Hamilton Betchman

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since Jul 12, 2018
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Recent posts by Hamilton Betchman

Crt Jakhel wrote:

Victor Skaggs wrote:Any ideas what is going wrong? It could be our acidic clay...

Yes, this could be a good reason. In my experience (also acidic) and also from what I've been reading, goji really much prefers alkaline soil.

My healthy Goji's are planted in the same row as my blueberries and a fig tree, and they all do great. I also let the bermuda/st augustine lawn grow right up to the base of the plants(Blueberry and Goji.)

I've read somewhere that blueberry roots can harvest all the nutrients they need without acid soil by forming symbiotic relationships with the microbiology living with the grass roots.

Maybe this holds true for the Goji too? The pH of the soil in question is 6.0.
6 days ago

Oddo Dassler wrote:

Hamilton Betchman wrote:Unfortunately, this means you will have to be sure to plant where you have never grown squash before, as they develop in the soil over the winter, only to emerge under your row crops in the spring.

I wonder if tilling the soil and then burning it with a propane torch would make a difference....

Maybe just pasture some chickens there? Those grubs look like they would be tasty to a chicken.
6 days ago

Victor Skaggs wrote:Namaste, Shalom, ¡Órale! and welcome to the forum!

I have a question, though it is about goji... not really an "herb" per se, but I wonder if you know about growing this in climates such as ours (Piedmont of Virginia). I know it prefers desert-like environments. I've made several attempts and they die!

Any ideas what is going wrong? It could be our acidic clay...

I'm eagerly reading all posts here, as I grow herbs for sale in the farmers market and need all the info I can get! I'm there spreading herbal info as much as I can, and providing good quality dried herbs and herb mixtures for people, also smudge which I gather in the West.

Good thing you are doing, spreading info about herbs!

I grow goji's in my yard in the midlands of SC. They currently thrive in a sandy spot with very shallow soil due to there being an old septic tank about a foot under it. My plants completely defoliate every summer. They fruit in the fall and spring, and they seem to thrive all winter long.

Could it be that maybe your plants aren't really dying, but are just going dormant?

They are horribly ugly without leaves, and I have contemplated cutting them down many times; but I always keep them because of how many great birds they attract!

I have another goji plant growing in much more fertile deep soil, but it has an acidic clay base. It is growing slower than the other one, and it also defoliates in the summer.
6 days ago
For 10 years I've fought the vine borers.

My main solution has been to grow c. Moschata types. Zucchetta actually makes a great summer squash replacement if picked early.

I am actively trying to produce a landrace of sorts between Zucchetta and Seminole Pumpkin, which I hope to be my ultimate solution.

However, being a southern man like I am; the family still yearns for the traditional c. pepos like crooknecks, patty pans, and zucchini.

In the past I have tried companion planting, mulching the stems, manual removal, all sorts of insecticidal soaps, BT injections, and even terrible things like sevin dust, in my more ignorant years.

None of it works where I live, the pest is too prolific. And to boot, everyone in the neighborhood keeps trying year after year, failing, and allowing the population to remain rampant.

So, what I have had to do is to use row covers. I use the ones with the most uv transmission. Unfortunately, this means you will have to be sure to plant where you have never grown squash before, as they develop in the soil over the winter, only to emerge under your row crops in the spring. Also, unfortunately, you will have to manually pollinate all the flowers too. But this allows you to play around with some plant breeding, if you're into that ;)

1 week ago

marsha val wrote:Oh wow. Yes, LOTS of mold inbetween the flakes. The bales are sitting one after the other in a continuous row with about 8" between the rows. It doesn't cover the garden completely. There's some area left open.  

OK,  I'll spread this out to cover every square inch.  I do think it needs that to make it less dense.  Should I move flakes or just not worry and toss with a pitch fork?  This will disturb the fungus/mold on the inside - Is that ok?  At what point will this fungus/mold die off?

I'm brand new to this idea, it's def a learning experience and I don't know what to expect.  This is sounding very interesting though!

I am by no means an expert, but I will offer what I can.

