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RECIPE: From the Homemade Hooch Files: Dandelion Wine

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The following recipe is an excerpt from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

“Wine made from flowers preserves the exquisite flavors and benevolent properties of the blossoms from which it is made. It also preserves the memories of fine, clear, sunshiny days—alone or with Someone Else—in woods, meadows, and hills, picking millions of tiny flowers for hours until they become etched on the insides of the eyelids.” These wise words were written by my friend and neighbor Merril Harris, in an article, “Nipping in the Bud: How to Make Wine from Flowers,” published in Ms. Magazine nearly thirty years ago.

Dandelion wine is the classic flower wine, made with the bright yellow flowers of the plentiful and easy-to-find weed. Don’t believe the hype of the manicured lawn lobby; dandelion is not only beautiful and tasty, but potent liver-cleansing medicine. Many other flowers can transfer their delicate bouquets and distinctive essences into wines, as well, including (but certainly not limited to) rose petals, elderflowers, violets, red clover blossoms, and daylilies.

“Begin by gathering your flowers,” writes Merril, “perhaps the most pleasurable part of the winemaking process.” As a general guideline, pick about a gallon of flowers per gallon of wine you intend to make. If you cannot gather this many in a single outing, freeze what you gather until you accumulate enough. Be sure to pick flowers from places that have not been sprayed, which usually means not roadsides.

TIMEFRAME: 1 year or more

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

  • 1 gallon/4 liters flowers in full bloom
  • 2 pounds/1 kilogram (4 cups/1 liter) sugar
  • 2 lemons (organic, because you will use the peel)
  • 2 oranges (organic, because you will use the peel)
  • 1 pound/500 grams raisins (golden raisins will preserve the dandelion’s light hue better than dark raisins)
  • Water
  • 1⁄2 cup/125 milliliters berries (for wild yeast) or 1 packet wine yeast
  • PROCESS:

    1. As much as possible, separate flower petals from the base of the blossoms, which can impart bitter flavors. With dandelions this can be a tedious project.
    2. Reserving about ½ cup/125 milliliters to add later in the process, place the flower petals in a crock with the sugar, the juice and thinly peeled rinds of the lemons and oranges (to add acidity), and the raisins (to introduce astringent tannins). Then pour 1 gallon (4 liters) of boiling water over these ingredients, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover the crock to keep flies away, and leave to cool to body temperature.
    3. Once the mixture cools, add the reserved flower petals and berries to introduce wild yeasts. (Or to use commercial yeast, remove 1 cup of the cooled mixture, dissolve a packet of yeast into it, and once it starts to bubble vigorously add it to the crock.) Cover the crock, and stir as often as you think of it, for 3 to 4 days.
    4. Strain out the solids through a clean cheesecloth and squeeze moisture out of the flowers. Then transfer liquid to a carboy or jug with an airlock, and ferment about 3 months, until fermentation slows.
    5. Siphon into a clean vessel and ferment at least 6 months more before bottling.
    6. Age bottles at least 3 months to mellow wine; even longer is better.

    Hemp is on the Horizon! Get Ready for America’s Next Agricultural Revolution

    Sunday, April 13th, 2014

    You can eat it, drink it, read it, tie it, wear it, drive it, live in it, and make money growing it, all while saving the soil and protecting the climate.

    What is it? Hemp. That’s right, hemp.

    Hemp is on the Horizon! Just this year hemp was approved to be cultivated for university research – a huge first step in hemp’s domestic comeback as the crop of the future.

    Author Doug Fine is ready for that future. In his latest book, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, Doug explains why one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is poised to rejuvenate the U.S. economy and help save the planet.

    Hemp Bound is on sale for 35% off. But hurry – it only lasts until 4/21!

    Whether you are a farmer, entrepreneur, investor, or just a curious reader, this book could turn you into the next voracious hemp consumer and leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop in the first place.

    Happy reading from the employee owners of Chelsea Green Publishing

    P.S. Wondering how a single plant can possibly live up to all this hype? Click here to test your hemp knowledge with our Hemp Pop Quiz and to dig even deeper into the History of Hemp.


