Philip McGarvey

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since Oct 24, 2018
California, Redwood forest valley, 8mi from ocean, elev 1500ft, zone 9a
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Recent posts by Philip McGarvey

I've done a lot of Googling and searching permies for info on this.  

Our garden is in a clearing in the redwood forest.  We have a ton of strawberry plants in many beds, and most of them do amazingly well, as this is native strawberry habitat.  However, our beds that are near the edge of the forest do this weird thing where although the berries are huge, only the bottom half-ish of the berry ripens, and then it starts to rot eventually.  It's not just color, the top half isn't ripe either, doesn't taste as good as the strawberries from other beds that turn fully red.

I suspect it's due to being close to redwoods or other forest trees (tanoak, doug fir), and there are tree roots in the soil under these strawberries.  I recall not really having this problem in the strawberries' first year, probably because we had just dug these beds and they weren't already colonized by redwoods.  They did have the problem in the second year, and now it's the third year and they still have it.

I wonder if there's some way to help it anyway, like maybe the redwoods are taking a particular nutrient and I could supplement that, or something.  Anyone seen this in other environments or have an idea what it might be?  


6 months ago
Well, with the pandemic and not going anywhere, I turn again to the internet to find people to talk with.  :)

A few updates since last summer.

The guest building is mostly finished, has water and a woodstove, just some details left.  We've hosted a number of people in there and used it over the holidays with some friends.  I've been sleeping in there for a few months.  We also have a third person since December who has been working on starting the native plant nursery here.

This fall I spent my time working on the new kitchen building, and harvesting and preserving food, aside from the usual things like firewood and cooking and maintenance of all sorts.  The new kitchen is probably half done -- the foundation, pole frame, strawbale and cob walls and roof are in.  We used some poles I had cut and peeled here last spring, as well as some from friends property nearby.  The clay was dug out of hardpan in the orchard about 50ft from the building site.  From here, the floor and interior are left.  It will all be wood fired -- no propane or electricity needed, and no refrigerator.  It's a beautiful building and I'm excited to bring it into use.  

I've been making friends with our neighbors around here, and there are a number of pieces of land adjacent to ours that are potentially for sale, so I'll likely be buying land here sometime soon, probably within the year.  I may also buy part of the land we're on so I can build a home really close to the community.  I feel very committed to this little valley, and it will feel good to have the legal security of owning land here.  I still hope and intend to stay part of this community as it develops.

We’ve been avoiding town for nearly a month now due to the pandemic.  Happily, we were well prepared to hunker down here and really have no good reason to go to town.  We have two interns planning to come out here in the next week or two to help with the nursery.  They'll be quarantining themselves in the woods here for a couple weeks before joining us, which will be interesting.  I'm impressed that they're willing to do that, and excited to have more forest-loving people here to share all this beauty with.  

Also, because travel and events are not happening now, we all have no plans coming up other than being here with the land and tending it.  I'm getting materials together for a chicken coop.  We got a pet rooster from some friends, and plan to get chicks.  I'm also slowly but steadily working on a big solar dehydrator -- I dried a lot of fruit and mushrooms and some jerky this year in various prototypes.  Dried strawberries are the best.  I also set up a compost tea brewer and have been using that.  Also I recently gave in and got my first car.  I'm still morally opposed to cars but I guess selfishness for me and the people I care about finally outweighed my purist stance.  I've been living here two years without one, and as I've taken on responsibilities and become more connected to community in the hills around here I've found myself wanting to be able to get around on my own.  That also means if you live somewhere in road trip distance, when the pandemic is over I can potentially come visit your neck of the woods.  ;)

The most exciting thing for me right now is how beautiful the sky has suddenly become, with much less pollution.  I can see the mountains around us so much more clearly, and the sunsets are amazing -- the colors come through so vividly, not just in the sky but even the red and pink glow on the forest itself.  Everywhere I look I’m reminded that mother nature is having a respite.  If this pandemic brings us all down, I'll die happy under a clear sky.  But probably we'll go on living a while yet.

I'm excited for spring, have a lot of plants starting, and look forward to sharing strawberries and all kinds of other things at our farmers market here, assuming the great social distancing is eventually relaxed.
8 months ago
I live in the temperate rainforest, so it is cold and humid here all winter.  We're working on a strawbale+cob building.  The roof is done, made of plywood + ice&water shield underlayment + metal roofing.

Because it's so moist here, and perhaps also because the new plywood wasn't completely dry, the underside of the roof/ceiling plywood is growing mold on it.  It's ugly, but I'm only really worried about long term health implications.  When we insulate the ceiling this mold will be hidden anyway.

My question is, if we insulate this ceiling and then fire up a woodstove in the building so that it dries out thoroughly, is this mold a big problem?  My understanding of mold is that when it's completely dry it stops producing spores so it won't continue to impact the air quality in the building.

I could scrub the ceiling with vinegar too right before we run the woodstove, maybe the acidic vinegar will kill the mold so it's not simply dormant waiting for a hint of moisture to start growing again.  But I assume if we ever stop running the stove in there in winter, and it starts to get a little moist again, it will keep molding?
10 months ago
I'm also in northern california zone 9.  

I started some shiitake logs last June, and they just began fruiting this summer, got a big flush this week.  I did soak the logs, five times last summer and three times this summer so far, each time for a 24hr period, to keep them moist.  I think if I didn't soak them they'd dry out during the summer.  I also started a bunch of other kinds of mushroom logs but only the shiitakes have fruited so far.  The logs are tanoak.  I keep them in the forest where it's mostly shady.

