Richard Kastanie

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

I'm in 6b and have some muscadines. I enjoy the flavor and their disease resistance (I have trouble getting much out of most other grape varieties here). I do have winter damage in cold years though. It got down to  minus 5 last winter, and some of them are okay and some may not have made it, I don't know for sure because some are just starting to grow, extremely late. Even the ones that look the best have some tip dieback. The ones that seem hardiest are on an arbor make of cedar rather than the wire trellising or fencing the others I have are, and are also near some trees (but still get a good 6-8 hours of sunshine during the growing season). I have done nothing special to protect any of them.

Another thing I've noticed with muscadines here is that pruning too early is very bad for them, I've pruned dormant plants that looked like they had healthy cambium only to have the stems split later during a relatively minor cold spell (low/mid 20s) and the plants die back severely, or even die completely. At this point I'm waiting to prune them until well into April just before growth begins. i know that's different from what the literature says about optimal pruning time, but it works better for me.
1 week ago
This is some of the best news I've heard in a while.
1 week ago

If all humans were to somehow abruptly vanish, the ecosystems in North America and the majority of the world would not revert to their pre-human state. The North American ecosystems before humans arrived were dominated by many species of megafauna that are now extinct and must have shaped the ecosystem in ways that we will never fully understand. Having certain areas be as undisturbed as possible is good to have a point of comparison with areas managed in various other ways in the same ecosystem, and since so much land is currently managed so badly, preserved areas are generally much healthier, but as Allan Savory has demonstrated, some brittle ecosystems need quite a bit of disturbance (his examples come from the actions of herds of animals) to thrive and will degrade from over-rest. Preserved areas in many regions of the country have no animals larger than a deer around, even in areas where wolves, bear, elk and buffalo still roam, that ecosystem developed alongside the native peoples of North America after the megafauna went extinct.
2 months ago
It is known that islands that are closer to other land where species disperse from end up with higher biodiversity, other factors being equal. This website on island biogeography sums it up with this quote,

A modified version of the classical island biogeography model proposed by MacArthur and Wilson (1963) is depicted above. The model considers the interaction of two main parameters, colonization and extinction, and then considers island size and distance from mainland as predictors of the species richness found on each island. Both colonization and extinction can be thought of in terms of rates or probabilities, and the size and isolation of islands impacts the probability of colonization and of extinction. Simply, Islands close to the mainland will more readily receive colonists from that mainland and, similarly, probability of colonization of large islands will be higher than that of small islands. Thus the larger the island and closer to the mainland, the more potential species will arrive. Species will also more readily go extinct on small islands than large, due to factors such as smaller population sizes and less available habitat. These parameters go hand in hand predicting that species richness will peak in large islands near mainlands, and be lowest in small islands far away from the mainland.

I have seen a few aggressive invasive species that do decrease biodiversity in the patches they take over, although oftentimes the claims are exaggerated (I've seen areas labeled monocultures of an exotic species that I can see quite a few other species growing in). However, we are glimpsing a very small period of time, as well as one with a lot of other human-induced factors that are changing the environment, so its no surprise that different species are thriving in the changed conditions. Humans have greatly accelerated the movement of species around the world, but there has always been a certain amount of movement, and I think the above example of island biogeography shows that more migration tends to increase biodiversity overall. That doesn't mean that none of the new species caused the extinction of species that were previously present, but the number driven extinct must end up fewer than the number of arrivals.

I've heard from some nativists the idea that certain exotic species will never find a balance and simply take over and leave much of the planet as near monocultures. If that were true, I'd think the islands with more migrating species would end up with less biodiversity, as periodically an aggressive species would come through and wipe out most of the others. Herbicide companies do love it when people have this view of exotic species, and have been known to support native plant groups and push them toward chemical use to eradicate exotics.

There was a time in early American history when peach trees were aggressive enough on parts of the east coast that some people worried they were taking over the landscape in places. That was before pests and diseases caught up with them, some imported themselves but others adapting from native wild stone fruits. Now there are occasional naturalized peaches but they don't appear on any invasive species list. I imagine the same will happen eventually to the invasives of most concern today, more pests and diseases will come after them and balance the populations out, how long that will take is the big question, my guess is that species that have native relatives will have more pests/diseases move to the new species more quickly.

