John Hutter

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since Oct 11, 2016
Oregon Coast and Cascade Range, valley side, ~44 N
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Recent posts by John Hutter

yea, the minimum hours per day is going to drastically change based on the location and methods.  

I'll guess I put in 3-6 hours a day, 3-5 days a week, like 3-6 months out of the year, for 3 years, let's say I put in a massive amount of work to get potatoes and squash and fruit putting out about 500 hundred pounds at year 4, in a soil that was mostly quite poor to start with on a high and dry hillside.  And that's with an input of like 8 yards of compost, and just about all my waste.  

A person could have done something similar to this in a weekend, with like a 5000 dollar input of a bunch of heavy equipment operating and petrol and like 3 dump trucks full of good compost.  That much compost will grow a lot more than 500 pounds of caloric produce if it all goes to soil that grows squash and potatoes and fruit which aren't eaten by other animals, I'm just guessing that's about how much 'earth darkening fertility' I otherwise managed diluted over a larger area, with a significant amount of it being used by plants I don't eat or trees which are not yet fruiting and nutting.  

Then even without inputs, on the valley floor not more than a few miles away from my location, on mostly flat land which is already mostly cleared of trees and already has mostly dark earth, a person will get something like 10-50 times more calories for a given amount of work.  Like all they have to do on the richer soil that is already not being grazed by deer is some forking and planting and culling, meanwhile another person is putting in hundreds of hours of work arriving at this other condition, by moving earth and felling and processing conifers that are most of a meter across at the base into hugelkultures, with a chainsaw and a shovel, a preliminary step that will not put out much in terms of calories for years in poor soil.   The difference here can hardly be overstated.

After the condition of the soil a person is starting with, the next most important condition for homesteading food is probably proximity to wild crafting resources.   Like if a homesteader is working slowly and patiently with the part about building and maintaining fences and trying to garden calories, and instead manages to scissor-deadfall trap game in the area (in the name of self defense; it was coming straight for my garden and I was going to starve to death if it ate my plants!) and so is instead spending their time butchering and preserving venison instead of building fences/gardening soil that currently will hardly support a potato, a homesteading experience could be downright fattening.  However, harvesting wild game is a skill which generally fails in first efforts, can have legality issues, and an area might not have western Oregon's deer problem...

So yea, if a person is moving to site which has little in terms of dark earth and water and is going to try to homestead by growing most of their food immediately, overwork and poverty is the likely fate.  However, if the plan is something completely different, or the plan is to be growing only most of their calories at a point 5 years in the future, seeing the land so change at your hand can have nothing to do with overwork and poverty, but be a downright awesome experience instead.  Highly recommended!
1 week ago
My failure here was trying to seed and transplant things like squash and potatoes and tomatoes and fava beans in unamended hugelkultures, which were made with the very best available onsite resources, which happen to be very poor resources.   All of my would-be calories grow a frail 6-12 inches and then decide; "what's the point, Ima die now in mid July even though I have moist well drained ground and light."  When soil is that poor, "not so good the first year" =  "expect nothing more than the hardy pioneers plants which were already colonizing the soil to grow the first year."  

It seems the "not so good for the first year" doesn't quite impart that even a 2 year old hugelkulture will not grow squash or tomatoes or basil or something very desirable with much success, IF the best materials available to make the hugelkulture with are only fresh cut wood and quite poor soil. I might have like 50%+ compacted red brick clay with maybe <1% organic matter in some places. This is what you get here when you drive a bulldozer over a heavy clay hillside when it's moist, then cut down the trees, and then mow the grass and spray weeds for 30 years.    Nice work you morons.  "TOPSOIL" HA!

It seems a hugel made with unamended poor soil will not be good for anything in the first year other than larger versions of the common not so tasty "weeds" which were already colonizing this poor soil before you used it to make a hugelkulture.   My unamended beds were dominated by, Nipplewort, catsear, and oxe-eye daisy, with less present but still regularly occurring broad and curly leaf dock, english daisy,  thistles, a willowherb, burr chervil, wild carrot, dandelion, crepis, prickly lettuce, himilayan blackberry.   However, if amended with something like a foot depth of mixed planting soil and/or compost, your hugelkulture can be quite productive in the first year.

