Marco Banks

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since Jan 31, 2015
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Los Angeles, CA
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Recent posts by Marco Banks

Alder Burns wrote:I wonder if this applies if the stuff is fed to BSF first and then these are given to the hens?

It doesn't.

BSF's consume anything --- and I mean ANYTHING -- but that doesn't translate to the taste of the eggs.  I feed my BSF colony dead squirrels and possums, roadkill, dog crap, and fast food garbage but none of that translates to the taste of the eggs.  By the time those nutrients pass through two different digestive systems, all that remains are the wonderful fresh eggs and happy chickens.

My hunch is that if the fish scraps are from ocean-living fish, you'd get a whole different nutrient mix than you would if you were feeding the BSF colony freshwater fish scraps (like catfish).  Seafood has a different nutritional profile than stuff grown on land.  In the long run, that nutrition would make it's way through the "system", from BSF to chicken to egg to human.  Further, those nutrients from the sea would end up in the chicken manure, which ultimately would feed into the soil biology of your garden and orchard.  It sounds like a wonderful way to add to the dynamic mix of nutrients in your soil and food system.

The difficulty I find is maintaining a BSF colony when you don't have a steady source of feed for the little critters.  I always thought that a perfect place for a BSF bin would be behind a school cafeteria.  Kids would like that creepy crawly thing, and there is so much waste that gets thrown out.  For my colony, I tend to forget about it from time to time, and then I look in there and they are starving.  I hate to give them something that the chickens can process straight-up (which would be most human food leftovers), so the BSF tend to be at the bottom of the food-chain.  That's why I only keep a small BSF biopod.

But if you've got an unlimited and regular supply of fish waste, that wouldn't be your problem. 
1 hour ago
There are several commercially sold Black Soldier Fly bins available for purchase.  There are all sorts of Youtube videos about who to make a home-made BSF bin.  Either will work.  The key is getting the ramp at the correct angle so that little larva can crawl out and make their way to "freedom" (a hole in the ramp where a bucket awaits their capture.

BSF make it easy to convert that waste into chicken feed.  The BSF larva are 30% protein and 30% fat, so they are ideal for fish food or chicken food.  However, you could also just boil the big chunks like the fish heads and feed them directly to the birds.  But that involves a bunch of steps (separating out the viable stuff to boil, cooking it (which would tend to smell the place up), feeding it to the birds, and then having to clean up those bones and such that are left over.  BSF bins are kind of a quick and (relatively) clean way of disposal of guts and such.

What is amazing about BSF is that they consume just about everything.  You'll still have a bit of bone left in the bottom of the bin, but they'll eat the skin, the innards, the eyeballs . . . anything that is remotely fleshy will be food for them.  And then you can take those calcium rich bones and compost left in the bottom of the BSF bin and use them in your garden.

If the guts are really slimy and stinky, you'll need to add some browns to the bottom of your BSF bin --- like of like you need to do with an anerobic compost pile.  A think layer of straw at the bottom of the bin will capture a lot of a goo that tends to ooze out of fish guts.  BSF feed needs to be kept moist or they don't eat it.  In this case, fish guts are plenty moist, but could be a problem if they get too stinky.  If you are talking about processing BSF feed at such a significant rate, you'll want to do this in conjunction with a compost pile or some sort of composting operation.  When your BSF bin gets really stinky and disgusting, it's nice to be able to wash it out and dump the contents onto a compost pile. 

Best of luck -- it sounds like you've found a gold-mine!
3 hours ago
Yes, save those seeds.  I've done so for years and haven't bought carrot seeds in a long long time. 

Its important that the carrots continue to get water, even though they've bolted.  Continue to give them regular irrigation so that the seeds can fully fill out.  You'll get multiple seed heads from each carrot it you do so.  Wait until the seed heads have turned completely brown, and then they are very easy to harvest: just snip off the seeds head into a big bowl or bucket.  Once the carrot is no longer producing seed heads (or you've got more than enough seeds for next year), you can cut the carrot off at the soil level, leaving the carrot in the ground to feed the soil microbes.

I keep my seeds in a paper bag so that they can continue to dry (if they are not completely dry already).

