Karl Treen

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since Nov 22, 2014
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Karl Treen is an avid perennial food gardener and a 2014 PDC graduate of Geoff Lawton's online PDC course.
Since that time, Karl has taught adults and children about Permaculture and has developed an educational card game based on Permaculture Principles. It is called Food Forest and can be found here:
https://FoodForestCardGame.com
Instagram: @FoodForestCardGame
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Providence, RI, USA
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Recent posts by Karl Treen

Edward Norton wrote:
1) Atkins - back in early 2000’s when everyone was doing it. It worked. I lost lots of weight. I haven’t been able to eat over sugary foods since without getting a head rush and feeling a bit sick, except ice-cream. I didn’t feel good on it.
2) Slow carb - lots of beans, small amounts of high GI foods. Not sustainable
3) 5-2 diet - not sustainable
4) Low carb / Keto - updated Atkins, lots of veg. Disaster if you stray, which is what I’d do almost every w/e
...



This sounds so familiar! I could have written almost exactly the same post. I've been *relatively* low-carb for most of the past 15 years (I'm 53) which has kept my weight within a 20 pound range, but I wanted to stay at the lower end of that range. 18 months ago I started skipping breakfast and minimizing fruit (~1 per day, usually fruit I grow myself) and alcohol (1 per week). Blueberries and strawberries are generally a net positive, so I sometimes buy those when I can't grow them. I limit my grains to a maximum equivalent of about one slice of bread per day. My exercise generally consists of a 45 minute walk and whatever I do around the yard. I eat lots of avocados, sardines, eggs, and dairy. I have maintained my weight goal (average 150 lbs at 5'9") this way for the past 12 months (I actually fluctuate weekly between 147 and 153.) I do occasionally have a binge, but it isn't so hard to get back on track with this routine - especially when I see the scale creeping up to 153. Plus, my appetite seems to have diminished substantially. I just can't stuff myself like I used to when I only eat between 12 and 8 PM.

I've read lots of fad diet books, but the fad book that finally cemented this routine for me was Genius Foods by Max Lugavere. It's not just about the body, it's also about the brain. I'm much more concerned about losing brain function than I am about staying slim. The combination of these two motivations keeps me on track more than just a little bulge around the middle. The same diet seems good for both.

Good luck!
8 months ago

Mark Brunnr wrote:
A person could switch from a full time job to part time instead of retiring, or switch from a soul-draining but higher paying job to something they love but doesn't pay as much...



Mark,
Your excellent post made me think that maybe my own reply could have been more specific. So here's my own journey toward self-sufficiency, in excruciating detail. It, too, is still incomplete. It is very different from yours, and I'm not entirely sure what exactly the "light at the end of the tunnel" will look like. I offer it to demonstrate that these paths are often quite different and, in my case, not well planned.

Growing my own food has always been an interest, but it is only in the past decade that Permaculture has become a big part of my life. Before that, I gardened as a hobby but didn't see it as a means of supporting myself. I am still uncertain that it will ever entirely support me, but it has started to contribute to our household economy. I'll take you from the beginning so you can see what a more random, risky approach looks like. Sometimes I wish I had followed a path more like Mark's (I would probably be retired by now) but it just wasn't in my nature.

I have always been entrepreneurial. The idea that someone could buy and control most of the waking hours of my life just left me feeling angry and depressed. As Henry David Thoreau used to say "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". I have never wanted to be one of those men. So, after losing several friends in a plane crash in 1988, I swore to honor them by not wishing away too many of my own waking hours in quiet desperation. This promise has given me the drive to do many projects. Some of them, like my Food Forest Card Game, barely break even, while others help support my family and give me more control when and how I work. It's been a series of trials and errors, many of them impossibly challenging, but the more I build, the less I have to work for someone else.

When I was in my 20s, it was very easy to keep this intention. My pattern since that time has been to work for a few years, save as much money as possible, then do projects for a year or two. These projects have always consisted of entrepreneurial ventures, several of which have accumulated to give me more flexibility.

My first entrepreneurial venture, when I was 24, was to write a book. I had saved $10k selling "environmental education" materials and this was enough to shack up for a year with half a dozen roommates and a cheap laptop. The eventual 60-page manuscript was a piece of crap, long since lost to the mists of time. I ended up moving to NYC, getting a cheap place to crash (literally a couch), and taking computer science classes. While in NYC, I worked part-time and just managed to pay my own way.

