Ben Zumeta

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since Oct 02, 2014
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dog duck hugelkultur
Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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Recent posts by Ben Zumeta

I forgot to mention, right as my allergies have gotten better, my wife’s have gotten much worse than she’s ever had before. I am not sure which is worse, having bad allergies or being around people who are miserable from their own.
1 day ago
When I was a 8, I tested as moderately-highly allergic to 40 of 60 common trees around where I grew up (Seattle), as well as to many other common weeds and other plants.  Particularly bad were wetland, river and coastal trees (cottonwood is the worst). Old growth coniferous forest is noticeably better for me, and going into it has even stopped allergy attacks. I had debilitating allergies at times up til five years ago (do you know how much it sucks to have the roof of your mouth itch all the time?), when I moved to where I am near the edge of old growth redwoods. That may be just coincidence though. I never let allergies stop me from living and working outdoors in largely environments with plants I am allergic to for my entire adult life. I have been a backcountry ranger in river valleys and on coasts, and found borderline excessive hydration and spicy food to help with bad days that I had to work through while brushing or hiking through allergen inducing plants.  Maybe it was just immersion that made my allergies go from what I would describe as an average of 7/10 on the reaction scale to 3/10 in the past 10 years. Its hard to say what made my allergies better. Antigen therapy before that may have helped a great deal, and over the counter mullein cherry and homeopathic histamin moderators seem to have correlated with a reduction in my allergies as well. I also moved about as far away from any city and dust as possible here, but the smoke is getting worse here in summer and that is irritating. I take zyrtec every day and find its the best OTC allergy medicine for me. I notice when I skip it. I'd rather not take any medication but it definitely works for me.

I also noticed some of your posts about what is going on with oil and or fracking pollution around your property. While you may have far less than industrialized city, water and air  pollution can aggravate allergies to plants and other natural sources.
1 day ago
I’ve done this with handfuls of my local old growth forest soil, from coniferous and deciduous areas, from drier and wetland soils. It doesn’t seem to take much if using compost tea to inoculate relatively large areas and amounts of compost.
1 day ago
Go for it, that’d be very interesting. If you want an out of this world, “first time I ever tried grape soda at 5yrs old” flavor in an organic grape, the varietal Mars is just that. Muscat fresh tastes like fruit loops, and produces well in soils that wouldn’t produce great wine with most varietals. I am sure you could get rooted cuttings for less than 5$ a piece in bulk, probably no more than 20$ for an individual established 2-3yr old plant. Or you could make friends with a vintner, and be inundated in all the grapes, cuttings and wine you could ever want. I did that unknowingly at 8yrs old and have been reaping benefits I can never repay.
I think Value Over Replacement Permie would be a brutal but efficient way to evaluate interns at an intentional community.
2 days ago
Coast redwoods are extremely insect and fungus resistant, hence the old growth wood's longevity (I know of an 80yr old bridge that is still sound, trunks can live 2250yrs). They have only 28 insects and 4 mites that can digest their wood, compared to over 300 species that can consume oak (can't remember which quercus it was compared to). However, the tannins which provide this protection increase in concentration exponentially until the tree is relatively mature at 300yrs.

