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Category: Permaculture (page 2 of 3)

Tree Nurseries for Cold Climate Permaculture Projects Part 2

There is a much wider variety of fruits and nuts available to the northern gardener than are commonly grown but you really have to hunt them down. Having more people work with these food producing trees and bushes will increase the odds of exceptionally suited selections of these plants being discovered. Many of the best fruit trees for northern gardens and farms were just stumbled upon in someones yard. The Evans Cherry is a good example of this as it was found in an old orchard in 1976 on a piece of land near Edmonton that was to be leveled for a federal jail. Up until that time the general consensus was that cherries couldn’t be grown on Alberta’s prairies. That tree had been there since at least 1923 just waiting to be rediscovered.

After recording the the first video on cold climate nurseries I came across several more nurseries worth mentioning and felt like another video was in order. I want to stress that ordering early in the year is important because nurseries often sell out come spring time. If you wait until planting time to order you may miss out on many varieties they carry or be past their designated shipping time frames.

Tree nurseries mentioned in this video:

Part 1

Tree Nurseries for Cold Climate Permaculture Projects

Something I forgot to mention in the following video is that mail order nurseries often sell out of much of their product months before they ship their trees out in the spring. In order to receive the specific product you’re looking for you’ll need to be placing your orders by January and February, otherwise the availability decreases quickly as spring approaches.

I Review the websites of several nurseries I have found online that have the best selection of trees for permaculture projects in cold climate zones. These nurseries have a wide assortment of trees, bushes and shrubs that are adapted to growing zones 2-5. Some of them are focused more on fruit and nut trees while a couple have a greater variety of support and wind break species.

The tree nurseries mentioned in this video:

Part 2

Next Generation Carbon Capture

What if the carbon dioxide created from burning fossil fuels could be captured and used to make a variety of products? It’s already being done, here is how.

Full Interview with Carlo Montemagno: https://omny.fm/shows/ryan-jespersen-show/jan-10-jespersen-9am-reimagining-carbon-dioxide

Carlo Montemagno Bio: http://www.cme.engineering.ualberta.ca/FacultyStaff/FacultyAcademicStaff/Montemagno.aspx

Carbon Xprize: http://carbon.xprize.org/

Homestead Land – Winter Walkthrough

My brother and his fiancé hadn’t seen our property yet so we had them out on the weekend to take a look around. There were a few things I wanted to check while I was out there so we decided to make a little video as well. The property was very beautiful, covered in snow and we saw plenty of evidence of what may have been elk while we were walking through some bush on the far side of the creek. We also saw a muskrat under the ice of the creek which was pretty cool.

 

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I’m very happy we found such a picturesque piece of land.

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The tiny frozen creek. We saw a muskrat under the ice when we were crossing over with the ladder.

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This picture could be used as the backdrop for a horror movie poster. This shack was left on the property. The prior owner must have come to grab his stuff but didn’t have a key so he removed the door.

In the video I look at an area on the other side of the creek I haven’t seen yet and check out the condition of the fence. We also measure a damaged culvert for replacement next year.

Permaculture Test Plot – Part 2

The long term plan for this test plot is to leave the ground to nature when the saskatoon, seaberry, and hazel trees reach a large enough size that they have no trouble competing with undesirable weeds like thistles and perennial grasses. In the short term, since I don’t have much free time, I have been maintaining the test plot by planting vegetables and trimming back undesirable weeds to the ground (chop and drop). I only get out to do this about twice a year so it makes for a very unruly looking garden plot but the trees don’t seem to mind how it looks and are probably benefiting from these companion plants.

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On the left horse radish. Bee balm that looks to be frost damaged on the right.

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Jerusalem artichokes.

One important principle I learned from my study of permaculture is that if a piece of ground is left bare something will eventually occupy that space. Having bare dirt between rows of plants is very unnatural and the only way this state can be maintained is if someone physically removes the “weeds” or applies chemicals to the area. Planting companion plants you want along side your crops or mulching is a better option in these spaces, but remember, not all weeds are bad. Many weeds have beneficial effects on the soil and nearby plants. Dandy Lions, for instance, have a large tap root that helps to loosen compacted soil and bring up nutrients from the subsoil. Clovers and alfalfa feed nitrogen fixing bacteria and help to increase soil fertility.

Another walk through of my test plot after trimming the undesirable weeds back. A couple of new plants have been revealed.

More in this series:

Permaculture Test Plot – Part 1

As you’ve seen in some of our prior posts, we finally bought a piece of land to homestead on. We had been looking for several years and during this time I have been itching to start experimenting with permaculture plants. We never really had the space to do much but I did manage to take over a small section of my parents potato patch for a test plot.

Some of the plants we grew in it were bush beans, comfrey, tomatoes, lettuce, Jerusalem artichokes, seaberry, hazelnut, mint, catnip, icicle radish, lemon balm, bee balm, saskatoons, horse radish, red current, and a few other items I have probably forgotten to name, plus weeds. I am always amazed at how many plants can be fit into such a small space.

Even though our production on this small piece of land was not huge, we did get some tasty vegetables while the trees are being given a chance to grow. I have learned a lot by observing the plants, even when things weren’t going exactly as planned. For example, deer have enjoyed sampling our trees from time to time; several times last winter I noticed that a little bit more of the trees had been nipped off. The damage has been annoying but not detrimental so far; our trees are hanging in there.

