Dado Scooter

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since Mar 13, 2017
Living the life in San Martin, escaping from life in Silicon Valley. 
San Martin, CA
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Recent posts by Dado Scooter

Pruning is such an interesting topic...  I think you'll find a lot of different opinions.....  Dave Wilson Nursery touts summer pruning to keep fruit trees small for backyard use.  Keep the trees no taller than 6-8' for ease of maintenance.  Commercial growers will just mechanically top trees - looks like to about 10-12' here in Santa Clara Valley.  Back to Eden gardener, Paul Gautchai, will prune so the limbs sprawl contorted to the side drooping to ground.    I was taught in my PDC to cut the main leader of a bare root tree between your knee and your waist... something like that, so it will branch out low.

So in this particular case for this cherry tree, if you don't like ladder work for pruning maintenance in the future, I would simply cut the main leader back to the next branch and forget about it.   If you want a taller tree, just prune it where it curves above a bud node that is growing in the direction you want it to grow.
2 months ago
John Mutter, I enjoyed reading your post.  Sounds like you had learned to listen to your body. I think this is the key for long term back health. Listening to your body, balancing stretching, tension and compression.  Work to the edge of your ability, but do not overwork!

Sucks getting older in some ways, in other ways, I enjoy the laziness and working with my own pace!
7 months ago
PS... I do hire out for really heavy lifting.  I found a really good Craigslist buy of about 200 blocks of cinder block.... only to find that it was really retaining wall blocks that were really heavy.  I couldn't even lift six of them in one session without strain, so I called some local muscle to help me pick it up and deliver to my property and place them into raised beds.  I need to hire them again because I'm going to reconfigure it to be a pony wall for a future greenhouse with a cobbed north wall, but that's going to be awhile in the future.
7 months ago

Kat Ostby wrote:Hi,
Other ideas- keep fruit trees to dwarf size, and prune them so the branches angle more down for ease of picking.  Mulch, mulch, and more mulch! Weeding is the bane of a bad back. Keep your focus lower with vines that you plan on harvesting from also. I know this means losing part of your vertical space, but if you can't garden because you strained your back on the ladder while getting grapes or apples...well...it's all about trade-off isn't it?  If you want to get woodchips for mulch, buying them bagged is a better option for the back than shoveling them into a wheelbarrow...same for dirt or compost...if you have to buy it.
Minimizing work that requires bending/twisting motions with the back is key. Like an earlier poster said about knees for lifting...
A permaculture garden with a touchy back is totally doable...but might need a bit of a different focus. Hope it goes well for you!



This is exactly what I've been doing in my permaculture orchard, except I didn't buy any bagged material for the orchard at all.  Lifting bags can be tricky too to manage.  I have plenty of aged horse manure from my own horses, cardboard from my move, and wood chips from the tree guys.  I live on silty bottom land that was a former fertile agricultural field, so to import soil would be ridiculous because of what I already have.  I do most of the wheelbarrow work myself and find if I do it consistently my core strength improves over time.   So far, my trees are real young, and unfortunately pruned severely by letting my horses wander the property during the winter rains when their field flooded, otherwise I've been both winter and summer pruning to keep them from getting too large.  It works well because you can have trees planted closer together and get more yield.  The only bagged product I bought was Happy Frog for my large fiber pot plantings.  The good thing about being retired is that you can alleviate the "weekend warrior" aspects of gardening, so you can space out your hard tasks as to not wear your body out.  A stirrup hoe on the mulch is really effective in keeping the weeds down, except of course that darn bindweed!  Better to pull that stuff out by the roots as much as you can, better still, do not let it root!  Where I mulched deep enough I didn't have as much of a bindweed problem, but the edges where I didn't cardboard and mulch deeply was over-run in bindweed.

As long as you bend appropriately, weeding by hand can provide a good back stretch.  The enemy of back health really is lack of PROPER movement.
7 months ago
Joshua, the exercise I described is merely an awareness exercise.  You are right that if you allow the body to be free and in "nondoing" is optimal.  Notice that I said tuck chin IN, not DOWN.  Tucking the chin in and rounding the back of the head allows the atlas to support the cranium more freely.  If your chin sticks out you are restricting the atlas so that the axis is not as free to move.

