Mathew Trotter

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since May 27, 2019
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Recent posts by Mathew Trotter

A lot of the garden has been destroyed by escaped chickens or other pests, and what hasn't been destroyed had been completely overtaken by three foot tall thistles. Haven't been spending a lot of time in the garden, but rather trying to figure out what is still worth my time to deal with. I think I'm going to pivot towards getting more perennials in the ground rather than trying to do anything else with annuals this year. Plus, I need to start scything so I can build up a stockpile of stuff for compost/chicken bedding. I'd like to get a couple feet of material built up in the main chicken house and the outer run, especially since I'm about to have way more birds in that space and I won't have the luxury of putting it off once they're ready to come out of the brooder.

Still waiting for most of the favas to dry down more before I harvest them, but I went through I picked a handful that were already drying down. Favas have been the must dependable and most hands off thing I've grown over the past two years. They provide an early harvest relative to anything else and they do most of their growing when pest pressure is at its lowest. This will be the first time I've had enough to actually try them in their dry form, so if I actually find them palatable as dry beans I will likely be massively expanding my fava grow next year. Hell, even if I don't like them as dry beans, I'll say least be expanding slightly so I can enjoy them as fresh beans. If I do enjoy them as dry beans, then I'm anticipating that they'll make up the bulk of my west field planting, possibly trying them in conjunction with turnips and other fast growing roots and greens, and then follow them up with winter squash, since the timing should work out perfectly on that. This is all one variety, so I'd like to add some extra genetics if this is a crop that I'm going to start leaning on a lot harder.
1 day ago
It's been a rough few weeks, and I'm finally finding answers as to why, and entirely by accident.

I've come to realize that I've spent 3+ decades living with ADHD that I should have been diagnosed with as a kid and never was. The first time I distinctly remember getting in trouble for drawing was in first grade. My parents were called in and a big deal was made out of it. I remember impulsive outbursts that only make sense now as an adult looking back at it. And none of the adults in my life, or 17 years worth of teachers, never thought that those were symptoms that deserved treatment, but were rather behaviors to punish. I learned to mask my symptoms and internalize everything so that I could survive school and society. And now I realize that as an adult, my ability to work 12 and 14 hour days for weeks on end, as long as the work is engaging, is down to my inability to regulate my attention. Because it's not a well-balanced 12-14 hours. It's 12-14 hours at the expense of other important things like feeding myself and cleaning up. And I'd get frustrated with people for not being able to put in those hours while I'm over here busting my ass, because other than a few behavioral issues that were beaten out of me as a kid, I've been told that I'm perfectly typical... and if I'm not wired any differently than anyone else, then those lazy fucks can get off their asses and put in 14 hour days, 7 days a week, just like I do. But I'm not. I'm not wired like the average person.

It's only in recently hearing the stories of people that were diagnosed in their 30s or 40s that ADHD even made sense. I definitely didn't have a deficit of attention if I could sit down and work on something for 12 to 14 hours. And I wasn't hyperactive. So it was only in hearing the stories of other adults that I realized that ADHD is a really shitty name. That's why some have called for renaming it DAVE: Dopamine Attention Variability Excecutive-dysfunction. Everything is either 0% or 150%. If solving a problem engages us, then we can become hyperfocused to the exclusion of everything else. If something bores us, then nothing in the world can make us do it. And of the three forms of ADHD, the inattentive type especially is good at skating through school because it's not challenging and we thrive on the chaos of leaving things until the last minute and never studying, because that stress puts our brain into "GET SHIT DONE" mode and we become superhuman for long enough to get things done and then we crash. We get good grades and sit quietly in our chairs, so everyone tells us we're well-adjusted and we believe it until our lives crumble more and more with each passing decade. Or we just continue to struggle with basic things that other people do with ease.

There are lots of other things that go along with the ADHD. 50% of cases include some form of anxiety, and many include depression. Sometimes those arise independently, and sometimes as a result of the ADHD... it's anxiety inducing to try to act like a normal person day after day and constantly fail at it. And when you've been forced to internalize everything as a kid, and the you have a disorder that makes you hyperfixate on things, what ends up happening when anxious thoughts start playing on a loop in your head and you are incapable of switching to anything else? And emotional dysregulation has always gone hand in hand with ADHD but has historically been excluded from research because... how do you measure emotions? We either don't feel the emotions we're supposed to, or we feel them too much. Straight faced at a funeral, or absolutely destroyed by something someone said as a joke. It's fucking bullshit, to be honest. But that's how our brains are wired.