When it comes to planting, you'll have so many seeds that you'll be able to broadcast your seed rather than have to carefully drop one seed into a row at a time. 
One of the benefits of living in our climate is that we can garden 12 months of the year.  I'm still planting tomatoes for the fall/winter crop.  So yes, I'll continue to plant and harvest throughout the next 4 months.  Once we get to Nov. 1, I'll put in a cover crop anywhere where stuff isn't growing.  By Jan. 15th or so, it'll be ready to come out and compost.
1 day ago
Ah yes . . . the compost branch bank, where the proceeds of the heist are laundered and put back into circulation in the local economy.

If you wanted the best of both worlds, you cut off the weed at the ground so that much of the biomass stays in situ, while the greens above ground are deposited in the compost bank.

All biomass eventually gasses off, particularly lush nitrogen-gilled greens (grass clippings, fresh green leaves, veggie scraps).  A thoughtfully constructed compost pile captures a lot of the nitrogen that would otherwise gas-off and blow away with the wind.  The carbon-heavy "browns" in a compost pile (shredded paper, dried leaves, wood chips) capture a lot of that nitrogen as the greens heat up and the nutrients gas off.  In this way, a compost pile pays you "interest" if you deposit the weeds there, where as chop and drop banking doesn't give you nearly as much of a return on your investment.

Money laundering is always the big hassle (so I'm told) of organized crime.  They say that the kingpins of the drug trade have entire sea cargo containers of cash that they have to find a way to deposit and launder.  How do you turn giant bundles of $20s's and $50's into an electronic deposit in a "recognized" bank account?  In the same way, how do you turn big piles of messy corn stover and tangled tomato vines into easily managed soil amendments?  The compost pile takes weeds and turns them into tomorrow's soil deposit.  Thus, even if there is a robbery, those "funds" are reinvested back into the economy via the mechanism of the compost pile.

Constantly taking a heavy crop of a field like in a mono-crop of corn or soybeans, is another robbery where the loot is not reinvested back into the field.  If you grow a grain crop, harvest the grain and then bundle up the straw and sell that as well, its robbing the community (the soil).  As much as it kills me to say it, the humanure people are onto something in terms of closing the loop and keeping all the nutrients in the system.

A truly senseless crime is when the weeds are pulled, piled up, and burned.  At the end of that crime, the soil is poorer and everyone suffers. 
3 days ago
I taught a sustainable agricultural development course this past spring semester to a group of college students, most of whom had never grown anything before and, perhaps half had never even mowed a lawn or used a power tool in their life.  There were a handful of students who had had some agricultural experience, including one whose family owns 40 acres and has kept chickens, and has a decent sized garden and orchard.  But most of the students needed instruction on how to do simple things like turn a compost pile, or how deeply to plant a seed in a pot.

So I constantly felt the tension of finding the right balance between patronizing them, or leaving them to flounder for minutes while they screwed things up.  The other variable was that the class was only 3 hours long every Friday, so if I left it to them to figure things out, precious minutes would be wasted.  Again, I walked that thin line between "Hey listen to me and follow my instructions step by step", and "It's a shovel—figure it out."  Most seemed to welcome my instruction, but they still broke tools and messed stuff up on a regular basis.

If Gilligan has a stinky attitude and can't be taught anything, then I'll set him/straight and shame him a little bit: "You're not doing it correct and there are implications that follow from that, usually being more work for me.  Please listen carefully.  If you don't want to do it my way, then let someone else do it".  At one point, I had to pull one girl to the side after class and recommended that she drop the course since she didn't seem to think she had much to learn from me.  She'd persisted in talking while I was explaining how to prune pom-fruit trees, and then when given her turn, she made a mess of the tree she was assigned.  That's not something I can fix once she's gone -- it'll take a year or more for that to grow back, and meanwhile, this years crop will be adversely impacted.

If Gilligan has a good attitude and humbly wants to learn new skills, I'll take the risk that they might break something or screw something up.  Frankly, I'll take a humble Gilligan any day over a haughty Mrs. Howell who will not dare to break a fingernail, or a know-it-all Professor, or a delettante Ginger who is there merely for her amusement, but when the sweaty work is taking place in earnest, she's off in the shade somewhere because it's too hot and too hard.

