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Archive for the ‘Rocket stoves’ Category

hazelnut cluster-closeupp-BLOG

hazelnut cluster near harvest

In the spring of 2007, I planted hazelnut trees on the north border of my garden.  Last fall, a short four years later, I began to harvest the nuts.  Not all the trees were bearing, but enough were so that I could enjoy a nice harvest and work out the details of what to do with them.  There may be a slight difference between hazelnuts and filberts.  One source referred to the varieties native to the U.S. as hazelnuts and the European varieties as filberts, however I’ve seen the words used interchangeably.  For clarity, I’ll just refer to them all as hazelnuts and specify if I mean American or European varieties.  I have seventeen trees each planted 4 feet apart.  The nuts grow in clusters on the trees, as shown in the photo.  It was exciting to watch them develop over the summer.  I had heard that squirrels often take them, so I watched carefully into September.  I didn’t want them to fall to the ground because I was afraid I would lose them.  As the clusters dried on the tree I pulled them off.  If they needed further drying I put them in the solar dryers.  The harvest began October 9.  At first I stored them in baskets in a cool room in the house.  Having them in clusters insured that there would be some air circulation.  Eventually I got around to threshing them out of the clusters by putting them in a pillowcase and hitting it with a stick.  I use that same procedure to separate dried beans from their hulls.  After threshing I stored some hazelnuts in a crock-type “cookie jar” in my pantry. (It came to my kitchen second-hand and actually says “Cookies” on it.)  The rest were put into a pillowcase and hung in the barn to keep safe from mice.

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hazelnuts and vice-grips for shelling

The nuts still need to be shelled before eating.  These hazelnuts are smaller than the shelled nuts you will find in the health food store.  In fact, they were too small to use with a regular nut cracker, so I resorted to using a hammer to crack them open.  That worked, but often I hit too hard and also smashed the nutmeat.  My solution was to use vice-grips (locking pliers).  I could set the screw on the end of the handle so that the pliers would close to just the right space, cracking the shell but not the nutmeat.  At first I borrowed the vice grips from our workshop, even though they were a little big for the job.  Santa brought me a smaller pair that I keep in the kitchen and are dedicated hazelnut crackers.  From the photo you can see that some nuts are much larger than others.  The trees with the largest nuts seemed to have fewer clusters.  There were anywhere from 2-9 nuts in a cluster.  The largest nuts were in the clusters containing 2-5 nuts.

My trees are American hazelnuts, Corylus americana, which are native to the Eastern U.S. and Canada.  Of the hazelnuts you find in the stores, 99% are grown in Oregon and are European varieties.  European hazelnuts are not quite as hardy as C. americana, but produce larger nuts.  They grow well in the Pacific Northwest where they were thought to be safe from the eastern filbert blight…..until they weren’t.  Eastern filbert blight is now in the western states.  As a result, Oregon State University has bred some European hazelnuts that are resistant to blight.  Rutgers University  also has a breeding program for resistant varieties, hoping to bring commercial hazelnut production to the eastern states.

Eastern filbert blight is not a problem with C. americana.  I bought my hazelnuts as seedling trees from the Virginia Department of Forestry, however, a quick online check shows they don’t offer them anymore.  Yes, some of the nuts were quite small, but some are fairly large.  All are tasty.  According to my favorite garden book, How To Grow Fruits and Vegetables by the Organic Method, edited by J.I. Rodale, if you find a native hazelnut tree in the wild that produces large nuts, dig the suckers and grow them out in your garden.  If you have one that you would like to propagate, and not go digging around, you can just bend the sucker to the ground.  Peg it there or put a rock on it, leaving a few inches of the tip sticking out.  Roots will grow and the following year you can dig that new plant to put elsewhere.  It will have the characteristics of the parent plant.  You can also propagate by planting the nuts.  That method will give you about a 70% chance of having the same characteristics as the parent.  I think I will pay attention and try my hand at propagating my more desirable trees by layering the suckers.

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hazelnut male and female flowers

Although you will find both male and female flowers on the same tree, hazelnuts are not self-fertile, so you need to plant at least two trees within 50 ft. of each other for wind pollination.  The male flowers are actually catkins that are more noticeable hanging from the branches.   The female flowers are tiny and can be found growing right along the branch.  You can see both in the photo.  Some varieties of hazelnuts are designated as producers and some are pollinators.  The pollinators will produce nuts, just not as many as the producers.

