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…

 

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

 

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Upcoming Courses | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Late Autumn at the Urban Oasis

Relaxed Black Bear in Our Maple

Relaxed Black Bear in Our Maple  

Some of This Year's Honey

Some of This Year’s Honey

The active growing season now lays behind us. Beloved annuals have been harvested; such as winter squash, sweet —as well as hot peppers, tomatoes, and maize — all open pollinated and our own saved seeds.  Maize ( Hopi Blue and Martin Prechtel’s) is hanging in a kitchen corner; Winter squash (Greek Sweet Red and Al Trompaccino) are extended out from another corner.

Heritage Winter Squash

Heritage Winter Squash

Our kitchen suddenly becomes smaller and more crowded!

Kitchen Gets Smaller...

Kitchen Gets Smaller…

Tomatoes are in the freezer, having been transformed into Putanesca sauce: Jalapenos and Sweet red peppers are either frozen (to minimize perishability) or still in baskets, being used fresh —some given to friends.

Last Harvest Before 1st Frost...

Last Harvest Before 1st Frost…

 

Late Summer Wild Mushroom Harvest

Late Summer Wild Mushroom Harvest

Our use of open pollinated seed is an example of a practice that allows us to stack functions (a Permaculture guideline:one action: multiple benefits). Not only are we saving money by not having to purchase new seed, we are able to continue the practice by saving seeds of this year’s crop.

This is icing on the functional cake! Not only does seed carry genetic information from all seasons and types of conditions past (throughout it’s entire ancestry), the plants are also adding new information concerning this current seasons’ growing conditions!

Potential Seed Saving Opportunities

Potential Seed Saving Opportunities

Last Moment Harvest...

Last Moment Harvest…

We tailor this genetic process by selecting seed from plants that, for instance: fruit early; are extra large and delicious;  exhibit unusual vitality and disease/insect resistance, and other desirable characteristics.

Akebia Harvest

Akebia Harvest

Our urban orchard (with over 48 different varieties of perennial fruit) continues to delight, feed, deepen our relationship with our Homeland, and… teach.

Damage from Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

Damage from Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

Every growing season I learn more of the ever deepening and expanding complexity of life, especially in the realm of creating abundance.

Picking Late-Ripening Goldrush

Picking Late-Ripening Goldrush

Even with spraying our larger fruit (multiple times) with Surround and Serenade (organic products for dealing with both insect and disease organisms), almost 70% of the harvest was compromised.

Some of Our Apple Bounty

Some of Our Apple Bounty

Out of this 70%, 15% was unusable: the remainder has insect and disease damage, and must be cut around to utilize the good parts. This is labor intensive: the fruit cannot be used without this effort (which means one at a time).

Damaged fruit is very perishable (will not keep long) and must be used fairly quickly. I’ve been operating on —and eating — 8-10 apples each day! In addition, giving some to friends for quick use, and making some pies and gallettes…

Apple Serviceberry Gallette

Apple Serviceberry Gallette

We were fortunate to make it through the extended ripening season (Goldrush apples ripen in November) especially with the frequent wanderings through of multiple Black Bears.

Collared Mama with One of 3 Cubs

Collared Mama with One of 3 Cubs

Even with all the compromised fruit, we still have quite a lot!

Driveway De-Husking of Black Walnut

Driveway De-Husking of Black Walnut

Next season, though, I will pay more attention to the life cycles of insects and disease organisms, as well as timing of sprays…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Summer in a Urban Oasis

To be effective in caring for our “out the front door” environment, each and every Now really needs to be experienced as a separate occurrence. Solutions for the many challenges to harvesting abundance do not include wishing we had some of last years’ abundant moisture, yet without the presence of Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs, Spot-Winged Fruitflies, and Gray Squirrels.

Native Pollinator Sleeping in a Hollyhock

Native Pollinator Sleeping in a Hollyhock

This growing season has been very dry: we have had to use municipal water to keep plants alive between the very infrequent rain events.

Two Male Turkeys, Investigating...

Two Male Turkeys, Investigating…

On a very bright side, last years’ disastrous stinkbugs are a no-show (see past postings for 2013). Fruitfles, although present, are in much lower  numbers. Squirrels too, seem to be few in number.

Arising in their shadow though, voles (root-feeding, underground rodents) are acting out devastation. Castor Bean is touted as a vole and mole repellant, and I planted some very near a young muscadine (thick skinned,extra Yummy, southern grape) that was severely compromised by extensive root damage: a vole ate the roots of the castor bean, killing it.

Castor Bean killed by root-eating voles

Castor Bean killed by voles…

This is a sign of serious vole issues!