    *Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied


    Hemp Bound

    Praise for Hemp Bound

    “The issue is simple: farmers need hemp, the soil needs hemp, forests need hemp, and humanity needs the plant that the good Lord gave us for our own survival—hemp. . . Hemp Bound tells us with detail and humor how to get to the environmental Promised Land. Doug has created a blueprint for the America of the future.” —Willie Nelson, songwriter, president of Farm Aid -

    “Fine’s style and storytelling ability make this one of the most fun books you’ll ever read about the future of farming.” —Joel Salatin, author of Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal 

    “A short, sweet, logical and funny argument for the potential of one of the world’s most dynamic cash crops.” — Kirkus Reviews 

    Growing Your Own Herbs in 6 Easy Steps

    Thursday, April 10th, 2014

    Author Didi Emmons understands it’s intimidating to work with unfamiliar herbs. In her book, Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking From Eva’s Farm, she takes the simple approach that herbs, like any other plant, need good soil, water, sun, and air to thrive. Just vary the amounts of these four life-giving resources for each plant variety and you’ll be able to tend to the freshest of herbs anywhere, anytime.

    In the following excerpt from Wild Flavors, Emmons turns to her expert gardening friend, Kelly Lake, for six easy steps to growing your own herbs. From choosing the right location to harvesting and maintenance, this overview will help you plan your herb garden.

    If you really want to make herbs your next backyard project, check out this tutorial about how to build an herb spiral. This beautiful, year-round focal point is sure to be the envy of all your neighbors.

    How to Start a Traditional Compost Pile in Your Yard

    Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

    As a society, we make a lot of waste, especially in this culture of on-the-go single-serve disposables. As we work toward the Zero Waste Solution with Extended Producer Responsibility and other government mandated universal recycling of solid waste in the works, there is plenty you can do to reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

    Use less, recycle and reuse packaging materials, and compost your organic waste. And if you’re a gardener, there’s no reason to throw away this beneficial (and cheap!) source of nourishment for your soil. Compost is the key to a flourishing garden. Easily turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into food your garden will love.

    ******

    The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the Web.

    If you have enough space to start a compost pile in your yard, make sure your local city and county ordinances permit it. Some of them have restrictions because open piles can attract rodents and create odors. Assuming that your area allows open-air composting, consider whether you can fit three piles in your yard: one for new compost, one for aging compost, and one for the finished stuff that goes back on your plants. If you just have room for one, that is fine, but in order for your pile to fully break down, you will need to stop adding new material at some point and let it decompose.

    Some compost piles are hot, while others never get very warm, and this is a function of the biological activity in the pile while the organisms do their thing. Getting your pile to heat up naturally depends on a long list of factors, including pile size, materials, layering, moisture, external heat, and other variables. But even if it does not heat up much, sooner or later the stuff will break down and you’ll have some good dirt to use on your plants.

    Cold compost is perfectly acceptable stuff; it just takes a bit longer to make. Some gardening purists hold that the nutritional content of hot-cooked compost is far superior, but if you are using it as more of a soil amendment than a fertilizer, then this should not matter much. If you want to follow the pure wisdom, then the minimum size for a hot pile is about 4′ x 4′, which will allow enough internal space to create the proper conditions for this biological activity to take place.93 In lieu of this, any untidy heap will break down at its own pace.

    Compost Bin

    What should you put in your compost pile? Will it stink? Do you have to turn it regularly? The answers are: anything organic, a bit, and not really.

    Dead leaves, lawn clippings, food scraps (except meat or fat), newspaper, cardboard, and manure are all organic matter and will break down in your compost pile. Ideally, you want to add a diversity of ingredients.

    The pile will break down faster if you add both “browns” (dry ingredients such as dead leaves, newspaper, and cardboard) and “greens” (wet stuff such as food scraps, lawn clippings, and fresh manure).

    “Greens” contain plenty of nitrogen while “browns” have more carbon, and your pile needs both. Conventional wisdom holds that the proper ratio is 2 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens,” but you can vary this ratio somewhat. Just remember that a pile of 100 percent leaves takes a lot longer to break down, and 100 percent food scraps may turn into a very wet and slimy mess long before it breaks down. Also, the more diverse sources of waste you add, the better its nutritional output will be for your soil.

