Kate McRae

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since Dec 27, 2016
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Recent posts by Kate McRae

Aside from selecting your plant species wisely, I suggest looking into growing in sand or natural gravel instead of soil for the plants that wouldn't normally make it in your climate zones... first off, there's a difference between crushed gravel (done by machines) and natural gravel (done by the ice age, contains lots of microbiota which plants need to survive).

While I haven't tried it myself yet, there are three growers here in Sweden who use this system with outstanding results. One is Peter Korn, who's developed a beautiful park about a half hour east of Gothenburg, with plants from all over the world, including countries like South Africa. The plants thrive and bloom here in the cold, too, and taking a tour of the place is well worth the cost, as you learn a ton about even small shifts and differences in micro climates, for example how one species survived within two feet from a trickle in the rock, but not four feet from it.

Another is Roland, also on the west coast, and he grows cacti outdoors year round. He buys what he calls nature gravel (not the crush), and plants in that, then piles just any old gravel on top to quench weeds.

And finally, there's Sven Lindholm, who has grown all sorts of crops in sand for decades. He uses raised sand beds, and covers them with cut grass for nourishment. Never has to change the soil, keeps growing the same crops in the same place year after year, and claims it's a problem free system that works for him! I have been in touch with many who do the same at his recommendation, and they're growing roses in the north of Sweden with this technique.

While none of these ideas are citrus-specific, I thought someone might want to give them a try.
Myself, well, I love soil, but I will try some areas of the garden with sand and gravel beds for more demanding plants when I've got that far.
1 year ago
Old thread, but the story is still current (pun intended).

I didn't read through all 300 replies, so forgive me if this has already been posted.


Add water, and it's ready for the garden. Sturdy enough to sit on, too. What else... lived in a hippie commune in Colorado, and peeing outside/standing up was talked about pretty openly there.

In women, the urethra extends outside the body, not as far as a man's, of course, but actually enough for direction, if you chose to direct it manually pre-peeing.
Since you've got labia down there too, and they tend to extend earthward as you age, you want to make sure to free your urethra so you can pee forward and not aside the leg or on your shoes.
I know several women who can pee standing, though they've not to my knowledge tried it while wearing pants... seems kind of weird in a way that young boys are taught to pee outside, and young girls aren't to the same extent.
As for peeing in my garden, I have comfrey (Bocking 4 and Bocking 14: sterile sorts that won't spread by seed) growing in lots of different places. It's never far to go to use one as some makeshift tp, it's soft and kind of absorbent, and you can let it mulch down right there. Otherwise, shaking works quite well!
1 year ago
I would agree with previous posters on keeping with what you've got on site, when you fell the trees though, you can keep the stumps at varying heights for wildlife and for future diversity. Even stumps will create microclimates for other plants to flourish around. When you create your sediment traps with logs, remember you can probably use the burned wood both as posts and as filler to make stable banks on the terraces.

I make 90° terraces, or with a slight slope inwards to retain water, but certainly not 60°. Of course, I am on the coast of Sweden and we get huge amounts of rain pretty darned often, so it's quite different from Portugal.
I'd suggest visiting Tamera (in Portugal), the place Sepp Holzer helped plan, and also, read Sepp's book Desert or Paradise. It was a true eye-opener for me. Here's a video about Tamera

I think the gentleman suggesting you water the land may be quite right and has firsthand experience of it, and aside from that, I would say the main things are to start cover crops immediately, and also cover the soil with anything you have available to protect it. Whether that be wood chips, grass cuttings, branches, or whatever. And start planting bushes and trees, the more the better, just to get water retaining and soil stabilizing roots started. One of my mentors here in Sweden taught me that you want to create forest as soon as possible, so plant cheap trees to protect the land and the actual plants you want long term. Then, you can thin them and use them as mulch in a couple years, when your target plants are doing better.

Your place looks amazing, and I wish you the best of luck with it!
1 year ago
Hey Beatrice,

your place sounds amazing.
In case Jerry, Josh, James, Jim or Sarah and gang don't work out or have left again, I just wanted to give you a heads up on two sites that allow you to post a profile searchable by location and theme, where volunteers look you up or you them, according to their skills and such.

www.helpx.net (this one has a searchable map function of hosts)
www.workaway.info (this one's free for hosts, and is generally better run)

You can tell quite a bit about people by what they post in their profiles, and likewise be specific about what you expect from volunteers.
Also, check out their reviews for and from other hosts they've been to, and get to know them a bit before they come!

