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ben capozzi

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since Apr 29, 2014
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Recent posts by ben capozzi

Hi, all!

Are autumn olive LEAVES poisonous? Could I dry them to make a tea, or start a wild ferment with them for mead, or flavor kombucha with them?

I recently took cuttings from my two autumn olive shrubs (red and gold berry varieties) and I stripped away lots of leaves in the process. I couldnt just mulch all of the leaves because they're so beautiful with their silver underbelly— they seem to just beg to be used in an elixir, but I cannot find any mention across the interwebs about using the leaves. I like fresh eating the berries and will experiment more with them this fall, but what about the leaves?
3 years ago
Here's a link to Luke Calahan's microgreens business materials:

It's worth the $60, though there are some omissions/typos/incorrect product names in the PDF, but the planting/harvesting schedule and other info is really quite handy. If you're taking Curtis Stone's Profitable Urban Farming course online, you get Luke's stuff included at no additional cost, plus fora to discuss with other folks trying it across the globe.

Alternatively, if you're a TSP member with Jack Spirko, you can get the book for $30.

Hope that's helpful!

4 years ago
Got it Cassie! On iOS for iPhone and no problems. Downloaded it to i ooks and opens fine. Hope that helps.

How awesome! Thanks!
5 years ago
This thread is excellent! Does anyone know if some thornless varieties are thorny when juvenile?

Background: I bought 4, 4' thornless varieties from a nursery but they are thorny as all get out. They assure me, after some back and forth with customer service, that the trees will stop producing thorns “down the road,” later nailed down to 5-6 years. Does that sound legit? I've included a pic.

Having read about the risk of thorny kids from thornless parents and prodigious suckers I am inclined not to take the risk even if what the nursery says is true. They cannot/will not confirm the cultivar, only saying it's not a patented variety. There's no graft line and I was told they're grown from seedlings.

If I could just get a reliably thornless variety with no pods or otherwise sterile, I'd be all over it. I think these could be perfect trees for the scenario I've got: a fast-growing, nitrogen fixing tree, street side, north edge of property, limbed up quite high with a shallow canopy, maxing out around 20' under power lines. My small fruit tree orchard is just inside the fence, the honey locusts would be just outside the fence. The fruit trees max out around 8'.

Follow up question: anyone know another tree that would fit this bill?

5 years ago

William James wrote:Check out Ben Falk, he seems to have the same thing you have.

What he did was connected the top, manure pond with a few down-hill land features. He uses the top pond to "fertigate" lower ponds and swales.
The problem with manure lagoons is that they can be a source of pathogens, but if you're using it to fertilize other areas, then the pathogens are mitigated. Just don't plant lettuce next to the manure pond and you'll be fine.

ps: willows, mulberries, and cottonwood all make a lot of woody mass with the conditions you describe, and they do it fast. If you can captialize on the woody mass (chip, hugelkulture) then that's another way around the problem.


William, thanks! One more reason to pick up Ben Falk's book. As soon as I'm finished with Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture I'm on it!

5 years ago

Andy Reed wrote:I have dairy farmed for 10 years, and yes all that effluent in the lagoon is a fertiliser resource to use, I've grown many veges in that stuff. What concerns me now about them is not the manure but all the dairy shed detergents that accumulate there. I'm sure it's not a big deal, but it always bugs me. I highly doubt there a pesticides in there, or herbicides, knowing farmers they are most likely dumped on the track on the way back from the field, not in the effluent pond.

Either way get a digger in, scrape out the bottom and the sides until you hit clay, but try not to take too much clay. Use that stuff around some trees if you are unsure about it. I guarantee that is a clay lined pond, most likely dug in an area with high clay content, once you remove the top layer it will be as clean as you can get it, and good to go.

Andy, thanks so much! That's awesome info from someone in the biz. I'm sure it's a clay lined pond—in our county the soil leans WAYYYYY toward clay. You can find it anywhere without going down too far at all. Skimming the top layer should be very doable.
5 years ago
Yes! We're a year or two from having a farm but I am stoked for this book, especially to know how to incorporate different species of Livestock Guardians! I'm thinking about specializing in heritage breeds and am enamored with the American Mammoth Jackstock Ass (info here—check out those EARS!!:, but I also love dogs and read that asses and donkeys will kill 'em. Looking forward to picking up the book and learning more in time!

5 years ago

Jack Edmondson wrote:Ben,

If it were me, I think I would start with knowing what is still in the water. Have it tested. $206 is a small investment that may save a lot of time and trouble fighting things that may or may not be present:

With a breakdown of pesticides and other contaminants you will have a much better idea of what needs to be done.

Where are you located? Are you trying to certify produce from the land as organic; or just looking for healthy product? "Certified Organic" can mean a lot of things to different folks. If you are looking for certification ask the regulating body what its standards are. You may be surprised by levels that are allowed. Reality dictates that there may be some level of chemical from past practices. However, watering with the 'tea' may be out of the question. However, you won't know until you test a sample.

Jack, that's a great idea and resource! Thank you!

I'm in USA, Zone 7a, Virginia. I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in pursuing Organic certification—I've heard lots from Paul Wheaton and others about how it's not much better for the planet than chemically intensive, AND it can be quite pricey. I'm going to try for better-than-organic, probably Agritrue if anything official, but I'm hesitant because of the residues that may be present.

Your idea to get some real data on what's really there is spot on. I appreciate it!

5 years ago
Barry, Jack! Yes!

I definitely view it as a resource but am concerned about anything that may have been in the manure—thinking of pesticide and antibiotic residue in the cow feed. I know that Roundup is revered on the property right now, and my father-in-law blasts the Johnson Grass surrounding the pond with it every now and again.

If I were able to sell him on a plan, I think I could get my father-in-law to stop using it there, but the fields around the hillside will likely continue to be blasted with contemporary chemically intensive techniques. Income is earned by renting out most of the fields for corn and soybean crops.

[ =\ I can only hope to carve out a small chunk of the farm to try and make a success of it, and then earn the confidence to develop more of the property with permaculture and restoration agriculture techniques. Is that foolish/pointless?]

But using the pond water for irrigation IS the main aim I have in mind because the pond is perfectly situated to run a swale off one side to begin to irrigate the whole hillside, which I'd like to develop as Stefan Sobkowiak has done at Miracle Farms in Canada as seen in “The Permaculture Orchard” movie. But I'm just not sure it's healthy water to use, so I thought some sort of bio-remediation would be in order.
5 years ago