In nature, the vast majority of seedlings never make the canopy, as they are consumed by elk or are out competed by reiterations (suckers) from established old trees' root systems. Reiterations of preexisting trees represent 98% of the trunks in an old growth redwood forest. A tree gets really established after 300yrs or so in old growth, and this is often the tallest the tree gets before breaking off when it reaches above the canopy, stimulating branching and thickening. That genetic individual redwood tree could live indefinitely (its latin name sempervirens = everliving tree). However, if the mythical Greek Titans teach us anything in how they were destroyed by their offspring, immortal beings need to be very judicious in their reproduction. So redwood seedlings generally only find the conditions to survive where a large tree has fallen. They either root on soil on a nurse log or on fallen giant's root ball reveals bare mineral soil so the deep forest duff cannot keep the seedling from reaching water and nutrients, and simultaneously it needs an almost miraculous fungal inoculation of that soil within a few weeks. The fungi necessary is also associated with red alder and doug fir, which are the primary and secondary succession species in establishing old growth redwood ecosystems, and you may be able to find a plantation of that more easily than it would be to find redwood duff. I remember seeing NW species being grown in Norwegian plantations (near Arendal). I also remember seeing sitka spruce, and would bet it also has some beneficial crossover fungus in its soil as a common companion to redwoods, but wonder if this has been transported in order to grow those trees healthily. I'd try making a compost tea from some of these common companion trees if possible, but I would not do any strong fertilization. Potting up proactively to avoid root bind is also important according to a friend in the park's restoration dept. They need a good amount of water, but also cannot tolerate wet feet for more than 24-36hrs. They really like a daily misting, as in large enough old growth stands they produce visible fog any time it gets hot (i.e. above 68F). This saves them the trouble of transporting that water (upto 500gal/day, equaling 4000lbs) up 300+ft. How's that for too much information!?
2 days ago
Redwoods need a particular assemblage of fungal associates to survive because they do not have root hairs. As mentioned above, they also thrive in a temperate, humid climate. In the summer they get over half their water from fog. In their native region, they grow just as well in the winter they grow as in the summer, being adapted with their conical shape to absorb lower light angles. However, they cannot survive soil temperatures below 18F/-8C. Any of these could be causing your tree problems, and without climate change even more dramatic than anyone anticipates, your tree will probably not see a second, let alone third millenium. As a ranger in the Redwoods where the park sold little trees, the closest analogue I have heard of was from people in Michigan with a redwood living in a well protected place to about 40-50 and then dying in a cold snap. I would bet its relative the giant sequoia would have a better shot in such places.
3 days ago
This is a difficult problem I face myself at home and working on a public food forest site. This is one of the reasons I mix in as many diverse native wildflowers and attractive edibles as I can into my cover crop mixes. Diversity helps make sure something is in bloom for as much of the year as possible, and it is amazing how few flowers you need at any given point to give it a "meadow" feel rather than a weed patch.

I feel your pain on the general problem. I recently learned my wife hates the aesthetics of straw mulch, right after I spread a bunch when I found a good deal for organic straw, had a truck available, rain was coming, and I had soil to cover.

So much of nature becomes infinitely more beautiful when we understand how everything is a note in the greater symphony, but I can't make people listen.
3 days ago
Thanks for doing the research I should have done myself before saying anything. I always noticed an faint odd chemical smell to the water, which was part of my previous assumption. Maybe it’s just the plastic of the tank.

On a more productive note, I have been refilling French drain trenches with woody debris instead of gravel, of course where well away from a massive structure you don’t want to settle upon the decomposed wood eventually. I go with minimally sloped trenches that start at the overflow of my duck pond, and divert the water to catchment basins filled with woody debris and topped with woodchips between hugel beds before it flows off my property. It’s a bit like keylining but can be done with a shovel or small trench digger in small and irregular sites. I can now hold and slowly absorb about 7500gal off rain that’s become duck pond tea. We have yet to have to runoff water yet this wet season, but it’s been relatively dry (17” since oct 1). The soil just builds pretty passively now. I also have to water only in getting plants established during dry periods. If nothing else, I have much less flooding now and the system has held up to a 10” day of rain.
3 days ago
I bet someone here can explain how dehumidifiers work like Dan Ackroyd as Jimmy Carter on SNL, but my understanding is that they can leave chemicals in their water reservoirs. I very well could be wrong, but I assumed this is why every one I've ever had has very clear warnings not to drink it, and that's why I don't use it on edibles:

"urban hack--in the city we do stupid stuff like run a dehumidifier all day in the basement.  I'm sure country folks had better solutions that didn't lead to vast mold for centuries and we've forgotten them, right?

And then it's someone's chore to empty the water every night.  

But, that water has some other advantages over other urban ways of making you sad:
--no fluoride
--no chlorine
--it's there, in water form, unlike the humidity, which you could maybe capture tiny amounts of with rocks.  if you had rocks.  and you don't. "

4 days ago