Mike Autumn

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since Oct 06, 2016
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food preservation forest garden greening the desert
Tecate, Baja California
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Recent posts by Mike Autumn

We live in a small apartment (for now) and I was desperate to get composting without any complaints so I tried different ways and I eventually got to this method. Its basically a 200 liter plastic drum with a piece of cloth on top fixed into place with the locking ring. It helps a LOT with the humidity and it keeps flies out. I basically collect fresh greens inside our home for a few days and I just dump them in there with a good proportion of browns. I try to mix it up every two or three days by putting on the original lid with the locking ring, knocking it over and turning it with my foot when it gets too heavy. So far so good, I just collected some compost a few months ago, sifted it and planted some spinach, lettuce, mint, oregano and cilantro. Theyre barely sprouting but they seem to be growing nicely. I also use compost from the previous batch to inoculate the next batch of compost that is underway.

Now, the compost smelled perfectly fine throughout the process, with it fermenting a bit but if that happened I added a good amount of browns. I did notice that leaves and other browns like egg carton didnt decompose so well and it didnt heat up much. I imagine it must be because of how little it was, just half of the drum was full so it wouldnt be too heavy and it decomposed to round a third of the volume. I also did notice some white patches on top of the compost while it was sitting for a few days, I looked online and according to what I read it said that it must be Actinomycetes, which indicates a good decomposition of fibrous materials. I also noticed some small arthropods and flies (no larva though) that were probably helping with the composting process and at one point there was a lot of them, there arent many right now. I also remember I added liquefied mushroom, coffee grounds, pill bugs and so many things... it was a free for all!

My question is about the whole "cold" composting process, do you all think it was it mainly fungal, bacterial or insect dominated decomposition and do you all think the compost produced is generally of good quality? Any recommendations? Thanks.
2 days ago
Hi there, 1990 millenial here, live a little farther down south but I wanted to say that its all mostly the same everywhere. Education here is relatively cheap but the problem is that employers are paying the same or a little bit more than what you would get without a university degree. Wages here are pretty bad compared to the cost of living. Its hard to find something that pays well and so a lot of grads we know are either working their butts off or starting their own business, mainly virtual ones. Of course, most of them live with their parents or family. Getting your own home or land is something that is extremely difficult, you either get in debt for 15 to 20 years or save money on your own for that amount of time.

In our case I can definitely say that weve been lucky and it has also been a LOT of hard work. I dropped out of university when I realized I didnt want to be a cog in some big business and I wanted to spend more time with my family. After dropping out I realized that I wanted to be a permie, it all became clear to me and I started working full time so we could have any chance at getting land or even a house at least. Thanks to a contact of ours we managed to hear that there was a sort of a family farm project starting around an hour's drive away with small 1/3 of an acre plots being sold at a pretty good price. Although it was at a good price we had no money saved at all and we decided to ask for loans and we got into a lot of debt. We hunkered down and for 2 years we paid it off, we tried to reduced all expenses to a minimum, we didnt go out much and basically stuck to the essentials. Just now we're almost going to pay it off and it just seemed so impossible in the beginning but here we are. I dedicated most of this time to a lot of research and put as many things as I could into practice, basically composting in a closed bin, planting wherever possible, making my own filters and so on in our small apartment.

Once we are done paying it off, we have a pretty good idea of what we want to build and design on this small plot of land. We're going to build a tiny 5m diameter adobe dome while we start a food forest and build a bigger home. We're going to do this paralel to buying a decently priced home close to the city with our government sponsored mortgage.
5 days ago
I think that by themselves: paper, cardboard and all those dont burn so well and will probably smolder quite quickly.
1 month ago
Hi, I personally collect a lot of egg carton and im looking for a way to make some firebrick with this material since I dont feel too comfortable with using old magazines and newspaper. Ive seen videos online and Im thinking of soaking it in water, then once its soggy ill put it in a press and let it dry. I have tried burning it by itself (before making the brick) and it burns initially but it only smolders so I think that something needs to be added. Ive thought about adding some paraffin wax and I have tried it, it burns pretty well even with a little bit but it does produce a lot of smoke. I have some beeswax and Im thinking of adding it to a firebrick to test it out. Ill see when I have a chance to try it out.
1 month ago
Ever since I was little, I had horrible sugar cravings that didn’t go away despite how clean I tried eating. I know that I was probably missing some beneficial vitamin or mineral so later on I tried all type of supplements and eating varied, nutritional home cooked meals to no avail. If I just stopped eating sweet things for a day or so and I would get these MAD cravings for sweet things and I would go overboard eating them.

Then all of a sudden about a month ago, I noticed that my sugar cravings had drastically decreased to a point where sweets sickened me. I had no idea how it happened so I looked at what had changed in my diet and everything looked the same except for one thing: I was adding a new sweetener to my coffee.

Lately, I have been adding around 1-2 tbsp of a traditional Mexican sweet called “piloncillo”, that’s basically unrefined sugar cane juice. It’s a staple in the cuisine here that is sold in a sort of a solid cone.

