Dita Vizoso

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since Feb 11, 2019
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forest garden food preservation medical herbs
Nomadic horticulturist, forager, herbalist, fermenter...
Devon, UK (USDA 7a) and Western Pomerania, PL (USDA 5b)
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Recent posts by Dita Vizoso

Jay Angler wrote:Skandi Rogers wrote:

why not harvest a bunch of reeds or if they are too coarse then straw, and have a heavy duty pair of scissors by the toilet, spend the time on the thrown chopping up your needs.

My problem has always been how to chop things up efficiently. Although the right kind of scissors will work, they will tend to add dust and bits to your indoor environment. A permies thread I was reading today had a link to this video: https://youtu.be/qzqJS_EJV94  and at the ~15 minute mark, they show a prototype for a bike-powered straw chopper. Maybe that needs to go on my bucket list. (the permies thread was:https://permies.com/t/7535/manual-flour-mill-attached-stationary

Thak you, Jay, I love the video.  That's what I'm looking for indeed.
1 year ago
Deep thanks to Redhawk for getting some data on this and taking the time to shed some light onto Steiner's work and context.

I haven't been so bothered about the spiritual side of biodynamics--if the farmer is happy / enlightened / atuned / whatever while doing their stuff it certainly won't harm the plants, and growing is also about the fun, at least in my permaworld.  What bothers me is that, as with many teachings that end up going in the direction of a religion or philosophy, we lose the ecological context.  What works for the soils in the Rhein basin, continental Europe or the Alps--or wherever Steiner actually came up with the preparations--of the early 1900s could very likely be quite different from whatever works in a different place and time.  Understanding the processes behind the myths liberates the wisdom, making it accessible to other ecologies.

The use of animal parts worked great in those farms of central Europe, where dead cattle was a given, and, at a time when de-horning was a general practice, these recipes made good use of a resource that would otherwise become a waste.  But, to me, importing cow horns just to be "true" to the original sounds like not the best ecological practice, no matter how biodynamically grown those cows were.

Funnily enough, one of the principles of biodynamic agriculture is flexibility: every farm being unique and different, requiring a lot of observation and individually designed amendments.  So, I find it rather puzzling that the preparations have been so inflexible.  I guess that comes from that lack of understanding of the processes, and perhaps a certain lazyness from the users and the original teachers... something like "just do it like this, and stop asking all those questions".

I look forward to that book!
1 year ago

Jay Angler wrote:Dita if you feel you're in a position to do some research on this, that would be awesome!

Indeed!  Not sure I'll manage to do research as in comparing different carbon sources (unless I severely up my eating game)... perhaps I'll get some other people on board.  But I do suffer from that write-everything-down-and-make-stats disease.  Won't get stats, but will certainly get like a "pilot experiment".

Jay Angler wrote:
1. For example, we used to use commercial wood shavings in our brooder (my husband raises a batch of Cornish Cross once or twice/year and they start in a brooder before moving onto grass). I find these shavings take *forever* (like easily 3-4 years) to decompose. They are difficult to get evenly moist when trying to compost them, so decomposition is also inconsistent within the pile.

I wonder if that might also come from a mixture of different woods?  I set up a garden here in Poland.  With the advent of pellet stoves, which are becoming very popular hereabouts, there's no free stuff anymore from the mills, but, as we're surrounded by timber forests, we do find the odd pile of wood chip.  That went almost exclusively as moisture-retaining mulch on our swales/paths. They're holding on quite well, despite the continuous trodding, the heavy fungus load, and the extreme weather. Yeah, wood chips do take forever to decompose.Which is great, in this case!  Our swales/paths are placed so that whatever moisture and nutrients leak from the wood (and whatever else gets accumulated) go straight into the beds... anyhow.  Far from humanure, sorry!

Jay Angler wrote:
2. This year I switched to using only organic coffee sacks, made from a variety of plant fibers. I layered the poopy sacks in a pile with some partially composted woody debris in layers and I watered them as I went. It will be interesting to see how well they decompose.

Sounds great!  Are you sharing this in another thread?  I'd love to follow that.

Jay Angler wrote:
3. A couple of years ago, I set myself up a humanure bucket with an old toilet seat for earthquake preparedness (I've got no good place for it at this time for regular use, unfortunately). I decided to try biochar in it, thinking this would act to charge the biochar with nitrogen (women just don't have the best plumbing for the "water the tree method") and for its short test period there was no stink. Biochar may be something that would be easy for you to make and test, but be wary of the dust affecting your lungs.

