Jo Hunter

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since Aug 10, 2015
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forest garden tiny house solar
1-acre sortof-off-grid permaculture homestead in a peri-urban area of South Africa.
Cape Town
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Recent posts by Jo Hunter

I wonder if the dichotomy (either little land with bike, or lots of land but car) the original poster presents is something that can be complicated some more.

A few posters have mentioned small towns, where one could conceivably live relatively nearby and use cargo bikes.

If you hope to do most work on the farm by hand, then you may not need as much space as you think. We're finding one acre is a LOT to work by hand, and if close to a city, the productivity possible on an acre keeps going up for a long time, because there's so much organic matter available for free.

We lived close to the centre of our city, car free, with a cargo bike and a folding bike. it was amazing and we experienced the city so differently from our peers. (our city is NOT bike friendly).

Then about 7 years ago we moved to an acre on the outskirts of our city, and bought a small vehicle because there was a mountain, and very little public transportation, between us and my extended family. Plus we had a third child.

Then we built a small house for my parents, who moved in with us, and we sold our car and share their 1999 vehicle.
Then another person moved onto our little acre, and he brought his tiny ancient bakkie (I don't know if it would be called a truck in the U.S., it's too small, but it's 2 seater with a back area)

We're close enough to the city centre that we attract lots of organic waste without having to go and pick it up. We are also close enough to the city that we can serve as a hub/market for farmers to drop off their produce, for us to sell on to neighbours. So what we can't grow, we have delivered and sell on. Which also means we have a very strong community of people who are willing to try out our produce when we have extra (where it would be really hard to sell a few extra kgs of salad greens or 30kg of lemons for any profit, we can do it because people are already coming to get other stuff).

It's a ways before we can go back to being completely car free, but I see it as a kind of wave, where we just make the next best choice and that takes us somewhere, and slowly we're able to see our way forward. At the moment, slowing down is one need to allow more biking; helping our kids bike/walk further is a second; figuring out how to feed our goats WITHOUT going and cutting invasive vegetation on the side of the road is a third. We're working on all of these things, and I sense maybe we'll still be using cars well into the future, but less and less; and ideally in careful ways that make good use of the vehicle, and the fuel. We also use a chainsaw and a chipper, because it seemed to make sense for our needs and the inherent compromises we need to make to help move our family forward.
3 weeks ago
I plant strawberries and asparagus together. Theoretically, it was supposed to be strawberries on the edges, asparagus in the middle, but in practice they're together. We get two strawberry crops per year- one in our winter (mediterranean climate, no frost), and one in summer. in winter, there are no asparagus above ground. In summer, we're grateful for the shade protection they provide. I'm not sure if it's perfect, but it's a way of having an increasing perennial edge to my vegetable garden, which is gradually moving and expanding through the circular beds. So while the asparagus is permanent, I think the strawberries will gradually move on to other beds when pest pressure is too much. Disadvantage is that asparagus likes some heavy feeding in winter, which creates conditions for things that eat strawberries. But things do generally balance out so we still get plenty of strawberries- just not saleable quality ones.
4 weeks ago
I grew some Mary Washington from seed around 5 years ago. I think you need more than 10 crowns.

I'm working my way up to 50 plants, so that there's 10 plants per person in the ground. Each plant usually puts up one spear at a time, so with us, with around 30 plants, we'll go out and maybe 6 spears are ready... then we put them in water in the fridge and a few days later 10 more, and then with around 3 pickings we have enough for a good meal. With 10, I feel like your max spears at a time would be quite low. Maybe as mine grow they'll put up more than one spear at once...But the spears are pretty big and the root balls are massive, and i still think we need more to feel abundance!
I'm in the Cape peninsula in South Africa, in an area of very low summer rainfall and very strong summer winds.

I wonder if the energy needed to get things going, and the energy needed once there's momentum, could be somehow disentangled. For example, an initial large input of organic matter or water will not necessarily make the whole project unsustainable in the long term, but will greatly increase the number of species that will be successful, and the speed in which you will be able to observe growth and get a yield.

