Bryant RedHawk

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since May 15, 2014
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Part Nakota, part Irish. The Nakota took over long ago but still lives in two worlds, the European world and the first people's world. He lives on a small (15 + acres) piece of mother earth deep in the woods. Was trained in the cooper's arts as a child, since the family owned a cooperage. He has been a carpenter, and timber wright but love all aspects of farming.He holds a BS in Chemistry and Biology and a MS in Horticulture. Worked for the USDA for 16 years. Currently working on his PHD in Microbiology, the thesis is plant communication through the micro-biosphere network. Redhawk and his wife Wolf are setting up to be fully self sustaining, growing all their own foods and collecting rain water. "Soon we will be self sustaining and closer to being off the grid" he said when asked about future plans. They continue their own research both in Agriculture and soils with the hope to make the world more like it used to be, before mankind began screwing up the Earth Mother. This is the only way humankind will survive, we must fix what we have broken.
Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Recent posts by Bryant RedHawk

I am going to add to this thread now since I've been asked to get a little deeper into what dirt is, it is the foundation of soil so we do need to know exactly what dirt is and how it came to be.
With that said, here we go.

In the beginning there was a big bang, (stay with me here) that started the universe, I don't think we need to know more about this giant explosion except that it was the result of all the matter that makes up the universe condensed so tightly that it had to explode.
from this stars were born and eventually planets were formed by the collision of solid matter (we call this stuff rock) and that created heat which glued the "rock" together and this happened over and over and the glued rocks got larger and larger as well as hotter and hotter.
Skip forward to the time where our rock arrived at the size of the Earth, the molten mass has cooled enough for a crust of cooled rock to be the outer layer.
This ancient outer layer contained minerals, 7 of them and that was it.
The first bacteria sprang to life in a soup of noxious chemicals and gasses, they cemented little bits of the rock they had dissolved with enzymes to themselves and created new formations that we can still find today that look a lot like birthday cakes made of stone.
These bacteria gave off a new molecule called oxygen as they broke apart the rocks to use those 7 minerals the earth started out with. In this process they formed new minerals that were pooped out as waste materials and the Oxygen atoms found hydrogen atoms and formed bonds with them to make molecules of water.
This sort of thing kept going and the bacteria created more and more minerals, gave off more oxygen which formed more water molecules until, there was enough water to form puddles and eventually the seas.
By this time there were lots more minerals available which allowed new bacteria forms to feed on those without competition, until we finally had enough resources to form higher life forms than just bacteria, these were the first fungi.
chug along a few more million years and we have large scale erosion of the rock surface crust to have pockets of dirt, which was comprised of all the pooped out minerals that the bacteria, fungi and other newer single celled life forms expelled as waste from their activity of eating, making new materials so they could live and eventually a few hundred million years later we had life as high as the dinosaurs roaming around, leaving all sorts of minerals, as they died and decomposed, laying on the surface so the circle of life could continue along.

So dirt is minerals, some created by the earliest life forms, some already here or falling from the sky as space dust that gets pulled to the atmosphere and eventually settles to the surface.
Most of our minerals that make up the periodic table were created by the earliest of life forms and some were created by chemical reactions caused by the wastes materials those life forms expelled.

Water and wind worked (and still do work) to grind the hard rock surface into smaller and smaller particles and wash them towards the seas or they get trapped in pockets where plant seeds can sprout and hold it in place with their root systems.
When the ground up rocks make it to the sea they settle out and become the ocean floor.
When the tectonic plates (there are cracks all the way through the surface layer not unlike the plates that make up our skulls) decide to shift there arises the opportunity for that ocean floor to rise above the water and become land, with the sediment already in place.
That sediment usually is primed to become soil because it already has lots of bacteria and fungi in it, but as long as it remains underwater, only the anaerobic bacteria and other organisms are active and soil needs aerobic bacteria and other organisms that breathe oxygen or it isn't soil it is "muck".

(When I started University there were 98 atoms (elements) on the periodic table now we know of 118 so we are still in the age of discovery and it is most likely that at least some of the newly discovered elements are created by bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.)


16 hours ago
Woo Hoo ! look at that awesome soil your building kola.
simply outstanding proof that microbes work the wonders we see in nature.
I am so very happy for you James, your veggies will only get better and better for you and your family.

