Mathew Trotter

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since May 27, 2019
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Recent posts by Mathew Trotter

The rain finally stopped long enough for me to get this in. I'd feel worse about my mileage if the dog hadn't given up after the first lap. This 20% slope is no joke. Hell, I walked 12-14 miles the other week, and this was harder.
2 weeks ago

Eric Thompson wrote:In May and June there is snowpack melt.  When there is a burst of rain, that fills the rivers AND increases the snowpack melt so the rivers that drain this can get high.  Our well on the Columbia River bottom lands is filly artesian now, running out of the wellhead!

The problem here is that we're a mostly south-facing box canyon on a roughly south-facing edge of a valley at too low of an elevation to have snow at all except for about a week or so in winter. And the property adjacent to us is literally the peak, and the source of the creek that runs through town... And which almost universally dries up by August. All of the snow melt... which is coming from a hundred-ish miles away, is diverted around us by the topography. We definitely get winter flooding, or used to, though it's less common these days than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But that's more of an engineering problem, since some genius decided to put all of the roads through wetlands down at the bottom of the hill and all of the winter rain is funneled down onto them.

And we just don't get rain in June. In 3½ decades, I could probably count on one hand the number of years that we got measurable rain between June and September, and mostly short 30ish minute rains here and there, not the all day torrential downpours we're getting this year. A burn ban would always be in effect by this point in the year and, and for at least the past 5-10 years, the water treatment plant would've been on water restrictions at least a month or two ago and they're still not... one of my best friends works there, and they're literally shocked by the volume of water this year. It may have been like this in the past, but it's unprecedented in our lifetimes.

Granted, I would hazard a guess that the flood warning isn't actually for anywhere near our town. It's probably for one or more of the cities to the north or east and we're just "close enough" for them to slap a flood warning on our weather report. But since winter flooding used to be an annual occurrence here, and with the unusual amount of rain we've had, I wouldn't at all be shocked if someone told me our roads were flooded. It's been feeling more like November than June. I mean, the high today is 59, and I think 75 is the highest we've managed to hit so far, and only briefly. Last year we'd already been hitting the 90s for a few months at this point. Even the season before last, which was also unseasonably cool and wet, was nowhere near as cool and wet as this year... and that year was cold and wet enough that 3 successive plantings of squash all rotted in the ground, save for maybe half a dozen plants that didn't have enough time to produce before frost took them out.

I'm already predicting a scorcher for next year, since we seem to be yo-yoing between extremes each year. The 115-120 degree temps really should just stay in the desert where they belong...
2 weeks ago
Wanted to go on a walk this morning so I can gradually start increasing the distance they my body can comfortably handle. There's literally a flood advisory. In June. We don't even get rain in June! I don't even understand this climate anymore...
2 weeks ago
Broadcasting seeds had mixed results depending on the treatment the individual areas got. A section of the garden that didn't get weeded or topped with soil/compost has been overrun by grass, but the area in the pictures below was topped with soil from one of last year's beds and a bit of compost after planting sunchokes and broadcasting favas, garlic, peas, nasturtiums, and a few other odds and ends. That allowed the crops to get established before the weeds completely took over. Things are developing pretty slow because it's been so cold and wet, but they are starting to produce. I think the highest temp we've had so far has been 75, with lows still in the 40s. I think the high tomorrow is supposed to be 59. But after Thursday it looks like it'll actually be warm enough to plant out the tomatoes I've been babying inside. They're all from Joseph's tomato breeding project. We've already had rain must of the week, which is an odd occurrence for our area this late in the season. But it's a welcome change to the 179 consecutive days without rain that we got last year.

In health news, I'm down 17 pounds, my joint pain is gone, and my psoriasis is nearly gone, and my mental and emotional state has been much more stable. I've been leaning on sugar and oil as cheap sources of calories the last few years, and counterintuitively, my hard work has left me ravenous and caused me to pack on additional pounds from these low quality foods. I've cut out the oil and sugar, and have finally had a steady supply of herbs and greens to round out my diet, and the change has been overwhelmingly positive.

Right now, my future on the property seems dubious. I've really been suffering the past 5 years and the owner has consistently made decisions which have increased my suffering. I had been planning to kill myself in November, seeing no other way out of here, but my weight loss has me a little more hopeful for the future. Right now my plan is to focus on getting the weight off with the goal of getting down to a weight where I can run without destroying my knees, and then I'm flirting with the idea of making the 2-3 hour run into town to work a job and start digging myself out of this situation. It would suck, but having steady income, a path out of here, and not having to rely on the whims of mother nature and the generosity of friends and strangers would be of great benefit to my mental health. I'm definitely dreaming of a future in a sizable suburban permaculture lot where I can reap the benefits of nearby neighbors and free and cheap materials that would otherwise be destined for a landfill.

