Monthly Archives: February 2013

There is fungus among us

Organic Gardener, Holistic Orchardist, Sustainable Agriculture, What exactly do these terms mean? Are there rules and regulations that must be adhered to? I don’t really know nor do I really care. The “system” or “method” I practice is the one that my head puts together from resources that make sense to me. My chickens are currently being fed fodder, fermented scratch, weeds, cooked rice gleaned from a local restaurant and leftovers from the weekly cleaning of the fridge. The orchard/garden is watered with grey water from my laundry and mulched with shredded waste from local tree service companies. Why do I employ these “practices”? #1 cause I’m cheap #2 because certain aspects spark interest in my brain and finally #3 because they are effective/efficient. Happy productive chickens, healthy trees, and productive gardens is the goal and at least currently the outcome.

As has been mentioned several times lately on this blog The Holistic Orchard (fruits and berries the biologic way) by Michael Phillips has really captured my attention. Basically Mr. Phillips is advocating and trying to educate about the benefits of treating the whole orchard holistically. Focusing on the overall health of everything from the soil to the foliage in an effort to minimize the susceptibility to both pests and disease. Backyard Orchard Culture as refined and practiced for my area by the UNCE experimental orchard lends itself to embracing these holistic idea(l)s, at least in my little world. One thing that really clicked with me was the idea of “random” mulching, this is using whatever you come up with as you come up with it as mulch. Shredded paper? OK, Shredded/Chipped tree waste? OK, Straw? OK, the idea is to promote a diverse environment for beneficial bacterial and fungal soil cultures to thrive.

That brings the agenda to spring and pulsing sprays. I wish I could do more than regurgitate stuff from The Holistic Orchard but right now that’s where my knowledge is from, maybe this fall I’ll be able to make an informed and insightful blog post about all of this….we’ll see. Pulsing sprays are used to spark a “pulse” of action in the microbial world inhabiting the soil of the orchard and the bark of the trees, encouraging the beneficial ones to thrive and therefore outcompete any bad ones that come along. Ingredients recommended for this witches brew is liquid fish (are you thinking of SNL and the bass-o-matic?), cold pressed Neem oil, and EM-1. Liquid Fish was easily found and reasonably purchased from SF Organics, cold pressed Neem oil is all over E-Bay, but EM-1 proved a little tougher especially for a frugal individual. The stuff is not available locally and both of the proprietary makers apparently think this stuff is very special. I was willing to cough up the $23 SCD Probiotics wanted for a liter of this stuff but when I went to check out at their exclusive online distributor and found that shipping was going to double the price my gag reflex kicked in, likewise at Teraganix.

All of his has been leading up to my initial topic for this post……clandestine culturing of microbes. While I couldn’t find any reliable instructions for knocking off these companies products I did discover that this concept stems from Korean Natural farming techniques in general and specifically to Lacto-Bacillus/IMO culturing. Ironically it was a question asked on one of my favorite blogs, Scratch Cradle, that lead me to the answer I was looking for. Two youtube videos, Korean Natural Farming- Lacto Bacillus, and Korean Natural Farming-IMO part 1 provided me with a wealth of information about creating inoculant cultures for use in the orchard. A less detailed (there actually four parts of the IMO series) but very practical explanation can be found on IMO Farming part 1 . Following the procedures outlined in these highly informative videos has lead me to attempt to start my own cultures.

Rice Wash Water hopefully collecting and culturing Lacto Bacillus

Rice Wash Water hopefully collecting and culturing Lacto Bacillus

 

Funky rice water hopefully stored where Karen won't find it

Funky rice water hopefully stored where Karen won’t find it

1st ingredient of IMO: Forest Litter (actually dirt and mulch from the oldest section of the UNCE orchard)

1st ingredient of IMO: Forest Litter (actually dirt and mulch from the oldest section of the UNCE orchard)

2nd ingredient of IMO: hard cooked rice

2nd ingredient of IMO: hard cooked rice

IMO ingredients together: Top tray has lots of holes drilled in the bottom so that microbes can migrate to rice beneath

IMO ingredients together: Top tray has lots of holes drilled in the bottom so that microbes can migrate to rice beneath

IMO incubator hopefully located where Karen will overlook it

IMO incubator hopefully located where Karen will overlook it

Now all I have to do is let my stuff funk up and culture for a week or so then move onto the second phase of refining and fortifying the captured cultures. That process may take a little more ingenuity to keep beneath my Sweety Karen’s radar but I think I’m up to the challenge.

