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  • VA2SFX 10:40 pm on May 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Food, , , ,   

    Planting a food forest 

    I’m really not an expert on this. I’ve planted some fruit trees that lived, and some that did not.

    My basic concept is “set it and forget it.”

    Plant ’em, don’t water ’em, mulch ’em if you got ’em, but don’t weed ’em. Fuck the rest.

    I don’t have advice for anybody, I have only what I’m trying.

    Whether my approach is a success will take years to determine. I planted some of these fairly close together, but I figure if in ten years I have to decide which amazing perfect super fruitful tree I have to trim or remove, my time won’t have been wasted. And right now, the closeness maximizes the available space.

    The trees are on about 12′ centers. 2 ea. apple, pear, plum. 2 ea. serviceberry, blackberry and two ea. of two different types of seedless grapes. Plus two each of elder and hardy fig will arrive in a separate delivery.

    Elsewhere I have peach, fig, kiwi, cherry, plum, raspberries, (unproductive failing) blueberries, grape and pears. We’ll see what survives and produces fruit over time, over years.

    I used a grub hoe to take away the top tufts of grass and roots. Then covered in a square-ish shape the soil around the tree with some tough thick tarp pieces I have (the plastic doesn’t degrade much), and marked them with larger sticks, and with logs which I have in abundance.

    Over the mounds I sowed mixed edible, wildflower and other seeds, and in the spaces I sowed heavily oats over the grass and sunflowers round the perimeter. My idea is to stock the soil seed bank and add rather than subtract. Try to mimic an emerging meadow transitioning to a forest…

  • VA2SFX 2:38 pm on April 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Food, , , ,   

    Plant & Seed Order 2017 

    My plan is basically still the same as I sketched out at the end of last season. A mixed fruit tree / berry area interspersed with perennial herbs, mixed with both perennial and annual wildflowers, plus all kinds of grains, edible leaf plants, a few peppers and tomatoes, and pretty much anything else I can manage to scrounge up. It’s intended to be a sort of “wild-simulated” situation with heavy stocking of the soil seed bank, so Nature can kind of make her own choices over time about what will thrive — based on my hints and suggestions of what we like and I know grows here well (or hope will one day).

    View story at Medium.com

    Purchased from:

    Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery, Quebec

    • American Plum
    • Surprise apple tree
    • Magenta Grape Vine (seedless)
    • Somerset Grape Vine (seedless)
    • Blackberries
    • Serviceberry
    • Surprise Pear Tree

    Richters, Ontario

    • Bob Gordon elder
    • Chicago hardy fig
    • Lavender Munstead Plug pack
    • Lavender Phenomenal Plug pack
    • Oregano Kaliteri Plug pack
    • Oregano Italian Plug pack
    • Oregano Profusion Plants
    • Oregano Greek Plug pack
    • Oregano Syrian Plants
    • Oregano Turkestan Plants
    • Pepper Bhut Jolokia Plug pack
    • Pepper Jalapeno Chile Plug pack
    • Pepper Scotch Bonnet Plug
    • Rosemary Hill Hardy Plug
    • Tomato Black Cherry Plug
    • Tomato Roma Plug pack
    • Zaatar plants

    Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, Saskatchewan

    These are sold as microgreens/shoots, but I’m sowing them directly in the field to stock the soil seed bank.

    • Arugula
    • Garbanzo
    • Fava beans
    • Flax
    • Fenugreek
    • Large green lentils
    • Kohlrabi
    • Millet
    • Brown mustard
    • Dwarf grey sugar peas
    • Green peas
    • Popcorn
    • Black quinoa
    • White quinoa
    • Khorasan wheat

    Johnny’s Select Seeds, Maine

    • Crimson clover
    • Pearl millet
    • Sudangrass
    • Anise-hyssop
    • Borage
    • Calendula
    • Chamomile
    • Collards
    • Pickling cucumber
    • Nasturtium
    • Gold beets
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Caracas carrot
    • Sorrel
    • Claytonia
    • Golden purslane
    • Parsley
    • Cilantro
    • Zaatar

    Vermont Wildflower Farm (VT)

    • Penny Pincher mix
    • Northeastern all perennial mix
  • VA2SFX 2:20 pm on December 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Food,   

    Projected Median Farm Income 2016 (US) 

    Fun with farming losses

    When I ran my own small farm startup in the 2015 season, I thought my outcome financially was something of an aberration — a personal failing if you will. However, if the numbers here are to be believed, I was actually completely on track — average even!

