Steven Edholm

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since Mar 24, 2014
I run a website, skillcult, and a youtube channel, also SkillCult, dealing mostly with subsistence and self reliance type stuff.  I've been doing that sort of thing for a long time.
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Recent posts by Steven Edholm

I've given quite a bit of thought to this in the interest of encouraging communities to guide more of the resources already expended on landscape establishment and maintenance toward growing food.  Also though, from the perspective of breeding new varieties since I'm into that myself.  so, as someone said, it's two issues.

GROWING NEW TREES:  Most stuff is easy and most rootstock is easy to grow or propagate.  But someone has to do it and care about it. That's a job, like any job and can only be done on a large scale for free by someone with a side income that doesn't require that much work from them, unless it is a profitable endeavor for them.  If the effort was decentralized, then a bunch of people could do a little bit of the work.  I think a good way to do that is the model we already have, which is the scion exchanges.  The more the effort is expanded and localized, the more a few people will do a lot of thankless work for a majority of ungrateful freeloaders.  That at least is the average course of things.

PATENTS:  Most fruit varieties are out of patent.  It's either 20 or 25 years.  The Home Orchard Society keeps a list of apples that are in or out of patent somewhere which you might be able to find if you look hard.  If you grow a patented variety, then you obviously deem the effort someone went to to create that variety as worthwhile.  Breeding is a long game that and usually a labor of love.  Individual enthusiasts often put their heart and soul into it and larger programs dump tons of money and manpower into it.  Especially for fruit varieties it's a very long road to a new variety.  As someone that is both a home fruit grower/enthusiast and a breeder of apples, my view on the subject is between two worlds.  I think we need a vibrant culture of propagation and fruit growing.  Fruit enthusiasts have a lot of power to increase the popularity of new varieties by testing them outside the industrial fruit production paradigm.  I think what we need is a culutral attitude shift from what can we get away with, to how can we support breeders at any level who make stuff that is worthwhile.  I have a Patreon account where people just give me money every month to keep doing what I do.  i also get occasional tips and donations by mail or paypal.  I recently was given 250.00 by an individual toward my apple breeding program for instance.  What if we had that model for small scale breeders?  What if when you looked up a fruit variety online, you found a hub website for breeders highlighting their work and their varieties, documenting the morphology and cultural characterists and grower experience, as well as the story behind their creation.  What is lacking is the ability for citizen growers to easily find and support citizen breeders.  Establish a standard donation or standard sliding scale and a semblance of something like crowd funding.  That could even potentially do away with the expensive and divisive process of patenting for small breeders.  Payment of royalties on patented varieties could probably be made easier than it is.  They are not that much.  If the variety is worth growing, then it's worth paying the small patent fee.  The best new disease resistant stuff does not grow on trees.  They are the long efforts of multigenerational breeding.  I'm thinking there could be a hybrid between the two as well.  A patent process that allows limited license to home growers, say two or three trees or less, with a social expectation that if it works out for you that you drop in and show some love for the person that made that variety possible.  This could also create a main community hub to discuss these varieties and their cultural benefits and drawbacks, as well as a community for breeders.  Such an endeavor would have to be run under a non-profit status and have multiple paid positions to do it right and be sustainable, but that is what I think the future should look like.  It would create even more incentive for new and existing breeders, allow for free trading and propagation that we need to experiment and expand, create even more interest in new varieties and make the process more human for all of us.  It could also Darwinize/democratize plant variety selection.  I think we need something like this for all plant breeding, not just trees.  A way to communicate more among breeders and growers about specific varieties, a cultural paradigm that asks how can we support and encourage the creation of new improved varieties and an easy means to find what we want to support and give back to the effort, all while encouraging the spread and increased propagation of new varieties at any level from trading to nursery production.
1 year ago
I just graft them straight out of the fridge.  Optimal dormant grafting time can vary with species, but I'll graft dormant grafts whenever I get to it after the very hardest freezes.  Grafting onto dormant stocks is fine.  If it's not growing the grafts have time to heal up and get ready for the bud push. It's also fine to wait though and you can even dormant graft onto actively growing trees.  What you don't want to do is miss the main growth push altogether or your new scions may not grow very much.  Very late grafts done in early summer may heal, but then either stay dormant or grow only a few leaves.  Usually they will grow the following year though.  If you graft way too early, the scions could suffer freeze damage.  Healing takes place faster in warm weather as far as I know, though I'm sure there may be an optimal temperature range, I don't think it matters for homescale grafting. But that doesn't mean that slow healing won't take place during cold periods of the year.  Our scion exchange is in early Feb. and I've grafted new stocks and worked stocks onto trees immediately, planted them out and had them go through snow and multiple freeze cycles and come out the other end great.  Very hard extended freezes may be another matter, but when those are over, I've done pretty well no matter what with a lot of the standard fruits.  The potential advantage of grafting early is that when the tree pushes, enough healing has already taken place that the scion can start growing out of the gate with the rest of the tree.  I have a 10 part video series on dormant grafting if you want to geek out on it.

