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Danny Smithers

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since Nov 03, 2013
Florissant, CO
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Recent posts by Danny Smithers

Thank you so much for the informative soil building suggestions. I've definitely considered many of these. I found it very helpful to have the soil building plants divided up into "Drillers" "Fillers" and "Biomass" it really helps me get my head around what I'm trying to do. I"ll go through all of the plants put forward and add my thoughts, and add a bit of needed clarification about my goal.

I may not have made it totally clear in my initial post,  but within the cover mix I really wanted it to be something that I can plant and walk away from so that I'm still obtaining yield and building soil even if I don't have time to get to a particular portion on on any given year. I frankly have only eaten sunchokes once and they were good, there are a variety of sunchoke preparation strategies that I think I would enjoy. But from a yield perspective they don't seem to be that prolific for online purchasing and I figured I could sell them by the pound online for growing or eating. The lowest I found was $10/pound online and selling them seems like a good option for bringing in some funding for my family and projects--they also seem to sell out later in the season so people are buying them. My precipitation varies greatly from year to year so I am hoping to plant a perennial cover that can handle the drier times as well. The sunchokes are drought tolerant and the lupine has a taproot and is also drought tolerant--plus it also produces an edible lupin bean for animals or people. I got into the lupine idea because of research I found about lupines being grown in rotation with quinoa: I eventually plan to grow a lot of quinoa because it is well suited for our climate and thought this cover mix would be a good buildup for the eventual quinoa patches.

I'm just going to run through all the perennial ideas that were mentioned and briefly give you my thoughts on them.There are numerous great ideas on this thread for cover crop mixes but I am really focused on the perennial factor and so I won't mention the annuals. I may end up using annuals, but I'm trying to avoid it for this particular system.

Vetch: If the lupine isn't aggressive enough to compete with the sunchokes, this seems like a great second option. It doesn't produce an edible yield like the lupin and subjectively doesn't look as nice, but I do plan on using the lupine flowers as a cut flower income yield as well (I forgot to mention that in my initial post).

Alfalfa: I've considered alfalfa as it is an amazing soil builder, but I had it in my head that it was a heavy water user. But my head was wrong because after looking into that  I'm realizing that it can tolerate dry conditions. I will definitely experiment with it in this blend. I have chickens and will have goats so it could be a very productive output. I will have to compare it to the potential yield of the lupine, but this is definitely back on my list of trial cover blends.

Clover: It doesn't quite produce the biomass that I'm looking for, but will still be worth experimenting with on the outskirts of the trial patches to enliven the soil around those areas.

Roots--Daikon/Turnip etc.: I may end up using these with the rape for the first year or two if it seems like I need to. I'll probably do a variety of annuals in the beginning but I really wanted to focus on those crops that would have staying power over the long term so if I set it and forget it, they keep building soil and biomass. After I establish, I want the main plants to keep doing their thing if I'm not able to get to them in a particular year.

Thanks again for all the great info! As I go through this process I'll keep posting updates and progress on this thread so everyone can see how it turns out if you are interested.

2 weeks ago
Vetch was on list to try out with the blend, I'll definitely give that a go. I was planning on pulling out tubers in small patches so I could plant other crops. I of course would miss some of those tubers and could hand pick any remainders in those patches as they put up stems. If the sunchokes don't require mulch I have endless places to use that foilage as mulch as mulch so that would be a nice bonus. If the sunchokes overtake the lupine too much I can thin their tubers if need be. Biomass is my main focus so there is no way I can get too much. My other experiment is planting productive crops on the south edge of the sunchokes for hail protection. We get intense and heavy sun, but hail storms come around and im thinking the overgrown sunchoke stems can help protect some from the hail. I will definitely try this in any amount I can afford. If the sunchokes grow as agressively as everyone thinks up here, I will be exstatic.
3 weeks ago
It's been awhile since I've posted on here... But I have an untested concept (as far as I know) I want to try and am looking for any experienced folks with sunchokes and sweet lupine. I live in Colorado at 8000 feet, I have 9 acres of   land to work with of mostly low-quality soil though it is well-drained and varies in quality throughout. I am looking for productive low-input ways to start building soil life and quality. I will be building dry-stacked raised beds for some of our production--we have plenty of rocks. But I am trying to come up with a system that I can implement on large portions of the land that will be low-work, semi-productive and bring the soil to a higher level of quality. So I thought about planting sunchokes and sweet lupines together as a cover crop. The sunchokes will help break up and improve the soil and the sweet lupine (legume) will add nitrogen. I've decided on these two because of their vigor, perennial nature, useful outputs, aesthetics and heavy biomass production. I understand that sunchokes can be aggressive, but this is precisely why I would like to use them. I will gladly pull useful tubers out of the ground over and over again if they are happy to grow up here.

