Gabe Haynes

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since Jun 13, 2013
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Recent posts by Gabe Haynes

My kids (5 and 2) are okay veggie eaters- they'll eat the easy stuff like cherry tomatoes, cukes and peas in season, but have had to get creative with the squash and greens and such.  I've had a lot of success with the stealth approach- shredded zuke and carrots, or squash puree hide well in muffins and meatballs; chard, kale, and spinach blend well with berries and yogurt for smoothies or popsicles, lentils and diced celery hide delighfully in sloppy joes. And if you have to drown veggies in ranch dressing to sell it, i find that a yogurt based homemade concocotion helps absolve parental guilt .   Of course, kids are notoriously wily about food and masters of changing their minds just as parents get used to a particular routine or behavior- just as you congratulate yourself on finding a nutrient rich meal that they ate with no complaint or negotiation, they won't eat it again.  The other side of this is that they'll also change their minds, just as you resign to a life of elaborate schemes, stories, and bargains at meal time!
4 years ago
We're new to cob and took it upon ourselves to make a modest cob structure this summer- erecting cob walls around a pre-existing covered patio beside a garage.  All was going smoothly;  we had figured out the perfect ratio of native soil to amendments (clay powder, in our case) based on multiple test bricks and shake tests, and had a solid 18 inch urbanite stem wall over nearly a foot of gravel.

I should clarify, by "we", I mostly mean a couple who have been our wonderful, hardworking, cautious and conscientious WWOOFers for the summer. Over 2 days they built up about 10-12 inches when they began to notice small cracks that hadn't been an issue with any of the test bricks. Being the cautious folks they are, decided to halt consturuction for the time being until they could research further, consult a friend with some cobbing experience, etc. They put tarps over the finished walls, and my family and I spent 11 glorious days in Montana, confident they'd have everything figured out upon our return.

We returned today and our otherwise great work-trade partners haven't been able to gain much insight into how concerning these cracks should be, and in fact hadn't even checked on the cob while we were gone. It appears that there is some mold growing on the visible straw,  not a great deal, but its definitely there. So...i have two questions:

1. Are small cracks a dire concern? The walls are not load-bearing, so my suspicion was that it'd be okay. They're definitely solid (i gave them several strong kicks and they didn't give at all)

2. The mold! Ick! Is this a cause for panic? Of course, the year we choose to do a cob project, Portland has an uncharacteristically cool and moist summer (which has wreacked a mildwey havoc on my comfrey), but it sounds like there are some hot (upper 80s-90) days on the horizon. Will a few hot, dry days knock this out and allow us to stay the course? Do we need to start over? Treat it with something antifungal? Help!
4 years ago
Its not an entire playground, but at our house, we've got a delightful play structure/chicken coop mashup. Living on an average-size urban lot, we definitely strive to stack functions! The kit was $50 from a neighbor who lost the momentum to build it, the green poly from our old, dysfunctional coop, and the logs from a cedar we took down to make room for more urban permie madness
4 years ago
Portland's got a lovely park, Westmoreland Park, constructed from natural materials, closer to their natural state than other wooden play structures.  The picture doesn't show it, but its also got a basic metal frame and pile of large sticks, intended for kids to build structures.  It also has a water play area and sand box.  My kids, ages 2 and 5, love this park.
4 years ago
So I've got this crazy idea...  I've collected 3 4-drawer file cabinets which I plant to turn into large planters- I've removed the drawers, laid them on their backs and drilled holes for drainage.  I'm in the process of commissioning some welding work to have some material (something cool and rusty, hopefully I can find some industrial/architectural salvage in my budget!) attached for trellising or training plants.  My ultimate goal is to make use of space that was formerly paved driveway (we've depaved and laid pea gravel) and block out the not-so-scenic view of my neighbors house, a mere 20ish feet from mine.  I'll try to share some pics at some point

So here's where I'm soliciting some advice- has anyone ever attempted, had success, or failure with a mini-guild in a large container?  I'd like to try hardy kiwi in my containers, since it's a fruit we don't have yet and they apparently grow pretty well here.  Anyone grown kiwis in containers?  And as for N-fixers...could something as large as a goumi or seaberry thrive sharing a container with the kiwi?  What do y'all think?  Any other favorite perennials that will thrive in containers you'd recommend?
4 years ago
My son (recently turned 5) was given The Happiness Tree: Celebrating the Gifts of Trees We Treasure by Andrea Alban Gosline and it's been a big hit. Its slightly new-agey for my tastes, but did have some great tree facts that were new even to did you know that Magnolia trees have been around since before bees?!

Diary of a Fly is kinda fun, though it does present some absurd anthropomorphistic situations along with actual facts about the role of insects in our ecosystem. My kid has returned to this book time and again for a couple years now.
4 years ago
Ugh, sawflies! I've just had my first encounter with them this season. I didn't really notice until nearly 1/4 of one of my black currants was annihilated. Since then, I've taking the approach of ruthlessly squashing all that I find, and a generous dusting of DE over the plants and on the ground(don't know if it'll harm the blasted larvae, but maybe will harm the adult flies when they emerge, hopefully?) The damage seems to be slowing significantly, at least for now. Of course, the hand-picking solution works for me, as I've got an urban lot with only 5 currant and gooseberry plants...this may not be as realistic if you're in a setting with dozens of bushes. I've noticed its worst on the Black currant- it seems they're less interested in the red one.
4 years ago
Greetings from a fellow Portlander with little kids, an old lot/home situated near a high traffic area, and a flourishing permie oasis!