Obviously, I created a spreadsheet to track my weight loss, because that's how I do. The bright orange are my actual weigh-ins, and numbers in between are what I've calculated my weight loss should be based on my calculated BMR and estimated daily calorie expenditure. So far it's been pretty accurate, but it also adjusts everything downstream as I log my weekly weigh-in, so every if the calculation isn't perfect, or I burn or consume more or fewer calories than estimated, the whole thing self-corrects.

Now that I have a plan in place and am consistently losing weight, I'm toying with the idea of doing Dietbet again. I did 7 of them back in 2014, all of which I won, but haven't touched the site since. For the uninitiated, it's a competition where everyone puts a set dollar amount into a pot, and then everyone that loses 4% or more of their body weight over the course of a month splits the pot. For bets of $35 or less, my take averaged about 181%. Of course, people are more motivated when the bet is higher than that, so more people make it to the end and the winnings are generally lower overall. You can enter 3 simultaneous competitions, and based on past experience, I could earn about $85 a month, which would cover food for my dog and a few essentials. At least until I get down to my target weight and don't have 4% to lose.

There are 3 $35 competitions coming up in 2 days, but I don't have the $105 I need to enter them. I'm going to ask friends if I can borrow the money for a couple months so I have enough to enter the contests each month thereafter. But if any of you all have gotten any value out of watching my journey and can contribute some portion of that $105, I'd really appreciate it. Even if it's just a couple dollars, that's that much less I have to ask for from any singular friend. My Kofi is always open:

Even if you can't provide financial support, I still really appreciate all of the support you all have shown. It's gotten me through some tough years, and I hope to be able to continue sharing my permaculture journey for many more to come. ♥️

2 weeks ago
And some pictures...
1 month ago

Nancy Reading wrote:Off on a tangent here, but you may find it of interest if you have a lot of greens to go through. Have you ever looked into "leafu" or leaf curd?  I had a go at making some a few years ago (see my blog here. It was interesting and reasonably successful for a first attempt, but I've not tried to make it again, not having a real need. It's particularly useful for people who struggle with protein on a vegetable based diet, since it concentrates the protein in leafy green veg, like kale, nettles, tree leaves etc. Just a thought for you.

That's certainly an interesting process. I don't really have a lot of greens to process, I'm just trying to force myself to consume a pound's worth per day. And since it's all weeds, and not always sizeable ones, it's a bit of a hassle to harvest that kind of weight. I was able to target a few patches with some larger, more mature chicories, dandelions, plantain, etc. and harvest 2.25 pounds in maybe about an hour. Not very efficient, but the end result will be nutritious. And since I'm using it as soup base, and want all the nutrition from the greens, any processing other than removing the fiber is unnecessary. Always fun to learn something new, though. If I ever end up with a glut of efficiently harvestable greens and just want the protein...
1 month ago
Last night I almost posted that I didn't plan to live past November, but at least for tonight, I'm on top of the world.

Landowner was barely back for a week after being gone for 7 months and already gave me covid. Again. At least this is a cakewalk compared to the last time. Not fun, but not especially terrible.

A few days in I lost my appetite and stopped eating. I realized that I hadn't fasted for a while; certainly not in the 5 years that I've been out here. Before that I had, on occasion, fasted and found that it helped reestablish and sane an healthy relationship with food. There's a dissonance that happens when I stop enjoying food and start seeing it strictly as fuel, and in my current situation, that induced a lot of added stress. I knew from experience that fasting gives me a break from fueling myself, and when I return to it, I actually enjoy it again.

I thought about what had been stopping me from fasting in my current situation and recognized a lot of fear around scarcity and having the energy to do what feels like necessary work. I reasoned that I'd have the same amount of food whether I fasted or not, and actually, I'd have more food tomorrow if I didn't eat food today. Since I had already started fasting as a side effect of covid I decided to continue for as long as felt appropriate.

I'm now going into day 5.

You may know from some of the latest research that fasting reduces inflammation, induces autophagy, and causes the body to switch to burning ketones as its primary source of fuel, which has a whole cascade of other positive effects (it's still the early days of published research and many still think it's controversial, but I've fasted periodically for almost 20 years now without ill effect... just not with the consistency I ought to.)

Today, the pain in my joints that I've mostly been able to ignore was actually genuinely gone. And so is the brain fog that I've had for months or years at this point.

The landowner habitually steamrolls people in arguments and then declares victory, not because he's right, but because no one will keep arguing with him. Nearly three years of shitty food and his shitty behavior have worn me down to the point where fighting back wasn't even an option. I mean, best case was me screaming my head off like a psychopath. But today I felt sharp and level-headed. And when he decided to be a bigot about black and queer folks being represented in media while we were enjoying the company of a mutual friend who happens to be queer themself. It felt like I was back in my college days the way I shot down each and every one of his shitty rebuttals one after the other. With an audience to boot.

