Ask Geoff a question - Round 3

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by CraigMackintosh, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Donkey32

    Donkey32 Junior Member

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    For any of you who are interested, here is an mp3 file of just the audio portion of round 3.
    I've boosted the volume, cleaned out some of the noise and reduced the bit rate from 128 to 64 kb/s.
    The file is 25.3 Mb, which is MUCH smaller than the skype video (176.9 Mb) and good to go in your I-gizmo/mp3 player.
     
  2. wynot

    wynot Junior Member

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    Hi Ute,

    I'll gladly comment. Perhaps a little background first to give you an idea of my perspective. I was raised on an organic farm in northwestern Connecticut in the 60's and 70s. My parents were friends with Ruth Stout. I milked a few cows or goats and fed chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, geese, ducks etc. . . We raised maybe 60% of our food; all of our meat, vegetables and some of our fruit. My parents did not allow television, white flour or white sugar. We cut our own hay and often raked it by hand then stored it unbaled in the top floor of the barn. The house was built in in 1792 and the barn about 1860. The barn was built into a slope with three stories to the front and two to the back. Cows were milked on the bottom floor right next to the spring cooled milk room. There was a grain mixer on the top floor with a shute going to the bottom floor in order to feed the cows during milking. Growing up in such a place unconsciouscly instilled in me the value of designing systems that take advantage of what the location offers. Of course I did not become aware of how much this had impacted my world view until much later in life.

    I went to the state university for a degree in Natural Resources Conservation which pretty much bored me to tears. With the advantage of hindsight I can say that the education was mostly about maximum yield monoculture systems which left me cold, but I didn't really know why at the time. Systems thinking has come a long way since then! (not so much in the education system though) I currently am teaching what is essentially first year university Biology and a philosophy course called the Theory of Knowledge at an international school in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. After three years in UB my wife (she teaches ESL and is the schools College & Career Counselor) and I will be moving on to an international school in Bangelore, India. Ok, that is more than enough about me.

    We picked our site in SE Alaska with climate change, energy decline and increasing societal friction very much in mind. I had run a remote fishing lodge (400 miles northwest of Anchorage) and guided in Bristol Bay so had some direct experience, although not in SE prior to buying our place in 2010. As we teach overseas we have about 2 months in the summer to work on building our house and working on the grounds. Last summer we got the RHM built, and the place wired and insulated.

    As mentioned earlier the prior owners who homesteaded the place had put in some rudimentary drainage and done a tremendous amount of work pulling stumps, smoothing the ground and building several greenhouses. Already established is a small orchard, comfrey, rhubarb, mint, gooseberries, and a variety of native species. They made one major error by planting a grass that is something like timothy and was according to them supposed to grow 12"-18" tall (inches). Well. . . . to say it grows luxuriantly would be an understatement as it reaches heights in excess of 6 feet. One of our challenges is to get plants established that will outcompete the grass. In their efforts to combat it they had put down landscape cloth pretty much everywhere the sun hit the ground to no avail. 15 years later the landscape cloth is covered by 3" of organic matter and a lovely crop of that darn grass. I'll post more in a bit.
     
  3. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Thanks, wynot, for that detailed account. Interesting upbringing!
    I've started a new thread at https://forums.permaculturenews.org...ool-wet-summers-Experiences&p=98799#post98799

    I wonder what that grass is you are talking about :think:
    Do you have a photo?
    If it grows so terribly well, perhaps you could employ a grazing animal (geese? sheep?) to control it - obviously not an option as long as you are not settled there.
     
  4. French Island Farmer

    French Island Farmer New Member

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    Are you a Brazilian citizen? Free land is available in Brazil for the landless through the Sem Terra movement. Over 200,000 people have been settled on new farms, according to some reports. Members of the scheme receive a lot of Govt help to get established, and a subsidy for the first few yeats. You will need to join a Sem Terra group first.
     
  5. French Island Farmer

    French Island Farmer New Member

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    Susie, are you familiar will Bill Mollison's Permaculture Book 2 (from 1970s)? In it, he describes establishing gardens in the Central Australian desert - with photos and design details. It is a sandy area, with similar climate and rainfall to Botswana.
     
  6. Kara

    Kara New Member

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    Hello, I am looking for information.

    I am familiar with Geoff's work and have been following the YouTube videos for about four years now.

    We are fortunate enough to have 100 acres of land and I am interested in setting up a food forest where I live. This is in Quebec, Canada.

    What I need are some ideas of leguminous trees and shrubs to start planting that will survive in Zone 4 and our harsh Canadian winters. These plants are the ones that Geoff recommends to plant on soil that was dug out for trench purposes and piled on the side. The plants that are supposed to be cut and made into mulch to lay back down.

    While I understand legumes in the garden for fixing nitrogen, I know nothing about legume trees and shrubs for this area. Also our soil is mostly sand and we struggle with getting enough organic matter to add to the veg and flower gardens, despite having compost heaps and practice vermicomposting/vermiculture. So what would be ideal are plants, shrubs or trees we can continually cut down (and will regrow) to provide mulch and create soil.

