Susanna de Villareal-Quintela

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since May 01, 2010
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Recent posts by Susanna de Villareal-Quintela

Hello Audrey,

I'm probably within 15 miles of you. I have extensive hugel projects in their 3rd and 4th years, among my many other adventures (experiments). I do have sorrel and sun chokes I could share. If you'd like to get together drop me line.

9 years ago
I raise my horses in as close to a natural environment as I can provide and in accordance to my beliefs. Given my management practices, I will have to agree with Isabel and Kate's perspective that keeping horses stalled (for long periods) places risk to their overall health. In addition, I prefer a horse barefoot and encourage a good sole and hoof wall with the assistance of a good equine podiatrist. Bitless is an altogether separate issue and one that has potential legal ramifications (check with your local authorities before you go bitless when not on private property). Bits are a tool for communication, not punishment. Granted, that does not mean everyone who holds one will wield it with the same level of expertise.

What confuses me is the concept that because a horse works for a living it, by default, is being abused, indentured or a has become a slave. I work for a living and I work for my horses living. Does that make me a slave to them? Does my conscious choice to work for them mean I am choosing to be a slave to them and therefore it is a moot point? If that is the case, then what happens when my horses choose to work with me? Do they remain slaves, then? Also, I'm curious what do you think will happen if we, as a society, adopt your model of horse ownership? Do you believe all horse owners will continue to provide for horses they perceive are no longer contributing to their lives?

I recognize there is a very good discussion underway. To avoid confusion, it would be helpful to provide references around the terms you are using and to outline how you define the responsibilities of horse owners to horses vs. horses to horse owners.

If you just want mushrooms to speed-up the composting... you won't need to "introduce" them. I am 99% positive you have spores in the chips. If you want mushrooms to sell you may need to sterilize your substrate to kill the spores that are already in your chips.

I get 200-300 cubic yards of wood-chips, annually, from select arborists. I have to work hard not to find mushrooms. The spores are in the wood-chips and will flush all on their own, in copious quantity and variety. To get them to flush... you may need to get the chips through the "burning of the leaf litter" stage and, then, into smaller piles with some soil contact to provide the push for fruiting.

Best of luck,

10 years ago
Lyvia, the Michigan is taking agricultural residuals very seriously. The State provides a similar service to that of your county but it also provides the opportunity for farms to become "Environmentally Verified." The designation means the farm is in compliance with good nutrient management among other things. It's pretty nice. In addition, to keep suburban areas from becoming too congested, many communities are encouraging horse ownership. In my area we haven't had a problem with aminopyralid contamination in horse manure but I always test before I use it (if I bring in outside manure).

Greta, in this drought my pastures are standing at 3 feet. In fact, my cows and horses are not eating fast enough! I may have to drop it after the golden-rod finishes its flowering stage to encourage seed and to give the undergrowth time enough to get 24-36 inches high coming into winter. I do have native grass pastures vs Timothy or a "traditional" blend. So the fields are dynamic and rarely struggle. As in all things, it comes down to the best management for your land. We, also, have 4 bee hives. All are healthy. We've lost a hive or two over the past few years but that was hypothermia related vs contamination.

In my opinion, horses need less than people want to pamper them with.

Joy to all,

Sometimes, I think, the wants of horse owners get confused with the needs of horses. I won't get into the need for people to house their horses in megalithic stables; whether or not I agree, it is a personal choice. I have 3 horses pastured on 7-8 acres in Michigan (zone 5). Depending on the snow-load, I may not have to feed hay at all and I have no fancy barn for my horses. In fact, I have no barn at all (only 3 sided shelters and tree screens). In the past 24 months I've had to feed my horses a total of 54 bales of hay and 20 pounds of supplemental feed. In exchange, each horse provides me with 10 tons of manure that is collected and/or spread in the fields, keep my native grass pasture systems in optimal health, carry me to wild-craft/forage and provide companionship. That is a lot of benefit and little impact.

No matter how we choose to raise them, there are a few solid facts about horse manure management that horse people should come to possess: a 1000 pound horse produces 1 cubic yard of manure each month and stalled horses (on average) produce an additional 2 cubic yards per month of stall waste (shavings, straw, paper, whatever). That equates to roughly 10 tons of manure and around 38 tons of stall waste for each horse. Having a management plan for that waste-stream is imperative (especially on smaller acerage). However, that is no different than having a plan for the waste stream of any livestock. My cows have an equal impact. In the management of both species with some creative thought and planning you can turn waste into gold.

Joy to all!
So sorry to hear about the drought, Brenda. We've been under a drought but more fortunate in Central Michigan. We are getting rain about every 10-15 days but not a lot. My hugels are, also, holding my annual veggie crops over very well. But a couple of my trees and young shrubs are suffering. I've been letting blanching-water from my pole beans cool to room temperature and dumping the water around one or two trees each day.

