Marco Banks

pollinator
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since Jan 31, 2015
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books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur urban
Los Angeles, CA
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Recent posts by Marco Banks

Mike Barkley wrote:Good list. My chickens don't bother Swiss chard. Sometimes they do peck at a few squash & baby pumpkins so I plant extra for them & other hungry critters. Plenty to go around.



Swiss chard is a bit like comfrey: the girls will attack it if there isn't something better for them to eat.  If there are beets, lettuce, or other tasty greens that they enjoy more, they'll walk right past the chard so they can attack the cabbage.  But in a hard time, they'll settle for chard.

Kind of like me.  I'll eat Swiss Chard if there's nothing else growing.
5 hours ago
I would totally use them.  Its soft wood so it'll break down quickly and help produce a lot of soil organic matter.

If your soil has any amount of clay in it, it's most likely alkaline.  I wouldn't worry about acidity.  The wood will create a perfect habitat for fungi, and fungi help mitigate PH concerns.
5 hours ago

Eric Hanson wrote:
I have no idea if I was actually watching Dr. Steiner, but I simply remember a person using an old stocking with cooked rice and burying it under a tree for a period of time and then retrieving it with the microbes intact.  Thanks for the more specific directions.  Out of curiosity, is rice used because it is a supply of carbohydrates and an easy medium for growth.  Could mashed potatoes or just about any grain work in place of the rice?  Why do you use barley and wheat?  Are they simply available or do they have properties you desire?



I read this or saw this somewhere --  not with cooked rice but raw rice.  So I did it.  I buried a nylon stocking filled with 2 cups of rice next to an established tree and then dug it up in a month.  Every last grain of rice was gone.  Something ate every bit of it.

I would imagine that cooked rice would disappear even faster.  So much for my experiment in transferring fungi by the stocking-full.

if you're looking for microbes, just scoop the soil out (a shovel full would be billions and billions of microbes) and throw it into a cold compost pile.  Mix -- you've got a microbe nursery.

Rudolf Steiner a doctor?  I don't think so.  His concoctions and theories seem to dabble closer to metaphysics than they do to biology.  Perhaps there is some validity to his theories but there doesn't appear to be any empirical scientific basis for them, so I don't believe he was a biologist as we would understand that term today.
3 days ago
Why does this new DA think it must be one or the other?

Let them pay the price for their crime (their jail sentence), and then when they get out, also pay the victim back.  In that order: Justice THEN restoration.  I find no tension in that.

If they don't serve a sentence, it feels like the victim just gets screwed a second time.
3 days ago
It might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but with bare root trees, smaller is usually better if you want a good root structure.

The concern is not how large the root structure is, but rather, the ratio of root to shoot.  By necessity, the nursery will need to trim back the roots a bit when they pull them from the ground.  The very fine feeder roots usually break off, and the larger ones are trimmed back so that they'll fit into the bag with the wet sawdust.  So a smaller tree will have a greater % of roots in comparison to the rest of the tree.  A larger tree, while it may look like it's got a larger root mass, may not have an adequate root system to the bio-mass that remains above ground.

The other thing you'll notice with a bare root tree is that as the roots are trimmed to clean up any broken roots and to help it fit into the bag, they also trim back the branches to balance the root to shoot ratio.  So what are you paying extra for?  All the pruning just stunts the tree and forces it to use limited energy to seal off those cuts/wounds, rather than immediately pushing that energy upward toward new growth.  Yes, the trunk will be thicker, but that doesn't mean that the tree will grow any faster.  

Smaller is better, in most instances.  But you're going to have to be attentive to it for the first year until it's established.
3 days ago
Four things you didn't mention:

You don't mention growing what volunteers well, or more accurately, not choosing but letting the garden choose itself what it wants to grow.  Cherry tomatoes and tomatillos are usually the first fruits that emerge in our garden in the spring -- always volunteer.  Thus, they are the first things to be harvested.  I could pull them all out, but since we love them and use them in salads, sauces, salsas and such, (dig that alliteration), I always leave about a dozen of each plant.

Another reason you didn't list  is that many people choose to grow things because the chickens like it.  I"m not crazy about cherimoya or pineapple guava, but the chickens love them, so I keep those around and they produce well every year.  Same with sorrel and borage.  If the girls eat it, I'll let it go to seed and then not pull it up when it comes up volunteer.  I don't eat that many beets, but the chickens absolutely love the greens, and then when the beets are the size of a softball, I'll throw them into the chicken tractor and they'll peck away at it all day.  Cucumbers are good and we eat them, but how many can you realistically eat when you aren't making pickles?  But the chickens go crazy for them -- the bigger the better.  It's a great use of those monster cucumbers that weigh about 2 lbs.