And still, the garden and orchard look great.

Garden scene in mid-June

Garden scene in mid-June

Other Happenings at Barefoot Permaculture
A large Siberian Elm, (located semi-between our home and front orchard/gardens) developed a serious split, and had to be removed. We’ve lost some eastern shade, yet gained late afternoon sun for the front gardens.

Smart Fellas Tree Service: Great Job!

Smart Fellas Tree Service: Great Job!

Black Bears continue to wander through fairly regularly, enough for us to remove the bird feeder for the summer; depriving us of some delightful opportunities to see parent birds introduce their young to this food source.

3 Year Old, Eyeing the Bird Feeder

3 Year Old, Eyeing the Bird Feeder

The woodchip-mulched, semi-forested church lot, across from us, on several occasions, has provided us with tastes of the wild: Winecap (Stropheria rugosa-annulata) and Deer (Pluteus atricapillus) mushrooms: deeply delicious treats!

Winecap Mushroom

Winecap Mushroom

Making a Sporeprint: To Be Sure...

Making a Sporeprint: To Be Sure…

Better Size Winecap for Eating

Better Size Winecap for Eating

Partially in celebration of our new gas range (our 38 year old range could not be repaired safely) after a wait of almost 3 months, we hosted a Summer Solstice / “Home and the Range” gathering. We supplied the artisan pizza dough, and friends showed up with topping materials and other potluck delights.

Artisan Pizza Dough, Awaiting the Fire...

Artisan Pizza Dough, Awaiting the Fire…

It was one of our best gatherings, and our new American Range rose to the occasion!

From the Oven: Artisan Pizza!

From the Oven: Artisan Pizza!

In the weeks since, we’ve made several artisan sourdoughs, enough to keep me very bread-rich and happy.

Two Different Sourdoughs...

Two Different Sourdoughs…

Currants, Gooseberries, and Goumi’s have deliciously and abundantly come and gone. Everbearing Red Raspberries are finishing out as Blackberries are beginning. Blueberries too, are just beginning to be ripe. Peaches are colored and still ripening. Apples and Asian Pears have much ripening ahead.

Champaigne Currants and Gooseberries

Champaigne Currants and Gooseberries

Our Blue Hopi maize and our cross-pollinated Martin Prechtel / Blue Hopi Corn have tasseled and ears are developing. Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, risen on their own (from last year’s crop) have fed us several times, with more to come.

Our own (saved seeds) heritage tomatoes are ripening (had my first today… deeply Yum)!

Three of Our Several Varieties of Tomatoes

Three of Our Several Varieties of Tomatoes

Last year’s cukes (Little Leaf and Lemon) have reseeded themselves and are feeding us well: upon our kitchen counter is a 1 gallon crock of salt-fermenting pickles.

Nearby, on the other side of the kitchen, is a 5 gallon carboy of  Serviceberry Mead, a 1 gallon jug of serviceberry / wild cherry wine, and a jug of apple cider: all under vaporlocks, all still actively fermenting.

Mid-Summer has passed: the ripening time is upon us, as we head towards autumn and winter…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Tales of an Urban Oasis: Orchards, Bees & BioChar

Nice to have been keeping a flowering chart (since 1996) for our urban orchard. As each new fruit variety is added here at Barefoot Permaculture, so is its name added to our flowering chart (which records the date of first flower and full flower

 

Replacing Wild Cherry: with Basswood

Replacing Wild Cherry: with Basswood

The mountains of western North Carolina are infamous for very warm spells in February, followed by hard frosts, as well as periods of sub-freezing temperatures, surfacing into May

Earliest Bloomer: Chojuro Asian Pear

Earliest Bloomer: Chojuro Asian Pear

This combo often spells disaster for fruiting plants. If the blossoms are damaged by the cold, the result is no fruit for the year. Local wisdom speaks of a Dogwood Winter and a Blackberry Winter. With some regularity, hard freezes occur when dogwood (Cornus spp.) and Blackberry (Rubus spp.) are in bloom. We experience this fairly often, and it makes successful fruit growing precarious. This spring, our last freeze was mid-April.

First Appearance of Blossoms: Shinseki Asian Pear

First Blossoms: Shinseki Asian Pear

In spite of most of our fruit varieties being in various stages of bloom, the only freeze damage appears to be our Moonglow European Pear. That damage appears to be complete: no pears this year!

Goumi in Full Bloom

Goumi in Full Bloom

All else is looking good (for the most part).

Goumi: On the Way to Ripening

Goumi: On the Way to Ripening

Voles (small, short-tailed root-eating rodents) made it —for the first time, into our front (and main orchard area).

