Wood Stove Wondering/Wanderings

A steady, light rain softens the recently, hard frozen soil. Soon, male Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica) will be quacking their mating songs, full of high hopes for bringing forth a new generation.     This welcomed singing always occurs on rainy nights in February: tonight may be the night!

1st Snow

1st Snow

If so, we will hear it, and together Chiwa and I will rendezvous on our front porch, wrap arms around each other, smile, and be delighted. This, we’ll say, marks the passage of another revolution of our beloved gem of a celestial body; Mother Earth, around the sun…

An Unusual 12'incher

An Unusual 12’incher

We first inoculated our small, permaculture class -built, pond with local tadpoles, around 20 years ago. We re-inoculate via tadpoles, as we are able; always in the spring, and are choosy to exclude Bull-frog and Green Frog, since these two large species lay in wait, and consume the much smaller Wood and Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs (Hyla crysoselis), as well as the tiny “toadlets” of American Toad (Anaxyrus* americanus americanus).
*(previously known as Rana)
        (No wonder frogs are on my mind)! We are house-sitting a Greenhouse frog (a Cuban species that has naturalized in Florida) while our friends are spending a month in Ecuador.
After an unusual Autumn, with colder, then warmer than usual temperatures, winter finally arrived with much colder, prolonged low temperature weather (conditions we -at Barefoot Permaculture -have not experienced in our 27 years in place).

Honey Mushrooms

As winter softens into early spring, it will be interesting to find out which plants survived and which may not recover. Already, our 5 year old Dunstan Grapefruit looks strongly stricken (no unscathed leaves).

Autumn Bounty

Early last fall, a collared (for tracking) mama Black Bear, with three full grown (2 year) cubs, appeared, and decided our’s was a good area to frequent. Theirs’ was the first notable, large predator damage to our gardens and orchard!

Mama Keeping Watch

Mama Keeping Watch

The bears first discovered one of our Asian persimmons (Eureka). Fortunately for us, the fruit, being not fully ripe, left an astringent taste in the mouth. Our first notification of the Bears’ intent, was 7 persimmons, with chomps taken out, scattered around the base of the shrub-tree.

Bear Scat

We knew, from past year’s experience, that Persimmons (especially Asian) will ripen off the tree. We immediately picked the 30 (or so) remaining fruit, as well as our Nikita’s Gift (a Russian cross between our native Diasporus virginiana and an Asian persimmon).

Paw-Paw and Figs

American persimmons taste deep, rich, and complex. Asian persimmons are all nicely delicious. Nikita’s Gift persimmons are Luscious!

Asian Pears

With the bear’s warning of intent to eat, we were able to save most of the Eureka and all the Nikita’s Gift persimmons (22 or so).
All ripened very nicely inside!

Autumn Figs

Our heavily fruited bronze Muscadine was not so fortunate: the bears took all the fruit, as well as breaking the upper horizontal trellis.

Sweet Potato Vole Feast

We picked the few apples left, and that cleaned out our orchard for the season. The bears then polished their palate on a previously beautiful clumping of Parsley (pulling them up with their roots, and just chomping a bite or two). Then, they left for the season…

Vole-proof Sweet Potatoes

The wood frogs have indeed appeared, and have been singing up a storm – that now sits upon these southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. The heavy rain pulses on and off. The temperature has softened to moderate, so no need for our wood stove.
We’ve had our coffee, and all feels well…

Last Moment Picking

 

 

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July Musings in an Urban Oasis

Mid-summer in the Southeastern Appalachians of Western North Carolina: Barefoot Gardens and Orchards (in east Asheville) are many shades of plush green and hoped for promise. (Much attention and work precedes and weaves throughout the hope)!

Successful Grafts onto European Pear

With our orchard beginnings 22 years ago, we learn more and more each season.   For instance… everyone loves fruit.

Successful Apple Graft

Everyone! Two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged ones, and others. For example, we have avian dynasties that go back to the late 90’s: in particular, Catbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Robins. All are prodigious fruit eaters. Each spring they return, start building nests, and proceed to raise up to three successful nestings. They know that all of the fruit belongs to them:

I’ve attempted to tell them that the fruit is not wild, and, in truth, is well attended, yet thus far, they pretend to not understand H. sapiens sounds.