I chose hazelnuts for my garden border because I wanted something taller than garden plants for a north windbreak. I would have considered putting grapevines there, but it is a wetter area and grapes need a dry spot.  What I read at the time indicated that hazelnuts could stand the wet soil, however in doing research for this post, everything I see says they need a well-drained spot.  They seem to be doing well in my garden and we’ve had a wet year.  I used closer spacing because I was going for a hedgerow.  Orchard plantings, of course, would be further apart. 

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multiple stems of hazelnut

In permaculture we always think of plantings that can fill multiple niches.  Hazelnuts naturally grow as a shrub with multiple stems.  As they age, more suckers come.  I assume that I will eventually have to prune some of them out.  That will provide basket-making material and fuel for my rocket stove.  Nuts to eat, baskets, fuel, a nice looking border, and a windbreak all from one planting!  Apparently hazelnuts can be pruned to tree form from the beginning, rather than having multiple stemmed shrubs.  You would have to clip out the suckers when they are dormant early on in the life of the tree.  One internet source I read mentioned spraying the suckers with herbicide!  I’d rather learn to manage the hazelnuts as they naturally grow and find uses for extra suckers/stems. In commercial production the tree form is more desirable because it makes machine harvesting easier.  They let the nuts fall to the ground and pick them up with their machines.  That means they need a clean orchard floor.  I don’t even want to think about how they control the vegetation under the trees for the harvesting to go smoothly.  The American hazelnuts, which grow to about 10 ft., are a little shorter than the European varieties.  Mint, clover, and grass grow under my trees.  If the nuts fell to the ground, I would have to go searching for them, unless I kept that area mulched, or put out tarps or old sheets.  The nuts are actually mature before they fall out of the clusters and I found that it was easy to harvest the clusters on the tree as they ripened.  I wonder if easily falling out of the clusters is a desirable trait in the commercial varieties.  I would think so, although not a good trait in my garden.

I hope you add hazelnuts to your permaculture garden.  They are quick to mature, a good addition to your diet, and provide materials for other projects.  My next post on April 3 will be about my Homegrown Fridays this year which have included my own hazelnuts.

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Aladdin lamp

Aladdin lamp lit up our evenings

Earthquakes and hurricanes!  Some of you from far away may be wondering how we’ve fared with the earthquake so close and Hurricane Irene coming past on her way to Vermont.  First, about that earthquake.  Here in Ashland, Virginia we are about a 45 minute drive from the epicenter.  Out there it did considerable damage in places, closing two schools that may have to be rebuilt.  I was sitting on the back porch and suddenly felt the house shaking behind me.  Some people who were walking or driving in Richmond at the time may not have felt a thing, but if they were in a building they did.   It was big excitement for sure around here, but no damage at our place.  People needed to check their plumbing and chimneys to make sure nothing shook loose.

We also escaped damage from the hurricane.  We can count our blessings that the only disruption for us was that our electricity was out for four days.  Many big trees came down in the area, some on houses, but I remember much more damage from Hurricane Isabel in 2003.  At that time we lost power for 5 days and some lost it for two weeks.  Say a prayer for the people in Vermont who suffered so much flooding from Irene.  Since our electricity was out, my access to the news was limited to what was in the local paper, so I’m not up on the details.  I just know things were pretty bad up there.  All of this has made me really think about our food supply and general household management.  If a tree falls on your house or a flood washes it away, you have way more problems.  My thoughts here are about managing without electricity.

So far, when the big power outages have come, they are expected in the form of snow and ice storms and hurricanes.  I make sure the laundry is done up and the house is clean, since I wouldn’t be able to vacuum.  I would already be thinking about emptying the refrigerator.  What I’m worried about is that there will come a time in the not so distant future that the power grid will go down SUDDENLY while we are all about our everyday lives.  After a few days, and for sure, by the end of a week, the challenges of a sudden change in lifestyle begin to take their toll.  Those with no thought or preparation for these changes are hit the hardest and even twenty-four hours without electricity is stressful enough for them.

For us the biggest challenge is water, since we have a well with an electric pump.  We have some rain barrels so there is always water available for toilet flushing, even without warning.  Anticipating a power outage, I fill lots of containers with clean water in the house to use for cooking and drinking.  For Irene, I thoroughly cleaned four five-gallon buckets and put them out to catch rainwater (after the roof was washed from the rain) and used that water for washing dishes and ourselves.  We used it conservatively and only needed two buckets before the power was restored. A hand pump on our shallow well would be a good thing to have. 