So, the thing about the "use no inputs to avoid adding toxins and burning petrol" thing is that even though it costs zero dollars and petrol if done by hand, it costs like 5+ years of time when the soil is poor.  A person could be dead by then.  Haha.

It is possible to get compost and planting soil from a business that is honest about their inputs, and the stuff you buy will be almost or as "clean" as the soil on your site.  The persistent herbicide contamination from purchased inputs is a potential, but I do not think it is the norm.  Or at least its not a problem in Lane Forest Products' 'finished mint compost.'   In any case, if a person wants (or needs) to make a significant amount of calories in immediate years and their soil is quite poor, the dumptruck of material seems to be a required input.  Also if gardened well, the carbon footprint of this dump truck of compost can be made up after some years via the calories it produces onsite.

Fail #2, not adding better soil taken from somewhere else to start some desirable hardier perennials in the unamended hugels in the first year.  Said perennials can survive and establish themselves in the first year, despite the rest of the soil they are surrounded with being currently inhospitable.  

Fail #3, was topping the amended hugelkultures with a bunch of dusty mulch I raked up.  Lord have mercy, all I saw was leaves and twig mulch, but it ended up being full of seeds of the plants listed above...and grasses.  Try and mulch to conserve water, then it turns out the desirable plants were going to do well enough to almost completely shade out the ground on their own.  And now I have a bunch of bonus culling to do, if I am going to keep the quack grass and whatnot out of my productive beds.  BY GOD I WILL NOT HAVE A QUACK GRASS SPIRAL!

On the other hand, if the soil is so poor that it won't grow much more than the plants listed above, this is pretty much what you want to seed your first year hugels with.

Fail #4, not getting the grass on lockdown around the amended hugelkultures in year 1.  

Granted the rest of these failures are more general gardening mistakes, but I managed them all in my hugelkultures.  Whoops.

3 weeks ago
I became a fan of perennial brassicas.  I have 1 kale plant going on year 4 despite looking totally dead a few times in the dead of winter, lots of kale and a purple sprouting broccoli going on year 3.  Sometimes they die back to the ground and are replaced by a single shoot, sometimes they make a dozen new shoots growing out of their existing stem, come fall rains.   Let them go a few weeks, than remove all the new growth tips but one.  I only pull them if the new sprouts are looking weak compared to the other plants, or the space is needed for a different plant.

I have discovered that my bolting kale tastes great, like as good as sprouting broccoli or any brassica, if I eat it like a broccolini (more stem than leaf or bud.)  I'm sure there are a few conditions here, like.....

I think part of the trick is to harvest the plants by snapping them off, like that one step when prepping cut asparagus for cooking.  If the flowering stalk you tried to snap off is still attached by bendy stringy fibers, grab it closer to the flower and try again.  If it doesn't snap at all and the whole stem crimps, try much closer to the buds.  On the biggest ones I've got 5-6 inches of succulent stem about half inch in diameter, with a clean break, no fibers attached.   Who knew?

Another thing, the first half of spring here often doesn't feel much different than winter...the cool and damp climate probably minimizes the spicy/bitterness. I was surprised to find there is literally zero bitterness or spice in these, because this one time I gobbled down a small bite of raw kale buds, probably about to break open, probably about the month of May.  I think it took 5 or 6 seconds of chewing before it felt about like a mouth full of wasabi.  I haven't tried it raw since.

So cooking is probably key.  I put them in a steamer, over a rolling boil on high heat, and put the lid on.   When the first wisp of steam escapes the lid, set timer for 2 minutes and reduce to low heat.  

Also, I might have lucked out with the seeds I ended up with.  I think it was some Dutch company Kroger was stocking at the time.
I have noticed two of the first plants to flower here and also be hit up by the bumblebees despite daytime highs staying below 60F is red flowering currant and whichever Lamium it is outside - I think it's red dead nettle but not positive.  
2 months ago
I have argued with a few people at length about this question of cancer rates. Good guy progressives, including a molecular biologist P.H.D, all of federal faith, I found them clinging to FDA assertions of safe exposure levels.

