make a Chair from a Tree" is part of what set Follansbee on his career path as a green woodworker and researcher into 17th century furniture construction.
Roy Underhill - his PBS tv show The Woodwright's Shop", any or all of his books. If you're in Japan attending classes at Roy's North Carolina school might be difficult ;)

Building planes is almost its own subculture in woodworking ;) I think some people get obsessed with the making of them ;) Depending on whether or not you have metalworking capacity, there are quite a few woodworking tools that it's possible to build entirely yourself. Chisels, planes, axes, gouges, adzes - the metal work on any of them is within reach of a competent hobby metal worker. I would suggest that saws and drill bits are best left to professionals ;) The wood work on all of them - it's worth making your own tool handles for things like chisels, axes, hammers - it's woodworking practice, you'll get handles that fit Your hands and you'll feel both invested in and rewarded by the work ;)

2 months ago