20 hours ago

Angelika Maier wrote:1.) I read it is very bad for all the soil critter to leave the soil exposed, this is the reason we mulch or cover crop. Just how long shouldn't it be bare? How about carrots, it needs some time until they sprout and cover the soil? Or if I don't get around to mulch for a week or so?
2.) I grow quite a few (100+) medicinal herbs, many of these can be described as Mediterranean plants others are just weeds. If you look at the environments they life it looks dry barren - what is the soil life there? Is there less life? Do these plants still grow better with more life?
3.) Why did you choose steiner preparations over other methods like EM or that Yatam thing, are there any advantages/disadvantages? How do the different methods compare?
4) This has nothing to do with biology: Everything Phosphorous goes in the compost first that it is not leached out, but for how long? We did incoorporate p at the last turning how long does it have to sit?

1.) yes, soil erodes in wind or by water washing it away, this means that those organisms living in that soil get blown or washed away with the soil.
For seeds, leave as small an area of exposed soil as possible (holes in the mulch which you plant through) or use transplants from your seed starting trays (one other possibility other than direct seeding).

2.) If a plant is grown or left to grow so you can make use of it someway, is it really a "weed". Plants that grow in "barren" areas are primary succession plants, those first comers that will condition the soil for the next wave of succession plants.
Just because they can grow in such conditions doesn't mean they won't grow in better conditions (usually). Those primary succession plants can get by without a thriving soil microbiosphere but they will thrive in soil rich in the microorganisms.

3.) I studied Steiner in one of my Graduate classes, then I modified his methodology with the goal of great results in less time and with less effort. I do use EM (of a sort since I also modified the method of making that too).
All these "concoctions" are designed to increase the soil microorganisms numbers or to install them where they aren't currently living, since this is the goal, great quantities of soil organisms, it is wisest to use a diverse set of methods and concoctions to arrive at the desired end.
By using a diverse set of methods and preparations we can have a very diverse, thriving soil biology that will help our plants thrive and survive catastrophic events like diseases, infestations, etc.

4.) Phosphorous in very high quantity can be detrimental to other nutrients availability to your plants. If you are building your soil microorganism counts, it will not remain in a free state for long, bacteria and fungi hyphae are always hungry and will shut down when their foods are not available or if the conditions become hostile to their survival.  Once you have your microorganisms at good levels, all nutrients will be available all the time and you should not need to supplement any nutrient or mineral ever again. The microorganisms will recycle the nutrients continuously so as long as the soil life thrives all the nutrients will not leach away.

21 hours ago
That sounds really cool Chris.

I believe that the best garden beds are those designed to work the way you want them to work for you.
I know a couple who use horse water troughs that they punch holes in the bottoms, add a bunch of punky wood then fill up with their own "potting soil mix", they grow super veggies.
The husband is in a wheel chair and their beds are set up so he can not only work in them but also harvest the produce.
It works super for them and they add a few more every year and they don't plan on stopping until they have the garden of their dreams.

We were talking about gardening and soil and farming one evening and he said his garden was eclectic.
I said it was perfect for his wants, needs and desires so what if it is diverse, nature only thrives because of diversity.
His wife told me that they had been hesitant to tell me about their gardens. I suppose they thought their garden wasn't as great as it is.

I've been fortunate enough to have lived all over the US and several other countries.
What works best at your house might not be the best solution down the street, or anywhere else on the planet.
What works best at my farm, probably won't be the best for anywhere else, all I can do is describe what I do that works for me and make suggestions on things to tryout to see if they might work for you.

We have to be like water, flow around the obstacle, there really isn't much that is rigid in nature, if we want to be rigid we should expect to be worn down to dust just like a mountain.

Definitions are only there so everyone understands what is being described or talked about.

22 hours ago

So your plan is to plant these and then do chop and drop several times a year?

Nitrogen fixers do this for themselves not for other plants unless you kill the nitrogen fixer plant so the stored nitrogen can become, through bacterial action, available to the trees.

