First Fruits and First Falls

I have good news and bad news.  First the good news:


10#'s of Baby Yukon Golds 6/30/09

10#'s of Baby Yukon Golds 6/30/09

The potato harvest has begun!  This is actually the third  mini-harvest, but the first 10#’s was eaten so fast we never got photos.   These are small – the largest barely the size of a croquet ball – but OMG are they delicious.  Harvesting this small severely cuts yields – Yukons only yield 3-4 spuds per plant on average – but I have over 2000 plants in the ground so sneaking some early is not a bad thing!

Now the bad news:

Dog Warrior

While a 35 year old, 190# man playing soccer against a bunch of 19 yr olds may be bad enough, what this picture does not show is the nasty digger I took in the game before this that separated my right shoulder.  I had a awesome time in my first competitive soccer tournament  (I was drafted Day Of due to several players not showing), but as the glow of the event fades I am left with the reality of  2-6 weeks of rest for my right arm.  

2 to 6 weeks!!! Are you kidding me?!  We are less than 3 weeks from prime potato harvest!   I am currently open to any and all options for harvesting 2500#’s of potatoes with one arm.  I am seriously considering switching the plot to the state’s only “Dig your Own” potato farm.  This sucks.


Potato Tower Month #2

So we are now 60% of the way to Potato Tower Harvest (average harvest date for spuds is 100 days) and things are progressing rather well.  With 60 days of growth in, I have added three more rungs, and the more vigorous plants are on rung 5.

Potato Tower Rung 4This really exemplifies the need, as “Walker” stated in the Month 1 comments, to place only one variety in each tower.  The vigorous variety (likely Yukon) would be on rung 6 if I had been able to push it with hilling.  The slower growing varieties are definitely struggling to keep up – actually  having their growth retarded somewhat due to the hilled soil washing over their top growth more than I would like (we’ve had some hum dinger rain events).  Still things are progressing nicely – other than some flea beetles they are disease and pest free right now.

Rung 4 TopThis is the tower after its latest hilling.  In a perfect world, the left plant would have received more hilling, and the right plant less.  The plant in the back is about right by my guess.  There are actually 5-6 plants that I have had to “train” into these three piles to facilitate hilling at 3 different levels in such a small space.

I just harvest my first (baby) spuds from my field sown plants.  They were Yukons and only producing across about 8″ of soil.  Even in this first attempt at Towering, I have potentially over 20″ of tuber production, perhaps doubling the yield or more when you factor in the TLC that such a small planting allow me to give it.  I have lavished water, the best compost, mycelium inoculation, and fish emulsion on this tower.  I can’t wait for Month 3.2 when I harvest!

As I have already gleaned many learnings from this, I wanted to put them into practice as early as possible so I have started 2 new towers – a Purple Viking and a Kennebec.  Main changes:

  • Single Variety per Tower
  • Hilling every 2 weeks leaving 3-4″ of Top Growth
  • Fencing to keep my crazy dog out.
  • Placing the towers where I want 12 cu feet of compost next year (edge of my permaculture guilds)

Even with the foibles of the First Attempt it is still going strong and I am very optimistic about the harvest.  Look for a recap towards the end of July!


MREA Energy Fair Workshop!

Just wanted to put a shout out there to all you Midwest Types to come up this coming weekend to the MREA Energy Fair in Custer, WI.  To say that this is one hell of a good time is a complete understatement, and given the focus on “Green” this year it should break all attendance records.  I will be there with our county’ Sustainability  501C3: Sustain Jefferson with a booth showcasing our Gasifier and our Earth Victory Garden concepts.  I will be getting up there Friday morning and should be manning the booth starting after lunch and it would be awesome to see some readers there!

To top things off, I was asked to host a workshop again this year on our Earth Victory Garden. Last year I had no idea what I was getting into, but 450+ people showed up and I talked through systems thinking, composting, permaculture, and household ecological thinking.  To this day it is still a blur, but I do remember having people lined up 30 deep to ask follow up questions afterword.  Gardening is still a great “trojan horse” to get people to start thinking sustainably and I am uber stoked to give another talk.  Might try to use a power point this year as well, but we’ll see.

I would love to visit with anyone that is able to come up – we will be camping on the grounds all weekend and it should be a great time.  The MREA Fair is truly one of the highlights of the year – AMAZING energy and mind blowing discussion all day long, and then after 8pm the beer tents open up, live music fills the air and its a fantastic party.  

Hope you can make it!


Primed for Permaculture

Due to giving a series of farm tours over the past serveral weeks I’ve been thinking about Permaculture more than usual lately.  The farm where we have our market gardens is a 20 acre passive permaculture plot – nothing as intense as Robert Hart’s Food Forest, but certainly an intensely designed working farm focused primarily on perennial agriculture: orchards (peach, apple, pear, asian pear, cherries, plums, mulberry…), nut tree groves (pine, hazel, hickory and others), asparagus (.5 acres!), huge patches of chives, comfrey and horseradish, rhubarb, sunchokes; hundreds of feet of grape vines and brambles… you get the picture.  In all there are hundreds of fruit/nut producing trees interplanted within several thousand native forest trees providing seemingly infinite niches in an attempt to maximize ecological output for both wildlife and humans.  I’ve been an active participant in the property for 3 years now and I still learn a staggering amount about the property every time I take a tour led by the owner.

For a variety of reasons, I am becoming convinced that the Developed World is waking up to the possibilities of permaculture.  We held a tour this past weekend specifically on permaculture (for the record I have not taken a permaculture certification course) and we had over 25 people from 4 counties in attendance.  There are articles featuring permaculture techniques in the BBC and even being recommended for major carbon sequestration schemes (finally!).  People are listening to smart Ethanol more than ever, and I was asked to come return to the MREA Energy Fair to give my workshop (3pm Sunday 6/21) on our Earth Victory Garden system – which is essentially a “trojan horse” to get people to listen to a 45 minute talk about permacultural systems thinking.

Perhaps most telling, these days when I talk about linked systems and turning wastes into resources (composting, the 3 sisters, biodiesel) at work people are now calling it Common Sense rather than refferring to me as Leftist Pink-o Commie.  Between the economic crash and $4+ gas people are waking up to the fact that the status quo is Not OK.  And I am convinced that Permaculture will provide the answers.

When Bill Mollison and David Holmgren first coined the theories back in the late 70’s, PErmaculture was primarily a homestead based gardening system for tropical areas with firm roots in the Back to Earth movements of the 60’s and 70’s with some very good ecology science mixed in.  It was modeling agricultural systems on nature to ultimately reduce inputs and increase yeilds permanently.   But as the decades have rolled on, Permaculture Thinking has shown its true depths and thanks to the updating in Holmgren’s incredible work Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.  Thanks to Holmgren’s work, Permaculture has evolved out of the garden and into a true philosophy that can shed massively important insights on everything from civic planning, to energy production, to livestock management.

We are an incredibly wasteful society that is awash in enough problems to collapse our society. But the very tenants of Permaculture: turning wastes into resources and treating problems as the sources for solutions seem perfectly designed to provide us the answers to this mess.  



Tomorrow can be better than today as long as we are Plan-ful and work towards a more Permanent Culture – a Perma-Culture.  Society is waking up, but needs teachers, examples, and more than anything: Do-ers.  

We know what to do, and time isn’t waiting around for us any longer… grab a shovel or a hammer; find a podium or keyboard and get to work.  Its time to get busy living or stay busy dying.

Be the Change.


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