Category Archives: Comfrey

Monty Chill Who?

Tuey and I just got back from an adventure to the Washington DC area. Why is it that schools feel the need to force Elementary and Junior High students to go to amazing places that 90% don’t give a shit about? DC was packed with bored students and frustrated Teachers/Chaperones who obviously did not want to be there. Yes there were some that you could tell were truly absorbing the history that surrounded them but they were a very small minority. Enough ranting, On to my post about Karen and I’s awesome herb garden tour at Monticello!

MonticelloWe joined a group of 15 or so mostly local herb enthusiasts for a 2 1/2 hour tour of Thomas Jefferson’s herb garden bright and early Saturday morning. Originally we wanted to do a behind the scenes type tour but it was sold out, I noticed this herb tour on their special events section and Tuey thought we should give it a go. Something different you know. MarshmallowWhile everyone else was taking up close shots of herb specimens and taking detailed notes about what Monticello’s gardeners think he might have used them for I found other things to occupy me. Tuey at MonticelloKaren was obviously intrigued by the garden and watching her intrigued me. LadybugsThis example of insect fornication also intrigued Tuey enough to call me over to get a shot with the I-Phone. Tuey tooIt was truly a beautiful morning and the information was fascinating but it came through fairly quickly that Jefferson was more of an intellectual and a gadget guy and not a man of the land. Earlier in the week we visited Mt. Vernon and there it was obvious that Washington was a man intrigued by agriculture but that wasn’t the case, at least for me, at Monticello.Tormented TueyThis look on Tuey’s face is the result of the lady with the glasses repeatedly asking for the correct spelling of exotic herbs like thyme and rosemary.Swing SetI really liked this setup because it is exactly what I am doing with my tomatoes albeit with an old swing set frame in my case. SalveThe final part of the class was making a salve. Pot MarigoldThis was the main ingredient, pot marigold. While I discovered a lot of ideas in the gardens, it was this part I got the most out of. A couple of the women in the group were amateur herbalists and one was even studying to practice professionally, talking to them I realized that the Korean Natural farming techniques I am doing in my orchard/garden are really just being a herbalist for my plants/soil. While they are much more precise with their methods we found that we were all trying to do the same thing, making chemicals or compounds within plants into a readily available and usable source for the patient. It even turned out that there were two plants/herbs that both Herbalists and practitioners of Korean Natural Farming looked upon as necessities in our herbal toolkit! Stinging Nettles and Comfrey, one Lady even had a jug of Stinging Nettle Tea and they all agreed that all the cautions about Comfrey and liver toxicity is just another example of the FDA performing unrealistic studies. All in all Tuey and I both enjoyed our excursion to Jefferson’s house but I think all of those East Coast Wiccans kinda disturbed my Sweety’s chi. Karen

 

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Comfrey Fermentation

My next venture into Korean Natural Farming techniques is FPJ aka Fermented Plant Juice. Comfrey01 Comfrey02 Comfrey03 Comfrey04 Comfrey05 Comfrey06 Comfrey

The Comfrey I got from Coe’s Comfrey last fall are really doing well this year. In fact I should have paid more attention to where I had planted it, apparently I missed some when transplanting them out before tilling the area for the first of my new 4’x12′ beds and now there are little comfrey plants coming up all over. Those little plants are going to be allowed to get a little bigger before they get potted up and either transplanted or given to one of the Master Gardeners at the UNCE orchard. Comfrey Comfrey09

The first harvest of leaves resulted in a 1 gallon bucketful weighing a pound and a half. Four days later you can’t even tell anything was cut from the plants, this stuff grows like mad and thrives on high nitrogen sources like raw chicken manure and straight urine! Comfrey11Comfrey12

After mixing/macerating the comfrey at a rate of 2/1 with brown sugar the volume was greatly reduced. Comfrey14 Comfrey13

Four days later and the mix has started to funk up a bit but hasn’t gotten stinky….yet. Comfrey15

While not strictly according to the procedure laid out by Bryan McGrath in this excellent FPJ outline:  I added 3 cups of  dechlorinated water because it seemed like the right thing to do. At this point my Comfrey concoction smells sorta like canned spinach.

