M Broussard

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since Dec 21, 2020
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chicken food preservation fiber arts woodworking homestead
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North Island, New Zealand
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Recent posts by M Broussard

It's been a few years, but I'm still keen to understand why porous terracotta is not permitted. If it's about moisture, this can be solved by putting a plate or dish under the pot. But it can't be about moisture, because wood is allowed, and wood is far worse for moisture wicking in this respect.

Terracotta is much more sustainable than glazed ceramics (which are higher temperature, higher energy, often higher quantities of toxic gick due to heavy metals in glazes), and its exclusion is a question mark for me. It's also one of the most accessible non-plastic options and this restriction seems to have limited the uptake of PEA's gardening section.
2 weeks ago
I seem to have accidentally given someone 3 apples just now -- sorry team!

Is there somewhere these accidents are getting reported/fixed, or are the extra apples ok to stay on?
This could be gooseberry fruitworm. Caterpillars will wander from one fruit to another and ruin several getting up to full size. I would recommend immediately picking all damaged berries and either burying them deeply, burning them/cooking them, feeding them to livestock, or submerging them in water. Pick up as many dead/fallen fruit as possible. You need to get rid of the little critters actively eating your crop and prevent as many as possible from becoming adults.

Once you're just dealing with egg-laying moths (and not active hungry caterpillars), you can potentially net some of the bushes to keep them from becoming re-infested.

Organic growers use Bacillus thurengiensis against this pest, but sprays are often not very effective at fruit boring critters.
4 weeks ago
I'd be worried about applying that water to annuals with those numbers. Even applying it to perennials, if you're not getting rain washing the salt away on a regular basis, the salt will slowly build up in the soil until it's infertile.

For a small-scale, you could consider building a solar still and using that water for a small number of plants. There are a number of clever designs out of middle eastern countries, who are currently experiencing limited water availability and very high soil salinity. One of the most applicable was putting large flat pans of salty water in a closed glasshouse, and collecting the liquid condensing on the walls through a gutter system. The pans will eventually evaporate into just salt, while the clean water has been collected.

For larger-scale, there's a lot of literature on using plants to reduce soil salinity, as this has been a major issue in the worlds' arid regions for some decades now. This often involves halophytes (salt-loving plants) being planted as a cover crop to reduce soil salinity. Some examples are Suaeda salsa (and other members of this genus), New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides), and sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum). This review article has estimated that New Zealand spinach is capable of removing 4760kg of salt per hectare per year from the soil! To put this in context, crops in Montana seem to use ~24in of water to come to maturity. With your water salinity, if you irrigated that amount, you'd be adding >500kg of salt per ha. So you might be able to do some crop rotation to keep things from getting too dire -- but remember, all that plant material full of salt has to be removed to somewhere else, or it will end up right back in the soil.

If you're keen to try something a bit more complicated, there are some folks who have managed to successfully run soil-less hydroponic systems using straight seawater (+nutrients) to grow tomatoes. This appears to work fine, whereas applying the sea water to soil directly will kill the plants.

Heather Staas wrote:Sunflowers were a bust for me, they were FILLED with tiny worms in all my seed.   I'm sure it was partly my inexperience and learning curve.   I ended up just giving the whole heads to my rabbits, who didn't care one bit about the worms and ate them anyway.  

I'm sorry to hear that! I highly recommend you look at some insect pest management guides for sunflower, as preventing future outbreaks will depend on the identity of the pest insect. There are many creatures who lay eggs on sunflowers while the seed head is still developing -- if you remember what the insects looked like, you might be able to narrow it down. Here is an excellent publication from North Dakota State University. Go right to the "Head and Seed Feeders" section. The control methods they recommend are pesticides, but there's a lot of good information about the appearance and life cycle of each pest.

I'd just like to say you've done the right thing in feeding the whole heads to livestock -- this will kill the pests before they emerge as adults and mean you have fewer potential egg-layers causing you trouble next season. This step (reducing innoculum of pests/diseases) is called "sanitation" and is very, very important in organic agriculture. Best of luck!
1 month ago
My last post was from August 2022. It's May 2024, and things are definitely looking different here!

I'm buying free-range eggs from the same local farmer for NZ$6/doz -- hasn't increased the price too much because I'm a regular customer and provide her with empty jars, egg cartons, and weird plants to grow in her market garden (someday she'll get the yacon established!) Her eggs are marked NZ$8-9/doz, more for the blue/green ones.

In the shops, things are pretty dire. The absolute cheapest (colony cage) eggs at the grocery store are now NZ$8/doz, but those are always sold out. Free range eggs are up to NZ$9-12/doz. A flat is now $12-15 for 20 eggs.

Some of this is because the NZD has fallen against USD, increasing the price of imported feed grain. Some is because a number of chicken producers left the industry after the nationwide ban on battery cages a couple years back. Either way, eggs are no longer the cheap protein source they used to be. At an equivalent of $12.5-17/kg for free-range eggs, it's actually cheaper to buy pork or chicken, and a similar price for beef.
1 month ago
Looks like I missed some updates on this thread!

Jay Angler wrote:The two permies who've admitted to making their own, to my recollection ... are Inge, who made hers years ago, and myself who faked it recently, used it and it worked.