    Your new pile will stink a bit at first, but if you have never composted before, then you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s not as smelly as you would think. In its early stages, you can cover the compost pile with burlap, a tarp, or a layer of “brown” ingredients such as leaves or cardboard, which will help seal in the moisture and limit any odors. As the compost ages, it begins to smell more earthy, a fragrance that some actually enjoy.

    Your compost is finished when you can no longer recognize the individual materials that went into it.

    Aerating the pile is optional, but it may speed up the process by delivering oxygen where it’s needed. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile and make sure that both air and moisture are reaching each part. You can do this weekly or less often. And, if you do not want to turn the pile, then it will aerate naturally with time as the layers break down and settle.

    Dealing with Bear Encounters

    Monday, April 7th, 2014

    In this excerpt from Out on a Limb:What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition author Ben Kilham provides insight on best practices when it comes to keeping bears from feeding at your back door, and offers his tried-and-true tips on what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild — tips you’re not likely to find from other so-called experts.

    *****

    Up to 900,000 black bears live in North America, and in many regions, like my own, they live in close proximity to humans. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in many regions humans live in close proximity to bears—and that we are moving deeper and deeper into their habitat all the time. So, it’s not surprising that bears and people meet up unexpectedly, and frequently. But of the millions of interactions between bears and people every year, very few result in human deaths.

    Bears, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Many are shot, either as a fear-based first resort or after other techniques have failed to deter what we’ve come to call “nuisance” bears. These are the bears that wander into backyards, campgrounds, landfills, or other places where food is often lying around. People can and sometimes do get injured by these nuisance bears, but even these incidents could be mitigated by understanding how to read and understand bear behavior. Not only would this knowledge help officials deal more effectively and humanely with nuisance bears, but it would also help individuals who find themselves in bear–human encounters.

    In short, the solution to the nuisance bear problem is not so much about managing bears; it’s about managing people.

    Stop inviting bears to dinner 

    First, the best way to end what we consider the nuisance–bear behavior is to just stop inviting bears to dinner. If the food sources in problem residential areas are reduced to a minimum, these areas will no longer be worth the risk to the bear and the problems will cease. How to do this?

      • Remove bird feeders, and any other food placed outside to attract wildlife.
      • Don’t feed pets outside.
      • Keep any livestock feed indoors.
      • Don’t put kitchen scraps in your garbage can. Composting your kitchen scraps in a smell-proof way is as good for the environment as it is for avoiding bear encounters. Try a bear-proof composting container, or an indoor vermiculture bin (in which worms help digest the waste). Or, if you’re using an open compost pit outside, layer fresh waste underneath material that is already decomposed, or add a layer of lime, wood ash, or sawdust to mask the odor that can draw a bear’s interest.
      • If you cannot compost, then secure your garbage can in an indoor area, such as a garage, or freeze your garbage until it’s time for disposal.
      • Use bear-resistant food containers while camping, never keep food of any kind in your tent, and follow local guidelines for cooking or disposing of anything that smells of food, even the water you’ve used to wash your pots, pans, and dishes.
      • Clean outdoor grills, barbeque pits, and coolers after use to remove odors.
      • Remember, the secret to controlling bears is controlling smell.

    It’s no surprise, then, that when people do start feeding bears, it ends badly. They get into a situation that they can’t stop by themselves. There are, though, nonlethal measures that can be used to resolve the issue.

    With bears and people encountering each other more and more frequently, it is essential to understand how to properly handle an unintended meeting in the backyard or on a hiking trail. The vast majority of all bear aggression toward people is protective, not predacious, and it is entirely possible for people to manage these protective encounters without injury. A key to doing so is to understand how bears communicate.

    The most important thing to understand is that when a bear wants to intimidate you, keep you at a safe distance, or otherwise modify your behavior, it will square off its lips—drawing them forward so that they appear square and the face looks long. Then it will perform any of the following behaviors in varying degrees of intensity: chomping its teeth or lips, snorting or woofing (blowing air through the nose or mouth), huffing (inhaling and exhaling air rapidly), swatting, or false charging. These are actions that bears take to help reduce the chance of attack whenever two unfamiliar individuals come together. However, this behavior does not reflect the bear’s true mood. Bears are able to turn this behavior on and off like a light switch. They are simply trying to delay confrontation long enough for communication to take place.

