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Anne Rambling

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since Jun 19, 2013
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Recent posts by Anne Rambling

Peat pots- issues that come up are roots still circling, they take quite awhile to break down in arid climates, any of the pot sticking up above ground seems to wick moisture out of the soil, explosion of mold that spreads like wild fire if you are using them in trays, needing to babysit them because they dry out- also so they also aren't too wet. I've had some plants that never could get roots through the pot. Compared to others- we had less root development.

Newspaper pots take awhile to make. If you don't make them right, they fall apart before you even get to move them. Using anything to secure them- then has to be removed (as in tape, staples, paper clips, etc.) Some plants take awhile to break through the pots.. some like tomatillos- send roots not just through their pot, but into the ones next to it (in particular if the pots are started in trays.) You can get a gizmo to make the pots.. but it is not necessary as there are methods and means to make them with things you already probably have around the house. There is even an origami way of folding them into square pots (size varies by size of the paper).. it takes awhile to do, but they can be folded flat for storage. Most of the newspaper will decompose.. but you may still have bits at the end of the season. Also edges of the pot will wick moisture up and out of the soil, but not nearly as bad as the peat pots- easier to tear the tops away or just push them down.

There are (cow) manure pots.. I haven't tried them.

Standard plant cell packs & pots... my neighbors & friends unload these on to us every spring.

Then there is also the SIP pots (self-irrigating planter) you can make from plastic bottles. This I have found works really well for me- and frankly these dang bottles are everywhere even though we never really buy them. They don't really inhibit the root growth, easy to pop the plants out (so it can be used repeatedly- just use another cotton ball), I don't have to worry about the soil moisture for days (no need to babysit them daily.) I'm not a fan of growing anything in plastic- but I haven't found anything yet that is better. I get more vertical root growth- which is something we like because then we seem to have to irrigate a lot less. (Our tomato plants are miserable to pull out at the end of the season.. but it paid off during last year's drought. Same style thing.. add fruit juice or something yeasty to the bottom reservoir and it works well as a fruit fly trap.
To start- you want to take inventory of what you consume to get an approximate idea of about how much you will need- then make sure to have plenty extra. If you are planning on seed saving, you'd want to figure this in as well. It's going to be trial and error for awhile to find what works best for you.

It changes.. like everyone above said.. and so does the weather.

There will be crop fluctuations- diversity offers a buffer. The weather by us the previous 3 years was nuts (2 years of historic flooding, derechos, drought.) A huge buffer for us was that we had several gardens in different locations. That also saved some of our crops from pests.

Then there is differences in the qualities (flavor, texture, acidity, yield, etc.) in each variety of crop. Some are best for fresh eating, some canning, freezing, drying, etc. The yields can vary by crop.. as can the harvest time... and how well some strains perform in your location. Consider harvest timing if you are planning on preserving what you grow.

If you have a Ball Blue Book for canning.. they have a chart that will give you a rough guideline of approximately how much to try to plan. Just keep in mind it is a very very rough guideline.

My family of 3.. 30 tomato plants is the bare minimum (some are best for sauce, some for fresh eating. Then also always setting aside room to try new types.) That's leaving us hoping like heck nothing goes wrong. (About 3/4th are for canning.. salsas, tomato sauces, curry ketchup, stews. I need to make sure I have enough ripening at about the same time to do batches for canning.. same goes for other crops. Enough for fresh eating, for chicken treats, deer & chipmunk invasions.) So with this.. I need to time other things that as well go into the recipes (herbs, peppers, onions, etc.)

Look to the cook.. and keep track of things both in the garden and in the kitchen. (Planting times.. yields.. weather.. attributes you like/ dislike of varieties.. pest emergence.. etc.) What you need and how much will depend on what you like to eat.. and how much variety. (We also grow extras which we give away and also swap with neighbors.)

This will also impact plant utilization. Example.. peas. We use some as an early green veggie (the shoots).. a lot for fresh eating, some freezing, some for dried peas/ seed stock... and some for the chickens. So we plant 3 different kinds.
Radishes.. raw it doesn't get eaten often by us in as big of a quantity.. cooked more so.. pickled they go quick.. and the greens would be ignored- except I've found if I julienne them with other ignored greens (finely chopped brassica leaves & stems) I can use them in potstickers that my family LOVES. We haven't yet gotten a variety meant for the pods.. (and found out we have a few chickens that will obliterate huge bunches of pods drying for seeds. So now we have extra for seed- harvesting the whole stem- hang it in the coop in winter for their amusement when they can't go outside due to bad weather + what we set aside for replanting.)

How much of what we grow in regards to seeds- also varies. I make sure to have enough for at least the next 2 years for most crops. (There are a few that don't hold viability that long, like onions & parsnip.) Also packaged separately and stored separately (learned the hard way on this.. which really sucked.)

Herbs.. are a wonderful thing. Not just for seasoning.. but teas too.

Part I guess is diligence. Aside from growing it.. making sure it gets well utilized is important.

Hope that helps.

Silly little bit of trivia.. many of our favorite apple varieties.. were discovered in cow pastures.
5 years ago
Curious.. what are the plans for fencing so the pasturing can be rotated? Just a thought... as I am watching a paint gelding pony wandering down our street.
5 years ago
*vc geek alert*
Identifying native species will be tricky. (Truth is there are only a few scientists that can- but some species actually need to have their DNA run to properly categorize!)

This site is helpful to narrow down what you may have wrangled..earthworm ID

The glaciers did do a number on the regions they covered.. in particular the Great Lakes area, a bit across the upper Midwest, and the NE. (If you want to get really geeky about this.. the US actually has a very interesting worm.. the Palouse earthworm. Very large- 3 feet long, snow white.. and when disturbed- smells like lilacs. They thought it might have died out.. but someone found one in Idaho.. which for those scientists.. was probably like discovering a unicorn.) It's only relatively recently that any real interest is shown to that species.

