Cristo Balete

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since May 23, 2015
Long-time Permaculturist
In the woods, West Coast USA
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Recent posts by Cristo Balete

Love clove oil for an itchy insect bite.   I guess I should say use with caution, but when I've used it, I can feel it working within 20-30 minutes, and the bite seems to heal faster as well.
1 week ago
Native plants are good for bees and neighbors can't really complain when you say you are planting a native garden. Native vetches will add nitrogen and flowers.  

Calling it a bee garden also helps give it credibility since the bees are having such a rough time of it.  Throw in a few plants for butterflies and those are popular gardens.  Garden signs labeling it as such also gets the message out to passersby.

A wild patch can look less wild if the additions are planted in large circles instead of wide broadcasting of seeds.  Then it looks like intentional flowering landscape, but can be made up of more wild-looking plants.  Letting herbs go to seed, dill, mustard, cabbages, etc.

Camomile is a sturdy flowering plant that reseeds.

1 week ago
Yeah, wood chips can be deceiving in a couple of ways.

They absorb the water that has the plant nutrients in it and keep enough of the nutrients from going down to the root level, so using extra organic fertilizers and watering deeply helps.  

If you spread the chips out away from the base of each plant, about 8 inches in all directions, and put whatever organic fertilizer you've got in that 16" circle, the chips will help keep moisture in the soil but will be far enough away from watering the plant that they won't get all of the water/nutrients.

Putting chips in pathways at first will speed up their breakdown, and the composted results can be shoveled into the garden beds after raking off any chip pieces.

Wood chips work well in the bottom of a hugel trench after being soaked in some form of nitrogen/pee and buried.

A couple types of wood chips actually have growth inhibitors, redwood and red cedar.  But once they compost into unrecognizable stuff, they are good for the soil.


Yeah, those temps indicate active composting, which is the plan.


Tomato plants would love that heat.  If you have a way of putting hoops over the bed, or a part of the bed, and sheer curtains or greenhouse plastic, you'd have yourself a mini greenhouse.


The only thing about the mold is if you get it on the greens, be sure to wash the greens thoroughly before eating.  Just like if we use compost with manure in it, we don't want that good soil bacteria on the greens we eat.  Try not to let wate,r that would probably contain mold/bacteria, splash up into the greens, like lettuce or cabbage heads forming.  You can avoid that by putting soil over the top of the bale and under the greens growing there, or just use drippers.
If you are planning a food forest, not just a forest, then those plants will provide plenty of pollen for the bees.   There are lots of fruit/berry/nut trees/vines/bushes that will encourage them to stay.  You probably know about Raintree Nursery that has varieties that would suit your area.

Bees also need an easy source of water, so if you have a creek, lake, pond, or very shallow saucers full of water the honeybee water girls will come to rely on your source of water.  When they discovered my birdbaths, the birds left right away, but I was very glad to have the honeybees have the water.  I filled the ceramic saucers with 3/4" rock, leaving about a 1" empty space between the rock and the edge of the saucer, then filled it until just the tips of the rocks were left sticking out.  If it's just a plain saucer some will fall in and drown, and it felt better to give them a safe place to come and go from.  We had sometimes 25 bees at a time on two large 12" saucers, coming and going all day long, so I even had to top it off on occasion.  They are not at all aggressive,, and even waited until I topped off the water.  It was a real pleasure to spend that summer with them.

YouTube has some really great Food Forest videos of some very impressive mature, 20-year-old food forests.

It's always a good idea to try at least 50% natives for flowers, herbs and herb-type plants.   Letting some greens bolt and flower gives them a good source of pollen.
1 week ago
Here's from Wikipedia:  Pinus virginiana was used historically as mine timbers, for railroad ties, and for fuel and tar. Currently, it is being planted as in reclamation sites for coal mining operations. Pinus virginiana can also be used for wood pulp, which is used to make paper, and for lumber. The wood weighs 32 pounds (14 kg) per foot.[3]

What about woodpeckers?

Rain water will always seep into a crack like that created between a post and a pier unless there's siding stopping it.  The wooden posts absorb water, and the water can freeze, expand and contract.

If it's just for a patio structure, not meant to be a house, then there's less to be concerned about.

There are lots of building plans online, and if you search under Pole Barn construction that might be the most relevant to what you are after.
Also, the third picture looks the best as far as construction techniques with the diagonal braces.  Those are crucial for keeping the structure from twisting and collapsing, especially in strong storm winds and heavy gusts, and snow load.

Erik, where are you and what kind of pines are they?   If you look at the pines that are fallen and old, what is breaking them down?

Where I am, the pines get eaten by termites and beetles within 6 months of being cut, they rot in damp soil within a year, the sap comes out of them and gets all over everything.

But I saw a guy on YouTube in Russia making a log cabin, and the pines in his forest get better and harder once they die.  They are dead and upright in the forest, are seemingly untouched.  He fells them and cuts them to fit.  He says the wood is very valuable for building there.  

So it really depends on the exact type of tree.

I'd also be really careful about the kind of piers and how they are attached, because moisture can get under the wood and on top of the pier and cause rot.  Just because people post great looking pics of newly built structures, doesn't mean that in 5 years they aren't having issues.



Yeah, sinking 8" every step is not good.  More than an issue with your raised beds, it could be an issue with your foundation.  That's what rain gutters are for, to keep that kind of water away from the foundation.   Just about anything is cheaper than foundation/wall/house repair.
Jennifer, I have heavy clay soil, and the trick with making paths is to put down some kind of polyester landscape fabric (not the black plastic with the holes in it), or old polyester shade cloth (or new if you don't have old, since it lasts for years and years and years), and then put wood chips or gravel over that.  Rock and wood chips will sink into the clay and disappear again and again and again unless there is indestructible fabric there to keep the stuff up.  Then you'll have a nice long-lasting walking surface.

Since clay only gets into real trouble when it is exposed to the sun, deep mowed grass/weeds or crushed leaves over the top or the raised bed, as organic mulch, will keep the raised bed protected from heavy rain, keep moisture in so it doesn't dry out, break down and improve the soil, and keep the heavy rain off of it.  Maintain a 3" thickness of mulch if you can, no bare spots, sometimes that means adding a little more every couple of weeks.

Mulching will also maintain a moisture level that will bring the worms up into the raised bed portion, and they love the broken-down compost the mulch turns into.

In a hard downpour the clay in the raised section might flow down, but any soil would flow downward in that situation.  I've found that my heavy clay soil stays really great when the rain doesn't pound on it.  In my greenhouse the rain can't get to it, and it's always easy to dig and plant in.  So if there is going to be some heavy rain I have a supply of sheer curtains, that I also use for keeping bugs and birds off the crops, that I put over the beds to protect it.