Our beloved Fuyu (Asian Persimmon) failed to leaf out by April’s end: its root zone riddled with Vole tunnels! I collapsed the tunnels, and fed the root zone with Nature’s Nog (a seaweed based concentrate for root development ) and watered it well.

Life Creeping Out, after Severe Vole Damage

Life Creeping Out, after Severe Vole Damage

The stem has pushed out a few leaf buds, so now we get to nurse her back to health and well-being (so long as we are able to keep the voles at bay…

 

                       The First Thunderstorm After Easter

look for Morels, our esteemed elder Dot Wells (now passed) told us years ago. We’ve been out twice and had not so much as spotted a morel, and were feeling skunked.

Then, 8 days after Easter, Monday in the evening, thunder, lightning, and 3&1/2” of rain! In the morning I told Chiwa that the previous night’s noises kept me awake.

Blessed by the Morel Spirits

Blessed by the Morel Spirits

The thunder? she asked… No, the popping sound: morels popping out of the ground!  We laughed, and later went into our side yard, nearby Grandmother Crabapple, hoping to spot some small morels.

Astarte's Eggs?

Astarte’s Eggs?

Oh My God! was all that came out of my mouth! Nine of the biggest morels we have ever seen: dominating a small clearing like giant exclamation marks!

A Great Wildness to Eat

A Great Wildness to Eat

Needless to say, we had a thankful and yumptious time following…

In The Pan...

In The Pan…

                                                Honeybee News

Over the winter, we lost two hives: one disappeared, and one dwindled to a very small cluster (with queen) unable to generate the warmth necessary for survival, and died out in early April. We were left with one gangbuster hive and another less so, yet still healthy.

Last week, our gangbuster (western) hive cast out a swarm which settled 40 feet up and at the end of a small-diameter branch in a nearby Hemlock tree. I pulled out my pendulum, inquired about climbing the tree and capturing the swarm… and was given a “no”.

An hour later, the swarm lifted off and began to drift slowly downward, eventually flowing back into the hive that birthed it.

Normally unusual, turns out that within our local beekeeper community, several this year, have witnessed swarms returning to the mother hive. What it means? Quien sabe!

Two days later, another (and smaller) swarm landed in the same spot. This time my pendulum swung in the “yes” direction, and up the tree I climbed. Tying my climbing rope near the treetop, I dropped down to the small diameter branch upon which the swarm was clustered.

Tree Top Swarm Catching

Tree Top Swarm Catching

Secure (from falling, but not imbalance) in my climbing saddle and rope, I sat down upon the branch and gently sawed off the 5’ long branch tip, then bringing the cluster near enough to allow me to gently shake the swarm into my 5 gallon bucket, cover it, and lower it down, via rope, to Chiwa.

 Pouring In the Swarm

Pouring In the Swarm

The hive was small, so the next day I removed 3 deep frames of capped brood from the mother (western) hive, and placed them into the “new” hive. (The three empty, deep frames of drawn foundation then went back to the western hive, giving their queen more space in which to lay, and reducing that hives’ propensity to swarm further).

Adding Capped Brood

Adding Capped Brood

During the next few days, when these purloined frames of capped brood hatch, there will be an instant population of new bees for our new hive, just in time for the Tulip Poplar and Locust nectar flow.

                                                  BioChar Update

BioChar is big in the “under” news these days: as one of the most plausible methods of sequestering carbon, with a side effect of enhanced, long term soil fertility.

Readying the Bio-Charged BioChar

Readying the Bio-Charged BioChar

The basic difference between charcoal and BioChar is the biological component, supplied by “charging” the charcoal with nutrients and micro-organisms via soaking in a nutrient laden slurry. In the case of Barefoot Permaculture, the hardwood charcoal soaked for eighteen months in a slurry of fish emulsion, seaweed, urine, animal manures, comfrey and nettle.

Breaking Apart BioChar Into BioCharettes

Breaking Apart BioChar Into BioCharettes

In the last 2 weeks, we harvested some of our BioChar, pounded it into tiny pieces, screened it, then mixed it with screened, aged biodynamic compost; at a ratio of 1:1.5 (BioChar: Compost).

Finished BioChar

Finished BioChar

 

Screened, Aged BioDynamic Compost

Screened, Aged BioDynamic Compost

We have around 50 lbs. of top quality, soil enhancing, compost enriched BioChar. Within each planting hole for our seasonal gardens, will go a handful or two, as well as top-dressing all our perennial fruits. With some left over, and as much more to make (with the same ingredients) we will be building sustained fertility for many years to come…

Posted in Articles of Note | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment