Nathan Wiles

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since Nov 21, 2018
Newbie to all things plant related, planning to build a permaculture food forest on 4.8HA (about 11 acres) of previously cow-farmed nothing-but-pasture land. Lot of learning left to go.

Zone 9a, ~800mm rain annually, very stoney ground, no water sources or established plantlife except for plenty of cock's foot.
Canterbury, New Zealand
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Recent posts by Nathan Wiles

Thanks everyone for the robust discussion on this!

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:I think this is one article that has gone a bit viral about Legionnaire's disease in potting soil



I'm not sure how much noise it's made overseas - enough, I guess :) - but we live in the Christchurch 'region' (it's our nearest main center). (I'm not sure about the about hospital side of his case either, but that sucks if it's the case!)

The other recent one that made a lot of noise in the local media - and perhaps for the sake of my original question here, perhaps more relevant - was a driver who delivered compost and garden "soil" in bulk. This wasn't the bagged stuff, so the conditions the bag introduces as a breeding ground seem less relevant.
( https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/107654679/legionnaires-survivor-worked-for-compost-company-wants-to-warn-others-of-danger )

(Side note - as far as I am currently aware, I don't believe waste sludge from the treatment plants is recycled into compost. A small portion is used in land-application on forestry, but the vast majority goes to landfill here I believe.)

Bryant RedHawk wrote:This is a microbe that simply needs moist conditions to multiply [....] will sweat the water out of the compost



Thanks for the input Dr R - are you saying that it's more likely to be growing not in the compost as such, but in the water that sweats out of the compost and gathers in the folds and creases? (Because aren't we meant to keep compost lightly moist for the bacteria to do it's job in breaking things down?)
Microscope-wise, do you think I would be able to identify legionella with the types of scopes you've recommended in your soil thread? (Most local options only go up to 1000x - I'd have to get one from a specialist company that imports them to get the 2500x)

1 month ago
I'll add my $0.02 - I haven't read the book, but we've just recently started the full online course.
The logic stands, I feel, that if we're going to try and run this 'as a business' then the cost of the course is something we can justify as part of startup costs.
That aside..

The content seems, so far, to be fantastic - it's not focused on abstract theory, but on practical steps and application. Even when talking through the principals, he relates it back to how they've done that on their own farm.
The video content includes choice moments from the internship presentations etc, around the farm, content specifically for purchasers etc.
Downloads seem to be possibly excerpts from the book (there's e-book chapters for each of the chapters in the course - I suspect these ARE his book as reference material) - along with planning guides, checksheets, examples..

As an example - chapter 3, which is the shortest one - maps and landform.. downloads include ebook chapter (8 pages, summary of approach and steps with examples), slope conversions spreadsheet and some (community driven) links to various country-specific mapping services.
You can also submit your own plans and get feedback from the subscriber community as well.

Looking at chapter 4, the ebook chapter is 24 pages, example basemaps he used for his keyline designs, plus some example maps and steps for a 30ha farm. The content of the videos (of which there's 17 or so) looks to focus heavily on how to do it, step by step, more or less.

Downloads are digitally watermarked, so if you shared them around it can be tracked back to you - but that aside; the downloads do work in tandem with the course material from what I can see and I suspect you get the best value by using them in tandem.
There's also a (I think it's weekly) webinar where he'll go through a Q&A session from subscribers, which some would no doubt also find helpful.

At the start, he does make a point that if you are going to do this - then you should be prepared to do it for a while. He suggests you should probably consider paying for a year, because he suspects you'll want to keep referring back to things while you plan, get started, get things moving..
While that wasn't my intention, I can see some value in that argument, now, too.

All up - good thumbs up for us.
1 month ago
So this is an old discussion - and I'm not sure that Diego will still be watching, but I thought I'd chime in as I had many of the same concerns that Diego had

We've got what is a pretty small block of land to do anything serious with (4Ha), but we'd still like to feed the family (as much as we can) and at the very least, supplement our income so I don't have to work as much.
Finding answers on how to do that has seemed like a challenge, because there's very little out there that I've been able to find on running it 'as a business' - and a lot of the replies here were more along the 'it's a lifestyle, it's about other things, it's about saving money, living frugally' etc.

Which is all great and fine - but doesn't help a lot with that question of "how do I make an income".