1 year ago
The spots are in the wood, but if the cambium is removed the wood can't grow roots, shoots, bark or new wood until the bark heals back over.  The idea being that the new bark will move in from the outside where there are no rootlet eyes, just plain bark.  That's the theory I'm working off of anyway.  I just make it big enough in diameter until I can't see any spots on the outside perimeter of the cut.  I'll try to get out and take a look at those, and maybe do a follow up video.
1 year ago
That is burr knot.  It is the tree creating a place from which it can grow roots if needed.  It is uncommon in selected apple varieties, but there are some varieties that are prone to it.  Many rootstocks get it because they are selected partly for their rooting ability.  One of the goals of breeding apple rootstock is to select varieties that root easily, but do not tend to form arial burr knots.  They can be a problem.  They tend to get larger, not smaller and can disrupt flow of nutrients up the tree, causing stunting or weakness.  They can be cut out, but that is best done when they are very small.  I have a video showing cutting them out of an already established tree, where it seemed like they would be enough of a problem that it was worth opening the trunk to probable infection to get rid of them.  I haven't looked at it in a while, so I'm not sure how it turned out.  Removing burr knots that size is rather traumatic though.  It might be better just to leave them.  Another common problem is that they can create a good place for borers to get in.  What is the variety, or is it possibly a rootstock or seedling?  

1 year ago
Gokhale, Gokhale, Gokhale! Until I found Gokhale, I had no idea what good posture was or how to go about achieving it. Why it hasn't gone viral is a mystery to me, but it's probably just a matter of time. The tag line for Gokhale is "The Weston Price of Posture". The basic philosophy is that posture is a way of life and not something you do to fix the damage you do day to day by using your body. Instead, it is a constant practice or habit that makes daily activities including physical labor constructive instead of destructive. That's freakin' great because we all hate doing exercises and they rarely work anyway. You can do exercises too in order to regain function and speed things along, but the core of it is how we stand, sit, lie and work. Gokhale has changed my life on many levels. It requires an attitude adjustment along with the posture adjustment, but that's a good thing. The video below is eye opening and a good introduction to Gokhale. You can get a long way by just watching whatever videos are out there and then decide to take a class if one is available. In Paul's situation, I'd probably just take the class if there is one available locally, which there very well may not be as they are very careful about selecting teachers and training them well. I haven't taken any classes and I've improved tremendously. Whether it fixes all of his problems or not, it is a good start for anyone. From pictures and videos, Paul has a head forward posture which throws everything all to out of whack. I had that too and am still correcting it. Good luck!

BTW, pronounced "Go Kale"



2 years ago
I don't spend a lot of time on Permies (or anywhere else for that matter as I'm too busy with the homestead and projects, but there are a lot of good discussions and like minded people here, and I wanted to post this information. I'm always trying to get this research out there because I have found it very inspiring and motivating personally and think more of us should be putting in biochar experiments to assess it's relevance to our various situations. I figured this was the place that I could find a lot of people that would think this stuff is as cool as I think it is and take it forward. In this video I read some of the best accounts I've found of farmers using charcoal to amend soil in the 19th century and also observing charcoal burning sites, who's fertility persisted for at least decades. This is the stuff that really motivated me to start making lots of charcoal and thinking bigger. This kind of anecdotal evidence holds a lot of weight for me, especially since it is the long game that is really the promise of biochar and the observation of charcoal pit bottoms spans decades. Anything we can do that will actually have a truly lasting permanent effect on soil health/fertility is like the holy grail, and in my almost 30 years of gardening experience, most of what we do in terms of soil improvement is very temporary.

