Ben Waimata

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since Jun 11, 2017
Organic farmer, orchardist and forester.
New Zealand
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Recent posts by Ben Waimata

The concept is good, and for marginal-but-almost-hardy trees I think it will help a lot and open possibilities for regular good fruit rather than occaisonal fruit. One observation I have made might help. I can grow bananas here, but they are very marginal. Banana plants are essentially a rhizome with an aerial pseudostem, so I wanted to see if warming the rhizome would help the fruit quality. I heated the soil to different degrees, mild soil heating helped a lot, but as the differential increased the growth results became dramatic. At 20C soil temperature in mid winter (when soil would be around 10C normally) the banana plants collapsed dramatically on one cold night (air temp around 4C), but at a temperature where unheated bananas alongside suffered no damage at all. It looked like the plants had been hit with a flame thrower. What I take from this is that in an extreme cold event if the plant is 'unnaturally' kept in active growth when it would normally be (semi-)dormant  the damage will likely be significantly increased.
2 weeks ago

Jp Wagner wrote: I'll have to figure out if I actually have formed Colemanite inside of the wood somehow.

Assuming you achieve this, what do you expect will happen to the workability of the timber? Chainsaw blades, drill bits etc?
1 month ago
Jp, great thoughts and I hope you get it to work, would be a great thing for the entire world to have a low tech farm-level low toxicity timber preservation system.

There was a silicon-based brush on product available here a few years ago that acted as a sealant. You're system is similar in a way, using the lime to seal in the borax.  If you're initial experiments don't pan out as you like I'm wondering if the addition of something like silicon sealant to provide an additional barrier to prevent leaching of the borax might work?
1 month ago
I think some caution is necessary with the comfrey enthusiasm. I planted masses of the recommended strain under citrus and avocado trees for a self-perpetuating living mulch/fert source. Sounded like a good idea at the time.  10 years on it is all gone, just died away. I dug some up to see the amazing root system, it went down about 3 inches with a few wispy roots down a foot or two.  I dug some out with the excavator, shallow roots, and  nothing down deep. This is not a soil issue, even notoriously shallow rooted perennial ryegrass and white clover where rooting much deeper in the same soil. I used it in liquid and found the results less than fantastic, much better growth came from using Albizia tree leaf tea for example. Basically I found the hype totally out of proportion to the reality; yes it is a useful permaculture plant, but nothing like the wonder plant it is claimed to be.
2 months ago
We're rural too but still used to get JW's frequently. I actually kind of enjoyed the discussions, if I had time. But a few years back I had been assisting with a problematic calving, and was so dirty I stripped off and began to hose myself down in  the middle of the lawn when they arrived. Two nice young girls and an older man, face to face with a gore-encrusted totally naked wet middle-aged farmer. I was prepared to talk but they seemed to need to be elsewhere in a hurry. They arrived uninvited so I had nothing to be ashamed of. That was years ago and they have not been back since, no idea why.
Not sure where to post this.

I'm a farmer, not a geologist. I'm certainly not wanting to start an argument here.  But this is a serious question that I have contemplated for years.

As most of us know from experience, in many soils it is surprisingly difficult to permanently build organic matter levels significantly in our soils. We can pile on masses of mulch, and the worms etc recycle it into the soil and all kinds of incomprehensible natural processes occur, and years later your measurable soil organic carbon levels will have often returned to status quo unless you maintain a new 'normal' to permanently build SOC. My soils have OM levels usually around 8-10%, some cropping soils are below 1%. Dense long term rainforest soils may have OM up to 50% in the surface layers, but usually  a lot lower in deeper layers. Getting SOC higher and staying that way is difficult. When we go into any natural setting the one thing we don't tend to find is massive layers of organic matter sitting around not subject to natural decay and recycling.

How is it then that we are all so easy to believe that over huge eras of the past there has been such massive amounts of organic matter built up without any decay,  and that this organic matter has somehow been subject to such compression that now we can often dig a well over a large part of the globe surface and have a massive amount of fossil oil come flying out under pressure? Does this suggest that the natural order of life and decay that we understand and observe in the world all around us is a different set of natural laws than how things were aeons ago?

At this stage some abiogenic/abiotic origin for oil seems more likely to me than the usual fossil fuel theory, simply because saying I have no idea where it comes from seems easier than believing it was created during an aeon that seemed to operate on a different set of natural laws than what we see around us now.

I am not interested in the political discussion here, keep the carbon underground makes sense regardless of it's origin. It's the thinking behind the concept that is as interesting as anything else.

I don't expect anyone to agree with me, but I would like to hear your responses!
2 months ago
I've been interested in switchgrass for a while, but here in New Zealand we cannot import seeds of this species, despite the fact it was widely grown back in the 1800's and there are still some plants surviving here. So now I have been sent some seeds from up North and my experiments are underway.

So what can everyone tell me about SG? From what I read it sounds like a super-plant, deep-rooting soil-building summer-active C4 that is still highly palatable pre-flowering.  Are there any downsides?

