John Hutter

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since Oct 11, 2016
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Central Oregon Coast Range, valley side
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Recent posts by John Hutter

I'm not really political.  But everyone should listen to me and do what I say

That's gold XD

Even isolationism is a political stance.  

Good talk thanks.  I should try and collect some thoughts over this one of these days.
Instead of perpetual frustration at being 'waved off' as 'crazy snake oil' because of a bunch of demented Gollum clowns, you could be thankful you are not being 'burnt at the stake' for 'heresy' by a bunch of Roman Inquisitors.

That's not a threat,  just a glass-half-full joke.  Gratitude!

A friendly big-picture reminder: according to most big money powers and by extension their conditioned subjects (i.e. "masses"), if it's a solution where a working class cannot be maintained living hand to mouth in high population densities and thus kept dependent on externally controlled systems for their survival, it's not a solution.

Like how am I gonna get off lording over people if the masses go Gert?  

Not sayin, "wasted effort stop trying." Just that hobbits are hobbits, man is man, the dark lords are the dark lords and their clowns are stooges... Maybe brush up on Tolkien for slightly more sound expectations XD

I've only got 2 plants on the "pull on sight unless nothing else is growing nearby list";  English Ivy and Himalayan blackberry.  Except in the hedges, about half of my deer barriers on a hectare are blackberry hedge.   I also pull a lot of trailing blackberry.   Tripwire blackberry, when the vines are vigorous and mature.

The other plant I often pull is nipplewort.  For the original red clay "soil", that one and quackgrass seem to like it most of all.   Except I learned that ya don't pull quack grass, because that hardly works unless you are going to dig up and turn over sod to bake and die in summer sun.  A no-till and no-weeding treatment is to bury it once or thrice with fertile material.  As soon as the area will supporting dense 4' + tall annual growth, the quackgrass mostly disappears, remaining a minor component of the cool season ground cover.

For whatever reason, the perennial grasses are not very aggressive here.  I especially like grasses that seem to germinate rarely and happily grow as a tight poof ball bunch that can get 6' tall before it starts to fall over.  I know there are 3 of those species here and that they do not spread by rhizome like that darned quack grass, but I do not know their names.

Kinda funny how I aim for the ratio;  ~61% coverage with insect ecology, no-management-but-seed-flicking weed herbs and whatnot (usually with as much nitrogen fixer as I can encourage by stepping on things) and the rest of the area is plants I wanna eat a big bowl of.   By definition, the garden is 60% "weeds": plants that do not need my intervention apart from flicking seeds once to live here, and grow vigorously.    Not "yard" gardening, that's for sure.

I do a bit of yard garden, a few mostly amended rich soil beds where I mostly mat down annuals and mostly pull perennials as the tomatoes and squash spread into summer and dominate the area come mid July.

I'm a fan of the concept that there exists conditions where all you need to do is control which plants get sunlight.  Just a bit of walking and matting down the competition, the gentle way (if you aren't felling a tree.)

It seems to work well with happy potato plants and most the annual herbaceous volunteers here, but the woody bits will spring right back, and it seems that the perennial mycorrhiza cannot be so easily convinced to switch which plant they are assisting.  They are in it for the long haul, and your plant's long term prospects do not look good...  

I really enjoy finding naturally occurring lines and strokes of a plant species in what looks like a thicket come unmanaged summer solstice.   Reminds me of the sculptors who said something along the lines of "I didn't make it, I just revealed it."  I don't garden, I'm a fan of sculpture.  haha

Also potatoes.  I love finding potatoes. "How far away did this one run from the nearest planting last year?  let's see here....1 pace, 2 pace, 3, 4!  4 paces!!!

I strongly suspect that when an annual plant self assembles into 100+ ft^2 monocultures in an area with 100+ species of plant going to seed nearby, it is the scheme of the fungus.  

The mycorrhizal fungus in that spot thought "this is the plant that will get me the most goods, so perhaps this other fungus and I will eat all the other seeds except the chosen species..."

Probably through mycorrhizal fungus, we get the weeds nothing else will compete with.  The plants we wish would grow there just can't manage the same photosynthetic efficiency in the given conditions, so the fungus gets a feel for the roots you're hoping will spread and thinks something like, "ummmm, no thanks, I'm in it for the long haul and I'm sticking with my horse."

I began to suspect this when I noticed that nipplewort came out with more snow white material attached to it's roots than any other species I pulled, and it has a tendency to form mono culture patches like no other plant here.  From oh so many tiny little seeds per plant, making oh so many tiny little plants, some of which get to be 5' tall be it mostly stalk.  Thusly, nipplewort also helped me learn that if it's an annual and it grows YUUUUUUge, definitely let it grow.  That's a rule, for fertility and time management (if 1 annual plant gets to be 7 ft tall and is the only plant in it's m^2 of 100% shade, managing that area is much faster than say, quackgrass.  