I've felt that my focus was getting worse as an adult and blamed the internet. To be honest, most of the internet is designed to hijack the attention that we struggle to regulated, so I don't think the internet is entirely without blame. But looking back and really thinking hard about it, those seeds were already there, it's just more obvious now that you can scroll indefinitely just looking for that next dopamine hit.

I don't know what's next. I'm looking into treatment and strategies for managing symptoms so that I can do the basic things I need to do to keep myself alive now that I actually understand what the problem is. Financially I'm not sure what I'll be able to do. Generally I don't like medications because they treat the symptoms rather than the cause, but in this case the cause is that society is bullshit, and it's going to take me a few more decades to fix that. 😉 In this case, ADHD meds have about a 80% success rate, and people with my form of ADHD seem to do especially well on them, so the ends might justify this particular means. I'm less worried about needing to provide all of my own food this year, since I will theoretically have income come Septemberish, so long as the writing job pans out. Which is good, since a bunch of the garden has been destroyed by pests and escaped chickens. We've also been setting records for rain and low temps this month when we historically get basically nothing this time of year. I haven't been able to get much in the ground because at this point I'm worried that most of the warm season crops are just going to flounder if we continue having this weird weather. I'm so dependent on being able to save seeds that I'm hesitant to put things in the ground if there's a good chance it won't make it to maturity. The other side of me thinks this is perfectly landrace forging weather, but it still seems might wasteful when the odds are so bad.

Speaking of landraces, I did get in new chicks for my landrace chicken breeding project. I think I already mentioned that the friend who trades me feed for eggs wanted more eggs, so we ordered in more chicks. To my Buff Orpingtons I added in Bielefelders, Columbian Wyandottes, and Black Australorps. There are a few other breeds I want to add into the mix. The goal is a larger dual-purpose chicken that's good at foraging for its own food but is also relatively docile and friendly. I want to capture a lot of the things that I enjoyed about having Icelandics while eliminating a lot of the downsides. We'll see. I'd also like them to be relatively broody so they can perpetuate themselves, but I want to hatch out about 100 chicks next year if I can manage it so that I have plenty of birds to select from... and have plenty of birds to put in the freezer. Even in a best case scenario, I don't think I'm going to have enough broody hens to come anywhere near that. And I honestly don't know that I'll be able to buy or produce enough food on site to feed that many birds. I'll have to wait until it gets closer to that time. I'm starting to look at cabinet incubators, and if the writing job pans out that might be something I invest in this year. As my landrace develops, hatching out chicks to sell might end up being a good way to bring in some income.

Even though the end goal is to have them be mostly self-regulating, I'm expecting to use the clan mating system for at least the first several generations to make sure the genetics are as widely dispersed as possible. We'll see how that goes. It's more hands on than I want to be, but it's better that than creating genetic bottlenecks that cause me problems in the future. It'll be interesting to see how all of these various traits combine over the next few generations.

If you haven't already seen it, here's a short video I did to introduce my new chicks. Since I didn't do any talking in the video I tried to put a nice write up in the description of the video that details the qualities of each of these breeds and why I selected them to meet my breeding goals.

I did butcher one of my serial escapee hens this past week. Wasn't entirely on purpose... accidentally broke her neck trying to pin her down and had to finish the job... but it's honestly kind of a relief to not have to deal with a bird that constantly getting out and causing problems. Plus, she was delicious... if a bit tougher than the last one I ate. This is only the second time I've butchered a chicken and it was significantly easier this time than it was the first time. I also had the foresight to wear gloves this time, which makes the grossness of the job way more tolerable. But that's probably just my germaphobia coming out. I did roast her even though she was old enough that I knew better... but I really wanted to render out as much fat as possible, which I then used to cook the homemade croutons for my salad. Such a simple thing, but it adds so much to a salad.

Anyway. It's well past my bedtime, but I wanted to get an update posted while I was in the headspace for it. Hope you guys are doing well.

