Dan Kline

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since Dec 30, 2014
My life was in the renovation of the soul. First my own, then others. I was usually the stand up front guy at church, doing the thought leadership.
Now retired, I try to garden on a very poor soil that grew tobacco from 1640 to emancipation in the 1860s. It then reverted to forest until this house came to it in 1937. Previous owners took down everything that looked like a tree.
I took up compost, then vermicompost, now biochar to try to get things to grow. When it rains, my plants go yellow. Lime helps, but this soil loses all nitrogen when it rains. Compost has helped, but this seems to be exactly the kind of soil biochar helps the most. This winter I hope to make lots of biochar out of pallet waste. I have been running a top load up draft 55 gallon drum with the 30 gallon inner retort. It is burning very clean, but I want to get it out of my driveway, so I am considering a rocket hybrid to make biochar more efficiently. This would be a more permanent installation. I am retired with little money, so I have learned to do with what is available.
Virginia, USA
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Recent posts by Dan Kline

One more item to check: When the buildings were removed, were they demolished? was the debris buried on site? If it was, was the area marked? This is important for future wells and tree crops, for food should not be grown over such a landfill for many years unless a raised bed system with root barrier underneath is used.

It is so sad that we have to think about such things when our place might some day grow food that we or others or our meat animals might eat.
3 years ago
Good for you for first thinking of soil! You are in for an illuminating and rewarding challenge!
Building great soil must include cleansing, and not just amending.

Old home sites have hidden dangers. The chief one is lead contamination. Exterior paints prior to the late 1960's contained lead, and this paint was applied to homes and out buildings. This paint was rained on and the lead was washed into the soil, and it does not easily go away. Painted boards may have been left on the ground to rot and leave the heavy metal contamination behind. If you grow food there, many plants take up the lead and poison your child at the point of conception and pregnancy. This is the hidden danger of all soil contaminants like glyphosate (Roundup), and the use of arsenic based chicken medicines. If chickens were there and medicated, arsenic levels may be high.

So... wisdom is doing a soil test to look for heavy metal contaminants. Then you will be more sure of your long term health.
And do agricultural soil testing. I like Logan Labs in Ohio. They give a full spectrum mineral test for about $30, and is well worth it so you can truly know what your soil needs to be able to grow your medicine, for if our food plants are fully supported, they support us to health and vigor.

The good news is we have a remedy for lead contaminated soils. Sunflowers take up lead and can be grown to 3/4 maturity (most plants in bloom) and the entire plant removed and taken to a landfill. They contain your poisons. Save nothing, feed nothing from this crop, not even seed to birds.  Two successive crops have been shown by scientists to bring heavily contaminated soils to below legal guidelines. The only way to be sure of this is to do extensive testing repeated over time. But most of us just adapt a proven method that ensures a remedy and do it. That is what I would do. In the second crop of sunflowers you could under-plant your cover crop to build soil while the the sunflowers cleanse it. If you pulled them just as they started to bloom, the cover crop would have more sun to collect more nitrogen, etc. and fix it in the soil. Note that these measures are most critical in the limited areas of the former buildings and the family dump sites and downstream from them in sediment basins.

I have looked in vain for the scientific paper on this. Someone else may have the link.

There are many websites dedicated to soil repair. My personal favorite is http://bionutrient.org/  where the latest broad scope sciences drives simple non-technical solutions accessible to all of us who want to escape the chemical companies and return to what I call Creation Farming. This is all offered completely free with no sign in required! Hurray for the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA). If you go to the BFA site, check out the LIBRARY tab and listen to some of the speakers. Plan to be astonished! You can also find many videos by BFA at their YouTube page.

One of my favorite gurus is Dan Kitredge who started BFA, and he led me to such brilliant consultants as John Kempf who consults with farmers all over America. His lectures are at the BFA site and you can find him on YouTube. Also, if you will have grassland pasture, you will want to listen to Fred Provenza's YouTube channel.

All the best to you as you go down this wonderful journey! Get out there and do some good!

3 years ago
My sympathies to you in your hopes in finding a non-toxic solution to old peely pine siding like yours.
Non-toxic is easy with inside paints, but outside is a different.
I seriously doubt if any non-toxic solution exists that will last more than a couple years, and then it will break down and turn loose, and you will be doing the same thing as now.
I spent a decade renovating old houses for a living, and some of my paint efforts held up for about 10 years before they started to break down. The key is surface preparation and application of quality products.
The real challenge is achieving adhesion of new paint to the old surface.
A good paint store will have several options for any kind of challenge.
And exterior paint on old surfaces is one place you must be willing to pay more for the better paints.
Paint adhesion has been studied by the best scientists, and while they are not concerned with permaculture, they do strive for long lasting solutions.
If you had a lot of money, you could remove the old pine and put on a durable wood that doesn't require so much to keep it going. At the same time you could improve insulation.
But if that is not possible, you may be a lot happier in the long run to take the professional advice of Greg B Smith, a professional paint contractor.
I wish you well in this.
3 years ago
Thank you for this interesting thread.
Reliable assisted bikes with solar charge and pull capacity are my quest.
I am attempting to help a poor farmer group in Zambia from my Virginia easy chair.
They lack even an ordinary bicycle.
Getting crops to market and town purchases to home in the country is now a two day affair for some who walk the distances with large loads on their heads!