I had to tell even the 34 year old doctor 3 times before it registered, the point about all these safety assertions being more or less hypothetical due to the fact that many of these "safe at X PPM chemicals" are "probable insidious poisons" because these chemicals are tested for some measurable effect individually, and then in virtually all non-laboratory applications, immune systems are interacting with cocktails of not one novel environmentally introduced mutagen, but hundreds of them, and that in combination they interact and change the way the immune system can handle them.  The analytical study of biology and health with regard to immune system interactions is a ways up shit creek without a paddle, due to the complexity of the system.  

As far as trying to get something like "true cancer rates" over the past century or more, like with a scientifically rigorous statistics and measure....I don't think they exist.   Tracking this over the course of many decades is statistical speculation, because there is no solid measure of two critical unknowns which were mentioned here;

The first unknown being that, as life expectancy increases due to declining deaths by infectious disease and violence and young deaths etc, deaths due to old age and degenerative disease (and cancer) will increase.  Getting some value for this adjustment has hardly been attempted, because you could spend a huge amount of research energy and you would come up with an educated guess at best.  Like, first adjust for the deaths by lung and stomach cancers plummeting over the past century, which was primarily caused by a decline in smoking and drinking and salted meat-eating habits in that period.  Ummm, so how might that change of habits effect the rates of these other cancers which were increasing over that period?  That's one of probably a few dozen adjustments you'd need in order to get some idea of precisely how much more cancer you should expect as a result of people tending to live a few decades longer over this period.   The accuracy of each one of these adjustments which you could sic a team of statistical researchers on is not something you can theoretically test, as these are not phenomena you can recreate in a lab, and nobody has all the data.  

Then add the 2nd unknown, the rate of diagnosis of cancer.  

When the rate of cancer is changing due to changes in life expectancy, and you compound this with the further unknown of the rate of cancer diagnosis, you've got a statistical clusterf#$%; value unknown, cannot reproduce in a lab to test any hypothesis, nobody has all the necessary data, all is speculation.

I accepted this at the P.H.D's behest, and he finally accepted that nobody has much of a clue as to what they are talking about with regard to the long term safety of "metagenic cocktails" the modern environment is commonly flooded with. He also kept repeating those two talking points, that cancer rates were only increasing because people were living longer, and the rate of diagnosis changes.  

He kept repeating those points, because if the cancer rate is increasing due to environmental changes, it then contradicts his assertion of the "primarily baseline genetic chaos" cause of cancer.  He clings to this explanation probably because he works in a genetics lab studying neurological disorders, where they are also "proving" the "primarily baseline genetic chaos" cause of neurological disorders  (ASD and others.)  I came up with an idea in arguing with him, that mutagens can and do act on gametes, thus the mutations are in like every cell of the resulting fetus, and should said fetus survive to make babies, these mutations induced by environmentally introduced mutagens (what a mouthful...) are fully heritable, thus the "Autism Twin's Study" he pointed to as "proof of genetic cause due to inheritance" does not actually prove a genetic cause.  

Even though he then accepted that the Twins study doesn't necessarily prove anything with regard to concept, he still does not think it's likely that the mutations they are tracking are the result heritable, environmentally-introduced mutagenic activity.   I do not understand the reasons he gives as the basis for this thinking.  It seems this debate is stuck in a "chicken or the egg argument" for lack of data...

Another trap, modern progressive chemical defenders will use the falling rates of "deaths by cancer" as a way to show that the cancer rate is not increasing.  You'll probably have to point out that "Deaths by cancer" have been decreasing in recent decades due to changing treatment success, but that the "rate of cancer malignant or benign" is not so decreasing.

I finally got this weasel PHD and his oh-so scientifically righteous cohorts to second guess their cancer-rate thinking with the following bits and pieces;

The first step was the question, would you say there is probably no significant change in the rate of diagnosis of cancers from 2017 to 2018?  