Checking out the process, it’s basically raw, expressed sugar cane juice that is boiled and left to evaporate in a mold. I have tried it several times and it has a rich, deep and earthy taste; plus it packs a lot of nutrition with naturally occurring calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and iron, unlike processed white sugar which lacks these and even brown sugar I feel is far off.

I haven’t really done much research due to time constraints but my theory is that it seems that all the good stuff from the sugarcane stays intact and helps to fill a nutritional void while white sugar leaves me prone to more and more cravings, probably stripping my body of vitamins and minerals at the same time.

So I just wanted to share my experience, I know I should not eat refined sugars AT ALL but in my previous state I had withdrawal symptoms to the point that I would get incredibly hungry and nervous. I hope this can possibly help others and I’m now happily one step closer to eating a cleaner diet thanks to this lucky coincidence.
2 months ago
Thank you for all your responses! It was definitely too bitter to use directly but I found that using 1 teaspoon of this concentrated syrup made around a cup of VERY tasty barbecue sauce and it even tasted like it had liquid smoke in it. Definitely a good alternative since liquid smoke has a whole bunch of carcinogens. I will experiment later on with sweeter pods but I have fond a use for the bitter ones: permie style!
3 months ago

wayne fajkus wrote:I may  have heard there are different species of mesquite.  Not quite sure. I had read that the seeds were like candy for early homesteaders because it has 30% sugar. I popped one in my mouth 2 weeks ago and there was no sweetness at all.

Im confused and subscribing.  I am very interested in an answer.

Exactly! I did try a few of them before I started the whole process but they taste bitter and NOT sweet at all.

Phil Stevens wrote:There are three main species native to the southwestern US and Mexico: honey (Prosopis glandulosa), velvet (P. velutina) and screwbean (P. pubescens).

Its most likely Honey Mesquite (according to my wife, a Biologist); if not, it might be Velvet Mesquite but definitely not screwbean. Either way these two species are supposed to be sweet. So you're probably right, I might have to find a tree with pods that have a sweeter taste. I collected the pods from several different trees that I found in the wilderness so that must have been why. They probably need more rainfall to produce more sugar content perhaps?

By the way, I just finished the process, I boiled down like 3 or 4 quarts of liquid down to what seems like a cup and it tastes incredibly bitter and woody with a very slight taste of sweetness. Like a true permie would do, I'm wondering what I can do with this bitter liquid I ended up with. Do you guys think I can use it as a substitute for liquid smoke or something? I wouldnt want to throw away an hour of hiking in the chaparral desert plus the whole cleaning, cooking and boiling proces. I'll upload some pictures in the morning and thank you both for your kind responses!
5 months ago
I found an article online at this website about making mesquite syrup/honey and I tried it: Making Mesquite Syrup

You basically add a pound of mesquite pods per gallon of water, wash them, cut them up and throw them in a slow cooker for 12 hours. It smelled wonderful once it was almost done but I tasted the liquid that came out and its very BITTER with a woody flavor. Im about to heat it slowly to boil it down but I think the bitter taste will be even worse. I wonder if thats actually what it should taste like or if I messed up. I put it on low just like they say on several other websites but well I hope someone can tell me what I did wrong.
5 months ago
Ah forgot to mention, there is definitely moisture at night since there are lichens and there is a lot of vegetation that grows around big rocks here. I imagine those are a small source of water since we only have 250 mm of annual precipitation.
5 months ago
I want to keep this as brief as possible to not lose anyone over the details. We've been trying to build something similar to an air well that could collect atmospheric water from our soon to be homestead in the chaparral desert. I want it to be as low tech, low energy input and cheap as possible in order to be able to replicate it. I did some research on the air well in this article: Air Wells

But turns out its a massive complicated structure that doesnt produce as much water as you would imagine, I did research on other passive methods that could collect around 1 liter per square meter of surface used and other active methods that were able to collect a LOT more water but at the cost of being expensive and requiring large energy inputs, you can read a pretty lengthy review on many techniques here: A review: dew water collection.

Eventually this idea really got my attention, its a glass pyramid structure that is opened at night to collect moisture in the air and closed during the day so the hot sun can make the absorbed water evaporate, condense and be collected, its pretty nice knowing that it collects water AND helps to sort of clean it through evaporation. It seems it can collect up to 2.5 Liters a day and I mean, thats definitely the difference between life and death in us humans! Also, it can use different types of materials to collect moisture, from silica gel and a calcium chloride soaked cloth to newspaper and wood shavings. I believe thats more in tune with the permie philosophy.

I love this idea but I would like to take it a bit further, what if one where to construct a large greenhouse like structure following this glass pyramid principle, hang large cotton cloths inside so that it could collect as much dew as possible at night and then make it evaporate and condense it during the day. Im imagining a sort of slim and long greenhouse like structure where you could hang things easily. This could also be used to literally dry washed clothing and collect the water from it. It could be an amazing multi purpose tool but Im thinking about how to build it in a way that actually works and to make it as cheap as possible. I would love to hear everyones ideas!
5 months ago