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Then it was back into my newest hidey-hole to ferment until next weekend. If my brew starts developing the dreaded hydrogen-sulfide rotten egg smell it’s going to have to move up to the orchard to escape detection by my sweety Karen.

 

 

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Starbucks Rewards and the Outriders of the Alien Invasion

The goal this weekend was to get the Comfrey plants in the ground, if they showed up that is.My nephew Steven called Friday to see if he could come over and hangout, the term “slave” instantly popped into my head. Steven is 15 and a great guy, he is a born cat person and loves to come over to play with Annabelle, Lola, Oscar, and sometimes even the devil incarnate Salem. His motivation this time was that I had posted some new pictures of Tri-pod on Facebook, commenting on how far he has come in 3 months. Tri-pod does come out from under the bed regularly now but his trust is centered mostly around me. He came out and let Steven pet him but only for a few minutes at a time. With me Tri-pod will come out and sit on my lap for quite a while making a general nuisance of himself by trying to swat my fingers while typing my blog posts. Now all I have to do is figure out how to broker a peace treaty between Annabelle and Tri-pod, the office had always been Annabelle’s domain and she is very bitchy about somebody else taking over her territory. The other cats come in the office, munch on Tri-pods food, use his litter box and just kinda hang out, Annabelle though goes into attack mode whenever Tri-pod shows his face. Hopefully I’ll figure out some way to ease this situation but I’m fresh outta ideas, if anyone has advice it would sure be appreciated.

Steven “volunteered” Saturday morning to help out at the Orchard. After going to breakfast with Sweety #1 & #2 we didn’t get a very early start. By the time we made it to the Orchard it was 10am and extremely hot & humid. We did get the seed for my custom fermenting mix and the GP poultry pellets unloaded and stored in the coop. Screening the compost didn’t work out so well and we moved on to the hole portion of the “fertile holes” I needed for my Comfrey. After 3 holes we both cried UNCLE and cleaned up and headed out. Usually I slip Steven $10 or so for helping out, work kept calling and I got distracted and forgot. Hopefully seeing as how he is 15, just got his learners permit and I let him drive my Jeep we may be even.

Tom over at Coes Comfrey exceeded my expectations! When I got home there was a nice little box waiting with 12 healthy looking comfrey plants inside along with a very informative planting and use guide. I had tried sending Tom several e-mails and had convinced myself he was like everyone else and out of stock for the season, not so! Tom means it when he says he prefers doing business by phone, his number is 828-321-4913 and he is a great guy to talk to. A bit of cloud cover crept into the valley during the afternoon so I ran back up to the Orchard and finished digging holes. Seven plants are going in along the fence that separates the chicken run from the orchard area with the remaining five going into my sunken beds interspersed between the fruit trees. The plants are spaced about 3′ apart along the fence and the plan is to put mulberry trees or some kind of chicken friendly shrub between each comfrey plant. What the hell is a chicken friendly shrub? something that produces leaves or fruit that my chickens can eat. Do you have any suggestions? The plants need to be somewhat drought and heat tolerant but other than that I am wide open to suggestions.

This mornings efforts focused on the fertile part of fertile holes. Before leaving last night I had filled all seven holes with water so that I wouldn’t have dry thirsty ground sucking all of the moisture away from my new plants. Then 5# of used coffee grounds from Starbucks went into each hole along with another filling of H2O. While emptying Starbucks bags I found another of their secret prizes! A couple of months ago I found a nifty stainless frothing cup in a bag of grounds that my middle son Thomas stole. Yeah I know he looks like a “Pretty Boy” but if you look closely at his eyes you can see a spark of deviousness. Until today I had thought this find was just a random occurrence precipitated by poor employee motivation at a particular Starbucks, but then third bag in this morning I find another heavy duty frothing mug! This is no coincidence caused by lazy employees. Obviously Starbucks has instituted some sort of “Starbucks Rewards” program for their eco-minded customers. I thoroughly searched Starbucks Rewards website and can find no mention of this innovative and intriguing program. The program must have been inspired by the “secret menu” at In-n-Out Burger. Let me know if you’re one of the lucky recipients of a Starbucks Rewards frothing mug and please keep this on the QT, we don’t want those not in the know running out and grabbing up all of those valuable grounds just trying to get one!

