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Josh Garbo

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since Jun 01, 2018
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forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
Skills: Tree planting, felling, wood splitting, seeding, coppicing/pollarding, bulb-planting, clearing brush, creating fells, simple raised beds, tree ID, woodland modification, 12V camper van solar design and build.
Interests: Woodland management, naturalizing muscovy ducks into wild, coppicing/pollarding, commune construction, Floyd VA ecosystem.
Learning: Raised bed construction, general home-building, European, Jewish, and Native American folk religion/spiritual practices, Python coding, data science math/stats/linear algebra.
Want to learn: pond-building, earthworks, grafting, mycology, laser level work, creating earthworks in a forest, strawbale and wofati construction, co-living/commune design guide, geospatial design/imagery/lidar/contours.
Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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Recent posts by Josh Garbo

Hi Jim.  I haven't bought more land, but have had some success with my property in the last two years.  Let's see - what have I learned.  White clover comes up well hand-sown in poor, acidic clay soils.  Black Locust also grows into any soil (currently experimenting with growing even more by seeds).  Stumps last forever.  I have not ground down any, just using logs to build out terraces between the stumps, and then mowing this to help grass and clover develop.  Rye grass, hand sown has done well.  Scattered some lime, but it has probably not done much; my ground is so steep and rugged that I broke a spreader.  Have gone over some sections with a power aerator and rear tine tiller, but not sure how much they have helped, given the difficulty of working ground.  My stumps have grown some nice fungus (have not had time/money to do mushroom growing, but was fortunate enough to have Lion's Mane volunteer on some of my logs).

Shade is my problem, in terms of getting grass to grow in certain areas that are more fern or vine dominated currently.

Have also done well planting daffodil bulbs in forest.  Currently planting a lot of Japanese Arrow bamboo to hopefully grow a shade-tolerant hedge.

I've talked to folks at Living Energy Farm that got clear-cut former-land land (presumably for a really good price) and in only about a decade have crops, buildings, fruit trees, etc going.  I'm not sure what methods they used.  

In terms of location I'm still looking into the Madison/Gordonsville area, but am also looking into Louisa and south of Charlottesville.  I'm prioritizing flatness over price/acre and budgeting down a bit too, in terms of building a house for a reasonable price (looking into  I think 5-10 acres will do what I need, which is have complete privacy, host events of up to 50 people, and support 2-10 people perpetually.

TL;DR - I think my basic idea is sound, but will be moderated somewhat to be a bit more practical.
3 weeks ago
I have not planted them from seed yet, but just so people know, you can get them very cheap from the VA Forestry online (with enough quantity, about 30 cents/plant).  Now I still got some seed which I will try to sow directly into the ground, I am just choosing to save my air beds for trees that are harder to grow and more expensive.
1 month ago
Assuming all the properties are of equal size and price, I'd prefer #1.  It may have less privacy now, but it's pretty easy to get fast-growing N-fixing trees/shrubs (Black Locust, autumn olive) or tall grasses (bamboo, elephant grass) for privacy (and of course there are slower-growing, more easily-managed options too).  The flat land may mean you have less erosion and better soil, as opposed to land with steep hills. And the flatness may also make it easier to move machinery and build ponds.

You will not have the timber/firewood from #2, but it may be easier to establish annual crops, pasture animals, and set up infrastructure.  My own land is sort of like your #2, and while the firewood is nice, its hilly and taking forever to seed and transition over to savanah from forest ecosystem.  

It sounds like #3 may have all its soil eroded from the hilly terrain and clearcut; hence no new growth.
2 months ago
I would identify the trees before cutting down too much; I don't recommend a bulldozer, but cutting down stumps to build terraces on contour perhaps.  Brush hogs and mowers are ok.  Maybe you can keep some of the taller trees as shade and possible mast production, while clearing out the understory to make room for desirable plants and raised beds.

In VA, I've found that white clover grows very well in poor/acidic soil that is prior forest.
2 months ago
I have a lot of wild autum olive that I may try to propagate further by seed, and the Black Locust and Bicolor Lespedeza from the Virginia State Forestry came up pretty well.  Will be ordering more Lespedeza in the spring, as that's done quite well in poor clay/acid dirt with very little topsoil on top of some eroded hills.  Also looked into Mark Shepard's Siberian Pea Shrub sales, but am not sure how that will do in our warmer climate.
4 months ago
Down here in VA I've been able to get Chestnuts, hazelnuts, and persimmons going with just a wire cage, a little mulch, and no irrigation or other amendments.  You may also want weed control, like cardboard.
4 months ago
Unfortunately, the quote for asphalt removal came back at $2500, which is pretty steep.  Might have to wait for the raised beds, or just put my wood chips down directly on top of the asphalt.
6 months ago
Funny, I am waiting on a quote to remove about a 25x25 ft flat section of my driveway, to put down wood chips and raised beds.  But I still will have room to park two cars; the flat space just allowed cars to access the garage (which I don't use; I have the driveway set up as workshop).  I guess this might negatively affect the home value at some point, if the owners really want to garage-park their cars, but it could also attract more ecologically-minded folks.  We own and will be here for at least 5 more years, so am not too worried about it.

I tried to do it manually with a jackhammer and gave up after a few hours - way too much work, and not cost-effective with rental fees.
6 months ago
Daffodil bulbs work well in public forested lands - I've put in a few, and there are other clusters here and there in the neighborhood that others have introduced.  This fall I think I'll try to place several hundred across several acres, with the hope that they'll slowly spread.

I may also try to transplant ferns into the woods or plant paw-paws.  See if I can get any kind of under-story plant to grow in a forest.

I also roam about a lot in the closed-canopy public lands near my house picking up trash.  Interesting to observe how plants grow in various levels of filtered light.  Almost nothing grows under the dense shade of beeches (maples also kill much life), but oaks and hickories grow much thinner, allowing other plants to flourish.  I've experimented with some small-scale pollarding, and it's interesting to see how many plants will naturalize once light levels increase.
7 months ago
This was quite fortuitous - I found several huge groves of paw-paws while hiking today a few miles from my home.  They form large groves in natural clearings left from trees falling, and seem very shade-tolerant - most of them only got an hour or two of sunlight at the most, and competed with very aggressive trees like Beech.  I've heard they may need more sun to fruit, but these were doing quite well - groves of about 6 to 30 trees, with some going up to 30 ft. I definitely have enough dappled shade in my woodlands, after clearing maple/poplar and trimming back the smaller oaks and hickories.
8 months ago