Leaving the degree unfinished, I was recruited by a Boston friend to come partner in a web design business. It was the dot-com boom, and anyone with half a degree could get a job building websites. This went well for a couple of years and then collapsed during the dot-com crash. I took the $20k I had saved when times were good and put a down-payment on a condemned, uninhabitable, burnt-out, 4-unit tenement building in what you might call a "rough" neighborhood. I re-mortgaging it immediately with a home improvement loan based on the anticipated value of the property after completion. This was a foolish risk, as everyone warned me, and completing the project nearly killed me. It took 18 months to rebuild it, during which time my girlfriend and I lived in absolute squalor. I worked 14-hours/day on the building and worked over-night shifts in a group home. After we finished, we refinanced again, paid off the credit cards, got married and began living rent-free - which we did for another 15 years.

I went back to work again full-time and started saving. In 2008 my son was born, so I quit my job (which I didn't like) and advertised on Craig's List that I would work 25 hours/week and wanted x dollars per hour. My wife thought this was my dumbest idea yet (and she had lived through a lot of them) but it worked. I landed a job on my terms, doing my 25 hours in 2 days/week. With my free time, I could spend most of the week with my son. I also bought and sold my second, ramshackle, investment property. This time I did it a little better, but it was still a rough project.

Since childhood I had envisioned having a "forest of food". One day, on a whim, I Googled a term and realized that this was a thing. People actually grew food this way, and it was part of something called "Permaculture". I earned my PDC from Geoff Lawton's online course and fell in love with the puzzle-like nature of companion planting. My son was now in kindergarten, and I wanted to create a tool to teach him the basics of Permaculture. This was the seed that eventually became the Food Forest Card Game.

My first draft of the game was messy, but we tried playing it in my son's classroom and the kids loved it. I took home some suggestions and redesigned it. The result was much cleaner and I successfully launched it on Kickstarter in 2016. The game sells a few copies each week, and all of the profits have, so far, gone to reforestation charities.

At present, I am back in school. I left my job at the end of 2020 so I could focus on the graduate degree. I guess you could say I've "escaped the purgatory of the 9-5". Since the year 2000, there were fewer than 3.5 years when I was working full-time. It's not easy, though. It's just more flexible. I don't get to lie around eating grapes off of my fence. The food I grow helps us live healthier lives, but sometimes I struggle to find time to harvest and prepare it. Do I make a healthy dinner or fix a leaky faucet? But I still get to volunteer at my son's school, and I get to sit here and write this forum post.

I suspect I'll never go back to a 9-5 job. You don't have to, either but, if you choose to live an unconventional life, make sure you're ready to work really, really hard.

Mathew Trotter wrote:
Thanks, Karl. I got some "sea kale" seeds last year that I finally got around to starting this year, and they ended up being bogus. They were shipped without pericarp, so I had a feeling that they weren't really sea kale. It's still on my list, but I'd honestly love the larger florets... which I'm obviously not going to get with the sea kale.

Have you tried eating the roots? I think I heard that one of the related crambe species had slightly better roots for eating, but I've always been curious what people think about the flavor and eating quality.



Hi Mathew,

Sorry it took me so long to see your response! That sucks about your bogus seeds. Removal of the pericarp is very helpful for germination, but the inner seeds are fragile and may get bumped around in the mail. When I send seeds, I usually send instructions about removing the pericarp. I have also experienced a relatively low germination rate with my own seeds, so that may have contributed to your issues.

Yes, I have tried eating sea kale roots. Last spring I had too many volunteer plants and decided to dig a few roots up to share and to eat. If you like turnips, you'll probably like sea kale roots - which makes sense, because they are both in the brassica family. Personally, I wouldn't bother growing them for the roots. I am not a huge fan of turnips, and harvesting the roots can be problematic. It leads to lots of volunteer plants and requires aggressive digging in my "no-dig" beds.

I'd be happy to gift you some root segments and seeds if you'd like to try planting them again. I also have leftover year-old seeds and a limited number of seeds from this summer. I can send some of each. Like I say, germ rate isn't great, and may be worse for year-old seeds, but I expect the root segments will do pretty well if they don't get eaten by varmints this winter. The only downside to using my root segments is that there will be very little genetic diversity. My older plants are all clones of each other and I have only recently begun introducing more genetic diversity. The seeds will be more genetically diverse but harder to start.

You can contact me through this link to my website.

