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

There have been some great responses in this thread.  So much of the response is determined by the thing you are attempting to survive. 

If I had to choose one all-purpose weapon to protect me from the greatest number of threats, urban/rural/human/animal . . . , I would go with a 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip.


-- A shotgun makes a lot of noise and has a wide blast radius.  A LOT of noise.  If someone is attacking you, the sound of that blast coming at them will make them think twice about taking one more step.  A dog, a bear, a mountain lion . . . or a person with bad intents, all will be reticent to take one more step toward you when they've been peppered with a blast from a 12-gauge.

-- A shotgun deals with the problem at a distance.  You don't want the problem getting close to you -- whether that is a bear, a person or a group of people.  A knife is only effective within 3 feet.  Frankly, I don't what the problem that close to me.  Even a snake -- keep it at a distance and dispatch it before it comes close enough to hurt you.

-- You don't aim a shotgun as much as you point it.  Thus, even if you are too startled to take careful aim, your likelihood of getting some lead into the thing attacking you is much more likely than with a handgun or rifle.  The shot pattern is determined by the chock of your barrel, but for most standard choke guns, the shot pattern is at least 15 - 20 inches across when fired at 10 yards.  In other words, your aim can be off by 2 feet and you will still put some shot on the target.  If wild dogs or a bear were attacking you, that would be a huge advantage.

-- If you have to use it indoors, the shot from a shotgun will make a mess of the person you are shooting at, but will not go through 2 layers of sheetrock, thus anyone sleeping on the other side of a wall will be safe.  A handgun does not offer that advantage.  Even a smaller caliber like a 9 mm can go through walls or a car door.  It's funny that you'd choose a gun for it's ability to NOT pass through something, but for home protection, that is important.

-- The pistol grip allows you to hold the gun at waist level and still be fully in control.  Firing from the hip keeps your line of sight unobstructed.  Again, because it's a shotgun, your need for accurate aiming is not so critical.

-- Ammunition is readily available everywhere.

No one weapon is good for every situation, but some weapons offer greater flexibility.
2 days ago
Any farmer that buys into this "treatment" solution to the millions of gallons of pig shit that their factory farm produces should be required to draw their water down-stream from their operation.  How many more of these lagoons need to rupture and pollute everything downstream before there is legislation against them?  Make then bath in the creeks down from their toxic pig wasteland.

If an environmentally sane solution causes the cost of pork to rise by a couple of bucks a pound, so be it. 

The solution is to not overstock the land with more animals than can reasonably poop their waste on the ground to be naturally fed into the soil.  Confined feeding operations are cruel, plain and simple.  Pigs were created to wander the forest and eat acorns.  As Joel Salatin puts it, "Let the pig express his pig-ness."  There certainly are plenty of forested plots in North Carolina that could be thinned and turned into free-range paddocks.  That would provide lumber for the North Carolina furniture industry (which is quiet large), grazing habitat for the hogs, and completely eliminate the need for storage lagoons for a bazillion gallons of concentrated toxic pig shit.

This is Joel's pastured pig operation.   ;

His phrase is "a light footprint" --- no concrete, no fans, no electricity, no smell, and certainly no pig shit lagoons.

3 days ago
Whatever the problem, the chickens will be part of the solution.  My girls love swiss chard.  They'll convert inedible leaves into eggs and manure for fertility in no time flat.

So to hijack your thread title: what could be right here?  Chicken food!
3 days ago
Do you have a better, closer picture?  The bark peels off—is it some variety of eucalyptus?
3 days ago
My chickens eat comfrey, but prefer other greens (chard, beets, cabbage . . .).  I drop a big armful of comfrey into the chicken tractor in the morning before I go to work and they peck at it and eat it throughout the day

But they don't touch those dry leaves that you sometimes get at the base of a comfrey plant.  So as far as chickens go, if you could dry it, I don't anticipate that they would like it very much.  They like it a little bit wilted, but don't seem to care for it once it's dried.

