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Rachel Hankins

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since Dec 20, 2019
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foraging food preservation writing
I work for a non-profit, Christian rehabilitation facility that is partially a working farm. I am the new agriculture supervisor in charge of 2.2 acres of field for food production (as of December 2019). Working towards moving the farm to more natural, organic systems vs previous conventional systems. Our soil is sad.
We also have a teeny tiny apple orchard, some berries, sugar bush with sugar hut for maple syrup, beef cattle, pigs seasonally, and honeybees (they belong to someone offsite but we get the pollinator benefits).
Deering, NH
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Recent posts by Rachel Hankins

Trolling is just another nasty word for gossip. We don't allow residents to gossip here because obviously people will form opinions based on that gossip before getting into a relationship with that person on their own. The person that wants to gossip is encouraged to go to that person directly and hash out whatever problems they have. That has taught me a lot and I have also learned you can't believe everything you read on the internet. I want to form relationships on my own, look at the information presented and form my own opinion on whether its valuable or not - things need to be adjusted for my own personal situation.

I'm sorry this has happened within the permaculture community that there are some many 'haters'. Life is too short.
For myself and my husband when we leave the ministry (we just got here so it won't happen any time soon) we are looking to buy a piece of land with the money we save up. My salary includes housing, electricity, heating etc and I literally live next door to my office so I don't commute. My husband is a full time mailman. We hope he gets a regular route before we transition out so that he can transfer to another regular route in a more affordable state. New Hampshire has the second or third highest property tax in the country.

So my first priority is lower taxes.

We also want moving water like a creek. I have always wanted to make hydro-power :D

1-5 acres of land but the more land the better.

I'd like to live with less snow but I seem to always end up back in the North. We lived in NC for a year before coming back to the ministry to be permanent staff - I was pushing hard for land down there but we couldn't get a mortgage until hubs was at his job for two years (God wanted us here so it makes sense)

I wouldn't be opposed to MI because that is where I grew up and my entire family lives there besides my brother who built his home in the sub-temperatures of Alaska.
3 months ago
We are out working on the tap lines today. We use tubing and buckets (depending on the trees). Tubes go to a large storage container at the bottom of the hill and we have a sugar shack that we cook it down in (just a woodshed with a wood fire powered evaporator).

Bark would be your best bet for identifying at this time of year although its true that it will look different depending on the age of the tree too.
3 months ago
I kind of stumbled across this thread. I live in what one might call an intentional community - its the basis of our rehabilitation program: "healing in the context of community".
We have a lengthy member handbook that we have to follow  - mostly to keep the residents safe and each other safe - along the lines of stated beliefs. For a very long time there was a quote that was in the main office: "The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community." - Dietrich Boenhoffer
Living closely with people is going to be innately hard because of differences of personalities and opinions but in my experience the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Tyler Ludens wrote:If you're able to visit Ben Falk's place in Vermont, that would be great.  I think he has one of the most interesting small farms in that region.

Oooh - I am checking their website now - looks like they're open to scheduling visits. Thank you!
So my supervisor (CEO of the ministry) encourages me to learn and take advantage of educational resources (especially if they are free). So far I've taken a class about greenhouse IPM, Weed IPM (still formulating how I am approaching 'weeds') and am going to the Boston Flower Show next month (I grow all our landscape annuals from seed). I am going to convince him to let me join a local garden club.

He's also been encouraging me to visit working farms to glean knowledge and see it in action first hand. There is a farm in Indiana and a farm in PA that are friends of the ministry but I am wondering if people can recommend something closer to home in the New England area that is open to visitors? Particularly ones that take a more organic approach versus conventional farming. I am trying to move us in that direction.

Thanks in advance!

Skandi Rogers wrote:

Rachel Hankins wrote:I am planting borage with the strawberries this year - it's supposed to be a good companion plant for them.