    Moods, on the other hand, come and go very slowly. It is therefore necessary to analyze the bear’s mood when it is not displaying these behaviors, its intentions when it is, and then to apply both to the context of the situation. This may be a tough concept to apply in the field, but a necessary and important one to understand. Being faced with a bear that false charges or bluffs is actually a good thing as it means you have time to analyze the bear’s intentions and modify its displeasure or fear.

    How do you know the bear is false-charging and not attacking?

    The false-charge is done in combination with other bluff displays, like chomping, huffing, and snorting. Depending upon the situation, this usually reflects the bear’s desire to delay or avoid direct confrontation.

    However, if you find yourself in such a situation and act in a reckless manner while the bear is within critical distance—as when a bear holds its ground and displays rather than flees—you can escalate this kind of situation into an attack. Reckless behavior would include breaking sticks, yelling or screaming, making yourself big by raising or waiving one’s arms, or basically doing anything in which you could not anticipate a correct response. A safe response would be to de-escalate the situation by standing erect and speaking softly to the bear, thus signaling to the bear that you are dominant but not a threat.

    When you have an encounter with a bear, it is always important to try to put yourself in the bear’s shoes. Does the bear have any reason to harm you? Have you provoked the bear intentionally or unintentionally? Is the bear already nervous about other bears in the area? Remember that bears, like all other animals, including humans, have four major drives: hunger, love, fight, and flight. These drives are usually in conflict with each other.

    How Close Are You?

    It is also important to assess just how close you are to the bear. While it’s always important not to take any action that leaves you unable to predict the reaction of the bear, it is particularly important if you and the bear are in close proximity (normally less than twenty-five feet) and the bear appears reluctant to leave. This twenty-five foot distance is known as the “critical distance” outside of which bears and many other animals are likely to flee. Within this distance, they are hesitant and uncertain as to whether they should act in self-defense or flee.

    A conflicted bear in this situation will act as described above. My advice is to stand erect with eyes toward the bear. Do not attempt to stare the bear down but rather maintain a normal facial expression and speak softly. Standing erect and keeping eyes toward the bear will keep him or her honest. Bears, like dogs and humans, may choose to enforce dominance when the opportunity arises. If you show weakness (by lowering your eyes, turning your back to them, lying down on the ground, or showing fear), it increases the chance that they will take advantage and advance on you.

    My advice to keep your eyes on the bear conflicts with almost every other message given about what to do when you are in close proximity to a bear. I look at the bear to remain dominant while I decrease the threat level with my voice. Others will argue that you should avert your stare because a direct stare is aggressive and may provoke an attack. My experience tells me that this is not the case with bears. Animals that live in group-social environments often have hard, top-down hierarchies. A stare at an alpha chimpanzee or wolf may be perceived as a challenge to its position of authority. Bears are different; they interact and cooperate with strangers on a regular basis and are used to negotiating with unfamiliar individuals.

    Baby Bears

    The bear that gets too close is usually a sow with cubs. Her concern is the threat you present. She is perfectly capable of assessing that threat. Give her a chance, and she will walk away from you, sometimes even leaving her cubs up a tree nearby. I have been inside that critical distance with more than thirty wild sows with cubs, been false-charged and circled (bears circle to check scent, to see who you are), and have then gone on to peacefully spend up to two and a half hours with them. Every female will exhibit a different level of aggressiveness. Most of the wild sows and cubs I have encountered ran, hid nearby, and waited for me to leave. There are many myths about sows with cubs—the prevailing one being that if you get between a sow and its cub you are toast. The reality is that sows with cubs have been responsible for only 3 percent of the fatal attacks on humans in the last 109 years. Their cubs are usually safely up a tree when close encounters occur. Having preconceived ideas in your head at these times will only make it more difficult to control the situation.