Refrigeration is probably our next biggest challenge.  In 2001 we were gone for two weeks for the first time ever.  We returned home to find that our freezer filled with meat had stopped working.  At one time we had a milk cow and raised our own beef.  We sold the cow in 1996 and began buying beef, a year’s supply at a time, from a friend.  However, by 2001 there were farms where we could buy grass-fed beef by the cut.  Besides that, we were eating less meat and concentrating on eating more in season from the garden all year.  We decided not to have the freezer repaired and make do with the freezer on the refrigerator.  Also, if the power would ever go out, I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping a freezer going.  Many people have generators, but my husband and I really dislike the noise they make.   Power outages often push people outside, with the TVs and computers turned off.  It is a nice time to sit on the porch in the evening or eat dinner at the picnic table in the fading light.   The noise pollution from the neighborhood generators, however, makes it not so nice.  Without a separate freezer we only had to worry about the fridge in the kitchen.  We ate a lot of food and put the rest in a cooler with ice.

preparing beans for salting

My food preservation methods are drying, canning, and fermenting so what I had put up was safe.  In fact, during the time the power was out, I salted down beans from the garden in a crock and dried tomatoes and peppers in the solar dryers.  In case of flooding it is advisable to keep all your stored food off the floor.  You can elevate crocks at least an inch or two by putting them on rolling platforms, which makes it easier anyway when you have to move them.  In case of shaking from an earthquake, it is advisable to have the shelves firmly attached to the wall and to make sure they are strong enough to hold what you put there.  I will be speaking about Low Energy Food Preservation at the Heritage Harvest Festival on September 17, 2011.  Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, will also be there.  Find more information at  http://www.heritageharvestfestival.com/  I’ll also be giving a presentation on garden planning.   

Kelly Kettle for boiling water

Kelly Kettle for boiling water

To cook our meals we used the solar oven and gas grill.  The grill is my husband’s domain, so it was kind of nice having him make oatmeal or pancakes in the mornings.  I would not want to depend on the gas grill for an extended period, since the fuel could be hard to get when there are shortages and everyone is after it.  Besides, it depends on fossil fuel and I’m trying to move away from that.  I used a Kelly Kettle to boil water for tea.  That is really great to have and works well with the dried food.  You can boil water using sticks as fuel!  Using the same principle is the rocket stove.  I didn’t need it for this disruption, but I have one that I should use more often so that it becomes another way of life.  This summer the solar oven has gotten a good workout.  One thing about hurricanes, usually nice sunny days follow.  We have a wood stove in the house and in the winter I can use that to cook on and heat water if necessary.  Otherwise, I would use the rocket stove much more.  You just need sticks!  You can find directions to make a rocket stove at http://www.aprovecho.net/offerings/publications/.   Download the publication Capturing Heat II and check out the rest of the website.  To make my rocket stove I used a lard can that I purchased at a hardware store.

rocket stove

You can build a rocket stove!

Lighting was taken care of mostly with our Aladdin lamp, which was a Y2K purchase from Lehmans.  It gives enough light to read by, which we did in the evenings after dark when we weren’t playing Scrabble or Dominoes.  We also used candles and flashlights when necessary.  The oil in the lamp was Ultra-Pure oil which is liquid paraffin.  The candles were beeswax.  In fact, we made more candles during the power outage by melting wax in the solar oven and pouring it into molds.  The wax was saved from the cappings gleaned when we harvested the honey in June.  Longer term accommodations could be made by adjusting our activities to make the best use of the daylight both inside and outside the house.  A more major adjustment might be skylights.

How can you prepare for similar disruptions?  Think of challenges as new opportunities.  Learn new skills and begin acquiring the tools you will need.  Even if you never have to use them in dire emergencies, it will give you peace-of-mind to know you can.  During the power outage, my grandson and I visited Monticello, a trip we had planned for weeks.  I couldn’t stop thinking of how that whole place was run without electricity back in the day.  We can learn a lot from history.  Once you have the skills and tools, you will have already begun transitioning your life to a new one.  I have not read it, but there is a book called Transition Handbook which has spurred the Transition Town Movement.  You can find more information at http://www.transitionus.org/.  If we really want to transition away from a fossil fuel economy, we need to think about it as communities. Yes, we need to stock our pantries, have food coming from our gardens year-round, and look to the needs of our families.  At the same time, we need to support community efforts toward taking care of everyone.  If you know something, teach it to others who want to learn.  It will take some time, but we can make changes that will benefit our families and communities for the long term, no matter what happens.  Enjoy the journey!

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