Also, have been wanting to give a shout out and big thank you to Ollis and Stephan, who are my first two supporters on Ko-fi. I hate that I haven't been able to thank you guys personally, but it's been taking all of the energy I have to just wake up and do the bare minimum each day. I really do appreciate it. It helps make sure my dog gets fed, and that eliminates a lot of the stress right there. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope that I can get all of my stuff sorted out so that I can continue to do these little experiments and create videos about them. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.
2 days ago

Andrew Sackville-West wrote:Hope you're doing well Mathew.

Our famous local strawberry variety. Counted about 40 berries between 2 plants at last count

What is this amazing local variety?

Haven't been doing great, but surviving. Will be going into more details after I get out a response to you real quick.

Sorry for the slow reply. Have tried several times, but my computer logged me out of my account, and every time I tried to log in I'd get locked out of my account for making too attempts to login, then get frustrated and not come back to it for awhile. I really hate when things are designed for machines instead of the humans that have to use them.

The local strawberry variety is the Hood. I had a strawberry from Paul Gautschi's garden that was just some run of the mill variety, but because of how much he's built up the soil over the past 30 or 40 years, his run of the mill variety was as good as a Hood strawberry is in garbage soil. I'm excited to see if the Hoods are even better after I get my soil built up.
2 days ago
Have been trying to take it easy this week. Adrenals in pretty rough shape, and I know the consequences won't be good if I just try to push through it. Took a break from caffeine, and though offered alcohol that I very much wanted to accept, I wanted to minimize the load on my body, and so skipped that was well.

Someone told me that nettles are good for the kind of run down that I'm feeling. Makes sense that I'm in such rough shape, since I missed my opportunity to harvest nettles pre-flowering and so haven't had my regular supply. I was able to find a small patch in deep shade that hadn't flowered yet and harvested enough to have three days of nettles, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also coincided with my friend needing a break from eggs, so this ended up being the week of nettle quiche. Body's feeling a little less run down now. And apparently fresh growth from nettles after having been cut is safe to eat, so I should have more to harvest after the ones I cut for fertilizer put on some more growth.

Oat straw tea is also apparently a good one for the adrenals, which means oats may have just moved higher up on my list of things to grow. Don't know that I have the desire to process the actual oats for eating, so they may end up as chicken feed, which is a perfectly fine use in my eyes. Less work on my part.

I've asked around about bartering for dog grooming but turned up nothing. It's about $150 to have my dog professionally groomed around here, and keeping her fed has been challenge enough. Grooming was completely off the table. Luckily her hair grows quickly, so while it has a tendency to develop mats, she doesn't develop the kinds of skin irritation and infections that some breeds are prone to with mats close to the skin. But it was embarrassing for people to see her like that... which is why she hasn't featured in any photos or videos. Well, this week Petco had clippers on sale with an additional 25% off coupon to boot, so I had a friend pick them up for me... of course, I thought I was going to be able to pay them back, but apparently I'm not getting paid to scythe for the landowner, which was news to me. Long story short, I've spent a couple of long grooming sessions working on her and we're almost done. Just the tricky parts (face, backside, feet) left, so we'll see if I can manage that on my own. Might at least need an extra set of hands to hold onto her so I can get the job done. She'll be picture perfect soon enough, and then you all will be seeing much more of her.

My mustard was starting to go crazy, but now most of it is bolting. Even though I planted it in the shade of the barn. Blegh. Guess I'll cull all but the last few to bolt and then save seeds from those and go from there. It had so much promise. I was sure it was going to become my new superstar green. Alas, it wasn't to be.

This is the first day that I actually had energy to get out in the garden and do a little work. I finished setting up one of the mashua trellises and planted the first two plants. The cuttings that I took and put in water to try rooting have successfully rooted. Want the roots to get a little more developed before those ones go in the ground.

Did a little bit of weeding. The carrot/parsnip bed is overrun with thistles. Beds have been getting kicked progressively thicker as I've had more mulch to use, but this was one of the first beds of the season, so it has a relatively thin layer. The weeds are loving that... Enough mulch to hold onto moisture, but not enough to keep them from pushing up through it. I'm slowly chopping and dropping the weeds, and hopefully I'll be able to get a big harvest of mulch to top off this bed.