You mention high protein levels in comfrey.  It's also very high in nitrogen, which is why it's such a great compost activator, and would be difficult to dry.  An alternative might be moringa.  Unlike comfrey, it is commonly dried.  Moringa is absolutely loaded with nutrition and is tremendously productive.  Sainfoin is another amazing perennial fodder that is tremendously nutritious for animals.  It dries like conventional alfalfa and holds its nutrition well.  I've planted some and it's a beautiful plant while it's growing (red flowers) and animals prefer it over any other dried fodder.  It takes a couple of years to really get going, but it's a great hay crop.  It fixes nitrogen, is drought tolerant, and can be grazed or dried.

3 days ago
Buying carbon by the bag is going to get expensive.  The thing about wood chips is that they are abundant and free.  As they break down they do such a wonderful job of lightening your soil.  But you need so much..

I'll get a 10 yard load of chips from a big truck, haul them back into the garden and lay them down 8 inches deep or so, and it takes a couple of days to complete the task.  Then I'm amazed to see those chips disappear within 6 months.  Once you get that fungal network growing below the surface of the soil, it eats through those wood chips in no time.  How much money and time would it take to buy bagged chips to cover your garden 8 inches deep? 

I don't have access to free manure other than what I get from my chickens, so I generally don't worry about adding it to the orchard.  I don't think it's necessary -- I just put the chips down and let the fungi do their thing. 

Best of luck.
If I were going to use it, I'd first put it in a hot compost pile and cook it at 150 degrees for 3 weeks --- classic Berkley method composting.  I'd use a lot of comfrey and coffee grounds to heat the pile up, and then I'd turn it every 3rd day until the temperature begins to drop below 120 or so.

If you're still concerned with residual chemicals, you could then mix that compost with wood chips and let it sit for a year so that  fungi have a chance to multiply and do their remedial work.

I'm curious: why are they throwing it out?  Why don't they just recharge it with new compost and fertilizer?  If they are using chemical fertilizers, then why wouldn't they just re-use the same soil again and again?  Once you douse living soil with Miracle Grow, whatever microbial life that used to live in the soil gets fried, so they might as well just keep using the same growing medium.

I'd take it and process it as I described above, and then it'll be great to use in raised beds or containers in a year.
1 week ago
That makes sense --- I don't have to deal with frost here.  Our tree continues to grow year after year off the same old wood.

Frankly, I like the clean look of a straight upright tree.  My dear wife will stand at the kitchen window, and when a tree starts to lean, I can just see it in her body language: she'll tilt her head a couple of degrees, cross her arms, tilt her head back again, and then say, "Someone needs to put a rope on that tree and yank it back to vertical."  It just sets her on edge when a tree isn't growing straight, so I dutifully go out there an pull the tree back to upright and straight status.  The pomegranate has always been my biggest challenge, and it doesn't help that that's one of the main trees she sees directly from the kitchen.

Other reasons to keep a single vertical leader other than ants:

It's easier to prune branches and thin fruit with a single trunk.  Ongoing tree maintenance is much easier when there is space between the branches and even horizontal branches that I can stand on when I'm reaching up into the tree.  Following from that: how many pomegranates can you really use?  We give away so many of them, juice so many of them, and eat a bunch, but even after aggressively thinning the fruit, we always have way more than we need.  These things are bigger than a softball—volume wise, it's a tremendously productive tree.  Every year I make it a goal to thin it so that we only keep 50 or so fruit, but inevitably, there are upwards of 100, and they are still huge.  So many end up on the ground.  At least the chickens like that but they are stinky once they begin to ferment.

Best of luck growing this tree in a non-sub-tropical climate.
1 week ago
Yes, you can train a pomegranate tree to stand upright with a single trunk.  It takes a lot of attention, but its doable --- I've done it.

Pomegranates tend to sucker heavily from the base.  You need to repeatedly cut those suckers off or you''ll quickly have a multi-trunk tree.  I clean my tree up at least 3 or 4 times a year.

They get top heavy and flop over, even without fruit.  You'll need to stake it and continually pull it back to vertical.  If a stake isn't enough to keep it upright, then attach ropes and yank it back to vertical. 

