Friday, December 23, 2011

Seed sources

Quick post to share how I've searched in the past for temperate climate seeds of the unusual perennial vegetables & food forest plants. I haven't done much with these for more than a year, but in the past I mainly used two plant search engines:

Dave's Garden Plant Scout (returns more live plant sources)

Plant Information Online from the University of Minnesota (returns more seed sources)

A few years ago when I was most actively seeking seeds, I made a list of everything I wanted, and wrote some scripts to automatically search for each plant at the Dave's Garden Plant Scout site, then parse the results and put them into a spreadsheet for me. Then I went through the spreadsheet manually to order most of my desired seeds from about a dozen companies. You can download the resulting spreadsheet to see what seed companies were useful to me in the past.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My personal vision statement

After a year and a half of not getting around to it, I finally sat down and wrote up my own vision for tribe. Tulsey read it over and agrees with it. We've been meeting with a few other people with various degrees of commitment to joining us for a trial period, and have talked a little about each other's goals and values and priorities and visions, but we haven't formally developed a group vision statement. So for now this remains my (and perhaps Tulsey's) vision statement:

"We live and propagate fun, egalitarian, autonomous, sustainable lives
based on mutual relationships with humans and non-humans. We actively
disconnect and heal from civilization and its technologies, meeting
our needs directly from our landbase while giving back more than we
take. We support our members for life."

Or in limerick form as:

A tight knit new tribe came to Puna
to live out their lives so in tune that
they'd never need cars or
to visit the bars so
they said to civ "Hey there fuck you, yeah!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Press & videos including or about me

I plan to maintain this post with a permalink from the blog's sidebar. If I/we appear in future videos, articles, etc, I'll add them to this post and make a temporary one-off post to let people know about the new addition.

You can watch a presentation I gave in 2011, via youtube below, or visit Self Sufficiency, Five Years In for other download options.

Paul Wheaton Sustainable Food - People Per Acre video (12 minutes) with a lot of footage of me and Tulsey describing our property, our initial expectations for self sufficiency for 3-4 people, and our growing realization of the realities of how many calories we can harvest here. Shot in August 2011.

Podcast (1 hour 11 minutes) with Paul Wheaton interviewing me. We discussed our transformation of the lot into a food forest, our house sale, chicken paddocks, sunchokes, and our reality check with hopes vs actual yields on our urban homestead. Recorded in October 2011.

Paul Wheaton Dandelions in permaculture video

Paul Wheaton Mullein video

Paul Wheaton Comfrey video

Paul Wheaton Jerusalem artichoke video (11 1/2 minutes) including some footage of me and Tulsey starting at 1:30. Shot in July 2010 and October 2011.

Paul Wheaton Slug moat video (4 minutes) showing our slug moat with Tulsey & me describing it a bit. Shot in August 2011.

Paul Wheaton Currant sawfly video (less than 2 minutes) of me describing how I trained our chickens to eat currant sawfly caterpillars. Shot in July 2010.

Perennial Vegetables article from Portland Tribune, July 9 2009.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ecoroof Grant Report: Addendum

See Ecoroof Grant Report for the main write-up. This is an addendum to that post.

During a site visit from Portland BES staff to see the ecoroofs, Tom Lipton suggested two changes to our ecoroofs:

Mulching exposed pond liner

On the garage and carport roofs, we had left about half the pond liner exposed. (See original report for details.) That makes the liner vulnerable to degradation by sunlight, making it last only 20 years instead of the 40+ years expected from a liner covered by soil media. Tom has been experimenting with douglas fir needles as a thin mulch on a light-weight ecoroof of his own, and has been having good success, so he suggested that we apply something similar.

In some areas we moved soil media over the exposed liner in a very thin layer. In the rest, we applied a thin layer of pine needles or bamboo twigs with leaves. Both materials should decompose slowly, providing an effective sun blocking mulch, without holding water and thus adding excess weight to the roof. They will likely require periodic reapplication as they decompose, though perhaps some of the hardy sedums will eventually colonize the areas and act as permanent cover over the thin layer of organic matter.

