Justin Durango

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since Mar 09, 2018
Nascent medicine farmer, amateur builder, budding philosopher, curious creature.
Central North Carolina
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Recent posts by Justin Durango

I was going to ask what materials you have on hand at the property but those pictures answered my question.

Your subsoil looks like clay. Why can you not use that?
2 years ago

I know this thread has been silent for a few years but I am curious as to what became of your project? What species did you use? Did you go with the poplar?
In my opinion, if your raised beds are only going to be 1' high then you don't really need any retention. A simple berm or mound should do the trick. Going to the trouble of digging any type of footing for a 1' tall retaining wall seems like a lot of wasted energy.

My personal aesthetic is much more loose so in my gardens a lot of the edging is accomplished by rip rap or logs from the woods. Either that or no edging at all. Is there a reason other than aesthetics which drives you towards a brick retaining wall?
2 years ago
Thanks, James! I've enjoyed reading a lot of great information and opinions so far.
2 years ago
I will second everything that Cody wrote!

Also, the different wall systems can be used in combination inside the same structure. Straw bale walls have more insulation value than cob walls. Cob walls have more thermal mass than straw bale walls. It can be an effective strategy to use the cob walls where one wants to gain solar heat (or sink heat in the shade) and use straw bale walls where one wants to keep a room well insulated from outdoor temperatures.

For the region in which I live that means an efficient structure would have cob walls on the south (and perhaps part of the east and west walls) and straw bale on the north, east and west walls. Of course, it goes without saying that roof overhang and glazing location/amount should be designed to make the most from the angles of the sun throughout the seasons. And the flooring system is also critical.

For hot regions it is also a nice touch to make ceiling height as tall as is practical. This will allow for the room temperature to stratify.
2 years ago
I am a 34 year old horticulturist with a focus in landscape design and background in engineering. My wife and I have 10 acres of forested land divided by an ephemeral creek and have started to lay in the initial infrastructure (driveway, well, etc). Our mission is to forest farm, have a small shop front for medicinal herbs, tea, healthy snacks, etc. and to provide a welcoming place for community to gather, celebrate and learn.

The permies forums have been informative and stimulating so I decided to go ahead and join in the community.
2 years ago
Hey Sylvester, what kind of acreage are you planning to convert to meadow?

I've converted smaller sized lawns (0.25-1.0 acres) into more productive land and I have found success with a relatively simple and cheap method. I use leaf compost purchased from the city (sounds like you have a similar scenario) applied about 10-12 inches thick. Lumpy is fine. This should smother 98% of your current lawn. No mowing necessary but does take a large quantity of mulch. I then leave it for a full year to cook down The following season apply leaf compost again at about 3-6 inches. Into this second application I broadcast annual/perennial wildflower and grass seeds. Then, after that point I typically spot mulch or plant specific shrubs/trees. But that is because I aim for dancing with natural succession on the way to a food forest. Saves some struggle. If you're going for a permanent meadow then just broadcast more/different seeds into the patches.

Least amount of capital investment. Least amount of labor. Long time line.

Adjusting the time parameter has dramatic effects on the other two. The same pattern we see in most corners of our lives. :)
2 years ago

Takes very little money to go off grid and live a minimalist lifestyle. The barrier is not money but our perceptions of reality. Why do we consider a particular situation good or bad? Why do we value what we value? Why do some things seem 'off the table' while others are 'must have'? The lens through which we see the world is the most powerful driver of our disposition and yet it is malleable.
2 years ago
Hey William, your list at the start of this post is quite rich and diverse. That level of diversity has been my goal for several years now and I currently grow around 300 species in my 0.5 acre urban garden. For the purposes of discussing a profitable crop for market which will grow in a mountainous woodland setting I would strongly suggest picking around three or four species which will be the backbone of our operation. This streamlines harvesting, drying, storing, etc. Looking at the most valuable crop per pound Panax quinequefolius (American ginseng) shoots to the top. But right behind is Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal). They will both grow well in the dappled light of the forest. Look for areas with maple and poplar as the canopy and rattlesnake fern as one of the perennials. These tend to be indicators of a good place to grow American ginseng.

In the mountains you should be able to grow Angelica archangelica quite well which is another wonderful herb, primarily for women. It is a valuable market crop but, I believe, acts as a biennial so a cycle of seed collection and germination might be in order if natural reseeding didn't establish. Also, I see you already have cohosh on your list. That's a great one as well.

You might find that with those four you could provide a reliable income (once colonies are robust enough). And picking just a few to take to market makes the project much more feasible. Try to juggle too many crops can undermine a small farming operation.

In the Black Mountains near Burnsville, NC is a farm called The Mountain Gardens. Joe Hollis grows around 500 medicinal herbs and has done so for decades. He sells seeds, plants, gives lectures, hosts interns, grows food, keeps ducks, etc etc. He might be a good resource for you as you move forward.
2 years ago
Eric, I have found that Jaogulan grows as a very reliable, quite expansive perennial in my zone 7b gardens. Currently, the vigorous new growth which pushed forth in February given a couple weeks of mild weather has turned to mush thanks to a couple of hard freezes. This will not slow it down. The root system is comprised of fleshy, rope-like rhizomes and they are quite resilient. Come June the plants will have grown 6-8 feet and they just keep trucking until our first frosts in late November. I have placed divisions in full sun, part sun, and full shade. All seem to do very well with the only noticeable difference being the predictable morphological adjustments of leaf size, chlorophyll concentration, etc. August brings drought and triple degree temperatures and the leaves in the sunny patches will curl and try to hide, but they recover quickly when the weather backs off even a little.

A good friend with whom I shared a division thought she lost her full-sun planting last year but, lo and behold, it is currently pushing up several vines.

I don't think you can go wrong with this plant. Very high dosages, particularly on an empty stomach, can result in dizziness and lightheadedness. The empty stomach scenario can also lead to intestinal discomfort. Otherwise this is a safe daily medicine which should help your body balance all manner of stressors. It might even be a strong enough herb to keep Mephistopheles at bay.
2 years ago