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Posts Tagged ‘homesteading’

Piteba oil press-BLOGOnce you really begin to plan how to eat a homegrown/local diet you will soon realize that cooking oil is something that is not coming out of your garden or is available from local growers, unless you live in California in olive territory. If animal products are in your diet, that could be a source of fat. I buy bacon locally from a farmer who raises his hogs on pasture and save the drippings for cooking with. Having homegrown oil, however, would be nice, and it just happened that I visited Lehman’s Hardware in 2010 when they first began to carry the Piteba oil press. I bought one and played with it long enough to know that I needed to spend more time learning all the ins and outs to put it to the best use. I was busy building my solar dryers and learning more about them, however, so the oilseed press got put aside. With my 2011 hazelnut harvest and homegrown peanuts, I decided it was time to get it out. Another source for the Piteba is Bountiful Gardens.

The photo shows it all set for action. The press comes with a small bottle with a wick that holds colored lamp oil that you provide. The first photo shows blue lamp oil, but in the closeup photo you can’t see colored oil because it is almost empty. You also need to provide a container to catch your pressed oil as it drips from the slot. Unfortunately, a jelly jar is too wide to fit the space, but I have a small juice glass that is just the right size. There is a small hole in the frame where that glass sets. A funnel could be placed there with a tube that leads to a larger container. You also need to provide the seed hopper, made from a soda bottle. I used a bread pan to catch the oilseed cake after it was pressed.

The small lamp heats up the press cage to help with the oil flow. Light it 10 minutes before you begin pressing. Once things are flowing well, you might be able to extinguish it. Beware! Only have the wick showing the slightest bit or the flame will be too big. If it is too big and you have to adjust the wick, DO NOT grab the wick holder with your fingers while it is hot! Wait until it cools. I’m speaking from experience here.

The first time I used my press I tried some old sunflower seeds that I had here. They were the striped culinary ones, not the black oilseed variety that you should use for oil. Being old they were probably somewhat dry and they immediately stopped it up. The handle stopped turning easily, in fact, it became impossible to turn. When that happens, and it will, you need to take off the large cap and the adjustment bolt. If you’ve had the lamp lit, they will be hot, which is why I keep handy a ¾” wrench to use for the adjustment bolt and a monkey wrench for the cap. Take them off and immediately clean out the cap. You will need a knife to dislodge all the packed seed residue. Wash everything thoroughly, making sure the threads of the cap are clean.   If your seeds are too dry, the directions suggest mixing some water with them and leaving them in a plastic bag for two days, then try again.

Immediately after using the Piteba, dismantle and clean it. If you wait, the press cake inside will become hard as stone. If that happens, you can soak everything in water until it softens enough to take apart. Depending on how it is, you may need to leave it soaking overnight, but it will soften enough to clean. Be sure to read all the directions. There is a washer that needs to be coated with edible oil before it goes on the expeller screw when you put it all together to use.

You can go to the health food store and buy any number of seeds to try in the Piteba. There is a performance chart available on the Piteba website that allows you to compare the percent of oil in various seeds. If push came to shove, however, and you needed to provide cooking oil for your household, you would do well to learn as much as you can about using seeds you can grow or find locally. Keep in mind that these seeds aren’t as convenient as the ones from the store. You will need to clean and process them yourself. If you are using sunflower or pumpkin seeds, use oilseed varieties. The seeds of oilseed pumpkins are hulless. The seeds from oilseed varieties of sunflowers are black.

Piteba oil press-closeup-BLOG

pressing homegrown peanuts

I was anxious to press my homegrown hazelnuts and peanuts. It took forever to shell the hazelnuts, since my nuts are the small native variety. Find out more about growing hazelnuts at Hazelnuts / Filberts In My Garden. The yield for one cup of homegrown hazelnuts, weighing 5 ounces, was 3⅓ tablespoons oil. The yield for one cup of homegrown peanuts, weighing 6 ounces, was 4 tablespoons oil. I used my Master Nut Cracker for the shelling for both the hazelnuts and peanuts. The peanuts went pretty fast with that. I’ll be writing about that nut cracker one of these days.

