Mike Barkley

gardener & hugelmaster
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since Mar 01, 2018
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After a long career electro-geeking for R&D labs in the electronic industry Mike has checked out of the rat race & moved to the woods. Not entirely off grid but trying to achieve that goal. He raises a few animals & enjoys growing healthy food in various gardens. He is a life long nature lover, adventure seeker, & to a certain extent a minimalist. Eventually bears will probably eat him & turn him into compost. He is ok with that.
mountains of Tennessee
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Recent posts by Mike Barkley

I'd generally orient it east to west. That way there's good southern exposure (sunlight) all during the day & the other side will be a bit shadier & cooler for things that prefer that. It seems the taller it is the more micro climate effect there is.
2 days ago
Fava bean leaves are edible? Woohoo! A nice big batch is being planted here sometime this week. Will try some leaves.

Broccoli & other brassica leaves are edible too.
2 days ago

I was wondering how that modded oscilloscope would react to the electrical wiring of a standard, code-built house. Should we be rethinking how we use electricity in our homes?


It will easily direct you to the wires hidden behind the walls. No problem. I should clarify the type of degaussing coil. The wimpy type built into each color tv won't be very efficient. Use one like this
for much better results. Simply replace the AC plug with a BNC connector & hook it to the o'scope.

Low frequency 50 or 60 hertz waves in a house are not too terribly concerning to me. Those same frequencies coming from the high power utility company power lines are more of a problem. Beware the ELF waves!

Faraday cages are much more complicated than they might seem. I'd venture to guess that most home made versions are not very effective.
2 days ago
Someone asked how I process buckwheat. I let the chickens & bees process most of it since that's considerably easier than making flour.

Buckwheat pancakes & other breads are awesome though. To make that flour I pick the seeds by hand. Usually by scraping them off the stalk with bare hands. That is slow & tedious but it tends to reseed the area in the process. Sometimes I cut larger batches down with a machete. With either method they get dried out for a few days afterwards. Then I rub them between my palms & winnow them in the wind to remove the non seed parts. Then I use a molcajete to grind it into flour. If I want to remove the hulls I crush it slightly first then spend time gradually removing the hulls. That is very slow. That part is a bit of an art & takes some practice to be efficient. I don't mind the hulls so I usually just grind it all & remove only the easy pieces of hull with a sifter. An electric food processor does it faster. I don't own or want a food processor so I use the molcajete.
2 days ago
It's too hard to hear music over the noisy leaf blower:)
3 days ago
This was an interesting thing to think about this afternoon while digging up peanuts. TN Red Valencia peanuts in this part of Appalachia. Sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, & okra also do exceptionally well here. Beans & squash generally do good too. Chard & turnips are some more almost foolproof things here. Pumpkins & melons are almost as easy & reliable.

Our cattle are the weak point. To close the loop we'd need to have a few less cattle & dedicate more space to raising hay for the winter. A better rotational grazing scheme would also need to be implemented. That's a work in progress. So, ignoring cattle since that is probably not feasible for most backyards ... HOA's tend to frown on cattle.

If it became urgent we could eat all the squirrel we wanted. Pretty sure I could catch 5 per day by baiting some live traps. I think rabbit tastes much better & makes better fur so I'd start raising some pastured rabbits. Plenty of meat that way. Our chickens give us daily protein with eggs. If we wanted to eat the birds I'd get a rooster or two. Our chickens free range most of their food & have their own garden but to truly close the loop during winter I'd need to raise more grains & seeds. Maybe raise some BSF. I could hunt this property for deer, turkey, & other small game but I have better hunting available elsewhere so the wild animals here are just friends. Adding a couple of milk & meat goats would be easy enough. They are fairly self sufficient. There is a nearby river with fish.

When I first started gardening about 25-30 years ago I realized it made good sense to eat what you grow & grow what you eat. That has generally been my focus with gardening. For the most part I save my own seeds & could do better if it was necessary. I make it a point to eat something grown here almost every day of the year. A greenhouse would provide more year round options. If I gave away less or raised slightly more & preserved more I could avoid grocery stores entirely. Wouldn't have everything desired but it would be tasty, filling, & nutritious. There are just some things we like that won't possibly grow here or are more work than it's really worth. So we shop for those things. My garden area for the past few years has been about an acre. Roughly 1/4 has seen continuing soil improvements from onsite & has been actively gardened. I'm slowly but surely expanding & improving it but it supplies about 50-75% of our food now. Without fossil fuels or other outside inputs. It takes some work & some learning & some practice but it's quite achievable. It could be ramped up to 99% without too much problem. This hugelbed provides an amazing amount of food. Salt would be tough but fortunately it's cheap & easy to store. I could always hike to get some via this trail but that would be off site. Several days walk offsite. It's more likely I would trade some honey for the salt. Honey is excellent barter material for almost anything one might need.

Buckwheat flour. It is very tasty. Chickens, bees, & people like it. Hard to complain about buckwheat. Easy to grow & good for building soil.

I consider vanilla beans their own food group. No idea how to solve that problem. The point being ... no one is an island. A little cooperation with friends & neighbors make the task easier for everyone involved. My suggestion is start small with high probability foods & work your way up from there. Some annuals, some perennials, & some nuts. Various fruits too. Don't forget asparagus. Once it's established it's good for many years. Get the soil right & the food will come. One day at a time. One step at a time.
3 days ago
Perennials are certainly a great start in that direction. I've harvesting my first year of sunroots lately & they seem like a winner in our area.

Another thought ... all those leaves that are dropping now are excellent soil conditioner & fertilizer.
3 days ago
Perhaps you could try a different type of wood? Or cut it into smaller pieces first?
4 days ago
Looks good Mike. Done!
4 days ago