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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

That brings back such great memories.

I grew up in Kansas, and had extended family in South Dakota.  We had good pheasant hunting in KS, and we'd get a lot of quail as well.  But in South Dakota, you can't hardly walk 100 yards in any shelter-belt and not kick up a bird.  Central South Dakota is just amazing for pheasant hunting.  Because it's drier over there (west river), they don't farm all the land the way the do in the wetter east river side.  Its a right of passage to grow up there and hunt.

I had an uncle who had a bumper crop of corn one year and wasn't able to store it all, so he piled it up a couple of thousand bushels out behind his machine shed and threw a big tarp over it.  It didn't take long for the local pheasant population to find that pile and treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  That next spring, there were so many birds on his land—dozens and dozens.  All the hens had big healthy broods and there were so many birds in that area for years following.  As a kid in Kansas, I knew many farmers who would leave a couple of rows of wheat on the edge of their fields unharvested to help the birds get through the winter -- and it helps fill their freezers with meat as well -- a small price to pay for a bit of lost profit on your grain crop.

A lot of people don't know this but pheasants are not native to the United States.  They are originally from China.  They are also found in Korea, Japan and throughout Asia.  They were first brought to America and released in Oregon, where they promptly failed.  Several more imports later, a group of birds finally made it through the winter and the rest is history.  What's funny about that is that if a pheasant can't make it in balmy Oregon, you'd never expect them to make it is harsh North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan . . .  but they absolutely thrive in that climate.  They are tough suckers and can handle those cold winters.

I wish I could join you next fall when the air turns crisp and cold and the dogs are all in the back of the truck, excited and barking and ready to get out there in the field to do their job.
7 hours ago
I'd be curious how you keep mice or rats from taking up residence in such thick walls.  Once they find their way in, they'd have a hay-day (pardon the pun) tunneling through those 4' thick walls.
3 days ago
It sounds like what you're getting to put on your garden as mulch is great stuff.  While much of the nitrogen has been washed off, there would still be quite a bit left there.  But what makes it so valuable are the microbes that inhabit that biomass/mulch.  There is more than just nitrogen in cow manure, and long after the N has washed through, the medium is still an excellent home for microbial life.  That's why you are seeing so many worms.  Fungi have a hard time dealing with high levels of N, but from the sounds of things, the high carbon mulch that you are getting would be perfect for feeding fungal networks.

I would argue that long term, what you are getting is better for your soil than fresh manure with artificially high levels of N.  You are seeing the results of that thesis daily.
Not much meat on the little guys.  Other than the breast and the two drum sticks (actually -- hardly a drum --- maybe a tom tom at best), the rest of the bird is good for stock and thats about it.  Mom used to make quail stock for soup, and then the dogs would get to chew on the little carcass.  When people say, "Never feed a dog a chicken bone", they don't know much about bird dogs.  If they did all the hard work of running through the tall grass and pointing that covey of quail, they want a taste at the end of the night.
5 days ago
My experience with sweet potatoes is that they are tremendously productive with minimal fertilizer.  I don't bother to even plant them anymore -- they come up volunteer all over the place like weeds.  I'll rip them out if they get too far out-of-bounds, but they thrive on neglect and provide us with about a hundred pounds or so that we eat --- and there are a lot more back on my hillside that I don't bother to dig up.

All that to say, I'm sure that your soil already has plenty of nitrogen and fertility already.

As for fancy varieties -- my sweet potatoes all started from a single sweet potato that my wife threw into the compost.  I fished it out, scratched a hole in the ground, planted it, and promptly forgot about it.  We went on summer vacation and by the time we came back a month later, it had taken off and covered a big piece of the garden.  That fall I was digging sweet potatoes up all over the place, so I transplanted a bunch of slips to the hillside where I've got about 25 fruit trees.  It's a ground cover, basically.  Minimal water, zero fertilizer, and zero care --- but we get sweet potatoes like crazy.  I love the commercial variety we've got -- I don't know the name but it tastes great and obviously does well.  

The easiest way to make new slips is to make cuttings of vines and drop them into a tall glass of water.  You'll see roots within days.

Jain Anderson wrote:My reason for wondering about what is often referred to as 'the root of all evils' is a genuine concern about money as a TOOL which homesteaders will be using - hopefully for their advantage and enrichment.

The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.  Not money itself.

Money is a tool, and like any tool, it can be abused in hands of an abusive person.  Or it can be invested, stewarded and shared (like any other tool).  When I obsess about gaining more and more money, but think little of what I will do to better my condition and the condition of others, I'm on dangerous ground.  

5 days ago
Low tech and dependable always beats out high-tech and fickle.  That's why permaculture as a design science is all about appropriate technology that will last for years with minimal inputs.  Something as simple as a well-designed swale can capture hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to fundamentally change the hydrology of your land.  Every gallon of water that I can save and store in the soil profile is a gallon of water that I don't have to pump later in the summer.

Gravity is free.
Sunlight is free.
Soil microbes are free (but you've got to feed them to keep them happy).

Having said that, it's amazing how many great products are coming to market that are dependable, low-voltage, solar powered, and incredibly time and labor saving.  Electric fencing has come a long way in this regard.
6 days ago
I tend to plant in beds rather than rows to maximize space.  18 inches between rows seems like a tremendous waste of space.  However 6 inches between plants is tight.  So somewhere in the middle might be the Goldilocks just right.  

However, I always make the mistake of planting cabbages too close.  They need a good 2 feet of space or more.  Onions, not so much.