Miles is right about there being different types. At maturity- earthworm get that band around their body (clitellum).. which rolls off them to become the cocoon. The "fresh" rolled off ones are white and get darker with age. If they recently deposited a cocoon.. there will be a depression where it was. It's the mature size that you want to use to gauge what type it probably is.

A really generalized run down...
anecic- typically large earthworms- they create rather deep burrows- they generally need cooler temps- they like deeper soils and some space in an area that isn't disturbed too much.

Endogeic- mid-ish level dwellers- rough ballpark about 4 to 6 inches.. kinda mid sized. They're the ones that hang out a couple of inches into the soil. In some parts these are the ones we find when we turn the soil in gardens-hanging out in raised beds and wandering through the lawn under the sod.

Epigeic- smaller- typically pigmented- they are the upper level dwellers. This particular type does well in bins.

... And just now I notice the last post was in April. *sigh*

I've had vc bins going for a decade now. It's fantastic stuff for mitigating transplant shock and sprouting things. (I'm always amazed at what nubs of things come back to life in there..) Mine are all rounded up from the yard. It's a lovely consideration that you want to use natives. There's no real way to stop the invasives- which is unfortunate.

5 years ago

Essentially for making biogas- they are letting material decompose in a low oxygen setting.. which produces more methane. If you are looking to collect and use the methane as another resource while also making compost this is a good concept- but methane is a very potent greenhouse gas when released. In this case.. "juicy" moisture filled plants work great for the digester. If you've ever gone by a landfill and seen a flaming pipe at the top.. this is the same set up in smaller scale- where the methane is instead captured and utilized.

Biochar.. it's char-(coal) produced in an oxygen restricted environment- with variances depending on what they are looking to produce (bio-oil or syngas). Picking a succulent to burn is the worst possible choice as it is comprised mostly of water.

Here's the thing that I get hung up on...
Industries are incinerating biomass materials as a means of disposing of an unwanted or residual byproduct. (Some set ups harness this as an energy source for their production.. waste to energy.) It's done in a controlled setting- so they can vary what they produce and the quality in addition to controlling what is expelled into the environment. They heat it up fast and at high temps to create bio-oil along with biochar. Slowly at lower temps.. and they can create syngas & biochar. The bio-oil and syngas are combustable fuels to feed back into the production system. Biochar.. a byproduct that is now finding an application. The qualities of the char fluctuates according to the process and biomass used.

I'm good with that.. as a use of an industrial waste product.

Just home production just to make char..baffles me. It isn't very eco friendly (producing carbon monoxide, CO2,etc.- and usually wasting the energy- in this case heat.) Typically fails to produce the same quality char... as industrial operations are set up to monitor oxygen levels, capture the gasses released due to incineration, controlled temperatures, etc... and many of the studies touting the qualities.. are from the high temp/fast incinerate method.

*shrug* Just a thought.

Side note.. a problem I had gardening in a semi-arid place (14-18" annually) was not only the soil having high pH.. but as well the city water/ tap water was high (. Even though we made and added mountains of compost.. every time I watered, I sabotaged our progress. (Rainbarrels were illegal there... so I put in a pond and aimed the gutter downspout towards it.) When the pH gets that high.. it starts locking up nutrients in the soil.

5 years ago
We basically did that for the summer and into the fall of 2011- about 5 months. My husband and I set up a challenge..allocated $100 per month in purchased goods for 2 adults. Yeah... wine was involved.

We're better situated now if we were to do that again. (Read-I've hid my husband's "back to basics" book and made sure to hide coffee & chocolate in the freezer.)

Food prep/ storage/ usage/rationing gets more scrutinized. It is just as important as finding a food source. When we did it.. we had horrid weather that year. Record breaking flood, derechos.. we were gardening in more than 1 location and that was lucky. The loudest lamenting about the weather.. often were those that as well love to garden & forage. A crop swap came about. That network was a huge bonus. (Not just in variety, but sharing information.)

Squirrel, coons, opossum, turkey, deer, common snapping turtle (not alligator snappers- endangered), fish, frogs, assorted fish, crayfish,etc.. for some around here who are avid hunters, these all make it into their pans. (snapping turtles.. around here they put them in clean fresh water for a few days. Alive. They taste better.) Scavenging eggs- you'd need to keep an eye on timing unless you like balut (embryo).

Garden additions- soybeans (various stages & types. Sprouts, immature bean, mature bean).. squash seeds.. parsnips (they're wild around here- having escaped cultivation and spread).. jerusalem artichokes (sun chokes).. while mustard has escaped cultivation in many areas- the oil from the seeds is harsh to many. Wild grapes.. the natives are often slip skin type- the seeds can be pressed for oil- but it is a lot of work.

Pinenuts would be something to ponder. Chestnuts, butternuts (or rather Buarts), hickory nuts... several of these juglans can be tapped for syrup.

In our temperate zone.. it's seeds, nuts, and meats.. (if only olives and avocados would handle our climate!)

Are chickens a possible option for you? (Japanese beetles that have invaded are a bane & a boon.. unfortunately most of my chicks were roosters- but fantastic foragers. Crickets, earthworms, grubs, Japanese beetles.. the beetles ... sooo many they leave some trees looking like bad lace. They're flying crunchy bits of protein and lipids. Even though my boys were always on the run.. they got quite chunky. Dual purpose breeds- not broilers.. they were sent to freezer camp at 6 months old. A local was processing their birds & some friends' birds.. and ours. Could not miss which ones ours were.. the meat & especially the fat was a rich gold color.) A lure over a large shallow container of cold water.. pest control and poultry feed.

5 years ago