If you wanted to produce enough oil for one tablespoon a day per person, you would need 1.4 gallons of oil per person per year. In the Master Charts in How To Grow More Vegetables (HTGMV) by John Jeavons, the beginning yield for peanuts is 4 pounds per 100 ft² and the intermediate yield is 10 pounds. The average U.S. yield for peanuts is 7.2 pounds per 100 ft². Let’s consider the conservative 4 pound yield. I need to sow about 8 ounces of peanuts for each 100 ft² planting, so a yield of 4 pounds leaves 3.5 pounds for eating or pressing for oil. At that rate it would take 960 ft² to grow peanuts to produce 1.4 gallons of oil, plus the seed to plant back. Just think, if you had that 7.2 pound U.S. average, it would only take 500 ft². I battle the voles at my place, so my best yield of peanuts has been 3.75 lb. per 100 ft². I’ll have to see what I can do to get my peanut yield up. The HTGMV beginning yield for hazelnuts is 7 pounds per 100 ft² planting. Since hazelnut trees are perennial, you don’t have to save out any seed to plant back, however, some trees may not produce every year.

primitive oilseed press-BLOG

primitive oilseed press

In 2008 I took this picture of a primitive oilseed press. I don’t know any more about it than what you see in the picture.The seeds are in a small basket. We were at a folklife festival and came upon it at the end of the day. The only person around was a volunteer who said it was for pressing seeds for oil. If you don’t have a Piteba, it might give you some ideas. In The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It, John Seymour suggests using a cider press to extract the oil from seeds. You would need to crush the seeds, then wrap them in a cloth. Obviously, you would need to work with a larger quantity of seeds. It might be, now that you have taken a closer look at what’s involved to produce your cooking oil, you might adjust your diet to use less than before. Steaming vegetables might become more desirable than stir-frying. Last week I used my solar oven to bake some snap beans, potatoes, and garlic together with only 1 tablespoon of my newly pressed oil drizzled over the vegetables. It was delicious.

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canteloupe seedling-BLOGI’ve been thinking lately of how someone would get started in vegetable gardening these days. In many ways it is a lot different than when I got started so many years ago, and in other ways, not so much. You are still just putting seeds in the ground and watching them grow, hoping to harvest a bounty later in the summer. When I started I had no knowledge of frost dates, days to maturity, garden maps, etc. We had moved out of our one-bedroom apartment and into a rental house with a backyard about a mile from the Ohio State University campus. I dug up the garden space in the area, where neighbors told me later, a garage had been. We bought seeds off a rack in the store and tomato and pepper plants from somewhere that I don’t remember. I do remember the peas we planted. We didn’t know they would get so tall, and when they started growing wildly everywhere, our neighbor suggested we put up a string trellis. With sticks and strings, we got those peas off the ground, just in time for them to stop growing. Who knew they stopped growing as we got into summer? Not us! Another thing I remember is that the tomatoes were planted too close, or so I was told. In our neighborhood the residents were either twenty-somethings, or retired homeowners who had lived there for decades. Our next door neighbor was wonderful. Across the street was a woman who was rather a busy-body. My garden gave those retired women something to talk about. The busy-body would come over to my neighbor’s, look over the picket fence, and pass judgment, which I would learn of later from the neighbor. That’s how I learned the tomatoes were planted too close. Another memory is standing in the garden one evening with my husband and other neighbors (twenty-somethings) across the alley. We were all looking at the green beans which, as I now know, were ready to harvest. Our friends asked when it would be time to pick them and we weren’t exactly sure. Everything was picked a little on the late side, as we watched it grow past its prime. I grew some great carrots that first year. I was just realizing that it was time to start pulling them for the table when there was a frost warning. Thinking I had to get them all out of the ground before the frost, I pulled them all and gave many away to friends. I now know that I can leave carrots in the ground all winter, with some leaves thrown over for a cover, and harvest at my leisure.

MEN-OG-BLOGWe’re talking 1974 here. No internet service or home computers. Making a long-distance telephone call was a big deal. We had a small black-and-white TV and a stereo that played vinyl. My education in organic gardening began with reading Organic Gardening magazine at the local food coop when I visited. It was a couple years before I felt we could afford to actually buy a subscription, which I did in early 1977. Robert Rodale, may he rest in peace, did a wonderful service to humanity through Organic Gardening and Rodale Press. With his magazine and the books that Rodale Press published, he educated so many, many people. In fact, he’s probably not resting on The Other Side, but continuing his mission of guiding people in ways to feed the population of this planet without destroying it. Mother Earth News was also important in our lives. John Jeavons was just beginning to develop what became GROW BIOINTENSIVE® at Ecology Action in California. That was about it for the resources that were out there for organic gardeners and homesteaders.

