Missy Brown

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since Aug 14, 2015
Central Arkansas
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Recent posts by Missy Brown

I'm pretty used to "messing up" in my garden by missing harvests (I'm disabled, some days it just doesn't happen). I don't get too upset; I make a lot of great compost that way, my garden ends up self-seeding a lot of things, and I consider the over-abundance an affirmation that I must be doing something right. But I was a little peeved with myself for letting the "green beans" go too long. Until I realized they weren't beans at all. I finally found the faded popsicle stick that let me know that they were "Peas, C(unintelligible-writing)", which didn't help much at all until I popped one open.

They're the calico crowder peas I was given to grow out 3 years ago (yes, I'm a terrible person) from a group called Conserving Arkansas Agricultural Heritage. The seed was saved a few years before I received it, so I didn't expect they would germinate. For the past two months, they've really been more of a nuisance and rabbit magnet than anything...the vines refuse to be controlled or confined and have woven themselves through the tomatoes and cucumbers.

I picked some of them too early thinking I was having green beans for dinner, but I figure I'll snap 'em and throw them in with the shelled peas and some pork trimmings and they'll be just fine. I have several more pounds of "green beans I guess I'll save for seed) to go pick, but I shelled a few this morning. Even had some that dried on the plant to put up for next year's garden, leaving me with more seed than I started with from the first harvest alone.

This is the first heritage/land race seed that I've been able to grow out successfully, and it's a pretty big deal to me. Like, I cried when I realized what I was holding. This seed has been saved and passed down through generations of an Ozark Mountains family since before the civil war. That's nearly 200 years of genetic selection that has survived droughts, floods, hard times, and rough country. It's quite humbling from a gardener's perspective.
5 years ago
Wow, it's nice to be somewhere that folks can appreciate a homegrown tomatillo. In real life, people are like, "Here comes Missy with another freakin' vegetable" and I'm pretty sure that explaining it's really a fruit doesn't improve my social alienation factor. Which is fine: I much prefer plants over people, and now I have the permies forum 😝.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I feel like offering an apology in case you have read any of my posts in which I say that I don't import external organic materials onto my farm. I'd don't imply by my choice that other people are doing something wrong if they import wood chips or mulch. I'm sure that in the long run, I'd have a more productive farm if I did allow external inputs. I'm a special case because I market my vegetables to anti-cide purists. When the university conducted a study of my customers a few years ago, the thing that most surprised me was that something like 80% of the people I feed didn't care whether or not I applied poison to their food. I suspect from a purely chemical point of view that the health benefits of having extra organic matter in the soil would cause more good than the harm done by any residual cides that might come in with the wood chips. People generally don't spray trees that are such a nuisance that they need to be removed.

There is absolutely no need to apologize...I've lurked in several threads where the pro's and con's of external imports has been discussed and totally understand where both sides are coming from. I'm a pretty pragmatic person and enjoy listening to new viewpoints and seeing research and results that make me re-evaluate my own theories and practices. I will say that when I lived in the middle of nowhere/heaven up in the Ozarks, I knew a lot of die hard organic gardeners. Because we were so remote and had to haul our trash and recyclables 30 miles to town, I started composting all of our household paper and cardboard, mostly in the form of sheet mulching. I caught all sorts of flak about how processed it was and I think one of my friends nearly fainted just thinking about all the terrible things that could possibly be in the ink just waiting to turn the humble heirloom tomato into a poison apple. I mean, serious drama, and I'd thought I was doing a good thing that might even impress them. But those same people would stalk the tree trimmers all over the county trying to get those chips dumped at their house. Quarrels with the neighbors over (I'm actually not being melodramatic here) this scarce resource that could provide so much organic matter to their soil (which grew rocks better than anything...think they used compost and manure for backfill when they pulled all the rocks out of the beds...there tended to be a lot of volume that had to be replaced). It's a good thing they were all peaceful types who would rather lay down their life than own a firearm or there might have been duels. There's no way they didn't know the potential risks of importing wood chips, but I guess they worked for them so they managed to turn a blind eye to whatever ecological horrors they might be committing. But line your garden paths with newsprint and you're going straight to hippie hell where they only serve CAFO meat on GMO wheat buns with hothouse tomatoes and there's nothing but Diet Coke to drink. The irony makes me think that maybe as people striving to improve our planet by growing things, maybe we should just focus on doing the best we can with what's available to us...and continually educating ourselves to find the best practices and implement them as we are able in our own close environment.