Sadly, most of your photos do not show on my computer.
What I look for is durable easy to maintain solutions easily maintained by starving farmers who have never used a pair of pliers!
Their harsh climate of sub tropical cycle means a three month heavy rain season and nine months of no rain attended with fierce sun and strong winds.
Water catchment systems breed mosquitoes and kill many infants and inflict misery.
Life expectancy in the nation is 56 but in rural areas is 41.
So... permaculture principles are quite a challenge when the belly is so empty and the children are not well
I hope to come back to this thread to see your photos.

3 years ago
I just finished a 20 x 16 hoop house with no help.
If you used the top rails, 3 ten foot pieces = 30 ft. you should use a cover 32 ft wide and long enough to do your ends. Alternatively if you have other material for ends, just add two feet to your total length. In short hoop houses such as mine and yours, end ventilation should be adequate.  however if you have a board part way up the side to allow ventilation on the sides, you will secure the two sections and make a cut only if your side will be designed to drop down. If you roll up from the bottom to ventilate, you secure at the side board and bottom roll bar.
There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining the many ways to achieve this task.
I put my poly on all by myself in 5 hours on a day with no wind.
I hope this was helpful
3 years ago
Interesting article and well written.
I read all I can about worms. My Red Wigglers produce about 500 gallons of vermicompost annually in my big bin. This gets mixed with biochar and applied to my potting soil and directly in garden beds. In the garden soil I have common earthworms and the Alabama Jumper, along with European Night Crawlers. The Red Wiggler seems OK in soils where I have a good biomass on top. I also encourage a worm predator, the toad. It eats a lot more than worms and provides many soil benefits.
About the farmers in Oregon & Washington: My take on the controversy over worms there is not that the farmers oppose the worm. They oppose governments telling them anything. Nobody is more independent minded and freedom loving than a Western farmer. I grew up with them in Western Colorado, and though I no longer live there, I understand them. The radical environmentalists have zero tolerance for threatening the worm. Some farmers have zero tolerance for governmental intervention, as in the EPA etc.
5 years ago
Here in Richmond, Virginia, I garden in soil that wants to be 4.0. The soil name is Lenoir, poor for crops, reacting strongly in water to acid. Every time it rains my soil acidifies, so I know this issue.
In addition to avid soil testing, adding limestone and sometimes hot lime, I use wood ashes whenever I can get them. (a lady offered me 6 5 gallon pails last week!)
If test calls for one pound of limestone, I use 2 pounds of ashes.
Your local agricultural school may have suggestions about wood ash from regional trees and regional soils.
Attached is a paper from the University of Georgia that was very helpful to me.
5 years ago
Hi Andrew
You might consider wood ashes as part of your solution. I suggest you contact your local agricultural university for their recommendations for ash from regional trees. It would not work unless your soil is also acidic by nature. Ash is high in phosphorus and many of the trace elements are there also. I am in Virginia and use wood ash in place of limestone to offset acid soil. If soil test recommends lime, I double the amount in ashes. Seems to work very well.

I am attaching a PDF from the University of Georgia about ashes as a soil amendment
5 years ago
Thank you for posting this.
I have been snowed in from the gardens, so this gave me some good scientific reading.
I recommend this site, for the ease of reading these technical soil science papers.
I do not have a science background, yet found these PDF downloads very readable and understandable.
Kudos to Christine Jones!
5 years ago
Thank you for your encouragement, Bryant.
I do not know of another person in my entire area doing biochar. Everyone I speak with about it needs a definition and explanation.
Most of the daylily growers are high chemical users, spraying for weeds, insects, and a deep south leaf rust. Many have state inspections that require chemical treatments. I only know of one person in my daylily society who builds compost. At meetings they give leads for this fertilizer product or that.
Late in February I will do a presentation to a garden club. They think it is about beautiful blooms, but I think it is about soil. They are in for an education.
About mycelia: I have lots of that going on in a few piles of compost. Last summer a small piece of oak the size of a finger had a mushroom growing. I am rather new to mushroom thought, so thank you for the heads up. I had not thought of putting mushrooms in the tea.
The compost from the county gets run through a two screen trommel I made, giving me 1/2" fines, 1" mediums, and big bones out the end. I put the fines on for mulch and weed control. The medium goes on paths. The bones get dried for biochar. Some of my paths are full of fungi and some mushrooms.
I change out trommels to 1/8" and 1/4" for worm sorting and to take nails out of the biochar, most of which comes from pallet material.
Today I took the carb off the shredder since I need to pulverize char. Cleaning alone did not do the trick. Now for the carburetor rebuild kit.
So there I go... to get it.
5 years ago