Fast forward to 2012 and you get instant information overload. A person can become paralyzed with too much information. You don’t need to read everyone’s opinion about something on the web or see all their garden pictures before you put in your own garden. You can just dig up a spot and get started like I did. If you need help, find a resource to focus on to get started, and go from there. I hope that my videos and blog provide that focal point for many. I can be the helpful neighbor across the fence, hopefully not the busybody one. The learning is in the doing. You will soon have some experiences of your own to share. Growing your own food is the thing to do these days and you should be able to find a local group with similar interests. If not, start one.

4 Rodale Books-BLOGThe book I found most helpful when I was first learning is How To Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method. It is still a favorite of mine to turn to when I have a question about a crop. Other helpful books have been Home Food Systems, Gene Logsdon’s Practical Skills, and High-Yield Gardening, all out of print by now. In 1989 Chelsea Green came on the scene when it published New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. That book was helpful to me when I became a market gardener in 1992. With the new century came an explosion of books and magazines on organic gardening, sustainable living, urban agriculture, etc. They are easy to find with an internet search or by browsing in your nearest bookstore. In preparation for this blog, I took a look at some of my old Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News magazines. I believe they could be re-published just as they are and be relevant today. In fact, Mother Earth News has all its old issues available on a CD and many articles accessible through its website.

I began teaching at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in 1999 because I had identified a need. Those classes continue with our daughter, Betsy Trice. Her next class, Organic Gardening Resources, begins May 24 and involves a lot of hands-on. Students will dig garlic, onions, and potatoes and evaluate the yield. They will cut rye and wheat, thresh out the grain, and make compost. For those who can’t take a class, she has started the business of Lightfoot Gardening Coach for people in the Richmond-to-Charlottesville (Virginia) area who may want someone at their side to guide them. She lives between the two cities. She can help people get started with vegetable gardening, backyard chickens, and other homesteading endeavors. Betsy and I are joining together to give a presentation at Ashland Coffee and Tea in Ashland, VA on Tuesday, May 29 at 7:30pm.  I will lead a Wheat Workshop at New Earth Farm in Virginia Beach, VA on Saturday, June 2. For those out of our area, if you check around, you may find learning opportunities near you. Some of you out there just might be the ones to offer such programs. You could start by giving a talk at your local library. Sponsoring a public showing of my videos is a good way to attract like-minded folks. You don’t need any special permission from me or pay any additional fee to do that. You can make hard-copies of the worksheets from the CD to use with participants/students in your own teaching, all with proper credit to Homeplace Earth, of course.  What you do not have permission to do is to make copies of the DVDs and CDs themselves.

Bloom where you are planted. The time to start is now and the place to start is wherever you are.  Best wishes in your endeavors!

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arbor and gate-BLOG

arbor and gate

Livestock panels, sometimes known as cattle panels or hog panels, have many uses in the garden.  They are 16’ long and 36”(hog)-52” high.  The spacing between the heavy wires in the ones I have is 6”x8”.  Some panels have closer spacing near the bottom.  I first learned about them as animal fencing, but they prove quite handy to have in the garden.  Although the panel itself can flex, it is a strong fencing that does not need tightening. 

In the picture you can see my garden gate and grape arbor, both made from the panels.  To bend a panel into the arbor shape, lay it on the ground and have someone hold one end or anchor it in some way.  Pick up the other end and walk toward the first end.  It’s that easy.  We needed more height in the arbor than the 16’ panel would provide, so we put it on top of two rows of bricks on each side.  Rebar is  inserted into the ground through holes in the bricks.  The panel is wired to the part of the rebar sticking up from the ground.  You can find these panels at farm supply stores.  You can find rebar at home building supply stores in the area where they display cement blocks.  To see how this arbor looks when the grapes are in full production, go to my March 6, 2012 post On Growing All Your Own Food.

bolt cutters and hacksaw-BLOG

bolt cutters and hacksaw

The panels can be cut with bolt cutters or a hacksaw.  I cut one to make my gate.  I have wired ½” hardware cloth to the lower half of the gate to keep rabbits out.  An earlier attempt at rabbit control was to weave bamboo through the spaces.  If I have enough bamboo strips there, it works. However, I need to keep after it.  When I came across the hardware cloth, I went with it.  There is no hinge or latch here.  The gate fits between the arbor and fencepost on the hinge side.  On the latch side it just leans against the regular fence.  We have plans for putting new posts in that garden entrance and this gate, put up several years ago, was only meant to be temporary.      