Early Blossoms, Semi-Late Snow

These three are joined by other bird varieties, and most (almost all) of the small fruit (cherries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, wineberries, goumi’s, blackberries, mulberries, serviceberries, blueberries, grapes, and elderberries) are bird-consumed.

Unless, of course, we cover specific fruit with bird netting. And we do this some, mostly on the blueberries, and sometimes on the cherries and grapes.

And then, as if to rub it in our faces, they begin to peck and feed upon the larger fruit: peaches, pears (Asian and European), and apples.

It’s a stiff yearly tax we pay, to grow abundance in an urban oasis.

Bear Scat, under Apple Tree

And, of course, this is the challenge of just the feathered ones! Alongside, in order of severity,  are insects, squirrels, voles (underground-dwelling, root eating rodents), bears, and woodchucks.

Handsome, Healthy Youngster

Handsome, Healthy Youngster

It is difficult to grow fruit organically in the southeast, due to high humidity, and it’s resultant disease issues. With the selection of specific resistant varieties, along with various cultural practices, we are able to lessen the disease issues.

What we have little control over, are the issues in the first paragraphs of this article: namely, producing such lush abundance in a semi-forested, urban environment.

Turmeric as Annual Crop

In Permaculture, we teach, that in Nature, are no unfilled niches, no unused food sources. A surefire and easy way to design for complexity, is to create niches: Nature will fill them (complexity is a result).

Our Own Eggs

At Barefoot Gardens, we have created lusciously complex and productive ecosystems, including food forests, interspersed orchards and gardens, medicinal and culinary herbs, honeybees, chickens, zone 5 wild space, as well as home economies of pottery studio and kilns, and Shaker-style broom making space.

Eureka Asian Persimmons

In spite of the fairly extensive fruit predation, we do harvest and consume some berries, pears (Asian and European), several varieties of apple, Asian  and American Persimmon, Paw-paw, some native Hazel nuts and Black Walnuts (not to mention summer garden foods).

Bill Mollison said “if you have fruit, you have friends”.

Welcoming the Day, at Garden Center

In spite of all the natural fruit predation, we do have fruit, and friends as well. And yet, at times I wonder… if we had more fruit to share with our fellow two-leggeds… would we have also an enhanced, super abundance of good and loving friends?… Plenty enough to share with others?…

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Snowy Day Musings and Wonderings

Hawthorne Forest, near the Mountains to Sea Trail

Hawthorne Forest, near the Mountains to Sea Trail

Incredibly dry 2016 growing season, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. From mid-May through early July: no measurable rainfall.

Two weeks of medium rainfall in July, then again, no measurable moisture until late October.

Hawthorne Berries: Tincture Bound

Hawthorne Berries: Tincture Bound

Amazing, that in such dry conditions, anything would grow and fruit; yet some things did well in spite of the dryness. Pie cherries (our first harvest in 5 years) were a bumper crop; tomatoes (our own saved seed) were abundant; Sweet Red Peppers and Jalapeños were off the charts delicious and prolific; and winter squash (variety Mochata) were pleasantly abundant.

Chiwa's Delight! First Pie Cherries in several years!

Chiwa’s Delight! First Pie Cherries in several years!

Winter Squash and Peppers

Winter Squash and Peppers

Chiwa’s idea of turning upright, 35 gallon steel barrels into “raised beds”, which we filled with soil, biochar, and humanure compost, pumped out several 3&1/2 pound sweet potatoes, along with some 2&1/2 pounders; absolutely delighting us and totally frustrating the Voles.

Chiwa and Her 3 &1/2 Pounders

Chiwa and Her 3 &1/2 Pounders

After last years’ bear/hen episode, we went in with our wonderful neighbors (and their new electric fence)  and co-raised 30 new day-old chicks, hens-to-be. The youngsters stayed behind the protective fencing for their first 10 weeks, then 15 of these young “sweetlets” moved into our hen yard, along with our three elder hens.

First Snow Moments for our Young Hens

First Snow Moments for our Young Hens

Looking Towards the Hen Yard

Looking Towards the Hen Yard

At 24 weeks, the pullets started laying a beautiful assortment of eggs, all from organic feed. (b.t.w.,18 chickens consume 50 pounds of organic feed in 21 days, @ $35/bag).