All the plants listed above (sorrel, beets, cucumbers, etc.) are easy seeds to gather.  From one mature beets, you get enough seeds to plant an entire field.  So a third reason to choose certain veggies is for ease of collecting the seeds for future gardens.  That's why I rarely plant hybred seeds.  I want stuff that has proven itself in my climate and that I can collect the seeds from myself.  So a third reason for choosing plants is the ease of growing, collecting and saving seed for next year's garden.

Finally, I choose to grow stuff like peanuts and sweet potatoes because they are so good for the soil.  Peanuts are a cover crop that I grow in between the sweet corn or okra.  Even if I forget to harvest them, they are nitrogen fixing and they serve as a great green mulch to preserve moisture and keep the soil cool.  In the fall, they are extra biomass for the compost pile.  Winner plant.

Please try it!  Tell us what happens.

If you're not failing at something on your farm/garden/orchard, then you're not trying hard enough.  

I'll bet pallets would be great for creating a super-raised bed kind of hugel.  You could tie them up in squares using wire or rope, and then fill the lower third with large pieces of wood, and the upper two-thirds with soil.  You could plant stuff in between the slats of the pallets and let the roots grow into the center of the hugel square.  Water from the top would slowly percolate down through the soil and eventually soak the wood at the bottom.  
4 days ago

Jim Guinn wrote:Love it, Travis. I've started my own spread sheet based on your post. Yesterday, I was going to buy a sandwich on my way home from a delivery for $3.99. I resisted. Saved $3.99. Today, I went to the liquor store for a bottle of gin. Instead of buying my usual brand for $22.99, I bought a cheaper brand for $15.99. Saved $7.00 for a total of $10.99 so far. Now, also today, even though I have enough tomato seeds for this year, I bought a couple of new varieties for $3.25 each. So, I'm only $4.49 ahead so far....but, I plan to keep my spread sheet and see how well I can do. Off to a slow start, but I know I can do better.



If you can invest that money and let it compound, it's even more gratifying.  An IRA, a stock with a DRIP fund (that will take small cash contributions without charging a brokerage fee), or a college savings plan . . . just once a month, send those savings off to be invested.  

Perhaps save the $15.99 and save your liver, all in one non-purchase.  :>)
5 days ago
When our son was playing little league, I would often stay late after the games to drag the field, bag up the trash in the cans around the field, and lock things up.  My wife and I would often go through the large garbage bags and pull out all the plastic bottles from Poweraide or Gatoraide.  Often, we'd get a hundred or more.  Usually it was two large grey garbage bags full --- the size that you drop into a 55 gal. drum garbage can.  After a while, I thought, lets fund a Roth Ira with the proceeds from those bottles.  In California, the deposit on plastic bottles is 10 cents (the 24 oz ones, which were most of the bottles).

We did this for about 10 years, as I still coached and had a role in the Little League even after my son moved on.

That Roth is now worth a little over $13,000.  It's all in one stock: Dover (symbol: DOV), and it's done well over the years.  Just because we took a few minutes 3 times a week to grab all the plastic bottles out of the trash cans and save them from the waste stream.  My wife would take them to the recycling center when we had enough bags to completely fill the bed of the truck.

A little bit, every day, and it adds up quickly.  We're no longer collecting Little League bottles, but I hope that that Roth will be work 25K or more by the time we retire (about 10 years from now).

One more story.  My Uncle used to come home from work every night and he'd empty his pockets on the dresser.  Before she'd go to bed, my Aunt would straighten things up in the bedroom, including sweeping all the spare change off the dresser that my Uncle had dumped out there.  She did this for years, and he never seemed to notice.  

After a couple of years she said, "I'm so tired of this snow and cold.  You know what I'd like to do?  Can we go to Hawaii this winter for a vacation and get out of this snow?"  

He responded, "Well I don't know if we'll have the money for that this year, honey."  

She'd say, "If I can come up with two thousand dollars, you think we can?"  

"Where are you going to come up with two thousand dollars?"

"Just answer, yes or no  --- If I come up with two thousand dollars, can we go to Hawaii in January?"

"Of course."

She proceeded to show him the boxes she had in the closet, filled with rolls and rolls and rolls of quarters, dimes and nickels that she'd been collecting off the dresser every night.  She got her trip to Hawaii.
5 days ago
"Absolutely!.  Biodiverse, healthy, productive, nutritionally dense, environmentally restorative ugliness.  Oh that the whole world were this ugly --- we'd feed everyone, end obesity, sequester all the climate changing carbon, end industrial agriculture, restore the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, bring dried rivers back to life, and still have time to hear the birds sing."
5 days ago