    Local-obssessed foodies love farming in theory moreso than practice

    This year, farm-sector profitability is forecast to decline for the third year in a row. Net farm income is projected to go down, as are farm asset values. The projected median farm income for 2016 is negative $1,473. Just about the only statistic projected to rise in 2016 is farm debt.

    Note: USDA ERS says -$1,412 here.

    Though exact numbers are no longer at my fingertips, that’s a pretty direct correlation to my experience. I ended up about $1K (CAD) in the hole of expenses relative to income — though the difference was more or less made up by the meat in the freezer at the end of the season.

    Ah, found some of my old documentation here:

    Let’s see…

    Total expenses: $8,958.91

    Local-obssessed foodies love farming in theory moreso than practice

    Total income: $7,544.15

    Local-obssessed foodies love farming in theory moreso than practice

    Difference: -$1,414.76

    Spooky, because the stated USDA ERS data from the link above puts my loss within just under $3 of the projected US average (though I’m in Canada and our currency valuation is different, obvs).

    One last reference link on the subject from my experiences:

    Local-obssessed foodies love farming in theory moreso than practice

    A Grand Unified Theory of Farming

    Version 1: Don’t do it.

    Version 2: Don’t do it for money.

    Version 3: Don’t rely on it as only income source.

    Version 4: Do something else for money and farm for food, fun and family.

    Version 5: Only do the easy stuff. Only sell what’s profitable.

    Version 6: Do it anyway. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Somewhere between all of those — hopefully — you’ll find your farming truth.

  • VA2SFX 2:11 pm on December 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chernobyl, , Food, , Ukraine   

    CNBC: Radioactive berry, mushroom market thrives around Chernobyl 

    Chernobyl, Ukraine


    While many rural towns across Eastern Europe face economic struggle, the Ukrainian region of Polesia, 200 miles east of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, has become something of a boomtown for foragers seeking mushrooms and berries — nearly all of which are contaminated with radiation. […]

    Brown notes that in 2015, Ukraine exported 1,300 tons of fresh berries and 17,251 tons of frozen berries to the European market. That is more than 30 times as much as in 2014.

    The berry picking brings in money for locals as well. A picker can earn $20 to $30 a day, whereas a local schoolteacher earns $80 a month.

    However, Brown also says there could be some hidden costs — the berries end up in the hands of European customers who often do not know they are ingesting foods containing radioactive isotopes. In addition, Brown notes, the berries can be labeled organic, since radioactivity is not covered under common organic designations.

  • VA2SFX 1:53 pm on November 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Calysta, , Food, Methane,   

    New Scientist: Food made from natural gas will soon feed farm animals — and us 

    (Image credit: jpenrose, Public Domain)

    Hm, oil companies controlling (toxic) irrigation water supplies. Gas companies manufacturing food. What could go wrong?

    This is literally the plot of Chipotle’s (lackluster) self-made TV show, Farmed and Dangerous:

    Whoo, science!


    A biotechnology company called Calysta, based in Menlo Park, California, is set to announce the first ever large-scale factory that uses microbes to turn natural gas — methane — into a high-protein food for the animals we eat. The factory, which will be built in the US in collaboration with food-giant Cargill, will produce 200,000 tonnes of feed a year.

    The methane-made food has already been approved in the European Union for feeding to farmed fish and livestock such as pigs. Calysta is seeking approval in the US, too — and not just for farm animals. “We want to take it all the way to cats and dogs, and potentially even humans,” says the head of Calysta, Alan Shaw.

  • VA2SFX 7:27 pm on October 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Famine, Food, , ,   

    Reuters: Famine fears in post-hurricane Haiti 

    Is there a kind of agriculture that is if not hurricane-proof, then at least resilient?