I also use the panels as a trellis for garden crops, particularly tomatoes.  I put a fence post on each end and one in the middle.  Baling twine often serves to hold it to the posts.  The panel goes down the middle of my 4’ wide bed and the tomatoes, planted at the base, are just woven through the spaces as they grow.  In that wide bed there is still space on the sides for carrots, basil, parsley, or just heavy mulch.  Tomatoes can do without a trellis as sturdy as a livestock panel and I also use old field fencing to trellis tomatoes.  The panels, however, present a neater appearance.  These trellises stay in the garden all year.  In the fall, when I’m planting cover crops, I move them to where they are needed the next year and set them up.  I can do this because I have no need to till the beds before planting tomatoes, or whatever it is that the trellis will be supporting.  I just cut the cover crop with a sickle and let it lie as mulch or remove the biomass to the compost pile.  The bed is ready for the next crop with the trellis already in place.

greenhouse-BLOG

greenhouse from livestock panels

These panels are great for making structures, like small greenhouses.  The photo shows the greenhouse our daughter Betsy made for her Arkansas garden.  You can also see it in Betsy’s segment of Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan.  She built a wood frame for the base and used wood to frame a door on one end and a vent window on the other.  You could use the panels against the side of a building as a lean-to structure and build something taller.

Of course, you could actually use these panels for their intended purpose, controlling livestock.  They make good temporary or permanent pens.  Beware of using them with young goats developing horns.  The goats might get their heads stuck.  Once the goats and their horns grow enough, that’s not a problem.  If that does happen, don’t panic.  Cut the fence with bolt cutters or a hacksaw, preferably with the bolt cutters.  You can mend it by using wire to close up the space.  I have a leftover spool of aluminum electric fence wire that I cut and use as twistees to hold the fence to metal posts.  Baling twine works, as does plastic zip-ties.  The panels are good barriers for most dogs, goats, cattle, pigs, etc.  Chickens, however, can slip through, as well as other small critters, such as skunks, rabbits, and opposums.  You can add chicken wire or other fencing to the panels to keep out the smaller creatures. 

goats clearing the way-BLOG

goats clearing the way

Betsy and her husband, Chris,  are using livestock panels as movable fencing with their goats to clear a future fenceline.  They gradually move the pens down an overgrown area on the side of a field.  Sometimes the panels are tied to trees and they are flexible enough to curve around obstacles, if necessary.  Betsy and Chris use as few posts as they can get away with, since they have to move them regularly.  The ends are put together with clips, similar to carabiners.  Besides just connecting the ends, the clips can act as hinges, or as latches if that’s where they decide they need a gate to be.  You can see the great job the goats are doing clearing the brush by the trees.  Goats love eating brush better than grass.  This is a great use of both the goats and the fence panels.  

Getting these 16’ fence panels home from your farm supply store might pose a problem.  I’ve used a pick-up truck with an 8’ bed, putting one end inside the tailgate, extending the panel over the truck cab, and tying the other end to the front bumper.  I wasn’t going far.  If you do that, protect the top of the truck with a piece of cardboard or old blanket.  If you buy enough, you could have them delivered.  If you are going to cut them into shorter lengths anyway, you could do it right there and make getting them home easier.

Some of you reading this may have already been using these fence panels on your homesteads and have plenty of ideas and uses of your own.  If you would like to share them, I welcome your comments.  If you are using these panels for the first time, good luck, have a good time, and let us know how it goes.

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swt potatoesX3, kale, cowpeas--BLOG

sweet potatoes, kale, and cowpeas

Once again, I decided to observe Homegrown Fridays, eating only what I’ve grown on the Fridays in Lent.  Anything you see in bold followed by * is listed on the Recipes page of this blog (click on the recipe tab at the top).  This year was more of a challenge because of other commitments.  I started two weeks early so I could get in seven Fridays and even at that, two of the Fridays were actually Thursdays.  I finished early so that I could be off on another adventure.  If you’re reading this the first week in April, 2012, I’m at Tillers International in Michigan finding out more of what they do there while my husband is taking a class in timber framing.

