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Sunny Baba

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since Mar 08, 2014
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goat hugelkultur forest garden chicken greening the desert homestead
SW New Mexico, 5300'elevation, 18" precip
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Recent posts by Sunny Baba

I realize that this is an old post but since there were no tried and true solutions offered, I thought I would let you know what we do for dealing with blister beetle infestations. Might help someone else who is encountering them for the first time!
We get three different kinds of blister beetles. They come in waves. The black and grey ones, then the tan ones and then sometimes the bigger solid black ones. They are all voracious eaters and can decimate plants in hours if we are not paying attention. Around here they mostly go for our bolting spinach( hard to save seed around here), chard, potatoes and lambs quarters and amaranth which I leave growing as a trap crop.
The first time we saw them we were freaked out! We had never seen anything like them. There were thousands of them on each plant! Caused a few nightmares. We used a small shop vac to suck them up but dragging a cord around the huge garden got tedious.
We discovered that dish soap works well to kill them. About 1-2 TB per spray bottle of water. We use a natural brand and go through several bottles of dish soap in a season of BBs. They have to be sprayed directly and we enjoy watching them writhe for a few minutes before dropping to the ground dead. Some of them die still hanging on the plant. Of course, then we can't eat the plant or feed to the goats, in the case of the weeds that are sprayed, but after the infestation is over, we will cut back the damaged leaves and new ones grow back.
2 days ago
Oh Goodie!! A whole book on Elderberries! I am looking forward to it.
We moved to SW New Mexico 2 years ago and while we have planted many fruit trees and shrubs, the shrub elderberries were the only that have born heavily thus far ( not counting strawberries and raspberries). In just one year!
We made a couple of gallons of elderberry elixir this fall and it's been keeping us healthy this winter. Elderberries, ginger, calendula flowers, cardamon, cinnamon, rosehips, lemon peel and of course, brandy and honey.
We have several varieties one of which is a Mexican Elderberry which grows into a big tree! We've got some that grow in town nearby and they bear oodles of  flowers and fruit all summer long.

I don't actually know the varieties of the other elderberries I have planted because I dug up roots from neighbours and they did not know the names.
Maybe you can answer this question I have John:
How do I know if I have a variety that needs to be cut back every spring to make fruit? I've read that some do and some don't? I'd like to get another big crop this year. My shrubs are already leafing out now.
Thanks for your berry wonderful book!
1 year ago
Hi Angelita!
We live in an intentional community in SW New Mexico and enjoyed reading about all of your experience, skills and passion for a land-based lifestyle.

I am going to paste a copy of a recent "invitation" that we've been working on but have not yet posted. Feel free to contact us for more info if you've not found a place to land yet and might be interested.

Wishing you abundance and joy on your path!
Sunny and Sequoia

A Gardening and Farming Opportunity at the Southwest Sufi Community

To all young and young at heart able-bodied visionary gardeners and aspiring farmers!!!

We are looking for interested persons with farming / gardening / permaculture experience who may consider living at the Southwest Sufi Community (SSC), to take advantage of an opportunity to further develop the gardening and farming on our land northwest of Silver City, NM.

About the SSC:
The Southwest Sufi Community is a 501 © (3) nonprofit organization functioning as a rural land-based intentional community.   It was founded in the Sufi lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan and later Western Sufi teachers.   Although it has Sufi origins, the SSC practices an all-inclusive spirituality in which all paths are welcome.   The life here is relaxed, and we live primarily in a non-hierarchical manner.   The community operates as a ‘village’ in which residents have their own homes, with some occupying rooms in the original ranch house.     We have a weekly shared meal and community meeting and some common activities but are not communal in lifestyle.    We have occasional group work projects but most work is done on an individual basis.  We do not ‘regulate’ anyone’s personal culture, diet, or such, rather we only strive to live in a mature and responsible manner.
New residents can live very inexpensively in our available living spaces, with the option to set up a yurt, tiny house, or to build a dwelling of their own on the land if they wish to be permanent.   This provides an opportunity for alternative building designs if one desires.   The community has grown somewhat in the last few years and we now have 14 full-time residents.   Funding from a recent conservation easement agreement has allowed us to make improvements to our roads, irrigation and water supplies and to acquire a tractor with backhoe.   Future building plans include additional living spaces and a possible new retreat facility.
The community is completely off-grid and solar powered (individual systems) and wood heated primarily with propane for heating water as well as with alternative systems that  some individuals have built.   Although cell phone service is marginal, we have satellite internet service on site.   From Silver City the SSC is approx. 18 miles total via dirt/gravel roads which are county-maintained and only briefly problematic after heavy rains or snow.  It takes about 45 minutes to drive to town. Four-wheel drive is helpful but not essential.  At this distance from town the resulting dark skies are loaded with stars.

