Bee Williams

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since May 06, 2018
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Recent posts by Bee Williams

Same problem here. I stay signed in, but can never actually claim freebies - it redirects me to  "To get this freebie, simply sign up to our daily-ish email" -- which I'm already subscribed to. Any idea why?
4 years ago
When we moved to our new house, weeds quickly began to take over everywhere I looked. A massive septic installation had just been completed, with all the destruction, compaction, and junk fill that entails. We weeded diligently, but there is an endless supply of new weeds banked in the soil.

One large section is in progress as a vegetable garden, with a couple of raised beds, surrounded by perennial flowers... and formidable perennial weeds. Out of desperation, in spring 2017 I put down a 10×25' strip of tough black plastic sheeting in an unused area, to give me some breathing room. It's been there ever since, and is holding up well; there are only a few holes where things have poked through.

My question is this: how suitable is the soil beneath for growing, after this much time? It sounds like when people solarize, or simply plant into plastic sheeting, it's only covering the ground for a few months at most. Has the soil undergone drastic changes?

ASAP, I was thinking of cultivating and enriching the soil under the random holes (probably making a few more) and setting melon and winter squash seedlings there. They might appreciate the extra heat from vining over the plastic. Is the soil healthy enough to support them?

Next spring, I plan to add more raised beds where the plastic is. Should the soil in that area have time to "breathe" over the winter? Or simply remove plastic before planting and cover with leaf/grass mulch?  Can I trust that mugwort, pokeweed, ailanthus and other troublemakers are truly dead after nearly 3 years... Or play it safe and blanket with newspaper or cardboard?

I would love to hear any information or personal experience you may have on this subject. Thanks!
5 years ago
Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! It's helpful to hear about what has, or hasn't,  worked for others. We found out that the tree contractor will cut the massive trunks into more manageable lengths, so that's a big help. And it turns out a couple of those beeches, are actually birches, now that I look more closely.

So, I could store the logs on a pallet or similar, draped with a tarp, until the weather is consistently above... 40 at night?

To inoculate hardwood chips, could I just spread in a raised bed format or mound, and inoculate with sawdust spawn? Sounds like they will start to decompose after a couple of years, hopefully fruiting some edible mushrooms on the way, and then the chips can become garden beds? Is this a challenging environment for edible fungi (to outcompete wild fungi?)

Or, if in some areas the goal is simply to break down the wood chips into soil, I could just let random fungal spores colonize at will... or "lazy inoculate" with soil from around the slain oak, maple trees? Heard that fascinating idea from the Mycorrhizal Fungi Bomb post.... So much great info on this site!

Does any of that make sense?

Thanks again!
5 years ago
I didn't see this question asked; hope I'm not asking an old chestnut!

The utility company is cutting down mature trees on our property this February. Some of them are hardwoods that might be good for growing mushrooms - oak, maple, and beech or alder I think.

The cutting methods are not ideal; they will be limbing and felling the trees, and leaving trunks in very long lengths. If I am able to manage it, I would be chainsawing that into smaller logs for mushroom culture. So the logs will not be super clean.

We are in zone 6, last frost date is mid-May, although in practice much earlier. I'd like to try King Stropharia or Shiitake - since it sounds like buttons/portobellos are too finicky? As may be obvious, I've never grown mushrooms before.

Given this timeframe, which option is better: Inoculate newly cut logs in the cold, or store logs until the weather warms up? I could store them enclosed in a tarp on the ground, but not much better than that. Would plug spawn inoculation have a good chance of success? It would be a lot of work, so I will postpone fungal adventures if not.

Alternatively, would inoculating piles of hardwood chips work any better? I don't have any homemade spawn bubbling away in advance, but maybe I could start some?

Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!
5 years ago
Thanks for all the great suggestions, everybody! Love the photos of your cute kids and gardens, Nicole!

Terracing sounds like a great idea. When I made a new (slightly) raised bed last spring I did my best to level the ground. A big log on the downslope would be a good start. And props to Mike for suggesting I build a log cabin - Dream big! :-) If I could figure out the contours properly, there are some erosion/runoff issues that maybe berms could solve... but I can't learn that in a week. There are even some erosion issues with a badly-landsdcaped septic ridge that potentially this could help.. need to ask an expert about that one.

It made me giggle that when I said, "I'm not sure if I can handle all this surplus wood!" people made sure to tell me to try and get more from other people if I can! LOL.. I know that "the right permaculture answer" is to keep materials re-cycling on the site they came from. But when I look at these trees in situ... they are BIG. It's hard to imagine that someone with zero experience, could get massive trunks moved upslope and where I want them. If there were a way to roll the trunk, it would be less of a fight against the terrain.