The radishes, in particular, impressed me and are now one of my favorite vegetables! If left to grow well past when the roots are small and tender they become rather huge. I had to trim the radish tops back several times to keep them from smothering our trees. They produced an abundance of flowers, which the bees loved, and then a bunch of edible pods! When I saw the pods I decided to sample them and they tasted great! Afterwards, I looked up whether or not they were edible and thankfully they were. I prefer the pods to the radishes themselves. The pods have a more mild radish flavor and grow abundantly. The roots of the icicle radishes grew exceptionally large and penetrate deeply into the soil creating carbon pathways.

In the video I walk through my test plot and go through the wide variety of plants stuffed in this small area. One thing you may notice in the video, that I didn’t talk about, is the orange snow fence along the north and west sides of the fence around the plot. We used the snow fence as a wind break to buffer this area from the harsh winds in this location. The fence has improved the plant growth considerably.

More in this series:

Birch Firewood for the Hobbit Stove

There is something satisfying about watching chunks of wood fly while chopping firewood. Having a reason to look forward to this chore is a good thing, especially if you have a large pile waiting to be split. Luckily for us, we have a small wood burning stove which mean less work overall.

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Small chunks of wood like the piece I am holding are the perfect size for our Hobbit Stove.

When we first started using the Hobbit Stove last March, we were primarily using softwood scraps left over from the Tiny House build. While these scraps were adequate to heat the house I had a feeling they were not the optimal fuel for our stove. This year, I purchased a small amount of birch firewood from one of my friends at the gym.

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A large axe is not needed when cutting kindling from such small pieces of wood.

I have certainly been impressed with this firewood. The birch burns both hotter and cleaner than the softwood scraps. Sometimes if the air mixture is just right the flames are more blue than orange or yellow. A blue flame is a good indicator of a clean burn and that the primary gases being produced will be carbon dioxide. An orange flame means there is incomplete burning occurring and more carbon monoxide and other pollutants are being produced.

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This was a tough one! You can see the knot in the piece of wood in the left picture.

In the following video I discuss how impressed I am with how clean our birch firewood burns! One thing I didn’t mention in the video which I covered in a previous post was how much higher the energy content of birch is compared to spruce or pine. This makes a noticeable difference in the amount of heat produced and how long the wood burns.

When Moles Attack! (Pocket Gophers)

The other day I was walking by the garden and noticed that there were multiple mole hills on the ground where we planted our Jerusalem Artichokes. I wasn’t planning on harvesting them this year, instead, I was going to leave them in the ground over the winter to increase our root stock for next years crop. However, with the moles feasting on them I figured I better dig them up before we lost the whole crop. As you’ll see in the video the “moles” aren’t really moles they are actually the Northern Pocket Gopher. Most people I have met call them moles though, probably because they look similar and produce dirt mounds.

 

Jerusalem Artichokes also known as "Sunchokes" are an attractive perennial plant that can grow to heights of 9 feet or more.

Jerusalem Artichokes also known as “Sunchokes” are an attractive perennial plant that can grow to heights of 9 feet or more.

Jerusalem Artichokes are a perennial sunflower that are mainly grown for the root tubers they produce. The tubers are very high in the carbohydrate inulin which is difficult for humans to digest and is often classified as a prebiotic because it feeds gut bacteria. Jerusalem Artichokes can cause a significant amount of gas if you eat too much in one sitting. There are some things that you can do during the cooking process to mitigate this but they are best consumed in smaller quantities. I don’t consider them to be a great carbohydrate source like potatoes because of this drawback. However, they are a great permaculture plant and both the leaves and the tubers are good animal feed as the pocket gophers will attest to. They are also really easy to grow.

Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers. These tasty roots can cause significant gas if you aren't careful.

Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers. These tasty roots can cause significant gas if you aren’t careful.

Buying Homestead Land: Assessment Part 3

I discuss the potential of a boggy area at the back of the property, how I might improve the water quality in the stream and where some good locations to add ponds might be. I also touch on the importance of meeting the neighbors and getting a feeling for what nearby towns are like.

For those of you wondering about the peat moss mentioned in the video.  I walked through the property again after making this video and I came across what I thought was peat moss.

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Looks like peat moss….

A few days later I was looking at some online maps and discovered large areas of land near this property that appeared to be stripped bare. As it turns out there is a company that harvests and sells peat nearby so this area has large peat deposits. The peat turned out to be a little side bonus as the soil on this property is a heavy clay soil, especially in the areas that have been heavily cultivated. Having this peat moss could come in handy for when we are able to set up garden beds and need to amend the soil.

More in this Series:

Buying Homestead Land: Assessment Part 2

In this second property assessment video I go further into the property to see what other features it offers. The far pasture is split by a long narrow stand of trees that I suspect (at the time I made the video) has a small ravine in it. The pasture to the north of these trees will be cooler due to the shade they produce while the pasture to the south will not only have more sun exposure but also benefit from the windbreak the trees will provide.

I also talk about the firewood potential of a stand of birch. Birch is usually the best firewood available in Alberta. I have heard that tamarack is very good firewood, although I have never personally tried it. How do they stack up in terms of MBTU’s ( Million British Thermal Units) per cord?

  • Birch 20.0
  • Tamarack 19.5
  • Black Spruce 15.3

Source: Sweeps Library

 

 

More in this series:

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