Prune the fruit AGGRESSIVELY.  I remove all but one bloom, and that fruit is close to the trunk, not the end of the branches.  If you don't, the heavy fruit will pull the branches down and the tree will tilt toward the heaviest side.  I thin the blossoms by aggressively cutting back the branches to leave only one blossom (or one blossom cluster, of which I thin away all but one blossom).  I continue to do this all summer because the tree will continue to flower for months.

In the winter, get a step ladder and thin out the center branches of the tree.  Leave the main scaffolding branches, but open up the heart of the tree.  I have one central vertical trunk that goes up about 15' or so, and then about a dozen main branches that come off of it.  It's taken years to get this structure, and every year when I'm up there thinning the tree out again, I question, "Is this worth it?"  But now that the fruit is huge and ripening and accessible, I remind myself again that all that hard work of thinning the tree and thinning the fruit is worth it.  Long, leggy "water shoots" tend to shoot up and then flop over once they are a couple of feet tall.  You've got to decide what to keep and what to remove, or just what to shorten.  Again, it's an ongoing process.  After 10 years or so, you won't have to be so aggressive, but initially when you are forming the primary tree structure, it's an ongoing battle.

One other benefit of training your pomegranate to grow with a central trunk rather than multi-stem is that it makes dealing with ants so much easier.  If you keep the branches from dropping down onto something else (like a fence or another tree where it creates a bridge for the ants) and you keep the tree to only a single upright trunk, then you just put a band of tanglefoot around the trunk and it keeps the ants from the fruit.

If that were my baby pomegranate tree, I'd transplant it to a bigger pot, stake that little shoot upright with a 4 foot stake, and begin training it to be the primary trunk.  In two years, it'll be ready to go into the ground.  Pick any fruit off of it for the first couple of years—there will be plenty to go around in 3 years or so. Pomegranates grow really fast.  Focus on tree structure and keeping it vertical and straight.  They are squirrelly trees --- make it mind!  In the end, you'll be glad you put in all that effort.
1 week ago
I've been following this thread for a couple of days now, and its of interest to me because in principle (or in theory) I love beavers.  I love the idea of them repopulating North America to the fullness of their former range.  I love what they do to the hydrology of  watershed when allowed to build their dams, ponds and channels.

But in reality, I've never had to deal with them.  I know that they can be tremendously difficult to co-exist with because they deforest everything around them, flood what used to be farmable, and in general, busy themselves with all manner of activities that humans find destructive.

30 years ago, I had an Uncle in Edmonton who had an acreage outside of town next to a small creek.  Beavers took up residence and soon had dammed the creek and created a lovely pond.  Everyone loved it.  They were cute and industrious and we had a place to skate in the winter.  Soon they'd cleared out all the poplar trees, then the birch, then they cut down the spruce trees which everyone said they wouldn't because they didn't like spruce.  They were huge—about 3 feet long and 60 or 70 lbs.  They'd graze on the grass at night like cattle.  Eventually, they were dragging trees over 200 yards from the other side of the house, all the way over the lawn and garden, and down to the river.  In the course of one week, they took almost all of his entire orchard of apples, plums, cherries, apricots and apples.  That's when my Uncle finally put a stop to it.

He "eliminated" the beavers and took an excavator to the dam.  I was sad to see the beavers go. 

The difficulty is coexistence.  We are finding this true about many wild animals.  Deer have breed without preditors for so many decades that they are now a threat to motorists, and a bane to gardeners everywhere.  And because there are so many deer now, mountain lions are making a huge comeback (good) and starting to populate areas where they have frequent encounters with humans (not good).  In our area we have coyotes that are brazen and unafraid of humans.  They stroll through my backyard and freak my chickens out.  The interface between habitat for animals and habitat for humans is now fuzzier than ever before.

Best of luck to you as you seek ways to coexist.  Perhaps, in the end, relocating them to a place where they will be welcome would be best.  I'd hate to see you employ the same "solution" my uncle did. 
1 week ago