Martin Hart

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since Sep 23, 2011
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Recent posts by Martin Hart

Wow, there certainly is a wide range of experiences on the subject. We recently had a little springtime outbreak of fleas, which we attribute to letting the neighbor's cat come visit a fair bit this last winter. I was about to do a web-search on non-toxic flea control, and fleas + 'diatomaceous' earth came to mind. Paul's article was at the top of the search, which made sense, as I'd read it a year or two before. I went and found some DE the next day. We'd both been scratching ourselves raw on our lower legs, and somewhat around the mid-rif, and were starting to see fleas jump onto us now and again. My wife put out flea traps immediately, and was catching a few a day. I don't think we were having a serious outrbreak compared to some of the descriptions I have read here, where people have a lot of animals, but it was very, very annoying. What's more, they were hitchhiking in my travel bag and were now in both of our homes and my car.

Anyhow, we dusted all of our floors with food-grade DE wearing disposable paper dust-masks, shaking it out if an herb shaker, (keeping it low to the ground to get less of it airborne) pretty thoroughly covering the carpets, including under the furniture and beds. By this point the neighbor's cat wasn't welcome to visit indoors, but when he'd pop by the patio, with the neighbor's permission, we'd dust Mr. Kitty and completely massage the DE into his fur. We dusted both the front and back decks, and the routes through the lawn where animals pass through the yard when it was dry outside. We laundered our linens and dusted them, and washed all the clothes in the house, dusting the shelving where they are kept. We also gave some DE to the neighbor for him to do the same to his place. We have a vacuum with a hepa-filter, and vacuumed every few days, then generously reapplied DE to the floors immediately afterward. I dusted inside my travel bag, and the carpets in my car. We also applied the DE to our legs, and shook some into our pant legs, shoes, etc. Within a few weeks, we were flea-free, and haven't had a recurrence since - this was a couple of months ago. So it sounds like it doesn't work for everyone, but it sure worked like a charm for us. We encountered no respiratory issues, whatsoever, perhaps by keeping the jar low while dusting with DE, and wearing a dust mask while doing so. Thanks Paul, for yet another handy-dandy, quick and non-toxic solution!
5 years ago
I really benefited from reading your article on lawn care. My partner lives in a small house with a large yard, and one of the conditions of the rental agreement is that the lawn be maintained. When she moved in, the lawn was dried out and not very healthy; full of weeds, spotty, and concrete-ish in summer. We got rid of the bagging mower, and now mulch the clippings straight back into the yard. After reading this article last summer, I began slowly raising the deck on the mower, so that it wouldn't appear patchy, as it grows at different speeds in different areas. I am now one stop from the top. Granted, we are in the PNW and this is not a very dry summer, but in previous years, the lawn would dry out quite quickly as soon as the sun came out for a few days. Now it is significantly thicker (we can't resist walking around in it barefoot) it requires no water whatsoever, is out-competing the weeds, plus neighbors stop by and ask what we are doing to have such a lush, healthy lawn. Really, the answer is that we raised the deck on the mower and don't bag the grass clippings.

Meanwhile, moles have moved into the neighborhood, which at first I was worried about, and did some research as to how to get rid of them... Turns out, there's not much you can effectively do, so we re-adjusted our thinking and now thank them for the excellent potting soil which we collect immediately, and add a bit of vermiculite and compost to... Makes great soil for our garden starts...
6 years ago
Paul, I really like the thought experiment, and your scale from animal-grade food, through to HUSP.  This summer I had clients along on a sailing trip, who are first-nations land claims lawyers, who had quite a thorough knowledge of some of the local history of the 'Salish Sea', (US San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands).  It was on this trip that I was introduced to the notion that first nations people were involved in long-term, sustainable aquaculture that went far beyond what's imagined.  Clam shells, which in quantity, are known as shell middens, were used to terra-form terrestrial and aquatic features to create large tidal pools, which in turn support larger clam populations as they are harvested, provide fresh fish with tide changes, crab, reeds, waterfowl, the list goes on and on, but it's essentially a pantry for an entire village.  On our trip we bumped into an Anthropologist who was running an excavation at Dionisio Point, on the northern tip of Galliano Island.  In our conversation, he mentioned that the former village site at that location would have housed approximately 300-600 souls, and that their small aquatic ranch would easily have provided enough food for 10 times as many people.  Remember also that there was an abundance of wild seafood, right off the beach. 

