Dylan Mulder

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since Jan 21, 2015
North Carolina
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Recent posts by Dylan Mulder

Tyler Ludens wrote: But personally I've found the Biointensive method to be too much physical labor, so I've made some adjustments which work for me.

I agree. I recall reading the section on double digging and thinking, "You want me to dig how deep?". A group of my peers did some experimental double digging in our area and arrived at the same conclusion, that the labor involved was downright extreme. The soil here is such, that I avoid digging any deeper than about six inches. Hugelkultur is labor prohibitive here for the same reason. For deeper soil improvement, I use biology exclusively, using deep rooted C4 grasses + soil fauna.

Jeavons advocated growing grains for the dual purpose of producing food and biomass, a practice that I can strongly recommend. In Jeavons system, the biomass is fed into composting systems. Here in N.C., organic matter decomposition is so rapid that it's possible to chop and drop the grain stubble to decompose right in the field. C4 grasses are essential in my system, with my rotation built around the following pattern,

Annual nitrogen fixer, followed by C4 grass to improve soil condition + feed soil fauna, followed by annual vegetable/fruit, and repeat. The resulting biomass from the grain crop is absolutely essential for the survival of the following vegetable crop. Here, a single vegetable crop can utterly exhaust the organic matter in the soil.
1 year ago
Fascinating idea. What actually happens when an annual is grafted onto a perennial rootstock?
1 year ago
The first fall frost arrived here, which is right around when the O. humifusa is ready for a fruit harvest.

O. humifusa fruit has a soft exterior skin and a thin layer of sweet edible pulp, with a large seed mass inside. The seed mass, while sweet and pleasantly flavored, has a very thick mucilage. The seeds are large in comparison to other opuntia seeds, and rock hard. Because of this, the fruit is useless for fresh eating, but can be processed into a nice edible snack.

First, the fruits are harvested into a clean bucket. After harvest, the bucket is turned on its side and slowly rotated so that the fruit tumble against themselves & the bucket wall. This removes any loose glochids that are still present and also knocks off most of the hair. The fruit is transferred to another clean bucket and washed in water to remove any dirt or residual glochids.

Onwards to processing, the fruits are sliced in half with a knife. The seed mass is pulled away from the husk, and finally, the husk halves are dried to completion. The end product is crunchy like a potato chip, and tastes almost identically to a dried strawberry. Drying also removes the lions share of mucilage, making it hardly detectable.

I've attached a picture of some of the finished product.

Hopefully, next year I'll have some Opuntia stricta fruit to harvest.
1 year ago
My sunroot are usually visited by eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) and a local green sweat bee (Agapostemon species), in addition to a number of butterfly species I can't identify.

I've never seen domestic honeybee on sunroot.
1 year ago

Anne Miller wrote:

So what are some good ways to eat sprouts other than salad and chow mein?

I've enjoyed sprouts as an addition in omelettes. Pan fried until soft, they are also a nice addition to hot sandwiches and as a topping for hamburgers.

There's an open faced sandwich, where a piece of bread is toasted, smeared with lard, and pan fried sprouts are added as a topping. Sprouts are a nice addition to many soups. I find them especially good in soups where there aren't a large number of other vegetables present in the soup. Pair them with other fine flavored and low fiber herbs and vegetables, such as chives, in a thin broth to create a delicate noodle soup. Use them as a topping for pasta dishes, where chewier and more fibrous veggies would be a distraction from the main dish.

Angelika Maier wrote:

sally fallon mentions that alfaalfa sprouts are not good but she does not give a reason, do you know why?

Could it have something to do with how small the seeds are?

I find that with most sprouts, there is not 100% shedding of the seed coat from the cotyledons, which translates to manual removal when processing. It would be a nightmare to have to manually remove so many tiny inedible/unpalatable seed coats if they don't come off or wash out on their own.

It's for this reason that I exclusively sprout larger seeds. It's also why my favorite thing to sprout is corn, since the shoot is so easily seperated from the roots and the attached seed.

In my opinion, anything with tiny seeds is best suited for growing as microgreens, where the seed coat is removed by friction as the cotyledons emerge.
1 year ago
I looked to see if there was a thread dedicated to sprouts, and couldn't find one. Now, I'm certain that I'm not the only person here growing sprouts this Winter.

