Richard Kastanie

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since May 26, 2010
Missouri Ozarks
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Recent posts by Richard Kastanie

I have two small honeyberries that I planted in a spot with some afternoon shade two years ago. They have survived but not grown much, they don't like a southern Missouri summer much, which is similar in heat to most of North Carolina outside of the mountains, even though a colder winter puts us in zone 6b. The USDA zones say nothing about summer conditions. Western Oregon and Belgium are much cooler in the summer than Missouri and North Carolina despite the lack of winter extremes in the more maritime areas.
3 weeks ago
An update: Very low production this year. The plant that produced well last year had only a couple dozen nuts on it, a few other plants had a small crop but nothing major, even though the plants still look quite healthy.
1 month ago
According to this article, there are at least some Kenyans looking to bring back traditional nourishing foods. I don't know if any of these people are anywhere near you, Maureen, but if so you may be able to find others with similar values.

Weston A. Price Foundation Visit to Kenya
2 months ago
I should have been more clear in my last post, I don't mean to dismiss any concerns about negative reactions. I've only had the berries raw in small quantities myself, never had more since I wasn't particularly fond of the taste of them raw. I could very well have had a bad reaction to them in larger quantities as well. Even the commonly eaten nightshade family plants don't sit well with certain people, and I've had my share of food intolerances too like with pawpaws which I shared on this thread. Sam Thayer has in general proven a pretty reliable resource for me, and I think the toxicity concerns he's addressing are more from people who've claimed it's extremely poisonous through confusion with belladonna, but like with any food its good to trust what our bodies tell us. After hearing Joseph's experience, I'd think it best to try it in small quantities first. Cooked berries may be more easily tolerated than raw ones as well.
3 months ago
Sam Thayer has written a good deal about black nightshade at this page. It is used extensively as a food plant in many places of the world, reported poisonings can be traced back to misidentification, usually with belladonna (which is the plant the deserves the name "deadly nightshade", but they are pretty easily distinguished from each other.
3 months ago
You might want to get in contact with Nat Larson at The Draw He's not too far from Ashland and has quite a permaculture project going.
3 months ago
I can't see from that view whether the leaves are opposite or alternate. Milkweed and honeysuckle both have opposite leaves. I think what you have may be sprouts of American Persimmon. If so, the leaves will be alternate, and the patch of sprouts will most likely be coming from the same base. Persimmon spreads readily by suckers, but they tend to space themselves out a bit.
4 months ago
This is something I've thought about quite a bit too. I like the Ozarks where I'm at a lot, it has a lot of good features, but I am worried about how hot the summers will get in the future and increases in droughts and flooding in this place that's already a land of extremes in many ways.

I consider climate change a very real and serious issue, but I'm also skeptical of specific predictions regarding its effects because of how complex the climate system really is. However based on what's been happening so far and paleoclimate evidence of the far past during times when CO2 levels were higher, I think we can expect significantly higher sea levels (although much of that rise will likely happen even farther into the future than 2100), warming most pronounced at higher latitudes, overall warmer averages most everywhere (but erratic cold snaps as well in many places because of jet stream changes). The changes in rainfall patterns are even trickier than temperatures to try to forecast. Warmer overall means an intensified water cycle, and more average precipitation overall. However that extra precipitation will likely be very unevenly distributed both geographically and temporally, much of it falling in heavy downpour events, and increasing temperatures also means increasing evaporation rates and increasing chances of flash droughts.

Looking at the lower 48 states from a purely climate change perspective, I'd put my bets on the higher parts of Appalachia, the interior northeast, and the upper great lakes region, particularly around lake Superior. The reasons are summers that are cool enough currently that they could get a decent amount hotter without becoming too extreme, and reasonably high amounts of annual precipitation that is also well distributed through the year, including the summer months, and moisture from multiple sources. Of course there are other issues going on than just climate change, and everyone's situation is unique so some other area might be best for you.

The Olympic peninsula is probably a decent choice as well, possibly one of the best spots in the west if above sea level a bit. The issue I see with the Pacific northwest in general is with the lack of summer rain, the summer dry season likely getting longer, hotter and more intense. I'm wary of anywhere that depends highly on winter mountain snowpacks, as warmer winters mean that even if precipitation stays the same or even increases, there will be less snow in all but the highest elevations because more of it will be rain. Being near the North Cascades might actually be better than the Olympic Peninsula, as they are higher elevation and the snowpack will thus be resilient in the face of more warming. Oregon will be worse off than Washington, as the Oregon Cascades are mostly not that high except for a few volcanic peaks. I expect the Pacific Northwest climate to become increasingly more like California's climate is now. The issue is that the ecosystems currently there aren't adapted to that extent of heat and drought and there will probably be mass tree die-offs and huge fires there when California-type dry seasons start happening, although this could be mitigated in local areas by good management.