What I am envisioning is planting the sunchokes and sweet lupine mixed together and let them grow thickly and unabated for at least a year or two. All that biomass from their vegetation would be chopped and dropped right in place. Mulch is a must in this dry-ish climate. Then I would come out in a rotational fashion and interplant crops in the midst of the sunchoke/lupine blend.

So as an example--If I had a 80 foot row of the established sunchoke/lupine blend that runs east to west, I would come out in the spring and harvest the roots from 4-foot stretches of the sunchoke/lupine blend every 20 feet. In that portion of the blend that I harvested I would plant other crops like squash, garlic, quinoa, beets, greens or whatever experimentation proves to favor. I would continue to chop and drop excess biomass from the blend and use it to mulch those other crops as well as directly underneath the blend. The following year I would harvest the roots and plant other crops from different 4-foot stretches of the blend . This way I wouldn't harvest sunchoke and replant it with other crops for at least 3 years from the same 4-foot section. Hypothetically this would allow for ongoing soil improvement and continuous yield. The stretches of sunchokes that were harvested would hopefully have enough time to recolonize the harvested patches before they are disturbed again. Please don't point out that plants don't need to grow in rows as I'm well aware of this fact, I'm describing it this way for simplification. I have a variety of techniques to provide additional hydration to these plants, but for this thought experiment, please assume that the lupine/sunchoke blend will receive enough water.

So my questions are...

1. Does this concept seem at all viable or am I missing a glaring element?

2. There are endless other plants I could put in this blend and I will experiment with many, but do the sunchoke and sweet lupine grow okay together? Has anyone had experience with them specifically as companions?

3. Does anyone know where to get good deals on bulk sunchoke tubers? I am looking to obtain a sizable amount for this experiment but seem to find them for around $10/pound and I would like to kick this trial out with at least 50 pounds and the online prices are a little steep for my budget. Of course I will just try it on a smaller scale if need be, but I want to try this in a variety of conditions on my homestead and I can learn so much more with a good  variety of trial plots.

Thanks for any thoughts on this and happy growing!

3 weeks ago
As a rule in general, the less sterile you are, the more you want to increase your spawn to substrate ratio. I did an experiment where I took three 5-gallon buckets with un-pasteurized straw and purposely was messy with the whole process, each bucket got a different ratio of spawn. The one with the most spawn produced handsomely while the other two did little. Granted the one that produced eventually got eaten by maggots (oyster mushrooms might as well be a dying carcass to flies), but that was expected. I just wanted to see how the buckets did outdoors with no protection. Good luck with your oyster shroom future! I'm trying to create a business with them by growing them in a bus on my off-grid spread. Lot's of interesting challenges to come indeed.
3 years ago
I'v personally planted a variety of perennial crops in hopes for oil eventually including hazelnut, hazelbert, maxmillian sunflower, and butternut trees. I wish I could let you know the efficacy, but it will be several years before I can speak to the results. I do want to focus on the butternut tree though... It has some advantages over other nut producers in that it is very hearty, and it also produces a syrup that can be tapped. Does anyone have much experience with this tree? I've planted 5 or so, but plan to plant more this year--A couple enjoyed death (or at least delayed growth) by rabbit this year. I know it is a slow grower, but from what I understand it produces quite well once mature. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

And as a thought in terms of oil, I feel like squash and camelina have really good potential as well. I know they are not perennial, but they seem like they get ignored and just wanted to throw them out there. I'm going to be trying squash as an oil source this year.

