Jennifer Brownson

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since Nov 10, 2015
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Recent posts by Jennifer Brownson

Hi Ann,
My lovage has always been in full sun. It loves it and so do the pollinators. It does appreciate water, but since it is within my veggie garden, it gets what it needs (with no special pampering whatsoever).
Hi, I can see this post has been around a while, but I wanted to pop in and say that Lovage is awesome. And it actually thrives in the high dessert (6000 ft, NE Arizona) where the native soil is so heavy in clay that may plants can't stand it. We get hot summers and cold winters, but this perennial plant comes back year after year with a burst of enthusiasm.

My Lovage is a massive, thriving, insect magnet and wonderful soup additive (leaves). My favorite recipe is a spring soup of Sorrel and Lovage leaves. It is delicious. I add potatoes for substance and to cream it up, I use a vegan creamy cheese from soaked cashews blended smooth in a vitamix with probiotic capsules, then set on counter until tart. Divine!

I also dry the leaves and crumble them into my soups all winter long. Yum.
Hi Darrell,
Do you have any experience with creating a bio shelter without the use of animals? I am a vegan, and I want to work with earthworms and other soil builders rather than manure from animals. My garden has attracted wild birds who scratch and eat bugs to balance things out, but they would not be a part of an enclosed bio shelter. If you have any contacts who are doing this from a vegan perspective, I would be most grateful. Thanks.
2 years ago
Hi All,

I recently wrote a blog post on this very subject which included a video of Michael Meléndrez, an expert on humus, explaining what it is. I think you all will find this intriguing, especially the intelligence factor. Here is the link to the post:

Many of you will not enjoy the first 6 paragraphs of the article, but after that, I think you will appreciate what I have written. And you are also welcome to just skip to the video on humus at the end, which, I think is fascinating.

2 years ago
Hi All,

I have been using a water heating system that is working so well, that it needs to be shared. It is efficient with space as well as time and energy, and I think it has great potential for greenhouse use--far better than compost piles or even building fires.

I am using it as my primary water heating system in my house and it works great.

I have an electric water heater (mine happens to be a two element 220//240 type). I replaced the lower factory element with a 24V, 600W element, and direct wired two 200W solar panels set up in parallel so it produces a 24V current. These two panels were mounted on my roof above where the water heater is located. The direct current heats the water beautifully.

In a greenhouse, the hot water could be piped through the earth in shallow pipes to release the heat gently, or passively thermo circulated into other water drums etc, or, directly below planting beds, etc. There could be options, of course, depending on the heat needed for the time of year (valves to send water here or there). The panels would be outside, out of the way, perhaps on the ground below window height, but as close as possible to the water heater tank location, since DC power doesn't travel well.

When I first installed it (in early spring this year), the panels received less direct sunlight (due to less sun time and the angle of the roof) so there was not really adequate heat produced, so I actually backed up the system with my regular (battery style) solar system--not an efficient use of solar--but I did this on a timer, so it only went on at peak sun times. (I could do this back up system because I have a two element (220/240V) water heater, where I hooked up the main system to the upper, factory original element, set to go on only when the water fell below 100F, and having my direct current system attached to the bottom 24V element). But it turned out that I could turn off the inefficient back up by about March, and I had plenty of hot water all summer and now, almost into October.

*AND* I have since found out that I can produce even more heat from the direct current system by using a 24 V element with less resistance... a 24V, 200W element, instead of the 600W element. So this fall, as the sun lessens, and I need more heat, I plan to drain my tank and install the 200W element instead, and see if that provides enough hot water in winter with out the use of my back up battery based system. I got this idea from some local solar guys who like to tinker with ideas. They started me off with the 600W element, and have since found that the 200W works even better.

I don't know if the thermostat on the direct current system works (it is wired to work, but not sure if it does), but never actually tested it, since I have it on maximum heat, and I use all hot water if I notice there is extra. So there may be danger of it overheating if not looked after (mine does have a pressure release valve with exit port). If I leave the house for a few days, I pull a fuse that disconnects the solar panels from my tank. But in a greenhouse, the extra heat can be automatically directed to a safe heat sink, so no need to monitor it.