I know carrying water is a chore but if it is an option, is it possible for you to divert your grey water in a way that will let you collect and water a little bit here and there? Maybe the washing machine or just the rinse cycle of the washing machine? You might get a little soap but it seems the small diluted amount could be tolerated by healthy soil/plants??

10 years ago
Erica asked me to share my experiences with the water holding capacity of my HK's. I'll be happy to. However, unlike most people on the forums, the primary reason I build HKs is to help control seasonal flood waters. My secondary intention was to use the HKs as a permie habitat and cropping system. I will talk most about my first HK because this will be it's third season in "production." The second is a variation that was installed this past fall.

The shift in primary purpose caused me to choose woody inputs that are different than most HKs. My goal was to increase the surface area of the wood in hopes of *really* getting the most water retention for my efforts. In my first HK, I have some very nice fungal logs as the very base but they make-up maybe 20% of the total woody mass. The remainder of the wood is well-aged ground pine bedding (200+ yards) that I recycled from horse farms . I topped this off with grass clippings from untreated lawns, leaf mold, 100 yards of finished compost (homemade), 8 -12 inches of topsoil and wood chips. The size was 4.5 feet tall 6 feet wide. The HK settled to 3.5 feet tall. I forget the exact length but it is roughly 350 feet long. This was build on-grade vs. dug-in. In the past 2 years, flooding withing 40 feet of the HK has been minimal (if any).

I do not have any good moisture sample statistics to provide but, I have not watered any of the plants in my HK (aside from an initial dowsing of transplants) and have not had any production problems. The pine layer does not appear to have had a negative effect on any of the crops I've planted (melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, broccoli, tomatillos, garlic, scallions, etc) or in any native weeds that have emerged. I've pulled a few tap-roots and found them to be more than 24 inches long (so they are in the pine). Last year we had a record heat wave and drought in Michigan. Despite that, my HK was vibrantly green and no plant showed the slightest sign of wilt. I have some voles and mice in the pile and I've noticed many more Garters and Blue Racers are joining the party, too. Nasty, crop-eating bugs have been few.

My second HK, I wanted to test the retention capacity of mixed woodchips provided by local landscapers. The HK is 220 feet long, is dug in 2 feet into the ground, 3 feet wide and 3 feet above grade. There are fungal logs at the bottom, then woodchips for the next 3 feet then 18 inches of finished compost and, finally, 4 inches of additional woodchips on top. NO topsoil because I didn't have any to spare. Since this is just a "baby" I'll have to let you know how it performs.

As I type this message we are receiving a massive amount of rain from a storm system that is not slated for departure until another 36 hours have passed. I believe my first HK is, already, at saturation point because the water on it's southern face (my neighbors side) is already 2-4 inches deep and their barn (another 50 feet south) is 8 inches underwater. My side of the pile, the north face, is starting to shed water from beneath (slow percolation) but is only 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. My water retention pond is full and my spillway and southern pastures are under 4-8 inches of water (an area encompassing 1 acre+/-). I expect some amazing pictures will be forthcoming.

Joy to all,


11 years ago
Aside from this season's fruit and veggie annuals, I am focusing on trees, bushes and vines, this year. From cuttings, I am planting goji, elderberry, aronia and fig. From Oikos, pawpaw and American Persimmon. I am, also, thinking about ground cherries because I love them dried and eaten like raisins... yummy little sweet-tarts!
11 years ago
Hello Derick,

It sounds like you have big plans for your spring. I hope you can get it all accomplished.

I have 2 hugelkulturs both about 4-6 feet wide. One was built on grade and is around 350 - 400 feet long and 3 feet tall (after settling). The other is dug-in about 2 feet below grade, is 4.5 feet tall (overall) and 200' long. I love them and use them for water harvesting as well as to control run-off during the spring and fall rains (we have a high water table). I haven't watered mature plants in 2 growing seasons (not even during the drought)!

I do water my transplants until they look like their roots are set. Other than that, I haven't needed to water anything. I would recommend at least 4 foot spacing between the hugels. You can not imagine how not fun it is to carry a couple of harvesting baskets down a 2 foot path and if you have more than one person tending the hugel it can be tough to work around each other when the isle is small.

Good luck on your projects!

11 years ago
To get into thea building trades you mayto have to move to a State still experiencing growth. Maybe areas of Texas or North Dakota?

Otherwise, work in IT is easy to come by, pays well and is stable. It might be worth sticking it out for a few years (until the building trades stabilize). A tough choice and one I've had to make, too.

Wish I could be more helpful.
11 years ago