3 years ago
The place I plan to put the ground nuts is next to a seasonal creek in partial shade, so I'm thinking it is close to their natural habitat, so hopefully it goes better than your experience Tyler (sorry to hear it). And they have plenty of aspen trees to climb up, so we will see.

Also, after writing my previous post I thought about using squash seeds for a staple oil crop. That way you obviously get the staple squash to eat and then also press the seeds for cooking oil. I see there is plenty of squash seed oil for sale, but have never tried it for cooking before. Considering the seed size, this might be a good direction for a solid combination. You can use all kinds of squash and pumpkins for this technique, kind of makes me wonder why I've never thought of it before.

According to one article, "Fifty pounds of seeds makes one gallon of oil. To put that another way, it takes ten squashes worth of seeds to press enough oil to fill one 6.3-ounce bottle."

So depending on how much oil you use a year, it's a feasible oil crop. And the bonus is that you can let the seeds stay in the squash for up to 9 months because they store for so long--depending on climate of course. Seems like another ultimate staple crop along with ground nut (in theory).
3 years ago
Is anyone trying ground nuts?

I'm still in the "setup" phase of my homestead plot and haven't done much growing there yet... I have planted a lot of support species, trees and shrubs that won't produce much for years. But I have done a lot of thinking about staple crops. I feel that along with heavily caloric staple crops, oil crops should also be considered. Most staples taste better this way, and they provide other essential fats and nutrients.

My plans for staple crops are:

-Potatoes--Which have grown quite well in some test plots without any amendment.
-Sunflowers for oil--Which the rodentia seem to enjoy and so I am working on dealing with them.
-Spaghetti Squash--I planted a lot of seed and got only one healthy plant with no care (thinking the rodents got these seeds too), so this squash will be providing all my seeds for this summer. I am attempting to breed a high-altitude spaghetti squash variety.
-Jereselum Artichokes--Planted some last year, will be planting a lot more this year.
-Rhubarb (low in calories, but high in flavor)
-Horseradish (just a huge fan of the spice)

I want to add ground nuts to this list and I have not seen anyone on this thread talk about ground nuts at all (unless I missed it). This perennial tuber seems like a great low-maintenance crop with three times the protein of potatoes and a variety of positive nutrition traits. And this is not to be confused with the peanut which is also called groundnut sometimes.

These tubers were heavily relied upon by a lot of Native American tribes. Along with the nutritious tuber, it produces an edible bean/seed and is also a nitrogen fixer. It seems like this could be an all-star of permaculture staple crops with all these attributes.

I have done a lot of research, but haven't heard from many individuals on their ground nut growing experiences. Is anyone on this thread trying it?
3 years ago
Great information Joseph! That definitely doesn't sound like adequate seed/acre for any oil production at this juncture. Until your mega-seed sunchoke comes into the fold of course. Considering the maxmillian has so many more flowers, how much maxmillian seed could you pull off of that 40 ft row do you think? I'm looking for a low (no) maintenance perennial oil crop of some sort that can be grown in zone 4, and so far that's what I've come up with. I don't want to hijack the thread and turn it into an oil/maxmillan discussion, so I'll keep researching.
3 years ago
Has anyone ever tried pressing oil from Sunchoke seeds? Since it is related to the sunflower, I'm thinking it might have possible oil for extraction. I read that Native Americans used the perennial Maxmillian Sunflowers for oil, which have small seeds and look similar. I'm wondering if Sunchokes could be used for the same. I couldn't find any info in the Googleverse on this, wondering if anyone here has tried it or heard about it.
3 years ago
Thanks John, I was always curious about the size of the holes and their effect on the process (insert crude sex joke here). How long do you leave the medical tape on for? And did you remove all of it at once or just as each hole began to pin? If you look at my picture, I had a two-bucket system where I would close the holes by turning the bucket until the straw was colonized, and then would twist the bucket so the holes would match again when the substrate had been dominated. It seemed to work and mold wasn't really my issue, it was the flies. That's why I'm going toward a full interior setup. I will try some experiments with the smaller holes, seems like they produce more aesthetically appealing mushrooms anyway.
3 years ago