To which they agreed.

(Not all that relevant to ongoing cancer talk, but note how the WP goes on about suicide and opioid overdose, and how these things are contributing to about 40/100,000 deaths.  Case closed!  LOL)

So I think the US census places population, 2018 to 2017 ratio (327,167,434/325,719,178) gives ~0.4% increase

reported cases of cancer 2018 to 2017 ratio (1,735,350/1,685,210) gives ~2.9% increase

This happened in a year where the life expectancy of both sexes decreased by about a tenth of a year for the second year in a row.

To wit, I asked them "how many years can that happen before you'll give up this idea that "cancer rates are increasing because life expectancy is increasing" as nonsense wishful thinking?

Mr. Scientist's response was:

I don't know

not many lol

That's the report, maybe you'll find it useful

2 months ago
I'd second that the often encountered instruction of using/disposing of a portion of a starter every so often (every 3 days, every week, etc) is something I have found to be not really necessary, with rye at least.

I tend to make batches as large as my equipment can handle, because more food less cleaning and time.  Although I guess I don't really make bread, it's more of a cracker.

As a result of this, I commonly keep my sourdough starter for 2 to 3 months, in a pint jar in a fridge.

The pint Jar must be mostly full, so that when retrieving it months later for a new batch of bread, you can dispose of the blue green fuzz mold topping and about the top inch of somewhat darker and off-smelling starter, and still have about a half cup of the bright good stuff left in the jar.  

After going on two dozen rounds of leaving the starter untended in a fridge for months, one time I disposed of a jar of starter.  Not sure what happened, maybe I didn't add enough salt, or something new happened to contaminate it, but the starter had lost its bright color to the bottom of the jar, and the smell was not so familiar or pleasing---> garbage.

I also started salting the top of the starter pretty heavily because it seems to really reduce or eliminate the blue green stuff you get growing on top of the mixture when left untended for months.

"Ninja Biscuits"

1.6 lb chickpeas
1.3 lb Rye flour
1 lb flax seed
0.6 lb Sesame seed

1/2 C caraway seed
1/3 C rye starter
2 T molasses
1 T salt (I think most people would prefer another teaspoon or 2)

1. Add ~2.5 C water, 2 T molasses, 1/3 C sourdough starter, about half the salt, and stir to combine.  Then stir in the rye flour, make a dough and ferment it until it's real bright and sour.  I usually let it ferment for 5 or 6 days at about 60-65 F (I must stir it each day or I'll get unsavory fuzz on top.)

2. Sprout Chickpeas (3-4 day process.)  Another common and wasteful instruction I encountered online, I have not found it necessary to rinse sprouting grains or beans repeatedly, daily.  The first step of a malting process I found online seems to work well with everything; soak for 24 hours, rinse very thoroughly, drain thoroughly.  Let sit in a covered but not airtight container which has a maximum depth of the thing being sprouted of ~1.5 inches, for 24 hours.  Submerge again in water for 8 hours. Rinse briefly, drain thoroughly, return to container, place them in a mostly dark, cool place (I think 50-55 f is ideal.)  Mist them once per day, until they are as sprouted as you want them.  I stop when I see the first bits of yellow/green (which must be chlorophyll and not mold.  HA)  

3.  About 48 hours before Rye and Chickpeas are done, combine flax and sesame seed, add water until the seeds stop absorbing it when left for hours and the mixture can be stirred easily.  I should be able to be more precise than this, but I don't measure here.

4.  Food process chickpeas and seed mixture with remaining salt.  Grind the caraway seed in a spice grinder. Combine all ingredients.

5.  If you thought that was a way too involved and complicated process, wait till you try to cook this stuff.  It's more of a "frustratingly sticky paste which tears with ease" then a "dough"  This batch makes 5 flat breads I can fit on my cast iron pizza pan.