Eggs Delight: Seven Varieties of Hen

Eggs Delight: Seven Varieties of Hen

We enlisted several dear friends to assist us in paying for the food: there are enough delicious eggs for all! Although, this time of year, with the low number of daylight hours, the “girls” have dropped from an average of 13 to 7 eggs/day. Still, we are happy… and one doesn’t need a TV when chickens are part of the landscape!

Other news:

Eureka Persimmons: Luscious and Delicious!

Eureka Persimmons: Luscious and Delicious!

A wonderful Persimmon year at Barefoot Permaculture: Eureka Asian Persimmons were luscious and abundant. Mama bear and her 2 healthy looking cubs, having visually discovered the abundant fruit, hastened our harvest time by a few days. In the process, we learned that persimmons, well on the way to ripening, will continue ripening indoors. Yum!

Mama & Youngsters; Bypassing the Persimmons

Mama & Youngsters; Bypassing the Persimmons

Curculio (insect) damage to our apples, caused by my not spraying them with Surround (Organic Kaolin clay) in time, was extremely widespread and disastrous. We suffered a huge loss for whole, ripe apples…

Curculio Damage to Young Apple

Curculio Damage to Young Apple

After a “dwindling” loss to our newest, swarm captured hive, our “no-treatment” Honeybees are down to 1 hive. This HoneyBee Unity seems to be doing well: we shall see as the season progresses.

We harvested 20 gallons of 2 year old, finished and matured, humanure compost, as well as several more 5 gallon buckets of last years’ kitchen and garden compost.

Humanure Compost: Aged Two Years

Humanure Compost: Aged Two Years

We grew as well as wild-harvested, plants, such as Hawthorne, Ashwagandha, Jiagulan,  and Passiflora for use in tinctures, as well as harvesting Elderberries (and freezing the fruit) for use in Elderberry Syrrup.

We feel rich, as well as deeply entwined in our ecosystem: a respectful, benevolent presence, partaking and giving back…

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Barefoot Permaculture in Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

In mid-January, 2016, I traveled to Yangon, Myanmar for a 2 week project; teaching Composting and Sustainable Soil Management. The host organization was a large grower’s association: Myanmar Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association (MFFVPA).

Two areas were selected for the teachings: in the middle of the country, near Lake Inle (4000 ft. elevation) and in Yangon (close to sea level).

The first group was composed of mostly vegetable growers; some very large scale. The second group was mostly fruit growers.

Prior to each 2 day class, I visited some of the farms, in order to observe what was being done (growing conditions and available resources): this way, I was able to tailor the teachings appropriately (to the circumstances).

Manure Piles as Soil Food

Manure Piles as Soil Food

For the first group, I observed some good practices, such as returning chicken manure to the fields, and some toxic practices, such as the use of Roundup (glyphosate), which is toxic enough by itself, yet made worse by a lack of “safety” equipment.

Timeless and Modern Appropriate Technology

Timeless and Modern Appropriate Technology

Due to the large scale of some of the farms, tractors were used, as well as some smaller scale, walk-behind, appropriately designed, equipment.

On a nearby field, was a farmer with an ox drawn, hand made wooden plow.

Timeless Appropriate Technology

Timeless Appropriate Technology

In both instances, the majority of the furrow making and planting was performed by numerous farm workers; mostly young women and men.

Field Workers Planting Potatoes

Field Workers Planting Potatoes

I did wonder what I had to teach these productive, commercial growers. That night, as I put together my teaching materials, it became clear to me that my gift to these growers was to present my understanding of soil ecosystems; how soil and plants have co-evolved, and that the most economical and healthy practices involve caring for, and feeding the soil micro-organisms.

The 2nd day of class went well, and many of the participants seemed happy to be introduced to a deeper understanding of the growing process (which, of itself, shows the way to good management).

Making Stellar Compost Pile

Making Stellar Compost Pile

Finished Stellar Compost Pile

Finished Stellar Compost Pile

We finished with a deeply enjoyable, hands-on, group project of making a first rate, compost pile, using chopped green material (including banana stems and fresh grasses) and aged chicken manure.

Lake Inle Fisherman: Cast Netting

Lake Inle Fisherman: Cast Netting

Floating Gardens and in-Lake Houses

Floating Gardens and in-Lake Houses

After visiting Lake Inle ( a World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO Man and the Biosphere site), my interpreter and I returned (by air) to Yangon; my home base and final teaching site.