Spent hours reading about various winches, logging arches, ATVs, tractors. Seems like winch-and-drag would tear up the ground quite a bit. I'm not sure a winch would work from ~200 feet away? Also, I can't really come up with hundreds of $ to rent that equipment in the near future, because we need a new roof.

I'd like to make use of these trees, but my fear is that I would not manage to do anything with them, and they would sit there, somewhat in the way, reminding me of all my other incomplete projects. Could I move them in a year or two? I suppose, worst case scenario is that they decompose in place, and host a bunch of fungi and critters and slowly give back their nutrients.

There are some difficult areas overgrown with problem plants that could use endless woodchips for sheet-mulching and leveling. If the chips are fine enough, I could mulch perennial beds all over the yard. Branches could make a woven wattle fence, trellises, etc. Is simple wood ash anywhere near as good as biochar?

So, I'll see if the tree contractor will agree to cut them into 10 ft lengths, or at least move them into the position I want them, in the same general area they are working. Lots of soon-to-be-sunny space for more gardens back there. They can't dump chips in front, alas, because of the septic galleries - they are coming in from the R.O.W. under the lines. But I assume they will dump them wherever I want them in the back area.

Posting a couple of photos of the area  - Photo 1 taken today, shows 30" diameter maple (with 25 ft section that the ice storm took down), part of the line of evergreens, beeches, 18" dia. Norway spruce (if it were 10 inches upslope, it would have been safe.)  The other two photos are from the fall, and show many of the trees to be cut. I'm estimating 25 trees in all.

Likely I'll be posting questions later about how to handle the new microclimate that will be created back there - compacted soil, more sun and wind, etc. First things first. Thanks again to everyone who took time to reply - if you have further thoughts, please share!

5 years ago
Leaving aside how sad and angry this makes me... The megacorporation electric company has notified us that they will be clear-cutting the right-of-way along their transmission lines, behind our neighborhood. Surprisingly, the R.O.W. extends about 1/4 of the way into the back of our one-acre yard. (Why the lawyer didn't inform us of this possibility when we were buying the house a couple of years ago, is another dark joke, presumably!) This three-state, multi-year juggernaut has arrived, and is literally looming over us, since they've staged the trucks on the next hill over.

Currently, there is a long row of 20? ft evergreens, as well as our only oak tree; beech, maple, spruce and several other mature shade trees in this area. Until now, they screened the power lines almost entirely from view of the house. They are graciously allowing us to keep a birch and a couple of cedars and ornamentals.

The utility will take the trees away, or if we prefer, they will leave some, or all, in log lengths of 18-22 ft. I presume they could also leave the limbs and branches, or the chips if they're chipping them - but I'd have to check on that. They cut the trees to ground level, but don't bother to stump them. The ground slopes at a grade of about 8-10%, from the front of the yard down to the R.O.W. area - so we'd be bringing materials uphill if we moved it far.

Tree trunks of that size must weigh a few thousand pounds, so we'd need to chainsaw them, presumably, before we could do anything with them? We'd have to rent any equipment needed- and we might have a problem getting a truck down there due to the septic galleries bisecting the back yard - can't be driven over. It's just myself and the better half, 40 years old and not as fit as we should be, all gardening aside.

If they can leave wood chips, I can certainly find a use for those. We have a 10 foot pile of branches already, just due to deadwood falling all over the yard. We've only used it for bonfires, so far. Slackers! We have a fireplace, but don't anticipate wanting more than a small amount of firewood. Oak chips or logs could grow mushrooms, perhaps?

Logs could form raised bed borders, and I'm sure hugelkultur mounds/beds will be suggested. I would consider that, since it's way at the back of the yard, but only if they won't pose a significant termite risk. Are there other good uses for the slain bodies of our sylvan sentinels?

I know that letting them take away the trees, removes nutrients and biomass that grew from the site. I imagine we don't have the energy/equipment to utilize more than a portion of the "forest products" they are creating, but I'd like to try to do what we can.

I will update with more details of exact numbers and tree species soon, if that helps. I should be able to talk to the utility contact about the details of what they will and won't do, on Monday. We have to tell them what we want to do, in the next week or two.

Thanks to anyone reading this long post, and much appreciation for any advice you have. Anybody have experience with a situation like this?

5 years ago