Stefan Johnson

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since Dec 04, 2014
Central Arkansas - USDA Hardiness Zone 7b/8a
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Recent posts by Stefan Johnson

We found a deal on 50 asparagus crowns on Amazon for a nice price, so those have been ordered. We also promptly ordered some comfrey and 2 varieties of basil from another seller. This last weekend I cut out more of the "junk trees" in one of the flowerbeds. The wife and I also spent a decent amount of time planning out the location of her asparagus and currants, and for my hazelnuts this Spring. Still need to order the currants and hazelnuts but that should be this week or next.

Still waiting for the Nursery Class through PermaEthos to become available.

Ordered the domain name. Still need to vet out where to get the site hosted when I'm ready to go live with it. Have several posts ready for the hopper, but not as many as I'd like. Planned "go live" date is the week of the Spring equinox. The reason for this should become apparent for anyone who decides to follow the site after it goes live. Here's a hint: No, it has nothing to do with any religion... before someone gets scared away just from speculation.

On that note, not much to report on our progress. Things are moving slowly but they're moving nonetheless.
6 years ago
I have 2 initial reactions to this:

1) The "big boys" in the U.S. (not taking into account overseas as an intentional bias on my part here) are Joel Saltin, Mark Shepard, etc... and they all prove a profit and high yield of production.
2) The comparison to "Big Ag" is not really valid. See below.

The majority of the grains being grown (corn, especially) aren't even being grown for human consumption. Some of the crop is grown for feeding feedlot CAFO farms, and some is being grown for processing into ethanol to treat gasoline with. Some is also being used for human consumption, but not a significant percentage. Mark Shepard makes a lot of good points for how to do things in a broad acre productive way that would be more than sufficient to replace many of the "Big Ag" farms and feed more people on less (in my opinion.)
6 years ago
Missing bag of seeds still missing. Not happy about that.

Mushroom kit #1 going like gangbusters. It's hard to tell when they are "fully mature" until they start looking a little dried out and are over mature. We tried one that was a little dried out and it was was overly flavorful. We're going to cut the large chunk out and let the next succession come to fruition. The large chunk will be broken up. Some will be added to the compost tumbler, and some will be added to some holes in the yard that have stumps in them in hopes they might help break the stumps down over time (at a faster rate than they're doing on their own, of course.)

Pineapple top is still looking "alive" even though we've had a few cold spells lately. This pleases me... not at all what we expected.

Garlic bulbs are going gangbusters.

We added a pot of watercress from Kroger (they had some in stock again last night) to see how well those will do.

Aloe plants are perking back up. Pups are growing.

The window box of lettuces we planted with the seeds from the library seed exchange isn't doing so well. Only one end has any sprouts. I think the seed may have been too old as none of the other 3 varieties we planted have popped up at all.

Really reallly need to find that missing bag of seeds..... still don't know how I managed to lose it.

Going to clear a space and stand up the other grow light today. We want this to be ready for starting our spring plants for the outdoor garden soon.

Talked to a friend in the local ham radio club about cuttings and seedlings. He has three or four very mature fig plants in his yard. He thinks they are brown turkey variety, but the plants have been there since before his in-laws bought the place when they were younger. This gentleman is in his 70s, so he has no idea how old the plants are but since they were there before his in-laws owned it, I'd say they are very old. He does his pruning every spring and has agreed that I can have a few trimmings for trying to start from cuttings. He also has pecan trees in his yard and the squirrels "plant" the pecans in his raised beds every year they have nuts. He's always pulling up the seedlings to compost, but said the next time they do that I can have as many of those seedlings as I'd like.

Free stock is nice. Free and already acclimated to the local climate is even better.

EDIT: --
Seeds have been found! They fell off the shelf and buried themselves in a box when they landed in it instead of sitting on top. Space for the grow light has been readied, and the grow light will be put together this evening after outdoor errands have been run. Happy dance.
6 years ago
I think your second question was well answered by the person before me. Your first question can be better answered as "don't layer it." You want your Hugel mounds to contain lots of different things in pockets of goodness, not in even layers. Even layers can lead to the lasagna effect (which means one "layer" can turn into a sheet that repels water preventing layers below it from getting water/nutrient flows.)

You want to bury your logs (wood) with occasional clumps of manure and straw and such scattered across the mound in pockets here and there. As long as you don't do an even layer of any of these things and your wood is completely covered by the soil, you should be good. Make sure you get a cover crop planted on the mount as soon as possible after creating the mound. You can do an even layer of mulch (straw) on top, but that is a mulch to protect the cover crop and soil.

The pockets of compost/manure/etc keep it from forming a sheet of anaerobic water repellant as already explained, but the other thing they do is add diversity to the soil itself. This means some plants will really really LOVE some spots of your mound, and other plants that HATE those spots will LOVE other spots of your mound. In the end, you get soil diversity which leads to better plant diversity, which leads to an overall healthier system.

Paul talks about this in the World Domination Gardening DVD set. If you can get your hands on that, it's worth the watch. Lots of great information.