Full Moon Over the Shwedagon Pagoda

Full Moon Over the Shwedagon Pagoda

Prior to the class, I was invited to visit the 250 acre orchard of MFFVPEA’s Chairman, who practices organic methods. He and his crew had just finished the Pomolo (a large, delicious type of grapefruit) season; had hand-picked, transported, and sold (within the country), 50,000 fruit!

Mango Flower and Fruitlets

Mango Flower and Fruitlets

Needless to say, I felt right at home in this lovely, large orchard, with it’s geese working the understory, and gently rolling landscape.

Geese Duty in the Understory

Geese Duty in the Understory

The information I presented during this second (and final) two days of class deepened the understanding of the participants, most of whom practiced non-toxic fruit growing.

Freshly Grafted Pomelo

Freshly Grafted Pomelo

In general, the people are friendly, the food very good, and, for the time of year I was there, the weather delightful.

Feasting Myanmar Style

Feasting Myanmar Style

I returned to our Barefoot Permaculture site, in east Asheville, located in the southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, in time for a very warm last part of winter, followed by a dry, warm early spring devolving into a relatively cold, still dry, late spring. All of which complicates successful, organic orcharding.

This, of course, informs the stuff of future writings…

 

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Barefoot Permaculture Goes To Myanmar

Last year, a  project arose in Myanmar, for teaching Composting and Sustainable Soil Management. Initial request dates were for September; a time in which I had little availability.
     I did have time in November, yet was told that, due to the scheduled election, as well as uncertainty regarding it’s outcome, it would be best to pick another time.
    This memo serves as a prelude to an upcoming post…

In mid-January, after a long flight to (and an overnight in) Hong Kong, I arrived in Yangon, Myanmar. This is a country I have long wanted to visit. Until now, the brutal military dictatorship, as well as lack of suitable (for my skills) projects, prevented my travel there.

Full Moon Over the Shwedagon Pagoda

Full Moon Over the Shwedagon Pagoda

The election was once again a success for Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party: this time though, the Military leadership declared the vote to be the will of the people, and have backed the outcome. That said, they still control veto power. Hopes are that the military will continue releasing it’s absolute control.
Needless to say, the people I met were overjoyed with the possibilities of new opportunities to live, grow, and develop without too much fear.
   Mine was a Farmer to Farmer project, through Winrock International, and funded (at least in part) by USAID. For this project, the host organization is a large grower’s co-operative: Myanmar Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association. (MFFVPEA).

Myanmar Field-Workers: Potato Season

Myanmar Field-Workers: Potato Season

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog…

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Post-Solstice at an Urban Oasis

The last week of December, 2015, and we are outside barefooted, and inside without having had our wood stove going for the past two weeks.

Ready for Fall Honey ExtractionFall Honey Extraction

It’s unseasonably warm.

Natural Comb Cleaning ServicesWax-Cleaning Bees: post Honey Extraction

Enjoyable for me comfort-wise. As an active part of this ecosystem, though, I am feeling a tad uneasy: how are our perennials doing? What are they going through?

Abundant Growth in and beside our HoophouseYear’s End Abundant Growth: inside and out

I like to feel that, as part of dormancy, plant spirits (energies) are uncontained by, and not limited to their plant body, leaving just enough presence to keep the body alive. What happens when the weather is as warm as it has been, not allowing for their disengagement?

December NettlesDecember Nettles

On the global scale, the Pacific warming (El Nino), in it’s 3rd strongest season, has affected the Jet Streams’ usual winter southern activity, resulting in cold weather descending in the west, and keeping it away (northward) in the east, especially the southeast.

Meyer's Lemon Dec. Pollinating BeesDecember Lemon Blossoms Bee-ing Pollinated

El Nino has reached it’s peak (strength-wise). It’s decline will not be immediate, and as it weakens, the Jet Stream will start to overpower El Nino, and begin dropping southward, activating more normal winter weather in the east.

Late December Elm OysterPost-Solstice Elm Oyster…Yummy!

As an urban orchardist and organic gardener, I am aware that my ecosystem needs prolonged, harsh winter temperatures to help control populations of pests,  both macro and micro.