We get some char from the wood stove, and I just started separating it from ash... Haven't explicitely made char yet (it's in my bucket list--pun intended), but it would indeed make sense for the humanure.  I'll see how easy it is compared to using leaves. Great to know that it works well in the bucket.  I've thought of using ash.  The soils both here and in Devon (where I'll be starting the humanure) are very acidic, so it could be not a bad thing.  I'm worried about the composting, but perhaps mixing in some soil with the ash could work.

Thanks a lot for your input and ideas!  Can't wait to start!
1 year ago
Reviving this tread...  after I started this one.  I'm in search of fine carbon sources that can be produced on site.  No sawdust, no paper or cardboard...  What we have is lots of leaves, grass and reeds that can both be left to dry. Chunks of wook, too, in varying stages of decay.  Most of those go into hugelkultur, however.

The problem with all these sources is the particle size,  That might be ok with the leaves (see Daniel's reply in the aforementioned thread), but I'd like to see if the (very abundant) grass and reeds could be used.  Any ideas on a manual procedure to shred or pulverize dry grasses and reeds?.

Also, anyone with experience using grasses and reeds as layering material in the humanure buckets?

Much appreciated, any help.
1 year ago
Great topic!  I love leaf mould..  aah the smell is heaven...

Any updates on the humus production?

Also, does anybody have information about leaf type and decomposition rates?  And, how to keep leaves from turining into sloppy goo in very wet and coild ciimates?

I'm looking into using leaf litter as main carbon source in a humanure system, and I'm collecting ideas on how to keep that source dry and crumbly.
1 year ago

Daniel Ray wrote:Dita, people do end up making composting mistakes with a humanure system sometimes. Usually this stems from not enough cover material or property bulky material on the collection pile which leads to smell and/or flies getting to the pile. Another easy mistake is not taking the time to add a fresh bucket of compostable materials in the correct manner. Joe outlines it well in the book, but he does have a series of youtube videos that demonstrate the proper technique.

Thanks!  Also for the accounts of your experience.  Now still looking for larger-scale hand-shredding ideas for grassy materials...
1 year ago
Hi Jay

Jay Angler wrote: I will have to go hunting for those studies. My example of blueberry was just the size aspect and a quick google search wasn't helping me.

These are some I found interestingé


This review has a hefty bibliography on the subject:

Jay Angler wrote: There are people here who can grow the Japanese maple and the difference between its leaf size and our local "Bigleaf Maple" (Acer macrophyllum) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_macrophyllum) is impressive. The Bigleaf maple leaves tend to just mat down in compost and when I've used them to mulch the duck run. I've been contemplating this issue for some time as our environment is very damp in the winter, so drying things and keeping them that way is a challenge. We currently use a lot of shredded dead tree, but that takes diesel, equipment, time, and a big mess so I've been looking for plants that will do double duty.

I hear you.  I'm really fed up with using machinery and energy for such things.  I guess you've tried piling and covering the leaves?.  That has worked for me in Devon (avg monthly precipitation around 90mm in winter, but temps seldom lower than -5 C, rel. humidity around 90%), and near Basel (from 70 to 90 mm, average low temp also -5 C), they do not get entirely dry, but dry enough to crumble. Even in outdoor piles. I've seen that often in many different places, much colder ones as well (but possibly not as damp), and it worked quite well in the very humid tropics (but there it just got decomposed quicker). Perhaps it's the leaf composition, as well?  We make leaf piles (often kept in place with either pallets or chicken fence), exposed to the elements. For drying quickly we also made piles in boxes and brought them in.  Joe Jenkins suggests having a bay for dry carbon source by the compost piles, his only has three airy walls and a roof (with water collection... dreamy sigh..) over it.

For "natural hay", I cut grasses that have been left to grow the last bit of summer, and has dried on site.  I do that on a rainless period, and bring them in.  They've kept dry so far, but I guess I've been lucky with the weather. Perhaps if you mix the leaves with something coarser, to keep them aereated, they might turn into nice humus, which could work for the paths (although it would feel like a waste of great composting or mulching material to me).  I'm going to try leaf humus for the humanure buckets.  As I'll be lucky enough to have relatively isolated quarters for three months, and plenty of leaf litter to try, it looks like an opportunity not to be missed!

1 year ago
I've stopped using shampoo and hair conditioner some years ago
First I used a bit of baking soda and coconut oil as replacement, and then salt, different oils, horse-chestnut, soap-nuts... mainly what I would find wherever I was.  I used hair oil instead of conditioner for years (mainly peanut and rosemary), but I've mostly stopped.  It did make my hair shine and get cute curls.  Now and then I use a mixture of olive or grape seed oil, plus evening primrose and a few drops of rosemary (or, now in winter, cinnamon!).  Important is to apply it in very small quantities and when the hair is still wet.  I wash it every ten days or so, mainly when it feels like it's time, or when we heat up the water tank.  Combing with a fine comb is indeed great, and gets rid of a lot of dirt.  If it's sweaty I tend to wash and rinse just with diluted vinegar.  A good massage before rinsing gets rid of dead cells and dirt.