    So, imagine that you meet a sow with cubs on a trail. You are torn between running and standing your ground. She is torn between running and defending her cubs. She would like to run, but her cubs are up a tree. She chooses to display aggressively in an effort to prevent you from attacking. You would like to run, but you know that she can run faster. You try to relax, knowing that fearful behavior could be seen as a threat. You speak softly to her as a gesture of appeasement. She acknowledges your gesture by reducing the intensity of her displays. Be patient. Eventually, she will stop displaying altogether and her true mood will be revealed with a relaxed facial expression. Slowly, she will walk off. For obvious reasons, the drive to escape is generally stronger than the drive to fight. She knows a fight could leave her wounded or dead. Yelling and screaming to drive away a female bear away, on the other hand, may inadvertently frighten her cubs and escalate the situation.

    If you meet a male bear, the situation may go somewhat differently, but the same advice about handling the encounter applies. Male bears are much more likely to run off than be caught inside the critical distance. If you see a bear coming in your direction, it is a good idea to let it know that you are there. Bears read scent in the wind, but sometimes the wind is coming from the wrong direction and a bear may be completely unaware of your presence. Let the bear know that you are there by moving, talking to it, or making other noise; it will run off.

    But there are situations where attacks are more likely. A bear that is surprised while eating–or while its senses are otherwise compromised—may strike out without warning. For instance, a bear feeding on a carcass is highly concerned that other bears may be attracted to the carcass by smell and is preconditioned to attack. A person who suddenly appears in this situation may trigger that preconditioned attack.

    Bears are highly tolerant of humans

    There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bear encounters every year where humans do everything wrong without any negative response from the bear. It’s important to remember, though, that in the vast majority of cases, black bears are dangerous only if you make them so. The situation is in your control; they tend to signal their intentions, and you can modify your own behavior to influence theirs.

    So You Want to be a Small-Scale Dairy Farmer

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

    So, you want to start a small-scale dairy. Before you begin scanning real estate ads, buying a set of Carhartts, and pricing out feed, take heed from the advice of acclaimed author and farmer Gianaclis Caldwell.

    Caldwell grew up on a small family farm in Oregon, where she milked cows, ran a dairy cow 4-H club, and learned to raise organic produce and meat. In 2005, Caldwell returned to the property with her husband and their two daughters where they now operate Pholia Farm, an off-grid, raw milk cheese dairy. So, she knows of what she speaks (and writes).

    TEH SMALL SCALE DIARYIn her new book, The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market, Caldwell asks wannabe farmers to sit down, take a deep breath, and (honestly) answer a few key questions before diving into the romantic life of a dairy farmer.

    • Does your idea of a vacation involve getting up several hours earlier than normal to finish the chores in time to attend a raw-milk educational conference, then arrive home late, do chores again, and still get up on time the next morning
    • Do you see yourself paying more for animal feed than your own dinner out
    • Do you find inserting your arm into a laboring doe’s uterus to untangle triplet goat kids an interesting challenge
    • Does your idea of a balanced workout include doing squats while working in the milking parlor
    • Does producing wholesome food and feeding your community make you happy

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be a dairy farmer.

    In The Small-Scale Dairy, Caldwell (The Small-Scale Cheese Business, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking) provides the know-how to safely produce nourishing, farm-fresh milk. She also provides readers a balanced perspective on the current regulatory environment in which raw-milk lovers find themselves.

    “For both producers and consumers, The Small-Scale Dairy is a must read and a valuable contribution to a growing movement,” writes Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

    In The Small-Scale Cheese Business Caldwell tackled the nuts and bolts of running a successful creamery, while in the beautifully designed and written Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, she provided insight into the intricacies of cheesemaking science – as well as tried and true recipes for beginner to expert cheesemakers.

    With the addition of her latest book, Caldwell has created a farm-to-plate trilogy for the aspiring dairy farmer and cheesemaker. Pick up any one of her books and learn whether you just might be a dairy farmer, have what it takes to run the business side of your cheese business, or if you’re talents lie in crafting the perfect artisanal cheese wheel. Or, grab the complete set and start scanning the real estate ads and looking for a few pairs of Carhartts.

    The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market is available now and on sale for 35% off until April 11. Read an excerpt below.