Bottling last year's Hard CiderLast Years’ Apples Ready for Bottling

From this perspective, as well as also giving our perennials the amount of dormancy they require, prior to budding out and breaking into flower, I welcome winter’s coldness…

Solstice Panetone for Friends and FamilySolstice Panetone: for Family & Friends

In late November, we spotted a Mama bear and her first year cub, moving between our neighbor’s and our properties (both of us keep chickens). This, in itself, was not the least unusual. What followed, though, broke our experiential mold!

Polite Black Bear by Henhouse Polite Black Bear Moving Near Henyard

A week later, during a 5 day period, the small cub killed and ate 3 of our neighbor’s hens. Mama was not to be seen.

Local Black BearsLocal Bears Enjoying Acorns

Two days later, while working in her clay studio, Chiwa (my wife) had a feeling to go outside – which she followed. As she rounded the studio corner, she saw a dark movement in the chicken yard. The bear cub, was climbing the hen yard fence, from the inside, with our favorite hen (Missy) in it’s mouth.

Chiwa shouted and ran towards the enclosure just as the bear touched ground. With her yelling and approaching, the bear dropped Missy, and after a moment’s indecision, melted away into the bamboo thicket.

By that time, alerted by the shouting, I too showed up on the scene. Missy was leaning against the fence. We picked her up gingerly, expecting but not hoping for the worst, and, although feathers were dropping away, and her back was wet with bear saliva, we were greatly amazed to find no puncture wounds.

Chiwa and Missy after the Bear EpisodeChiwa and Missy After Bear Trauma

Missy’s heart was pounding, and her eyes glazed over, so we both placed our hands on her, and enveloped her in Healing Light Energy. Within a few minutes, her heart returned to a more normal beating, and we returned her to her henhouse. By the next morning, she seemed to have returned to her normal self.

The hens, though, as well as we, knew it was just a matter of time before the bear returned.

Fortunately, and just in the nick of time, our neighbors had erected an electric fence around their hen yard, and graciously agreed to take in our hens until we were able to erect our own electric fence.

Our Hens Going for a Sleep-OverOur Hens Heading for a Sleep-Over

Within a few hours, from inside their home, our neighbors heard a loud “crack”. and looking out the kitchen window, saw the young bear six feet up in a tree, inside their electric fence. They ran out, and within moments, the bear came to it’s senses and quickly climbed down, ran, hastily climbed over the gate, dropped to the ground, and ran off.

We surmised how the mystery drama unfolded: the bear approached, stood up and surreptitiously reached above the electric wire to the regular fence, and pulled itself up. Once it’s feet were off the ground, their was no complete circuit, hence, no electrical charge. Still against the electric fence, when the cub reached over to the nearby interior tree, the circuit was now grounded and the bear was walloped with 6,000 volts, in effect, knocking it against the tree.

A few days later, the bear was spotted walking in through our neighbor’s front gate, turning west along the fence line, and walking away and off their property, never even looking over at the chickens.

Until I can set up a bear-proof fence, our hens are still sleeping- over next door. Our wonderful neighbors and we, are ordering day old chicks for a February delivery, and with good fortune, plan to expand our diminished flocks next spring.

As the new year approaches, so does predictions of more seasonal weather pattern.

We, and our wood stove await…

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Musings from a Mid-Summer Urban Oasis

“Dry” describes this years’ conditions so far, at Barefoot Permaculture Orchard & Gardens, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, USA. Although we collect roof rainwater by intercepting at the downspouts, in this dry growing season, it’s never enough.

Dunstan zone 6 Grapefruit survived winter...

Dunstan zone 6 Grapefruit survived winter…

Our highest use of collected rainwater is for our plant starts; many from saved seeds. Once these seedlings are in the ground, other than their initial watering, we must use city water (chlorinated) to keep them alive between the scanty rains. (Our plants do not thrive on city water, but it does keep them alive).

5' Tomatoes Still Heading Upward... supported by A-Frame wire fencing...

5′ Tomatoes Still Heading Upward…

Counterintuitively, most of our perennials and annuals are looking good: dry conditions can hold disease issues at bay (at least until humidity increases). Mid-July’s 1& 1/2″ rain brought some relief, as well as aggressive mosquitos and humidity.

Easiest to Grow Winter Squash: From the Compost

Easiest to Grow Winter Squash: From the Compost

Suddenly, tomatoes, heavy with green fruit,  began showing signs of early and late blight.