As for your market...I was a reluctant yet enthusiastic raw vegan for a while (as a committed omni, I'm not sure how I managed it, but I'd probably do most of it again if I had the equipment to make it less labor intensive). I was always confused by the ethical vegans who bought big box organic produce because large scale farming takes a tremendous toll on grassland wildlife. And most organic soil amendments are made out of animal products. A year or so after I fell off the wagon I started dabbling in hydroponics (I like the idea of growing food in my living space in a sterile medium in the off-season...also not permaculture, unfortunately). When I discovered that there was an organic vegan hydroponics nutrient line I was quite impressed that someone had managed to come up with a way to make bunny safe lettuce that was never fed animal byproducts. It's actually quite an accomplishment, and I can appreciate that even though that's not the way I would choose to grow food. Similarly, I can respect the belief system held by some people that would create a market demand for that product despite not following those tenets myself. I do a lot of things that don't seem to make sense to anyone else, but in my head it's completely logical. I don't figure most folks aren't a whole lot different than me in that regard. So I figure people who prefer not to import materials have their reasons, and that's good enough for me. There's a good chance I'll still learn something from them, even if they think using chips means you deserve pasteurized cheese product made from the milk of cows treated with growth hormones on your frankenburger in hell 😇
5 years ago
I haven't eaten one yet, but mine are purple. I did a very happy garden dance when I saw them peeking out of their papery houses this morning...

A picture, for now, more project photos and a thorough response after the sun sets...
5 years ago
I would love to see a picture of the ditch. Do you want to expand certain parts of it to make a pool, or just dam it to hold water longer? Can you divert any of it to a separate pool?
5 years ago

As a renter in the suburbs whose life depends on having a sustainable, productive garden, I find myself resorting to guerrilla permaculture to accomplish my goals. When I rented this house, the yard was a major selling point. "I could have a great garden with all this space. I could basically live outside all spring and fall. Sure, the rent is high and the actual dwelling is subpar, but the property is fantastic!" There was so much potential, I thought, totally disregarding that there's equal potential for disaster as there is for success. My optimism had a head-on collision with reality when the rain and snow came. The front yard became a bog with even the slightest precipitation; runoff from the yards across the street and masses of overflow from the drainage ditch (basically, the whole neighborhood's storm water) contributed to the problem by washing topsoil and organic matter from the yard and across the (concrete) driveway into the (now clogged with sediment) drainage channel that goes into the woods on the edge of the property. The yard that I had envisioned transforming into an edible landscape, a haven for birds and butterflies, refuge for my inner peace was, as it lay, a swamp.

Perturbed but not deterred, I grew a 10x10 raised bed I made out of my moving boxes and some salvaged landscape timbers in the back yard and grew a ton of food. The neighbors' gardens died off mid-July because of the heat and dry spell, but my tomatoes are only suffering because they outgrew their cages and the vines eventually bent over and cracked under the weight of the fruit (but I'm still giving away many, many pounds of tomatoes and veggies every day...and today I harvested my first tomatillo ever!). Now that I've learned about hugelkultur on Permies, I've started calling that garden "My HugelBoxes" (more on those later?)...and they were wildly successful at growing all sorts of things. So I might have been confident-bordering-on-cocky about my ability to turn anything into a garden when I saw the tree service truck down the block. And I might have seen the wood chips as a permanent solution to the grown over gravel circle drive swathing 1/3 of the front acre with shrapnel. So I told them if they needed a place to dump their chips, I'd be happy to have them in my yard. When they brought the first load, I told them I could handle all the chips they could make clearing the local utility right of ways. The chips were perfect for composting since it's ramial wood that's already hot composting when it comes off the truck. The tree company foreman was grateful for a local place to dump them and said they'd been driving 20 miles across the city to pay a landfill fee per load. The thought of all that usable organic material being hauled out of our county to be encapsulated in a pit full of city-dweller carnage never to decompose and become the rich fertile humus nature had intended...it was just too much for my poor heart to bear; I told him to bring me all the chips they could make.