Cheers!
9 months ago

Jay Angler wrote:Karl Treen wrote:

That said, my bet is the environmental cost of raising chicken vs. raising beans would come out in favor of the beans.

Maybe in some situations, but I'd like to muddy the water even further!

Think of the climates where beans/peas tend to be a significant protein source vs climates where meat tends to be a significant source.

For example: My friend from India grew up vegetarian eating a lot of lentils and kidney beans. They had no fridge and meat could go bad extremely quickly, so this sort of diet has survival benefits  Vs. my dad was off the boat from England where the growing season was short and often cool and trying to dry beans that grew well there would have been a struggle. I find the same problem where I live, but I've got technology I can use to help, whereas before the 50's, there was less. During the war, they raised rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs and were desperate for that little extra protein.

However, now we've got Industrial Ag muddying the water further. My dad raised those chickens pretty much by dumpster diving for whatever scraps he could find. Now we're using a fair bit of what could easily be people food (some places allow animals to be fed stuff that's "B grade" or less and possibly with higher levels of contaminants in it than would be considered acceptable for humans, to animals) to feed many animals.  B grade often isn't a problem - if I find those yucky grey aphids on my kale, I feed it to the chickens anyway and they don't seem to object - different taste buds? I predict that the times will be changing as I believe Industrial Ag is going to fail - yeah permaculture!



Well said! If you can do things differently, you can often swing the needle in the favor of one vs. the other. If your site is truly organized around permaculture principles, with chickens eating your scraps, you can certainly make a big dent in the cost of the chicken.

This whole discussion is a false dichotomy when you begin to really implement Permaculture. Chickens can't easily grow 20 feet up a wall and beans can't easily process food scraps. The chickens produce valuable compost for your plants; the beans fix nitrogen and may fill special niches that other plants don't fill. The fat and bones of chickens have value for soup stock, etc., etc.

Academic discussions like this are fun as puzzles but they don't hold up outside of a vacuum. :)
9 months ago

Stacy Witscher wrote:Karl - I'm confused are you talking about a whole day or a meal? Because 2/3 cup of chicken provides about 16 grams of protein, that is very low for a day. My current goal is about 64 grams a day because I just can't get the 100 grams that I was shooting for.



Hm... I think you're right. My numbers were a bit off. Very rough, indeed!

I have revised and given you credit for the revision. We still have a bit of a discrepancy about grams of protein per cup of chicken, but I quoted my sources and explained why I used certain numbers. Cubed chicken is not a precise way to measure, but I made my explanation a bit more clear, so people can follow the logic if they so choose.

Thank you!

9 months ago
It's about time this Chicago Hardy Fig thread got revived!

I am also in zone 6b (Rhode Island, USA) and have overwintered my Chicago Hardy Figs outdoors for 2 winters. I planted one in a pot and the other in the warmest corner of my yard, which is wind-sheltered against a south facing fence. The potted one gets moved around and has stayed relatively small and takes a long time to get going in the spring. The one in the ground gets full sun in the winter and partial shade (from a tree that overhangs it a bit) in the summer. It is probably 10 feet tall at the moment and seems to grow between 4 and 6 feet per year. I have consistently cut it back so that it won't get too tall for me to harvest. It loses some branches to freezing but has never died back to the roots. Chicago Hardy Figs are root hardy so, even if they die back, you can still get a fall harvest - assuming your last frost isn't until the end of September or so.

Before the first winter, I wrapped both trees in a big pile of straw and they did just fine, but the spring crop was only a few figs. So last winter I decided to leave them alone. The one in the ground bounced back quickly but, again, didn't have much of a spring crop. Right now it is producing half a dozen figs every day with no end in sight. The potted one struggles, and looked dead for awhile, but has produced a few figs, nonetheless.

My advice for growing the Chicago Hardy Fig would be:

* If in Zone 6 or warmer, you can probably plant the Chicago Hardy Fig outdoors in a warm microclimate and feel relatively safe about it. Worst case scenario, it dies back to the roots and has to regrow from there.
* If you are in a colder climate, look into how to bury your fig tree for the winter. This is an old-timey trick that people use to grow warmer climate fig trees in colder climates.
* You plant a Chicago Hardy Fig Tree in a pot, bringing it into your garage or basement for the coldest months may help, but don't expect it to grow very large. If the space is partly heated, you may save your spring crop this way, but I would also suggest starting a clone or two outdoors (fig propagation is easy) so that you get a larger fall crop, too.