Expanding sunspace roof drainage channel

We have ~290 ft² of metal roof from the rest of the house draining into the sunspace roof. I created two small channels using 4” diameter drainpipes. Tom mentioned potential problems he'd seen in similar situations in winters when we get alternating freezing and thawing weather, creating ice dams around the drain. He suggested enlarging one of the drain areas to minimize that risk. I removed the drainpipe from the western channel and dug out the soil media to leave just a thin layer for pond liner protection.

Self-sufficient tropical diet, rough draft

My original Self sufficient diet post didn't use an awkward enough title, so I've added "tropical" to this attempt. This also has something to do with moving to Hawaii instead of northern California, I suppose. Silliness aside, I present my latest rough sketch based partly on my temperate climate draft and on my observations since then of how much we actually eat of what; and mostly on the plantings suggested by Scott at Evening Rain Farm for a family on two acres in the lowland tropics. I've guessed at space requirements, loosely based on numbers from Scott, from Jeavons' biointensive book, and from random sources online. Mostly by accident, this version has goat milk replacing 80% of the meat included in the temperate version. (I've grown enamored with the idea of goat walking through the jungle, getting a majority of calories from their milk supplemented by hunting & foraging.)

In the table below, "Cals/day" and "Oz/day" give the number of calories and the number of ounces one person would consume on average each day. "% of diet" gives the daily caloric consumption as a percentage based on 2400 total calories per day. "Qty req" gives the total number of trees, poultry, etc required to feed 10 people 2400 calories each. "Land" gives a rough estimate of how much space would be needed to provide 10 people an annual yield sufficient for 2400 calories/day using this category as a monocrop (not integrated with other foods).
Food typeCals/day% of dietOz/dayQty req.LandNotes
Goat milk40016.5%94 full-time does + babiesIntegrated into zones 2&3, and walked through 4&52 1/2 cups milk/person/day
Goat meat351.5%14? babies per year yielding 260 lbs hanging weight?Integrated into zones 2&3, and walked through 4&5Very unsure of realities of how much goat meat we'll get as a byproduct of keeping does for milk
Eggs25010.5%650 hens + 4-8 cocksIntegrated into zones 1&23 eggs/person/day. Mostly chickens, some ducks
Poultry meat401.5%1Culling 50 hens & cocks per yearIntegrated into zones 1&2Based on hatching 50 new eggs each year to replace the 25 oldest layers and then culling 25 young cockerels. We could hatch out more eggs specifically for meat
Fruit & berries25010.5%~1611-25 trees10,000 ft²Assume 20' to 30' spacing on grid. Assume 1/3 lb/ft²
Avocado27511.5%812 trees11,000 ft²Assuming 21 lbs/100 ft² and 30' grid spacing
Coconut30012.5%5~46 trees, tall & dwarf20,000 ft²Uncertain of #s. Assuming 30 lbs per plant, on 21' spacing in square grids
Bananas1657%950 plants7,200 ft²Assume 12' spacing on grid, and 40 lbs/100 ft²
Nuts30012.5%215-30 trees11,000 ft²Spacing from 20' to 30' affects # of trees
Starchy crops30012.5%16 7,000 ft²Assume yield of 1/2 lb/ft². Start with taro, sweet potato, cassava, yam, squash; phase out once tree crops of breadfruit, malabar chestnut, etc start bearing
Greens401.5%4 1,000 ft²Assume yield of 1 lb/ft², between beds and foraging greens from other parts of the system.
Honey451.5%.52 hives?10 ft²Assume 60 lbs/honey/hive/year
Grand total2400100%4.85 lbs 67,200 ft² 
So the total land required to feed 10 people is about 1.5 acres for the plant portion of the diet in zones 1 and 2 (and maybe 3). I'm making some big assumptions here about being able to fit the chickens into zones 1 and 2 with no additional space required, and bigger assumptions about keeping goats in zones 2 & 3 with goat walking in zones 4 & 5.

I would expect to fence the chickens and goats out of about 8000 ft² of zone 1 for the greens, berries, and starchy roots.

