Jonathan Rivera

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since Sep 03, 2014
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Recent posts by Jonathan Rivera

Leaf mold and wood ash supply all of these. If you can gather a load of leaves from the poplar and other deciduous trees and let them sit for a year or two you’ll have all the minerals and nutrients, other than nitrogen, you’ll need.
1 year ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:Do you feel those who promote it as a means to grow food without irrigation are misunderstanding the method?



Not necessarily, I think like so much in permaculture/ecology/agriculture, it depends on the climate, soil, flora, and micro floral in your situation. It's only misrepresented on the basis that it won't work for everyone, in every situation, as presented. Long term soil building makes it worth it, but if you're using high value hardwood timber, financially and ecologically, it's a wash. Another thing to consider is the soil's fungi/bacteria ratio. Once you drop a ton of woody matter, you tip the balance to fungi. So vegetables won't be as comfortable as they would be in a 1/1 balance, and some may just do terrible (I'm looking at you brassicas!).

If your prime concern is water storage, assess the steep hill, the raised soil exposed more directly to drying winds, and the time it'll take to break down large logs. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think burying the wood at soil level, and using softwood and twig wood that break down readily is your best option for water storage. If you have a problem with drainage, I think standard huglekultur will offer more benefit.

For me, I found detrimental consequences for step high hugelbeds. My soil was mostly sand, so the top dried so quick, the minute rain came, all the top soil went down the hill with it. And that was with 6 inches of straw. Maybe for others there was massive benefits, but I ended up getting rid of the two 30 x 5 beds and burying the wood. Also, after 3 years the hardwoods were barely rotted. Maybe it works better in other climates and soils, but in sandy, cold, zone 5 MI, it's not the best option.
1 year ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:

I thought the main idea of hugelkultur is that it keeps itself damp.  That it is a means to grow food without irrigation.

"grow a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization"

https://richsoil.com/hugelkultur/



The problem is two fold. 1, wood does not hold or dissipate much water until thoroughly rotted. In fact, it will direct water down into the soil beneath. 1, unless you have soil that can wick water well, it's not going to affective. So sandy soil + green wood = dry soil that erodes from the steep angle. With clay soil, it will actually help, because clay has issues draining, the wood will drain help drainage the first years and eventually rot into the spongey goodness everyone wants. I don't see how hardwood, which will take at least 5 + years to rot would provide much moisture retention the first years. In my opinion, huglekultur is the most misunderstood method in the permaculture world. It's a way of dealing with low quality, and brush wood, and building soil long term.  I've discovered It's great to use as fill material in raised and permanent beds, as long as it's buried beneath soil level. It's a long term investment that will help store moisture and build immense organic matter.
1 year ago

Wes Hunter wrote:Another potentially applicable tidbit:

We raise heritage breed chickens for meat.  Calculating our costs, we determined that we needed to charge $5.50/lb. to make it worth our while, which is a fair bit above the going supermarket rare of about $1.00/lb., and decidedly more than the other farmers market vendors (raising CRX) selling at $3.50-4.00/lb.  But interestingly, we researched historic chicken prices and found that, adjusted for inflation, a chicken sold in 1951 would go for $5.46/lb. today.



I agree with you here Wes, industrial meat is priced to bankrupt farmers. Cheap food so Americans' can buy consumer goods. Don't quote me on this, but I believe Americans' spent half their income on food in that same period.
1 year ago

Travis Johnson wrote:I know no one can answer why type questions, buy why can't quality food cost less? It seems to be a challenge no one is willing to address.



I am concerned about the same things Travis. I come from Bronx, NY and have since moved out to the middle of nowhere in MI—odd I know. But the poverty I grew up in, and the conditions I considered "normal" will never leave me. One thing I am convinced of is that quality animal products will always be extremely expensive. There's just no way around it, you are down-converting calories, 20 to 1 for beef and 5 to 1 for poultry I believe. Ethical animal production doesn't scale well, and our entire meat industry is being subsidized heavily, "a chicken in every pot!". This adds up to a terrible pricing difference between industrial and organic ethical meat. For organic vegetable growers, the odds aren't as stacked.

Unfortunately, most market gardeners buy expensive amendments and focus on high prophet low calorie crops like greens. And there's not a large movement towards more sustainable, calorie rich, foods like nuts (filberts) and perennial tubers (Jerusalem Artichoke). Berries and other fruit can also offer high yields with less work and less inputs, if the conditions, species and varieties are right. But this all would require cheap acreage, new distribution and processing models, and cultural shifts for it actually make a difference in poor communities.

I think a more ripe option would be local, cooperatively owned farms where the community can learn and grow their own food. There is progress in this area. Checkout http://ronfinley.com, we need more people and communities doing things like this.
1 year ago
To sum up most of the feedback here, it seems raising your own chickens for meat isn't going to save you any money, especially if you factor in your time and startup costs. I think it comes down to economies of scale. If you are raising 100+ birds you can get better prices on feed and recoup your infrastructure costs relatively fast. It would also optimize your time investment. Raising 500 chickens isn't drastically more time intensive than raising 20-50, if you have the proper infrastructure. Another cost on your time I haven't seen mentioned is the butchering/processing of the birds. I think there are many reasons one would raise their own broiler chickens, but cost savings isn't generally one of them.
1 year ago
https://www.thenutrientcompany.com/mycorrhizal-plants-list-searchable-database/

I stumbled upon this resource and I thought others may find it useful as well.
1 year ago

John Duffy wrote:I would use mulch instead. It will break down and contribute to  building the soil



Mulch will only do so much if you're trying to kill pre established grass or woody plants. It works on a small scale when you enough to pile it on and sheet mulch up to a foot, but otherwise it will fail. I planted a 60x60 strawberry patch using thick ag paper and 6-8 inches of wood chips, but the prairie grass got through. I'm looking into laying mulch and covering the bed with landscape fabric, then planting the following spring. Theoretically it should hasten the decomposition of the wood chips and kill all grass. We'll see how it goes. But I think landscape fabric would be better than strap because it allows air and moisture through while blocking light.
1 year ago
Just curious here, for those who've experienced poor results with just cover cropping and compost/compost tea usage, did/do you till the soil? And what type of mineral soil do you have, clay, sand, or loam?

I would believe there are so many variables at play we'd need to know them before we can assume anything or declare a solution. But the folks who's soil simply lacks a mineral, not just plant available, are a minority. And in which case, it makes perfect sense to add the lacking mineral as an amendment.
1 year ago
I've found for myself (climate and soil) raised hugel beds are terrible for water storage. Your soil will dry out faster this way. If you used green wood, and you have poor soil, you probably won't see any benefit for at least 5 years. After my hugel beds just dried out and eroded with my sandy soil, I buried already half rotted wood 2 feet down with much better results.

Going along with others in this post, you probably have low micorrhyzal in your soil. I see a lot of pine, pine and beech species utilize a different type of mycorrhizae that most plants don't: Ectomycorrhizae. You need endomycorryzae for most of your vegetables.

Also, If your plants don't respond to urine, than it's not a nitrogen problem. Watch this talk, if you have the time, it changed my perspective quite a bit.  
1 year ago