Chicago-Hardy-Fig-fruit   Chicago-Hardy-Fig-tree
9 months ago

Skandi Rogers wrote:I had always assumed, probably from constantly being told it that beans are a cheaper source of protein than meat, but I went to write a post elsewhere with some numbers and I realised no, they are not always and in some cases not even close to cheaper, not here, or at least...



Great topic! I've thought a lot about this one.

[n.b. Below has been revised per suggestion of Stacy Witscher who suggested that my numbers were off. Thank you Stacy!]

Quick answer: for me looks like $2/day for beans vs. $2.3/day for chicken. My logic is below.

An article I found from Harvard University says that, to get your daily protein requirement, "you multiply your weight in pounds times .36". I weigh 150 lbs., so I need 54 grams of protein per day.

According to this article, 1 cup of cooked chicken weighs between 2 ounces and 5 ounces - I'm going to cut it up relatively small and say 4 ounces, which is precisely 1/4 lb.

The Harvard article says that 3 ounces of chicken contains about 19 grams of protein. By that measure, 4 ounces would contain 25 grams of protein. In other words, I would need to eat a 2.3 cups of chicken to make my goal of 54 grams per day.

The Harvard article also says that 1/2 cup of cooked beans contains 8 grams of protein. That's 16 grams per cup or 3.4 cups to hit my 54 gram goal.

Very, very rough numbers...

If you soak and cook your own beans, you get about 5 cups of beans per pound. Around here, organic beans cost about $3/lb. That's about 60 cents per cup or $2/day for my 54 gram goal.

Cheap, organic chicken is $3/lb. of which about 1/3 is bone and skin/fat - so let's say $4/lb. or $.25/ounce. We could make a case for chicken fat + bone meal vs. nitrogen fixation, etc. but that's another matter entirely. Leaving aside those details, 2.3 cups of chicken weighs 9.2 ounces. 9.2 * $.25 = $2.3 per day for my 54 gram goal.

So, here in New England, the protein in chicken is a little more expensive than the protein in beans, but maybe not enough to justify switching up your diet for economy alone.

Thanks for the food for thought! ;)
9 months ago

Sarah Naputi wrote:Thanks,
  Yes I’m in US. I became interested in Apios Americana because they’re native to US and seem to be hardy. They are high in protein so seems like they would be a superfood in our changing climate. I will dig them up tomorrow and see!



Yes, there is a big upside, but they're not without their challenges - latex being the foremost of these, another being their small size compared to potatoes. The third "downside" is their aggressive spreading tendency, though this is more of an upside for anyone who is truly enthusiastic about them. Just treat them as you would mint and you'll be fine.

With proper handling and good cultivars, all of these challenges can be overcome. I look forward to hearing more about your progress.
10 months ago
Sarah,

That's disappointing. You may want to dig up the tubers to check on them. If they seem firm and healthy, put them back into the soil, no more than an inch deep and preferably under another inch or two of loose mulch. They should perk up next year and do just fine.

If, on the other hand, they seem soft and unhealthy, and assuming you live in the U.S., contact me (via the contact form on my website - FoodForestCardGame.com) and I'll try to send along some excellent tubers. Repatriating this vegetable is a passion of mine.

Cheers,
Karl
10 months ago

Marisa Lee wrote:I don't get how people are growing food under shade....



I hear that! It was really surprising to me when I began to investigate shade-tolerant foods a few years back. Where I am, in zone 6b, we actually have a good number of options for 3/4 shade or even full shade. Aside from the aforementioned pawpaws, we can also grow hosta (which are delicious as spring shoots and as unopened flower buds), Solomon's seal, several legumes, some cane fruit, and many, many greens. I might also include black birch, though it will struggle a bit in the shade and is only used as a flavoring. I am sure I could come up with others if I set my mind to it.

Here is just one of the shade gardens I have recently incorporated into my own yard including hostas, pawpaws, Solomon's seal, and daylilies under a dogwood tree. It is only about a year old and still needs to fill in a bit. I have, in the past, scattered lettuce seed under here, which does OK but isn't a big fan of the woodchip mulch in combination with the near total shade. I've also planted pole/runner beans, with a trellis to get them up to the branches. They like to climb into the tree for additional sunlight and eventually become quite impossible to harvest fresh. So, planting storage beans is a better option than green beans!

10 months ago