Hope this helped.
6 years ago
Project updates:

Aloe pups and parents repotted = done.
Garlic bulbs planted = done.
Leaf lettuce planted in first window box = done.
Chop and drop the lemon balm in outdoor kitchen garden = done.

We noticed that the pineapple top we "planted" in the outdoor garden actually started growing with the lemon balm keeping it warm ... awesome. Probably won't make it too much longer but it did better than we expected with the few cold snaps we've had. It was more of an experiment than a practical planting but it's nice to see it worked somewhat

Wife received a terracotta strawberry pot for Christmas from my parents. We need to order some strawberries for it.

I managed to lose a whole ziplock bag full of seeds for our indoor planting. Luckily we had a separate bag of seeds from the local seed exchange that had lettuces in it so we used those. Still need to locate the bag I lost. Have no idea how it came up missing
6 years ago
You can design in permaculture lots of different ways. Designs can be done with complex computer programs with computer aided drafting (CAD) for beautiful realistic examples of how to shape the property.

Designs can also be done with pen/pencil/crayon/whatever else on paper/napkins/whatever other else for just as beautiful or even just very sketchy/scratchy/quick outlines of simplified things to do to shape the property.

Designs can even be done in your head and never be written down, drawn, or computerized.

In the end, the important thing is that a design was well thought out through zone planning, sector analysis, and observation of the existing property.

Remember that any design should be considered a suggestion subject to change. You can picture a pretty pond in your head all you want, but if you start digging and find out that there's not enough clay there (or anywhere else on the property) then maybe some other tactic is needed for that slow it, spread it, sink it end result.

Having said all that, there's nothing WRONG with using a computer to do your designs, either. If you have the technology, and the talent/skill to take advantage of it, there's no reason it shouldn't be an option.
6 years ago
Cribbage is a good one as mentioned. Requires a cribbage board (or a good degree of pencil/paper tracking)

Old maid (with Ruth Stout as the maid), Crazy Eights, War, Go Fish, etc are all great for playing with kids. Poker (5 card draw, 5 card stud, blackjack, etc) are nice for fun times. Solitaire is always nice if you can't find a friend. Hearts, Spades, and other trick taking games are good for 4 players. Check your local library for books on card games and I bet you'll find a lot of material to try.

The Crazy Permies game is one my wife and I came up with. It's an association game. You deal 7 cards to each player and then lay the rest of the cards face down in a pile (stack) in front of you. Flip over the first card and begin the game. I've copy/pasted the post on this I made on Facebook when we were still developing the game:

My wife and I are working on a game based on association. The idea is to pass out 7 cards to each player, place the deck in the middle, and show the top card face up next to the deck. The person to the right of the dealer starts and has to play a card that relates to the permaculture value of the card. For example, if the card that is face up is Wind & Berms (5 of Diamonds) then the player might play Hugelkultur (Ace of Clubs) because it is often built into a smaller berm style system. These types of associations need to be explained as you lay the card down. Saying "because it's also part of permaculture" is not allowed... one must try to be detailed in why the two associate. If the player does not have a card they can associate, they may opt to play the traditional "match face or suit" but they must still draw after playing if they go this route. If they can't even match face or suit, they must draw and play no card, passing to the next player in turn. The person who plays the last card in their hand wins.
6 years ago
Things we've done:

I took and passed the initial online PDC offered by Geoff Lawton. I'm going back through these videos to refresh.
We also own the Fire Science / Woodburning Stoves 2.0, World Domination Gardening, Backyard Food Production, and Ernie and Erica's Rocket Mass Heaters DVD sets. We've been reviewing these as well.
I've signed up for the PermaEthos Plant Propogation Course for this spring, and we backed the Permaculture Skills (cold climate) DVD kickstarter so we're waiting for that to arrive for review.

Flower Beds:
- West flower bed has had trees cut out of it. Still needs stumps cut closer to ground in some places. Needs a landscaping brick border laid out and then prep this for spring plantings.

Worm Bin:
- We've put some scraps in and added fresh bedding to see if any worms are still alive. We did this before when they had gone dormant and were surprised to find some alive, but didn't build the habit back up and stopped using the bin properly again. This time we will keep them going properly. If none are alive we will use the existing castings for our outdoor spring endeavors and not restart the worm farm until later in the year.

Mushroom Farm:
- We've started one of the two mushroom kits. The other kit will be started later to stagger the production. We will attempt to turn these into a perpetual farm by inoculating coffee grounds (and such) later on, but for now we just want to see how one kit fares.

Grow Lights:
- We've put one of these kits together and stood it up in the little bay window area above the kitchen sink. It's a perfect fit in that window space.

Other endeavors not previously mentioned in this thread:

Aloe Plants - We received a pair of aloes from a friend and these have pups. We will be repotting the parents and pups when we do the window boxes for salads.