Book review: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

I've known of Harvey Ussery and his pioneering homestead flock techniques for years, since he started posting on the RunningOnEmpty2 peak oil listserve. Now he's written the book I wish I'd had when we started keeping chickens 6 years ago: a thorough guide with breadth and depth to all aspects of integrating poultry into a homestead food system, based on decades of experience working out details of permacultural, whole-systems approaches. Most importantly, he's spent at least the past 6 years experimenting with ways to adjust his methods to prepare for the changes peak oil, climate change, and economic disruptions will force on us all.

His book gives the usual basic information on keeping poultry: selecting species (from the range of waterfowl, geese, guineas, chickens, and some more exotic options); selecting breeds (if he could only keep one chicken breed with no further inputs of chicks and feed from outside he would keep Old English Games; if only one waterfowl he'd keep Muscovies); starting from day-old chicks; housing; watering; providing purchased feed; fencing (the hardest part for him to transition to non-industrial technology - he relies on electric fencing); protecting from predators; and killing & butchering. He includes detailed explanations for why he does things the way he does after years of working out his systems - very appealing to me with my brain that wants to understand why systems work the way they do, so that I can apply the principles to my own situation rather than just copying someone else's model.

The book really stands out from the other poultry guides I've read in its details on permacultural integration of chickens into the rest of the homestead: both for their inputs (feed produced on site) and for their outputs when putting them to work in mutually beneficial ways. His chickens process all his compost (some specifically as compost piles, some as part of their deep litter bedding system), turning it and breaking it down faster while finding much of their own food in the process. He details some excellent twists on the chicken tractor theme. He describes multiple interlocking strategies for providing feed including cover crops eaten by and tilled into new beds by his chickens; sprouting grains; making comfrey & nettle "hay"; and the infamous use of "recomposers" such as vermiculture worms, blow fly maggots and soldier fly larvae. (I've successfully used his bucket-based "maggot farm" in the past to convert roadkill, meat scraps, and wet cat food into delightfully squirmy chicken feed.)

Interestingly, because of his whole-systems approach to keeping his chickens fed a good diet with plenty of rotating grazing pasture and well ventilated, dry shelter, his chapter on chicken health might be considered "useless" in comparison to other books detailing how to treat this or that disease or parasite. He simply hasn't had to deal with more than a handful of problems raising thousands of individuals over almost 30 years, because he just keeps his birds healthy!

I learned the most from the chapters on breeding; I've never had to think about this since we can't keep a rooster in the city anyway. I had vague notions of letting our flock in Hawaii free-range and make babies as they saw fit, culling to select for future breeders. But this book opened my eyes to the fact that allowing free breeding in a small flock quickly results in loss of productivity in new generations from inbreeding depression. So despite my goal of having very minimal hands-on control over our Hawaii flock, I will probably adopt the "spiral mating" method and some active selection over who breeds with whom. I may post a separate discussion of this topic and my thoughts for Hawaii.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it doesn't do me much good now! (But that's not the book's fault.) Had I read it 6 years ago, I'd have had a much more realistic idea of how to integrate chickens into our site, and I'd have made better design and management decisions here. If I were staying at this site, or even moving elsewhere on the mainland (such as to northern California as originally planned) I could apply many of the book's lessons. But we're moving to Hawaii, with minimal predator pressure, mild climate meaning no need for formal shelter, ample acreage producing forage year-round, and a food system dominated by food forest with the chickens running freely everywhere beneath. So most of the techniques based on directing chicken activity through loose confinement won't apply to our situation.

I have only one other minor complaint: I noticed maybe 15-20 occurrences of Ussery repeating himself, giving the same information (even using the same phrasing) in multiple places. Sometimes this seems justified (warnings about something with potential significant danger to the health of the poultry), and in some sense I can understand it as part of the whole-systems approach - the book has to be divided into discrete chapters with specific focus, but much of the information falls under multiple categories and makes sense to present with each of them. But often it comes across as sloppy editing.

All in all, a must read book for anyone in the beginning stages of keeping poultry or not satisfied with their current systems and their resiliency as imported resources become tighter. And even those experienced flocksters with a well-developed, functional system can likely learn a trick or two!