Areas of the west that get the summer monsoon such as Colorado are more of a wild card, some say the monsoon could get more intense, and the mountains there are high and cold enough the snowpack declines probably won't be as dramatic as many other western states. However, Colorado is pretty dry to start out with except in some really high-elevation, cold areas, so it wouldn't take too much to push it over the edge.

The Appalachians/interior northeast/ upper great lakes, on the other hand, all have relatively high summer precipitation. I do expect droughts to worsen a certain amount in those areas, but IMO they have more likelihood of staying moist enough that the ecosystems will transition more by warmer-climate-adapted species increasing and cooler climate species declining, rather than by massive fires and die-offs of whole ecosystems. I have spent some time in southern Appalachia, and it's amazing just how many different sorts of weather patterns can bring precipitaion to those mountains. Unlike the Northwest, where the wet on the west side/dry on the east is very dramatic, the Appalachians have moisture coming from many sources. Moisture can come from the west, from the south, and from the Atlantic to the east, even from the northwest behind a cold front that's dry in most areas but then hits the mountain ridges that run perpendicular the wind and squeezes out the moisture. Who knows what unpredictable effects climate change will have on rain patterns, but areas with many sources of moisture are more likely to still end up getting enough of it.

Another thing to consider is that looking at a map of the world, there are very few dry climates along and near east coasts of continents (presuming they're facing an actual ocean, not a smaller body of water such as the Red Sea). There are many deserts and semi-arid areas along west coasts of continents, by contrast, as well as some very wet climates. I suspect climate change will push deserts on west coasts northward into some areas that are now Mediterranean climates (southward in the southern hemisphere). Eastern North America is unlikely to dry out as dramatically, even if flash droughts get more common and the heat and humidity in many lowland areas gets more and more extreme.

I haven't mentioned Alaska. I do wonder if at some point parts of Alaska will become desirable places to live. I've never been there and don't know enough specifics to have a strong opinion, but I imagine the more extreme rate of temperature change there will lead to convulsions in the ecosystem, and things like melting permafrost will wreak havoc in the places that have it.
5 months ago
A few more thoughts after a few more years of working with these swales,

I have noticed wildly varying rates of water infiltration on various spots on our land, as the layers of bedrock vary from very porous to pretty solid. The soil above the bedrock matters too. Some swales that I put in a while back drained very rapidly, out of reach of the plants. I've mostly filled those in with organic matter, creating a sponge for moisture which has proved useful, but some of them aren't really doing that much for all the time and energy I put into them. Others are very helpful, it all depends on the placement. On the particular area I'm working with, there just isn't much runoff from ground that's in good vegetative cover unless the soil is really saturated, even then I think much of the water getting into the swales is coming through the soil, a temporary water table that drains down pretty quickly once the deluge ends. So, the swales in areas with good vegetative cover uphill aren't really doing much.

The swales that I do consider very helpful are the ones that are collecting runoff from impervious or compacted areas such as gravel roads. I have a couple of swales that collect water, nutrients and organic matter coming off of a low-traffic gravel road, and that keeps the area near them noticeably lusher during dry summers as long as we get a few of the types of occasional showers and thunderstorms that are common here, Even if they don't bring enough rain to make much of a difference in most places, the runoff that concentrates in the swales will moisten the area around them significantly.

Water retention is tricky in karst. If there's evidence of runoff or erosion swales may help. I could suggest digging some test holes and filling them with water to see how fast they drain, but the thing is a hole may not drain too excessively, but then when expanded into a swale may hit a spot where the water can get through cracks in the bedrock and drain fast.
6 months ago
Southern Missouri is definitely one of the harder climates to design a building for, as it has to deal both with tropical-like heat and humidity in the summer, and also winters that, while mild compared to the northern US, are still cold enough to need to incorporate heat-retention strategies for.

As has been mentioned before, mold is one of the major problems in this climate. I'm not a building expert, but I have been in a lot of different styles of buildings in this and similar climates, and heard plenty of other people's experiences, and a few things stand out, namely good airflow and being up above the ground. I have lived without air conditioning here without any major issues with mold while others I know have been severely affected some of those same years. My situation isn't ideal, but the airflow is good enough with cross breezes and it's not in contact with the ground. Besides the obvious matter of having a roof that doesn't leak, having a raised floor seems to make a big difference. I know of many buildings without a raised floor, whether it be on a concrete slab or earthen floor, that struggle with mold, and earth-bermed houses tend to be even worse. There may be ways to do an earth-bermed house here that doesn't have mold issues, but you'd have to really know what you're doing. In my experience, buildings with crawlspaces tend to have much less mold issues.

I love living in the woods, but too many trees and shrubs too close to the building reduces airflow and can also lead to too much moisture/mold. Some trees to provide shade from the heat are nice, but I'd keep branches trimmed a ways away from windows. i know of a place that had mold get bad when some tall shrubs were planted and grew in front of several windows.
6 months ago