I've made nalbinding needles, too! I posted few pictures of ones I've made on the first page of this thread, but I've made at least a dozen (possibly two dozen) each of bone and wooden ones. In terms of time, I find the wood ones to actually take longer to make, because finishing them takes longer than bone. My partner does the nalbinding, and has shown 10+ people how to do it themselves. For a new needle, bone is easier to nalbind with than wood for the first few hours, but once the wood is burnished sufficiently with use and lanolin, they're equivalent, provided you've used a high-quality wood. The issue I've had with maybe 5 wooden needles is that if I've carved them too thin, and chosen poorly for material, tugging on them in use causes the eye to tear out, destroying the needle.

The best wood needle I ever made was from ivy heartwood. It's difficult to work, but the tight, wavy, interlacing grain means that it creates a strong, sturdy finished product. I would avoid softwoods, and have personally had bad luck with cherry sapwood, oak, and scotch broom, which had their eyes rip out on me.

Freyda Black wrote:Can you recommend a video on making a needle from bone? There are literally scores of them on Youtube and I have watched many. I am sure you have experience with which method of cutting and shaping, and what tools to do that with, that will help me accomplish it with the minimum of pain! Or just share what tools you prefer for cutting and shaping.

Thank you again for your helpful posts.

For bone needles, starting from long leg bones makes the job easier. You can boil the bone just long enough to get the meat off it, but don’t use it for stock or put it in the slow-cooker, as this will weaken its structural integrity. Once cleaned of meat, put it in a vice and cut the caps off with a saw and push the marrow out with a rod. The caps and marrow make good stock.

Once you have that sorted, you can split the bone lengthwise with a wedge and hammer if you're really keen, or use a rotary tool to do all the subsequent cutting. Using saws, files, and hand tools means you’re not generating fine dust which is dangerous to inhale. If you do use a rotary tool, you’ll want a good, tight-fitting mask to protect your lungs from the bone dust. I usually cut out a rectangle first of the approximate dimensions I want my needle to be. Whether you're working with bone or wood, make sure to cut the needle blank out along the grain. If the bone is really thick (e.g. a cow femur can be more than double the thickness of my ideal nalbinding needle), I will then use a rotary tool to carefully cut the piece in half lengthwise and make two needle blanks. I then drill out the hole first before shaping the rest of the needle. This can be done with a barrel drum on a rotary tool, files, or 80 grit sandpaper.

Once you’ve got it to the shape you want, rounded off all the edges, and smoothed out the interior of the eye, go up a couple finenesses of metal file, sharpening stone or sandpaper until you’ve got the finish you’re happy with. I usually quit at 240 grit and let the use burnish the tool to a high gloss. Here’s a photo of my current stock. The five on the right are the ones that I use for darning and my partner uses for nalbinding. The six on the left are new ones for giving to people just learning how to nalbind.
2 months ago

Thom Bri wrote:Maybe phosphorous deficient? That can cause red/purple color. But it may also just be the variety.

Purpling of leaves in seedlings is a general sign of stress in tomato seedlings, and can be caused by a few different things. Apart from phosphorous, it could also be: too cold (nighttime lows should be over 14C/58F -- and a heat mat only protects the roots), to wet, or grow lights not providing the right lighting for the plants.

What to do about it? You may not need to do anything. I have this problem every year as I start my tomatoes in an unheated glasshouse or on a cold windowsill. Once they're a bit bigger and in the ground, they've always come right for me. That being said, making sure they're not getting to chilled at night will help them grow better regardless!
2 months ago


I had a friend who referred to tacos and tamales as "vitamin T" -- an essential part of the diet, and having grown up eating both, I definitely agree. Real Mexican food is very rare in NZ; you may find the odd place selling what they call nachos, but it is like they were trying to re-create the dish from a photograph: a bed of Doritos, topped with mince meat boiled in unseasoned tomato puree, sweet chili sauce, and with a dollop of cream cheese or mayonnaise on top. I avoid Mexican restaurants locally as I've been burned too many times -- the only exception is if the place has been recommended to me by my South American colleagues.

Producing Mexican food in NZ is a bit of a challenge as very few ingredients are readily available. In order to do it,  I grow anchos, poblanos, and jalapenos, make my own tortillas (you can buy gourmet 'wraps' in packs of 6, not economical at all!), save and freeze or dry my corn husks, render my own lard.  I ferment jalapenos or roccoto chilies to make hot sauce -- though a growing number of American expats are producing some very lovely (if dear) hot sauces. I've grown my own flint corn and nixtamalise it to make masa flour, or buy masa at eye-watering prices. Dry beans are expensive and imported from South America, but still cheaper than meat, so I buy in bulk and make tacos all summer, as well as growing some of my own now. Making tamales is reserved for my birthday and Christmas, but they freeze very, very well, so we make a big batch and spread them over a couple months.
2 months ago

Eino Kenttä wrote:By the way, on a related subject, do you know if it's possible to extract silk from any species of other moth families besides Bombycidae? I've wondered about Yponomeuta evonymella (bird-cherry ermine). It's native here, and does produce loads of silk, but no idea if it would work the same. Mulberries are marginally hardy in our climate, so it'd be cool if there was a wild moth with usable silk...

Silk is generally extracted from the cocoons moths wind around themselves to pupate -- the species that do this wind a continuous strand around themselves; when you reel silk you unwind this strand continuously and get a single extremely long strand which can be spun into a fine thread when combined with those from other pupae. Yponomeuta evonymella has a hard pupae with no silk, so this is not an option -- the silk the larvae spin to protect themselves is quite dirty with frass, but you might be able to take the lot, wash it, degum it and see if you can spin it like you would a silk cap or hanky.

There are a heap of other moth species with silk cocoons that have been used to make silk over the centuries -- here's a non-exhaustive list to start with.
5 months ago