Eventually he grew quiet. And then the subject changed. He participated for a few more minutes before scampering off with his tail between his legs to go play video games alone while my friend and I continued to talk.

This is literally the first time in 5 years, and maybe ever, that I've seen him put in his place instead of being allowed to just bully everyone. And all it took was 4 days of fasting. Should've done this sooner...

My plan is to break my fast on Saturday with 7 pounds of greens... if I can manage to pick that many between now and then. Between the weird weather and getting overly inundated with weeds, a lot of my greens are still pretty small. I've mostly been having wild greens, which I'd prefer anyway, but it's been exhausting just to pick half a pound of teeny tiny little chicories each day on top of everything else. I was also hoping to pick a pound a day for a week leading up to breaking my fast, but haven't felt well enough to be out hunching over to pick weeds in what has finally been a decent amount of sun. I'll juice all the greens and use them as base for a soup with beans and rice. I'm hoping such a big shot of nutrient dense food will be what I need to really jump start things.

I also need to revise a previous statement I made about not being able to get enough calories a day from kale. If you can get down the juice of 9 pounds worth of kale without anything added, you could actually get 2000 calories. I was envisioning eating the kale, but once you remove the fiber, it's a whole other ball game.

There's one main section of the garden that's a clusterfuck that I was going to attempt to weed and make productive, but I think at this point its only real value is in producing seeds of all the things that are mixed in with the weeds but not sizing up because they're in so much shade. I mentioned the grass was 3 feet tall the last time I measured, right? The one time I wish attempts to improve fertility weren't so successful. Now that I'm thinking a little sharper, I think I've got a game plan for the rest of the stuff I was going to plant in that area.

Anyway. No pictures this time since I haven't been taking that many. Still probably won't be posting much, just happen to be wired from what feels like the first victory I've had in 5 years. Plus the fasting. Ketones will do that to you...

Gonna try to pass out and hope I'm well enough to pick a good mess of greens in the morning.
1 month ago
A fairly comprehensive list of food plants in North America was compiled and published in 1936. It contains 1,112 species. Some of the latin names have changed in the past century, but a quick search should turn up the current classification.

Here's a link to the publication:

1 month ago
I'm still alive. Been struggling with nutrient deficiencies over the winter, but this is the first season that the property has really revegetated in a significant way and I've had all the greens I could ever hope for. Camas and cattails are really starting to get established, and say are native berries and hazels. The actual garden has been a mixed bag. Chickens got in and really set things back and allowed weedy grasses to establish dominance in the beds. As I get in to chop and drop it all and get a release of sunlight, things really take off. But it's also been unseasonably cold and wet, like it was the season before last, or even worse (which I'll happily take over the 6 month right we had last year.) Things have been slow to develop, but there are still some truly exceptional plants that have outcompeted the weeds and are producing well and will make excellent additions to the landraces I'm building. With the exception of the grasses achieving dominance in the beds because of the chickens, broadcasting an adjustment of seeds has definitely been the way to go. Did another sowing in late winter/early spring and topped with a little bit of chicken compost to try to help things germinate in amongst the weeds, and then followed up with a good dousing of nettle tea/urine. Be nice if more of the energy was going to things I can actually eat, but the fact that the grass measured 3 feet tall this past week is a sign that fertility is moving in the right direction, as far as I'm concerned. Currently clearing small holes in amongst the weeds to make room for corn and the soil is so much better than it was 6+ months ago when all that waved to grow in it was thistles.

Won't be making regular posts yet. My energy has been so limited, I've had to restrict the type and amount of energy I'm spending on online activities just so I can get my work done. Discovered by accident that I was deficient in vitamin B1, at least according to the symptoms I was experiencing. Was able to get a big bag of nutritional yeast to supplement my B vitamins, and my symptoms are starting to even out.

This year looks promising in most regards. The library in one of the nearby-ish towns reopened their seed library and hosted a plant swap. Was able to catch a ride with a friend and picked up 60+ packets of seeds to add to my landraces. Was also able to get Egyptian walking onions, a new variety of hosta, and a variety of medicinal herbs.

Have pollinated my almond this year and actually got about half a dozen nuts to set... and then the asshole deer came and ate them. They're lucky I don't have anything high enough of a caliber to turn that problem into a solution. But was able to get a couple gopher traps, since that was a major issue this past season, and I think we'll be seeing if gopher is palatable.

Lots of other things, but I'm gonna leave it at that for now. I'll post some of the pictures I've taken so far this season as well.
1 month ago
Barn cat status achieved. More pics after he's acclimated.
8 months ago