Category Archives: Compost

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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Blechy

My Sweety Karen has been on a top secret mission helping train some kind of birds for the last week, it involves getting up early (6:30 is early?) and being gone for a couple hours. Alexa helped her yesterday but I still haven’t been granted Top Secret Clearance, maybe next week she says. Anyway what’s this got to do with me? well it meant that I had to get my butt outta bed to load some seed in the truck for a delivery Karen had to make after todays secret mission. Not bein the type who goes back to bed very readily after getting moving I decided to have a cup of coffee and read a bit. Just yesterday the Library received my interlibrary loan request for The Monster War by Dave Duncan an omnibus book incorporating three previously published novels from Duncan’s The King’s Blades series that my local library didn’t have. Duncan’s books are great reads, not a lot of meat, but fast paced character driven plots with plenty of twists across the series to keep you interested. The book started off great but I wasn’t doing to well staying focused.

Pat over at growsoeasyorganic.com had replied to my post “What to do”, where I was whining about lack of motivation with a referral to her similar post “Fall Garden Clean Up”. She expressed some of the same sentiments but instead of just whining created a common sense approach to getting stuff done. Those ideas kept spinning in my head and interrupting my reading to the point that Cammie and I got up and headed up to the homestead to get some work done.

The focus of our plan was cleaning up the chicken run. So much mulch and other debris had been washed into the run during the flood 3 weeks ago that combined with this past weeks rain I had one blechy mess. Cammie’s project was seeking out possible escape routes from the newly fenced backyard. Michone, my sons Husky puppy, keeps finding weakness’s in the security system so the services of an expert were deemed necessary. As you can probably tell from her picture when it comes to “pointing” out things Cammie is truly an expert.

My little Honda Tiller made short work of breaking up the compacted mulch, soil, chicken crap, and straw. It also did an excellent job of mixing all of those components so that they should cook up really nice in the compost bins. Tied into the chicken run cleanup was the duck pond mucking out job. The process was that I would run the tiller over an approximately 4 square foot area, shovel all of the loosened stuff into a bin with my flat nosed shovel, then wet it all down with pond water. When the pond got low enough I scooped all of the blechy gunk out of the bottom and spread it evenly in both bins. In no time at all I had two full compost bins and a spic and span area in my chicken run! Then it was breakfast time for all the Chickens and Ducks. As I was bringing in their rice Cammie found a weakness in the backyard fencing, before I knew what had happened she was in the chicken run grabbing up a red hen in order to tell me she had a red alert situation over in the backyard! She had found a 6″ gap under one of the gates that Tommy thought was secure, not for an expert like Cammie! She made it through it without a scratch.

The next project was going to be relocating the “lockdown” pen. It sets in the shade and had never really dried out from the flood 3 weeks ago. That along with the rain earlier this week and the overflow from the watering system has combined to make the area not just blechy but smelly and slimy to boot. First thing upon arriving I had propped open the door and let all of the chickens in lockdown out to mingle with the general population. The purpose of the chickens in the lockdown pen had been to isolate my 2 BCM, 3 EE, and 3 GCM hens with one of my BCM roosters so that I could get some hatching eggs for my incubator that would give me more dark brown and olive egg laying hens. Today was going to be my first day of a week of egg collecting out of that pen, wouldn’t you know it I caught one of the supposed EE hens fighting with another Rooster! Guess who’s going to the SantaRia priest! Turns out Tommy, who I was counting on to help move the pen, wasn’t at the Gym he had already gone into work. Oh well that gives me something to do next week.

Cammie and I had stopped by Star Nursery and bought some fall plants, Mustard Greens, Napa Cabbage, and Cauliflower. To make room for these I focused on clearing out one of three 4’x4′ raised beds. Tuesday I had cleared one bed and replanted it with broccoli and collard greens, all it had in it was buckwheat, soybeans and wheat so I chopped and dropped the existing plants then planted the new ones through the newly created mulch. Todays bed had zucchini and squash in it which made me think of Pat’s caution about overwintering pests in her fall clean up post, so I cut all of the plants off at ground level and through them in the chicken run. Leaving the roots in place should help build structure in the soil of my bed and the chickens will gobble up any pests or eggs hiding out on the plants.

All in all Cammie and I had a productive morning up at The Fruity Chicken orchard and fowl ranch. Now I can go back to my book and Cammie can take a well earned nap.

I think she’s braggin about how good that red hen’s tail tasted!

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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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