After the coffee grounds-slurry was in the holes I filled them up with a mixture of the unscreened compost, that I had let the chickens scratch through last night, and bagged cow manure from the home store. I do plan on developing a supply chain for manure in my local area but I aint quite there yet. After mixing well, the resultant slop made an excellent medium to plant my new Comfrey crowns into. All that is left is to extend my Greywater irrigation system down to that area. I think that project is going to wait for fall though, the combination of Vegas heat and Monsoon humidity is stifling. Overall this has been a productive weekend and who knows if the clouds roll in the work may not be finished. I would like to get my middle half-assed-hugel bed surrounded by fencing to keep the pigeons out.

By the way does anyone know an effective way to keep them demon spawned outriders of the alien invasion out of your garden?

 

This last picture is an update. When I removed my Starbucks Rewards frothing mug from the dishwasher I noticed a very disturbing thing: They personalized it! My name is embossed in high relief on both sides of the spout. How did they accomplish this remarkable feat of personalized marketing? I am confused and if truth be told just a little spooked!

 

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Hurray the work weeks over! Now let’s get to work.

 

The soil at my Orchard site is terrible, rocky, alkaline, and mostly clay. A big part of my efforts are towards soil improvement, from the mulch bed covering the entire area to the sub-surface greywater system that keeps the soil/mulch interface moist. Thinking about it almost all of my current efforts are going towards that goal. Reading the-real-bounty-of-the-coop on the excellent blog Northwest Edible Life made me realize how valuable that messy chicken run is. I practice the deep litter method in my 8’x10′ chicken coop, hold on a sec, doesn’t “deep litter method” sound awfully snooty? You can read all 33 pages of that article I linked to on BYC but in reality the “method” is all about lazy, but it works! If you keep a 6″ + deep bed of wood chips, pine shavings, or what have you in your coop it absorbs the moisture from the poop and helps keep the smell down. In addition it starts breaking down and really fires off when put in a compost pile. My coop sits up on 4×4 skids and the chickens slowly kick the shredded tree service mulch out under the walls, so about once a month I rake all of the stuff up outta the run area, toss it in my composter, and liberally wet it all down with duck pond water. Tomorrow is time to haul one bin’s worth out of the run and pile it up to mellow for a bit in the orchard area, turn the other bin into the now empty bin, then refill that bin with the scmutz from the run. I was thinking of using that batch of compost for my other task on schedule for tomorrow but I think I’m going to save it for my new half-assed hugelkulure bed that will be on the work ticket in a month or so.

Comfrey…..that is the focus of this weekends second project. Simpleunhookedliving along with Milkwood have both recently had excellent blog posts about Comfrey that are well worth the read.

This is one of the 4 plants my Sweety, Karen, got me from the Korean nursery in Pomona. I have no idea what variety they are but I do know that they are growing like mad and my chickens love the leaves. I searched all over the web for more and finally found some being sold by a true believer at Coes Comfrey. Coes site is a wealth of information and the owner, Tom, is an incredibly interesting guy to talk to. Tom prefers doing business by phone 828-321-4913 which is kinda ironic because his website is really well done. I ended up ordering 10 one year old plants that should be here saturday or monday at the latest. Thats where the work comes in, Tom recommends planting Comfrey in “fertile holes”, basically a 2′ diameter hole as deep as you can dig it, he even suggested using a post hole digger to let the tap root get off to a good start. I got too many rocks to get to deep but I am going to do my best and backfill the holes with steer manure and chicken poop. Everything I have read says that Comfrey can handle very potent fertilizer without burning, this includes fresh chicken manure and straight urine and I’m gonna find out. I have been “watering” my other Comfrey plants whenever the need arises and they are doing great.

What’s all this Comfrey for?

  • Chicken Feed: This stuff is very high in protein and my girls love it
  • Compost: It is also very high in nitrogen and low in fiber and is supposed to make a great activator for your pile
  • Mulch: Comfrey is a bio-accumulator and through it’s tap root mines nutrients and minerals from down deep
  • Fertilizer: When packed in 5 gallon buckets and allowed to break down for a month or so crates a nasty goo that when cut with water is supposed to be a great organic fertilizer

So hopefully with the help of my nephew Steven I’ll get a lot accomplished and have some nice pictures to post on here Sunday!

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