The delicious dinner you see in the photo was one of my meals.  It consisted of kale harvested fresh from the garden, Arkansas Razorback cowpeas, and three varieties of sweet potatoes–Ginseng, Beauregard, and purple.  When I have no “homegrown only” restrictions, I would probably put butter on the cowpeas and sweet potatoes and vinegar on the kale.  I enjoyed the natural flavors of that food without butter and vinegar. 

polenta with tomato sauce--BLOG

polenta with tomato sauce

I had dried a variety of things in my solar food dryers last summer and had looked forward to using them for Homegrown Fridays this year.  I made a soup using as many of them as I could*.  Dinner one Friday was polenta topped with tomato sauce*.  Cooked Mississippi Silver cowpeas accompanied that meal.  Polenta is just another name for cornmeal mush that has been cooked a little longer and let set to thicken.  I cooked it in a crockpot the day before, then put it in the refrigerator.  At dinnertime I put tomato sauce over it and heated it in the oven.  When I cooked the cornmeal and water for polenta, I added dried onions.  I froze some, which made an easy lunch to heat up on another busy Homegrown Friday.

I was fortunate to have peanuts this year and made peanut butter for the first time in my GrainMaker  mill.  I had better luck grinding raw peanuts than grinding roasted peanuts to make peanut butter.  I made it twice and, although I’m sure I’d get better at it with practice, it’s a whole lot easier, and less cleanup, to just eat the peanuts as they are.  The folks in Biosphere 2 grew peanuts with the intent to press them for oil, but decided to just eat them as a snack.  Peanuts were one of their main sources of fat.  Their two year experiment with eight people living in a completely sealed environment and producing all their food is documented in the book Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2 by Sally Silverstone.  I made peanut butter to have with carrots from the garden.  That day I also made sorghum crackers.  Recalling a recipe for greens in peanut sauce from the cookbook Simply in Season, I made a version of that with my dried collards.  I put peanut butter with the dried collards and water while it cooked.  We ate it as a vegetable for dinner, but I liked it better as a sandwich filling for a meal another day.  It would have made a good dip.  

bean burgers and sorghum breadsticks--BLOG

bean burgers and sorghum breadsticks

I made “bean burgers” for the first time.  It’s something that’s long been on my “to-do” list.  I used cooked cowpeas, reconstituted dried onion and dried sweet pepper, and minced garlic.  The cowpeas were boiled until really soft.  I mashed everything together and made it into patties that I topped with tomato sauce and baked.  Breadsticks made with sorghum flour were served with that.  

One day lunch was home-canned green beans cooked with dried cabbage and onions.  Sorghum patties (made like corn patties*) rounded out that meal.  A couple lunches were sweet potatoes, peanuts, and raisins.  Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn were great to have among my choices of homegrown food.  Last summer I dried grapes for raisins by cutting the grapes in half and drying them in the solar dryers.  The seedless grapes were best for that.  Popcorn was popped in a pan with no oil for a snack some days.  Just be ready to shake the pan a lot to prevent burning.  When limiting your diet like this, it is good to plan for something quick to eat if you are really hungry and you still have to plan dinner.  Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn filled that need nicely and could be taken along if I had to be gone somewhere. 

cornmeal mush with hazelnuts and honey--BLOG

Bloody Butcher cornmeal mush with hazelnuts and honey

Breakfast was the easiest meal and always the same.  I had cornmeal mush made with my Bloody Butcher Corn.  I sweetened it with honey from my bees and added hazelnuts, which were great.  You can read about my hazelnut harvest in my last post.  My black walnut trees seem to bear alternate years and didn’t drop nuts in 2011. The staples in this homegrown diet are cornmeal, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, and greens.  I had sorghum and wheat for additional flour and the dried vegetables were much appreciated, especially tomatoes and onions.  I had some naturally fermented sour pickles and garlic that I chopped up and added to cowpeas for lunch one day.  Herbs, dried and fresh, add diversity to the flavors.  I was happy to harvest fresh celery leaves in the garden.  The parsley I used was dried.  Eating this way makes you really appreciate each additional flavor and texture.  You might be interested in reading about  my 2011 Homegrown Friday experiences.

I drank water or herb tea.  Currently my herb tea blend consists of spearmint, bee balm, lemon balm, and basil.  On these Homegrown Fridays my husband and I often opened a bottle of mead made from our honey and grapes or elderberries.  We feel very fortunate to have such bounty from our garden.  At the same time, we are mindful of those in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  We hope that our work here will help towards the understanding of what it would take to feed others.  The learning is in the doing.  I hope some of you will try a Homegrown Friday or two at any time of the year.  It is definitely an experience.  