About the Land:
The SSC occupies nearly 1500 acres of mesa and canyon land bordering the Gila National Forest, with grassland and oak-juniper-pinyon country above and wetland and riparian woods below.   It was formerly a part of the Avery Ranch, which existed up until the 1950’s.  The land is bisected by Bear Creek, a tributary of the Gila river and is one of the few year-round streams in Southern, NM.   Most of the land is in a conservation easement under the New Mexico Land Conservancy, which preserves wilderness and wetland habitats in perpetuity.
The growing areas include two fields.   The first is the South Field, approx. 1 acre on the south side of Bear Creek, and is the more developed of the two, is currently being gardened, and is fully fenced.   The second or North Field is approx. 1.7 acres on the north side of the creek and is in the process of being fenced.   These two fields have adjudicated surface water rights dating to 1890.    We are currently developing a solar pumping system to bring water from Bear Creek to the gardens more readily.    Water supply to the upper residential areas includes one private and one community well, both of which are solar powered and permitted for agricultural use.   A spring provides high quality drinking water to the lower area ranch house, and the overflow is used in the gardens.    Elevation at the growing fields is about 5300 ft.   Being in a canyon we are sheltered from much of the winds of late winter and spring.
The soil is loam and sandy loam soil and the climate is typical upland southwestern climate with summer monsoon rains, with some fall and winter precipitation, approx. 16-22 inches per year.   Frost free is early May through early October.   We are in USDA Zone 7a.  This land is very amenable for growing vegetables, fruits, grain plots, and herbs.   One member has been successful in growing heritage seeds, and two others have been very successful with vegetables.   One couple is raising goats and chickens and providing eggs and goat dairy products to the community.  Possibilities include market gardening, medicinal herbs, fruits, beekeeping and animal husbandry, along with deeper levels of permaculture and related practices.    We have a Kubota tractor and will be acquiring attachments for working the land. Cottage industries are welcomed and encouraged  
If you are interested and feel this community would be one you would like to be a part of, come and visit and stay for a time and see if the SSC is for you.  
Contact our Host Coordinator Sequoia Neuman at  before coming, if you are wishing to visit us, and also for directions.
Check out our website at  
The SSC is also registered with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities, and on Facebook under ‘SSC Community’.
Google Earth coordinates: 32 degrees, 55’49” N, 108 degrees, 23’ 53” W.  (degrees-minutes-seconds)

G Freden:
I've been wanting to make candles from our goat tallow. Do they smoke as they are burning??
1 year ago
I just returned from a trip to Germany. We were in a very fine restaurant in a lovely mountain Tal( valley) and were served fresh rolls with a small dish of a white fatty- looking substance. I was afraid to try it as it kinda looked like Crisco but my Uncle had a taste and informed me that it was goose fat! It was delicious and I scraped the bowl clean. A few days later we were served goose fat again- goose is popular in restaurants over the holidays- but this time it had some herbs mixed in with it. Yummy!

We render down the fat from our buck goats when we butcher. The tallow is great for cooking with and also for making a really nice salve/balm when mixed with oil and herbs. The tallow seems to make the salve more absorbable on the skin than a salve made with bees wax instead. The internal fat near the kidneys is supposed to be the most nutritious.
1 year ago
I've never heard of LAB serum so I had to look it up. Seems like it is a lactic acid solution whereas the EM also has yeasts and other microorganisms besides the lactic acid ones. So it may be more effective because of its diversity of micro -species.
But you could try it, I suppose and give us a report back!
1 year ago
I agree that these chemical scents are pervasive!! We've tried washing over and over, using vinegar and hanging on the line in intense sun for sometimes three weeks. And still the noxious smell lingers. Ugh.
What seems to help the most is EM- Effective Microorganisms. Just a tsp in the wash water and if you can put another tsp in the rinse water all the better. We've also had great success using it to eliminate other smells, like gasoline on the hands after working on vehicles, cigarette odours lingering in cars or houses, ammonia from manure in the barn. It is very useful stuff!
1 year ago
We have been hauling detritus from our streambed to the garden. It's a bit of an uphill haul on foot with a back pack but definitely worth it! Our little stream floods occasionally, depositing lots of branches, twigs, leaves, pine cones, seeds, bugs, you name it from higher elevations into piles along the bank. After a couple of months/years it starts to break down somewhat and when we dig into the piles there are hundreds of earthworms and fungal webs and probably nutrients that are missing from our soil.

We've been using the more broken-down castings from the earthworm activity in these piles in seedling soil mixes and the more rough stuff for mulch on shrubs and trees. We also add a good layer of the fungal- rich detritus to the bottom of fruit tree holes to encourage a fungal dominated soil. The new trees seem to be loving it! Lots of mushrooms too.

If we had a burro, we'd be mulching the entire garden with this treasure of a resource!
1 year ago
It must depend on the climate. I have mostly gardened in the arid SW, but even when I lived in Colorado, our black medic did not get much over 6 inches tall.
2 years ago
We've been experimenting with Black medic as a living mulch and so far we like it better than the white clover. The Medic stays low, fixes nitrogen and does not seem as aggressive.
I got the idea from seeing it in nature but could not find any seed for sale online. So transplanted some plants from the wild and it has taken off.
Easy to cut it back a little if it wanders too far and feed it to the goats.
Other medics are taller. Black is the wild version and seems better suited for a living cover.
And it's tiny yellow flowers are simply delightful!
2 years ago