Oh by the way IMO stands for Indigenous Micro Organisms

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She thinks my Tractor’s Sexy

Well it’s not really my tractor but my sweety Karen is sure smitten with it, and Lil’ Cutie Alexa aint far behind! My buddy Paul “found” this tractor outside the auction and dropped it off at the Clayton Annex thinking we could use it to clean up a bit. We now have a banked oval track in the side yard from Karen & Lexi driving around and around and around! The youngest two of my three boys also seem to be irresistibly drawn to the musical sound of that Yanmar 2 cylinder diesel.

Brian forgot how to use a clutch

Brian forgot how to use a clutch

 

Tommy Boy had to get in on the fun.

Tommy Boy had to get in on the fun.

At least today Karen and Lexi tried to be productive. There was a big ole stump that needed to be put in the dumpster, so it was time to fire up the tractor again today.

 

Karen showing that she can do anything

Karen showing that she can do anything

 

Lexi wasn't gonna be left out

Lexi wasn’t gonna be left out

 

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Karen & Lexi are on the loose

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Karen said this is almost as much fun as goin to the dump

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Lexi said “this is way more fun than goin to the dump and it don’t smell like poop”

 

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Lexi offered to teach me to drive the tractor

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She found a pile of dirt that needed moving

While all of the “work” with the tractor was continuing over at the Annex I did some chores over at the orchard. Three roosters went to the feed store in return for 50# of Lay Pellets. That leaves the flock with two full size roosters, one Black Copper Marans and one Golden Cuckoo Marans. All of the large fowl chickens are back in the common run with the 5 silkies in juvenile pen. The area that had been the bachelor pen got tilled and seeded with barley, buckwheat, and red wheat. I’m hoping that our moderate weather will allow this area to sprout and develop into a pasture area the flock can be turned into occasionally.

The first Peach tree to leaf out

The first Peach tree to leaf out

 

A Royal Rosa Apricot. The first tree in the Orchard to bloom!

A Royal Rosa Apricot. The first tree in the Orchard to bloom!

Things are poppin in the orchard, buds are swelling and I have my first blossoms ever opening on a Royal Rosa Apricot. Next week I plan on spraying the orchard with a pulsing agent mix of Liquid Fish and Neem oil. The idea is to feed the little critters in the soil so that a pulse of good bacteria and fungus can out compete any bad guys that may blow in. My sister Lorri has a knack for finding gifts that I would never get for myself but after I get wonder how I ever got along without it. The book The Holistic Orchard is just such a gift, I have read it several times and constantly refer back to it. The author, Michael Phillips, has some fantastic ideas and this latest book of his lays things out in a manner that isn’t overwhelming or judgmental.

 

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108 defendants on Trial

Last weekend was the girls and my “Big Adventure”. My Sweety Karen and the Tsunami Alexa were supposed to come along but other things popped up.

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Our club, Las Vegas Bird Dog Club, held our annual AKC pointing breeds field trial last weekend. There were 37 dogs and 108 entries running in 7 different stakes. For the past 6 years or so, with the exception of last year, I have been the Field Trial secretary responsible for entries, running order, line marshaling, and basically keeping everything moving in an orderly manner. This Trial had me a bit stressed due to the large number of entries. When I started out we had less than half this number of entries but With Kita’s (Director) guidance we have become quite the event!

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During the three days we were out there

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We got hit with damn near every kind of weather you can think of, from bright sunny beautiful to mid-20’s with snow pushed by 30 mph winds. My newest rescue girl, Jersey Sue, got to go along after only a week with us and showed she’s a trooper.

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Ghost Goose

I was gone for the weekend and came home last night to find what appears to be a Black Copper Marans Goose egg in one of the boxes! The problem with that idea is two-fold; First, to my knowledge there is no such thing as a BCM Goose; Second, I don’t have ANY geese only chickens and ducks.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

Part of this weekends haul of eggs.

 

What the heck did this come outta?

What the heck did this come outta?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

Is this an eXXXtra Large egg?

 

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Orchard Layout

 

 

 

 

This first layout is an as built just after I had finished planting all of my trees.