    Hurricane Matthew tore up large tracts of food crops as well as mature coffee and cocoa plantations when it ravaged Haiti’s fertile south last week, with a U.N. official expressing concern about possible famine in the poorest nation in the Americas.

    The destruction of crops like rice, corn and beans in the area puts more than 100,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition, the United Nations said on Friday, in a Caribbean country where half the population already was underfed before the powerful hurricane hit.

    While about half of Haiti’s food supply is imported, much of what it does produce is grown in the south.

    See also:

  • VA2SFX 10:01 pm on October 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Food, ,   

    Terre de Chez Nous: Five farms in Quebec allowed to have 500 hens outside quota 

    Quebec, Canada


    Quebec agriculture is governed in some sectors by “gestion de l’offre,” which translates literally to offer management, or more properly a quota system. (ie, overall production in certain ag sectors is officially capped)

    Outside quota (which costs $$$ and which is limited in overall supply), you’re allowed to have up to 99 laying hens. Five selected, lucky, magical farms in Quebec are being allowed to have up to 500 laying hens, as of Sept. 30, 2016:


    En effet, vendredi dernier, le 30 septembre, la Fédération des producteurs d’œufs du Québec a accordé à cinq entreprises un prêt de quota à vie permettant la mise en marché de la production maximale de 500 poules pondeuses.

    Cinq fermes pourront donc aménager un poulailler de 500 poules ou moins sans devoir acheter un quota de production. Tous les œufs devront cependant être vendus en circuit court, c’est-à-dire dans les marchés publics, dans les paniers bio, etc. Par contre, ces petits producteurs n’auront pas accès au système de gestion des surplus de la Fédération.

  • VA2SFX 2:23 pm on October 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Economy, Food, , ,   

    Daily Mail: Hungry Venezuelans stop livestock truck to steal chickens 

    Tocuyito, Venezuela


    “In disturbing footage, a huge crowd of people can be seen stopping a lorry on the motorway to snatch live chickens from their crates inside. […]

    Traffic comes to a standstill as dozens of hungry people sprint over to the truck to grab the birds out of their containers.”

    Original Spanish-language source:


  • VA2SFX 4:00 pm on October 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Food, ,   

    Global Futurist: Japanese company to open all-robotic indoor growing facility in 2017 


    “The Japanese lettuce production company Spread believes the farmers of the future will be robots — so much so that Spread is creating the world’s first farm manned entirely by robots. Instead of relying on human farmers, the indoor Vegetable Factory will employ robots that can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every day.”

    Website of Spread:




    “Because quite soon — before we’ve reached the end of this century, even — I think that what people call robots will have taken over.” Robots will rule the world? “Well, yes. They’ll be in charge.” In charge of us? “Yes, if we’re still here. Whether they’ll have taken over peacefully or otherwise, I have no idea.”

  • VA2SFX 9:03 pm on September 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Food, , , ,   

    Time: Experimental Martian garden takes root in Quebec 


    I took these photos about a week ago, I guess — on assignment. Here at one of several QASA research stations on a mostly-uninhabited island in the St. Lawrence River where we are developing crops to produce biofuels, medicinals and foodstuffs for Martian Freightliners, Colonial Capital Corporations and various unaffiliated Terran climate refugees capable of affording passage.


    “As we speak, the Quebec Autonomous Space Agency is preparing to launch, via SpaceX, its premiere vague of “full-equip” modified RVs hurtling toward the Red Planet — with enough potatoes and firewood to last the next 26 months…” […]

    “If Quebec wants to be both independent and profitable, we must go to Space.”

    Below used to be garlic until mid-July.

    Pulled the garlic and then laid in thick wood chip layer over densely-sown oats. Oats germinating well and between the oats and the chips, other weeds seem to be basically smothered.

    Close-up of oats pulled out and wood chips:

    Hardy Chicago Fig (Richter’s) — one of several Climate Change gambles I’m currently letting play out in the garden.

    Kiwis (Green Barn Nursery):

    A male and two females — now I forget which is which…

    Seedless grapes:

    Frost Peach, at left. Two pears at right (Green Barn Nursery)

    Probably millets?