Fill Dirt / Compost / Top Soil - We will order some dirt or compost or top soil or similar for the east side yard come spring. This yard has had ankle twisting pot holes in it for years due to utility company's large trucks tearing up that yard in rainy season one year and not coming back to smooth out their damage after they were done. It went from rain to hard pack over night and we just let it go. The company was supposed to clean it up, and we could have done it ourselves instead, but neither of those things happened so it's still bad. We're going to fix it this spring. We'll plant a cover crop of clover and other ground covers on it (in place of grass) to make it a better plot of ground in the end.

Garlic - We have some bulbs of garlic that haven't been used quick enough sprouting on our counter. Our oldest son has specially requested that we plant these when we do up the herb boxes so we'll be adding them to the bowl.
6 years ago
As has been mentioned in my intro thread and the "5 goals" thread, we've got a few projects planned for our current location.

Our home is on less than 1/4 acre in Conway, AR. We've been in a holding pattern for the last few years because we know that the college near us is buying up land on our block and we keep expecting them to approach us to buy. Our goal with selling this house is to get enough for it to pay off the existing mortgage and (hopefully) what remains of my student loans (groan) and outright buy the next property (thus eliminating all remaining debt.) Whether we can pull it off or not is yet to be seen, of course, but we're hopeful. We've been watching for land in the outskirts of Conway / out in Faulkner County that fit our wants (a few acres with a live-in-able structure big enough to house all of us.) We've got quite a few children (still in the single digits but more than five), so doing the "tiny house" thing is a no go. I was let go from my previous employment of nearly 10 years back in February, and hired by a company in Little Rock at the end of June this year. This has changed our target location to something closer to Little Rock. Currently I lose about two hours out of my day just driving between work and home during the week. The size of land/house constraints still exist. So far we've come up with "not much" which is why we haven't approached the college ourselves, yet. Since we know we're in their 8 to 10 year plan, but nothing has jumped out and screamed "ooh ooh, pick me, pick me" for a place to move to, we've decided enough is enough and we're going to put in stuff here while we're here purely as experimentation. Some of it will be playing with container gardening. Some of it will be playing with perennials that we can either take cuttings from, seeds from, or dig up and haul with us when we do finally move. Some of it will be an outdoor kitchen garden bigger than the little one we had a couple of years ago. All of it is more than nothing and that means traction... which is what we need. We need to continue to build habits that will make things better here so we'll already have those habits when we have a space we can really work with.

Things on our current list include:
Zone 0 - indoors
- Grow lights (we've ordered 2 of the 4 foot lights we found on sale through Amazon. These are here, now.)
- Oyster Mushrooms (we picked up a pair of mushroom farm kits from Kroger. These are the kits made available from Back to the Roots. We're considering getting the betta fish aqaponics kit they also sell later on.)
- Salad Year Round (we picked up a couple of window boxes and some potting mix. We have various lettuce and spinach seeds we'll try in these under one of the grow lights)
- Herbs Year Round (we picked up a planting "bowl" that we plan to do herbs in. We'll do basil, thyme, parsley and such in this bowl.)
- Worm Bin (we did worms several years back and they worked like a charm, then some things happened in our life that made us stop doing a lot of the good stuff. Won't go into details on that, but the worm bin is still there. They go dormant sometimes so the goal is to test and see if there are any left, and build them back up if there are.)

Zone 1 - outdoors
- Kitchen Garden (we'll expand the kitchen garden space and plant tomatoes, basils, peppers, melons, squash, etc in it this spring/summer/fall.)
- Compost Tumbler (we'll put scraps the worms won't eat in this along with yard waste and tumble it each day as appropriate)
- Fish Pond (we'll clean this out as it has a plant growing excessively in it. The goldfish are alive, fat, and happy, but the plant in it needs to be reigned in and maybe plant other stuff in it instead or as well... not sure yet.)
- Flower Beds (these have become overgrown with treelings that weren't invited and need to be removed as they are next to the house and in the way.)
- Perennials (we plan to put in hazelnuts for me and black currants for my wife. We'll also do some containers with stuff like rhubarb and asparagus in various spots around the property. Most of this will go into the cleaned out flower beds.)

Some of this is maintenance to bring previous stuff back up to better standards. Some of this is putting in new plants to make things better and observe how things behave in containers, in shade, in full sun, etc. We'll use the information we obtain through observation to choose specific "preferred" sites at the next property we move to.
6 years ago
1. Start a blog to talk about permaculture topics (and other things that interest me) ... already have plans started for this, so this is in progress.
2. Get our zone zero into a happier state (declutter, clean, etc) so that we can progress outward more easily.
3. Spring = get stuff in the ground! Hazelnuts, Black Currants, Pygmy Peashrub (if we can find a source for these), Sea Buckthorn are top priority. The outdoor kitchen garden is next priority. Definitely want some tomatoes, peppers, spinach, and other typical kitchen garden fixins. Also planning on potted asparagus (rather than digging a trench) so that if we get to move, they go with us easier.
4. Keep hunting for a place closer to where I work now to move to. If we can find a decent plot within a decent drive for a decent price, we can make this happen.
5. Try to take things slow and not get into to big of a hurry with stuff. Moving too fast causes mistakes (sorry... "learning opportunities") Moving slower means decisions are based on observation and critical thinking.
6 years ago