Thanks to sprouts I can grow fresh veg 365 days a year, without resorting to grow lights and other such costly tech. Just spare glassware, seeds, and water. How neat is that?

As always, I advocate cooking sprouts for food safety reasons.

Here are some things I've been sprouting lately,

Buckwheat - Nice neutral flavor, not overpowering.

Corn - Semi sweet taste with a distinct corn flavor.

Radish - Spicy!

Fenugreek - Sprouting this now, have yet to taste.

So, what are you folks sprouting?

1 year ago

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Dylan: Thanks for the followup. Did you get a much tillering on the wider spaced plants? Did the tillers produce cobs?

Didn't observe any tillering on any of the plants, no matter the spacing.

The variety grown was a dent corn called 'Cherokee white eagle'. Soil is silty clay, with prolonged droughts during the growing season, is irrigated, and minimal fertilizer usage (very small amounts of compost/manure). Been seed saving off this variety, selecting primarily for healthy plants and blue kernels. Interesting lilac colored cornmeal from this group. I'll post a picture later.

On the topic of growing grains in the backyard, I've been experimenting with peanuts the last two years. They've been consistently outperforming beans (P. vulgaris) in the growing conditions here. Anyone else growing peanuts?
1 year ago
I've concluded my little corn planting experiment, and the results are as follows.

Planting #1 (each plant had 1ft²). Yield of 1 cob per plant, with the exception of one plant that was blown over and produced nothing. Two plants developed corn smut (which is delicious by the way), that damaged just the very ends of the cobs. Some cobs were badly affected by a grain eating beetle I have yet to identify. Notably, the other plantings were unaffected by the beetles. I believe the dense planting played a role in their proliferation.

Planting #2 (bush style with 3 plants). Yield of 1 cob per plant, equivalent to planting #1. These had no smut or beetle issues, but they were fairly isolated from the other plantings. They did have excellent pollination, in spite of their isolation.

Planting #3 (bush style with 6 plants). Yielf of 1 cob per plant, also equivalent to planting #1. Overcrowding became obvious here. Of the six plants, there were typically three or four that were stunted so severely that they would eventually perish. By the end of their growth cycle, planting #3 wound up resembling planting #2. No pest issues.

Planting #4 (bush style with 9 plants). Yield of 0 cobs per plant. Shocking, right? The plants suffered from very obvious stunting, and all eventually died from a number of nutritional deficiencies.

Planting #5 (plants with a myriad of spacings, most at or over 3ft²). As per Joseph's input, I tried a few plants at a whole slew of larger spacings. Tried a few at 3 ft², 5 ft², and beyond. These had a wide range of performance, from good to very poor. They had all been planted in some of the worst soil I have. One plant, that was planted with 8 ft² all to itself, was the star performer of the year. It made one very long, very high quality cob in soil so dry that there's a prickly pear planted nearby. Perhaps it's genetics, but not one of the corns formed more than just one cob per plant.

In conclusion, in the future I aim to give all my corns at least three square feet of space to grow in. The bush planting method, with two or three plants maximum, could be a useful technique when growing just a small number of plants in an area where pollination is a concern. I wonder why Ahkima had better results with his bush style corn than I did with mine. A difference in plant genetics perhaps?
1 year ago
Here's a tip for walking onions,

If you cut the flowering stalk, or rather, the 'bulbil bearing' stalk before it can make bulbils it will sink its energy into making larger bulbs instead. Doing this, I've gotten them to the size of a large shallot.
My stance is pro tillage - to me a human is an animal that digs for its food - if I couldn't dig to produce food, then I couldn't imagine being alive for very long. Any system inhabitated by humans has to allow and account for this behavior.

I agree that tillage causes very real damage to the soil, and have seen healthy soil turned into concrete desert through tillage. Thankfully, there's a substantial knowledge base for minimizing and repairing the damage when it happens. Not tilling when it's too wet/dry, cover crops, encouraging worms, etc. all come to mind.

I disagree that the cultivation of annuals has only a negative impact on the soil. In my experience, many species of annual plants noticeably improve soil quality. Grasses and psuedograins come to mind, producing immense biomass in soils too harsh for many other species. I've seen radishes and turnips break up soil compaction fantastically.

Overall, tillage is a great tool that must be handled with care, much like fire. Much like fire, it would be hell to try and live without it.
1 year ago