    Chapter 2: Is the Small Dairy Right for You? by Chelsea Green Publishing

    Who’s Fuelin’ Whom?

    Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

    UPDATE: April Fools! We’re not really publishing a home-scale fracking book but thanks to everyone who shared our prank! Stay up to date with our (actual) latest releases by signing up for our e-newsletter here

    Tapping into the growing interest in fracking and the development of shale gas, Chelsea Green Publishing – the nation’s leading publisher on home-scale, do-it-yourself books about food, fuel, and shelter – is offering a new manual for homesteaders—The Plunderer’s Companion: Home-Scale Fracking and Micro Mining for the Homestead and Farm by Sue T. Boottes.

    The book will follow on the heels of this Spring’s anticipated book, Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet. In Extracted, author Ugo Bardi explains the history of mining, and how it has played into empire building, and collapse, and could be poised to do so again.

    As Bardi points out in his forthcoming book Extracted, large corporations and nation states are close to exhausting many of the key rare Earth minerals we need to fuel our global economy. So, why should they get to hoard all of those resources and hold other nations hostage? It’s time to reclaim and relocalize these important economic resources.

    Once the global mining machine stalls for good, you’ll be prepared to react and have a prospering, locally owned business to server your community’s fuel needs.

    “Why pay someone else to fracture the Earth’s crust to get at that valuable fuel that’s right under your feet? Why not drill yourself and reap the profits for you and your progeny?” writes Boottes. “This is not just home-fracking for fun and profit, but an effort to rekindle the craft of deep earth mining and apply those techniques to a modern mining age that is crumbling under its own weight. You’ve heard of slow food, and slow money…this is slow mining.”

    “Plunder and get rich: it is right there for the taking!” adds Boottes.

    The Plunderer’s Companion is fully illustrated with detailed designs and easy-to-follow steps for readers to start mining or drilling deep beneath the crust of their backyard in a safe and economical fashion. And, best of all, this book demonstrates how you can do this with simple tools you may already have laying around the homestead – shovels, pickaxes, high-pressure hoses, piping, cold frames, and rain barrels.

    The author also describes how it is important to take into account that not everyone might be as excited as you are about your home-scale fracking endeavor. Dealing with nosy neighbors is especially challenging for those living in suburban and urban areas. Boottes offers advice such as camouflaging the drill sites with fruit and nut tree plantings, drilling when neighbors are not around, and leading discussions to educate your community about the benefits of locally sourced gas and oil.

    And, for those immediate neighbors, who may have noticed your horizontal drilling extend underneath their garden, Boottes suggests breaking the ice with a gift of a small mason jar of liquefied natural gas to help them get on board with your new hobby. “These kind gestures may come in handy down the road if you run out of room to store any excess ‘byproduct,’” Boottes writes.

    In The Plunderer’s Companion, readers will also learn how to:

    • Plant perennials that can co-exist with your drill sites;
    • Create a community-supported mining operation/Oil Share;
    • Power your mining operation with draft horses to keep from using up those fossil fuels you’re trying to sell at a premium to your neighbors;
    • Prepare the chemical cocktail to inject in the drill hole from commonly found ingredients;
    • Use the exhaust of the engine of your car to pressurize the hole and frack the rock underground. From the same hole, you’ll get natural gas directly to power your home heating system; and;
    • Take full advantage of the global extraction boon by micro mining. This emerging extractive process is designed for homeowners who might be sitting on top of a gold mine – literally – of rare earth minerals.

    Hands of Coal

    We know that food, when fresh and unprocessed like raw milk, is more nutrient-dense and beneficial for the body. In recent studies, locally sourced, small-scale fossil fuels have been found to be even more powerful than the homogenous, corporate commodities sold by big oil and gas companies. A little goes a long way in the home-scale fracking industry. Start your family drilling operation today and join the frackavore movement.

     

    Turn Barren Soil into Black Gold: 9 Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

    Monday, March 31st, 2014

    If you want to turn a barren lot into a permaculture paradise, you’ve got to start from the ground up.