However, you must have awareness where your body is not in balance.  Often a crooked rider does not know they are crooked.  When they are told how to be more symmetrical in their riding position, they are often feeling out of balance because it doesn't feel habitual to them.  Gradually as one rides in balance you get a new habit, a "new normal" that's more correct.  Once that happens the body doesn't have to work as hard to fight gravity, therefore less energy needs to be expended and compensation patterns dissipate.  The optimal is to have an unconscious competence in keeping the proper balance in motion.  I think this is what you mean?

7 months ago
Joshua, you are correct that the spine is inherently curved, however I don't think Redhawk is entirely incorrect either.  The part he says about keeping the back straight is inferring not to twist or bend where the spine is more vulnerable to displacement.

I was taught a method of riding called "Centered Riding".  It was developed by a woman who had severe scioliosis, but she was able to take Alexander Technique, Feldenkreis and Chinese martial arts principles into a system where  balance, relaxation and body awareness.  Learning where the center of balance and energy is can do a lot to make one more effective and have less injuries.  It's a process not learned overnight, and always room for more discovery. I have very superficial knowledge of those systems, but whatever I dabbled in was really helpful.

I have been trained in craniosacral therapy for humans and horses.  So yes, you are spot on about the junction between the head and the neck is important to "create space."  I made up a little exercise that I share:

Tuck your chin in and round the neck backwards slightly where it attaches to the cranium (equivalent to the horse's poll).  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.
Stick your chin out and tilt your head back.  Turn your head with your eyes level from side to side.

If you have body awareness at all you would find that you are indeed more mobile with that occiput and cervical junction open.

Craniosacral therapy is marvelous for removing emotional and physical restrictions.  It is somewhat passive and related to somatic techniques and is a good healing modality.  However, learning more active body awareness techniques  mentioned throughout this forum will probably be more applicable to keeping your body from injury.  It doesn't have to be too academic.  Just listen to your body.
7 months ago
Jason, you said what I just was going to post!  My back does much better if I keep on moving. My worst back pain actually happened when I was working a sitting secretarial job full time in my late 20's.  I got out the chair wrong, wrenched my back and was in pain in the bed for a week.

I am in my 60's, a 5'0" little old lady, and just starting my food forest.  The biggest thing is that most of my earthwork is best done right now when the ground is moist.  It turns to cement during the summer.  At least where I hadned wood chipped yet.

I also just started keeping my horses on my own property.  I used to board them so someone else was manhandling the bales and feeding my horses.  Now I go pick up my own hay.  Sure, they load it fine at the feed store, but I have to unload and stack it myself.  We are talking 100+ lbs. 3 string Western bales.  So I learned to tip them onto a hand truck, tip it over, build up my stack in stages so I can flip the bale over to get it into place.  I also don't stack them more than 3 high.  I can't use hay hooks because I don't have enough arm and hand strength to pick up a bale that way.  I can stack my 16 bales, but anything more than that I lose interest, more than wearing my body out.   So learning to use physics in your favor is key.

Weeding by hand, hoeing, pruning, planting etc...  I just do it in small chunks at a time. Put up a metal staked wire fence by myself using a post pounder.  Made my own redwood planked raise beds.  It keeps me moving without stressing my body out.  I have had gout attacks where my whole body suffers from pain and lack of movement.  Just have to watch and eat cleaner to keep the gout away otherwise it's a downward spiral of losing muscle tone.  I am missing an ACL in my left knee, and my right hip is kinda out of whack because of a slight scioliosis in my back.  I am lucky enough to have a good accupuncturist that had also studied Asian martial arts and the associated bonesetting (don't tell the chiropractic board).  Seeing her once in awhile helps me keep my wheels aligned.  Also the more I ride my horses, the less my left knee tricks out and my back feels better because it improves my core strength.

I'm just coming out of a temporary funk where all my adrenals were drained by a major house move, a loss of my cousin and father all in the same week in 2012 after a couple years of stressfull parental care.  I lost my favorite horse two years after that and my new horse gave me a case of PTSD so my normal stress relieving trail riding habits went away for awhile.  People started to really get on my nerves so I became a hermit for awhile.  But time and space heals, and I'm crawling out of that funk.

I am really happy that I finally have my own place where I could live my permie dreams.  I got my first dog since childhood, and enjoying time with him, but that meant I had to work on getting my garden fenced off from his marauding behavior!  I planted pears, apples, peaches, hazelnuts, currants and a bunch of citrus trees all in gopher cages.  This year my goal is a raised bed in a small part of my property that doesn't frost for avocados and building a chicken coop next to it.  The avo's will shade the chickens during the summer, and the chickens will warm the avo's during the winter.  I was going to plant more bare root trees this year, but opted not to so that I could get caught up on the avocado and chicken coop projects.  I was getting bad about buying plants and not putting them in the ground quick enough, so I gotta work more on infrastructure instead.
7 months ago
My horse pasture is fenced off with 5' high no-climb fence with a 4'high meshed pipe gate.  My Aussie can't get into there without me opening it up.  His drive is definitely more of a herding and play drive with my horses and cats, but I will be getting chickens soon.  He certainly will be on a leash when I introduce them to him!