I have at least one zucchini germinated in almost every position. Some asshole ate one where only one zucchini had germinated instead of picking one of the ones where I had multiples. I have some old sweetest seed that I saved like 8 years ago that I know has pretty miserable germinating at this point, but I might throw like 5 seeds in that spot and see if I can get at least one to come up, since I really like that variety. Might sprinkle them throughout just in case I have more losses, since that'll give me a backup, and a few of the ones that did sprout aren't looking super vigorous.

Finally warming up again after a week of cool and occasionally wet weather. Cool enough that I stopped moving my peppers and tomatoes outside. Finally put them out again today. Have no idea where I'm going to plant them, since the bed that was intended for them is nowhere near ready. I might have to just sprinkle them throughout the food forest, though that makes them harder to protect from wildlife. But at the end of the day, as much as I'd really love to have peppers and tomatoes, they aren't a significant source of calories and thus have to be a lower priority than my staples. And since I have no expectation that I'll be doing a lot of canning this year, having a glut of tomatoes isn't super practical.

Recently had a discussion about the effects of pulling garlic scapes super early... earlier than most people pull them. Supposed to increase garlic yield 20-30%. I'm growing enough to have about half a bulb of garlic a day (not counting what will get replanted), and I'm not selling it, so I'm not worried about increasing the weight of my garlic harvest. But I am interested in having scapes to eat earlier, so I plucked the first few today. Half of my garlic bed is mulched and the other half isn't. Only the half that isn't mulched—being more water-stressed, and being in warmer soil thanks to the greater solar exposure—is producing scapes. The mulched half is showing no sign of scapes yet. This wasn't intended to be an experiment, but I guess it is now.

I was worried about the runner beans that I planted for the last video. I pre-sprouted them and then used the soaker hose to water in everything in this bed. The soil was pretty dry near the surface and I wasn't sure that there was good enough root to soil contact you get them established. Well, the first beans started popping up yesterday, and more popped up today, so at least a fraction of them are going to make it. I planted half of my seeds this year and reserved the other half. Last year I wasn't able to get a dry bean yield because it was too hot to set fruit once they started flowering, and then it froze before any of the fall beans could mature. There's no sign of resprouting from any that I grew last year. As much as I would want to fill in empty spaces if some of the beans don't make it, I have to assume that the only beans I'm going to have to plant next year are the ones I've reserved. So, we'll just have to wait it out and see what happens this year.

Oh, and I had a little garter snake figure out how to climb my pea trellis. He's now an honorary member of my elite garden guard.

Anyway, I've probably rambled on long enough that no one's going to read this wall of text. I'll just throw in the few pictures I've managed to nab since the last post and call it good

2 weeks ago
I read an article from an Italian cook who chided the French and English for undertaking the fiddly job of removing the skins from favas. I pan roast mine as shelly beans, skins and all, and they're delicious that way. However, the variety I've been growing is descended from Italian stock, so it could just be a matter of Italians having selected for more palatable skins. This is the first year that I'll have enough to try as dry beans, so we'll see if that changes things.

Also wanted to note that I tried a small serving of the young pods this year after seeing several sources list them as edible. I vomited within an hour of eating them and felt queasy the rest of the day. That could be down to cooking method or duration, or it could have been completely coincidental, but since I found them to be entirely inferior to the shelly beans in both taste and texture, I won't be repeating that experiment to see if I get sick again.
2 weeks ago
Greg, I know the goal is citrus that can survive on its own merits, but here's an interesting read that I found a while back regarding how the Soviets were self-sufficient in citrus before globalization made it more cost-effective to import fruit. Part of it was through breeding, but they also had a number of techniques (some more labor intensive than others) for protecting their trees. I have a key lime seedling that I'm currently growing out and plan to train as a creeping bush, as described in the article. Sounds like you're pinning them down anyway, so you're like three-quarters of the way there.

I've also come to suspect that all lupines are edible. At least, in as much as the "edible lupines" are edible. Tarwi (the South American species) and lupinis (one or more European species) are edible after leaching out the alkaloids they contain in a few changes of water. For tarwi, the common preparation is to soak in water starting in the morning, change the water in the evening and the following morning, and then they're ready for dinner. Lupinis are more often pickled and the preparation is more convoluted... though I suspect that's cultural rather than out of necessity. There's some variation in tarwi from year to year and variety to variety. The recommendation is to soak them until they no longer taste bitter, so if 3 changes of water over 2 days isn't enough, soak them a bit longer. Once you nail it down, it should be consistent across that year's crop.

