Onwards and Upwards, As My Dad Would Say!

I’ve combined Rediscovering Permaculture and The Deadly Nightshade into one blog…you can find it here…

The Deadly Nightshade

Tell everyone about it and come visit me. Click on the cute little sun in the header to subscribe to an RSS feed that will deliver any new posts straight to your inbox!

And if you could…spread the word!

See you there!

Making a List – Checking it Twice

I just read an interesting article, “7 Foods So Unsafe Even Farmers Won’t Eat Them”.

Tomatoes and potatoes have now moved to the top of the “I’ll be growing this” list.

I don’t use a lot of canned tomatoes, but I do have several recipes that would benefit from me canning my own tomatoes in jars and avoiding that leaching issue. In particular, I will need to find a recipe for Italian style tomatoes (chopped tomatoes, with garlic and spices) and also something that mimics the Rotel tomatoes with green chiles (excellent w/melted cheese on nachos).

I imagine I can find something in either the Ball Book of Home Preserving or a neat, kitschy recipe in Canning for a New Generation.

And seeing apples on the list makes me think of my poor, bug-riddled apple tree. It’s a  Granny Smith apple tree (my favorite) and I’m determined this year to rid it of the pests (naturally) and enjoy apples, really enjoy them, for the first time since I planted it eight years ago.

It is a shame we cannot trust the food system in our country, but it seems that, in the pursuit of expediency and profit, many of our foods are produced in ways that counter their potential benefits.

Read the article…it will get you to thinking!

Justice Is Not Only Blind – But Immune to Common Sense

I just ran across this newsbite, and while over four months old, it still has me incensed. A man is facing over $5,000 in possible fines for growing too many vegetables on his 2-acre tract. And this is after he stopped production, requested re-zoning, and was successful in doing so.

I know justice is blind…but really, does it have to be stupid beyond compare as well?

Organic vegetables, happy neighbors and willing farmer’s market customers…and the county is pursuing charges against him?

Put bluntly, someone needs to remove their heads from their nether regions…

Bioswales – Making Rain Work for You

I learned a while back that our property was built over the site of an old creek. This made a stunning amount of sense to me, since every time we receive a truly heavy rain (usually in the spring) the water runs from the front ditch through a low spot between our house and the neighbors to teh north, under a section of our side fence, along a length of raised planters, curls around the maple tree, barrels along the front of our shed and then turns into a section of other raised beds before rushing out the back fence to inundate our neighbor’s yard to the west. It will settle there, submerging half of their yard in water during the wet season.

As for the flooded areas of ours, well, the ground will often have several inches of water sitting there, for days at a time, a boggy mess to mow and to deal with.

I planted a willow tree, hoping it would literally act like a vacuum hose and suck the water up. I think it did help, somewhat, but there is still such a massive amount of water coming through, that something needs to be done. At its peak, it can be five feet across and a good foot deep, that’s a LOT of water!

A bioswale is essentially a shallow ditch filled with substrate (such as rock) that guides the water and controls its flow, allowing you to better define where you need the water to go. You can also use a bioswale as a means of storing water, simply by digging a deep, rounded hole that will encourage the water to settle and be captured in one spot.

I found an excellent site that describes how bioswales work, and the different kinds of bioswales, along with the positives and negatives of each design. You can find it here.

And the very first picture shown…











Is exactly what I envision for my yard…with the exception of one thing. I will be planting water-loving plants in those rocks.

Nearest to the entrance, where the water first comes through and before it drains down into the rest of the yard, it would probably be a good place to plant another Asian pear tree, I already have two, but I could certainly use another. Another tree that loves water is the peach tree. I have one, but I could certainly use another!

I plan to plant a succession of smaller plants through the areas that will remain boggy. These include pussy willow, water iris, and possibly even cranberries. I found a great article here on tips for the home gardener to use to successfully grow them.

I will also be incorporating two other aspects to the bioswale…

1. A small reservoir of water that will enter a section of our chicken coop, allowing the chickens access to fresh rain water, but not inundating their entire yard with it.

2. Greywater from our kitchen in the warm months. This is a maybe, since I need significant assistance from my studious and overworked husband (he’s a full time student and full-time worker) for this aspect. What I envision is a type of valve that we can turn ‘on’ in the summer months and ‘off’ in the winter. When ‘on’ the greywater from our sink would drain out of our house into a cistern and be cleansed with plants such as reeds, water hyacinth, iris and duckweed. You can learn more about good cleansing plants here.

Eventually the water would flow to the reservoir for the chickens, ensuring they have fresh-flowing water during the warm months of the year.

That’s my vision for it anyway. We will see what happens (or doesn’t happen) when the ground thaws!