youtube:


the original post with all of the accounts is here: http://skillcult.com/blog/2012/05/18/some-citations-on-biochar-in-europe-and-america-in-the-19th-century
2 years ago
That article says very little really. Granted I skimmed it, but I didn't see anything much about real world application. It seemed more like a book report. What I've gathered from people here is that mexicola type will survive but they never produce because the winter flowers are damaged by the cold. I think one guy said he has one that is decades old and has never gotten any fruit. That is Northern California coastal ranges maybe occasionally below 18 degrees with light snows not uncommon. I have heard of bearing trees down in the valley where it's a bit warmer, but none that are still around. I don't think we should give up at all. What I'd like to see is full scale exploring trips into the Mexican mountain country looking for anomalies growing at higher altitudes. Also, some sort of structure like a full pit greenhouse or partial greenhouse/wall/mass sort of thing. That is more along the lines I'm thinking at this point. Dwarfing stocks might make that more feasible. I've laid awake nights thinking about this or even about hybridizing them with California Bay Laurel which are winter bloom hardy. I know Freddy Menge has been trying to collect and test avos for cold resistance, but he is right on the coast in Southern Santa Cruz County, so it's hardly frost prone. Lets hope someone cracks the cold weather avocado code. I would build a damn altar to a good cold hardy avocado!
3 years ago
I don't really have livestock plans and prefer to remain flexible in that and all design departments because life has a way of changing. But, I could see maybe having rabbits or other livestock and hand harvesting leaves or lopping stuff for them from the coppice. Coppice or pollard could be better depending on circumstances. For me, now, it would be a fenced area with no large animals allowed. For mulberries grown as a food crop, hand harvesting would be much easier with a coppice as would netting the bushes to keep birds off and everything else except maybe pollarding or coppicing itself might be easier on a head height tree than near the ground. The idea is more of an experiment on a specific idea or focus, which is an area providing feedstock for it's own biochar to improve site soil. It could get more complicated or elegant (or elegantly) complicated, from there, but for now I'm mostly interested in performance of mulberry as a coppice in terms of fruit and biomass production, specifically the feasibility of fruit production combined with high biomass production, or if those two goals are incompatible when it comes to Mulberry. Other coppiceable plants may work as well or better in the biomass production department, but I can't think of any temperate plants that are as likely as mulberry to combine a high value crop (money and food) and high biomass production. But, I don't have a lot of experience with mulberry. I do know that large pollarded mulberries can grow a lot of wood in one season. A mixed specie system could be better in some ways, but monocropping has it's advantages too and I think that is just dependent on site, goal, scale and other circumstances.
4 years ago
I'm very interested to hear any progress or lessons gleaned over the last couple of years since this thread started. I'm plotting a soil improvement system using coppiced woody plants and I'm wondering how feasible it is to use mulberries for biomass coppice and still harvest some fruit. I like the cutting out two year shoots only idea, but does it actually work? Anyone been experimenting? I want a coppice crop that will produce a significant and useful crop and also a lot of biomass. Mulberry is fast growing, easy to manage and produces a high value food, while also holding the possibility for harvest of high protein feedstock for plant eaters, so it's at the top of the list.
4 years ago
that corn cob crusher looks pretty good. It's a lot like an apple scratter. The grape crushers are made with two ridged cylinders like that and both turn at once. Scratters are usually a larger cylinder with metal teeth, but they turn against a "wall" like the cob charcoal crusher. So it's kind of a hybrid between the two. Single cylinder is esier, because they don't need gearing to turn two cylinders at once. I'm inclined to think that the fruit crusher's two cylinders might work a little faster, but there is a lot to be said for accessibilty and i think making one from scratch could be difficult. After all, accessibility is the main problem with charcoal crushing. I mean, we could all go out and buy something awesome if we could spend the money. I might try to make something like this. Thanks for the link.
4 years ago