Mycotopia

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by NGcomm, Jan 21, 2014.

  1. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Hi all, well I have been on the forum for over 18 months now and not written up about my property very much, so thought it high time I start.

    My partner, Jennie, and I bought our 7 acre block (3.1 hectares) just over three years ago. The property is located in Cowra, NSW, and has a Mediterranean climate, coolish in winter with the odd 0 degree nights and up to 40+ in summer. Just last week we had a few days of 40+ but we just get up at 5am, do our work before 9 and then chill for the rest of the day till evening and do some more. We both still work in Canberra and are moving to three days a week so we can develop the property further and build over the next one to two years.

    The desire for the property came about after we converted a normal suburban block in Canberra into a show piece that was displayed in Australian Open Gardens under the concept of 'feed the family'. It utilised permaculture principles, water harvesting and the removal of all the grass and driveways which were replaced with around 35 fruit trees, a variety of vegetable beds and berries plus a heap of other edibles. We had the largest turnout for an Open Gardens in that year, which got me thinking how interested people were in growing their own produce in cities.

    An important lesson while building that garden came about when I got a heap of soil delivered and six months later there were still no weeds. It worries me when soil doesn't grow weeds. I know it's better to not have weeds but if there is nothing in the soil including weeds, then it's an issue in my mind. This got me on to studying up on soil biology and mycelia in particular. Every book of Paul Stamets later, plus six months, and I had brilliant soil once I understood that it had been pasteurised in the so called 'compost' process. By adding back the biology I turned it back into real soil. I have since gone on to develop a variety of soil biology practices while using the farm as our test bed. Consequently the name of our property and this rave, Mycotopia.

    I'll get some pictures, vids and stories up as we move forward with the project and hope at least one person will find some value in what we have to share.
     
  2. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    More study

    In Lismore for a week of one on one microscope study at the Soil Foodweb Institute at the Southern Cross University. It is an extension of a workshop I did with them a few months ago on compost, compost teas and microscope assay analysis of the samples.

    Might seem a bit weird but I find nothing sexier than watching a nematode devour a fungal thread and release its goodies - and knowing that the soil sample is from around my two year old fruit trees. :blush:
     
  3. helenlee

    helenlee Junior Member

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    What an awesome story you have there NGcomm :)
    Brilliant effort with the Canberra property make-over :)
    I can't say I found anything even vaguely sexy about the Soil Foodweb Institute :) but it sure as hell is one of the most interesting & inspiring places I've ever been. You'll love your time there :)
    Thanks for sharing this bit of your story & looking forward to the updates :)
     
  4. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Well, there is high interest then. Good news. I'll have to check out Paul Stamets thanks.
     
  5. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Rick, Stamets is an entree to Dr Elaine Ingham 12 course meal when it comes to soil biology.
     
  6. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Just finished a week up at Soil Foodweb in the lab training as a lab technician. An interesting week behind the microscope doing assays on a variety of samples. Some we had done ourselves by adding different products to compost and then reviewing the growth changes over after two days.

    Came across some very interesting fungal spores that looked like wagon wheels and then on the last day actually saw some these spores start to grow out a very cool looking hypha. Not a great piece of fungus as it was only around 2 micro-meters and white but still nice to see a different spore doing its thing.

    We visited a football ground in Byron Bay that needed restoration and checked out the compaction. After some penetrometor and brix testing we developed an approach to get some bacteria in there to open it up and stop the compaction, then get some fungal and protozoa brews in to improve the food source and get the natural nitrogen cycling happening. Save their $15,000 per annum on dynamic lifter and another $5-8 in fertiliser costs by replacing it with their own brewer. Will be fun to see how feeding the soil instead of the plants worked out for them.
     
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  7. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Mycotopia part 2

    Back at our 'farm'.

    We watched the farm for close to a year before doing anything to it. Then I planted out around 600 wind break trees, mostly acacia and euci. These were planted in sections to protect the property from the southerly winds in winter, the north westers in summer plus a section down by the road to absorb road noise. During that winter I also started planting out some fruit trees. Both the fruit trees and the wind break trees were fed with endomycorrhizal spores when they were planted which gave them a nice kick along. The soil is pretty bad but some of the acacia and euci, which started as tube stock (150-200 mm) are hitting three meters now.

    We put a double garage on the back of the property and set it up as our weekend hut while we went about working on the property. As you can imagine, not a lot happened over the first couple of years with only having weekends to do things, so it came down to spending our holidays out there and then heading back to work for a rest :)

    This is a shot from about half way down the property looking down towards the road. The property has a rise of approximately 25 meters from the roadway to the top of the hill.
    View attachment 2293

    And here is the start of the planting, as you can see all the trees are shorter than the skirts and in the two years, four months since then, most are over two meters and quite a few heading for three meters plus.
    View attachment 2294

    Last April was probably our biggest change to the property when, as the excavator driver noted, we had an Armish gathering. Well not really, a heap of friends and family came out over easter and helped us plant out our swales which had just been dug.

    I did a dam building course with Geoff and a couple of months later found a good driver close by. The property has the contour running almost straight across the width of it, around 150 meters. So we cut a new road on contour plus two swales and two diversion drains. The diversion drains picked up the water from the back and upside properties and fed them to two new dams. The swales were planted out front and back with fruit, paulownia and carob trees plus oak and pine trees put in between the swales to set up sight lines to hide the property next door and provide shading on summer afternoons. The trees were layered to provide stepped shading of the swale during summer. The combination of evergreen and deciduous trees was included to provide coverage in summer and openness in winter. As is standard the swales were also covered in hay and planted out with leguminous plants which have helped stabilise the soil and provide some food for the microbes.

