Susan Wakeman

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since Dec 06, 2013
Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
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Recent posts by Susan Wakeman

Gurkan Yeniceri wrote:

So, couple of methods to get these minerals and traces into our soil are:

Preparing liquid sea weed fertilizer using washed off seaweeds.

Preparing fish fertilizer with ocean caught fish.

Using rock dust as a fertilizer.

Using pure sea salt on soil and under trees in moderation.

Adjusting the acidity between 6.8 to 7.5 in the soil.

And may be collecting expired vitamin & mineral pills, dissolving them in water and applying them on soil in moderation.

Anything else?


so how do I go about getting there? I've found untreated sea salt made on clay pans in France. Can I apply it at the same time as compost extract?

I finally found rock dust too, but the composition is not given. I guess its from the Alps. That raises a question. Will any minerals that might be lacking in my soil found in rock dust from a couple hundred km away? What about using glacier sand? Our soil is moraine. I'm in Switzerland on Lake Geneva.

Can't get hold of seaweed other than for human consumption which is very expensive. Plus it goes against the grain to pour human food on the soil.

How do I know if I've put enough amendments on? Do I need to take a soil test?
1 week ago
The system in Geneva was a new build. Water here is hard and can lead to lime scale build up when not flushed with enough water or left in the toilet. Bear in mind this is in an apartment block, so I suppose ease of use was a key factor.
2 months ago
I haven't personally used or seen the system in Geneva. The urine is diverted to reduce water usage of the flushing toilets I believe.
2 months ago
For those looking for documentation, check out the post about vermicomposting systems for blackwater in Switzerland.
2 months ago
I've tried it and found it a lot of fuss. Actually seed of the same type sown when the cold sown seed first germinated did just fine. So I'd use the method more as an indicator of when it's time to sow.
2 months ago
Here's my plan to start a new veg garden for the spring on pasture.

My resources:
- 5 hens in a mobile set up, 25m net
- I feed them about 25 gal of kitchen scraps and spent grains.
- as may woodchips as I want
- 2m3 of 1 year old sheep manure
- 2m3 of compost in varying stages

My plan is to use the chickens to work for me,
1) put chickens in new spot, chuck kitchen scraps in for them to eat
2) as they finish off the grass, add wheelbarrowloads of woodchips, compost, manure to their run and let them spread it around.
3) when everything is spread and no weeds poke through, move chickens on and let land rest. Repeat at 1) for the next spot
(I shall actually ask the landscaper to drop the chips directly in the area I want the garden to be. Less shoveling for me

4) Cover prepared beds-to-be with plastic (I have it allready at hand including wire staples) at least those for sown crops such as carrots and spinach, come sowing time, rake chips away to expose soil for seeding.
5) For potatoes, chuck on pasture, cover with a shovel of compost, dump a wheelbarrow of woodchips on top. Wait to harvest. Then follow with brokkoli or kale.
6) Use veg starts rather than direct seeding to facilitate weeding and mulching. Multi-sown as per Charles Dowding
7) Plant through the mulch. Any deep-rooted weeds get trowelled out and fed to the chickens.

Additional ideas:
- make mushroom slurry and pour on the woodchip pile
- make bokashi with the woodchips and EM1 I've got
- find a source for rock dust and sprinkle it all over the garden area

- maintenance: in autumn/winter run chickens on garden again!

Any suggestions, comments or ideas?
2 months ago
Interesting discussion! I'd like to clarify that while I agree that quail can be an interesting homesteading business, nice market, high end product and all that I came to the conclusion that they are less sustainable than chickens. Because I have not been able to not feed them quail feed without them stopping to lay.

Also their functions were limited (in my system, consume bought feed, some salads/greens from the garden, mow the lawn and produce eggs, meat, fertiliser for my tomato planters)

I'd be very interested to hear if any of you have been able to reduce their quail feed costs by, say 50 - 80% like you can easily with chickens by feeding table scraps and allowing free range. Do please share your solutions!

I cannot raise soldier fly larvae as they are not native to my area (yet?). I did feed them some mealworms I raised on dried bread from the bakery, but that was more of a treat than a base of their diet (Too much fat)

I also fed them house fly maggots.

Here's what I could find out about nutritional values of grubs etc:
2 months ago
The paragraph starting When the first “settlers” arrived in “the new world” is in there twice.

If you talk about the first people's way of growing, will you also comment on them "moving on" periodically?

As was done in Finland, as told by Richard Perkins in one of his recent videos.
2 months ago
I sometimes see japanese quail toted as the ultimate permie fowl:
- they don't need much space
- they grow fast and have a great feed conversion rate
- the eggs they lay are very healthy and can help with allergies and asthma
- eggs sell for a premium

I have kept quail in my back yard for quite some time now but don't consider them nearly as sustainable and useful as chickens:
- Keeping them on wire may be legal in the US, it is not in Switzerland, where half of their cage must be litter. I provide deep litter (dry home compost works best) for half their space and dust/ash for a quarter, the rest being wire mesh. However, they would be much happier in a volière setting where they could fly and eat greens at will.
- they are tiny, and even tinier when you have dressed them, that is a lot of trouble for just a little bit of meat.
- they only lay if provided with 12h of daylight, I have added lighting to the setup but they still stop laying in winter.
- their eggs would indeed sell at the same price as a chicken egg, but you have to buy their feed. They will eat greens but their beaks are tiny which limits what they can eat. Quail will stop laying if the feed does not meet their requirement in protein.
- don't feed them redworms unless you can exclude a contamination by bird droppings (including their own). They can become sick, and being such small beings that usually means they will die. Larvae (mealworms etc) are fine
- my husband's hay fever has improved massively since he eats the quail eggs. But if they don't lay in early spring...
- quail cannot free range (they will fly away and lay their eggs on the ground, making it a pain to move their pen) and are flighty, they don't appreciate being handled.
- it is very difficult to get a quail to brood, their instinct is triggered by the ideal environment.
- Yes, quail cocks are quieter but they do crow and we got rid of them for waking us up at five in the morning. So you need to have a breeding setup and a source of fertilized eggs every two years minimum.

Why I'm in love with chickens
- they live largely off my kitchen scraps, they eat everything (except plastic and metal and what they don't eat they scratch around, making great compost
- they till my garden and eat my weeds
- they're great company, will follow me around when I'm gardening and come to me when I call. These birds came from a production facility yet adapted within a few months to foraging and are quite tame.
- the eggs are a decent size! And they lay year round
- I sell half a dozen eggs per week to a family, take all their food scraps for the chickens, and that pays for the little feed they consume
- chickens are cheap: I got spent layers, an electric fence and charger, was given a house which I put on wheels I had. Cost me less than the rabbit hutch I keep my quail in.
2 months ago
I heard a lovely story from two lovely older people on a course recently I'd like to share.

He's a farmer, and his wife had a vegetable garden all along. They toiled with the usual digging, weeding etc and eventually were ready to give up altogether, getting on and worn out.

They had a trailer full of branches and bramble ready to go to the skip. A neighbor asked them, what were they going to do with it? Did they have  a shredder? They did and took his advice of shredding the whole lot and covering their vegetable plot with the chippings.

He said to me with a big smile on his face: Now we go to the garden to plant, and to harvest. The joy has returned! The harvests are better than before and so is the taste.
2 months ago