Don't we all wish the world were 95% filled with Mary Ann?

And my, that lovely Dawn Wells looked good in a gingham dress carry a coconut cream pie.  We salute you, Kansas girls!
Another up-vote for the glorious rueben.  When my latest batch of fresh sourkraut is completed, it's usually one of the first things I'll make.

My other go-to sandwich is meatloaf on whole wheat bread.  A thick slice of day-old meatloaf, some BBQ sauce, and a big mound of spicy alfalfa sprouts.  Diet Coke.  Dill pickle.  Some kettle chips.  Perfection.
3 days ago
One more thought I neglected to write in my post above:

Assuming that weeds "rob" the soil, they don't have a get-away car waiting for them outside the bank.  They "rob" but are stuck there in the bank lobby with all the loot in their hands.  If they have successfully robbed the bank (the soil), how do they take their loot to another location?

But if I, the gardener, comes along and pulls up those weeds and carry them away, I've become the get-away car.  The heist is complete!  You'll never catch me as I carry away those precious nutrients.  The poor bank (the soil) has been robbed, and is poorer as a result.  This is why chop-and-drop weeding keeps the nutrients right where they belong.  You leave the root in place rather than yank it out and complete the heist.  It would be like taking money out of the ATM outside the bank, and then walking into that very same bank and asking them to deposit that cash into the safety deposit box down in the vault.  Someone from the outside has to come and replenish the ATM, but I keep making deposits down into the vault.  Eventually, that vault would be filled with cash, all borrowed from the outside and deposited inside.

Using this metaphor, the sun is the entity that keeps filling the ATM.  The plant root is the entity that keeps transferring that "cash" (nutrition) into the vault (soil).
3 days ago
GREAT content in this thread.  There are some wonderfully bright and helpful people in this community, and this thread is evidence to the generosity of their wise and experience-enlightened advise.  Bravo.

Let me add a couple of additional thoughts.  Do weeds "rob" the soil?  Well, they certainly "borrow" but then later play it back as they decompose.  So, yes, perhaps they "take" nutrients for a short time, but most of that is given back because "weeds" (READ: plants that are growing in the wrong place at the wrong time, not evil biological enemies) are annuals.  In the grand scheme of geologic time, they are a mere blip on the time-line.  They quickly grow and die seasonally—they ain't no redwoods.

I would argue that ANYTHING that captures energy and channels that energy into the soil-building process is, in the long term, contributing to soil health.  Nutrients (commonly positively charged) are captured by negatively charged clay molecules.  However, clay particles form long, tightly-packed chains that do not allow for water or anything else to flow through.  Picture a stack of paper plates, one nesting tightly inside the next.  Clay forms such tight bonds that even if their were wonderful nutrients deposited on the surface of the soil (animal poop, volcanic dust, nitrogen rich rotting bio-mass), those nutrients will not pass through and be captured by the negatively charged clay molecules.  Unless something breaks up the tight clay soil, nutrients sit on the surface and wash off with every heavy rain. 

Considering that 60% of a plants energy is used below the soil surface, whatever the weed may be "robbing" and transferring to above ground biomass is less than what it is pushing down into the soil.  Between the sugary exudates that the roots are pumping into the soil to feed the biological community, and the actual root itself (which remains and slowly decomposes after the weed dies), that horrible weed is doing a tremendous amount of good below the soil surface.

So not only are weeds an additional layer of solar panels throughout the bio-system, capturing energy (BECAUSE, as we all know, the entire system is solar powered, so the more solar panels you have, the more energy you are going to capture), but just as important, their roots are punching through the soil profile, pumping exudates down into the soil and opening channels for surface nutrients to infiltrate. 

On a micro scale with a one-season time frame, yes, weeds are robbers.  But on a macro-scale with a long-term perspective, no, weeds are a tremendous asset to soil health and nutrient accumulation.
3 days ago
Yes, you can "steal" a few of them and use them, but don't take them all, as they are the solar panels that the plant uses to convert sunshine to sugars.  If you pick them all and just leave the head of cabbage sitting there like a bowling ball, there isn't anything to photosynthisize with.  If you take too many, you'll retard the growth of the cabbage itself.