    I would be grateful to anyone that could help me compile a list of plants for this project that would survive in Canada, and preferably native species.
     
  7. wynot

    wynot Junior Member

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    Hi Kara,

    Siberian Pea, Autumn Olive, Locusts, native Alder, birch come to mind right off.
     
  8. Kara

    Kara New Member

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    Alder? Wow, I never knew! So many people around here want to get rid of it because it makes walking through the bush difficult, especially during trout fishing season. Thanks so much, and if you think of any more let me know.
     
  9. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Would Autumn olive be winter hardy enough? I've spoken to folks in northern Germany who said their's were killed in a -12C frost.
    Also, birch is a light-hungry pioneer but it is not an N-fixer.
    Alder is great. Grows fast, can be coppiced for fuelwood, provides some pollen for bees, small seeds for overwintering birds, and produces a great N-rich leaf litter.

    I would check out False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia), honey locust (Gleditsia), sea buckthorn (Hipppophae) and Myrica species.

    You can check for hardiness here (range maps for a huge list of species including garden plants for Canada and US!)
    https://www.planthardiness.gc.ca/index.pl?m=13&lang=en&page=9&biomap=1

    If you go through the Fabaceae family list at https://www.planthardiness.gc.ca/index.pl?lang=en&m=5&familyid=93 you will find more N-fixing woody species.
    Plus check out Rhamnaceae at https://www.planthardiness.gc.ca/index.pl?lang=en&m=5&familyid=136
    Ceanothus, Rhamnus, Frangula all fix N.

    Note that those maps are climatic range maps only. Make sure the trees/shrubs you select are also suited to your soil(s).
     
  10. Kara

    Kara New Member

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    Thank you chook!

    I also have to search for salt tolerant species. Right across the road is a brackish water marsh, one of three on the peninsula. So, salt is in the air. And the ocean bay is about a 15 minute drive from the house. That's why we need salt tolerant species.

    Alder is great just for fixing nitrogen, and Lupins are wild around here. So I already have a couple of ''stories'' of plants easily at hand. There is also the humble field pea, with lovely purple flowers and teeny tiny peas. But they are not normally found with the Alders and other acid-loving species.

    But, the Alder here normally puts itself in boggy locations, so it likes acidic soil. And then if it is cut down for mulch on the swale bank, would it not contribute to acidic soil? If that is the case, should it all be planned for plants that like acidic conditions, such as blueberries?

    I was kind of hoping to be able to add Elderberry to this mix. What do you all think? Should I aim for an acid-loving plant scheme?
     
  11. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Kara, not all boggy ground is necessarily acidic. I presume that the alder around your area is Alnus serrulata which I believe thrives in ground that isn't all that acidic - more towards neutral, just like its European counterpart Alnus glutinosa. It does not acidify the soil. Elderberry likes the same kind of ground. How much salty winds it can take I don't know. We are about 10km inland from the Atlantic and get damaging salt storms once every so many years and the trees usually recover. What can thrive in your place depends on what soil you have on your land, on altitude, aspect etc. If you don't know test it or ask someone in the area who might know or get soil maps for your area, find your location and read up.
    As an aside, this thread is actually closed (though not physically so). To get more of a response I suggest you open a new thread with an appropriate header.
     
  12. wynot

    wynot Junior Member

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    Re: Birch as nitrogen fixer (was news to me as well)

    I'm going from our very own Permaculture News: https://permaculturenews.org/2012/08/18/insights-into-nitrogen-fixation-from-higher-order-taxonomy/

    snip: Now we arrive at the more familiar nitrogen fixing families, which have members that form nodules on their roots and partner with Rhizobia bacteria or Frankia actinomycetes (yeast-like bacteria). We know the legume family (Fabaceae) are the only group to partner with Rhizobia. Many seemingly diverse families contain at least some species that partner with Frankia, as a group these species are known as the actinorhizal nitrogen fixers. These families include:

    Betulaceae, the birch family.
    Myricaceae, the bayberry family.
    Casuarinaceae, the Australian “pines”.
    Elaeagnaceae, the oleasters.
    Rosaceae, the rose family.
    Rhamnaceae, the buckthorn family.
     
  13. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    Hi wynot,
    It's a case of "All cats are vertebrates. Not all vertebrates are cats." ;)
    Alder (Alnus sp.) is a member of the birch family (Betulaceae ), but it is the only member of that family to partner with Frankia.
    See https://web.uconn.edu/mcbstaff/benson/Frankia/Betulaceae.htm
    Actually, that page is a handy reference. The "Plant Links" on the top right lead to other Families (and species therein) that partner with Frankia.
    Best,
    Ute
     
  14. wynot

    wynot Junior Member

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    Yup, I stand corrected. Thanks!
     

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