This is the story of those orphaned chips, collateral damage in the war between nature and the creature comforts some call civilization. Consider it a journal of this rental's yard's transformative journey, and one where audience (is anyone actually reading this?) participation is encouraged and appreciated. I realize that diverting mass quantities of material from the waste stream and importing it to your property is frowned upon by many permaculture practitioners, but this is a desperate case/desperate measures approach to dealing with the runoff and erosion issues before the fall precipitation makes my yard useless. My goal is to leave this piece of property much better than when I moved to it; I'd like to incorporate as much permaculture as financially feasible and reasonable given the restrictions of living in a suburban neighborhood. Though I tend to resent not having property of my own where I can make a plan and implement permanent improvements, I've found a certain peace in knowing that if I am a good steward of this land while I occupy it, it will give back what I put in. I hope that being on the permies community and learning from everyone's experiences will help me put in enough that it will thrive once I'm gone, even if it's completely neglected by whomever comes next.

5 years ago
I am just southwest of Little Rock, but operating on an urban/home scale.
5 years ago
I found this forum via Google when I was (very casually) researching hugelkultur, and after lurking a bit (and finding myself quite intimidated by most of you permies and your much more sophisticated knowledge than mine about so many topics ), I realized this site would be more beneficial and a lot more fun if I participated. So, here I am.

I am not "into" permaculture, per se...I've never taken a course, I don't know the principles, I don't have the slightest idea what one does to convert to permaculturist. I was raised in gardens...my mother always kept a kitchen garden, but my grandmother was the real green thumb with all of her bulbs and cut flowers and extensive veggie plot. It was the 80s. We weren't organic. Far from it, as we were in 4-H and sustainable, small-scale wasn't even on university radar back then. I didn't learn about organic until I attended a (very permaculture-ish) camp in the early 90's, and even then the curriculum was way ahead of its time. But it stuck.

I've been gardening (on my own) with enthusiasm (and using organic methods) for the past 11 years. I've also had the good fortune to work in the gardens of some "real" permaculture types during that time, which taught more than any formal education in agriculture could have at the time. I don't use any particular method or adhere to a specific garden dogma. I feel that regardless of what you are growing and how you are growing it, you're basically designing a system. I've read a ton of books (but not nearly enough) and I'm a big fan of John Jeavons' Biointensive model and Eliot Coleman's year round harvest techniques. I'm passionate about raised beds, prefer a no till approach, and I despise double digging...but that's because I'm disabled and not because they're the "right" way to do it. I just design my systems around those parameters because otherwise I'm not going to be able to garden. Limited energy and chronic pain are a driving force behind making every aspect of my edible landscaping as efficient as possible, so I'm always looking for ways to improve water consumption, eliminate weeding, and make the soil do the work.

I'm currently renting a very humble house on the more urban outskirts of a suburban sprawl, but it's on about 2 acres, partially wooded. The landlord said I could make my garden as big as I wanted and the property manager loves my heirloom tomatoes, so I'm lucky in that regard. This "lawn", though 😳. I love being in an ecologically diverse setting, and this lot is downright riparian, but we're also the low point for half of the neighborhood and have the privilege of receiving their massive amounts of runoff when it rains. Even without that additional ground saturation, the contours of the yard were poorly considered and it floods to the point of being unusable for anything but growing rice during the rainy season. And native "weeds" and grasses. It grows those great, and by the time the waters subside so you can chop them down, you have some great mulch/compost materials. Except that about a third of those nitrogen harboring beauties have been allowed to grow up through the old gravel drive that the property owner decided to quit maintaining so that people would quit using the yard as a turn around. The rocks (jagged crushed granite?) wreak havoc on mower blades, trimmer string, and my legs.

So, my current project is smothering that entire area of the yard under 12" of wood chips. The secondary goal of the chips is to absorb excess moisture, direct runoff, and minimize pooling. Apparently there's a "method" of using wood chips to garden, but that's not what I'm doing. In some regards, the science is the same because I AM trying to build the soil in that spot, but the chips are there to elevate that area so that I have a foundation for my garden beds and other elements. That the chips readily compost down into good soil is just an added benefit to the system 😉. We'll see how that works out.

Anyway, it's really nice to have found this community, and I'm really glad to be here.


5 years ago