I agree with prior posts about soil testing first, before assuming the worst. There's a definitely a possibility that most of it is unsightly but mostly harmless. We recently tested the soil in our back yard (where we mostly have fruiting trees and shrubs in the native soil, the front is raised beds with imported soil) with Lead Safe America. Their office is in inner SE; its a pretty good deal- I believe a local lab donates their services for a $5 donation per sample to Lead Safe America. So, its definitely a win-win, getting your soil tested for Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, and Arsenic while also making a donation to a great nonprofit run by a passionate, driven local mama. The drawback is that they don't test for petrochemicals.

Of course, all lots vary, but even our lead levels weren't terrible (well below EPA standards, just a touch above California standards); our mercury/cadmium/arsenic levels were nearly undetectable, despite being in the armpit of I-84 and I-205 and having 82nd ave 3 houses away . Also, we've been getting both of our kid's blood levels checked routinely since about 12 months old and they have always been under 5, so that's reassuring too.

Provided your tests don't reveal something awful lurking in your dirt, I'd get a load of woodchips ( All the chips you could want, free or nearly free!) and mulch over it all, then fashion some raised beds and get a load of good garden soil. I think its worth the investment to start with good, fertile soil anyway.
4 years ago
We've been making slow, but steady progress on our similar-sized lot and '39 home here in Portland, OR for about 5 years. We're also raising two little ones under 5 (we actually closed on the house the same day kid #1 was born!), so i know all too well about being short on time! For our first 3 years, we had a couple rent-paying housemates, which helped immensely to finance many of our projects like new, efficient windows, woodstove insert, insulation, purchasing fruiting shrubs and plants with reckless abandon, and several large tanks for holding rainwater. These days we've been seeking out a longish-term (like 2-3 months) WWOOF style helper for assistance with the summer season and a greenhouse building project, but have yet to find our perfect match.

As for urban wildlife and their challenges...slugs are our biggest challenge! As for the furry ones, I cursed the neighborhood cats utilizing my garden beds as a litter box for a couple seasons, until developing some deterrent strategies, and acknowledging the fact that we've never have any rat or mouse problems with our compost, chicken feed, or home. We have knee-high fences in our backyard food forest to keep the free-ranging chickens out and have noticed that the squirrels still get in to cause mischief, but thankfully no major damage thus far...

I did have few thoughts regarding your water (both use and recycling) plans and speculations. My (admittedly, not super exhaustive) research has suggested that the things needed to treat rainwater and make it potable are kinda expensive. Of course, this is a good investment if your town has Flint-style problems, but otherwise it would seem cost prohibitive. If you're planning to stick with a conventional flush toilet, why not consider diverting nonpotable rainwater to this use? When our rainwater/greywater guys helped install our two 330gal storage totes last year, it was suggested that it could (at least the way our home is set up) easily be plumbed (for about $800) to divert rainwater to use to fill the toilet talk. Alas, we need every drop of our collected rain water to keep the garden happy in the dry months here, and since we already had switched to a dual-flush low water use toilet that had taken a chunk out of our sewer bill, it seemed to me that the cost vs. savings would take a while to break even. And speaking of toilets and such. How about your basic Jenkins-style humanure compost? Being waterless, you wouldn't have to worry about flooding issues. We're getting pretty close to having everything set up to transition in that direction, and the biggest challenge of this method in a city setting that I've encountered is having to sacrifice precious space for compost that needs to rest for a long time. (And the fear that if something goes awry, your neighbors will likely not be happy about the smell)

Anyway, viva la urban homestead! Its one of my favorite topics of conversation . Hopefully I can share some pics this week during nap time!
4 years ago
We’re a family of 4 with an awesome, ever-growing Portland, OR urban homestead, seeking to exchange room and board in our sweet 3bed/1bath home in exchange for 15-20 hours/week help completing some summer building projects. We’re looking for help during the dry season, roughly May-Sept to take the lead in completing a reclaimed window greenhouse, as well as a cob oven/bench. We’re enthusiastic to assist with construction, however the needs of our young children and work outside the home (as well of lack of experience with natural building and construction) have us seeking a person (or couple) with experience in natural building that will see these projects through to completion.
Your accommodations will be a finished, furnished, heated/cooled attic space with shared bathroom and kitchen, but otherwise separate from the sometimes wild-and-crazy scene that is our young family. We’ve got a large annual garden, as well as a baby (just planted last year!) food forest in development in the back yard. We have nearly a dozen types of berries established throughout the grounds as well as 3 chickens. We’re big on rainwater collection (nearly 1000 gallons between various totes and barrels), compost, and building soil fertility. We also brew beer and can prodigiously, both skills we’d love to share.

As mentioned above, we have young children in our home, so it is imperative that any potential guests are smoking and drug/alcohol abuse free and can abide by 10pm-9am quiet hours.

Interested? Send me a message and lets talk!
5 years ago