If these gaps are your walking paths, then you are good to go. The more you disturb the bales, the more you break up all the work of that mycelium, bacterial slime, and any other mechanisms at work. If you have a ton of uncovered space left, the uncovered soil would be very thankful for some mulch.

The soil beneath the bales is benefiting already, so it's all give and take.

To me it seems like composting the bales quicker will result in more carbon release and nutrient loss than if it were evenly mulching the entire area you plan to grow.

That is to be said, you will likely benefit more from mulching now, than you would from spreading compost on top just before planting, if that makes sense to you?

Do you have grass or weeds growing in the uncovered areas? If so, you would benefit from turning the sod or covering with some sort of paper without ink or gloss before mulching.

You may want to research sheet mulching and "Bulletproof Sheet Mulching," which I found in: Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition.

I also recommend checking out Ruth Stout's, The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Famous Year-Round Mulch Method.

Finally, I recommend you check out Bryant Redhawk's soil series, https://permies.com/wiki/redhawk-soil  if you want to learn more about mycelium and all those other great tiny critters that go to work in the soil.

marsha val wrote:Hi, I had a bunch of old bales of orchard horse hay that I couldn't use up in a timely manner. Occasionally through the years, I noticed if we left a bale out over the winter, by spring it was nicely composted. Not completely, so I'd just rake it into the soil. So in November we took about 20 bales to the garden and just sat them in there and popped the strings. It's Jan, and they are molding in the middle but I really don't see much else happening. Now I'm worried I'm going to have a bunch of moldy hay to deal with in a couple of months.  Do you have any suggestions of what I could do to get this stuff to break down more quickly? I've looked up lime, but not sure it is the right way to go, some composters say it steals the nitrogen that's needed to compost. So would I use fertilizer that has nitrogen? and lime? In hindsight, I should've just laid down some flakes across the garden instead of the the entire bale.  I feel I might've created a big mess.  If you have any ideas, I'd really appreciate it.  Thank you!

So, I would say the mold is a great sign! This means you have some sort of fungus hard at work, breaking the bale down. Do the bales already cover the entire area of the garden you wish to plant?

If not, now would be a good time to spread them out so you have a good layer of mulch at least 8 inches deep.

Another great thing you could do would be to make compost teas to irrigate the hay with. This will help break them down as well; in addition to improving overall soil fertility.

If they don't break down into compost by planting time, no worries, it will make great mulch. You can even plant directly in the bales if you add a little soil to get it started.

Sounds like you are already off to a great start, and hope you have a great season!

Gail Jardin wrote:

Hamilton Betchman wrote:I typically make my own seed starting blend. I typically sterilize the soil to kill the weed seeds, but I then re-inoculate it with some compost tea. Plants form their symbiotic relationships with microbes from the very moment they start to sprout.

Do you worry about the compost tea having any pathogens? I will add superthrive to seed starting mix but usually don't add worm tea until the lid is off the dome.

I fully expect there to be pathogens present. The beauty of the compost teas, is, if done in the proper balance; never give the bad things a chance to overpopulate.


Check out Redhawk's soil series if you haven't!
1 week ago
I typically make my own seed starting blend. I typically sterilize the soil to kill the weed seeds, but I then re-inoculate it with some compost tea. Plants form their symbiotic relationships with microbes from the very moment they start to sprout.
2 weeks ago

r ranson wrote:Although many people love subscription-based software, I don't.  People keep asking me "why don't you just subscribe to...".  I have reasons.  And here they are.

1.  My income is unstable.

Because of my health and my job, my income is seasonal.  There can be many months where I only just meet my basic needs for housing, transport, and food.  Sometimes I make more money.  The problem with subscriptions is that one gets charged extra if they buy a monthly subscription, but save money with a yearlong subscription.  But most subscriptions charge a monthly fee to the annual plan.  If I sign up for the monthly plan, I can't afford the price, but an annual plan, I cannot cancel the plan for the months I can't afford it.

With subscriptions, I have to put aside two years worth of fees to cover the months when I don't make enough money to pay for the service.

Which means I have to remember that this money is set aside for subscriptions.  Which leads us to number 2.