I've found that a better way to get my trees the nitrogen and other nutrients they need is to increase the fungal hyphae and bacteria counts in the soil around the root systems by using good compost teas and mulching with good finished compost.
The Nitrogen Fixers are all dependent upon Rhizobium Bacteria, which are the nodule forming bacteria to fix their nitrogen for the roots to take up as needed, in turn the plant provides carbon in the form of simple sugars (exudates) to the bacteria.
There are three other major players (Azotobacter, Azospirillum and Clostridium) in the circle of nitrogen availability to plants as well as several fungal players, none of which are nodule forming which means the ammonium they make is available right now to the roots.
You might do better by using a dual set up, growing those nitrogen fixers for a living mulch cover crop and adding bacteria and fungi to the soil in the area of your trees roots, that way there will be available nitrogen all the time.

1 day ago
Is this forest part of your land? If so is it in the realm of possibilities that you might be thinning trees in the future? What is the orientation of your garden in relation to the sun's travel?

Most of the plants you mention like to have more than 5 hours of full sun to produce well, which means you are gardening in a spot that might not be close to ideal and that will eventually create more problems.

As for your question, we use cattle panels (4 feet tall and 16 feet long) to trellis our beans and we also have one for a tomato trellis.
The panels we use for beans are attached to the ground on the ends and they arch over a 2 foot wide garden bed that gets shade loving herbs planted in it under the arch .
The tomatoes are planted in straw bales (we get ours from an organic farmer) with the panel running the 16 feet of bales, the tomatoes are tied to this so we can harvest easier.
The arched panels are held in place with sections of rebar driven into the ground, they are attached with 3 wraps of bailing wire in two places so they are firmly in place.
The tomato panel is held by three, evenly spaced T posts and again bailing wire holds the panel to the posts.

Another method that might work for you is the 3 or 4 pole tipi style support.

1 day ago
hau Mike, No worries mate, that used to be a valid idea, but in the last three years there has been research done on the idea of wood chips or wood in general binding up nitrogen.
Plants want ammonium not free nitrogen so, unless the wood is sucking up ammonium, which is made by the bacteria and some fungi, then any nitrogen the wood sucked up would not be the form the plants need anyway.
Fungi will within a period of 3 months, inhabit any wood laying on soil, this will start the decay process and release some ammonium to the soil.

Just about everything written about wood binding up nitrogen was written over 3 years ago.
1 day ago
Good point Angelika, perhaps we need some definition here.

The way I classify garden beds:
Bed = at ground level, with or without a border.
Raised bed = bordered bed that is at least 6" above ground level boards are the usual border but rocks, concrete blocks and other solid, soil holing materials work too.
Hugel = a mound that is filled with rotting wood and compostable materials then covered with a soil mix, it does not meet the raised bed definition since it has no border and is not level at the planting surface.

Any time you use a container with a bottom, it is a container planting not a raised bed, raised beds are open to the soil below.

some exceptions, which are actually more like situational adjustments: Wire mesh cover between the ground level and the fill of the raised bed for controlling moles, voles and other burrowing critters.
fabric cover used for the same sort of purpose as wire mesh.
1 day ago
This seems to be a  very popular misconception about wood, that it ties up all the nitrogen or at least most of it.
This is an Urban Myth.
The only Nitrogen that would be tied up by wood chips would be the nitrogen in direct contact with the wood chips, as little as one inch away will show free nitrogen that isn't in anyway bound up by wood.
Then there is the fact that nitrogen needs bacteria to become bound to anything.
Nitrogen fixing bacteria turn N2 into ammonium which is the form that plants can use.
This means that there is at the most a 1 cm space of soil that can possibly become bound up and unavailable to plants because of the presence of wood chips.

1 day ago
As Kyrt mentioned extra length of time for raised beds comes from plant maturity with a few variables.

I am in USDA Zone 8a and we use raised beds for most of our vegetables.
These raised beds do several things for our growing season.
They give us the ability to start earlier by using cold frames over the beds for in the bed seed starting.
They give us microclimates for wider variety of what we can grow in the early, mid and late season.
They also give us easier access to the plants for care taking and harvesting (we are not as young as we used to be).

It is easier to make additions of compost, mulch, compost teas so maintenance is easier on us.

Last year our tomato crop started in May and ended in December, partly because of the raised beds and partly because of the warm weather lasting until after Christmas.
We finally just shut the plants down (pulled them up) because we got two frosts, Dec. 28th and Dec 30th, which wiped out the last set of tomatoes.

By the way, we use Straw Bales for many of our vegetables so we don't have to water unless we fail to get a rain in a two week period.

1 day ago