2012 Orchard Plan

 

This is after this years plantings. It really isn’t totally accurate or scaled very well seeing as how the chicken run now takes up the whole length of the south end of the area and the Grenada & Kasmir Pomegranates are inside that run. It is accurate as to varieties and locations. The pink dotted Splash, Flavor Supreme, and Flavor Grenade are Pluots an interspecific cross of plum and apricot. Purple dotted Emerald Beauty, Santa Rosa, Burgundy, and Beauty are plums; Orange dotted Early Treat, Florida Prince, O’Henry, and Babcock are peaches along with my lone Arctic Star nectarine. Gold Kist,Royal Rosa, Katy, and Tomkot are apricots with Cot-n-Candy & Flavor Delight being Apriums another interspecific cross of apricot and plum the leans more towards the apricot. 2013 Orchard-Plan

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Do I dare trust my GUTS?

While I do suspect I may be trying to get the Flu, fear not! there is not a single BM pic in this whole post.

Some of the GREAT people at the orchard!

Some of the GREAT people at the orchard!

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension runs an amazing demonstration orchard here in Las Vegas, the Master Gardeners are absolutely amazing! Over a close to 20 year span they have tested almost every fruit and growing method you can think of and are truly the authorities on growing fruit trees in our harsh conditions. Every year they bring in fruit trees from Dave Wilson Nurseries for sale to interested gardeners. They focus on making available the varieties that produce good fruit here, which aren’t always easy thing to find.

Due to a slope in my orchard that I ignored last year I lost nine trees due to wet feet. The remediation plan was laid out previously in my What to Do? post. Basically I built 2’x2′ raised beds for the new trees to minimize the slope and give the new trees and area above the mucky soil below.

The raised beds started as 6' cedar dog eared fence planks

The raised beds started as 6′ cedar dog eared fence planks

 

My nephew Steven was a huge help. He is always a pleasure to be around!

My nephew Steven was a huge help. He is always a pleasure to be around!

Steven and I cut up all the material then assembled all of the boxes. Originally I had planned on using steel T-posts but my cheap side kicked in and we ended up using 1″x2″x24″ wooden grade stakes 25 for $7! During the planning of this modification of the garden/orchard area I came to realize that for me function is more important than form/style. Over engineering had been bogging me down until it clicked that last years “Grand Plan” was all being changed and for me “pretty” comes from healthy trees, healthy chickens, and tasty veggies. I am truly jealous of those that are able to create a masterpiece/showcase in their garden but I finally came to the understand that my mind doesn’t work that way. Basically I am CHEAP and hate spending money on something that I can’t wrap my head around it’s contribution to productivity.

Yeah there's only 3 stakes holdin that box up, I told you I was CHEAP!

Yeah there’s only 3 stakes holdin that box up, I told you I was CHEAP!

 

A good overview of the Orchard

A good overview of the Orchard

A secondary goal was reconfiguring my narrow raised beds that I installed last year. The idea was they were situated to the downhill side of my irrigation lines and would therefore require minimal supplemental irrigation. Come midsummer in an effort to minimize the soggy ground at the base of my orchard area I actually ended up diverting my Grey Water irrigation supply to a separate cobbled together system that didn’t really do anything well.

The Upper end of the "raised" bed

The Upper end of the “raised” bed

The plan for the area between the rows has morphed into a traditional raised bed 4′ wide and 10′ long. As can be seen in the above picture the upper end of the bed is actually only slightly above grade.

Truly "raised"

Truly “raised”

The bed is level both side to side and end to end, consequently the lower end of the bed is slightly above grade. Hopefully by the time my trees shade this area out in several years the level of the surrounding soil will have leveled out via the copious additions of mulch.

The sun is going down and the days work is done.

The sun is going down and the days work is done.

The raised bed was filled with the last of the compost and the accumulated muck from the floor of the hen-house. Last year about this time I put about 6″ of mulch in my 10’x10′ coop. Two bales of straw, a couple bags of shredded paper, and a bale of alfalfa had made it’s way in there during the intervening months. It had dried out quite a bit (I wet it down weekly during the summer) and I realize it is probably very “hot” due to all of the chicken poop, so I watered it down well to kick start the composting action.

The two little boxes are Comfrey plants that fell outside of the new bed.

The two little boxes are Comfrey plants that fell outside of the new bed.

Today we went back up and staked the new trees, did a general cleanup, mulched the first row, and then planted the new bed. To try to mellow out that “hot” soil I sowed several handful’s of red wheat and oats, then I planted bush beans, swiss chard, and beets Square-Foot Gardening style through the pasture seeds. Why? I’m not really sure, it just felt right and that’s the theme I’m trying to stick with. Educate yourself as much as possible then go with your gut!

 

 

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