2.  I'm not good with money.  

I'm not good with numbers in general (thank you sliding decimal point and base ten mathematics).  So I developed a very simple concept for handling money: Spend less than I earn.

Since my brain is very poor with numbers and virtual concepts, I use cash to keep track of my expenses.  If I spend money on my credit card, I put the cash in the credit card pile and I know I cannot spend that cash.  Everything else I buy with cash and if I run out of cash before the end of the month, I don't buy anything until the next pension payment.  

Subscriptions are virtual.  They don't fit into the cash system I have set up.  Since they come out of my account, I cannot take the cash out and put it in a pile even if I wanted to because I don't know how much the charge will be each month because of ...

3. The exchange rate

Most subscriptions I buy or want to buy are in US dollars or UK pounds.  

They are reoccurring payments that fluctuate based on the exchange rate.  I don't know how much they are going to be until the bill comes in and when you live this far under the poverty line, $4 can mean days worth of food.  I don't have that kind of leeway.

4.  Constant updates

This is the biggest benefit of subscribing.  The software is constantly updated.  To me, this is the worst possible thing.  

If I open a programme, I want to just do the thing and get it done.  I have a set amount of time that I know the task takes.  Updates obliterate that.  

Some software asks if I want to update now or later, but many don't.  They just update, which takes ages.  Then they give me a bunch of popups explaining the new thing which I don't have time to look at right now, so I click them away.  Then I cannot figure out how to use the updated software... but the tutorial is gone.  What should have taken under 2 min has now taken over an hour and the supper has burnt and I'm very angry.

If I buy the version outright, I can choose better when I upgrade.  I usually like to stick with a programme for about 4 or 5 years then upgrade.

5. Only works online

So many software I've subscribed to in the past require the internet to work.  Grammarly (which I love!) is one such program.

Some times of the year, my internet is intermittent.  If we get a storm, it can easily be 10 days without internet.  Which means I cannot get things done because the software is internet dependent.

6. Money

The reason I don't do debt is that I can't tolerate the idea of paying interest.  It's money spent without any tangible return.  

Likewise, subscription fees add up quickly.  It usually takes 14 to 20 months of subscription to pass the outright cost of buying the software.  Everything after that is paying for the services and updates.  Um... which I don't always want.

7.  I don't like feeling bullied

Buisnesses are in it to make money, I get that.  Since I don't have much money, I want to choose who gets it based on the choices they offer me.  If someone is only offering me subscritpion that is filled with stuff I don't need (see above) and doesn't fit my style, then I get my back up.  I fell like that company is bullying me and I don't like it.  I would rather give my money to someone who at least presents me with the illusion of choice.  

That's not all the reasons, just a basic outline.  
These are simply reasons I don't like software subscriptions.  But you know, I'm an odd duck.  
Most people don't have the same chalanges I do, so I think most people would like subscriptions.

Good morning, and I hope you are doing well.

As the IT director of a small chemical laboratory, I couldn't agree with you more about all these gripes!

While there are myriad advantages for IT folks for a subscription based software, for most people, it is completely impractical.

You lose ALL control over the software, updates, and functionality of it.

Sadly, we have decided to start developing as many things as possible, in house. Sadly because it means a ton of work for me; however, our life has never run more smoothly.

All things considered, if you really want to escape this seemingly unending pit, I suggest you start the switch to open source software.

You will need to first and foremost, change your operating system to a linux based one.

Next you are going to have to start finding alternatives to what you need or even ways to live without them at all.

Warning to the faint of heart, linux is not easy, nor will transitioning to open source software.

This being said, this is the only way for people like you and I to really stick it to the man in a reasonable manner.

Eventually, you may find yourself even helping to develop the software you use, how cool is that?

Anyways, get open source, deal with hell on earth for a few months while you transition, then never look back.
3 weeks ago

Dennis Bangham wrote:Hamilton,  Should I mix the sulfar mix with water before applying to the affected trees?  Wondering if this might damage a pump prayer unless I thin it out some.

The sulfur is diluted 50-1000 times before using. Absolutely dilute the heck out of it!

I usually dilute about 100 times.
1 month ago