The surplus would have been taken by canoe to the North Arm of the Fraser river among other places, where it would have been traded with people of the same nation who did commerce with other nations further upriver, where there were different food sources than in the coastal islands.  These were affluent people living with abundance, pure air, water and food, with a rich lifestyle enhanced by trading alliances with other people with complimentary commodities.  Maybe not an Eden, but not too bad, either, considering that it was able to be carried on for thousands of years.
7 years ago
My girlfriend developed a significant deer problem this summer, with two young bucks and a doe that decided that her garden was actually theirs, and were eating pretty much everything, in exchange for their generous gift of e-coli on what they didn't eat or trample.  As urban deer, these young punks weren't even remotely afraid of her, and wouldn't move even if she made menacing gestures while shouting.  She was getting ready to break the law and make venison steaks out of them, she was so frustrated. 

Because the home is a rental, and we're always on a limited budget with even greater time constraints, she didn't want to invest a lot of time and money into a huge fencing project.  I did a little research, and found what I was looking for.

I wound up picking up a motion-activated sprinkler.  It's just like a motion sensor for a light, but it activates a sprinkler, so it's a creative solution.  It is activated by a nine-volt battery, which is supposed to last for 4 months.  The manufacturer suggests keeping the sensitivity down so that the sprinkler isn't going off when the deer at at a longer distance.

By keeping the unit set to a lower sensitivity, the deer are close enough to be both surprised, and hit with a jet of sprinkler water when the unit is triggered.  They go airborne, sideways...  They really don't seem to enjoy the unit as much as we do    I picked our sprinkler up for $50 at a local hardware store - it is called a scarecrow.  We haven't lost so much as another leaf out of the garden to large grazers, and it keeps out Mr. Kitty from next door, who until recently, thought that a vegetable garden was also a litter box.  No more poop, no more grazing, just beautiful, yummy veggies. 

Cheers!

Jeremy
7 years ago
I've got mixed opinions on the subject.  I've split hundreds of cords of wood by hand, and enjoyed it, but at various times my father would get his hands on some very gnarly Manitoba Maple.  Splitting a single, large piece of that particular kind of wood could literally take an hour, using a maul / sledghammer and a whole set of metal splitting wedges.  I finally gave up and asked to have a splitter rented, as it would have taken me weeks to split the same amount of the Manitoba maple wood, that I could normally have worked through in a couple of afternoons with 'normal' wood.  Otherwise, for most purposes, I've enjoyed using hand tools over power tools in yard maintenance and wood heating preparation.  While chainsaws are fast as heck, it's an ever-present thought when using them that if a chain breaks or some other worst-case scenario unfolds, it may be your last time using any tool whatsoever.

Same goes with tractors.  I don't think it makes sense to say that on a small property, one necessarily 'needs' a tractor, but it's something I wouldn't want to do without, on a multi-acre property.  For the few gallons of fuel burnt per year, and yes, with a diesel that might just be veggie oil, the amount of work that can be accomplished is astonishing.  I'm not afraid of hard work, but with a bad back, shovelling tons of compost to heat water, etc, or digging dozens of post holes, is simply not going to happen at this stage in my game without some power assistance. 

And earth moving work?  Seriously...  All you need to do to answer this one for yourself is move about 50 or so cubic yards of dirt around with a shovel and wheelbarrow, over the course of a week.  Then watch someone do the same thing with a one thousand dollar, 50 year old tractor or dozer in less than an hour. 

I'd rather use that time improving my gardens, marketing my business, or reading a book, thanks...  Mind you, to anyone who wants to pick up a shovel for 50 hours, I say, be my guest...

PS - most of my friends who own heavy equipment such as tractors and dozers, etc, purchased them very old and used, find them cheap and easy to maintain, don't use them very often,  yet find them indispensable a few times a year and barter their time on these machines with neighbors, for things like homemade wine, pies, preserves, or what have you, or that same old, worn-out $50 dollar bill that keeps circulating around the neighborhood... 

7 years ago
I love the concept, and thank you for the videos etc as to how to build this!!  I am considering this, and also wrapping the ducting with copper hose to heat water that would be circulated through radiant flooring, the hot water heater, and out to the greenhouse via solar / photovoltaic driven pumps to maximize the heat capture...  Any thoughts, or experiences from those who've done it?
7 years ago
I've just  bumped into this forum, and have found 'more & better' information here in a few hours than I'd found in weeks of stumbling around the internet...  Between the 'Rocket mass' heating systems, and the forums on chicken rearing alone, this site is the best I've seen, and the knowledge base seems to go on and on...

So far, we are semi-urbanites who grow a productive garden that yields salad greens all summer and a bit extra for canning; we run a delightful composter that makes the soil oh-so-happy.  We both have small-farm roots, and are finding our way back to that.  We have a desire to own a property that is self-sufficient, and eventually profitable (self-sufficient would satisfy that requirement) - in the meantime, this site looks like a great source of information as we go about our transition!!

J&S
7 years ago