    Sheet mulching is an easy way to start. You start with a biodegradable weed barrier like cardboard, and from there build a thick, layered substrate for your garden with compost and mulch. As the materials break down, worms move in, softening the soil below, and creating a healthy, aerated planting bed where once there was compacted, dead clay.

    Eric Toensmeier transformed his rocky, desolate tenth of an acre into a modern-day Garden of Eden with this and other permaculture methods. He shares the skills and tips you need to do it yourself in his best-selling book Perennial Vegetables. For the visual learners out there, Toensmeier also has a DVD, which is available alone or as a set with the book.

    For even more about the stunning transformation from bare ground to lush garden, Toensmeier’s memoir Paradise Lot tells the whole story of how he not only made a little patch of earth a little greener, he found love, too.

    So, without further ado, here’s Eric Toensmeier’s simple 9-step method for sheet mulching!

    The following is an excerpt from Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier.

    Sheet mulching combines soil improvement, weed removal, and long-term mulching in one fell swoop.

    This technique, also known as lasagna gardening, can build remarkable soils in just a few years. There are several key components.

    • First, a weed barrier like cardboard is laid down to smother weeds. In theory (and quite often in practice) the cardboard decomposes after the weeds have all died and turned into compost.
    • The second ingredient is to add compost, or build a layered compost pile that will enrich your new garden bed.
    • The third step is to add a thick layer of mulch on top, to keep new weeds from getting established.

    I have had great results with sheet mulching, although sometimes the first year is a bit rough on delicate species, until the raw materials break down. You can use sheet mulching to turn lawns or weedy waste areas into gardens in just a few hours, or even to build soil from scratch inside built frames for raised beds. Sheet mulch can range from just a few inches thick to 2 feet or more, depending on how bad your soil is and how much raw material you have available (it will cook down and settle quite a bit). For more information see Patricia Lanza’s Lasagna Gardening, or Edible Forest Gardens.

    Nine Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

    1. Mow or cut your lawn, weeds, or other vegetation right down to the ground.
    2. Plant any crops that will require a large planting hole (including woody plants, perennials in large pots, and large transplants).
    3. Add soil amendments (as determined by your soil test).
    4. Water the whole area thoroughly. You are going to be putting a layer of cardboard or newspaper over it, and rain and irrigation won’t soak through very well until that weed barrier breaks down. Water also helps the decomposition process get going.
    5. If you have compost materials that may contain weed seeds (like fresh manure, leaves, or hay), spread them in layers on the ground. Put a dry, carbonaceous layer of hay or shredded leaves below any manure layer. Avoid thick layers, and make sure to get a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio just as if you were building a compost pile. Water this layer well.
    6. Lay down a weed barrier. I prefer to use large sheets of cardboard from appliance stores, because these last longer and are quicker to lie down. You can use layers of wet newspaper too. Make sure to have a 4- to 6-inch overlap where sheets meet so buried weeds can’t find a route to the surface. If you have already planted crops, or have other preexisting plants, don’t mulch over them. Cut holes in the cardboard to make some breathing space for each plant (or leave some room around each plant when laying newspaper).
    7. Now you can add your weed-free organic materials. I like to keep it simple, and just add a nice layer of compost. You can also do some sheet composting here, alternating layers of nitrogen-rich materials like fresh grass clippings with carbonaceous materials like weed-free straw.
    8. Now you add your final top mulch layer, at least 3 inches thick. Water the whole bed thoroughly once again. Your sheet mulch bed is complete.
    9. You can plant right into your bed if you like. To plant tubers or potted plants, just pull back the top layers until you get to the weed barrier. Cut an X in the cardboard or newspaper. If you are transplanting a large plant, peel back the corners of the X. Throw a double handful of compost in the planting hole and then put in the plant. Pull the layers and top mulch back around the plant, water well, and you’re all set. Planting seeds is easy too. Just pull back the top mulch to the compost layer and plant your seeds. You may want to cut through the weed barrier below first, depending on weed pressure below the barrier. If you are planting seeds, be sure to water regularly, as compost on top of cardboard can dry out quickly.

    1.jpg
    The author’s Massachusetts front yard before sheet mulching. The soils are very poor fill from new construction.

    2.jpg
    Addition of rotted leaves below thick paper bags as a weed barrier with a layer of compost and mulch on top—just a few hours of work.

