Nathanael Szobody

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since Apr 25, 2015
Boudamasa, Chad
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Recent posts by Nathanael Szobody

I can't add anything substantively to Megan's answer except to emphasize the underlying principle: lots of oil, acid, and slow cooking.  Yes, brining first also helps.

I live in an area of the world where fat animals are virtually non-existent; it's all dry. One method I use often is to cut the meat into small chunks, maybe 2 inches, and deep fry them, or at least fry them in a good amount of oil. Then I slow stew them in meat broth. The goal is to stew them in just barely enough broth to cover them. That way the oils, flavor, and moisture, all gets concentrated in the meat as it cooks down. Also, wine.
5 days ago
I have the same problem. Spitting cobras and several types of viper here in central Africa. So I don't do living ground cover close to the house, just mulch. It's important to not have piles of branches. All branches get buried in garden beds, and I mulch with peanut shells that lays on the ground in a compact sort of way.

Still, we have snakes. My five little kids know to yell for me if they see one. I've killed a few vipers this year, and I've found cobras tracks and molted skin right near our house. But there's a real difference between a snake passing through, and creating snake habitat. If a snake knows you're coming, they don't stick around.

6 days ago
Hi Eli,

You won't need to rotate sweet potatoes if you're just growing them for leaves. They're perennial! I use them for ground cover, and as long as they're watered through the dry season, you never have to replant.

I'm curious, how do you prepare your baobab leaves? Also, consider mulukhiya; they're great combined with amaranth.

What kind of bean are you growing? I've found lab-lab to be a really tasty leaf crop.

Have fun!
1 week ago
Hi Earl.

Good thoughts. It all starts with a garden. Have you ever grown stuff?
Tell us more about your hopes!

1 week ago

Bunbunan wrote:

Particularly, just as mulch. I often lay down a thick layer of wood and branches and just plant into it.

Yes, in syntropic agroforestry a concave raised bed with a thick layer of woody mulch is also the usual practice. But I'm worried in my situation it won't be enough to keep roots above the water table.

So if your swales are, say 25 meters apart, have the sill drain diagonally into the opposite end of the next swale.

I want to plant coffee in much more closely spaced rows, probably every 3 or 4 meters. If swales are placed this far apart, would you plant interswale rows on grade, or build mounds/ridges but without an accompanying ditch?

I would spread the berm out for the entire width of land between the two swales

Basically make terraces? This would require a lot of soil, and deep/wide swales.

Primarily, I'm encouraged by the photos you posted of the native rain forest: it is not a bog or a swamp. This means that with plenty of organic material you shouldn't need to elevate your trees all that much. My proposal was that you basically scatter the soil between your swales. This would not create a terrace because, as you say, there's not enough dirt for that. It would just fill in a bit your woody mulch to create that nice spongy top soil a little more quickly.

You will become the master of your land and biome through first hand observation. If you need more elevation for your trees, then make smaller trenches with berms in between the swales to plant the trees on. Eventually these trenches will fill in with leaf fall and other detritus--especially if you integrate trees for chop and drop--and create that forest soil you're looking for.

It seems like you have a pretty good grasp of the factors involved; all that's left is to try something!
2 weeks ago
You have an fantastic set of resources here:
1. Lots of sun in the tropics,
2. Loads of water,
3. Lots of organic material.

The question revolves around the best way to combine these in a productive system. I have dealt with  heavy clay, waterlogged plot of land on a gentle slope in the tropics, so here is what I suggest:

Don't go full on hugel with your swale berms. While some people may be able to design it so that there is no risk of "floating," there are easier ways to use your resources in this context. Particularly, just as mulch. I often lay down a thick layer of wood and branches and just plant into it. Since you are going to grow trees, then this is perfect. Mulch will create deep forest floor soil in short order. In the tropics, this stuff decomposes a whole lot faster than in Austria, where hugelkultur was conceived.

I would dig your swales on contour, as usual, but design meandering water ways from the sill of each swale to the next. So if your swales are, say 25 meters apart, have the sill drain diagonally into the opposite end of the next swale. This will create a bit of flow that will oxygenate your water and keep it from being stagnate. If you really retain water all year 'round in the swales, you could even raise fish. Especially if you're taking drainage water from adjacent land.