Thimbleberry is a perennial that arrived last year, and apparently it has a fungus friend that also doesn't play nice.  Thimbleberry made the biggest lushest mint patch disappear, in 1 year.  Mint is another one that seems to allow very little seed germination in it's territory here, but apparently it will give it up for thimbleberry  (or the mint was more actively wiped out, perhaps by its former friend of a fungus switching horses.)

I have seen red kuri squash planted in a ~3 yard sized pile of woodchips and manure grow so rapidly, no other plants could compete.  One seed called it a year after making 4 vines that each went 12 to 18' in different directions, up and over things.  Thus I learned, trying to grab a squash that is hanging in the middle of a blackberry thicket can be kinda difficult, and when conditions are optimum for your desired plant, you don't really have to weed (because your plant is growing like a weed XD)  
3 months ago
I would not recommend the purchase or use of smaller 3" chippers.  The efficiency has me siding with the idea that it's just not worth it. Probably better to cut that stuff down a bit by hand and leave it in a dense pile in deep shade for 2 years.  At least in this climate, you can then walk and stomp it to mulch bits (given it's not cedar or something...)

However, a Vermeer 12" brush chipper is a fantastic tool.  Those things can eat quite a tree, whole.  At that point, it's about how big of a slash hunk you can get the feeder to bite, 100+ lbs a bite.   At 520 dollars a day the rent here isn't cheap, but it will put out most of 2 dozen yards of wood chips in 8 hours if you manage to keep it fed.    

I'm looking forward to big chipper round 2 on this hectare. I've got a 10' tall, ~ 20' x 10' mountain of slash, mostly from 12 large coast doug firs felled in the last 2 years.  The largest limbs are 6" diameter.  Nice firewood, but there's already too much firewood, and they will take a decade to decompose enough to go to pieces under my stomping body weight, if they are in contact with the ground and in deep shade.   There's hunks of big limbs in the dead hedge that are still as hard as when they were cut, 3 years later.  And I am almost out of wood chips.    

Wood chips + dookie taught me, don't waste your time trying to cultivate marginal soils.  44 lbs of squash, from 1 seed?  Growth so vigorous it's gonna climb over and smother the blackberries?  Damn, I've wasted quite a few dozen hours, with the planting and weeding...

The point; if you have a mountain of larger diameter slash and you are gonna use those chips for your toilet now, pretty sure it's totally worth it.

That said, if you have lots of space and don't mind waiting a decade to get your next unit of wood mulch, go ahead and let it sit.
4 months ago
It can be hard to tell how stable something like that is.  Could be quite stable and gonna sit like that for centuries, or it doesn't have long before it moves again.

A few of the stones in the middle appear to be going on halfway out, so I wouldn't want to stand near the bottom of that thing and start drilling.  Probably would be fine, and might not be.  Them stones are killers.

It seems a proper fix requires taking it apart from the top down and then rebuilding it.  Probably a lot less work to construct protection for your structure and keep your distance around heavy rainfall events.  

Hope it goes smoothly!
4 months ago
The Holiday Farm Fire burned 173,000 acres, and hiking the ridges on either side of the Mckenzie River boggled my mind.  So this is about 70x that area, generations of damage.  Okay...

I noticed that a few of the Mckenzie tributaries were demonstrating stupendous recovery after the fire killed every tree in sight (never mind herbaceous stuff on the ground.)  Bear Creek might have been the most lush I saw.  Last June it was a 2-3 ft tall carpet of polyculture with the interspersed charred conifer sticks up the 1500' mountainside.  Some weedy invasives, some natives, probably about a dozen species in any given 10 m^2.   There were some larger mono-culture patches, fireweed and whatnot.  I'm thinking they were mostly carried on the wind.

I wondered why some areas showed such immediate regeneration, and other's still looked barren.   I guessed it was mostly proximity to large numbers of any given plant species + seed on the wind + bird activity + soil.  I think Bear creek was spared the repeated clearcuttings because there were plenty of other valleys that were more accessible.   Lots of those charred 100' poles were 3-4' in diameter ABH, but it wasn't old growth.

So for the hundred thousand acre stroke, I would focus on finding some lush valley pockets to attempt cultivating plant species (With beavers! : ) that you would like to spread, in proximity to some downwind valleys that didn't lose all their soil through often repeated clear cuts, but are approaching the conifer desert.  And then apply fire.    And then once established, that ecology of that valley might spread into the next, when room is made.

Or so it seems.  Somebody should know exactly what you need to do to recreate what happened at Bear Creek...but I don't.  

Good luck!  

5 months ago
Your thinking sounds darned black and white when you say things like "writing letters to legislators and/or corporations is pissing your life away."  

Whatever happened to the classic response, "it depends"?