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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.

hazelnuts-vicegrips-ruler-BLOG

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.

hazelnut male female flowers-BLOG

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. 

hazelnut tree base-BLOG

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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garden in June--BLOGI am often asked how much space it would take to grow all one’s food.  That depends on a lot of factors.  I can only address the issue from the sustainability of also growing all the compost crops to feed back the soil.  With the world population now topping seven billion, using the least area for this project is high on the list of considerations.

Limiting your diet to only what you could grow in the least area, sustainably, brings nutritional challenges, with the most limiting nutrients being calories, calcium, and protein.  Those can be met with careful planning, however the resulting diet may or may not be something you want to eat everyday at this time in your life.  This is exactly what is studied at the Intermediate level of GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Sustainable Mini-farming.  The basic information for GROW BIOINTENSIVE can be found in How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons.

GB_2000calorieThe USDA has interactive diet planning information at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.  You can find the nutrients for specific foods there.  According to the SuperTracker feature, at a moderate rate of exercise, I should eat 2000 calories per day.  The number of servings from each food group is suggested to reach that goal.  However, limiting myself to only my garden, I won’t have all those food groups available.  A GROW BIOINTENSIVE 2000 calorie diet might look like what’s in the box on the right.  It’s a vegan diet and includes no vitamin B12, a critical nutrient necessary for healthy nerves and to prevent anemia.  As with any diet, there are other nutritional considerations.  You would need to eat this amount each day to reach 2000 calories.  If you get pretty good yields, you could probably grow this amount of food for one person, along with the necessary cover/compost crops in about 3,800 sq. ft. of bed space, including compost piles, in zone 7.  I know that vegans often use supplements to get what is missing in their diet.  Personally, I believe in getting all my nutrients in the food I eat, the way Mother Nature intended.  The food contains the nutrients in balance with other things necessary for assimilation in our bodies.

Most likely you would want to expand on this diet.  Chickens are becoming pretty popular, even in city backyards, and would help with that B12 deficiency.  If you are considering the total ecological footprint of your diet, you would have to include the area your chicken’s food came from, including everything it went through from farm to you.  Pasturing your poultry helps, but most people buy in the grains they need.  You could grow your own and then use the straw and stalks for bedding before it all goes to compost.  Harvey Ussery has been working on some ideas for additional homegrown feed, including worms and soldier fly larvae.  He wrote about it in his book The Small-Scale Poultry FlockThe Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe is another book of interest that takes a close look at growing much of your diet.

Then, of course, there’s dairy.  Cheese, yogurt, and other products are pretty nice to have, but they come at a cost of widening the ecological footprint.  And so it goes for each addition.  You could drive yourself crazy worrying about every detail.  I worry when people drop whole food groups from their diet.  I believe we need to feed ourselves from a variety of foods available seasonally and as locally as we can.  This does much to lessen our footprint.  Chickens could be raised for eggs, with the young roosters and old layers for meat, taking the place of the broiler industry.  Limiting our beef consumption to the young steers and old cows from the dairy herds could do away with the sorry feedlots the current beef industry now maintains.  The amount of these animal products and the way we eat them would have to change, but change needs to come anyway.

Our local newspaper just had an article about a family with 13 children, including four sets of twins, who were born between 1954 and 1974.  Reminiscing, one pair of twins talked of the large family garden, fruit trees, pigs, chickens, and hunted deer that fed their family in those days.  If their memory serves them, one season all their parents bought was salt and pepper for the table.  That is impressive.  I’m sure all of them were involved in growing that food.  I have a feeling that a lot of you would like to do the same thing.  Maybe you can, but if you haven’t been brought up with those skills, there’s a lot to learn.  Some people want to grow all their own food out of fear for what the future holds.  Remember, we are not alone in this world.  Furthermore, everything is connected.  We need to recognize that interdependence and build upon it.  It is in building our communities that we can develop a resilient food system that will feed everyone.  Most likely, as you go about becoming involved with the people in your community, you will meet just the ones who can teach you the skills you lack.

grape arbor and friends-BLOGPermaculture ethics call us to care for the earth, care for the people, and return the surplus.  Each of us has talents we can use to strengthen the network within our own communities.  If our talents and resources allow us to grow more food than we can consume ourselves, we can share, barter, or sell the surplus within our community, building strong ties with others and expanding our own options.  Fear can be crippling.  We need to act out of love for the earth and each other.  In acting out of love, fear falls away.