You know, just in case you wanted to get some actual food value out of your lupines.
2 weeks ago
This is only my second year growing favas and I can't say that I've experienced splitting in either of those years. We just got rain after 2 months without and no splitting on my end... though, I design around not having water for 3-4 months at a time, so likely there was enough residual soil moisture to prevent problems.

With regard to seed saving, last year my only goal was a seed increase. We had a very wet spring and lots of plants were killed or severely crippled by fungal disease, though some showed clear signs of resistance. I saved seed from anything that lived long enough to produce it since I didn't want to limit my gene pool... even if they were very sickly, non-productive plants. Now that I'm growing out a much larger population from my saved seed, you can see that that disease resistance is much more prevalent (the plants with disease resistance fared better last year and produced more offspring than the sickly plants, thus making up a larger percentage of this generation.) Now that I've preserved a wide genetic base, this year I'm selecting from only the earliest and most productive. But I still have reserves in case there's something in that wider gene pool that I end up missing.

That is to say, I'd save from the plants with split pods in order to maximize genetics, and then select against that trait in future generations. Especially since the cause is probably environmental, and these plants at least have what it takes to survive and produce in that environment.

Personally, I'd let them dry on the plant, weather permitting. Let the plants put as much energy into the seeds as they can. Better chance of producing strong offspring that way.
Well, I landed a paid writing gig. Sort of. Maybe.

I actually declined a paid writing gig because I have too much on my plate right now. I told them I'd be available at the end of the season, and they said that would work for them. Nothing's official, official yet. We'll finish the conversation and finalize things in the fall, which means things could always fall apart before then, but it seems like a really good match to me and I'm really looking forward to it.

Does anyone write for SMBs and would you be willing to PM and talk rates? I haven't done this sort of work in a decade, and it was through an agency, so I didn't see what the actual client was being billed. And I have no idea what's standard right now. I have an idea of where I'd like to be, but I need a sanity check to make sure that number isn't way too high or way too low. And small businesses have way different priorities than big ones, so I know price is a factor. Given what I've been living on, and the somewhat feral nature I've developed 🤣, there are definitely things they can do or offer to make it worthwhile for lower pay.

For the record, fasciation is fascinating. I'm not super familiar with all of the things that cause it, but I feel like I'm seeing more of it lately. I'm not sure if everything I've seen had actually be fasciation, but this one certainly is.

Also, this turnip was supposed to be for seeds. But I just couldn't not pick it. This was a volunteer, and it's the best turnip I've ever grown. Granted, this is my garlic bed, and it got a good dose of fertilizer and compost, so it's no surprise. The ones I planted on purpose went to seed super early, but I think that had to do with the weird temperature extremes we had early on. These volunteers germinated a bit later and missed most of the shenanigans. Note to self: plant early enough for a fall harvest, and Kate enough to miss the shenanigans.
3 weeks ago
It finally decided to rain, so I'm inside doing "clerical" stuff. Catching up on computery stuff, measuring and mixing the seeds that will be going in the ground over the next couple of months, and which will form the foundation of the landraces I'm developing.

Wasn't able to get all the pictures I wanted to, but I got some. Better something than nothing, and better later than never...

Thanks to those of you that contributed seeds to these mixes. You know who you are, and you're welcome to let everyone else know who you are. I was not confident that I could get enough food in the ground before. I'm a lot more confident that I can produce enough now, so long as I can keep most of it alive. And I'm way more confident that things will survive with such a broad mix of genetics to handle whatever this year throws at it. I can't put into words how much I appreciate the helping hand.

I think I'll be doing minimal video over the next couple of months. If I do video at all, it'll probably be very short, minimally edited stuff... brief garden tours and such. I just don't think I can get everything prepped and planted if I'm splitting my time between food production and video production. It took a couple of days of laying in bed before I no longer felt amped up on adrenaline and cortisol after the stress of this past week. When push comes to shove, and it finally has, I've gotta choose food over video. We'll see what happens. Maybe things will go faster than anticipated... though that's literally never happened before. 🤣 We'll see. This life has a way of being mighty unpredictable.

Without further ado...
3 weeks ago