    3.jpg
    By mid-summer the garden is thriving with sweet potato, taro, edible hibiscus, and hardy bananas (yes, they over-winter in Massachusetts, but they don’t fruit here).

    4.jpg
    Jonathan Bates enjoys the results of our first year of sheet mulching. This garden has just gotten better each year. Note the fantastic growth of hyacinth beans!

    Perennial Gardening: Grow More Food with Less Work!

    Thursday, March 27th, 2014

    Perennial vegetables are a food gardener’s dream. Plant them once, treat them well, and they’ll keep feeding you year after year.

    If you’re looking for some new crops to liven up your garden and your palate, give perennials a chance. You’ll have plants you never dreamed could be dinner. We’ve included below some perennial inspired projects to get you started! 

    25% Off Entire Selection of Gardening Books until March 31st.

    In cased you missed our previous “Garden Series” projects you can take a look here and here. Everything from building fertile soil, planning the best garden, starting seedlings and crop selection – we have you covered.

    Looking for more backyard projects? Learn the basics of seed saving here and beekeeping for beginners here.

     

    Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.
    Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). 


    Perennials Perfect for Shady Spots
    VIDEO: Four Perennials Perfect for Shady Spots

    Eric Toensmeier is the reigning expert on these easy-to-grow crops, and his new DVD takes you on a plant-by-plant tour.

    In this video, Eric introduces four perennial crops that do well in shady spots. Watch and learn more about these versatile veggies.  Plant it »»


    Backyard Permaculture Paradise
    Building Your Backyard Permaculture Paradise

    As you look out on your snow-covered (or just barren) backyard, here is how Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates approached those initial phases of transformation–along with their site designs.

    We hope this provides you with plenty of spring planting ideas and inspiration for the coming gardening season. Plan it »»


    Perennials are the Best Bang for Your Buck
    6 Reasons Why Perennials Are the Best Bang for Your Buck


    If you’ve ever debated whether perennial plants are right for your landscape, author Ben Falk is here to help.
     Plant it »»


    The Grafter's Handbook
    How to Graft the Perfect Tree


    Trees are the ultimate perennial and with care will continue to produce for years and even decades.

    Learning the art and science of grafting fruit trees can give an old tree a new life, or perhaps give some continuing life to a variety you love. Learn it »»

     


    ~ ~ Garden Savings: 25% Off  ~ ~
    Perennial Vegetables SetRetail $59.95
    Sale: $44.96
    Paradise Lot
    Retail $19.95
    Sale: $14.96
    The Resilient Farm and Homestead
    Retail $40.00
    Sale: $30.00
    Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
    Retail $29.95
    Sale $22.46
    The Grafter's HandbookRetail $40.00
    Sale $30.00
    Natural Beekeeping, Revised and ExpandedRetail $34.95
    Sale: $26.21
    Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
    Retail $29.95
    Sale: $22.46
    Food Not Lawns
    Retail $25.00
    Sale: $18.75
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Retail $150.00
    Sale $112.50
    The Permaculture KitchenRetail $22.95
    Sale $17.21

    Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
    already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
    more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)
     
    per inceptos himenaeos.

    6 Reasons Why You Need to Plant Perennials…Like Now

    Thursday, March 27th, 2014

    If you’ve ever debated about whether perennial plants are right for your landscape, author Ben Falk is here to help. And, as a recent winner of an American Horticultural Society 2014 Book Award, you can be sure to trust his expert advice.

    Falk’s award winning book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead, offers readers the lessons he’s learned about perennials on his Whole Systems Research Farm and explains the six reasons why gardeners and farmers should not overlook these permanent producers. One advantage, according to Falk, is their resilience to climate change. Perennial plants are able to both avoid and bounce back from climate stress like drought and flood. Want to know more? Read Falk’s entire list of perennial plant benefits in the excerpt below.

    For more guidance on growing perennials, take a behind-the-scenes look at how Paradise Lot authors, Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates, transformed a desolate urban backyard into a permaculture paradise and go on a virtual tour of their garden to learn about four perennial vegetables that thrive in the shade.

     


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