               A.) preheat oven to 450 with caste iron pizza pan inside.
               B.) Flour surfaces liberally, and press ~20% of dough out to ~1/4 to 1/3 inch thickness on pizza peel.  Slide into oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.  Repeat 4 more times (unless you happen to have a really big oven and lots baking pans or something.)
               C.) at this point, you can eat it and its delicious and nutritious, but texture is still more like doughy mush in the middle.  No matter how I tried, I could not press or roll this dough any thinner on a peel and then get it to slide off the peel in an orderly fashion.  So there's more steps...
               D.) as soon as the flat breads can be handled, cut them in half though their thickness.  Sounds difficult, but its easy and quick because the outside surfaces are pretty solid, and the middle is still pretty pasty.  I rip off about 1/4 of a flat bread, and then so halve it with a butter knife.
               E.)  After all of it is now about 1/8 of an inch thick and looking more like irregular crackers, dehydrate it until it's all got a hearty crunch.  It can stab your mouth if you bite it wrong.  HA.

Your done! Bag it up, and eat it with stuff.  I think I've got this down to about 3 hours of total hands on time, I probably make it every month.  Packed with protein n' nutrition compared to most breads and crackers.  They can make you almost Bruce Lee shredded,  but only if you also do Gong Fu.  HA
2 months ago
Will recommend consuming media, "The Truth about Killer Robots."

Or settle for a more family friendly and not quite so rapidly encroaching dystopia, Wall-E.

Imagine, a world so convenient you never have to get up from your hovering lazy-boy in order to exist!  

Too bad some kind of technophile culture seems to be strongly present and propelling people to this end.  And too bad almost all of them will end up as bummed out and hallow as the average person who spends 40 hours a week in an office space, 30 hours a week otherwise in front of screens, 10 per week commuting and waiting to be transported places, hardly making a thing besides money from the massive lifeless machine in which they are a cog in, etc etc...

I think the health/mental health epidemics consuming many populations are a result of this bankrupt consumer culture.  For this reason I don't think the robot-butler fantasy will last long under lived experience, if there isn't some drone-soldier Zero-Dawn Skynet Michael Chrichton-Prey result that ultimately makes an extremely capable robot much more trouble than its worth.  Come on now, the Matrix is just silly!

Like say some mad genius builds a robot that can do what any successful permaculture designer/rigorously and efficiently active farmhand can do.  After mass production,  the best food is cheaper than industrial corn and otherwise requires zero of your focus, energy or time if it isn't robot maintenance.

I'm like, there's a reason why cooking is a thing which is not the means to its end.  Maybe that talk about dwelling on the action itself and not the fruit of action went to my head, or maybe it's just my luddite propensities.  

Yea.  I should get a higher paying job, and hire a personal chef.  That'll suck the life out of me real good.  HA!
2 months ago
One of my earliest reads on this concept which years later proved a useful review, was a short pdf from "Nature's Way Resources"

Even if this list of diagnostics is a woefully incomplete and speculative start, reading a set of "unwanted" "volunteers" for the information they can give regarding soil condition is probably a skill much deeper than making compost, and much less understood.  

Like making assertions more subtle than "taproots help break up compacted soils" and "nitrogen fixer" with regard to this concept, and claiming this assertion as "scientifically" "measured" and not "circumstantial" "anecdote" seems like a wild west.

still, all caps, DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER
2 months ago
I find watching plants flourish and grow more vigorously due to my alterations to be one of the most satisfying things.

Maybe even more satisfying, is finding new wildlife on the grounds, and knowing that there are many things which also find the patch of land useful.  Like this year, I found 6 yellowjacket nests on the 2.7 acres, and then I did the honey drop thing and Mr Skunk found and dug up and ate 5 of them in October.   Skunks and yellowjackets are cool, but not quite as awesome as the pileated woodpeckers...they are big and crazy agile, sometimes you hear them even if you can't see them, not pecking but cutting the air so loudly when in flight that you hear them coming in from like a hundred yards away.  