Your dog could probably be rehormed to a more suburban home without small children. I know plenty of people with German Shephards in their suburban backyard, and will take the time to exercise and get the appropriate training.  Secure fencing should be the rule.  At least he won't have livestock around to tempt him.  The cats just probably avoid the yard once they figure out there's a nasty dog living in it.
7 months ago
I've been dabbling in permaculture for the past few years.  I think my biggest light bulb moment was that there is no one person that is an expert at all things permaculture.  There are also people that are teaching permaculture that really don't have the depth of expertise because of this. I do question the expertise of some that maybe have had livestock for a couple of years with and become YouTube homesteading "experts" and wind up teaching in a permaculture class. There is nothing wrong with this folks.  This is not a criticism.  I rather like knowing a little bit of everything and not knowing a subject in depth.  I like it when people are honest about their mistakes.  Just not an expert I would spend a whole lot of money to learn from, therefore is part of the monetary equation.

I suggest that in order to become a millionaire (unless you have a rich family or won the lottery) it takes intense focus on a particular specialty.  Intense focus for product development, systems, marketing, and studying all business aspects in order to maximise profits.  Nothing wrong with that either.  You can have a farm based on permaculture principles and make a good living with a lot of focus and hard work.  Then sharing that knowledge based on success one becomes a Sepp Holzer or Joel Salatin.  They are worth paying money to learn from because they have had systems that they developed that worked over years.   Yet, they are focused on their particular expertise...  Sepp with his terraced hugelkultur with integrated livestock and Salatin with his pasture rotation systems, therefore add substance.
I used to think that one needed a sterile potting mix to start plants.  My dad, with his commercial chrysanthemum nursery, believed that because he rooted all his cuttings in peat moss and perlite mix.  He also imported trucks of peat moss from Canada as an amendment for his grow beds which he tilled and used commercial fertilizers and pesticides.  In between crops he would tarp it with heavy chains along the sides of the bed and run steam from his huge oil burning boiler to steam sterilize the beds. Yes, as a 17 y.o. I read "Silent Spring" and from that day on I would fume and argue with my parents on their planet abuse.

I was hanging out looking for a seed starting mix at the local hydroponics store.  Yep the one that sells fertilizers with a marijuana leaf on it but haven't partaked of it since college.  They turned me on to Happy Frog potting mix as a seed starter and it's chock full of microbial wealth.  I put the regular cell pack tray with the dome on a seedling heat mat with a block of styrofoam underneath on top of wire shelving in a sunny south window.  Put the soil in the cells, plant, water the tray, not from the top, and got pretty much 100% germination.  Once germinated, I took the dome off and continued to heat, watering the tray, never from the top.  Once true leaves appeared, I pricked the seedlings out and replant into home-made newspaper pots with Happy Frog potting soil and placed them back on the shelves in a disposable aluminum roasting pan, again, watering the tray and not from the top.  I didn't loose any transplants unless I was stupid about hardening them off, which did happen. The seedlings grew fast and lush.

I am now so sold on Happy Frog that it's the only stuff I regularly buy.  I tend not to buy soils because I live in a pretty fertile valley.  I do some container gardening because of a gophers and voles.  I will use it for my grow bags which I kinda pseudo hugelkultur with a bunch of trimmings at the bottom of the bags.  I then fill it with Happy Frog so that it's not weedy on top.  Everything I plant in this mixture is growing really well and I haven't really had to fertilize it that much for the first year.  It's made of "aged forest products" so it's kind a hugel on it's own.  It does have perlite in it, and I am emotionally opposed to using perlite in a regular garden bed because the little white fluffs annoy me, but for seed starting and container growing it can't be beat.  No I don't work for them or get paid by them.  Just a totally happy customer.

Meanwhile, the gophers and voles are digging up some good loose soil for me to fill my raised beds with!  Turns a problem into a solution.  Just need some good gopher cages for my trees and hardware clothed raised bed bottoms.  The dog keeps on chasing the stray cats off the property....
8 months ago