Moisture issues notwithstanding, a  major issue profoundly affecting Barefoot Gardens are the “over-the-top” populations of Pine Voles ( Microtus pinetorum ): a below-ground dwelling, mouse-like rodent, with a truncated tail, and a huge appetite for plant roots.

Unlike Moles ( Scapanus spp.) whose tunnelings result in raised lifting of the soil, vole tunnels cannot be visually identified. As of 2 years ago, when the vole population skyrocketed, whenever I notice a plant (annual or perennial) looking a little wilted or canted (off center), I drop to my knees alongside the plant, and thrust my fingers into the soil within 5” (or so) of the stem, and probe for vole tunnels. These horizontal runs are usually 2”-5” deep, and run towards the plant.

Vertical Gardening: Winter Squash headed sunward in Apple tree...

  Winter Squash in Apple tree…

Often, in cases of severe damage, I find multiple tunnels. On these  occasions, it takes all I can do to save the plant; be it a tomato or a 15 year old Apple tree.

Almost Vole-Killed Apple, Successfully Grafted to a Limbertwig

Vole-Damaged Apple,  Now a Limbertwig…

In the case of the apple (winter damaged), there were not enough roots remaining to support budding out the above ground tree. I cut the 6 “ diameter stem to 8” in height, and grafted on several different varieties of apple. There was enough root remaining to activate one graft, so instead of a total loss, where there was once a maturing Enterprise, there now stands a young Limbertwig.

In both cases (annual and perennial), the first response is threefold: collapse the tunnels (maybe fill them with small, sharp rocks); water the root area copiously; and feed the root zone with a seaweed solution (rejuvenates and aids root growth).

Bagged Grapes... Intent: to keep predators off the still green grapes...

Bagged Grapes: to keep predators off the grapes…

Whenever I teach “Home Orcharding” classes, I recommend  with any planting, and especially for fruits, to (at the same time), plant garlic cloves in the plant hole; ringing the stem around 5”-7” out, every 2”. (This garlic to never to be harvested; for protection only).

Catbirds Show Us What They Think of Our Efforts

Catbirds Show Us What They Think of Our Efforts

Whenever we find a vole-made opening (for occasional exit/entry) We set out, immediately next to the hole, a mousetrap baited with peanut butter, and cover trap and hole with a dark bucket (to keep out light). From one run, we have caught as many as 8 voles over a 2 day period.

After all the damages (many plant deaths and set-backs) committed by voles, I have to admit feeling some pleasure to lift up a bucket and find a caught vole half eaten by its’ fellows.

Living in relationship with an urban oasis is absolute delight; yet this too  has drawbacks.

One of Our Good Friends!

One of Our Good Friends!

Last year, while standing off to the side of our Montmorency Pie Cherry, and noticing 2 Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) fly into our site, for some unknown reason the veils temporarily lifted, and I was able to understand bird language. One said “wow! look at all this wild food”!

I immediately responded (in English) “NO! This is not wild! We planted and care for these fruits!

Alas, the veils already closed: they did not hear me…

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Late Winter in a Temperate Urban Oasis

This noon sees me seated within the warm and glowing sphere of our Jotul woodstove. Although our 1918 built farm cottage has a modern propane furnace, we leave the thermostat set on 55 F, and rely upon, and prefer, the radiant heat of the woodstove.

Jotul Woodstove in Full Glory

Jotul Woodstove in Full Glory

Outside, with mid-day temperature of 26 F, snow is falling. Inside, we are pleasingly warmed by many years’ worth of stored sunlight released by the burning wood.

Sun’s energy is renewable. Wood too, is renewable, especially if managed properly. If one is fortunate to have a 10 acre property, a “woodlot” of around 6 acres would provide, among other wood uses, a sustainable firewood supply as part of a mixed use Permaculture forest ecosystem management.

In the next two days, low temperatures will be close to record setting. (Tomorrow’s low is forecast to be 18 degrees below today’s low of 17 F. The next day’s low, 7 degrees lower still)!

Winter Protection: Asian Persimmon

Winter Protection: Asian Persimmon

Asheville, (elevation 2150”) located in the southern Appalchian Mountains of western North Carolina, has an occasional experience yearly, of one or two single digit low temperatures; every several years, an overnight low of 0 F.  What is forecast for the next two days is fairly severe cold that will have impact on already marginal fruit varieties (such as figs, asian persimmons, and hardy citrus).