    There’s one with black seeds here (below) that I know I planted, but not sure what it is. Possibly another variety of millet? The form of their seedhead is pretty different though.

    If you want to try to hazard guesses about the unknowns here, I did keep a record of what I had at the beginning of the season. Tiny broomcorns maybe above?


    I made no specific records of what was planted where, or if even all of the above were planted or not. There was also a lot of mixing that went on as well…

    My theory was always that for whatever succeeded, I’d have at least somewhere to start — and some motivation — for going back to identify the winners. Perhaps that time is finally upon me now that the season is winding down…

    These are definitely some type of Italian dandelion I planted…

    I think I’m seeing some success elsewhere (not pictured) of garnet chicory or maybe bloody dock?

    Part of the beauty/mystery/design/frustration of stocking the soil seed bank in the way that I have is that it may take several years for your “seed round” investments to yield. That’s why I’m kind of like grow ’em all and let [insert deity/supreme force/fate, etc] sort it out…


    Another good case in point: at right is red clover. At left is _____? (light green — click to enlarge image)

    Accepting uncertainty…

    Maybe some kind of amaranth (at left above), based on leaf shape, but they’re borderline hairy leaves and they taste almost medicinal… so I’m not sure. If they ever get to flowering I assume I’ll have more evidence on which to propose an identification…

    I guess maybe, psychologically, part of the impetus behind keeping general and not specific records is to prevent myself from getting too attached… If plans simply fail to come up, I can’t point to a sign or a conclusive chart or something and say x didn’t work. Instead, I can look at it from another angle: z worked. Why did z work? What about z and the growing conditions I’ve got here are compatible such that z was able to be expressed?

    It’s for me a more complex calculation then, if less scientific. Pure, controlled field trials would be more scientific. It’s volitional I guess too. That is, recognizant of the plants’ volution and the place’s volition. It’s perhaps a philosophical position to take, but it’s not “me” that’s growing plants. I might be tending — however loosely — a garden. But the plants grow on their own or don’t. Succeed or don’t. Success might end up being relative, but given enough trials over a long enough timeline, it’s a guaranteed outcome.

    Teff, an Ethiopian grain in a light-green band in the middle here:

    Hoppy Hour:

    Having seen what a difference you can get out of the plants if you do a good job (like last year) or a bad job (like this year) of tying up and trellising this plant, in future I will make some better — and maybe even more elborate & sculptural trellises for these guys. Maybe a nice pergola is in my future?

    I should be so lucky.

    A giant Miscanthus:

    Agastache loves us and the feeling is mutual.

    Benefits of Agastache:

    - Grows great in this climate with no maintenance or irrigation
    - Perennial
    - Edible leaves (licorice-flavor)
    - Amazing herbal tea from flowers
    - Bees go crazy on this plant
    - Long lasting attractive purple spike flowers last a long time during season. 

    Experimenting for next year with wild-sowing them. That and lavender. I feel like especially if lavender can be wild-sown and succeed, that would be a major coup. A sort of wilderness of herbes-de-provence in the garden. Could be major.

    Some very successful closely planted herb boxes:

    I’ll divide and conquer the lucky remainees after next Spring’s thaw — spreading them out across the plantscape to “re-wild” it.

    Trying to put my garlic stalks to use here where I can in the garden as biomass and ground-cover:

    Hill Hardy Rosemary (Richter’s):

    I’m hoping to find a winner rosemary varietal for this climate that can survive under the snow and revive after it.

    Origanum dictamnus — Dittany of Crete (Richter’s):

    Bergamot in foreground — not yet flowering:

    I’ve had scary success with parsley — that is, if you measure success in allowing plants to go to seed rapidly, which may not be the typical gardening goal; a lot of gardening techniques focus on arresting growth at a certain stage. I don’t have time, though, to go out and tell all these plants what to do. And besides, that’s not why they hired me…

    The umbelliferaes are umbelliferating, that’s for sure.

    Is there a future in broom corn?

    Only one way to find out.


    We’ll see what develops next year.

    Do they have maple syrup on Mars?
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