I hope it all works out for you!
1 year ago
Hey there Rufaro, I just came across this thread today, and I love what you're doing.

I think many of us struggle with the fact of people not taking enough interest around us, my family happily eat what I grow, but none of my siblings help out. I have, however, started teaching my nieces and nephews, and I got them tiny watering cans they can carry (I'm on the coast in Sweden, and have lots of rain that we collect in 200L barrels), and I have special small projects for them to see quick results with. Now, whenever they're here, they run out to the garden and want to water, sow or plant... and my sister still doesn't know you can't sow zucchini here in winter! So things are changing, slowly. And I leave my permaculture books out for visitors to read. One of them had an absolute "aha" moment two years ago, where he saw the change in soil structure before and after a farm was started (video here https://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/18/canadian-rocket-stove-powered-greenhouse/) - and I gave him some comfrey to start his own farm when he left. It was fantastic to see!

Regarding your young friend, I don't either think you should give him a fence, and I know it all took place months ago, but there's an option I use with my nieces and nephews: I always ask if they'd like me to show them how to do something. I never say "let me", or "this is how you do it", because I want it to come from them. So I ask, "do you want me to help you" or "do you want me to show you how to do that", and 99 times ot of 100, the say yes. So, if you have the time, you could ask your friend whether he would like you to show him how to build a fence to keep the donkeys out, using sticks. Also, what other solutions might there be? Keeping the donkeys in a pen instead? Not something that has to be done, but it's more of an exercise in creative problem solving. It can get as silly as you want, like putting the donkeys on the roof (obviously impossible), just allow for any and all solutions and then select the best ones.

For example, you can both weigh the pros and cons of building with sticks.
It's cheap, but it's frowned upon (manual labor).
Well then, you weigh the pros and cons of that:
getting a garden started, versus people sneering at your efforts.

Obviously, you have done this whole trip and know your truths and answers, but my suggestion is guiding the neighbor into the line of thought, rather than a simple yes or no answer to whether he'll receive  a fence. Helping him get in the mind frame of self sufficiency will give him so much more than a fence ever could. Since it's months since you posted about this, I presume you've already solved the problem, but I thought I'd give you a shoutout and say I love what you're doing, loved reading about it, and that the change will come, even if slower than you might initially want.

Thanks for sharing your story, and best of luck to you!
1 year ago
What about in-floor heating, heated with a RMH? I've seen modified RMH's that'll heat water, you'd need an accumulator tank or four, and a system to regulate the temperature that goes out from them. I've seen systems like this in Sweden, but using a stove called Calmarpannan instead of an RMH. They heat two houses, five yurts and a jacuzzi with the hot water from the tanks.

In floor heating gives a nice, even temperature and you need less of it to feel warm, as it rises through the room around you.
2 years ago
I'd do as follows:

Search your soul - are you ready for the bad juju of terrible neighbors?
If you have any chance, sell the property and buy another.

If you opt to stay, here's my ¢2 worth:
1: Double chain link fence, first (3 ft) along the property line, second two feet in, so they're less likely to cut down your grapes or whatever you grow along the higher, 6 ft fence.
2: Southern exposure (haha) is perfect for a greenhouse, could go all along the border another foot or two from the fence. Who wouldn't love a 100 ft long greenhouse? Your house can connect to it, allowing you to use the heated air passively in your house. You can have all sorts of tomatos and so forth, even at your latitude (check out this greenhouse and garden! http://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/18/canadian-rocket-stove-powered-greenhouse/).

I feel certain you'll make the best of it. Good luck!

2 years ago

I am humbled by the work you have put in to creating, to building and to teaching. Having read the forum at Permies.com for the last few years, there are so many pieces of advice you have given that have helped shape even just an anonymous onlooker. I love that it has been a safe place for people to ask their most uninformed questions, and given constructive and supportive answers.

You did that. And you have taught us how to teach others in turn, how to communicate and help each other, bringing permaculture out as a positive force.

Tonight, I will hold light for you and your family. I send love and peace and courage to you, and hope that it lands with the same purpose that you have held light for us over the last six years.

Humbly, gratefully, thank you.