Dana Awen

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since Dec 02, 2015
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Homesteading, permaculture and rewilding on 5 acres in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, USA.  Guineas, geese, ducks and chickens.
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Western Pennsylvania, USA
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Recent posts by Dana Awen

Ok wow, this is awesome.  I'm really excited about the low tech laboratory Kickstarter because there are designs for a rocket stove pottery kiln.  Add this in and you pretty much have everything you need to run a completely off grid pottery studio (especially if you dig and process your own local clay, as I do).  I'm thinking I will start working on my off grid pottery studio .  
5 months ago
Can you describe what kind of leather you are working with?

I do leatherwork and have dealt with this, but I might have different advice depending on what it is.  For example, I have experience primarily with thicker leather for bags, shoes, etc, and I'm not sure what kind of advice to give for leather-bound books .

Typically when leather gets moldy it has to do with the humidity, although well-oiled leather will get less moldy.

If leather is old and brittle, oiling it with just about any oil can help.  I make my own blend of beeswax, olive oil, and essential oil (mostly beeswax but enough olive oil to soften it up) and use that.  If you want to waterproof, that's a different technique.

For most thicker leathers, I would suggest first cleaning it with a damp cloth (not too wet, the water can leave marks) and then giving it a few thorough coatings of oil.  That should not only bring it back to a soft, pliable state but also prevent too much future moold.
5 months ago
I have the same problem--it is just everywhere in my herb garden.  The more I pull, the more that comes up.  I tried heavy mulching and also sheet mulching around my plants, but it just comes up through the roots of the existing plants.  I have worked to improve the soil, but that does not seem to stop it.  I pull as much as I can out each year.  The good news is that it does make for some nice small basket materials!  
I've been working to expand my production of sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus) for the last 5 years.  What started as a small patch expanded exponentially.  I bought a few packages from a grower and then kept expanding the bed and my harvest.   Last year, I hit my peak at 56 lbs in about a 8x18 bed, which I thought was outstanding. I have also over the years experimented with a polyculture of groundnuts or beans, both of which did pretty well.

What I did was dig them each spring, in mid March once the soil can be worked, but before anything was returning or sprouting.  Then I'd divide them, eat some, feed some to my animals, and then add a new layer of compost to the bed, and replant them thickly, adding a thin layer of wood chips on top as mulch.   This worked great!

But this year, I had a significant decline in the crops, coming in at only 18 lbs.  They did fall over during the growing season, which may have contributed to the decline (we had a severe wind storm).  There were almost none in the center of the bed, which normally would have been just loaded,  where the richest soil was.   But there were plants thickly throughout the whole bed last season.  Instead, I found them in abundance under my mulched paths, like they were seeking the less fertile soil--which is mostly rocky clay.  

So this year, I'm going to move them to two new spots that are pretty much rocky clay soil that hasn't been planted in.  I'll turn it and then add a little compost and do what I've done before.  We'll see what happens!

I'm wondering if others have experienced this--do sunchokes seem to thrive better in less-developed soil?  Or maybe I just harvested too much out and needed to rotate them elsewhere?  LIke strawberries, maybe they start to travel? Maybe I can then use them to break up new bed areas, plant them for a few years using my methods above, and then plant other things?

Wondering if anyone has experiences to share.
Yeah, we can freeze it.  Sometimes you can freeze as much as 50-70% of what you would boil to cut down on boiling time.  The trick of this is that if you do it that way, you have to boil right away.  For us, we are usually doing 1-2 boil days, so if we pull the ice off too early and then let it sit anotuerh week or two, it ferments.  So it is a delicate balance!
5 months ago
Well, yesterday I did a bit of experimentation myself.  We have a large pile of maple leaves from the fall. I  usually spread these out in my chicken and guinea run as we get snow, but with virtually no snow this winter, I seeded the pile with winecaps (spawn from a larger wood chip pile I've had going for some time).  I also seeded two of my compost piles (they have a lot of straw from the bird coops).  I'll report back and let you know if it works!
7 months ago
Just an update.  The taps stopped flowing exactly 1 month after we tapped them.  We ended up with 65 gallons of sap from 9 trees, which was a great haul and a bit more than a usual season.  We did two big boils and now have about a gallon and a half of delicious syrup.  Best of luck with your sugaring, everyone!
7 months ago
Can anyone report back on if this worked with the leaves, etc?  LIke others, I have trouble getting my hands on fresh wood chips all the time.  I have a bunch of oak and maple leaves + a lot of used straw from animal coops (geese, ducks, chickens,e tc) and am hoping to create a permanent space for wine cap cultivation, adding to the space each year.  
7 months ago

Christopher Shepherd wrote:Hi Dana, where are you from?

Western Pennsylvania, USA ( Indiana County, 1300 feet - I list the elevation because it matters quite a bit in the mountains) :).
7 months ago
Trees are still running strong here, 1 month after I tapped them.  We will be doing our first wood-fired boil this weekend.  
7 months ago