I haven't yet tried growing wine caps in the garden, but I want to.  Our whole garden is mulched with tanoak chips and I think they'd like that.  I would probably put them in places that we already water.
1 year ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:I would do strips instead of understory.  Understory might complicate the harvesting process, whereas strips would not.


Agreed that strips would probably be my first step.  But you can do an understory / ground cover as well.  Hemp is a tall plant.  If you try to leave it as bare soil underneath you'll lose more water to evaporation etc, and you'll also probably have random weeds coming up in there.  The right choice of ground cover could mitigate both of these and be low enough to the ground to not be in the way of harvesting.
1 year ago
Are there machines used in these fields that depend on there not being any non-hemp plants around?

Couple thoughts I have:

- Find some kinds of plants to be a slightly more diverse understory to the hemp.  These could be seeded some time after the hemp gets growing so they don't outcompete it.  The understory would essentially act as a living mulch and can have lots of benefits to soil health, via water retention, temperature and wind erosion control, habitat for biodiversity, etc.
- Divide the fields up with rows that have a mix of other plants, others have suggested trees but if you can't plant trees, you could still put in lots of other fast-growing plants just to bring in some habitat for wildlife (aka biodiversity) including predators that could keep pests down.

Both of these could be experimented in smaller plots till you find something that overall seems to benefit the crop.  Even if the benefit isn't very noticeable in the first crop, it will likely help the soil over the long term, so it may be worth doing regardless, but of course to get away with doing this in a business you might need to justify it by pointing to short term profit, since "it's good for life on the planet" or "good for native wildlife" doesn't mean anything to some people.
1 year ago
A little update.

I'm still at the same place in the redwood forest.  Since my first post here, I've stepped into the role of land and garden manager.  The community has been just two of us most of the time, me and the woman who owns the land.  We've taken this quiet time to really get organized and get a lot done.  We're doing quite well and are optimistic that we'll find the right people to live here and tend this land with us, over time -- there are a couple good people who have come and stayed for short stints and will do more of that in the future.  While I've not made a formal commitment, for now I'm all in with the mission here, and I won't be surprised if I stay here tending this land and garden for a very long time.  I really love it.  I've become more connected to the local community, the farmer's market, etc.  I picked 300lb of strawberries from the garden this spring, sold a lot and gave away a lot and canned a lot of jam.  The garden is doing well.  We've been finishing up the new community building (two guest rooms and a communal space with a woodstove), and are designing an outdoor kitchen space to be built using strawbale and cob and poles this fall.  We also got to host a bunch of people this June and feed them with the land's bounty and beauty and quiet.  Right now I'm visiting my family in western NY so I find myself on the computer again since there's no garden for me to be in here.  Can't wait to get back to the land.

Also I'm hosting wwoofers now:
https://wwoofusa.org/farm/cougar-mountain-2/
We have a big 70,000 gallon pond with a liner.  (I know, liner isn't appropriate technology IMHO, but I'm just trying to help us do the best we can with what already exists.)

The people who installed it originally didn't finish it, so it has a skimmer set up at one end but no pump running, so the water is basically stagnant right now.  I want to get something running so it doesn't turn into something nasty this summer.  We intend to have a pump run off our existing solar panels during the day, that will pump water through the skimmer/filter and then have it flow back into the pond from above at the far end, through some kind of aeration system, i.e. a lot of rocks.  What I don't know is, how big a pump do we need/want?  

Some details:
- The skimmer is rated to handle a 15,000 gph flow.
- I estimate the pond surface area at about 2000 sqft.
- The pond is in forest, so it's half shaded most of the day, probably gets about 5 hours of full sun on average in mid summer.

 I've read some places saying you want pond water to be cycled every two hours, which is not going to be possible here.  Even with a 15,000 gph pump, supposing we can run it off solar for 7 hours a day, that would cycle it 1.5 times a day when the sun is shining.  ((15k * 7) / 70k).  But we'd rather not use such a huge pump if possible.  

We don't need the water to be completely clean, but we do want to be able to have fish in there and not have a horrible mosquito hatchery.

How should we decide how big a pump to get?  Our current solar setup to run it off is max 1800W.
1 year ago
The patch is weird shaped but probably 15x15 ft, including paths inside it.

I would like to leave them there ideally.  I have been cutting the leaves from the canes that came up in the paths, and drying them for tea.  Hoping that that will help slow the spread.

No farm animals here, and probably won't anytime soon since we've got mountain lions and bears.
1 year ago
So, I inherited a garden that has a big raspberry bed planted last year right in the middle of it.  :(  My understanding has always been that raspberries are best kept outside the garden, like on the edge of the woods or somewhere, because they can spread and take over the garden.  It's only year two of these raspberries, and they obviously are spreading, and I'm wondering what I should do.  I don't want them to take over the neighboring beds and turn everything into a big thorny raspberry thicket.  If I'm overexagerrating the danger of this, that would be a relief.  Ideally I'd like to just let them be there.  They are tasty.

- Are they going to just keep spreading, out of their bed, under the path, and into neighboring beds?

- Is there any practical way to prevent them from taking over without completely removing them?  

- If I must remove them, how can I best do that?  Do I need to dig like 2-3 feet down and remove all of that dirt in order to get enough of the roots out to stop them from just popping back up?

- When is the best time to remove them?  It's spring now, and they are growing, so maybe the best time would have been during the winter, but since it's too late for that, now is better than next winter, to keep them from spreading for the rest of the summer?

- If I do remove them, what kind of things should I plant on top to maybe help suppress them from coming back up?  We'd probably want to put some kind of veggies in here, but maybe it'd be wise to put in a tougher cover crop for now to keep the raspberries down.

I've attached two photos of the bed.  The raspberries were originally planted under these little trellises, but they've spread and filled the paths between some of them.
1 year ago