My tank is only a 30 gallon tank, and I am only one person, so any a larger system would need a larger tank and or additional panels. Yes, there is some upfront cost, but panels are getting cheaper all the time, and a tank is a good investment. For the bargain hunters, 'Broken' water heater tanks may even be usable as long as they don't leak. I can find out where to get the 24 V elements if needed, but probably a google search will do.

I hope some of you have fun with this idea. I think it has great potential.
4 years ago
Hi All,
I am wondering if there are any mobile natural builders/plasters out there who would like some work doing lime rendering. I have 40 acres in NE Arizona, about 10 miles from Snowflake, and I am currently doing some natural plastering with NHL lime on my home and well house. Pay depends on experience, and can increase if you are a good worker. If you have no experience with rendering with NHL lime, but want to learn, the pay will be $10-$15/hour, and with experience it will be $20-25/hr.

There are two 'catches'. One is that the person would need to be self-sufficient in their food and accommodation, and we do get heavy rain and wind here in the summer at times, so a camper van or trailer would be better than a tent. Food stores are only about 10 miles away. There is plenty of well water for washing, rainwater for drinking, and room to camp. And secondly, my desire is to develop this property into a learning center based on the Way God would have us live. The basis of that Way is love and truth. I ask that people who come have a desire to grow in love and truth, and neither bring nor use: guns, alcohol, drugs, pot, cigarettes, and anything else that is against the principles of love and life. Please no pets. And I also ask that people do not bring or consume animals products of any kind while on the property.

For more information about me and the learning center I wish to develop, you can visit my website at:

I am looking for someone (or a couple) who can come for a few days to two weeks, with possibilities for continued work. The schedule would be pretty relaxed, working generally two days on, two days off, or every other day.

If it feels like a good fit, there is additional work in: interior finish work, tiling, plumbing, interior clay plasters, slip straw detailing, designing and building a shop, garden creation, earthen greenhouse, swale and earthworks creation, etc, etc.

If you are interested, please email me at: with some information about your qualifications, interests, desires, and any questions.

Thank you.
4 years ago
Hi Christine,

Christine Baker wrote:Is there a list for the high desert?  

Temps from 0 F to 110, extremely high continuous wind in spring, pH 8.7.

I am in NE Arizona, same kind of wind and pH (8.6). Have you seen this?:

4 years ago
Hi Charlotte, What about using some kind of gunny sack material? I see landscaper use it along steep slopes of highways until seeds take root. Seems like a good idea. Unlike chicken wire, it will eventually just bio-degrade, but by then the ground cover plants would have taken root.

Seems like a grass of some kind (maybe Vetiver grass?) would have a good network of roots, and act like a thatch roof... overlaying the lower levels.

Good luck.
4 years ago
Hey Otto et all, I too am very interested inhydraulic lime. I am also in Arizona, NE area, and i have a strawbale house that currently is rendered with earth, but it is way too labor intensive to maintain in our wind driven rains-- that blast the SW side of the house. I currently have several buckets of lime puddy from 'builders lime type S' which is a NON-hydraulic lime that I can use in areas that are less blasted by sideways rain. But I am trying to find a source of the low to mid range hydraulic lime to render the most exposed areas (needs to be breathable enough for my strawbales). I did speak to the folks at US heritage group, and they have a 3.5 mix, but they want to sell it already mixed with sand, which translates to very high transport costs. Any ideas for sources of just the hydraulic lime powder by itself?

Lime has been fascinating me for a while now. A finish that instead of deteriorating, keeps on turning into rock!!!

I will also be experimenting with using lime for grouting my sandstone slab floors. I will post anything I discover that works. But first I need to find a source of powder... 😊

If anyone wants to see some pics and info of my place you can go to:
4 years ago
Hi all, I was wondering if anyone has any experience or info on using lime (I am thinking hydraulic lime for this) to protect fence posts from rot and termites? I was imagining soaking post bottoms in a 5 ga bucket of an activated hydraulic lime solution, like maybe a dilute solution. The extreme alkalinity it self may have an effect like burning the posts, as folks have done traditionally. Anyone tried this post in lime idea?

4 years ago