I don't really understand this, I've seen several people mention it but still, strawberries are low growing plants and a single borage plant will get to 4ft high and 3ft round before flopping over to around 6ft round.. how it can be planted anywhere near anything short I do not get. It also self seeds very very well and you will soon have all borage and no strawberries. Having one somewhere near might help with pollination if you have an issue with that.

I've read that they attract pollinators but also predatory insects that feed on the bugs that like strawberries. Also I've read they improve the taste of strawberries - I've also read that about basil and tomatoes.

I am going to keep an eye on them this year and trim them back as needed. This will be my first time doing it.
3 months ago
I am planting borage with the strawberries this year - it's supposed to be a good companion plant for them.

I also bought some white clover to use between my rows to help as a living mulch and weed suppression.

I look forward to other replies to your thread.
3 months ago
Squirrels were the bane of my existence in 2018 - even the extension office in NH refers to it as the Great Squirrel Apocalypse of 2018. I had one working live trap and they decimated my pumpkins and corn (they were in cahoots with the wild turkeys) . I don't plan on a lot of mercy this year if they plan to return. My mom had great success with chipmunks and the dunk method.  

Ralph Kettell wrote:Hi Rachel,

Sorry for the delay in responding, but the weekends are a busy time here. As Annie said you are off to a good start.  Also I agree with her comment on cardboard although I shred my cardboard in a paper shredder.  It is my primary bedding material.  Coco coir and peat moss make good bedding but they don't have much nutrition for the little guys.  That's why I I prefer cardboard.  It is bedding that turns into food and then worm castings.  If you have a source of manure, try composting the cardboard with the manure.  Once it is no longer hot, add it to the bin.  The cardboard will have begun to break down and the manure will have gone through its initial break down which is too hot for the little wigglers.

I clean of all the tape and labels and use mostly unpainted cardboard.  I have a medium size paper shredder and it does just fine shredding most cardboard.  You have to remember to lubricate it, and feed reasonable sized pieces into it and it should shred for you.  Mine over heats after a while and then I give it a rest and start again after it has cooled down.  I now try to do it in smaller batches and rarely have it over heat.

With the worm setup you have purchased you will not have the problem that is common in many start-up worm bins which use plastic bins.  The problem with plastic bins is lack of ventilation.  You will, however, have to keep your bedding moist in the worm tower  by adding water every few days.  Don't drench it, and check it after a day or two to make sure it is not too wet.  If it is too wet mix it up a bit, move the wettest bedding to the top where it will dry out more readily and if need be add some sprinkles of dry bedding to the wettest spots to soak up some of the excess moisture.

The biggest problem most people have with their worms is over feeding.  At the moment you only have 250 worms.  They will not die of starvation  and if you add some cardboard they will have something to munch on if the preferred food, scraps, run out.  You will know if you are overfeeding if the bin starts to stink.  Check the old food and make sure most of it is gone before adding more.  Feed in a different location from the last feeding.  Keep then moving around.

The trick to speeding up the castings production process a bit is using a blender to grind up the food before feeding it to the worms or freeze it which will help break down the food when it thaws.  In summer time it is not a bad idea to add the frozen food to the bin when still frozen.  It will act as temporary cooling for a warmer summer bin.

Never ever place your bin in the sun. If it is outside, keep it in the shade.

Happy worming



Thank you so much! I don't have a grinder (yet - but I am keeping an eye out on craigslist). Freezing the food is genius.

I have a chipper that I can use for cardboard. I just added some hand ripped strips with a little bit of coffee grinds and a cup of water this morning. They had tried to escape a Friday but seem to have accepted their new surroundings. I left a few dead worm bodies around the tower as a warning ;)  We "make" lots of cardboard on our hill (I think we get an amazon delivery every day) so that is a never ending source plus the kitchen scraps. I am holding back the compost bin from Kitchen until they start eating their other food. We also have cows so I am going to check how long that pile of manure has been sitting out there (I've only just got back to the hill in December).