Mushroom Miracles

And no, I’m not talking about the psychedelic ones, folks.

My DH just shared with me a fascinating TED talk by Paul Stamets. For those not familiar with TED, I highly recommend it, the talks are varied, interesting and often funny, and always very educational.

Paul Stamets talk is titled Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World and it blew my mind.

Here is a short bio on Paul:

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets’ research is the Northwest’s native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.

There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

In any case, he describes in the talk how he used oyster mushrooms to revive dead oil-soaked soil. Which led me to wonder if the mushrooms would still be edible…


How Much Energy Are YOU Using?

For those of you who reside in the Midwest, here is a handy little site that will help you calculate your energy usage and estimates what the annual carbon footprint of your home is. That one was a real eye-opener for me!

It also gives some great suggestions on how you can save money and energy by upgrading your heating and cooling or installing a new water heater, et cetera.

Our heating and cooling system is original to our house, which means its 20 years old. We could save several hundred dollars and reduce our carbon footprint significantly by replacing it.

We also have several windows which are original with the house and need to be replaced. One in particular, the one in our bathroom, actually grows ice on the inside of it during the winter – leak much, ya think?

Whether or not you are a Missouri Gas Energy user, I would still suggest you check out the site and go through it. Or check with your own gas provider and see if they have a similar site. It could provide you with important tips on how to start saving energy and reducing your bills right away.

The “Threat” of Cats and Dogs on the Environment

I attended a Introduction to Permaculture class this past Saturday and the question came up of cats harming the environment by killing the native birds.

I guess I really have a problem with this. I’ve seen how fast birds breed, and I’ve also seen how many birds (and other creatures) my white cat Einstein (also know as the Great White Murderer) kills each year.

I raised my hand and objected to the vilification of cats, although it does often extend to dogs as well. “My pets fulfill multiple purposes.” I argued, “They are our companions, yes, but they are also excellent at reducing food waste (scraps), protecting our property from two-legged invaders (people are scared to death of our big dog), and usually disposing of any four-legged invaders. I don’t have problems with rodents or even full-grown rabbits eating my crops because the cat hunts them and the larger dog will eat them.”

The instructor didn’t have the time (we were behind schedule) or the inclination to argue the point with me, so we moved on.

But it really bothered me. So I started doing some research. I wanted to see if cats are really the scourge on the ecosystem or not. Of course, I found a great deal of links that all say the same thing, they kill the native bird population.

I’ve done the body count on my property…it’s 90% robin kills, which I believe is non-native. Which really makes me question the native birdist claims.

Here are some interesting things I found in my search…

Ecosystems are fragile at Mr. Barlow’s blog. This includes before and after photos of human interference on an island. The human interference included killing the feral cats on the island to ‘save’ the native bird population. It um…didn’t work.

Parachuting Cats Into Borneo is an interesting, if short, read on how humans sprayed DDT, which caused a chain of events of animal die-offs that finally resulted in a surge in the rat population. So they stopped spraying the DDT (which had through the food chain eventually killed off the cats who had been controlling the rats) and parachuted cats into Borneo. Holy cow, now that’s extreme.

And I found this excerpt when I did a search for ‘cats good for ecosystem’ –

Tiger’s disappearance left more than a big hole in our hearts. His disappearance left a hole in our backyard ecosystem. During the 13 years he lived with us, we knew he caught an occasional rabbit or bird and made life hell for chipmunks. We had no idea just how many rabbits and chipmunks he hunted down. We do now.

We now recognize Tiger’s impact on the ecosystem because we have been overrun by a biblical plague of rabbits and chipmunks that are eating certain perennials (rudbeckia, coreopsis) right down to the ground. New creeping roses quickly became a favorite. To save some of our plants, I put plastic netting around a metal fence because the latter wasn’t tight enough to keep the rabbits and chipmunks out. Mostly it’s the rabbits that are at fault.

Cats and dogs have been around a long time. Why deny them their instincts? Especially when, as you can see from the last account above, they keep down the varmint population quite admirably.

Each of my pets is neutered. They are also either feral and rehabilitated (my white cat), strays (my black cat), or adopted from shelters (my dogs). They aren’t fancy breeds, all of them are mutts.

Their fur adds to my compost (through brushing and adding up in a vacuum bag that is then composted). They keep us warm in the winter. They protect us and the dogs especially are very protective of our little girl. The cats are at least exceedingly gentle, except in extreme circumstances.

And when I begin working with thermophilic composting, their manure will be added to the compost pile to further enrich our soil once it has broken down.

For us, and for our backyard ecosystem, it is a win-win. But I welcome your (constructive) comments on this post, nonetheless. What do you think?

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