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

    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 7:18 pm on June 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Garden, ,   

    Garden ‘n Garage Gifs 

    I guess you had to be there.

  • VA2SFX 11:28 pm on June 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Garden, Vimeo   

    Garden close-up 

    With audio from bumpers.fm app, which is awesome.

    Try playing video at the same time:

    I made the video separately offline. The audio editing process in Bumpers is amazing.

    You know what this needs? Some Vines…

  • VA2SFX 2:37 pm on June 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Finance, Garden,   

    More mulch 

    The neighbor had a big old rotten tree, which a cutting crew came up and took down, sectioned anything usable into (rotten) firewood and mulched the rest. You can be sure I was greedily watching this process from the window…

    Via a five minute walk to talk to the chef d’equipe, they agreed to drop the load behind my little garage.

    I gave the guy a tip of $40. He didn’t ask for anything and was happy to not have to haul it and drop it somewhere else where he would probably have to pay.

    He said something about buying bieres pour les gars. Exactly.

    Maybe they’ll come back.

    But in the meantime, I had to buy a bigger shovel (a so-called “grain shovel”). I’ve made literally ten million trips with the brouette.

    The guy said it was environs 4.5 tonnes per truck, and I take comme 1.5 charges de camion. So not bad for forty dollars.

    Mulch porn

    So that makes the $400 CAD that I pay last time for probably half the volume suddenly equal out. This is how life works — at least if you pray to the God of Mulch like I do.

    View story at Medium.com

  • VA2SFX 6:21 pm on June 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Garden, Order,   



  • VA2SFX 6:33 pm on May 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Garden, ,   



  • VA2SFX 11:38 pm on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biologique, Garden,   


    From Quebec with love.

  • VA2SFX 11:13 pm on April 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Garden,   

    Installing BirdNet 

    Believe me, I’m jealous when I hear that Spring has sprung in other parts of North America. Where I am in Quebec, it’s snowing. It may be one of the last blasts, but it’s snowing nonetheless. And we still have a few snow drifts around the house that are at least up to my shoulders…

    Regardless, I’ve been working hard to install a wireless bird system in my garden in advance of the season. I’ve been sowing CNAME and A records for the last few weeks in the form of bird seed deposits to see if I can’t get the BirdNet servers to pick up my custom garden domain and do a re-direct. So far so good, but they’ve been depositing a lot of small white turd authority which I’m not sure whether it will cannibalize my organic traffic or not. TBD.

    Dewalt circular saw

    But in the mornings, I’ve begun trying to get back into shape (hopefully burning off a little winter flab in the process) by spending about 90 minutes per day — when it’s not bitterly cold in my garage — to make new bird-houses out of what was once the bed that I’d made out of 2″x8″s and particle board which served us as long as you can expect an $80 home-made bed frame could (we now have “memory foam” and a fancy store-bought frame, ooh la la).

    Combination pneumatic stapler/brad nailer

    In any event, I have a bunch of extra wood from dismantling the bed, so I’ve begun a pattern of religiously making two bird houses per day in the morning. So the birds I’ve been feeding are now learning that they are welcome to stay on the season and build little nests in order to fortify my personal garden BirdGrid.

    They usually look something like this, with variation:

    I’ve got the pattern worked out where, once I’ve got the sheet goods cut into strips on a table saw, I can now slam together a serviceable house in under 20 minutes. It’s not a race, of course, it’s for the pleasure of it.

    And for the BirdGrid:

    BirdGrid custom install

    I’ve now got about 7 of the new-style houses installed, plus some older nodes from last season scattered around.

    BirdGrid is meant as a fundamental layer in the biodiversity protocol which I’m baking into my garden from jump this season. I want them to stay, hang out, predate, eat and shit out thereby dispersing seeds on the property. In short, I want to invite Nature in according to whatever forms she chooses, and make sure she has the basic resources to do the things she needs in our garden.

    Honestly, I don’t really know where it’s all going, but at this point I’ve learned enough to sit back and enjoy the process.

    Garden gnome affirming that he has “got this”

    At a certain point, I have to just accept that the gnomes, elves, goblins, fairies and all the rest “got this” and just see what happens.

    What can I say, it’s worked so far!

    If nothing else, it feels good to touch and cut wood again and end the morning covered in a thin film of sawdust. Worse things could happen. With any luck, they won’t!

  • VA2SFX 8:49 pm on June 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Garden, Microgreens,   

    Microgreen madness 

    Get “rich” by going small

    I started this story in my ebook, “The $1,000 Farm” — offering the idea that you could start farming on a super-small scale by raising and selling microgreens. A lot of people know already about germinating seeds and eating them a few days later. But less people are familiar with microgreens which (generally) are germinated in soil, put under lights and harvested somewhere between 10–14 days, depending (could be more, rarely less).

    I first learned about it via SPIN farmer Curtis Stone and Luke Callahan (whose ebook is a much more detailed roadmap to starting a small microgreens business, soup to nuts), but thought it would be a good time to save some of my observations after about three successful months of producing and selling.

    Anyway, my original idea was: get started farming as cheaply as possible with microgreens. For about $200, you can be up and running with a simple wooden rack (plans included in my book), fluorescent lights (or the T8 LEDs — even better), soil, seeds and black 11″x22″ trays. As you sell (each tray is worth approimately $15 when all grows well — and you’re able to sell it, of course), you can basically push this money into ramping up your production. And as you cross other thresholds, you can use this money to start farming outdoor on a small market-garden scale — assuming you have access to land (and you don’t need much).

    So that’s my premise, and it seems to be borne out by the details of my actual subsequent real-world experiments.