    Picture of the swales just after digging with some of the trees planted
    View attachment 2295

    Swales after about three months and some nice rains
    View attachment 2296

    And a picture from the top of the property looking down on the dam showing the new grasses, some of the acacia and the dam grasses
    View attachment 2297
     

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  8. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Interesting NG. Questions: What power microscope are your using? Where do you think that wagon wheel fungal spore came from? Did you not inject any trees with the spores for comparison? How far do you think these microbes will spread from where they are planted?



    I just made a deal with a barber to get hair for composting, what do you think of that?
     
  9. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Hi Rick. The magnification normally used for biota analysis is 400x (10x eye-piece and 40x lens), my scope goes up to 1000x and has phase contrast to help make the biology 'pop' out of the plate. Not sure where the spore came from, it could have been via the wind (the most common vector) but it wasn't in the reference sample so my guess is that it was in the food additive which was a triple mix fish hydrolysate. However, we put the reference sample aside along with the samples the spores were found in so they can grow out for a few more days and will re-examine. To put it with a tree would take a year or more to indicate its non/beneficial status. However, the morphology of the hypha coming from the spore indicated that it wasn't of direct benefit to the plant except as a food source to protozoa and nematodes which would then release the nitrogen for the tree. Normally a fungus that would bind with the cells of the tree (ectomycorrhiza) and feed minerals (especially P) to the tree have a wider hypha, around 3 plus and are brown, most of them having septa. With regards to the distance, it depends, but most large scale inoculations of broad-acre properties do strips of one in five, meaning that for every five meters there is a meter of inoculation. Some fungus grow for hundreds of meters, Paul Stamets references a 2,400 acre mycelium bed that was 2,200 years old. In my situation on the farm I have two systems going, one a meter around the trees which have fungal dominated compost, wood shavings mixed with old mushroom culture and specific spores surrounded by a strong bacterial mix for the grasses. This makes the roots go out about a meter and hit the grass area which has a totally different pH and biology, this forces them down instead of out. If you have the same soil, water and plant type over a large area the biology, including bacteria, will be transported about by micro and macro arthropods (mites, worms, spiders etc.) so the travel distance can by 100's of meters. It simply depends on the plants and their exudates and the supporting arthropods to what distance they will travel - a bird eats a worm with a billion bacteria in its gut and has a shit 20 kilometers away....
     
  10. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Wow NGcomm, thanks for all the information. Your expertise is stimulating many ideas for our dry climate place.
     
  11. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    great top mulch as it takes ages to break down. however, i sure hope it is undyed and unpermed hair...
     
  12. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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  13. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    How do you validate the results and get them to pay? How do you prove that the aforementioned techniques have the results you propose?
     
  14. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    Hi S.O.P - a few ways. Firstly we do a compaction test with a penetrometer and a brix test and record the results and most of the time a section of the 'old' format is left aside as a reference point. Also a LOT of photos are taken to provide a 'before' and 'after' type approach. I think I mentioned to you that is how I'm doing it with a wetland area for our local government in Canberra who have a lot of hassle with the growing and survival rate of plants. I set aside an area to be managed so they have a visual reference to the change. Plus I take weekly photos of the two systems to include in the reports I provide them.

    The rugby field has around 8 weeks before a match is played on it and by laying down a black strap molasses and a bacterial brew, to help open up the soil, we believe we can provide a softer field, better grass growth and decomposition of the dead grass both on the field and surrounding it than the reference area in that time frame. As they will be doing their own brews, the composts will be made for them until they get up to speed with making their own.

    Re the payment, they pay for soil biology analysis, the compost, the compost brewer and time, just like any other commercial activity. If it doesn't work for them, there is no repeat business. Maybe around $2,000 up front then around $1,000 per annum once they do their own brews and make their own composts. They figure that is a fair gamble considering the potential savings in top dressing and fertiliser costs which is killing them for close to $20,000 per annum at the moment.
     
  15. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    The photos and methods are trade secrets? I've never seen a Footy Club managing a compost pile so that's worth a photo, surely.
     
  16. NGcomm

    NGcomm Junior Member

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    lol good point S.O.P. :clap:

    No, nothings a trade secret. Just information that is out there and available to all but the footy club managing a compost heap - it may be that the savings will inspire them to do it, we can only wait and see.... if not, then they can buy it instead, after all, people are lazy.
     
  17. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    Incorporate the compost turning into the training routine
     
  18. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Thats what I'm doing, an excercize routine! 'Cept its a little cold right now... Really, is there much else anyone can be doing right now that is more important/beneficial?
     
  19. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Well, if it's not a commercially-sensitive, any chance of seeing the side by sides or before and afters of compaction being reduced through bacteria?
     
  20. vinetime

    vinetime New Member

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    I'm completely new to this forum and saw a few of your posts on other threads ngcomm which I read with much interest. I've just completed my first SFI course and am hoping to do the lab/microscope courses at Lismore in the near future. I'm 4 weeks into a Permaculture Design Certificate (20 years after leaving my permaculture farm), am Project Manager for ground cover crop trials in vineyards on the Granite Belt and am working on a 10, possibly 60 acre biodiversity revegetation project. Looking to incorporate compost/compost tea in the large scale native planting project. I'm trying to find the details of Jack Waterman to buy a 50L brewer from him. Could you please provide them to me? Thanks in advance! Back to reading more posts...
     

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