Winter Protection: Dunstan Grapefruit (Zone 6)

Winter Protection: Dunstan Grapefruit (Zone 6)

Microclimate modification is one of our our best strategies for lessening damages from prolonged and unseasonably frigid conditions.

Micro-Climate at a Glance

Micro-Climate at a Glance

At Barefoot Permaculture, we currently have a small, in-ground planting of relatively cold hardy greens: kale, collards, cilantro, and lettuces. Whenever especially harsh conditions are forthcoming, I pull a double layer of Remay-like material over the bed. This creates a more protected microclimate, and gives the plants a more favorable chance of survival.

Plant Protecting Remay Ground Covering

Plant Protecting Remay Ground Covering

Within a greenhouse / hoop house, the same practice and principle applies. A small, low to the ground, hoop-held covering adds several degrees of warmth to the plants below. In extreme situations, another covering under the above hoop-covering, and directly upon the plants, can add upwards of 20 – 30 degrees F of protection.

In our above ground, mini-greenhouse ( see Winter at an Urban Oasis) we have three types of kale and cilantro. In this protected microclimate, all are doing better than those in the ground. Being a new bed, there has not been time for the slugs, as well as other plant predators, to work their way up and in, although black aphids are on the underside of the cilantro leaves. A protected microclimate for plants also makes a protected space for their predators…

Above Ground Greenhouse Ready for Winter Blast

Above Ground Greenhouse Ready for Winter Blast

Still, for this upcoming blast of Arctic frigidity, there are two layers of fabric over the plants.

                                          On-Site News
* Recently, our favorite hen, a small, young, friendly, intelligent, rusty hued, dark colored egg laying hen named Ruby, failed to exit the hen house one morning. When later in the day, she still had not shown up, I looked up in the hen house to see if she was broody.

Ruby Descending From The Henhouse

Ruby Descending From The Henhouse

She was nowhere to be seen: an unpleasant sign. I found a 1 & 1/2 foot circle of reddish feathers, by the back corner, outside the fence. The work of a hawk (I first thought) since they pluck their prey; although it was odd that a hawk would fly the body over the 5 ‘ fence and land immediately outside.

An hour later, Chiwa looked out and spotted a mangy fox, trotting alongside the chicken-yard fence. It vacated when I went out, and although we have not seen the fox again, it’s track was in the snow the following morning.

Fox Tracks Around Our Henyard

Fox Tracks Around Our Henyard

If the fox took Ruby out of the yard, why not just run off with the bird? Since the fox is in the area, and has not repeated the event, it’s still a bit of a mystery….

* A yearly, winter visitor, a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) crashed into our front, glassed door, and perished. Since a bird, normally doesn’t fly into a single glass door with no other glass nearby, it must have been a response from a sudden hawk attack. We tried reviving the little beauty, were unsuccessful, and buried her in the compost pile, calling for her to rise up again as flower, fruit, and then, bird and beyond…

Hawk-Spooked Hermit Thrush

Hawk-Spooked Hermit Thrush

* Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) have already called from our small pond, being the first and earliest frog to do so: they are now back under leaves in their winter state of suspended animation…

Wood Frog Raked Up, and Chicken-chased...

Wood Frog Raked Up, and Chicken-chased…

* Winter is a fine time for heating the kitchen as a “side effect” of baking and other food preparation. Many breads, as well as banana leaf-wrapped tamales have emerged from our gas range as well as our Waterford Stanley Wood Cookstove….

Sunflower Rye Sourdough

Sunflower Rye Sourdough

Tamales in the Making

Tamales in the Making

Tamales Ready for the Steamer

Tamales Ready for the Steamer

 

 

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One day workshop with Peter Bane Feb 08

from the  Organic Growers School:
a day-long workshop with Peter Bane
Sunday   Feb 08, 2015
“Home-Grown Revolution:  How Re-imagining your Home & Yard can Transform the World:

Peter Bane, author of “The Permaculture Handbook”, long-time publisher of the Permacuture Activist, and co-founder of Earthaven Ecovillage is offering a day-long workshop in Asheville.