We grow indigenous species as supports (in our case various osteospermum, wild sages, dovyalis afra, sourfig- carbobrotus edulis, polygala myrtifolia, tulbaghia, many types of pelagoniums, salt bushes), so that the soil is shaded around our fruit trees, even if the support species itself is not harvestable for human use. Keeping bees helps to make these support species feel useful. (and we also have dairy goats, for the same reason but also because we just love them).  We have to irrigate our fruit trees, using drip irrigation and rain water.

Importing massive amounts of landscaping waste, in winter, was very important for helping to get the soil covered more rapidly, which in turn greatly increased water retention in winter, and then compounded the effect. The area of our property that has no irrigation whatsoever is certainly not as lush yet, but we have tree lucerne (tagasaste) sourfig, Australian myrtle, and good groundcover, and I noticed now we have self-seeded hemp growing, and I've planted camphor and coastal oak and they are all doing ok. Also, if I can plant a relatively large tree in winter, their probability of surviving the summer is much greater.

10 months ago
Yes! Absolutely great to compost, but you really don't need to remove them from your beds- they won't compete with your veggies and may well benefit them. some cool mushroom growers ( I remember seeing a video in another, thread, I think?) try to create ways for edible mushrooms to thrive in beds, but even inedible mushrooms add to the ecological diversity and fertility of your beds. I actively encourage mushrooms in my beds/food forest, and sometimes I get lucky!
1 year ago
Yes, definitely use them! They have fully colonised the dowels which is why they are starting to pin, but it takes a while before the mycelium are not strong enough to colonise a log. I reckon on the right log you'd still have good results, particularly if you have wet-ish summers(assuming you're in the N. hemisphere).
1 year ago
I'm in a Mediterranean climate and I grow spekboom, pelagonium, and Dutch lavender under my elderberry bushes! They do great. Spekboom (portulacaria afra) does well in shade- it gets beautiful glossy leaves.
2 years ago
I also have access to free horse manure, and add about 300kg of to our 1 acre farm every week. I hot compost the manure headed for the vegetable garden (usually combined with green landscaping waste), but apply bags of the stuff directly around fruit trees, where it composts in place. I don't add direct to my vermicompost. In my experience it has been really amazing as mulch/slow release nutrition for fruit trees. Hot composting is really important for annuals not only because of potential 'cides in the manure, but also because otherwise a huge number of weed seeds germinate. So now, when I add directly around trees, I make sure something is on tap to grow over the manure, to shade the ground and allow for mycelial growth. I have a lot of mushrooms that grow on the manure when it's NOT hot composted-- not as much when it has been. I also apply manure directly to our goat pastures (no goats yet) then water to get oat hay started...might as well use the weeds as an asset...
2 years ago
I don't think you can ever have too much garlic. Well, I suppose you could but it would be hard. We're in the S. hemisphere so plant in March, harvest in Nov, and I have about 150 plants growing (also because I lose some at the last minute to mole rats) for a family of 5, and to keep enough cloves to plant. I have enough growing space over the winter, though I'm starting to want the space (and am starting to interplant so that when they come out in a month or so, the basil will be getting established.

Pictures of my spring garlic bed (new seedlings in foreground)
We've had a huge surge in snails and slugs this year, the year after I invested my hard-earned money in woodchips (can't get them free here). I agree with Priscilla that natural predators are the ultimate solution. AND that this will be the worst year for them, because the woodchips are new and there are lots of places for the snails (they also love the black planting bags we use for new cuttings, and we've greatly expanded those this year so there's just a lot of habitat.) I think what will happen is that this will be a hard year for certain things (still, it's a great year for the trees and mushrooms who love the woodchips) and then things will come back into balance.

In the meantime, I do the same as Jay and put down pieces of old cardboard/landscape plastic to attract them, then in the morning feed them to the chickens and ducks. I've done this for about 2 weeks, and I'm finding fewer and fewer and seeing a lot less damage.
2 years ago