It took some months for my hair to get used to the lack of conditioner.  The oil helped (and I used it for a year or so before going shampooless).  Now my hair feels much healthier than before (I was losing quite a lot, due to stress, I thought, but now I think it was due to chemicals, because stress is still on, hahaha). I don't think it smells bad, not even when rained on.

What makes a big difference for mine is to rinse it with diluted vinegar.  No matter what I use before, even if it's just water and fingertips.  My hair is on the dry side, and tends to curl / go anarchic. Also, it gets dirty quicker if I don't use the vinegar rinse.

Regarding soap, I only use oil soap to clean after shitting, but even that works well with baking soda / salt and some oils.  When my hands get greasy or dirty (and that happens a lot) I use a bowl of sand in water to clean them before I rinse them with water.  Sugar is great to remove grease and smells, being my choice when handling fish or meat. I have a healthy skin, again on the dry side, and if anything, it got healthier after stopping the use of synthetic chemicals.
1 year ago
Thank you, Jay.

It's a great idea to plant the carbon source.
I'm helping with setting up homesteads, but myself, I'm still more or less nomadic.  I'm trying to test this system and bring it along, spread the compost, so to speak.

Jay Angler wrote:Welcome Dita! Are you in the process of setting up your homestead? If so, could you consider specifically planting a grouping of fine/small leaved shrubs and trees (I'm thinking like blueberries - they're hard to grow but just to give you the idea) that would allow you to collect a few bags of small leaves in the fall to keep for the purpose?  I've been thinking of a similar system for myself. The leaves in my eco-system are frequently *very* large, and we get a lot of dew and rain in the late fall when they drop, so getting dry leaves is an issue. It's harder to store wet leaves.

I think decomposition rate is more important than leaf size.  In my experience, blueberry is not such a good choice, as in most species and varieties the leaves tend to be tough and leathery, sometimes even waxy.  They take quite some time to decompose and break into small particles.  Also, not sure how easy they would be to harvest.

There are some studies on leaf decomposition rates out there. From what I have seen myself, hazel, lime (linden), poplar, horse chestnut, most maples, birches,  all make rather crumbly leaves.  Beech leaves seem to take quite some time to decompose, but dry easily and do crumble quite nicely. Same with sweet chestnut (not many around here--"here" being Northern Poland right now). Oak leaves are tougher (and I preferentially use them as mulch for lettuces).

Dry conifer needles might be good.  They lose their acidity rather quickly when rained on, or during the drying process. They do not crumble so much, but they might be small enough.

Also, leaf mould would probably be a great carbon source, since it already has lots of fungi growing.  Perhaps the wet leaves would be an asset?

I've also been thinking of a wet black-water management system, which might work better in wet environments (such as Devon, where I'm more or less "home").  But I love the idea of making our own compost.  Manure often has to be brought  in, so it woud make sense to make our own.

What about you?  Are you homesteading?  Do you have an in-house "waste" management?
1 year ago
Thanks for your warm welcome and your prompt replies!

Daniel Ray wrote:Hi Dita, welcome to Permies. Excellent question and the Jenkins system is a great method that I have been using for four years now. While the fine sawdust is preferred because it breaks down much faster, the leaves will work splendidly.

Great to read that, Daniel, thanks!  That was my intuition, but I much rather get the opinion of someone with experience to back that gut feeling up.

I also like your ideas of using the loo-time for preparing the carbon source...

Daniel Ray wrote: Dry leaves will crumble rapidly when hand shredded, something you can do as necessary after using the loo.

Skandi Rogers wrote:If it's just you/family, i.e people who can be trusted, why not harvest a bunch of reeds or if they are too coarse then straw, and have a heavy duty pair of scissors by the toilet, spend the time on the thrown chopping up your needs.

And the diversity...

Daniel Ray wrote:  It will make awesome compost. Also if you are in a pinch, soil can be used as a cover material as long as you are still getting a carbon input within the collection pile. reeds may be too big like straw, but mowed or scythed grass will work well too.

Is the grass scythed dry or dried?  Or does it work (in the bucket) even if you add them green or greenish?

Daniel Ray wrote: Use whatever you have on hand, the microbes won't care, and try to keep a surplus of leaves stocked up. Good luck!

Thanks! It sounds like a rather resilient system.  Joe Jenkins speaks so often of people doing it wrong, that, well, it feels a bit daunting.
1 year ago