I am in agreement with everything else here, especially that most people piss away their "build a better world social energy" being angry at bad guys (by profit-based design, divide and conquer yessir.)

But perhaps step back from the word "lives" here, unless you are trying to drive people away.  Also, "piss away" strikes me as a fairly aggressive and derogatory idiom : (

Seems important to try to recognize when legislators (corporations if you will) are not rotten beyond hope with their love of money and power.   And if you're talking corporations, not all people employed by a corporation are equal.

Yes, many if not most legislators and allocator of capital in the good ol' USA are going to take the money and ignore you.  Nonetheless, you might phrase a previously rejected concept in a new way that has one of their mail readers going, "wait a second..."

Also, it really doesn't take much energy to email a legislator, much less a life.   Keeping up on current events without being consumed as another line to walk.

I think the distinction between "pissing your life away" and "spending a small fraction of your 'build a better world' energy attempting to communicate with people in power" is a big one, but you talk like that they are the same thing.

I wrote some of these letters (along with many others) to state legislators in recent years regarding some aggressive public health policy, and it changed some but not all legislators minds.  You'll have much better luck sending measurement and data that they appear to be overlooking, and not an opinion in the form of an aggressive and derogatory idiom.

US Senators are not US house representatives, and house representatives are not state legislators, in terms of "likelihood of being ignored." Seems like another critical distinction and this sounds like "it's all black!"

Anyways, ya might wanna lighten up on this one for PR purposes, cuz it depends, ya know? : )
In an arid flatland I do think sunken beds are they way to go.  They might not look as interesting as a 12 ft tall berm in an advanced site, but you can get a much more effective windbreak/humidity trap for a given amount of earth moved with the sunken bed.  I would go for a larger elevation difference than those photographed, 3 feet for a bed 12 ft across  (6ft level stretch on the bottom.)   A portion of that can be small berms above the current ground level, which is nice because you have to put the material you dig out to drop the elevation somewhere :  )

Just based on the photo my hopes would not be high for what that soil would grow in immediate years without inputs : (  

There is probably a desirable crop you could find to grow without inputs, but yields likely won't be high.  For general vegetable growing within a year... I'd plan on lots of manure.

When starting with heavily used pasture, I would chisel plow everything I'm not turning into a planting bed now and seed with a hardy and native perennial legume.  Throw 3 dozen species of flowering plants known to grow in your area into the seed mix, if you have the time to find and afford them.  In terms of permaculture I think that is the most important step kickstarting the creation of ecology and fertile soil on such a site, but it's more of a 5 year plan and not an "edible produce next year" plan.

Good luck!
9 months ago
if you tamp the spots that went to high and dry dormancy first (late July?) towards the end of summer/early fall here, you are unlikely to hit any clay that is damp enough to fuse to itself.  Meanwhile you will collapse all the wind tunnels and make a big difference in the rate of drying in the future.

I also know that because it tends not to rain at my site during the "growing season,"  the issue of ground airflow rate is far more pronounced than it would be somewhere that does get some summer rain.

hot tip #2: I have given up on managing hugelculture in this way.  Once you decide you have "enough" productive soil for the immediate year, the additions become a 10 year plan : )

11 months ago
Hugelculture warnings;

1.) If you are in a forested, non-urban environment, hugelculture is going to make habitat that will initially be filled with mice, voles, rodents etc, and slugs, pillbugs, creepy crawlies etc.  They will be populated with these things regardless of how completely you bury the wood with plenty of dirt/soil.   "Too much wood, to little dirt" will exacerbate this issue to the point that the hugelculture looks more dead than the marginal dirt you were trying to upgrade once the hot season arrives, AND the pests will be streaming out of it.   If you are trying to bury wood with clay that is in clods larger than 1/4" minus, the dry voids and wind tunnels are inevitable (if it isn't a sunken bed) and they will require tamping (or a decade+) to do away with.

Even though hugelculture can create a pest problem that ruins a nearby traditional garden area, it's okay.   Remember it's all part of the ecological kersplosion master plan that creates fertility rather than consumes it.   But it might take 5 years for the leopard slugs or whichever predator you need to show up : (  If it's fresh-cut 6"+ logs, it's probably going to be a few years before the wood is little more than dead space to the plants above.  

2.) you will likely have a much more productive hugelsperience if the plan is to put it in, come back in 5 years, tamp it down, and then see what you can cultivate.

3.) putting pricey delicious perennials in a new hugelculture commonly makes for rodent food and little else.   The experience will likely be less of a bummer if you plant perennials adjacent to the hugelculture, in well-tamped, well-fertilized and well-irrigated holes.   Drip irrigation + tilled area (hugelculture etc) =  root buffet/vole void

But if you'll be around for 5 years and your starvation isn't dependent on that patch of ground's productivity in the meantime, it's totally worth it : )

11 months ago