Once again, I’m working on Homegrown Fridays.  That’s when I eat only what I’ve grown on the Fridays in Lent.  I grow a lot of food, but not all we eat.  I often think about what would be involved if I did.  Just as with communities, in our gardens we need to think in whole systems.  There should be no waste because excess from one operation would be a resource in another.  Your permaculture garden would have more than just vegetables.  There would be a hedgerow with filbert trees and berries, grapevines growing overhead, mushrooms in the shady areas, and beehives.  There are many ways to add food and shrink your diet footprint.  If you are building the soil as you grow, you can provide your family with more nutritious food than you can get anywhere else.  Buying from local producers what you can’t grow provides your family with a safety net that is only available within strong, resilient communities.

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Tools I Use

spade, garden fork, mattock-BLOG

spade, garden fork, mattock

Since I advocate managing your garden with hand tools, I thought I would show you what hand tools I use.  When breaking new ground a mattock is great for taking off the existing vegetation.  Let the weight of the tool do the job for you, sliding the head under the sod and lifting it off.  It might be necessary to mow the area before you begin, depending on what is there.  You can find a mattock in your local hardware store.  Often the head and wood handle are sold separately.  The heads come in different sizes and weights and some heads have a sharp point (pick) on one side.  Make sure you are buying the style and size you need for the job.  If you were digging out bushes, you would find this extremely useful.

To double dig the beds I use a garden fork and spade.  Directions for double digging are in the book How to Grow More Vegetables.  My beds were double dug when I established them years ago and now the roots of my cover crops keeps them friable.  So for me, the spade gets used edging the beds and the fork is used for digging potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Sometimes I use the fork as a mini-broadfork to loosen the soil.  The fork has thick flat tines.  Notice the length of the handles.  Some people may find the tools available locally to be too short.  If you are over 5’5” tall, you may want a spade and fork that is 43” long.  Bountiful Gardens carries good quality forks and spades in 39” and 43” lengths.  My fork is from Bountiful Gardens and my spade was bought locally.

trowel, soil knife, Trake, Cobrahead-BLOG

trowel, soil knife, Trake, Cobrahead

For transplanting I use a trowel or a soil knife.  Good quality trowels are easy to find.  Poor quality trowels are even easier.  Choose a sturdy one that will hold up to lots of hard use.  I have a Lesche soil knife that I like to use when transplanting into the cover crop residue.  I got mine from www.waycooltools.com.  I also have a Trake that is pretty handy. It’s a trowel on one end and small cultivator on the other.  It was a gift from my aunt many years ago.  I’m sure there are sources on the web.  Colorful handles help ensure that you will find these small tools when you lay them down in your garden.  Once I had a trowel with a black handle that spent most of its time lost in the grass.  If you find that you are always losing your wood handled tools, you could paint them a bright color.  It might look gaudy, but it definitely makes them easier to find and distinguishable as yours if you take them anywhere.

cultivator and collinear hoe--BLOG

cultivator and collinear hoe

I use a long handled cultivator that I purchased at our local feed store.  It is a good sturdy tool that I use for incorporating broadcast seeds and for mixing in compost.  The hoe I’m currently using is a 7” collinear hoe.  Most often I turn it on its 1″ edge to make furrows or to weed among closely spaced plants. I also like a 5” wide trapezoid hoe.  Both hoes are available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Johnny’s is a good source for many tools for market growers.  Another cultivating tool that I really like is my short handled Cobrahead.  I use it for both light work and to chop out something tough.  It’s available many places, but I got mine from the folks who produce it.  You can find them at www.cobraheadllc.com.

sickle and machete--BLOG

sickle and machete

For managing my cornstalks, I use a machete.  It is available from Northern Tool+Equipment for $8 and even came with a cotton sheath to hang on a belt.  The Japanese sickle I use to cut rye and wheat is available from Hida Tool & Hardware Co., Inc.  I wrote about the sickle on May 17, 2011.  A less expensive model is available from Way Cool Tools.  You can see the sickle and machete in action in my video Cover Crops and Compost Crops IN Your Garden.

I hope this is helpful to you.  If it’s not too late, you might want to put something here on your Christmas list.  You could email this post to your Santa.  My Santa loves it when I give him suggestions including links of where to get them.  No doubt you will find many other items to put on your wish list when you browse these sources, but these are the tools that get me through the gardening year.

Anyone else have a favorite tool they would like to tell us about?

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