Each year in autumn they hit up the Doug fir stumps that were cut here like 60 years ago, which are still massive prominent features on the landscape just a few steps away from all the wood I have buried to accelerate decomposition.   Ecological food for thought; there are a number of awesome life forms which cannot make use of your land if you hugel all the dead and fallen wood in your landscape.  Having my gardening interrupted by this woodpecker might be my favorite thing in the garden beyond the delicious nutritious food (only when hungry, observing wildlife is almost always awesome haha.)  I am especially psyched that this last autumn, two of the pileated wookpeckers showed up, and they made not one, but 2 different hallows one of them could fit in, in the fir trees on the property.  I'm like, where did this pile of inch long shredded fresh wood come from? like 60 feet up in the air, in one of the grand firs I limbed as high.  Super impressed, that bird is strong enough to peck and tear out a hallow in green wood that it can fit inside of.

They worked on their hallows, for hours from like 11 am to 2 pm, not on consecutive days but often, for a few weeks, and then they left.   High hopes baby...Maybe as awesome as woodpeckers is having the gardening time interrupted by newts...funny to think that eating one would make you's difficult to choose favorites haha.  I found a new footprint in the mud a few months ago, which was too large to be a pine martin, so it was either a badger that had recently clawed its way through its claws, or a fisher cat...sweet.  I'm crazy fortunate to be gardening on ground that was old growth forest when first cleared not long ago (even though I'd say its unfortunate that they cut down all the trees more than like 20 years old) and be growing my own within 2 miles of, and just about integrated with, Oregon coast range wilderness.

Also, I find it about as deep, but disturbing rather than satisfying, that the production of most human food is so destructive. Like how every bite of food taken from most every store, has a petrol cost, an ecological destruction cost...Like whoa dude, that's messed up. I better commence taking action to remove myself from these systems.  Ima try to do the opposite thing.  Except with the deer, raccoons, mosquitoes and fleas and ticks.  There's plenty of those bastards, they can all eat shit and die. haha. I joke.  
3 months ago
I've got claytonia sibirica self propagating into just about every patch of more fertile loamy ground I've made here, and I prefer it to just about every other salad green.  It is more stem than leaf, and needs to be chopped into like 1 inch pieces, but I'd say it is only defeated in succulent-raw-veggy texture rating by purple sprouting broccoli.  Claytonia sibirica's taste is very mild, wiki states "it is long-lived perennial, biennial, or annual" but it seems to only grow in a spot for a year here.  I'm not sure if it is propagating and migrating via seed or roots, but yum, and a do-nothing gardening success outside of pulling a few plants which crowd it occasionally.

My #2 escaped self-seeding annual here is an Asian mustard green called komatsuna.  This is about the only plant I find to be tastier than dandelions that will grow in the very heavy almost brick-colored clay here which has very little organic matter.  It is hardier than claytonia sibirica in terms of soil quality, and is as hardy as claytonia sibirica in terms of our normal winter lows (~18 f), being buried in snow or enduring weeks of heavy overcast.  Komatsuna needs to be cooked briefly, otherwise it's kinda hot (or very hot if starting to flower.)  

These two hardy self-propogating plants thaw out and keep on growing like no problem, as soon as they get just a little sun and above freezing temperatures.  They also will survive being encased in ice by freezing rain for days...something else that can happen here.  The kale survives the freezing rain and being buried in snow, but it has died back to the growth tip and/or gets most of its leaves stripped as a result.  

These two plants seem to be the current winners for late winter/early spring greens in my location.   Winter sunlight is a wild card here; some years you get quite a number of continuously clear days and you can be eating them in mid February, other years (like this one) they spend weeks buried in snow and have only gotten a few sunny days, and haven't managed to grow much by early march, but are still alive and well and waiting patiently.

Another thing I love about these two plants, is about the time they are starting to flower and be done for the year, the purple sprouting broccoli is starting to put out.  That one tends to grow perennially in a spot it likes, but it is also an autumn-starting, 18 F or buried-in-snow hardy, self-seeding escapee.  The texture and flavor Brassica ever.  In the running for best green vegetable ever, I think it's only competition are artichokes and cardoons...asparagus and a course chopped Mirepoix close behind in 4th or 5th place.   Try as I do, I have yet failed to get any significant amount of carrots, onions or celery come up from seed-tossing, or go self-seeding escapee when left to their own devices.