Margie Nieuwkerk

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since Aug 02, 2011
Bulgaria, Zone 7/8
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Recent posts by Margie Nieuwkerk

The Grow Network has a good article about why NOT to use straw as mulch.

I read the article and initially thought that this was a bit alarmist.

Then I reviewed the success (or lack thereof) of the areas where I'd used straw in the past two years.

I ordered a bunch of bales this fall, in my barn now, just for the purpose of mulching.

Long story short, I decided to test bean germination.  One plate of beans with water, one plate with straw tea (straw soaked in water for a few days)

Here are the enlightening results:

the plain water beans - 28 germinated out of 39 beans
the wheat tea beans germinated 4 out of 34

The 4 wheat tea bean sprouts are very small and stunted one of them 1/2 cm, the others less than 1/4 cm, the plain water ones look normal, most about 1/4 cm to a cm

I am going to recommend others do the same if they plan to use straw as mulch.  This also means that the straw from my chicken coop and rabbit pen can't be used as I had initially planned. 

1 year ago
IS it possible to mosaic the bench part of the heater along the lines of some of the projects here ? I am thinking it would be quite a bit of work but might make it easier to clean the surface, and also make an aesthetically pleasing "piece-a-furniture". Would it block heat?

Has anyone tried it?
2 years ago
Great video, thanks So Much!!!

Regarding the experimental pepple style RMH:

For the "bypass" Is there a good close up of how the bypass works? or maybe a little diagram? We are trying to figure out how to construct that and can't quite make it out.

Also for the "bubble" - is this an extension of the burn tube with a lid on top, or does it have a particular shape? is there a drawing of how the bubble relates to the burn tube?

2 years ago
Kochia plants make GREAT outdoor brooms!

If you take two or 3 kochia plants at maturity, either dry them or wait for them to be dried, tie them together from the root end going up about a foot or two, these make fantastic outdoor brooms. This is what they do in my village here. For outside on patio and drive areas, there is no broom that is better. I think you use about 3 of them in a year. I would imagine if you chop kochia down before it goes to seed, they would make a really nice chop and drop mulch as well.

I am going to try it this year. I am also thinking of planting some in little short rows as windbreaks for some of my other stuff and see if it works.
2 years ago

Stefan Sobkowiak wrote:Sorry it's hard to summarize 20 years of learning into 2 hours!!

Whattabout a series then? Could be a 2 or 3 or 4 part series?

Anyways, not to stress you out, I am delighted that you did this video, and as soon as my next pay comes in I will order it, and I know I will see it many many times.

If you don't do another one, I will be ok, but if you decide that you would LIKE to do another video, count me in!
3 years ago
Me too, would love another film on integrating animals into the orchard! I was considering doing a chicken tractor, but i think my trees are still too small and will not provide enough shade for the chickens, and it does get very very hot here in July and August.
3 years ago

Stefan Sobkowiak wrote:
Margie I tried to scythe in the beginning. Buccolic, romantic, great exercise. After a few 500 foot rows I realized this is WORK and I had another 25 rows to go!!
Small is beautiful. Grow the grass that grows best in your area. Look at what grows along the sides of the ditches. That's usually a good indicator of what is best suited for your conditions. Use the grass to chop and drop. We now use mow and blow as a faster version of chop and drop. Maybe you should just grow herbs and vegetables in the rows if it is small enough to maximize your yield. That's how you can be profitable from year 1.

OMG! Well, my place is much smaller, i have about 1/2 acre and a part of it is my orchard. Sounds like a good plan on the chopping and dropping of the grass, and I am also trying to grow something called Herniaria Glabra in hopes that this could work as low growing herb but that can be walked on. perhaps what I'll do is do several rows with different plantings and see what works best. Thank you for all your input!!
3 years ago
Stefan! Thank you sooooo much for taking the time and resources to make the video. I am really excited about it and your orchard looks wonderful. I can't wait to see the video!
3 years ago
Hi Stefan! I'm in Bulgaria, so different climate to yours, but I am wondering what grass you grow between the rows and how often you mow? It looks all green and lush!

I am trying to do everything small scale, no electric or gas run equipment, so I would have to scythe, and would like to keep it to a minimum. Do you have a slow growing grass? Do you think Buffalo grass would be ok?
3 years ago
I am not in the same zone as you, but i have a couple of suggestions that i think would work

A. Check out "winter sowing" online. i used to have lots of failures till i sowed my seeds in this way, and things come out really strong and PUNKY! Almost EVERYTHING comes up and is healthy.

B. start looking at taking tree cuttings - I also recommend signing up for Mike McGroarty's free newsletter. He does not do permaculture, but he really really knows how to propagate from cuttings for really cheap. Here is a link for that, he offers a course (pretty cheap) which i have not bought, i find his videos very helpful That way you can start providing lots of trees and shrubs for others. here's a short video with mike showing an easy way of doing it.

C. What I have found that grows really easy and should do well where you are as well is:

lemon balm
jerusalem artichoke

like i don't have to do anything for those. the oregano and thyme are easily divided so you can have more clumps, same with mints and lemon balm.

Elderberry is great, the leaves, flowers and berries can all be used. This spring I pruned one of mine back and just stuck the twigs in the soil. They all rooted. So in one square foot you could have 10 elderberry starts. this is the same for many other trees and shrubs as well.

Here's a really good way of getting chestnuts and hazelnuts in volume; Crazy guy but smart idea

raspberries and blackberries are quite easy to propagate as well.

3 years ago