How can we create the vibrant and resilient communities that we dream of? In the face of climate change and economic crisis, re-imagining suburban and urban homes offers us a realistic and promising answer. Imagine 50 million lawns transformed into gardens. Most are in the best possible location for food production! Imagine homes outfitted with better energy, waste, and water systems — yours can be one of them. By learning where true wealth is created, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and mega-corporations as we increase natural capital, food security, and healthy communities.

Organic Growers School is thrilled to host Peter Bane for this accessible and practical program to further our common journey of self-reliance. Whether you are just starting out, designing your eco-mansion, rehabbing your life, or just wanting to incorporate a few new ideas, this workshop will provide solid guidance for the next steps. Based on a wealth of real-life experience, we will share stories, suggestions, and specific adaptations for making your home, yard, and lifestyle more functional, comfortable, beautiful, and prosperous. The road to true wealth begins at home!

From tiny apartment balconies to green acres in the country, sustainable systems follow similar patterns. This workshop will integrate traditional wisdom, permaculture design, and the earth sciences of soils, agronomy, ecology, human and animal nutrition to unfold practical solution to everyday challenges. We’ll discuss the following ten topics (and likely more) through the lens of sustainability:
*Food    *Housing   *Energy   *Plants   *Livestock   *Water   *Waste   *Health   *Community   *Economics

No magical super powers or advanced skill required. With a little common sense and a taste for adventure anyone can do this. You too can create the 21st century economy at home through your pantry, dooryard garden, edible plants, and some simple adaptations to your home. These humble elements form the basis of radical social and ecological change.

Peter Bane is the author The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country, a distillation of more than 25 years’ experience in the science and art of permaculture. He is a permaculture teacher and site designer who has published and edited Permaculture Activist magazine for over twenty years. He helped create Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, and is now pioneering suburban farming in Bloomington, Indiana.

Tickets Available: organicgrowersschool.org

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Winter at an Urban Oasis

 

2015 has just slid in, under the closed front door; liked the woodstove’s gentle warmth, and decided to stay awhile…

Each December, at Barefoot Permaculture, we  have a 2 weekend sale and open house : “Clay & Straw”, during which we have on display and for sale, Chiwa’s clay art and my brooms.

Lumanaries at Home Show Opening

Lumanaries at Home Show Opening

Each weekend has it’s own energy generating attraction. We have an opening celebration the first night: first 30 people receive one of Chiwa’s wine cups.

Shrines, and Shields: some of Chiwa's work

Shrines, and Shields: some of Chiwa’s work

On the second Saturday, I make from-scratch cinnamon buns and a huge pot of organic coffee.

Early Interest on Cinnamon Bun Morning

Early Interest on Cinnamon Bun Morning

This is Home Economy in action!

Since my last entry, we were gifted with a used “Grow Camp”: an 8’x4’x2’ above ground garden bed with it’s own self supported greenhouse. Since voles —root eating, below ground-living rodents: looking like a mouse, but with a very short tail— have moved into the role of major plant predator in our orchards and gardens, this Grow Camp, set on top of hardware cloth (a small mesh, metal barrier) makes a vole proof, four season garden bed.

Banana Stem Hugelkultur

Banana Stem Hugelkultur

To fill the bed (almost 64 cubic feet of soil), we followed Permaculture’s guideline of Stacking Functions,  and started with a home-spun Hugelkultur of banana stalks (8”-9” diameter), corn stalks, and small diameter woody debris, followed with partially composted leaves.

Cornstalk Second Layer

Cornstalk Second Layer

 

Compost/BioChar 3rd Layer

Compost/BioChar 3rd Layer

Above this foundational layer, we added our own compost and BioChar, as well as topping it with almost 32 cubic feet of off- site (but still local) Biodymanic compost.

BioDynamic Compost Top Layer

BioDynamic Compost Top Layer

With our (so-far) mild winter season, the kale, collards, and cilantro “starts” we planted have begun to grow. This may be about to change, with an upcoming Arctic high pressure headed our way. Within 4 days, we will be experiencing single digit  (F) lows).

All Tucked In For A Winter Blast!

All Tucked In For A Winter Blast!

These young plants, in their greenhouse microclimate, should do fine.

Our zone 6 Dunston Grapefruit is going to be challenged with such low temperatures, and will receive a triple fabric wrap to help buffer the freeze. We shall see…

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