..that was until I found Ridgedale. We've just started their online course and while it's early days - I have to say, it's compelling and has a lot of really great info.
They have around 10 Ha of land, and make enough money from their permaculture farm to have 4 people on 60k-or-so euro incomes from it.

Get rich? Maybe not - but make a sustainable living? Certain seems feasible!

http://www.ridgedalepermaculture.com/
1 month ago

S Bengi wrote:I think the bacteria only grows in temp above 75F, so I can see it happening less in April/May (spring) in Frigid North America/EU then in more normative Aus/NZ.



Late spring -> early autumn, day time temps here are usually in the range of 75-86F - compost, potting mix etc is generally sold to the typical gardener in a plastic bag that sits in a pile on a pallet outside, so probably stays quite toasty for most of summer when people are using them.

S Bengi wrote:I wonder what people are doing with their compost to make it airborne? Wearing a mask should help.



Just seems to be by opening the bags and using it - nothing special or unusual is being done. People are wetting it down and letting it settle after opening it before using it to try and minimise the risk, but even then - without a mask it's not enough it seems.

Legionella is, apparently, everywhere here in the water and soil. Which is why I wonder - is it something to be concerned about with home-grown compost and gardening in general as well..
I know there's a lot of talk on here about how being in contact with the soil is generally thought to be good for you - but .. now I wonder if that's still true here.

Would appreciate any resident experts on soil life adding some thoughts! :)

[edit to fix broken quote tag]
1 month ago
Hi all,

There’s a lot of attention recently (over here) about Legionella longbeachae (Pontiac fever/legionnaires disease).. there’s a few hundred cases a year, some of which cause deaths.

This is believed to be contracted from compost (presumably store brought) where the bags provide an ideal breeding ground. Precautions are suggested including breathing masks, gloves, washing things down etc.

Is this something that we should be worried about with home made compost? Would appreciate any info from anyone with knowledge on the topic!

Thanks :)
1 month ago

Bryant RedHawk wrote:Many of the folks here have been the inspiration for me to do this.



I for one, have to say that your soil series was literally a game changer for me. Your posts are how I found these forums, why I joined them, and as someone with a technical/science bent - the info in your posts has made so, so much sense that I struggle, now, to understand why this isn't more in the realms of common knowledge (even in spite of big-ag market power)!
It's been pure gold for me, and has taught me so much.

So I have to say, in the most sincerest way I can: Thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom.
I sincerely expect it to be the difference between failure and success for our own journeys here.

If you were offering a presale, kickstarter, etc etc - I think many of us would be happy to chip in to help you get your book finished, too.
1 month ago
Great start - nearly reads like a manifesto :P - can't wait for the whole thing! :) What can we do to help? Did you want our help in proofing, feedback, thoughts, or are you just sharing to be awesome?  (5th and 6th paragraphs repeat in the 7th and 8th 'when the first settlers.. better at exposing to uv etc)
1 month ago
I gotta say, I'm really interested to hear how this develops - so please do let us know if you carry on with the experiment!

We've got a lot of stone in our soil - and a lot more stone just under it.  After reading some of your earlier posts - but before I read this one - I had been wondering if I'd be able to crush up the stones much as you've done here and return it to the ground so that I could have stone-free topsoil, at least.. where I want to plant things that are a little less tolerant, like root veges.

A friend I spoke to (used to be a more classical soil scientist in her younger days) said I might have troubles with that plan as the greywacke we have here is very low in phosphorus, and I'd end up needing to add in a lot of amendment.
The area here is mostly made out of shingle fans from the river, formed from quaternary moraine gravels (Canterbury Plains - specifically near the Waimakariri)

I'm wondering, from some of your comments above, if perhaps this is not such a good plan after all and maybe I should look to build up on top

[I've also got a scifi bent and enjoy the idea of terraforming things, so having some science-based ideas behind that is always fun too!]
1 month ago
While we don't have any to give away yet, it's part of what we'd like to do in the future - so it's interesting in that respect to hear some of these stories!

I do wonder though (entirely politely) - some of the bad experiences you've all had - how many of those came about because you generously shared - but didn't ask first if they really wanted it? (Even if you asked, I know some people have a hard time saying no even if they don't want it, because it feels rude)

I know around these parts - a lot of people would likely say "yes please!" - but if the fruit & veg wasn't "top quality" (ie, blemish free) they'd likely quietly dispose of it rather than use it. People seem to fairly quickly associate any marks or oddities with it being diseased or unhealthy.

2 months ago