    If you want to start, buy yourself some peas and sunflower seeds. For both of those, I use about 2 liters of soil (that’s the size of the old ice cream container I use as a scoop) in each 11″x22″ tray, and approximately 3 oz of seeds in a little measuring glass (sorry that’s not converted to liters too, but that’s life). For small seeds, you’re looking at more like 1 oz or even less of seeds to the same volume of soil. You can experiment with sowing density, but you’ll just have to see as you repeat the process over and over what works in your conditions.

    Best technique: use a double tray, the bottom one with no holes, the top one with holes. Put your soil in the one with holes, then put that tray inside the no holes one. Soak only your big seeds something like 8–12 hours. Dry them out, or at least mostly. Then sow thickly onto the surface of the soil. Do not bury them. Use a sprayer to really soak the soil, then stack your trays one on top of the next. Make sure to weigh down the top one. This weight helps activate the gravitropic response in the seeds, so they know which way to send down their roots.

    Water once from above per day for about three days, or until you can see that the tails of the seeds have convincingly gone down into the soil and are gripping themselves in place via their roots. After this, put them under lights about 10 hours per day. When they look “big enough” to you, start cutting and eating a little bit each day, until you get a good feel for when is the right time to harvest and eat them.

    After you put your plants under lights, stop watering them from above and start bottom-watering by pouring just enough water into the bottom tray that it covers the bottom of the tray evenly. Do not go overboard watering. If you think you see “white fuzzy stuff” growing, it’s probably only tiny rootlet hairs, and not fungus. Unless it’s fungus, but I’ve been very able to avoid those kinds of problems myself.

    I find with sunflowers, that if you wait too long to harvest (generally once the second set of leaves starts developing), the flavor becomes not as good. And with peas, they’re just going to grow taller and taller. Eventually you’ll be forced to cut them when they start touching your lights too much. Again, you’ll just have to develop a sense for it.

    Honestly, I’ve had almost no big problems getting this production to run really steadily and smoothly again and again. The only one I saw was with some radishes early on which were getting like little black spots/holes on the undersides of their leaves. Moving up from the cheapest soil to a slightly better quality solved that completely.

    At first, I was washing rigorously all my trays after each run, and even using bleach. But eventually stopped after those problems went away. I dump out my harvested trays to my chickens who happily scratch through it and eat whatever is left. I’d like to find a way to recoup my soil, but short of running it through compost worm system (which I’ve seen a much larger grower in Montreal doing), I’m not sure yet of a simple way to make that happen.

    As it stands, I think I’m paying around $15 CAD for approximately 75–80 liters of soil. So maybe that’s something like 35 trays per one bag of organic seedling mix. I buy my seeds mostly from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine, though occasionally supplement with what’s locally available at an organic grocery here in town (they re-sell seeds from Mumm’s).

    I’ve also experimented with just buying a big ass bag of sunflower seeds meant for bird seed, and threw that down on compost outdoors. It works fine, though the condition are a lot less controlled than in my indoor grow rack. I simulated the top-weight by throwing down plywood with a couple rocks after sowing and watering in my seeds. The germination takes significantly longer and the grow-out takes longer (can be two weeks and beyond), but it can be a cost-effective way to grow a large quantity outdoors. The outdoor stuff looks worse (less uniformly green) but I think tastes better — more complex, nutty and “bursting” with flavor. I sell both for the same price, when I have the available.

    I sell a 30 oz clear PLA (corn-based) plastic container directly to the consumer for $3. To make the $15 per tray, you’ll need weighty greens. A lot of the smaller stuff, like mustard or rocket I haven’t succeeded wildly to get the combination right where I can produce $15 worth of weight. So I’ve basically stopped growing what doesn’t work easily and doesn’t pay. I think this is a really critical principle if you’re going to play this game.

    Actually, right now, I sell the vast majority of my stuff to a few local restaurants. I have five local clients, to be exact and they are just about all small “higher-end” places that are inns with restaurants attached. I sell 100 grams for $8 to restos, and 200g for $15. If this is going to be your only product and in low quantities, it’s best to get them to pay you right while you’re standing there so you’re not waiting Net 30 days or whatever for someone to maybe remember to send you a check.

    I know Luke Callahan recommends having a minimum order for restaurants of $50, otherwise you start to lose time and money zipping around trying to fill like $10 orders here and there. But I’m on a pretty small island, trying to only serve clients on the island (for now), so I’m not super in a position to tell people to pony up that much or go away. 4/5 of my restaurants only buy like $10 from me every 2–3 weeks anyway, which sucks. But I’ve developed one good relationship with one cool up-and-coming chef who now basically is my main client and buys whatever I bring in, whether it’s microgreens, stuff from my garden or wild edibles that I forage. It seems to be very hit-or-miss with finding these places that will become the good business relationships you want. But that’s part of the fun of it too, I guess.

    My advice is, even if there’s someone else offering this kind of product near you (and there is one other here doing it much bigger and for longer), still try anyway. You’ll at least easily be able to make back whatever money you put into it (probably over the course of 2–3 months or potentially less) and probably see an easy profit.

    I’ve also, without really ever intending to, struck a deal with a local CSA to include my microgreens in their little PLA transparent boxes as an optional add-on product for their customers. I sell to the farm for $2 a box, they sell it for $3. I’ve also sold extra stock I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell to a local convenience store for 3/$5, and then they sell it for $3. I haven’t found that route is really worth it though, and haven’t sold them anything since.

    If you want to get started farming and have limited space, capital and experience, I think microgreens is one of the best ways you can try it out. You’ll basically encounter miniature versions of all the different challenges you’d face doing any other kind of production, and you’ll be able to abstract from that experience general guidelines for producing, selling, storing, transporting, etc that you can apply afterwards to anything you want.

    Can’t recommend it enough, and if you want to know what to do next, check out my ebook — which I’ll be updating at the end of the season with a full honest break-down of all my financial records and much much more.



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