So with the large amount of water you're dealing with, I would spread the berm out for the entire width of land between the two swales. This will allow you to do two things: 1, elevate your land a little bit to further reduce water-logging, and 2, allow you to cover the thick layer of woody mulch with a little dirt to hasten the decomposition.

I would also suggest integrating eucalyptus in your system for on-going mulch from chop and drop. Eucalyptus gets a bad rap because people will destroy the land by growing it in mono-culture, but in a forest ecology with abundant water, they are really an amazing resource for both mulch and building material.

I have used all the of techniques I describe here, so if any thing is unclear I'm happy to explain more and share photos. Have fun!
3 weeks ago
Today we worked in the teachers' field. They let me have a small portion as well. I'm experimenting with planting peanuts in the dry season with the shell on so termites don't eat them. Then when the rains come the shell will slowly soften and the seed will sprout.

If that weren't crazy enough I also spent a lot of time cutting weed bushes out of the field and laying them over the planted peanuts. Not only is it mulch, but it will also keep wild guinea fowl from scratching them up. The teachers thought it was crazy, but they were good sport enough to help. I told them that we're a school, so we have to conduct scientific experiments!
1 month ago

Timothy Markus wrote:It looks very interesting to me.  I've got a worn out hay field and a cleared sections of alders that I need to improve.  It's also clay with a hardpan, so I need plants to start to work away at it.  

I'm also intrigued by sorghum beer.  I think I'll give that a shot if I can grow some.  

Sounds like your hay field is a good candidate for sweet sorghum. But as for beer, you'll want to try a grain variety of sorghum. Since sweet sorghum leaves loads of sugar in the stalk, there's less starch in the seed, and it's really hard to thresh. But any other variety of sorghum should do.
1 month ago
Hi Justin, somehow I missed the email alert that you had posted here. Thanks for the suggestions!

A living fence is a quest I have been on for five years. Originally I was determined to use native trees. One problem: anything with thorns is also LOVED by goats. So now my plan is to use neem. I hate neem. But if it gets me a living hedge I'll be thankful. It does not have thorns, but it can be planted close together. My thought is that if I layer several species in close rows I'll get a dense hedge. Only now my species are selected for non-appeal to goats rather than for thorns.

Yes, the pit collects water! So we're going to do bananas down there. We still get eight months without rain and temperatures in the triple digits for several months. So, pit or no pit, it'll dry out. Thankfully we now have a water tower and a solar pump! So we're irrigating. Like crazy. We have about 120 trees planted so far: pomegranate, Annona, pithecelobium dulce, guava, tamarind, mango, baobab, African mahogany, albizia, cassia, eucalyptus, terminalia, wild fig, grewia tenax, papaya, banana and neem! And it's just the beginning...
1 month ago

Eliot Mason wrote:Well, sort of.  If you build perfectly on contour then you are really building a series of dams on the hillside.  In a rain event, that water has no place to go except through the swale ... and if does that you've got a problem!  Also, its possible that the highest swale captures all of the water coming down the slope and holds it - and although "stacking" water up high isn't a bad idea the swales further down the slope are deprived of that water.

So you can instead build the swale slightly off contour, and have them zig-zag down the slope.  Water coming down is then allowed to slowly wander along each swale before spilling into the next and changing direction.

I would be really cautious here. A swale is, by definition, on contour, otherwise it's a meandering water channel. But, if built as described here, a large rain event could turn it into a torrent of water and produce some pretty dramatic erosion.

An up-slope swale does not deprive the lower parts of the slope of water. One must presume it rains down slope as well. Additionally, the whole point of a swale is, in fact, to stop the water from creating surface flow, to soak it into the ground, so that it seeps down slope THROUGH the ground, thus rehydrating the landscape.

If one is concerned that the water might overflow or erode the swale berm, remember that a swale has a compacted sill that allows for a gentle release of water in a way that is not harmful to the landscape. If there are several swales down the slope, care should be taken to direct the overflow sills from one swale to the next, and ultimately to a retention area. But this is a contingency for catastrophic precipitation. The whole point of a swale is to keep the water soaking into the hillside, not flowing off of it.
1 month ago