While I'm generally not in the nativist camp, there are certain aggressive species that I would never spread to new areas, because even if they will eventually come into balance, in the meantime I wouldn't want to chance it by adding one more stress to all the others going on in this era.
3 months ago
I'm in zone 6B, and as far as blueberries go I've had the best luck with rabbiteye varieties and a few southern highbush types. Northern highbush types are more fickle in these hotter summer climates. The ph does need to be acidic for them as has been mentioned. Hidden Springs Nursery is in your area, I've had good luck with their plants and they aren't too expensive either, they don't have all that wide a selection of varieties but the ones they do have tend to be good for organic growing in our zones.
3 months ago
I'm in MO just north of the AR border. I ordered and planted twelve from Foxgreen Farms in 2015. Only 3 survived the first year, although they were a bit neglected. Those three grew well in 2016, after I cleared and mulched around them. Since the Foxgreen plants are unsexed I wanted to get more to ensure we had both male and female for pollination, so I planted two more last spring (2017) from Indiana Berry. They started to grow and then unfortunately  died shortly thereafter, shortly after a period of torrential rains, the soil is well drained where they are but maybe all that water weas still too much for them to handle at that vulnerable a stage. The three older plants looked good through the spring and were 3-4 feet high by summer, but then in late summer what had been the biggest, healthiest looking one suddenly had half its growth die off, and the rest not look so great. The other two plants didn't look that well in the late summer/fall either. There was plenty of moisture at that time (it got dry later in the fall) but not excessive, and the summer was cooler than that of 2016 which the same plant thrived in, so I'm not sure what caused that. I'll see if any of them still look good next year, if they don't then I doubt I'll try them again unless I can find some that have thrived in a climate similar to or hotter than ours, everyone who I've heard has success with them seems to be in cooler climates. I'd love to try the fruit if any of them ever get big enough to produce.
3 months ago
Interesting Thread,

A couple of thoughts,

Not everyone thrives on the same diet. Diets were diverse even 10,000 years ago, depending on the environment that people lived in, there are many things in modern diets that weren't around 10,000 years ago, but there wasn't any single paleolithic diet. Evolution and adaptation of humanity never stopped and is continuing, but it can't keep pace with the rate of change in our modern world. Also, agriculture spread to different regions at different times, so depending on your own ancestry, you might have ancestors that were hunter-gatherers more recently than 10,000 years ago. The last 150 years have seen a particularly rapid change, adding so much toxic stuff to the environment, antibiotics to alter our microbiomes, and changes of food processing away from traditional ways (an example, before the introduction of baker's yeast, sourdough bread was the norm). I agree with Rebecca Norman that changes of diet aren't the only factor in food issues, other changes in our environments need to be looked at. Just talking to people of different generations in America is very revealing, the prevalence of food allergies have exploded in recent years, along with other conditions of immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune diseases. The microbiome has already been mentioned, that's huge, one issue rarely discussed is aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, there's increasing evidence that they're involved in conditions of immune dysfunction. Aluminum adjuvants are used specifically to stimulate the immune system, it's not too surprising that they end up stimulating it in unexpected ways as well.

I have to disagree with the idea that survival after reproduction means nothing in human evolution. That would be true in a species that don't take care of their young, but in humans there's often going to be a big difference in the welfare of a child with living, healthy parents than one with sick or dead parents. In the harsh times that shape evolution the most, the children with healthy parents will be at a particular advantage. While much less important than parents, surviving grandparents may even give an evolutionary advantage as well, as they can be helpful to the survival of the family as well, they can take care of grandkids and share their knowledge from a long life experience.
4 months ago
I give this nursery 2 out of 10 acorns.

I've had a similar experience, albeit not quite as bad, I did actually get my plants. They came way later in the year than they said, during the middle of an exteremely hot droughty summer, and most of them died soon even though I was watering them regularly. The surviving hazelnuts and chestnuts from Badgersett have not done as well as ones from other sources including Oikos Tree Crops that I planted the same year. They wouldn't respond to me either, I won't be ordering from them again.
In areas which have runoff from heavy downpours, swales capturing the water could provide pockets of more moisture for trees. I've only briefly been to the high plains, but noticed a lot of heavy clay in places which seemed like it could hold water well. However, in that sort of climate I wonder if building and restoring the soil in the landscape overall would mean there wouldn't be much runoff anymore to fill the swales. Cities/suburbs are a different matter since they have so much impervious surface area such as roads and roofs, which if diverted into the areas that still have soil would increase the soil moisture in those areas greatly, provided they have the soil to hold the extra captured runoff.

What could be done with the vast plains landscapes is an interesting question, and since most of my experience is in wetter climates I can't say for sure, it would be interesting to hear if anyone has gotten edible savannas to establish in such a climate. Prairies historically grew in many places that were wet enough to grow a variety of trees, Iowa for instance, and were kept open by a combination of fire and grazing herds of bison and elk. The plains of Colorado are much drier than Iowa, but even western Nebraska has some national forest areas that were planted on what was plains. I'd personally think that the most sustainable way to manage the expanses of the high plains would be predominantly as grassland with holistic management practices, with trees concentrated in the wetter parts of the landscape, both natural watercourses and pockets created by earthworks. The krater garden sounds like it could work well in windy areas of the high plains that are cold enough to get blowing snow in the winter that would tend to settle in the krater garden, which would include trees. Windbreaks also reduce water loss substantially in windy areas.

I'm a tree lover but also recognize more trees isn't always the answer. I'd think there could be more trees than there are now on the plains but the landscape will probably remain largely open (assuming the climate doesn't get unexpectedly wetter).
5 months ago
The book "Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land" by Gary Paul Nabhan may be of interest to you. He's studied desert farming in the American Southwest and has a lot of info about capturing runoff in dry climates.
5 months ago