My climate is unlike anywhere in USA, closest match would be Central California coast, but with a bit more summer rain. Our summers are quite cool compared to most of USA but the sunshine intensity is such that C3 grasses usually fade away no matter how much summer rain we might get, and in a dry summer or drought they go brown and just dust. Most of the C4 grasses that occur here like kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) and Paspalum (Paspalum dilatatum) are considered weeds, but they do grow well and stay green in dry summers, being deep rooted and much better to handle high sunshine intensity and high UV levels.  The downside to these is that they suppress other grasses that are  much more productive in the other 3 seasons.

SG with it's C4 nature,  deep roots, and tall stature sound ideal, specially in hay pastures mixed with legumes etc. One thing I wonder about is what is does in winter here, our summers have similar heat accumulation to the cooler parts of switchgrass natural range, but at the same time when it comes to winter extreme cold temperatures we are equivalent to USDA zone 10 (I also have a few acres that are probably the warm end of zone 9). Will switchgrass tolerate a winter growing annual grown in the same field in the off-season?

Any thoughts or observations very welcome!
2 months ago

Jan White wrote:I spent my teenage years and early adulthood thinking feminism wasn't needed anymore.  I grew up in an awesome little bubble of the world where, despite having huge boobs, the only looks at my chest I got from men were clumsy, trying but failing to be discreet looks from drunk guys.  I grew up in a house where my mum preferred to fix the plumbing and my dad had absolutely no interest in that but would love to cook dinner, and no one thought much of it.  At parties, men and women mingled and talked about music, politics, life plans, whatever.  Children ran around and played and got plopped on a bed or a pile of coats (by father OR mother) to sleep when it got late.

Later, I moved in with my now husband, only a few hours away from where I grew up and experienced massive culture shock.  Walking down the street in summer, wearing modest-length shorts and a non-revealing tanktop I got leers.  And not just a few -from almost every guy I passed.  I had never experienced anything like this in my life.  I felt embarassed and threatened.  When my husband and I were looking at motorhomes to buy, I was generally ignored, even if I asked a question, and the male salespeople talked only to my husband...until the subject of the kitchen came up.  Then I was all his.  The parties I went to were weird.  The guys stood outside and talked about dirtbikes and trucks.  The women stood in the kitchen and talked about other people they all knew, weddings, and their kids (who were always left at home).  At my sister-in-law's wedding, my husband put together a gorgeous flower arrangement.  Everyone kept thanking me for doing it.

I'm now a feminist.

I like this post Jan, I think you've hit on something essential. Our attitudes towards feminism are going to be largely based on our own personal experiences. In your situation becoming a feminist is the only rational response. But how would you feel if you moved back to your old hometown, your old friends?

In my case, I live in a country  that now has it's third female Prime Minister, and many female CEOs of large companies. One of our current political parties in our coalition government has 75% female MPs. Females are now outnumbering males in universities. There are no rights that males have that are denied to females. Yet the media here constantly drones on about gender issues to the point the average person (male and female) are getting thoroughly tired of it. We are always hearing about the serious gender pay gap, yet no one seems able to find a single  example of a male and female doing the same work and getting paid differently. Another thing that is getting a lot of media time here is the constant bickering  between the lesbian feminists and the trans-rights groups, the vitriol these groups are condemning each other with is putting a lot of people off.

I think there are a lot of people like me who have both sons and daughters and can see that males and females have differences in some ways. It's not a case of  equality anymore than is an orange equal to an apple,  but recognition of differences in all people is not necessarily being sexist (or racist, or ageist, etc).

These days if a man looks sideways at a woman he's automatically a rapist, a misogynist, or both. Certainly guilty of something. Possibly this is correct, we still have inbuilt biological conditioning to overcome! But a group of women can be openly scathing and derogatory to any man and it is ok. The tide has gone too far in many cases in Western countries.

The danger is the extremists in the feminist camp are getting mighty close to creating a backlash. Swinging pendulums can hurt, if they are big enough.
2 months ago

thomas rubino wrote:Good Day Ben;  

Well that shows you how much hick Montanans know about the other side of the world!   We thought you had koala bears... lol
Congrats on your new future robinia forest !

Hi Thomas,

Very sorry if I came across pedantic or otherwise made you feel like a hick! Absolutely no reason why you should  not think we have koalas, we do have other Aussie fauna naturalised here, like possums, wallabies, rosellas etc. Mostly they become pest species, but koalas are so cute I doubt anyone would be upset if they were here.  No reason you should know the difference between NZ and Australian fauna anymore than I could tell the difference between critters you might find in the woods in Montana as compared with those found in Alaska or Florida. And as for 'hick', I think I've got that down pat myself. Although I concede I usually use the word 'peasant'  to describe myself after looking at my bank statement!

3 months ago

thomas rubino wrote:Nice trees Ben! My wife wanted to know if you have koala bears eating on them... she dreams of visiting N.Z. , but hates flying so she will never go.

Hi Thomas,

I missed this last time around sorry. No Koalas here, I live in New Zealand and koalas are native to Australia (2000+km away).

Well I planted another 300 robinia this last season, looks like I'm back in the game!
3 months ago